|Home to dynamic music, world-renowned cuisine,
vampires, voodoo, and Mardi Gras, "the world's largest party,"
New Orleans is, to say the least, unique. Indeed, you'll probably feel it
when you arrive: there's something special in the atmosphere--and it isn't
just the thick humidity that catches every smell, from magnolia blossoms
to river sewage, and holds it in the air for all to encounter, fully.
Attitudes, accents and customs are different from anyplace else in the
United States, including other cities of the surrounding Deep South. New
Orleans' colorful past incorporates French, Spanish, Caribbean, immigrant
Italian and Irish, African and Confederate cultures into one giant stew;
the result is a town that can be everything from difficult to magical.
New Orleans is a relatively small city of approximately 1.5 million
that threatens to grow significantly every few years or so, but then
something, or rather nothing, happens, and things stay pretty much the
same. For the most part, this suits the locals just fine. Part of the
city's charm lies in this laid-back, anti-serious attitude toward
progress. There's always tomorrow. No reason to hurry ("It's too hot,
honey"). And no need to worry dawlin', "It's all good."
From the airport, cabs will take you anywhere in the city for a flat rate
of $21, or jump on a airport shuttle that will take you to any of the
major hotels for $7. You can, of course, rent a car, but if your plans
mainly involve staying in the city, best to leave the car behind and avoid
costly parking and potentially dangerous New Orleans drivers; this is,
after all, the city that invented the drive-through Daiquiri window.
Public transportation, in this case buses and the oldest continuously
operating streetcar line in the world, are efficient ways to get around
New Orleans, although for safety reasons it makes more sense to call a cab
in the evening hours. The most popular buses for sightseeing are the
Uptown to Downtown Magazine bus and the Mid-City to French Quarter
Esplanade bus. The streetcar runs from the Downtown starting point at the
corner of Carondolet and Canal Streets (across from the French Quarter's
Bourbon Street), up St. Charles Avenue and onto South Carrolton Avenue,
terminating at South Claiborne Avenue. Bus/streetcar fares are $1.25 and
exact change is required.
The Riverfront Streetcar, which runs between Esplanade Avenue and the
Morial Convention Center also costs $1.25. Visitor passes offer unlimited
rides for a flat fee (a one-day pass is $4; a three-day pass is $8) and
can be purchased at most major hotels and at New Orleans Tours and Gray
Line Tours locations. Both buses and streetcars run on fairly regular
15-20 minute rotations during the day, but there can be an hour wait at
During temperate spring and fall months walking or renting a bike from
Olympic Bike Rental & Tours or Bicycle Michael's are highly
recommended ways of exploring the city. City maps are fairly
straightforward but discard notions of north, south, east or west when
asking directions. The local sense of direction is based on orientation to
the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. You are
"riverside" or "lakeside," and Canal Street divides
the Uptown and Downtown sections of the city.
For its historic significance, architectural beauty, fine dining and
kinky, decadent ways the French Quarter is by far New Orleans' number one
destination. Other than the small community of Quarter residents and the
odd corporate power-luncher, daytime belongs to the tourists and the
conmen, the homeless and the street performers who make their living off
of tourists. Nighttime adds college students, street punks and
suburbanites to the mix.
Canal Street near the River
Harrah's Casino and an expanded convention center have turned this part of
Canal Street into a strip of hotels interspersed with Radio Shack-esque
chain stores. The Canal Place Shopping Center and adjacent Riverwalk Mall
area make this a popular site for tourists and locals alike.
Central Business District
Scattered, mismatched skyscrapers and the superbly odd-shaped Superdome
sports arena dominate the landscape here. Bustling during the day with
business types, this area dries up at night and turns into a deserted land
of pitch-black buildings and empty parking lots.
A largely gay and artistic area right at the edge of the Quarter across
from Esplanade Avenue. The nightclubs and restaurants of Frenchmen Street
attract an eclectic culture-loving local crowd.
The nation's oldest black neighborhood is slowly making a comeback as
local developers put money into saving this historically important but
decaying zone. Noted by locals to be a dangerous place to hang out, Treme
offers secret treasures including St. Augustine Church on Gov. Nichols
Street, where Mardi Gras Indians meet and Jazz funerals have been known to
Top-notch New Orleans residential living in all its lush splendor--only a
walking tour will do this district justice. Lush, overgrown gardens are
tempting to lean into, but watch out for ants! Vampire LeStat fans make
pilgrimages here to take part in all things Anne Rice, the famous author
of vampire novels who opens one of her district residences for tours.
Situated between the Garden District and the river, the Irish Channel is
named for the Irish immigrants who settled there in the 1840s. Street
names like Constance, Annunciation and St. Mary will help you mark the
territory. Blocks range from dangerous to lower-middle income residential.
A fun place to be on St. Patrick's Day.
Lower Garden District
A small neighborhood between Downtown and the Garden District that
contains a typically (for New Orleans) odd mixture of wealthy, historic
homeowners, tattooed/pierced artists, and the wandering mentally deranged.
Magazine Street is becoming a great place to find antiques, cheap food,
funky clothes and comfortable coffeehouses.
Mid-City usually goes unnoticed by the average tourist, except during Jazz
Fest season when thousands take the Esplanade bus to the fairgrounds
through the neighborhood's quaint residential environs. Besides being a
peaceful part of the city to live in, Mid-City is a popular spot for
locals who enjoy the City Park, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and a fun
selection of moderately priced "little-gem" restaurants.
Oak lined streets, mansions and college cafes are mostly what Uptown is
made of. People who frequent this Tulane/Loyola University student-heavy
'hood tend to look as though they are doing well: healthy, tan and fit.
Could be the two-mile jogs through Uptown's gorgeous, Spanish-mossed
A conflicted area that mixes fancy art galleries and fine dining with
machine shops. It works though, especially during festivals such as Art
for Art's Sake, when the neighborhood turns into one big wine and cheese,
art appreciatin' block party.