Walking Tour of New Orleans
The "Big Easy" is one of the most exciting and unique destinations in the entire United States, perhaps the world. Here is a place which resonates with music at all hours of the day and night. Jazz, born here, can be heard on the streets, in the restaurants, and in the clubs. New Orleans is also a paradise for culinary aficionados. Cajun and Creole cooking are available everywhere. Mardi Gras here is world-renowned, but there is a party atmosphere every night as Bourbon Street is closed to traffic and the streets are filled with revelers.
In and Around the French Quarter
This walk begins at the Spanish Plaza, the lovely square on the Riverwalk, which winds along the Mississippi. This is the place to arrange a paddle-wheel cruise on the lazy river while you’re in town. There are also many shops in the vicinity where you might return when time is available. The Aquarium of the Americas is also along the Boardwalk, a great place for the kids.
After exploring the area a bit, head up (northwest) Canal Street. At the St Charles Avenue intersection, board the St Charles Avenue Streetcar for a nostalgic and romantic ride through the tree-lined, wealthy area known as the Garden District. It makes a great introduction to the ambience of New Orleans.
When you return to Canal Street, turn left and walk to Basin Street. Take a right and walk several blocks northeast to St Louis Cemetery #1, on your left. Because of the high water table and periodic flooding, the city’s dead are buried in above ground tombs. The designs and statuary are fascinating, and there were many prominent city residents interred here.
Now head down St Louis Street, back toward the river. At #820 is the Hermann-Grima House, one of the few Federal-style homes in the French Quarter. It was built in 1831. When you reach Bourbon Street, take a left and then a right on St Peter Street. On your right is the proverbial "center" of jazz in New Orleans, Preservation Hall. The legendary venue is the place to hear authentic New Orleans jazz.
Continue southwesterly down St Peter Street and take a left on Royal Street. At the corner where Orleans Avenue meets Royal are the LaBranche Buildings (#700). These are classic examples of French Quarter architecture with its ironwork balconies. Continue on Royal Street to Esplanade Avenue and turn right.
This broad, elegant, tree-lined thoroughfare was the home of the Creole aristocrats of New Orleans society. However, turn right at the next intersection, Chartres Street. At the corner of Gov. Nicholas Street, on the right, is the Beauregard-Keyes House, former residence of General P.G.T. Beauregard and of Frances Parkinson Keyes, a local novelist. Next door is the Soniat House, a combination of Creole and Greek Revival architecture. On your left is the Old Ursuline Convent, the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley (1752).
Continue on Chartres Street to the most popular gathering place in the French Quarter, Jackson Square. The beautiful, tastefully-landscaped square has a magnificent equestrian statue of General Andrew Jackson at its center. The Presbytere is the first building on the right as you enter the square. It was planned as housing for clergy but is now a Mardi Gras Museum. Check it out to experience the extravagance of Carnival time.
Next door is the stunning St Louis Cathedral. Its white exterior with three prominent steeples is distinctive, attractively symmetrical, and readily recognizable. Don’t miss the beautiful interior, especially the altar area. Beside the Cathedral is the Cabildo. It was the New Orleans City Hall, and also the Louisiana Supreme Court Building. The Louisiana Purchase was signed here!
On the other two sides of the square are the Pontalba Buildings, apartment complexes. Walk southward across the square and turn left on Decatur Street. A few blocks to the east is the Historic French Market which now contains a Farmer’s Market and Flea Market. Also nearby is the famous Cafe du Monde, a restaurant/cafe where smooth jazz serenades the customers.
Just beyond the French Market is the Old US Mint, now housing the New Orleans Jazz Collection. To return to the starting point of the walk, head southward along the riverfront.