New Orleans is known for its European-style architecture, mouth-watering Creole cuisine and all-around mysticism. And as its backbone is music: Jazz, blues, rock 'n' roll, and Zydeco tunes ooze from every city crevice. But for many, the main reason to visit is Mardi Gras, an over-the-top party with Carnaval traits, such as masks, music, and an all-around wild time. Even if you don't make it to Mardi Gras, you'll still find a party ... continue»
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The best time to visit New Orleans is from February to May when the weather is comfortably cool and the celebrations are in full swing. If you're not interested in Mardi Gras mania, plan to visit in December or January, when the city is calm and you don't have to worry about making hotel reservations a year in advance. To save on room rates, travel in the summer or fall. Just note that these seasons are known for their stifling heat and humidity, not to mention the threat of hurricanes.Best Times to Visit New Orleans»
New Orleans Neighborhoods
Straddling the Mississippi River in southern Louisiana, New Orleans is a relatively small city home to numerous diverse neighborhoods. Since Hurricane Katrina, many districts have now been restored to their previous states and are once again alive and well.
French Quarter (Vieux Carré)
New Orleans is most famous for its French Quarter (Vieux Carré), home to Bourbon Street, the city's nighttime hot spot. Perched on the banks of the Mississippi River in the heart of the city, the French Quarter is the oldest area of the city, and a popular tourist destination. The French Quarter is the most visited of the city's neighborhoods due to the abundance of traditional restaurants, museums and antique shops. Visitors are drawn to Jackson Square, home to the impressive St. Louis Cathedral, as well as several other notable structures, including the Cabildo and the Pontalba Buildings.
Sitting just north of the French Quarter is Faubourg Marigny (or simply "Marigny"), a neighborhood that some say captures the essence of what the French Quarter was like several decades ago. With Washington Square Park at its center, Marigny is known for its Creole-style cottages, budget-friendly B&Bs, funky coffee houses, and numerous live music venues oozing the smooth sounds of jazz and blues until the small hours of the morning. Mardi Gras-goers should know that Marigny is one of the festival's hidden hot spots, offering a more authentic carnival atmosphere away from Bourbon Street's drunken revelry.
Lower Canal Street
Sitting southwest of the French Quarter, Lower Canal Street was once the city's major shopping district until a slumped economy caused it to lose much of its splendor during the 1980s. Today, this district is characterized by a 10-block grouping of hotels and souvenir shops. Lower Canal Street is once again a popular tourist stop since it is home to the Riverwalk Marketplace, as well as the Audubon Nature Institute.
Central Business District
South of Lower Canal Street is the Central Business District. Like its name implies, this neighborhood is the central hub of New Orleans' business community. The only real tourist attraction in this area is the Louisiana Superdome, one of the largest stadiums in the country and home to the New Orleans Saints football team. The Superdome also plays host to the annual Sugar Bowl Classic football game. Although the Central Business District is busy during the day, it's very quiet come nightfall.
If you're looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter and the Central Business District, the Garden District provides a more serene setting. Sitting south of the Central Business District along the Mississippi River, the Garden District is primarily an upscale residential area, characterized by lush gardens, Greek Revival architecture and the famous oak-lined St. Charles Avenue. The area also has many historical sites to choose from, including Colonel Short's Villa, House of Broel's Victorian Mansion and Dollhouse Museum, and the Toby-Westfeldt House.
Often overlooked by tourists throughout the majority of the year, New Orleans' Mid-City comes to life every April during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which takes place at the Fair Grounds Race Course (a 10-minute drive from the French Quarter) and features performances by renowned artists, such as Al Green and Bruce Springsteen. Throughout the year, Mid-City attracts a good number of residents and a few visitors with its affordable restaurants; visitors can also spend the day wandering around the New Orleans Museum of Art or strolling through City Park.
Sitting between the Garden District and the Central Business District, the Warehouse District features numerous galleries and several top-notch museums, including the National World War II Museum and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. The New Orleans School of Glassworks and Printmaking Studio gives demonstrations of glassmaking, printmaking, and silver alchemy. If you're interested in doing some shopping, Julia Row is littered with contemporary art dealers and is also the site of several festivals, such as White Linen Night in August and Art for Art's Sake in October.
Home to both Tulane and Loyola universities, Uptown is a trendy neighborhood featuring Victorian-style architecture and plenty of quaint coffee shops. This is also a great neighborhood to explore if you are interested in antiques. Even if you aren't looking to spend any money, Uptown provides refuge from the tourist-ridden French Quarter with quiet residential streets and the beautiful Audubon Park.
Although New Orleans has come a long way since Hurricane Katrina, several of the city's less central neighborhoods have not yet received the attention they need. Streets farther away from the more tourist-friendly areas suffer from poor lighting and are unsuitable to visit on foot after dark. When returning to your hotel later in the evening, we recommend relying on cabs to avoid getting lost in a strange area. If you can help it, avoid going out alone at night.
If you're joining in the Mardi Gras festivities, make sure to keep a close eye on your valuables, since the streets are generally very crowded. Or better yet, leave your wallets and purses at home. Instead, just grab some cash and a form of ID and carry them in your front pocket.
The best ways to get around New Orleans are on foot and by public transportation. The city's neighborhoods are very compact, making them perfect for strolling sightseers. If you don't feel like walking, hop on one of the famous streetcars. To get into the city from the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)—located about 15 miles from the central business district—you can take the Airport Shuttle for about $20 per person (one-way). The shuttle services the Downtown and Uptown districts as well as the French Quarter. Taxis are also available, but you can expect to pay at least $30 more to get from the airport into town.Getting Around New Orleans»