New Orleans: Beyond the French Quarter
There’s so much more to New Orleans than its historic (and touristy) French Quarter. Explore these nearby neighborhoods to find great art, architecture and music — without the crowds.
Most visitors to the Big Easy make a beeline for Bourbon Street. This vibrant thoroughfare in the heart of the French Quarter is famous for its live jazz bars and boisterous nightlife. But locals head for Frenchmen Street, a short walk away. Every night of the week, you’ll hear anything from gypsy jazz, to brass bands, to reggae, to blues in its laid-back live music clubs and outside on the street.
Frenchmen Street is in Faubourg Marigny, the city’s first suburb, founded in 1805 when Bernard de Marigny subdivided his family’s plantation. Today it’s a hip neighborhood of quaint Creole cottages and long, narrow shotgun-style houses, most of them painted in bright Caribbean colors. A feast for the eyes and the camera, Marigny is a great place for a stroll or a bike ride.
Tremé, one of the oldest African-American neighborhoods in the country, is also a short walk from the French Quarter. Among its historical highlights are St. Augustine Church, the Backstreet Cultural Museum and Louis Armstrong Park. Free Jazz in the Park concerts take place here during spring and fall. Set in the park’s southern corner, Congo Square was the site of 19th-century drumming and dance gatherings that gave rise to jazz.
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Head upriver to the Garden District to see elegant antebellum mansions built by the first Americans who settled in New Orleans in the 1800s. Stroll along leafy streets to admire these amazing homes, adorned with Greek Revival pillars, elaborate ironwork and other decorative features. Don’t miss Lafayette Cemetery on Washington Avenue, with its elaborate family tombs.
Magazine Street marks the district’s southern border. A destination in its own right, this 6-mile stretch is bustling with boutiques, art galleries, antique shops, trendy restaurants and neighborhood bars and cafes.
A quick cab ride brings you to Central City, where the old Dryades Street Market has been transformed into the delightful Southern Food & Beverage Museum. Next door, the New Orleans Jazz Market, a new performance space specially built for jazz, is the place to catch Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra — the hottest ticket in town.
• Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours offers bike rentals as well as tours taking in Faubourg Marigny, Tremé, City Park and the Garden District.
• The old-fashioned St. Charles Avenue streetcar runs from Canal Street through the Garden District. Get off at Washington Avenue and walk five blocks through the neighborhood to Magazine Street.
• The New Orleans African American Museum offers Tremé walking tours that give an insight into the area’s rich history.
For more travel advice, go to www.insightguides.com.
By Mike Gerrard and Donna Dailey