The center of New Orleans is where you will find ‘the French Quarter’ (originally called Storyville) and you will find Dixie, jazz, ragtime, blues and gospel all playing here in the bars, clubs and even on the street, along with great restaurants, and Cajun food like Gumbo, Jambalaya and drinks like Bourbon and Mint Juleps. This area of New Orleans still retains its French Character, with probably the only other city in North America to have a similar French character is Quebec City in Canada.
Shuttle buses will take you to and from the Airport to your hotel in the City, or you can catch a taxi.
Getting around is easy in the French Quarter – mostly walking distance, and there are also the Streetcars that run along rails, a great way to see the City. There are 4 lines and you can buy an individual ticket or a 1, 3 day or 31 day pass.
- St Charles line – that runs along 13.2 miles of track – the Streetcar itself dating back to 1923 when it was built by the Perley A Thomas Company, and travels along past the St Charles Avenue Mansions, as well as the Loyola and Tulane Universities and the Audubon Zoo.
- Canal Street line – 5 ½ miles of tracks through the CBD and Mid City Area as well as past the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sydney and Walda Bestoff Sculpture Garden near City Garden – the 1300 acres of gardens.
- Riverfront Line- travels to the Aquarium and French market along the River.
- Loyola Avenue/UPT line that connects to the Union Pacific Terminal (UPT) where Greyhound buses and the Amtrak trains arrive and depart.
- Bourbon Street – the heart of the City where you will find lots of bars and good times. Also the streets nearby too, including Royal Street where there are lots of interesting shops too.
- Jackson Square – between Chartres Street and Decatur Street – See the 1850 House at 523 Ann Street, The Cabildo and the Louisiana State Museum at 701 Chartres Street, on one side of St Louis Cathedral and The Presbytère on the other side built by Capuchin Monks with its Mardi Gras Museum is at 751 Chartres Street. There is also a lot happening on the Square too with street performers and other activities.
- Madame John’s Legacy – is located at 632 Dumaine Street, a house and 2 other buildings that date back to 1788.
- Louisiana Supreme Court Building – is located at 400 Royal Street.
- ***MUST SEE. The Historic New Orleans Collection – is at 533 Royal Street – a great collection of restored houses and their historic contents. A must see in New Orleans to gain an understanding of the city and its heritage. Gallier House is at 1118 Royal Street.
- Ursuline Covent – is located at 1112 Chartres Street, dating back to 1745 with the Beauregard-Keyes House at 1113 Chartres Street and nearby the Hermann-Grima House at 820 St. Louis Street.
- The Old US Mint Building –located at 400 Esplanade Avenue.
- Aquarium of the Americas – is located beside the Mississippi River near the Canal Street Wharf. The Convention Center and Harrah’s Casino are close by too.
- Louisiana Civil War Museum – 929 Camp Street Tel: (504) 523 4522 first opened in 1891 and it displays uniforms and lots of information and memorabilia from the Civil War. Just outside the museum is the 60 feet high statue of General Robert E. Lee.
- St Charles Avenue - is where you will see magnificent mansions all along the Avenue which is lined with Oak trees. Catch the St Charles Streetcar that runs along the Avenue.
- Esplanade Avenue has a number of old creole Mansions also lining the Avenue. At 2336 Esplanade Avenue you will also find ‘Le Musee of Free people of color’ – which has information and exhibits that tell the story of the “people of color” prior to the Civil War.
- Backstreet Cultural Museum – is located at 1116 St Claude Avenue and has African American exhibits including many of the Carnival suits that were worn in times past.
- Blaine Keen Studios – see www.mardigrasworld.com Tel: 1 504 361 7821. This is where Mardi Gras floats have been designed and created since 1947, and any time of the year this is the place to come to see and experience the great creative ideas that come to life here. It is located at 1380 Port of New Orleans Place next to the River is the Warehouse District.
- National World War II Museum – 945 Magazine Street. See www.ddaymuseum.org There is a lot to see here.
- Insectarium – 423 Canal Street. Lots of bugs and butterflies to see.
- Louisiana Children’s Museum – 420 Julia Street. Lots of fun for smaller children.
- Ogden Museum of Southern Art – 925 Camp Street is where you will find some of the best ‘Southern’, impressionist and folk art in the USA.
- Audubon Zoological Gardens – get up close to see alligators (including a white alligator) and other animals from the Bayou and also from across the USA.
- City Park – 1 Palm Avenue covers an area of 1300 acres and dates back to 1854. It is a beautiful park with waterways, cycleways, paddle boats, the Botanical Garden, an 800 year old oak tree, Carousel Garden, grass areas, tennis courts, even a Putt Putt 36 hole course. Catch the Canal St Streetcar to here. The Garden was under water for more than a week when Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005, but has recovered and still holds ‘pride of place’ in New Orleans.
- Horse riding – something different. Contact
- New Orleans Museum of Art – 1 Collins Diboli Circle (See www.noma.org) located near City Park. A great collection of African, Asian, Pacific and Native American paintings and art.
- JAZZ – can be heard in many places. These are some of them – Preservation Hall – 726 St Peter Street is almost the home of Jazz music. (See www.preservationhall.com ). Also Tipitina’s 501 Napoleon Street (See www.tipitinas.com ), Chickie Wah Wah 2828 Canal Street (See wwwchickiewahwah.com ), Snug Harbor 626 Frenchmen Street, Marigny (See www.snugjazz.com ), Also close to Frenchmen Street is St Claude Avenue where there are also bars and places with Music.
- Harrah’s Casino – is located at 228 Poydras Street next to Canal Street at the River end. (See www.harrahsneworleans.com Tel: (504) 533 6000. Here there are lots of gaming tables, as well as restaurants, shows and the hotel accommodation.
GARDENS and PLANTATION HOMES –
City Park (see above) is without doubt one of the best Parkland spaces in the United States – and definitely a ‘must see’ when you come to New Orleans. There are also some other beautiful gardens and also gardens that surround some of the grand old mansions in New Orleans and also Plantation homes that are just outside New Orleans.
- Longue Vue House and Gardens – 7 Bamboo Rd New Orleans (See www.longuevue.com ) This magnificent home also has 8 acres of gardens that surround it. Tel: (504) 488 5488.
- Bocage Plantation – about 1 hour from New Orleans is at 39050 Highway 942 Darrow (See www.bocageplantation.com Tel: (225) 588 8000. There are daily tours and also you can stay there too as it has bed and breakfast accommodation.
- Destrehan Plantation – 13034 River Rd, Destrehan (See www.destrehanplantation.org Tel: (877) 453 2095.
- Evergreen Plantation – 4677 Hwy. 18 Edgard is on the road to Baton Rouge (See www.evergreenplantation.org Tel: (985) 497 3837. This sugar plantation is a true landmark in Louisiana and has 37 historic buildings including 22 slave cabins.
- Houmas House Plantations and Gardens – 40136 Hwy. 942 (See www.houmashouse.com Tel: (225) 473 9380. This was once the biggest sugarcane plantation in the world. Stunning house, antiques and gardens. The ‘Latil’s Landing’ Restaurant is here too in a building dating back to 1775.
- Laura – 2247 La Hwy at 18 River Rd Vacherie about an hour from New Orleans. (See www.lauraplantation.com . See the beautiful mansion home and re-discover the Creole way of life as it was in 1805.
- Madewood Plantation – 4250 Highway 308 Napoleonville (See www.madewood.com Tel: (985) 369 71 51. This Greek Revival mansion with its massive columns creating its entranceway, also has guest rooms to stay over.
- Malus Beauregard House – 8606 West St. Bernard Avenue, Chalmette (See www.nps.gov Tel: (504) 589 2133. This house is about 7 miles out of New Orleans and there is a Visitor center here to tell the history of the house and also the stories from the Civil War when this was the site of the Chalmette Battlefield. The Chalmette National Cemetery is here too, with graves from both sides of the Civil War.
- Nottoway Plantation – 31025 Louisiana Hwy. 1, White Castle (See www.nottoway.com Tel: (225) 545 2730) ‘Nottoway’ is one of the biggest plantation homes, with tours of the home and gardens, as well as accommodation is available. There is also a restaurant here too called ‘the Mansion’.
- Oak Alley Plantation – 3645 Highway 18, Vacherie (see www.oakalleyplantation.com Tel: (225) 265 21 51). Guides will show you through the house and recall the days when slaves worked here, as well as recount the stories of the Civil War.
- Ormond Plantation (Resort) – 13786 River Rd, Destrehan (See www.plantation.com Tel: (985) 764 8544). Built in the 1700’s, you can take a tour, stay over, have lunch and just enjoy the ambience of the house and the giant Oak and Cypress trees in the grounds.
- San Francisco Plantation – 2646 Highway 44, Garyville (See www.sanfranciscoplantation.org Tel: (985) 535 2341).
- St Joseph Plantation – 3535 Highway 18, Vacherie (See www.stjosephplantation.com Tel: (225) 265 4078) A great restored Manor house on 2500 acres dating back to the early days of settlement. Here you will be able to see original slave cabins, a blacksmiths shop, carpenters shed and also hear about life when St Joseph was a Creole sugar plantation.
- IN NEW ORLEANS – there are a number of mansions on St Charles Avenue in New Orleans most dating back to the 1800’s. You can ride on the St Charles Streetcar to see them, or walk along the street to see and admire the artistry, vision, design, architectural and construction skills involved in their creation. Each one of these mansions has its own story, and there are tourist guides and tours that you can take to learn more. Two of the houses are also open – these being the ‘Elms Mansion’ at 3029 St Charles Street and the ‘Latter Library’ at 5120 St Charles Street. No doubt you will find a favorite house on St Charles Street to admire.
THE BAYOU and Mississippi –
The Mississippi River is also called the grand old river due to its size and the impact it has made on the lives of people living around and on the River over thousands of years. The river is roughly 2340 miles long, and drains an area of 1.2 to 1.8 million square miles of land, roughly 41% of mainland USA. The river has been written about, sung to, sung about, seen floods and death and destruction but also given life to millions of people, crops, livestock, animals and birds. Yes “Old man River, she just keeps flowing along”.
New Orleans is right on the River and you can walk along beside the River and get a feel for all the activities that occur here. Here you will also be able to catch a Showboat paddle wheeler that can take you on a cruise up-river to Memphis, Nashville, St Louis/St Paul or Cincinnati or take a cruise on one of the big Cruise Liners that call into New Orleans heading to and from the Bahamas and the Caribbean Islands. You can also just catch a Ferry from the Canal Street wharf to Algiers on the west bank, or take a cruise that travels on the Mississippi past the working port before heading into the Bayou swamplands.
These are some of the Tour companies that will take you in the Bayou –
- Grayline Tours – See www.graylineneworleans.com/swamptours
- Cajun Encounters – See www.cajunencounters.com Tel: 1 866 928 6877
- BigEasy Tours – See www.bigeasytours.us Tel: 800 301 3184
- Louisiana Swamp Tours – See www.louisianaswamp.com Tel: (504) 689 3599
- Canal and Trail Tours – See www.canoeandtrail.com tel: 1 (504) 233 0686
- Tours by Isabelle – See www.toursbyisabelle.com Tel: 1 (504) 398 0365
- Air Boat Adventures – See www.airboatadventures.com Tel: 888 467 9267
To get the most out of your tour and pick the company and tour that you want to take – decide whether you want to go with a small group, or big group of people, the amount of time and time of day you want to spend in the Bayou and the way you want to travel – by seaplane, airboat or other craft. All of the tour companies have commentaries, and most Tour Guides have a love affair with the River and the Bayou – the birds, the gators, the lifestyle, marshes, cypress trees and even the snakes that live here and of course the food.
The marshes and wetlands also form an important habitat and environmental role too and no doubt your Tour Guide will talk about the plants, animals, fish, crabs, birds, snakes, spiders, butterflies, other insects and crustaceans that all live and breed here, as well as the role that the Bayou has in mitigating floods and hurricanes that hit the coastline and New Orleans.
If you get a chance, also head to the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve about 30 minutes downstream from New Orleans. This Park is located at 6588 Barataria Blvd in Marrero and covers 23,000 acres of wetlands with established walking trails and even places where you can hire a canoe to paddle. The park itself is named after the Privateer Captain Jean Lafitte (c. 1780-1823) and the small town of Lafitte is named after him, as well as the Museum and Wetlands Trace that is here in Jean Lafitte.
Lafitte was a buccaneer Privateer (Pirate) who preyed on Spanish and other ships taking possession of their cargos in the Gulf of Mexico, selling whatever he goods he had plundered to people living in the Bayou and around the Mississippi, avoiding any tax duties that might apply. At one point the Governor of Louisiana put a bounty on his head, but then Lafitte doubled the bounty, and put a bounty on the Governor’s head! Stories became legends of his conquests, much like Robin Hood in England, but he redeemed himself in the ‘Battle of New Orleans’ when he and his ships and men came to the aid of the local people when the British tried to attack New Orleans. In 1817 he moved his ships to Campeche on Galveston Island in Texas, but then when he fell out of favour there, he abandoned the settlement and set fire to it. Rumour has it that he buried gold somewhere in the Bayou, but with alligators keeping guard it has never been found.
There is great fishing here as you would expect – both inland on the waterways and also in the Gulf and if you travel to Barataria you will find a number of Fishing Charter boats to take you fishing. These are some of them –
- Joe’s Landing – www.joeslanding.com Tel: 800 689 4304 4811 Privateer Bvld. Barataria
- Big Dog Charters – www.bigdogfishingcharters.com Tel: 504 416 6260 4932 Kenal Rd Lafitte
- Kris Fishing Charters – www.krisfishingcharters.com Tel: 504 329 4882 4477 Jean Lafitte Blvd Lafitte.
- New Orleans Style Fishing Charters – www.neworleansfishingcharters.com Tel: 504 416 5896 5057 Kenal Rd Lafitte.
- Jean Lafitte Fishing Charters – www.jeanlafittecharters.com Tel: 504 329 2728 4915 Joan Marie Drive Barataria.
New Orleans is home to the Mercedes Benz Superdome – located on Sugar Bowl Drive in the downtown CBD area. (See www.mbsuperdome.com )
The Superdome Stadium, built in 1975 is massive, covering an area of 13 acres and standing 273 feet above street level. It is home to the New Orleans Saints and hosts games during the year as well as big star music events and other shows. Besides the stadium itself, there are four 19,000 square foot ballrooms, meeting rooms and even a TV Studio. During Hurricane Katrina the Stadium became the refuge for thousands of people when the storm hit, making worldwide news. The force of the winds blew 70% of the roof off at the time, which has since been repaired.
New Orleans is also home to many other sports and sporting events – with golf, tennis, cycling, horse racing and other sports all here.
FOOD, SHOPS, BARS and NIGHTLIFE –
New Orleans is a party town and there are literally hundreds of cafes, street vendors and performers, restaurants, bars and live music places and therefore choices of places to head to – be that on a recommendation, or just by window shopping as you walk around the French Quarter or even venture out to a neighborhood like Faubourg Marigny (head to St Claude Avenue and Frenchmen Street), the Tremé, Uptown, warehouse district or other part of the city. Parts of the city can be dangerous too – so stay where there are people around, and be mindful of your surrounds, particularly late at night. Many bars stay open well past midnight.
The main Visitor Center is located at 501 Basin Street in the French quarter, and they have lots of information to help make your stay memorable. See www.neworleansscvb.com Tel: 504 293 2600.
The most popular shopping destination is Magazine Street, but there are lots of other shops too in and around the French Quarter, including the French Market on Decateur Street which stretches over 6 blocks from Washington Artillery Park to the Flea Market. If you have a day pass for the Riverfront Streetcar, you can hop on and off at stops 1, 2 or 3. Look for Dutch Alley too which is part of the French Market – the market itself started in 1791, making it the oldest market in the USA that is still operating in the same location. Also near Harrah’s Casino check out historic Fulton Street.
New Orleans and Louisiana is the center of Cajun Cuisine, and there are a number of places that offer cooking classes in this cuisine – so check at the Visitor Center to find out more. There’s even a museum called the Southern Food and Beverage Museum that encompasses the Museum of the American Cocktail – located at 1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. (See www.southernfood.org Tel: 504 569 0405.
There’s a lot to see and do in New Orleans and the city has largely recovered from Hurricane Katrina. The atmosphere, food, music, heritage and cultural mix of people, traditions, language and New Orleans location next to the Mississippi and Bayou have created a unique city to visit. There is always something happening in New Orleans – with festivals, parades and activities year round – and in my view, it is one American city that you should put high on your list of places to see.