New Orleans is the most celebrated city of the American South, and the largest city in Louisiana (some 300,000 in the city, 1.2 million in the metropolitan area as of late 2007, and still re-growing), as well as the state's top visitor destination. The city has a reputation for historical roots, hot and muggy weather, great food, great music, and great times. Despite being hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in late 2005, New Orleans is still the tourist hot-spot it always has been. Jazz music still rules the city's streets and there's still a bit of Mardi Gras all year round.
New Orleans is known for a host of attributes like its famous Creole food, abundant alcohol, music of many styles, nearby swamps and plantations, 18th & 19th century architecture, antiques, gay pride, streetcars, museums. Nicknamed the Big Easy, New Orleans has long had a reputation as an adult oriented city. However, the city also offers many attractions for families with children and those interested in culture and the arts. It is a city with a majority Roman Catholic population owing to its European origins.
Famous festivals like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest bring in tourists by the millions, and are the two times of the year when one needs to be sure to book well in advance to be sure of a room. The city also hosts numerous smaller festivals and gatherings like the French Quarter Festival, Creole Tomato Festival, Satchmo SummerFest, the Essence Festival hosted by the magazine, Halloween parading and costume balls, Saint Patrick's Day and Saint Joseph's Day parading, Southern Decadence, and so many more. The city takes almost any occasion for an excuse for a parade, a party, and live music, and in New Orleans most events often have a touch of Mardi Gras year round. Like they say, New Orleanians are either planning a party, enjoying one or recovering from one. Party down!
In late 2005 New Orleans and the surrounding area was hit by hurricane Katrina. Much worse than the hurricane was the failure of the Federal levee system; in what has been called "the worst civil engineering disaster in U.S. history" some 80% of the city flooded.
New Orleans was not destroyed, but Katrina was a severe blow, perhaps the worst disaster to hit a U.S. city since the great San Francisco earthquake 99 years previous. The good news for travelers is that the business, historic and cultural districts of most interest to visitors, being on naturally slightly higher ground, came through in good shape compared to other lower lying residential sections of town. Also, since this city has many attractions and a long tradition of catering to visitors, now is a good time to visit New Orleans since crowds are lighter, local merchants are eager to please visitors, and good deals can be often be found on accommodations.
As of 2009, tourism has returned. The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (IATA:MSY, ICAO:KMSY) is functioning. Taxi companies are functioning, as are a number of public transit routes including New Orleans' popular "streetcars". The Audubon Zoo, the Museum of Art, the Aquarium, and many other attractions have reopened, and festivals, art openings, and other events again fill the city's schedule. However, not everything is back to normal in the city; scenes of devastation can be seen from a 5-20 min drive from any of the most intact neighborhoods. Only about half of the city's pre-Katrina population is back living in the city; most of them have a fierce love of their city and have faced many hardships in their continuing efforts to rebuild their city bit by bit.
The city's public services - especially police - have struggled to return to their full strength, and are dealing with a city where decades of neighborhood stability have been disrupted. The city overall has experienced an increase in crime as a result. (See "Stay safe" below.)
While some visitors decide to confine their trip to the more fully intact parts of the city or just visit the worse hit areas as part of a half-day "disaster tour", for others the historic events of Katrina and its aftermath are the focus of their visit.
Many groups on a regular basis document the progress of the city's post-Katrina rebuilding effort. Organizations such as Levees.org are vigilant in encouraging further investigation into the flooding and hurricane protection issues surrounding New Orleans, and visitors to the city are encouraged to tour ravaged areas and help keep alive, the attention needed to restore New Orleans to its original grandeur.
The main culinary tradition in New Orleans is Creole - which means the culture and its cuisine already flourishing when Louisiana was purchased by the U.S. in 1803. The creoles were the peoples originally in New Orleans from its founding, differing from the outback styled Cajuns. Creole has a mixture of influences, including French, German and Spanish with a strong West-African foundation. Creoles cook with roux and the "trinity," a popular term for green pepper, onion and celery. These are the base for many savory dishes.
Despite what many visitors expect, the population, food, music, and traditions of New Orleans are not predominately Cajun. The Acadian or Cajun (from 'Cadien, pronounced kay-juhn) people developed their rich culture in rural parts of Louisiana, south and west of the city. These peoples were descended in a massive diaspora from areas such as Nova Scotia (previously called Acadia) when control of Canada was passed to the British. There are some good places for Cajun food and music in the city-- mainly these are branches of famous Southwest Louisiana Cajun places that opened up locations here. Many Cajuns still live in rural Louisiana although some say the culture is slowly dying. As late as WWII Cajuns were used as French translators for the U.S. Army.
Since the Louisiana Purchase, other major immigrant groups and influences on local cuisine and culture have included Italian (mostly Southern and Sicilian), Irish, Caribbean and Central American. In the late 20th century a sizable Vietnamese community was added to the New Orleans gumbo.
Louis Armstrong International Airport (IATA : MSY, ICAO : KMSY) is the city's primary airport, located in the suburb of Kenner. After a severe dip after the Hurricane Katrina disaster in 2005, by late 2006 the airport had rebounded to 3/4 of it's pre-Katrina flights with daily flights to/from 37 destinations throughout North America. Additional flights have continued to be added in more recent years. European vacation packages are available from the UK on several British airlines who offer charter/cruise services nonstop to the Crescent City.
There are non-stop flights to New Orleans Louis Armstrong International Airport from the following cities (some cities may be seasonal or only offer service certain days of the week): Atlanta, Baltimore, Birmingham, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, Mexico City, Miami, Minneapolis St Paul, Nashville, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, St Louis, Tampa and Washington .
To get into town a taxi ($33 for one or two people, $14 per person for three or more) is quickest; that's the flat fee from the airport to any spot in the French Quarter or Central Business District. Limo service is also available for rates starting at $35. Airport shuttle is $20, and Jefferson Transit Airport Express route E2 only $2. See the airport website for other options.
Many major hotels have shuttle buses from the airport. Even if you're not staying at one of those hotels, the shuttles can often be a value for those getting in to town if their destination is near one of the hotels. There is a public transit bus from the airport to Loyola Avenue in the New Orleans Central Business District; the stop is a fair walk from the luggage pickup, and you'll probably have to ask at an information desk to find it.
The main artery into and out of town is Interstate 10, going to the east and west.
Bus and train stations are next to each other at 1001 Loyola Avenue, by the edge of the Central Business District and within walking distance of the Super Dome. Both Greyhound and Amtrak service the terminal. Three Amtrak routes pass through New Orleans: City of New Orleans, Crescent, and Sunset Limited.
If you are visiting the French Quarter, casinos, or just the Central Business District, a car may be more of a burden than an asset. Most hotel parking is valet/remote/expensive/difficult at best. New Orleans is ready for visitors, and the rapid transit, trolley cars and buses are plentiful 24/7. Walking is fun and healthy during daylight and early evening. After midnight, you may want to call a taxi, but likely it will be a short trip at reasonable cost.
Be alert that the streets of much of the city were laid out before the automobile, especially in the older parts of town of most interest to visitors. There are many one way streets, and in some neighborhoods two-way side streets may be so narrow that cars going one way may need to pull to the side to let vehicles going the other way pass when someone has parked on the street.
Due to consolidation of the underlying soils, potholes are common and road conditions are often poor for a developed country.
Street signage is sometimes unclear or missing, and some signage lost in Katrina not yet replaced, although the situation has been improving significantly.
Parking is often hard to find around many areas of interest to tourists, but there are generally pay lots in the area. Hotel Parking can cost over $30/night downtown and in the French Quarter. One garage in the Quarter offers a discount coupon that can be printed out before hand. They only charge $15/night when a customer presents the coupon. Here is a link to the coupon: .
Those who don't know how to parallel park may wish to just leave their car in a pay lot when visiting much of the city.
Those staying in or near the French Quarter can easily get around by foot, with optional occasional trips by streetcar, bus, or cab if they wish to visit other parts of town. Bicycle rentals are available on Frenchmen Street in Marigny among other places.
The Riverfront, Canal Street and St. Charles streetcars travel to or near many of the sites listed here. Fares for buses or streetcars are $1.25, $.25 extra for a transfer (good only on another line, not for a return trip on the same line). Express buses are $1.50. Have exact change ready, please; operators do not provide change.
Note on Mardi Gras: During Mardi Gras in February, transportation of any sort will be a challenge. If you decide to get your own car, parking will be exorbitant (as high as 10 USD per hour) in the French Quarter and the City Area. Should you try to get a taxi, chances are you will have to call more than one company, and several times each, before you get a booking. After that, you will probably have to wait an average of 45 minutes to one hour. It is strongly recommended that you do get a car and park close to the streetcars or just outside the city area.
The older neighborhoods of the city, the ones of most interest to visitors, were laid out along the banks of the Mississippi River. Except for the grid of the French Quarter, streets were laid out either following to the river's curves or perpendicular to them, not according to compass directions or a grid.
For this reason, locals in these parts of town often don't give directions according to "north, south, east, and west". The four directions, instead, are "up" (or "up river" or "up town"), "down" (or "down river" or "down town"), "river" (or "towards the river" or sometimes "in"), and "lake" (or "towards the lake" or "back" or sometimes "out"). Don't be daunted, this makes sense when you take a moment to understand it.
Look at a map of the city. If, for example, you are taking the streetcar that runs along Saint Charles Avenue from the French Quarter to Carrollton, you see that the route starts off going south, then over some miles gradually turns west, and winds up running northwest. This is because Saint Charles reflects a bend in the river. From the local perspective, the entire route goes one way: up (or on the return trip from Carrollton to the Quarter, down).
Know that Canal Street is the up river boundary of the French Quarter. (Keep going further "up" away from the Quarter and you'll be in "Uptown".)
Some streets are labeled "North" and "South", this reflects which side of Canal Street they are on (despite the fact that Canal Street runs from southeast to northwest). The part of Rampart Street on the French Quarter side is North Rampart Street; the part on the Central Business District side is South Rampart. Also, a good map of the entire city is a must, as people from out of town may have to learn to simply match letters on signs to letters on the map. You see, most street names are French and Creole in origin and may be hard to pronounce. For instance, try to pronounce these example street names : Urquhart, Rocheblave, Dorgenois, Terpsichore, Tchoupitoulas, Burthe, Freret. (For the record, locals say "Urk-heart, Roach-a-blave, Der-gen-wa, Terp-sic-cor, Chop-a-two-lis, B'youth, Fa-ret.") Now you understand.
Many major New Orleans streets are divided, with a "neutral ground" (median) running down the middle. For this reason, the traffic lights have no dedicated cycle for a protected left turn. On streets with a wide neutral ground, there is a solution. Imagine turning from an avenue to a street; the solution is to turn left on green, queue in the stretch of the street between the two halves of the avenue, then proceed once the traffic light on the street has turned green. On streets with a narrow neutral ground, there is not enough room for cars to queue. In these situations, left turns are often prohibited; the solution is to go straight, take the next U-turn, then take a right turn when you arrive back at the intersection. Streets such as Tulane Avenue famously have "No Left Turn" signs posted for miles. In these situations, the adage "three rights make a left" comes in handy.
Detailed listings of attractions are mentioned in the Districts sections listed above. Highlights include:
Historic architecture in neighborhoods
Ornate colonial French and Spanish in The French Quarter
Victorian mansions Uptown
Historic cemeteries are in the Uptown, Treme, and Mid-City areas
the Superdome, in the Central Business District
Museums and Aquarium of the Americas, Central Business District
Audubon Zoo, Uptown
the Mississippi River - great views from the French Quarter, the Algiers ferry, and the Audubon Zoo "Butterfly" park Uptown
Occult and Voodoo Destinations
Stroll historic neighborhoods look at the architecture and businesses, and people watch in the French Quarter, Uptown, Carrollton
Streetcar rides St. Charles Avenue (green cars) is the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the U.S.; the Canal Street route also provides a pleasant ride
Riverboat cruises - short or long cruises, some of which have quite good jazz bands on board. Enjoy the Steamboat Natchez Riverboat Cruise. Great way to enjoy 3 attractions-in-one ... New Orleans food and music during a cruise down the Mississippi. Aquarium-Zoo Cruise - riverboat cruise package is a great way to see the Aquarium of the Americas and the Audubon Zoo
River ferry - the budget alternative to riverboats, take the free pedestrian ferry from the foot of Canal Street across the Mississippi to Algiers Point and back for a great view of the river, downtown, and the Quarter
Walking tours including voodoo, jazz history, French Quarter, or Garden District ones
Bicycle Tours for history, architecture, or hurricane damage.
Casino gambling at Harrah's next to the Quarter in the Central Business District. Voted "Best Casino" by the readers of "Casino Player." This "world-class" casino offers over 2000 of the newest slots and over a hundred action-packed table games along with a 24 hour buffet, Besh Steakhouse and many other food options.
Antique shopping up & down Royal St in the Quarter or Magazine Street Uptown
Cooking Classes - learn how to cook meals like a local when you return home. A four-course meal is demonstrated by our excellent chefs Saundra and Corinne, who will entertain you as well as teach you the secrets of Creole and Cajun cooking.
Royal Carriages - Take a carriage ride while you're in New Orleans ... and enjoy a tour of the French Quarter (garden district tours available, too!) Quaint mule-drawn carriages take you past many landmarks of New Orleans, including Bourbon Street, the mighty Mississippi, and Jackson Square.
Celebrate Mardi Gras - The two weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday is a period of celebration in the city, with parades and parties throughout.
Mardi Gras World - with thousands of sensational sculptured props and breath-taking giant figures -- it's the place where Mardi Gras is made. You'll see the artists as they build the floats for next year's Mardi Gras .. great place to get the Mardi Gras spirit year-round, and every tour includes free king cake -- don't forget your camera!
Museums Museum highlights include: National World War II Museum (formerly D-Day Museum), Central Business District. New Orleans Museum of Art, Mid-City; Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Central Business District; French Quarter museum highlights include the Cabildo and Presbetere history museums, The Old Mint, and several house museums.
Cities of the Dead - Historic cemeteries
OK, so you're hungry. You've come to the right place. New Orleans is a culinary delight, but don't look too hard for healthy food; some would say don't look at all (although those demanding, say, vegetarian, vegan, or kosher food can with effort find it). You're on vacation, so take advantage of what they prepare best here. New Orleans has good food for people on any type of budget.
The seafood is fresh and relatively cheap compared to many places. Some think it is often best fried, but you can try seafood of a wide variety cooked many different ways here.
Oysters are a popular specialty, gulped down raw, battered and fried, in a po' boy sandwich, or elegant Rockefeller style.
There may on occasion be some exotic items on the menu. Yes, you can have alligator if you’d like - it mostly tastes like chicken! (but chewier). Try nutria only if you’re very adventurous; many who've tried it say there's good reason eating nutria has never caught on. The softshell crab, on the other hand, can be excellent.
Crawfish (don't say "cray" fish) is a popular dish here, usually boiled in a huge pot of very spicy water and served in a pile with corn and potatoes. If cracking open the shells and sucking the heads isn't your thing, try them with pasta or in sushi or any other way they’re prepared.
Po-boys (don't say "poor boys") are the distinctive New Orleans variation of the sandwich. Unless you request your sandwich put on something else like sliced white bread (while you're in New Orleans, don't bother), it will be served on a po-boy loaf, similar to French bread; bread pundits debate whether the New Orleans po-boy bread is the same thing as the baguette of France or qualifies as its own unique type of bread (some say it actually IS French bread but because of the humidity, the bread ferments very quickly and gets its distinctive taste and texture). Either way, it's good, but only part of what makes the sandwich tasty. The rest is what is put on it, of course. Roast beef with "debris" gravy, fried shrimp, oysters, etc... You'll probably be asked if you want it "dressed". In New Orleans, "dressed" means with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and sometimes pickles, depending on the restaurant. Every neighborhood in New Orleans has its favorite po-boy places; the better ones butcher, slow cook, and season their own meats. The po-boy is a great and filling taste of New Orleans at a reasonable price.
The Muffaletta is a sandwich served on a big round airy Italian loaf (also called a muffaletta) which is similar to focaccia, it consists of a variety of sliced meats such as capicola, salami, and mortadella as well as cheeses topped with olive salad. Unless you have a very big appetite, half a muffaletta will probably be plenty for a filling meal. It was created in New Orleans around 1906 at Central Grocery on Decatur where you can still purchase them.
Gumbo is a tasty Louisiana traditional stew, originating in West-Africa and comes in numerous varieties. The vegetable base is traditionally okra (in West-Africa, the Wollof language word "gombo" means okra) with filé (sassafras leaves) used as a thickener. Seafood is the most common meat; but one will just as often find chicken, duck, smoked sausage or "andouille" sausage, the ages-old "gombo d'zherbes" (vegetarian) and other types of gumbo on many a menu. Gumbo is universally served with rice.
Red beans and rice sounds bland, but is a tasty, comforting treat prepared in the New Orleans way. The beans are slowly cooked until they reach a creamy texture, with a mix of onions, bell pepper, celery, and spices. Especially traditional on Mondays. It can be vegetarian but may not be; ask. It is often served with spicy, smoked or "andouille" sausage.
Local fresh produce: Have you heard of Louisiana strawberries, satsumas and creole tomatoes? If not, it's probably because they're so good that locals eat most of them right here! The strawberries come in around Jazz Fest time, satsumas in December and the creole tomatoes in early summer. You may spot "mirliton"; on the menu, a vegetable not common in most of the United States. In Mexico and the Southwest, it is called "chayote", though travelers to Guatemala may recognize it as the same thing that's called "hisquil" down there. Of course, when the first crops come in, there are parties, festivals, and parades commemorating the strawberries, creole tomatoes, or mirlitons.
Snow balls or sno-balls are the New Orleans take on the northern "snow cone" or flavored ice done with more finesse. Ice is not crushed but shaved into microscopically fine snow in special machines, and flavored with syrups, fresh made at the better places. New Orleans sno-balls are often topped or layered with sweetened condensed milk, but this is optional. The flavors need not be overly sweet, and can come in a wide variety ranging from striking to subtle, including such treats as wild cherry, lemonade, chocolate cream, coffee, orchid vanilla, and dozens of others. Locals almost worship the better neighborhood sno-ball stands during the city's long hot summer; try the refreshing treat as a snack or desert and find out why. Note, many snow ball shops will close in the winter, as New Orleans is surprisingly chilly between November and February and the demand dies down.
Beignets (pronounced "ben-yays") are a deep fried square pastry covered with powdered sugar. Most famously found at Morning Call & Café du Monde, Beignets are a traditional New Orleans treat enjoyed by tourist and locals alike. Beignets are traditionally served in orders of three with café au lait.
Café au lait is a coffee served half brewed coffee and half hot milk. Coffee in New Orleans differs from any other coffee in the world. During the civil war, coffee beans were very scarce. The local French extended their coffee supply by adding ground roasted chicory (the root of endive lettuce) to the brew. New Orleanians became very accustomed to the new beverage, noting that the chickory softened the bitter edge of the coffee while enhancing the robust flavor. Many taste a slight chocolate flavor while driking café au lait, due to the addition of chickory.
Many restaurants will have hot sauce as a condiment on the table (even Chinese and fast-food restaurants). Louisiana is the creator of Tabasco sauce afterall. Although always flavorful, not all New Orleans food will be very spicy hot. Many locals do like to add hot sauce to many dishes. If you can take it, give it a try.
In many of the fine restaurants around town, people take their clothes as seriously as their food. Despite the obnoxious heat and humidity in the summertime, don’t go to these restaurants dressed in shorts/jeans; they won’t let you in. This applies only to the nicest (and some say best) restaurants in town but there are plenty of places that you can wear shorts to (many of which are great too). This is what you've been saving your pennies for.
New Orleans has no "blue laws" or mandatory closing times; there is always somewhere to get alcohol any hour of day or night every day of the year.
You can head out the door with an open container of alcohol-- but not in a bottle or can; to try to keep broken glass and jagged metal from filling the street, local laws mandate you use a plastic cup while on city streets and sidewalks. These are known locally as "go cups", and every local bar provides them, usually has a stack of them by the door and the bouncer will take your drink from you and pour it into the cup because bars can be held liable if they don't. Use them, because New Orleans Police are watching for it, especially on Bourbon Street.
However, drinking does not have to be about quantity. Beer lovers should try local brews like "Abita" on tap, from light Wheat to dark "Turbodog" to the quirky "Purple Haze", a raspberry beer loved by some. Local cocktails include the "sazerac" and the tourist favorite "hurricane". There is also the famous "Hand Grenade" which is billed as "New Orleans' Strongest Drink" and is only available at Tropical Isle (they patented it). Beware, most think the lime green concoction tastes like a weak punch but then are well buzzed after a few sips. New Orleanians also love wine.
Those not accustomed to the Southern heat and humidity should be sure to drink more water or other drinks without alcohol than they usually do during the day to avoid dehydration.
Listings of some top choices of the city's famous bars can be found in the neighborhood articles.
The numerous hotels in the French Quarter and Central Business District are most centrally located for most tourists, but there are good accommodations in many other parts of town as well. Hotels on or near the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line in Uptown are popular with many visitors, and the smaller hotels and guest houses in neighborhoods like Marigny and Mid-City can provide an immersion in New Orleans away from the larger masses of tourists. Individual hotels are listed in the parts of town sub-articles.
Katrina alerted the world to the danger of hurricanes in this part of the world. However if one visits a place vulnerable to natural disaster, at least hurricanes give warning. During the height of the hurricane season, from July through October, be sure to check with the weather service before going to New Orleans, and if a large storm is threatening the Gulf Coast, consider a change of plans. If one threatens the city while you're there, play it safe and leave early; don't wait for an evacuation order to head away from the coast. If you cannot get out of the area you should at least be sure to get to a hotel located on high ground.
Worries about health risks in New Orleans remaining after the post-Katrina cleanup were fortunately unfounded. The main health concerns are the same for the rest of the U.S. South: If you're not accustomed to the sub-tropical heat, drink plenty of liquids and pace yourself in the sunshine. All restaurants and cafes had health and sanitation inspections before reopening after Katrina.
Following the widespread displacement of people, destruction of property, and general disruption of city services following Katrina, the city has been experiencing a spike in violent crime, even 4 years later. The majority of this is away from the parts of town of interest to most visitors, but no part is as safe as it once was. The Central City neighborhood (see Other parts of town) is having the worst problem, and at present should be avoided by casual visitors. The Bywater area has also been having serious problems, and visitors are advised to check on current local conditions before visiting that neighborhood and take extra care if they go.
While the French Quarter and attractions most visited by tourists are some of the safest areas from violent crimes, beware opportunistic thieves looking for a chance to snatch something from visitors who are not keeping an eye on their valuables. A famous 19th century sign from the Quarter reads: "Beware Pickpockets and Loose Women." Not much has changed. Tourists can be so distracted that they are separated from their common sense... and, theoretically, other things. Keep things in your front pockets, and be careful with your digital on Bourbon.
Around parts of the French Quarter and nearby areas with many tourists, visitors can encounter hustlers who will try to get a few dollars from visitors offering anything from a flower to a hat, a foot massage, or even to clean your shoes. Another popular tourist scam is to bet a tourist $20 that the scammer knows where the tourist got their shoes. If the tourist takes the bet, the scammer responds, "You got them on your feet" and demands the $20. Remember you're under no obligation to talk with them - and it's just best to ignore them.
Looking for drugs or illegal activities will expose you to danger; if someone you just met is trying to lure you into a strange part of town for something decadent, assume you're probably being set up for a robbery - or worse. Also be advised that Louisiana has the harshest sentencing laws in the country - nearly every felony carries a mandatory penalty of life in prison without parole, so conduct yourself accordingly.
French Quarter: the oldest, most famous, and most visited section of the city. Most tourists will want to center their visit here. Those who explore other parts of town as well will find the city offers additional treats. Many old-line restaurants are in the Quarter, along with music clubs, museums, antiques shops, and drinking establishments.
Central Business District: What many cities call "Downtown" (though in New Orleans this term is often used to refer to a different part of town downriver). Adjacent to the French Quarter; has many attractions. The "CBD" has high-rise hotels and some excellent restaurants, along with many museums (the National D-Day Museum, the Louisiana Children's Museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Contemporary Arts Center) and a gallery district on and around Julia Street. Includes the "Arts District" and the "Old Warehouse District" .
Faubourg Marigny: This hip, bohemian neighborhood is on the other side ("down") from the French Quarter. Locals come here for authentic (read: non-touristy) nightlife, though tourists are certainly welcomed. Along with the section of the French Quarter east of St. Ann Street, this is the residential hub for the gay/lesbian community.
Bywater: Downriver from Marigny.
Treme: Historic Franco-African (Creole) neighborhood inland from the French Quarter.
Mid-City and Esplanade Ridge: The central part of town is home to the New Orleans Museum of Art, City Park, and the New Orleans Fair Grounds (a racetrack that hosts the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival every spring).
Uptown: 19th century residential section upriver, take the St. Charles Avenue streetcar. Uptown includes the "Garden District", which is more noted for its Victorian architecture than gardens. Also contains some of the City's best local restaurants, and the Audubon Zoo. Magazine Street hosts some 80 blocks of antique stores, art galleries, interior designer studios, and clothing stores ranging from funky thrift shops to upscale boutiques.
Carrollton: At the other end of the St. Charles Streetcar line from the Central Business District; pleasant neighborhood with a concentration of good restaurants, along with students from nearby Tulane and Loyola universities.
Algiers: The part of New Orleans across the Mississippi River.
Lakeview and Lakefront: Along and near Lake Pontchartrain.
Other parts of town
LaPlace: A fast-growing town upriver from New Orleans
Kenner: New Orleans International Airport is here
Metairie: Largest suburb; many hotels and conventions are based here.
Chalmette: Community down river from New Orleans, "Battle of New Orleans" in 1815 took place here.
Slidell: 5th largest suburb in metro area and largest suburb on the north shore.
If you are looking to get around town without using your own vehicle or a rental, you should consider taking a guided tour. Big Easy Tours, which operates in New Orleans as well as the surrounding area, has a lot of options to choose from.
Swamp tours - those with a car can make an easy day trip to the Jean Laffite Nature Preserve, a free park, with as good a view of local swamp flora and fauna as various pay tours. Honey Island Swamp Tours Inc. - nearly 70,000 acres of the Honey Island Swamp is a permanently protected wildlife area. Jean Lafitte Swamp Tours - Cajun-style boat tour takes you out on an 1 hour and 45 minute trip through the heart of Southern Louisiana's swamplands. Some swamp tours also have vans that can pick you up at your hotel and take you to the swamp tour location, though this can be significantly more expensive option than driving yourself.
Plantation tours - the Great River Road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge has several fine plantations, "Laura"and "Magnolia Mound" (Creole Plantations) and "San Francisco" are of special interest.
Battle of New Orleans Site - Battlefield history fans will want to visit the site famous battle where Andrew Jackson defeated the British at the end of the War of 1812. It didn't actually happen in New Orleans, but in the nearby community of Chalmette, Louisiana. Drive there or take a riverboat.
In addition to year-round attractions, a series of celebrations and festivals provide additional interest:
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, . Also known just as Jazz Fest. Held the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May every year at the New Orleans Fairgrounds, F-Su 11AM-7PM. It is second only to Mardi Gras for importance and size for New Orleans. The festival has been held every year since 1970. The true heart and soul of the Jazz Fest, as with New Orleans, is Music. That includes jazz, both traditional and contemporary, Cajun music, blues, R&B, gospel music, folk music, Latin, rock, rap, country music and bluegrass. But it's not just music. This is a cultural feast with food and crafts. There are thousands of musicians, cooks and craftspeople at the festival and 500,000 visitors each year. Visit the two large food areas where you can sample Louisiana cuisine and see demonstrations from top New Orleans chefs. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen.
Halloween. While not as large a celebration as Mardi Gras, Halloween is still a big deal in New Orleans. Locals begin costuming two or three days in advance, with most of the action Halloween night being, of course, in the French Quarter, which becomes a veritable parade of costumes ranging from the traditional to the satirical. Families can enjoy Halloween festivities in their own neighborhoods or at various events around the city specifically geared for children.
New Orleans is justly famous for the music it produced. There are usually several good performers somewhere in town even on a slow night. Understand that most of the good stuff is not along the tourist strip of Bourbon Street.
The best ways to keep informed about who is playing where and when:
Gambit's Best of New Orleans , the city's local newsweekly with features on arts and entertainment and whatever else is going on. Gambit also produces the de-facto local restaurant guide and listings.
Offbeat Magazine is a free monthly local music magazine with extensive listings. Can be picked up at most music venues, coffee shops, and other places around town, or ask your hotel concierge for a copy.
WWOZ 90.7 F.M. is the community radio station dedicated to local music. At the top of each odd numbered hour they play a listing of the live music happening around town for the day. WWOZ is also good for finding out about special events like "jazz funeral"s.
WTUL 91.5 FM is the Tulane college radio station, playing mostly progressive music, but also jazz, classical, and numerous other specialties. At the top of each hour they announce concerts and other events going on around town.
The telephone area code for New Orleans and the nearer suburbs is 504.
There are cyber-cafes throughout the city, with the greatest number in the French Quarter and CBD. Many coffee houses and some bars offer wireless internet connection.
New Orleans Public Libraries has branches around the city. Out of towners can get 1 hour of internet access on library computers for $3; try to go at a time when school is in session to minimize risk of long waits.
Municipal free wireless (ESSID: "CityOfNewOrleans") is available in most of the downtown area (including the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny). Although Louisiana has an anti-municipal-WiFi law (to prevent competition with businesses), the city has an exemption as long as it throttles bandwidth to 512Kbps. Originally created for police and emergency response vehicles, the network is also available to visitors and citizens. However it is generally slow and often not accessible at all for long periods in much of the city.
If you have a car and want a short adventure, drive north on the Lake Ponchartrain Bridge for a thrill. As soon as you get to the other side, start looking for the plentiful seafood offerings: fresh crab and shrimp out of the lake at very reasonable prices. The small cities and towns on the North Shore include Covington, Mandeville, and Abita Springs
I-10 runs east west through the city, I-55 dumps into I-10 West of the city and Pontchartrain; I-59 outflows into I-10 on the East side.
River Road is home to a stretch of Plantations. The plantations are scattered along the River Road on both sides of the Mississippi between Greater New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Sugar plantations brought in a nice bit of income back in the 18th and 19th centuries, and there are some lovely homes with the archetypal oak collonades at the entrance. There are also plantations in the French Creole style. The most popular platations include Oak Alley , Laura , and San Francisco .
You can also arrange for a swamp tour. Spring at Jean Lafitte swamp is a lovely time to see the swamp iris. Also, the first and longest running prison rodeo is just up the way at Angola . Before and after the rodeo, the inmates sell crafts, such as belt buckles, wallets, original paintings, and the inmates earn money for their families.
If you like to run, there are great road races such as the Red Dress Run (everyone wears a red dress and running shoes, men and women) and the Mardi Gras Marathon on February 1st, 2008.
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