I'll be tagging along with my husband to his conference in New Orleans April 21-24. I will not have a car, and love to walk to explore 😊 Will be staying near the convention center. Would love ideas for things to see, places to eat, etc.
My trips to New Orleans have only been on my business trips and I leave time before or after the trip for enjoyment of the city. There is no need to rent a car unless you want to do a day trip to plantations.
Walk around the French Quarter and enjoy the food and drink. See Jackson Sq. Explore the St Louis cathedral. Take a street car to the Garden District. Beignets, bananas foster, creoles cuisine, hurricanes (be careful with them), we love NO!
You will not need a car and parking would be tough. NO is walkable and the street car is handy. We were there recently and toured the fantastic WWII Museum--took the street car at Canal St and museum is about a block away from the stop. There are some nice antique stores to explore if that is of any interest. We ate at Galatoires and Brennans (dinners) and ACME Oyster House for lunch. And Cafe du Monde and the marketplace are not to be missed.
Definitely check out the live music - that is the highlight of New Orleans and makes the city so special. I went to Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro in the Marigny District, but there are many others. Look at the event calendar online to see what's happening when you're there. I also loved the sculpture garden in the art museum (I took a tram there). Everything else is walking distance, so you should have no problems (I even walked all the way to the end of the Garden District which was a few miles). The food is very, very indulgent....I couldn't take it more than 3 days, way too rich for me (but delicious).
If you want to really hear New Orleans style music as it was played back in the 1920s and 30s, consider Preservation Hall. It is on Peters Street, about a block off Bourbon St., and appears to be just a "hole in the wall". It was founded in the early 1960s to preserve the original, pure, authentic New Orleans Jazz. They don't serve any food or drinks at all, but the music is fantastic. Most folks have to sit on the floor as there are very few chairs. But they do serve up some of the greatest music anywhere. The first set starts at 8 p.m. but you need to get in line at 7 p.m. to be sure you get in. Google it and see what you think. You can probably listen to a sample of the music somewhere on the web. There is also a great jazz museum located on Esplanade Ave. on the edge of the French Quarter.
Historic garden district tours are great.
I second the WII museum as a great stop, I don't like war stuff, but this was an excellent museum and the cafe in the museum has great food.
don't bother with a haunted tour of the french district.
I've made two visits to New Orleans for a total of 7 days, once alone and once with my daughter. Never had a need for a car either time. Everything worth seeing is easy by walking and public transportation. Even if you want to get out of the city and visit the bayou country or the plantations you can hook up with a day tour. I stayed in the French Quarter both times and loved walking around there but also ventured out to the Garden District and the zoo by trolley and took a short boat cruise on the river. My daughter and I did a day trip to the bayou and did one of the air boat tours which was very interesting, educational, and fun.
I'm getting ready to tag along with my husband to New Orleans, too. This will be my 4th trip and I spend most of my time on my own, wandering the city. We stay at the Hilton Riverwalk, which puts us right by the convention center and is a convenient location for accessing the city. I've always felt safe being on my own and they have a marvelous transit system. I get a transit pass that covers both buses and streetcars and I'm off. Passes are $3 a day for unlimited rides and they sell 1,3 or 5 day passes (no price break for buying multiple day pass). Their website is Norta.com.
So far I've done:
Streetcar to the end of the line and back through the Garden District
WWII Museum - 2 buildings
Oak Alley Plantation tour - 1/2 day; hotel pick-up
Natchez Harbor Steamboat cruise
French Quarter History Tour
New Orleans cemetary Tour ( this is the only place they used to caution against going by yourself - I still got to the cemetary on my own)
St. Louis Cathedral
New Orleans Museum of Art & Sculpture Garden (the bus ride out takes you through areas that were flooded during Katrina)
Presbytery - they have exhibits on Katrina and Mardi Gras
Streetcar to the end of the French Marketplace and then walk back through the French Quarter.
Haven't done, but might this trip:
Cooking class demonstration
New Orleans Food Tour of the French Quarter
Our last trip was in 2011, so I'm not sure what changes I'll find, but I will definitely hit Cafe Du Monde for coffee and beignets. There used to be a location in the Riverwalk Mall next to the convention center, as well as in the French Quarter. I like trying pralines at different places and I will probably stop in at Central Grocery, which is where they invented the muffuletta sandwich. I ordered a half last time and that was plenty.
Have a great trip!
Patty (and everyone),
Thanks for the wonderful information. Patty, sounds like you do what I do when I tag along. I've been tagging along for over 20 years, and love exploring the cities I've visited on my own. I've never been to New Orleans, so this gives me a lot of great info of what to look into. I'm really looking forward to it. Thanks again :)
I used to live there and have been back as a tourist several times.
Do a swamp tour-either by air boat or kayak, both are great and it gets u out into nature!
Do Dr. Gumbos food tour-Fantastic tour! Food, history tour! A real highlight!
And walk all over!
And this might not appeal to you, but I also loved the cemetery tour.
Cafe du Mond is a must!
Here's another vote for the doctor gumbo tours. It was awesome. Great history and the food to say the least was excellent.
I also recommend the World War II museum. One of the best I've been to. I literally went in at the time it opened and they had to kick me out. Now, i am one of those people who if it's a good Museum like that I will linger and read most everything and watch lots of their videos and movies. But that's just me.
Live music is awesome.
WWOZ has a great online calendar for live music. With the magic of youtube you can see if a band is your kind of music. Before our last trip, I told my husband that I had our music all planned out. But we were going to have to stay for a month.
Definitely spend an evening on Frenchmen Street, going in and out of bars, listening to music. Any night of the week.
What is WWOZ?
To be my usual contrarian self:
*Parking in the FQ is easy, there are cheap lots along the north perimeter of the FQ a few blocks from Bourbon St., for day trippers which you are not.
*Cafe du Mond is a pretty nasty experience, crappy dough things with sugar on them and terrible service.
Ha! Can't help but taking the last post "tongue in cheek"! 😜
If you do nothing else, go to Parkway Bakery & Tavern for a po boy. It's a short walk from the Canal St. streetcar (get off at Canal and Jeff. Davis). It was the best sandwich I've ever had. Mondays and Wednesdays they have fried oyster po boys. They are closed Tuesdays.
Also, agreed that you do not need a car in the city (we did not have one - walked a ton, took a few streetcar rides, and used Uber once). Disagreed with Tom_MN on Cafe du Monde. Our beignets were hot, light, and fresh.
I also disagree with Tom about Cafe du Monde. It's been a lot of years and I know things change but both times I went (in two different years) the beignets were wonderful. Fortunately both times I went it was not particularly crowded so service was just fine. I suppose if it's packed the beignets may not always be so hot and fresh and service may not be optimum. Walk by and if it's not crowded definitely give it a try.
Go to Irene's in FQ for excellent Italian food with and NO influence.
I was there pre-Katrina. I will admit, I wasn't overly taken with Cafe du Monde, but I think ot was the chickory coffee I wasn't fond of. Beignets and black clothing don't mix. But the fresh pralines at various locations....those were a treat.And I second Preservation Hall.
Treat yourself to a cooking class at The New Orleans School of Cooking! It was a highlight for us. We did not have a car. We did take the trolley up into the garden district.
We were back in NO about 6 weeks ago. One of my favorite get aways! I add a vote for the WWll museum, a cooking class ( we took one at the Riverwalk mall, so near where you will be), a swamp tour is a really fun experience, and of course a tour of at least one of the cemeteries. Cafe du Monte is a must if for no other reason than the experience, and do spend time on the streetcars. The people you come in contact with on the streetcars are so welcoming and make you feel at home. As we were taking our first trip on this visit a local woman threw her arms out wide and declared "Welcome to New Orleans!" Now that sure put a smile on our faces!
Enjoyed the Ranger walk/talk
We were there two years ago, after many years away, and had a fantastic time. You don't need a car. Walking is all on the flat, but if you get tired, Lyft and Uber were plentiful and cheap. But do take a ride on the Trolley through the Garden District (if you're not staying there). Lovely to walk around, especially near Tulane and the park.
We've always said, you can't get a bad meal in NOLA, and most of them will be relatively inexpensive (compared to New England/New York area, anyway). For a real treat, on the Monday or Tuesday you are there, make a reservation for lunch at Commander's Palace, and specify THE GARDEN ROOM. It's one of the oldest and most respected restaurants in the city. It's in the Garden District, so take the trolley and walk if the weather is nice, it's not far from St. Charles.
Food is to die for, service is formal and impeccable, but somehow friendly and good-humored, too. They are famous for their weekdays lunchtime 25 cent martinis (there's a few other choices for cocktails at the same price)--they are STIFF and delicious! Best of all is the room--you will feel like you are sitting in a very elegant tree house. You won't need dinner that night, and lunchtime prices make this the best deal in town!
Oh, another place we enjoyed, at the other end of the elegance spectrum, and only if you're up for quirky places: the Backstreet Cultural Museum, in the Treme (near the Quarter). If you watched the HBO series, "Treme" (and if you haven't, you should, before you go), you'll be familiar with the Mardi Gras Indian tradition. Different "clubs" work all year to hand bead intricate, colorful and elaborate suits (costumes?) they dance in during Mardi Gras. Because they never reuse, sell, or destroy these creations (that would be "bad juju") this museum has collected many of the most interesting and beautiful that have been created, over past decades.
It's definitely not a fancy place--you may be little hesitant to enter, or pay the $10 admission fee, but this is an experience you will have only in New Orleans. You will be welcomed, but left to your own devices to explore, unless you have a question, which the folks who work? live? they will be glad to answer.
The small bungalow that houses the museum is just a block or so from Louis Armstrong park, which we very much enjoyed walking through, just after leaving the outer part of the French Quarter.
Also, the place to hear music these days (f you want more than the rather touristy Bourbon St. part of the FQ,) is in the Marigny neighborhood, on Frenchman Street. It's just a short walk from the Quarter, and a cheap uber ride from your hotel. If you want to eat, make a reservation.
And, I'm sure someone has mentioned it, but you can't leave NOLA without coffee and Beignets at Cafe du Monde. A coffee cup from there is the best souvenir you can buy.
Head to the riverfront when you arrive. The Tall Ships are there until the 22nd. The sails will be down when they're docked, so you might want to be there when they sail away. You can tour the ships.
We leave Sunday for NOLA, and will be there when they arrive.
Two quick comments after reading Igalen's post. First, the locals call a "trolly" a "streetcar". Second, for a special occasion, I cannot think of a grander dining experience than the Garden Room at Commander's Palace, but book well in advance.
A few other comments:
--The World War II Museum is indeed excellent.
--You can walk for much of what you want to see--the French Quarter and the Warehouse District--and you can take a streetcar to go Uptown. But you might consider a taxi to go to Mid-City restaurants, and you will definitely need one to go to some exciting areas east of the French Quarter like Bywater. Ask the staff at the hotel when you can walk and need a taxi.
A final note is that tourism is important to the city and that the locals are intensely parochial and proud, and very much want you to enjoy your stay.
Regarding the discussion on Cafe du Monde. They are certainly a landmark and I have made stops very early in the morning when it is possible to get seated right away, but I refuse to stand in a line a hundred feet long and wait. When they are packed, service and quality suffers greatly. We prefer Cafe Beignet, the original location on Royal St. next to the Police Station. (They have an outpost on Bourbon and now a larger place in the Jax building with a limited menu, but go to Royal) Small place, always excellent beignets, plus you can get regular coffee or espresso drinks, as well as a nice breakfast menu. Room to sit inside or in a small garden area.
If you enjoy smaller shops, we have started to get out of the French Quarter and have been exploring Magazine Street. It runs parallel more or less to St. Charles in the Garden District and is full of shops and local restaurants.