My first real job after graduating from college was working the front desk at the Hilton in downtown New Orleans, which was situated right along the Mississippi River. Riverside rooms were scarce and most guests knew to request one ahead of time and plan on paying a premium if they wanted a gorgeous view of that great waterway. Occasionally, however, the hotel would be only half-filled, with rooms to spare, and in a gesture of generosity I would offer to upgrade a guest to a riverview room at no charge. Usually guests were delighted, but more than once, my offer was greeted with the question: “There’s a river?”
Since then, whenever I have guests in town (or even when I am just out with friends) I try to make my way to the river, the geographic marker that made New Orleans what it is today. There are a myriad of ways to experience the Mississippi River and whether you are here in New Orleans for the first time or are a long term resident, I urge you to head on down to the river to take it all in.
There are several river cruises that take passengers along the river. The Creole Queen visits the Chalmette Battlefield, where the Battle of New Orleans was fought, while the Steamboat Natchez visits the port. All boats also offer night cruises, with an optional dinner. The Steamboat Natchez’s jazz cruise is a favorite among locals and visitors and if you are standing anywhere near the river and hear the sounds of a calliope, it’s coming from the Natchez.
If committing to a two hour river cruise seems too long, then consider a fifteen minute ferry ride. The Algiers ferry departs from the foot of Canal Street (right next to the Aquarium of the Americas) every 30 minutes at :15 and :45 past the hour from 6:15 a.m. – 12:15 a.m. daily. It returns to Canal from the West Bank on the hour and half hour. The ride is free for pedestrians and $1 for cars returning from the West Bank. There is no charge for cars crossing to the West Bank. Make sure to turn and look at the city once you hit the middle of the river. You can really see the shape of the crescent for which the city is named, and you also appreciate the layout of the French Quarter when you can see if from afar.
Hours — Beginning Monday, July 1, 2013, the Algiers/Canal ferry will operate Monday-Thursday from 7:15 a.m. to 6:45 p.m., with final trips from Algiers Point at 6:15 p.m., and from Canal Street at 6:30 p.m. On Fridays, the vessel will operate from 7:15 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. with final trips from Algiers Point at 7:45 p.m. and from Canal St. at 8:00 p.m. On Saturdays, the ferry will operate from 10:45 a.m. to 8:15 p.m., with final trips being made from Algiers Point at 7:45 p.m., and Canal St. at 8 p.m. On Sundays, service will run from 10:45 a.m. to 6:15 p.m., with the last trip from Algiers Point at 5:45 p.m., and from Canal St. at 6 p.m. For the Fourth of July holiday, DOTD will operate the Algiers/Canal ferry starting at 7:15 a.m. to 10:15 p.m., with final trips from Algiers Point at 9:45 p.m., and from Canal St. at 10 p.m. This schedule will also be in effect for Wednesdays on the Point, which has remaining events dates of July 4th, 10th and 17th.
Finally, if you are reluctant to board a boat of any kind, you can stay on dry land and still enjoy the river. Head on down to the Moon Walk, a charming promenade along the river built in the mid 1970s under the administration of Mayor Maurice “Moon” Landrieu. There you can sit on the wrought iron benches, enjoying the breeze from the river while being serenaded by the jazz musicians who play there. If you want to visit the Moon Walk like a real local, hit the Cafe du Monde take out window first, so you can snack on a beignet while taking in the view.
Regardless of how you do it, while in New Orleans make sure to visit the Mississippi. Because, yes: There’s a river.
Elizabeth Pearce gives historic cocktail walking tours of the French Quarter. When she’s not drinking or talking about drinking, she’s writing about drinking at Neat with a Twist. She also directs the hearth cooking program at the Hermann Grima House. To find out more, visit Elizabeth’s website.