Imagine this: you just finished a luxurious brunch at the historical Creole restaurant Commander’s Palace. Emerging from beneath its trademark green-and-white awning, you glance across the street at Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, walk down the block past a collection of Greek Revival homes in the Lower Garden District, and end up on St. Charles Avenue, where you’ll board one of New Orleans’ famous streetcars.
This scene could have happened yesterday, or 120 years ago. That’s how little things have changed here.
Sitting on the mahogany seats of a St. Charles Avenue streetcar, the oldest continuously operated streetcar line in the world, is like taking a ride in a history museum on wheels. Here are a few suggestions of what to see and do when riding this and other streetcar lines through New Orleans, as well as some tips on what to expect on your journey.
St. Charles Avenue Line
Start your trip at the Canal Street terminus. Before boarding the streetcar, take a gander at Canal itself, so named for a man-made waterway that was never built. Instead, the streetcar line and six traffic lanes were installed, making this one of the widest main streets in the nation. On your ride through Downtown, you’ll pass a number of New Orleans’ favorite dining spots such as chef John Besh’s Lüke and chef Donald Link’s Herbsaint. Step off at Girod Street and you’ll find new French/Creole restaurant Balise a block away. Other nearby Downtown/Warehouse District stops include The National WWII Museum and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
The Garden District stretch of St. Charles is a feast for all the senses, with stops at more restaurants (including Emeril’s Delmonico and The Irish House), some of New Orleans’ most historic homes and, just five blocks away, shopping on Magazine Street.
Uptown, find unique gifts at St. James Cheese Company, go for a walk in Audubon Park, dine on traditional Southern cuisine at The Camellia Grill and walk the shopping/dining district of Oak Street and Maple Street.
Canal Street Lines
The Canal Street Line is unique among New Orleans streetcars, since it has two routes—one to City Park and the other to the aboveground tombs at Metairie and Greenwood cemeteries. Both lines start at the same spot, though, where Canal Street meets the Mississippi River.
Begin your Canal Street explorations at the riverfront, where Harrah’s Casino, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, The Shops at Canal Place, the Algiers ferry and The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk are all located.
This line also passes by the French Quarter, one of America’s most famous neighborhoods and the home to some of its best restaurants. From your streetcar window you’ll see venues such as the Saenger and Joy theaters.
If you’re interested in seeing the city’s largest aboveground cemeteries, take the Cemeteries spur. The City Park/Museum line ends at New Orleans City Park, a 1,300-acre green space that is the sixth-largest in the U.S. There you’ll also find the city’s premier art museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art.
The Riverfront Line, as its name suggests, follows the Mississippi River from the Warehouse District to the edge of the French Quarter. It’s the only line that goes through the Quarter, passing by Jax Brewery, Jackson Square, the French Market and the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint (a state-run museum where admission is always free). On the side of Canal Street opposite the French Quarter, you’ll find The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk mall, Harrah’s Casino and the cruise ship terminals.
This line follows the Canal Street route before veering towards New Orleans’ business district. The main attraction here is the new South Market District. This complex features some of the city’s most anticipated new restaurants, including Ursa Major, the women’s clothing boutique Stonefree and upscale furniture store Arhaus.
Know before you go
Streetcar fare anywhere in the city is $1.25 per ride. You can also visit norta.com to purchase the Jazzy Pass, which for $3 will get you unlimited rides on any line in the city for one day.