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Solo NOLA Travel Recommendations Sought

Hello,

I am planning a trip to New Orleans next month, my first time in the city. As I am traveling as a solo female, I am looking for recommendations/tips.

I did earmark both the Best Western St. Christopher on Magazine Street and the Courtyard by Marriott on St. Charles as possible hotels. Has anyone stayed at either? I'm most concerned with safety and cleanliness.

I would like to visit the French Quarter but do not plan on bar hopping. I would like to walk as much as possible, as well as taking the streetcar.

I would also like to take one of the walking tours that are still operating.

I have heard that it's not a good idea to walk solo once the sun goes down in any area.

Any tips and opinions would be much appreciated.

Thank you!

ETA: I forgot to mention that this is a 2 day trip, from Friday lunchtime until Sunday morning.

Posted by
6513 posts

Several years ago, I stayed at the Crowne Plaza on Canal (and I wouldn't recommend it necessarily, it was a boondoggle checking in and out but the location was fine). Both of your hotels are so close to each other, it doesn't make much difference which you pick. Personally, I liked the Garden District and the Warehouse District better than that Canal area close to Bourbon Street because they felt more like normal neighborhoods. I really enjoyed walking all the way across Magazine street to Audubon Park - lots of shops and restaurants along the way and good, quite long, fun walk. When I went, the main draw was listening to live music in small cramped places so I enjoyed the Fabrigny neighborhood as well. I did walk alone at night but made sure I knew exactly where I was going and also did not drink much beforehand so as to be more alert (if you don't know your way around, I would err on the side of caution, especially if not many people are out on the streets). I also really enjoyed the (amazing!) Sculpture Garden (https://noma.org/besthoff-sculpture-garden/) next to the Museum of Fine Art (I took the streetcar there). If I were going now, I don't think I would sit in a cramped streetcar, but would aim to be outdoors as much as possible.

You don't have much time so I would be very selective in what exactly you want to see (some people love the WWII Museum, for example)...for me, it wouldn't be worth going if I couldn't listen to live music in small clubs or enjoy the restaurants, but your interests in New Orleans may be different than mine. I was there for at least 3 full days and got to see several neighborhoods just on foot, which I really enjoyed (I loved the architecture of the housing stock). The French Quarter is very compact so it won't take you long to see it. I wonder what is open right now?

Posted by
955 posts

A few quick first thoughts: If it were me, and the comfort/cleanliness of the hotels are comparable, I'd much rather stay at the hotel on St. Charles Ave. than the one on Magazine. Both are within a block or so of the Quarter, but the St. Charles Ave. location is a nicer walk into the Quarter, and there will be more people around for safety's sake if you are walking in the evening. There are wonderful walking tours both of the French Quarter (see Friends of the Cabildo - a non-profit - for well-regarded tours of that area) and also google tours of the Garden District. You might happen to get a lot of rain; we never know. The tours generally run if it's just a mild/moderate rain, so check weather and be prepared. If you are on St. Charles, near Canal Street, you are very near the streetcar line that runs uptown. Suggest taking that all the way out, past Tulane Univ. and Audubon Park for some beautiful homes and live oaks. Get off, maybe where the streetcar makes a hard right turn on Carrolton Ave., grab a bite at a nearby restaurant, and take streetcar back downtown. Some of the Garden District tours meet up at Prytania and Washington Ave., (they will say: "meet at Garden District Bookstore"). You could try to time it to take streetcar and then on your way back downtown get off at St. Charles & Washington and walk one block to Prytania for your tour. You might also save a bunch of time by getting an Uber to your tour if you get off at St. Charles & Carrolton. (The trip back, to get off at Washington, incl. waiting for next streetcar, could easily be 45" or more). Next: Yes, you are probably better off not walking alone at night unless there are a lot of people around. With only 1.5 days, though, you might just want to stick to the French Quarter. Lots to do there; If you like history, the Hermann-Grima House, the Historic New Orleans Collection, and there is a fabulous new exhibition at the Presbytere (part of the Louisiana State Museums, in Jackson Square), on the history and mystery of masking and the Mardi Gras Indians. Do take a look, as you walk through Jackson Square. If you want more specifics around your interests, let us know. (I've lived in NOLA area, now uptown, for 35 years).

Posted by
955 posts

I think Agnes means the Marigny neighborhood, which is the next neighborhood over if you walk all the way through the French Quarter from your hotel. Yes, there are wonderful little cafes, coffeeshops, and historic smaller homes throughout the Marigny. Wonderful cool artsy neighborhood. Might be the thing to do, Friday afternoon: meander through the Quarter then through the Marigny. Then eat dinner in the Marigny and walk back through the Quarter. I would be comfortable walking back through the Quarter after dark as long as you stick to well-populated streets specifically Royal or Bourbon - though Bourbon is more icky, as far as I'm concerned!).

Posted by
6513 posts

I liked both the Warehouse District (https://www.neworleans.com/plan/neighborhoods/arts-warehouse-district/) and the Marigny (https://www.neworleans.com/plan/neighborhoods/marigny-bywater/). By the way, the City's visitor website (https://www.neworleans.com) is excellent for planning a short trip.

I really, really did not like Bourbon Street at all....or Canal Street. I loved the non-touristy and more local-feel neighborhoods. Next time, I'd like to check out this museum: Ogden Museum of Southern Art (https://ogdenmuseum.org) and perhaps even the WWII Museum (since I've seen most of everything else by now).

Posted by
3571 posts

It was pre-hurricane disaster for my visit, but I will admit that walking several blocks to meet co workers for beignets at Cafe du Monde early one morning felt pretty darn isolated. It was closer to 8:30 a.m. so I expected more worker street activity. There wasn't. On the other hand, I would consider walking back from Preservation Hall after a jazz session....if they are open. They start early evening and would be finished before 8:30 p.m. This is a NOLA institution and may be the last of a dying breed of musician.

Posted by
29 posts

I was in NOLA the last 2 years, last year, right before Covid hit. I had to be on my own much of the time since my husband was there on biz.

I think either hotel would be fine.
Emeril's for lunch-- I had to eat breakfast and lunch by myself and would find restaurants and eat at the counter. I made daily runs to Cafe du Monde for breakfast.

I felt safe walking everywhere I went. As always, be vigilant and walk with purpose.

I took the bus down Magazine Street--there are alot of mom and pop shops on Magazine Street and it was a great way to spend the afternoon. It's not touristy. There is a huge Whole Foods at the end of the street--good for a restroom, water, snack break.
My museums tend to be shops so I can't tell you about museums. LOL. If you need a Derby hat, let me know --fabulous hat shop on Royal street. It's fun to wander about. I like getting out early for picture taking. The streets are empty and you can see some cool buildings. A walking tour would be a really cool thing to do.

Having a mint julep or hurricane would be fun and very NOLA.- Pat O'briens'. I did not like Bourbon street at all - it smells like garbage. Pat O'briens is on Bourbon street, however. The only reason why I would go on Bourbon Street, and I cut over on the side street closest to it.

The French Market is not that great due to it now being an influx of cheap souveniers, but if you want pralines--Loretta's is authentic and local. French Market is the easiest location to buy them.
NOLA's for dinner is excellent too. (another Emeril property) There is a chef's counter and you can score a seat there. As always for dinner-make reservations. Commander's Palace is total New Orleans. I don't know if you can eat at the bar, it's a restaurant for biz dinners, special occasions, but it's fabulous. I'd go there by myself if I had to. They may be open for lunch and if you are wandering down Magazine Street it isn't far, and then you can hop the trolley back to the hotel and at the same time, see the Garden district.
There is a river walk that you can catch at the end of Canal Street. I enjoyed walking along the river.

Have fun.

Posted by
5528 posts

We stayed at that Courtyard once, several years ago. It was ok - basic business hotel, pretty much like any other Courtyard. Its close to the cruise port so that was a big part of their business. Not partiers, so we were not out late. We walked to the FQ easily - its pretty wide open from the hotel, and not a dark walk. Also a riverfront walking zone most of the way.

Posted by
60 posts

Thank you all so much for your recommendations!

I know nothing about the neighborhoods so this is very helpful.

I would like to see the French Quarter but I certainly don't have to spend all of my limited time there. I am open to exploring other areas.

I do like historical houses and churches and would enjoy finding a good walking tour of the city with history, as well as the ghost/vampire type tours.

Is the ferry across the Mississippi worth taking?

I did glance at the riverboat cruises but they take a fairly large chunk of time so I crossed them off the list.

Posted by
955 posts

I've seen great reviews of the walking tour by Friends of the Cabildo, and also some not-so-stellar reviews. It seems to totally depend on who the tour guide is... and they are all volunteers. You might want to read the reviews yourself (on tripadvisor, etc.). Sorry I can't be more help than that re. walking tours of the French Quarter. I've taken visiting friends on the ferry across the River and back a couple of times. I'm not sure that it's worth the effort and time. It's nice to be out on the water but you really don't see much. If you like historic churches and homes, be sure to walk into St. Louis Cathedral, in Jackson Square, in the middle of the Quarter. Read about it elsewhere. It's got quite a history. There are a couple of wonderful old historic homes in the Quarter that have tours. One is the Hermann-Grima House. The other is the Gallier House. I tend to think the tour is a bit better at the H-G house, but both are very interesting and give you a sense of some of the history of New Orleans. Do stick your head into the TI on Jackson Square (on the down river side of the square) and you'll get lots of good info, maps, tour brochures, etc.

Posted by
60 posts

Again, thank you all for your responses!

I am trying to decide between two tours: either the Ghosts and Spirits tour with Gray Line or the Ghost, Voodoo and Vampire walking tour with Witches Brew.

Does anyone have experience with either? Is one better than the other? I would consider both if I had more time but since my time is limited, I need to choose one.

Thanks so much!

Posted by
1656 posts

I have not done either of those tours, but they sound a bit touristy to me. I did a ghost tour once in another city, and that cured me.
I would highly recommend a cemetery tour with Save Our Cemeteries. They do the one called St. Louis number one just on the outskirts of the French Quarter. It’s non profit and money goes to save and restore many of the headstones, which have seen better days.

Posted by
6206 posts

It was quite a while ago (2005, pre hurricane Katrina), but I did three walking tours in NO. When visiting new cities as a solo I find the walking tours a great option to wandering around by myself (although I do a lot of that too). I loved the cemetery tour but don't remember which company I used, it might have been Save Our Cemeteries. I was encouraged not to wander around in the cemeteries alone and I think that still goes. I also took the French Quarter tour with Friends of the Cabildo, one of the best walking tours I've taken anywhere - very interesting and informative if you love to learn the history of a place, I highly recommend them. The third tour we (me and my daughter) took was a nighttime ghost and vampire tour, don't remember who it was with. It was fun but there were a couple of rowdy children on the tour that kind of spoiled it for us so we were a little disappointed. All ghost tours are usually pretty hokey and touristy so there's that - don't expect too much.

Posted by
868 posts

I second the suggestion of taking the streetcar route toward Tulane. Very interesting, and the streetcars themselves are a bit of transportation history in motion. I was in town for work and walked to Cafe du Monde for coffee and beignets by myself in the evening, then headed back to the hotel. I was on Bourbon Street for two blocks and that was enough. Not my scene. Dank and musty—the French Quarter can smell it’s age! :) I don’t know the neighborhoods well, but we were staying at the Hampton Inn by the convention center—the hotel’s main building is an old warehouse.

Posted by
888 posts

The streetcar looks to still be closed. http://www.norta.com/service-alerts I was in New Orleans in November 2019 just after the Hard Rock hotel collapsed and it was closed back then. In fact the entire block was cordoned off. You may want to call to ask what the status is.

I have been to New Orleans by myself several times for work and I’ve had no issues. I have gone jogging early morning and walked down Bourbon Street around 10 PM by myself and felt safe. The sheer number of people on Bourbon Street in fact is what makes you feel safe being by yourself. There’s no way for anyone to do anything to you without someone else seeing it if that makes sense. I’ve stayed at the Marriott on Canal, at the JW Marriott, the Sheraton, and Embassy Suites and I felt safe at all of them.

New Orleans has more than its fair share of vagrants, drunks (most of whom are tourists), hustlers, and weirdos. But that’s kind of part of the experience. Just treat it like you would in any big city - walk purposefully, don’t engage with people who approach you (unless you want to), etc. You’ll be fine. The city is hemmed in by the Mississippi river so you can’t really get lost.

Seconding others by saying that the WWII museum is one of the best museums I’ve ever been to anywhere, anytime. If you have the slightest interest in that era it is worth a visit.