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Ideas For Getting Around New Orleans Without a Car

Like many other American cities, New Orleans is a car city, by and large. Most people drive their own cars as a main mode of transportation — however, some people do just fine without them. Most people who visit from out of town do so without ever renting a car. While some of our public transportation schedules aren’t as robust as some other places, our routes are extensive and allow access to parts of the city that otherwise wouldn’t be reachable for most visitors.

Streetcar
Cheryl Gerber and NewOrleansOnline.com

Today we offer three itineraries designed to explore three distinct parts of the city, all without using a car. Whether it’s catching the streetcar Uptown or the bus to Mid-City or just walking around the French Quarter, there’s a wide variety of food, drink and entertainment. Also, since most visitors to New Orleans stay in the French Quarter, all of these itineraries assume a French Quarter starting point. If that’s not the case for you, check the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority’s website to find the best route to the starting point for the itinerary.

Ideas for Getting Around New Orleans Without a Car

Uptown

Boucherie
Boucherie in the Riverbend part of Uptown (Photo: Paul Broussard)

The best bet here would be to take the St. Charles streetcar line. If you’re staying in the French Quarter, you can easily hop on the line in the last block of Carondelet Street or one block over at the end of the first block of St. Charles Avenue.

Get an early start out of the Quarter and grab breakfast at Coulis, just over from Louisiana Avenue, half a block off the streetcar line on the river side. Their Corn Beefy breakfast plate and a tall cup of coffee make for a pretty solid start for the day. After breakfast, hop back on the streetcar and continue to ride it all the way to the Riverbend area. This sightseeing tour makes for a great way to spend a morning. Be sure to look out the streetcar windows and take in all the sights.

Once you get between Hampson and Maple Streets, get off the streetcar and head into the little strip of shops to The Milk Bar for lunch. They have an extensive salad and sandwich menu, with the I Dream of Aubergenie being a highly recommended favorite. They even serve po-boys for those desiring New Orleans fare. After that lunch, catch the streetcar again and head toward the direction of downtown but get off at Audubon Park, just a few blocks down. You can walk around here to stretch your legs or you can even make your way down to the river side of the park and check out Audubon Zoo. One could easily spend an entire afternoon between the park and the zoo.

After a big day Uptown, it’s about time for a drink. Hop back on the streetcar and head again toward the Riverbend area. Get off the streetcar as close to Oak Street as you can and make your way up to Oak Wine Bar. Here you can sip on wine or cocktails, and when you’re ready for dinner you could either order small plates here or head over two blocks to Boucherie on Jeanette Street. Here at Boucherie, chef Nathanial Zimet specializes in contemporary Southern cuisine with a New Orleans flare. Be sure to save room for dessert because Boucherie is well-known for its decadent Krispy Kreme bread pudding.

Finally, head back to Oak Street to catch some live music at the Maple Leaf. Here you can enjoy a wide variety of New Orleans’s best musical talent. Whether it’s catching Rebirth Brass Band at their regular Tuesday night time slot or seeing bands like Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes or the Honey Island Swamp Band, there’s always something groovy happening for the New Orleans music lover. When you’re done, either take the streetcar back or call a cab. The streetcars, as well as the cabs, run 24 hours per day. On average, you should expect a streetcar to pass on the St. Charles line about every 15-20 minutes.

Mid-City/City Park

Fair Grinds Coffee House
Fair Grinds Coffee House in Mid-City (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff and NewOrleansOnline.com)

Depending on your preference, you can either take the Canal Streetcar line or the 91 Jackson Ave. bus to get to the Mid-City/City Park area. They cost the same and run on just about the same schedules. One caveat, though: if you take the streetcar, if you’re heading to the park as we suggest below, be sure to take a streetcar that shows a City Park/Museum plaque. Don’t take the Cemeteries streetcar if you’re trying to get to the park — it won’t take you where you need to be.

After either taking the 91 bus or the City Park-bound streetcar, head on over to Morning Call in City Park for breakfast. Morning Call specializes in beignets and coffee, and they’re open 24 hours a day so that beignet craving can be sated at any time. Linger over your beignets and coffee while sitting outside enjoying the view of City Park. Once you’re done with breakfast, spend the rest of the morning exploring the park’s nearby environs including the Big Lawn, the various bayous, Big Lake, and the Sculpture Garden. The park is easy to navigate on foot and there’s much to see and do.

Once your ready for lunch, head over to the park’s main entrance on City Park Avenue, and just outside the gates you’ll find Ralph’s on the Park, a Ralph Brennan family restaurant. If you can, sit up on the outdoor balcony for the ultimate dining experience. If you’re here on the weekend, catch their jazz brunch. During the week, they offer lunch as well with the pan-fried Des Allemands catfish being a popular menu choice. This dish is served with smoked cheese grits and a tomato gravy. After lunch, it’s likely you will be ready for another leisurely saunter. Head back into the park and over to the New Orleans Museum of Art. Spend time browsing the museum’s floors of local and global art. The museum boasts an impressive collection and always has at least one special featured exhibit being shown.

After an afternoon in the museum, walk over to Esplanade Avenue and down a couple of blocks to the Fair Grinds coffee shop. This small, intimate shop is know for its fair trade coffee and laid back vibe. Take your coffee to go or sit on their patio to enjoy the ambiance. After your coffee break, head back to City Park to play a round of miniature golf at City Putt miniature golf course, right off of the Big Lawn. Once done there, hop back on the streetcar heading toward Carrollton Avenue and get off right before Carrollton to have dinner at Milkfish, New Orleans’ Filipino restaurant. Their pork adobo is quite popular along with the Spam fried rice, and there’s even karaoke Sunday nights.

Once you’re done with dinner, get back on the Canal Streetcar and head again toward downtown. Get off the streetcar just before Broad Street and head into Chickie Wah Wah for a local music show. Chickie Wah Wah is smoke free and offers shows earlier than many of the other local venues. On Fridays, they actually offer three different shows starting at 6 p.m. Be advised that around 2 a.m. is the last streetcar you’ll be able to catch to head all the way back downtown to the French Quarter. Otherwise, call a cab. For most people, it’s just a little too far to walk that late at night.

French Quarter/CBD

pedicab
Grab a pedicab if you get tired from walking while in the French Quarter. (Photo: Cheryl Gerber and NewOrleansOnline.com)

This last itinerary is the only one offered that is completely on foot. Since the French Quarter is of manageable size and scope, it’s assumed that you’d prefer to walk everywhere. It would really just take longer to wait on any transportation, bus or cab alike, though a pedicab may offer a quick and easy solution to those looking for that option.

Start your morning with a light breakfast at Petite Amelie, located on the corners of Dumaine and Royal Streets. They offer both dine in and take out. Their Acme smoked salmon bagel makes for a great takeaway breakfast. Once you’ve finished breakfast, saunter over to the Historic New Orleans Collection on Royal Street to spend some time learning about New Orleans history. Their exhibits are free and open to the public.

After your New Orleans history immersion, head on over to Stanley Restaurant, located right on Jackson Square. They serve both breakfast and lunch all day long so if you ate lightly enough for breakfast, you’ll have plenty of room for their Eggs Stanley, a dish of lightly fried oysters, poach eggs, ham, and hollandaise on an English muffin — it’s Eggs Benedict taken to the next level. After brunch or lunch, while you’re in the heart of the French Quarter, take time to explore Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral. You can also visit the Cabildo and the Louisiana State Museum as well (each has an entry fee). Finally, head across Decatur Street and up into Washington Artillery Park. From this park you can get a spectacular view of the Mississippi River.

For a coffee perk-up, walk over to the CBD (the other side Canal Street) to Merchant on Common Street at Carondelet. Here you can find specialty coffee drinks and a variety of pastries for afternoon snacks. Once you’re ready to head out again, walk down a block to St. Charles Avenue and then over to the French Quarter where the street turns into Royal Street. Spend the rest of the afternoon browsing and shopping at the gift shops, specialty boutiques, and art galleries.

Finally, once you make your way down to the far end of the French Quarter, head over to Cane and Table on Decatur Street. It actually doesn’t have a sign on the outside, but it’s located between Coop’s Place and Maximo’s Grill. Their Caribbean-inspired fare and tiki-style cocktail menu, along with their laid back environment, are the perfect way to relax and unwind from a long day of sightseeing and shopping. Try their crispy rum ribs and cauliflower paella. Finally, after dinner, walk over a few more blocks to Frenchmen Street and take your pick of music venues for the evening’s entertainment. Most, if not all, of the venues post their calendars outside the bar so it’s easy to browse and see what catches your eye. d.b.a., Blue Nile, and Snug Harbor typically have the most interesting and entertaining musical offerings.

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