Christy's Guide to New Orleans

Overview, weather, getting around, etc.

As I strolled down Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom prior to the start of the 2002 HOW Conference in Orlando, I was struck by the similarities between Main Street and Bourbon Street. I'm not completely crazy—I'm a native Floridian who has been to Disney more times than I can count and has called New Orleans home since 1992. Both are quaint cobblestone streets with low-rising, old-looking buildings. Music greets you at every turn, as do T-shirt and souvenir shops. Strange characters in costumes mill around—though in NOLA they are usually mimes and street musicians, and you're expected to throw a dollar into their hat if you take your picture with them. Both places sell overpriced refreshments, and you might see a parade coming your way.

Unlike Main Street, though, Bourbon Street has booze, live jazz, strippers (male, female and everything in between), and it's open 24/7. A decadent Disney, if you will.

Practical Information
A word of caution: even though Bourbon Street and the French Quarter are teeming with tourists and cops, pickpockets do lurk, so keep your valuables and friends close to you. Most bars and clubs are open 24 hours, so there is no "last call". The drinking age is 21; people under age are allowed in bars, but they can't buy a drink and can't be in the vicinity of video poker machines. Some places do have a posted age limit.

Bar-hopping is a favorite pasttime, since rarely is there a cover charge. Ready to switch bars, but still have most of your drink left? Grab a plastic "go cup," usually posted near the door, or ask the bartender or bouncer, and pour your drink in. You can stroll the streets with an alcoholic drink in a plastic cup, but not in a glass or metal container. Most bars won't let you in with a drink from somewhere else, so you'll have to drink up or toss it.

After dark, don't visit cemeteries or parks or walk past Rampart Street from the French Quarter. And use caution in the Central Business District ("CBD").

The Weather
Two words: hot and humid. Bring lots of light, cool clothing, rain gear and comfortable shoes, and maybe some bug repellent. Add a sweater or jacket for cold rooms and restaurants. Most people dress casual here, especially in the summer. The finer restaurants will require a jacket for men. An umbrella is also a good idea. In the summer thunder storms pop up out of nowhere and they can also provide cooling shade in the sun.

Getting Around
If you rented a car, leave it at the hotel if you plan to go into the French Quarter. Parking is a nightmare, and the Quarter is a compact 12 blocks by 7 blocks. Besides, you see more walking.

If you get tired of walking, the Riverfront Streetcar line runs from the Hilton to Esplanade Avenue at the end of the French Quarter (Fare is $1.50). Running 7 miles from the French Quarter to Riverbend, the Historic St. Charles Avenue Streetcar line is a most civilized way to travel (Fare is $1.25).If you tell the driver where you want to get off, he'll yell out when he gets to that stop. The Canal Street Streetcar line starts in the French Quarter and travels all the way up Canal Street. You can take it either to City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art, or to the Cemetaries. (Note: call them streetcars, not trollies, to sounds like a local.) Enter at the front and exit at the back. And push the back door hard.

The city buses (RTA) have all been replaced with new buses which make riding them even nicer. You can get route into on the RTA website. (Fare is $1.25). Probably, the only route you really need is the Magazine Street Bus, which starts on Canal Street between Magazine and Camp streets. This will take you all the way to the zoo and back and there are a ton of shops and restuarants all along Magazine Street. If you do plan to take the bus or streetcar, you might want to invest in a "Jazzy Pass": a 1-Day pass is $2.00, a 3-Day pass is $9.00. No need for exact change, and ride as many times as you want. Those can be purchased at hotel information desks and Walgreens or check this list. Maps and information both buses and streetcars: The bus signs are easy to spot and are usualy found on every other corner. Streetcars can be tricker. Look for a long, tall yellow sign that says "car stop."

If you plan to go anywhere outside the Quarter, cabs are cheap and plentiful. If you drive, make sure to yield to busses and streetcars. Be aware for one way streets. Parking can be tricky and be ready to parallel park. Check the area you want to park in closely for no parking-zone signs, loading zones, and street cleaning hours. Don't park on a yellow curb or in front of a driveway. Finally, you can't always make a left turn where you want, so improvise. You may see something interesting on your detour. Be sure to tune your car radio to FM 90.7 WWOZ.

New Orleans is laid out in a polar grid, the French Quarter being the exception. North, South, East and West as directions don't work here. Directions are given in terms like uptown (up the river), downtown, riverside and lakeside. If you get lost, don't feel bad. Take a good map with you and use it. Don't be afraid to ask for directions. As long as you know whether the river is to your left or right, and the French Quarter is ahead or behind you, you'll do okay.

Katrina Tour of Destruction
The only way to undersatnd the scope of devistation following the levee failures is to visit the parts of town that flooded. There are even some companies that give van tours. It's good to go with a local who knows where to go and can give you some commentary. You can see a very well done animation of the flooding which will show the hardest hit areas and a map of the city. If you drive yourself, be careful and watch where you drive; some areas of town have had streets repaved but others have not and we have some killer potholes., the website for the local newspaper, never stopped reporting and has some of the most indepth coverage and information on their website.

Christy's Guide to New Orleans

Overview, weather, getting around, etc. | City regions defined | Fun stuff | Art and culture | The dark side | Kids and kids at heart | Dine like a local | Bars and clubs | Live music | For java heads | For the sweet tooth | For dogs and their owners

Updated: July 4, 2015