This Month’s Spotlighted City: New Orleans, LA
New Orleans is well known for its annual Mardi Gras celebration, and for being the birthplace of jazz. But the city is more than Mardi Gras and jazz. It’s also grand Greek revival mansions of the Garden District, river cruises on the Mississippi River, parks, festivals, a college community (Tulane and Loyola), and of course the famed French Quarter with its music, restaurants, and bars. Unfortunately, a weekend here is never long enough.
From the Airport
Planes arrive at Louis Armstrong—New Orleans International Airport. The Airport Shuttle will take you to hotels in downtown New Orleans for $20 each way, $38 round trip. Three bags are allowed. For more information or to make a reservation, call 1-866-596-2699 (toll-free) or (504) 522-3500.
A less expensive way to get downtown is Jefferson Transit’s E-2 bus. The Airport-Downtown Express (E-2) Bus picks up outside airport Entrance #7 on the upper level. jeffersontransit.org The fare for Airport-Downtown Express (E-2) is $2.00. The fare boxes will accept $1, $5, $10, $20 dollar bills and all U.S. coins. The Airport bus stop is on the second level of the Airport in the outer lanes at Door 7. On weekends, the E-2’s only stop in New Orleans is the Mid-City stop at South Carrolton and Tulane Avenues. From there, you can get the 39 bus to downtown New Orleans (Saratoga and Canal). Or you can walk about 10 minutes to South Carrolton and Canal, and catch the Canal Streetcar. (If you want to visit Audubon Park and its zoo before going downtown, RTA’s route 32 goes from the Mid City stop directly to Audubon Park.) Visit the Jefferson Transit website, http://www.jeffersontransit.org for E2 schedules to the airport, or the RTA website http://www.norta.com for transit in New Orleans.
From the Train Station and Bus Terminal
Three Amtrak trains serve New Orleans: The Crescent (daily from Washington D.C. and Atlanta), the City of New Orleans (daily from Chicago), and the Sunset Limited (three times each week from Los Angeles and San Antonio). Greyhound buses also stop at the Union Passenger Terminal on Loyola Ave., next to I-10.
From the Union Passenger Terminal, RTA bus 28 will take you downtown. Take any bus going toward South Rampart and (North) Canal. (Buses don’t operate on Sundays after 6 p.m. on this route.)
Where to Stay
New Orleans’ French Quarter, Downtown and Warehouse/Arts Districts are all great locations to stay without a car. New Orleans is a very “walkable” city, and by staying in these areas, visitors have easy access to the areas of town where activities are more popular. However, visitors staying in the Garden District/Uptown areas do have the advantage of being close to the St. Charles streetcar line. The historic St. Charles streetcars run through these districts and drop off visitors at the edge of the French Quarter on Canal Street. It’s only $1.25 each way, but make sure you have exact change.
Getting Around After You Arrive
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (www.norta.com, or call (504) 248-3900 between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central Time, weekdays) operates local buses and streetcars. Be sure to have exact change.
The one-way fare is $1.25 + 25 cents for a transfer. Senior citizens age 65 (with a driver’s license or other state-issued picture ID) pay 40 cents each trip, with no charge for transfers.
The most convenient way to travel is with a one-day Jazzy Pass ($3) which gives you unlimited bus and streetcar trips for an entire day. Best of all, you can buy this pass on any bus or streetcar.
You can rent bicycles at the American Bicycle Rental Company (www.ambrec.com, or call toll-free (866) 293-4037), located at 317 Burgundy Street. View a city bicycle trail map at: http://nolacycle.noladata.org/.
Taxi rates are $3.50 plus $2 per mile (.25 per one-eighth mile) thereafter. There is also an additional charge of $1.00 per passenger after the first passenger. During peak visitor times (including Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest) taxi rates are $5 per person or the meter rate, whichever is greater.
What to Do
There is so much to do—and so little time to do it. You will probably want to spend at least one evening in the famed French Quarter, sampling the bars and music. The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau recommends that anyone interested in music should visit Frenchmen Street, also known as the local’s Bourbon Street. The clubs that line this street give you a sample of every genre of music, including brass, jazz and zydeco. Fabulous food is a bonus at many of these places.
Consider a boat trip on the Mississippi. The Steamboat Natchez (www.steamboatnatchez.com/) and Creole Queen (www.creolequeen.com/ offer daily cruises and dinner cruises, and a New Year’s Eve dinner.
Consider an organized tour. (http://www.neworleanscvb.com/things-to-do/tours/directory/).
For a detailed list of attractions, and suggested itineraries, visit www.neworleanscvb.com.
We recommend a ride on one or all New Orleans streetcar lines and a short ferry ride across the Mississippi on the free Canal Street to the neighborhood of Algiers Point: New Orleans’ 2nd oldest neighborhood.
Explore New Orleans by Streetcar
The St. Charles Streetcar (green streetcars) runs down historic St. Charles Avenue. Most visitors take a journey down the 6 miles of track just to view the beautiful/historic homes, but the streetcar also makes the Riverbend area accessible to visitors. One popular street along the way is Oak Street, where there is a wine bar, music club and the famous restaurant Jacquimos. Allow time to get off and visit Audubon Park and its popular Zoo (http://www.auduboninstitute.org/visit/zoo/).
But the St. Charles streetcar is just one of the RTA’s streetcars. Many visitors overlook the Canal Street and Riverfront streetcars. For descriptions of all streetcar lines and where they go, visit:
Take the Free Algiers Ferry and Explore Algiers Point
Before leaving, spend a couple of hours exploring Algiers Point: New Orleans’ second oldest neighborhood and a short boat ride across the Mississippi River on the free Canal Street Ferry. The ferry leaves from the end of Canal Street. The ferry runs every day from 6 am – 12:15 am, and departs from the New Orleans side at :15 and :45 past the hour. It departs from the West Bank on the hour and :30 past the hour. For more information about the ferry visit http://www.neworleansonline.com/tools/transportation/gettingaround/ferry.html
Once the ferry drops you off in Algiers Point, you’ll be immersed in a pleasant, residential neighborhood that survived Hurricane Katrina entirely, and has preserved much of its original 19th century village charm. Grab a bite at any of the nearby cafes and pubs, stroll the Jazz Walk of Fame along the levee, or take a self-guided walking tour – see the Algiers Historical Society, http://algierspoint.org/AHS/walking.html, for information on tours and the neighborhood. Ride today and see the city from the other side! For more information about things to see and do in Algiers Point, please visit: www.algierspoint.org. Anne Kotch, a local tour guide and secretary of the Algiers Point Association offers these tips:
“Come “ovah da rivah” and visit Algiers Point. Established in 1719, it is the second oldest neighborhood in the city and one of the best kept secrets in New Orleans. It is a neighborhood filled with turn of the century homes situated on streets lined with live oaks, magnolias and crepe myrtle. Algiers Point is a short ferry ride from the foot of Canal Street. There are three different walking tours available. These brochures may be found at the Visitors and Convention Bureau headquarters on 2020 St. Charles Avenue, the ferry terminal as well as in racks at the local Algiers businesses.
“One tour takes you down the shady streets, past the Algiers Courthouse (third-oldest courthouse in continuous use in the State of Louisiana), businesses (Dry Dock Cafe and Vine and Dine), parks (Confetti Kids and Delcazal) and churches (Holy Name of Mary -a Tutor Gothic style church with over 75 stained glass windows, Mount Oliver Episcopal a Country Gothic style church built in 1867 and Trinity Lutheran Church a Gothic Colonial Revival style church built in 1875 by German families). A very interesting and educational stop would be Rosetree Glassblowing Studio and Gallery. Here you can watch an ancient art practiced by modern masters.
“The walking tourist will have a feel of Deja-Vu as they look at the neighborhood. Many well known and soon to be released movies such as “Ray”, “Deja-Vu”, “The Green Lantern, “The Paperboy”, and “On the Seventh Day” were filmed in the Point. A must see location is The Old Point Bar located at 545 Patterson Street. Over 25 movies have been filmed here alone. You might just wander onto a movie set actively filming.
“Tours two and three are self guided walking tours that guide you through the era of Jazz in Old Algiers, “The Brooklyn of the South”. These self guided walking tours take you by homes of jazz musicians such as the legendary brass band leader Henry Allen, Sr and his son Henry “Red” Allen (921 Verret Street) and jazz venues where greats such as Ray Charles and B.B. King played in the 1960’s.”
It’s Nearly Time to Leave—and we’ve just got started!
By now, you’ve seen quite a bit of New Orleans—including neighborhoods overlooked by most tourists. Hopefully, you’ve heard music in the French Quarter, traveled on at least one streetcar, visited Audubon Park and its Zoo, possibly enjoyed a short river cruise on either the Steamboat Natchez or Creole Queen, and explored Algiers Point after a short ferry ride.
If the weather is bad, take the Canal Street streetcar marked City Park to the last stop, and visit the New Orleans Museum of Art (www.noma.org, or call (504) 658-4100.
Remember two web sites: the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau site (www.neworleanscvb.com), and the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority site for streetcar and bus information (www.norta.com).
Steve Atlas spotlights where to visit or live without depending on a private automobile. Visit Steve’s website: http://carfreeamerica.org. View past Car Free Journey columns, and special reports about good places to live without a car at www.pubtrantravel.com. E-mail Steve with your comments or ideas for future columns at firstname.lastname@example.org.