Lonely Planet New Orleans

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Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet New Orleans is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. March with a brass band through the French Quarter, eat everything from jambalaya to beignets, or take a walking tour past the Garden District's plantation-style mansions; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of New Orleans and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's New Orleans Travel Guide:

  • Full-color maps and images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - including history, art, literature, cinema, music, architecture, politics, environment, food, drink, and more
  • Free, convenient pull-out New Orleans map (included in print version), plus over 22 color neighborhood maps
  • Covers Uptown, Riverbend, Mid-City, the Treme, CBD, Warehouse District, French Quarter, Garden District, Central City, Faubourg Marigny, Bywater, and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet and smartphone devices)

  • Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges
  • Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews
  • Add notes to personalize your guidebook experience
  • Seamlessly flip between pages
  • Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash
  • Embedded links to recommendations' websites
  • Zoom-in maps and images
  • Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet New Orleans, our most comprehensive guide to New Orleans, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less traveled.

  • Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Eastern USA guide for a comprehensive look at all the region has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.

About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, as well as an award-winning website, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet's mission is to enable curious travelers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves in.

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Mardi Gras & Jazz Fest

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No two events encapsulate New Orleans like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. These festivals are more than celebrations: they contain within themselves every thread of the colorful, complicated New Orleans tapestry.

‘Stop exaggerating,’ you may say, to which we reply: ‘There’s no need to exaggerate.’ These festivals are incredible. Imagine a bunch of grown men and women riding giant neon shoes and plaster dinosaurs through the street; or Bruce Springsteen, Al Green, Dr John, Tom Petty, Cee-lo, Feist and the Carolina Chocolate Drops playing in the same venue in one weekend; or that you slip through the looking-glass into MOM’s Ball and see a band of zombies playing for naked folks in body paint and a cast of costumes that appear to be lifted from Jim Henson’s most lurid fantasies.

During Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, all this happens. The city’s flights of fancy and indulgence are realized like at no other time. And everything that makes New Orleans…well…New Orleans becomes a lot more…New Orleansy. Let’s take the food. The best eats in the city turn up as booth fare in Jazz Fest. Restaurants throw open their doors during Mardi Gras to folks dressed as goblins and fairies. This all speaks to the creativity of the city, expressed in a multitude of ways, from music to visual arts, crafts and theater (as exemplified by Mardi Gras floats and costumes). These festivals reveal the soul of a city that is obsessed with beauty, while both redefining the concept and appreciating it in every way possible.

 

French Quarter

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1Walking up and down the Mississippi River along the Riverfront, stopping to watch crowds disembarking from ferries, and listening to music and street performers along the way, before wandering into Jackson Square for, well, even more street performers.

2Catching a concert and living local culture at the Old US Mint.

3Slow-sipping a marvelous cocktail at Tonique.

4Fitting oneself out for the perfect wig at Fifi Mahony's.

5Exploring the Cabildo and grounding yourself in the history of Louisiana.

Many visitors treat the French Quarter as a sort of adult Disney World, with Bourbon St serving as a neon (lights and drinks) heart of bad behavior. Past this activity, you'll find a compact 'hood where historical preservation, fine dining and great nightlife intersect like nowhere else in the USA.

We would recommend exploring on your first day with the morning walking tour run by Friends of the Cabildo. It’s an excellent introduction to both the architecture and history of the area. After the tour, take a walk along the river and consider catching a concert sponsored by the National Park Service at the Old US Mint. Finish the evening with dinner at either Bayona or Sobou, and drinks at French 75 or Tonique.

 

Faubourg Marigny & Bywater

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1Wandering around Frenchmen Street starting at, say, 7pm, having dinner, listening to music, getting drunk, listening to more music, dancing a bit, seeing who’s playing on the corner of Chartres, scarfing some late-night tacos, then hey! More music!

2Spotting container ships from the banks of the Crescent Park as they meander up the Mississippi.

3Catching dance, puppetry and all manner of stage-based art at the Marigny Opera House.

4Watching music, from punk to bluegrass to hip-hop, on rapidly changing St Claude Avenue.

5Devouring a family-style spicy Sichuan meal with friends at Red's Chinese.

On your first day, wander around the Marigny by walking up Decatur St and onto Frenchmen St. Then head east along Royal St, taking in the architecture and sampling some of the local cafes and restaurants on the way. Your nighttime activity consists of heading back to Frenchmen St to either party, listen to music or both.

 

Best Neighborhoods for a Night Out

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Nightlife is integral to New Orleans. Locals know how to have a good time, and that doesn't just mean boozing on Bourbon St (in fact, locals tend to avoid Bourbon). Here are some of the best areas for living life to the hilt once the sun dips down.

Frenchmen can admittedly get aggressively crowded on weekends. But it still hosts the best concentration of music gigs in the city. Music tends to go off around 6pm, 10pm and 1am; weeknights are a little more casual.

There's great music in St Claude Sq, which encompasses the Hi Ho Lounge, AllWays Lounge, Siberia and Kajun's. These bars host some of the city's most enterprising acts; while you may come across some brass bands, you can also find rock, pink, hip-hop and bounce.

Going out in the French Quarter isn't all about neon-colored drinks and bad karaoke. Head to Chartres St and up Decatur St to find bars that cater to both locals and discerning visitors.

If you're looking for a student atmosphere, head Uptown to Freret St. Note: 'student' doesn't mean silly (well, not necessarily); go cups are banned on Freret, and the scene here is more focused on live-music venues, artsy bars and craft cocktails.

 

CBD & Warehouse District

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1Immersing yourself in the dramatic sights and sounds of WWII at the National WWII Museum with oral histories, wall-sized photos and a multisensory 4D movie.

2Appreciating the moody landscapes at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art then strolling gallery-lined Julia St.

3Animal-watching at the Aquarium of the Americas and the Butterfly Garden & Insectarium.

4Living the highlife at the Roosevelt New Orleans hotel with a drink at the Sazerac Bar, dinner at Domenica and jazz at the Fountain Lounge.

5Bar- and club-hopping in the Warehouse District between Constance and Fulton Sts.

The Central Business District (CBD) and Warehouse District stretch from the I-10 and the Superdome to the river and are bordered by Canal St and the elevated I-90. Poydras St divides the two neighborhoods. City tourism maps muddle the boundaries somewhat, but the Lafayette Square District and the Arts District overlap with the Warehouse District.

 

Garden, Lower Garden & Central City

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1Sipping 25¢ martinis and savoring bread pudding soufflé at ever-stylish Commander’s Palace is one of the most enjoyable ways to live like a local. Walk off the meal with a sidewalk stroll past lush lawns and stately mansions.

2Learning about the past at Lafayette Cemetery No 1, where above-ground crypts hold tragic tales.

3Studying BBQ, hot sauce and absinthe at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, followed by a meal at adjoining Purloo or Cafe Reconcile.

4Wandering past paintings of local musicians and Mardi Gras festivities at the McKenna Museum of African American Art.

5Popping into clothing boutiques, art galleries, music shops and day spas on Magazine Street.

The Garden District, Lower Garden District and Central City are three distinct neighborhoods, each offering a different experience. Two days is enough time to explore all three.

 

St Charles Avenue Streetcar

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The clang and swoosh of the St Charles Ave streetcar is as essential to Uptown and the Garden District as live oaks and mansions. New Orleanians are justifiably proud of their moving monument, which began life as the nation’s second horse-drawn streetcar line, the New Orleans & Carrollton Railroad, in 1835.

In 1893 the line was among the first streetcar systems in the country to be electrified. Now it is one of the few streetcars in the USA to have survived the automobile era. Millions of passengers utilize the streetcar every day despite the fact the city's bus service tends to be faster. In many ways, the streetcar is the quintessential vehicle for New Orleans public transportation: slow, pretty, and if not entirely efficient, extremely atmospheric.

Another streetcar line plies Canal St and you should ride it, but if we're honest, the route isn't as pretty as the St Charles line. There are plans to build a new line from Canal St, up Rampart St to Elysian Fields Ave.

 

Uptown & Riverbend

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1Savoring a blue-cheese smothered steak and a slice of alligator-sausage cheesecake at Jacques-Imo’s Café before catching the Rebirth Brass Band next door at the Maple Leaf Bar.

2Strolling beneath live oaks in Audubon Park then ogling alligators, foxes and swamp monsters in the Audubon Zoo.

3Shopping for eye-catching pottery, housewares and art on bustling Magazine Street.

4Dining and imbibing at locally owned eateries on ever-so-hot Freret Street.

5Learning about art, jazz and African American history on the scenic campus of Tulane University.

If you’ve only got one day, check out the Audubon Zoo in the morning. Magazine St runs past the zoo, so after your visit with the elephants and giraffes, spend the rest of the day exploring the shops and art galleries that line this busy thoroughfare. Enjoy dinner on Freret St, located above St Charles, then catch a band or grab drinks at a local dive.

 

Mid-City & the Tremé

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1Spending a lazy afternoon at City Park, checking out art, outdoor sculptures, gardens and a toy train, then blissing out under an oak tree as the world spins by.

2Indulging in a night of good barbecue and better cocktails at Twelve Mile Limit.

3Hearing stories about New Orleans' most intriguing former citizens on a tour of the crypts at St Louis Cemetery No 1.

4Seeing the Tremé Brass Band jam at the Candlelight Lounge.

5Eating a po’boy at Parkway Tavern – you'll never go back to normal sandwiches.

A bike ride may be the most pleasant way to explore the 'green' sections of these neighborhoods, either on your own or with the folks at Confederacy of Cruisers. If you cycle independently, just roll up attractive Esplanade Ave and take it all the way to City Park, stopping at St Louis Cemetery No 3 along the way. Explore the park and the New Orleans Museum of Art, and afterwards stop in for dinner at Café Degas. In the evening, enjoy a drink at Pal’s or Twelve Mile Limit.

 

Day Trips from New Orleans

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Graceful antebellum mansions with elaborate gardens, majestic live oaks and clustered slave shanties offer a glimpse into a foreign but not-too-distant past.

Antiques, birds and ghost stories, plus a few plantations, make a fine trip. And that’s without mentioning the museum at the 18,000-acre penitentiary in Angola.

Join the party – or the fais-do-do (Cajun dance) – in Lafayette and Breaux Bridge, where Cajun dance halls and crawfish boils keep things lively. And the food? It’s serious business around here.

Suit up for dancing and a lot of great music in the prairielands, where a young wave of fiddlers and accordion players keep Cajun and zydeco music relevant – and fun.

Swamps, alligators and oil. And a whole lot of Cajun culture. Soak it all in – and enjoy fresh seafood – on a road trip that’s best done slow.

Explore

Plantations dot River Road, which follows the Mississippi as it winds it's way past New Orleans. In the past (and to be fair, even today), people visited these homes for their architecture and the moonlight-and-magnolia narrative that was built around them. An increasing number of visitors find this story to be one told in bad taste; at the least, they want the accompanying story of the slave labor that built and maintained the area's plantations. Some of the places we list delve into that history, while others give it a cursory reference.

 

Sleeping

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Where you stay in New Orleans depends largely on why you’ve come here. You can shell out some cash for top accommodations and play the whole time in the French Quarter, or experience the softer (but still fun) side of the city via one of its many quirky B&Bs. There are many options on offer; the city's one weakness is a lack of backpacker hostels.

Book Your Stay Online

For more accommodation reviews by Lonely Planet authors, check out http://lonelyplanet.com/hotels/. You’ll find independent reviews, as well as recommendations on the best places to stay. Best of all, you can book online.

New Orleans hotels come in all the standard shapes and sizes. Most commonly you’ll find either large purpose-built properties or cozier lodgings in older buildings. Figuring out which is which by an establishment’s name alone is impossible (an ‘inn’ here might have five rooms or 500), so read reviews carefully. The two areas where you'll find large hotels are the French Quarter and the CBD; in the latter in particular, you'll find more modern accommodation geared at the convention crowd. Boutique hotels tend to crop up in the CBD and art-gallery heavy Warehouse District.

 

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