Touring New Orleans by Streetcar
The New Orleans streetcar system runs through many of the Crescent City’s tourist districts. With five interconnected trolley lines, they can take you where to want to explore. I love New Orleans. There is so much to see, hear, and taste. Riding conjures up the romance of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” What better way to tour the city! Right?
Well, maybe. On my recent trip to New Orleans, I spent one day wandering the streets of the French Quarter. For my second day, I decided to tour other parts of New Orleans by Streetcar. Was this a good idea? Read on to find out.
- Canal Street/Cemeteries: Canal Street runs north to south from the Mississippi River almost to Lake Pontchartrain. This line services from the riverfront to New Orlean’s famous cemeteries. It has the shortest waits with cars stopping frequently.
- Canal Street/City Park-Museum: This line stretches almost the entire length of Canal Street. It runs much less often.
- Riverfront: As the name implies, the Riverfront line follows the Mississippi from the Morial Convention Center to the French Market on the edge of the French Quarter.
- St. Charles Line: The St. Charles line runs from Canal Street at the edge of the French Quarter, roughly east to west all the way through the Garden District. It is the longest continually operating trolley system in the world.
- Rampart/St. Claude: The Rampart line takes you through the business district into the French Quarter.
New Orleans by Streetcar
After leaving the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship, I had about seven hours to roam before heading to the airport for a late flight. I thought that touring New Orleans by streetcar would be fun and cheap. A full day pass costs only $3!
Since I had already toured the French Quarter and the riverfront, I wanted to explore the Garden District. Then, I planned to eat gumbo at Daisy Duke’s. Finally, I would tour the New Orleans City Park and Botanical Gardens. I thought that I would have plenty of time.
Not far from the cruise port, I found a trolley terminal for the Riverfront line. I waited. And waited. After about 20 minutes, I gave up. I chose to walk and try to find a pickup spot for the St. Charles line. All along Canal Street were numerous terminals for the Canal Street lines.
It took about a 20 minute walk to get to where I thought the St. Charles terminal would be. There was no station. I wandered around searching, but with no luck. Finally, I discovered that there was no terminal at this far end of the line. Everyone just crowded onto the corner of Canal and St. Charles Street.
Again, I waited. And waited. After about 40 minutes, two trolleys arrived back to back. Such a crowd had gathered, that we completely filled both.
The streetcar had a wonderful, antique ambience. Rows of wooden seats lined next to large windows. Bare lightbulbs hang from a smooth, metal ceiling.
The large windows provided for great views. As interesting was the people watching. A menagerie of people shared the space: rich/poor, old/young, locals/tourists. Business executives, college students, a musician, laborers, groups of teens, elderly persons, and a Yorkie cruised together. New Orleans by streetcar provides a wonderful cross section of humanity.
I stayed on the trolley all the way to Audubon Park. The ride ride took about 45 minutes. Audubon Park is absolutely beautiful. Old oak trees stretch up to the sky, providing shade.
Spanish moss drapes from the branches.
Black-bellied whistling ducks cover water and sit on low lying branches. I had never seen these birds before and was thrilled. It was wonderful walk after having sat for so long.
After exploring the park, I returned to the trolley stop between Audubon Park and Loyola University. Fortunately, this time, the wait was just a few minutes.
I had wanted to take a self-guided walking tour of the Garden District. If I was going to make it to the botanical garden, though, I would have to skip it.
The streetcar ride through the Garden District did provide a good sample of the antebellum architecture, the colorful gardens, and the massive oaks.
Since I wanted to view the neighborhood and not stalk its famous residents, I was content with my tour.
Fortunately, the restaurant where I had wanted to eat was located directly across the street from the St. Charles line drop off near Canal Street. I chose Daisy Duke’s because it serves Cajan food, has good ratings and a reasonable price. It was an excellent choice!
After a satisfying meal, I walked to Canal Street, less than a block, to await a trolley to City Park. Canal Street is a huge thoroughfare. On its south side, it separates the French Quarter from the business district.
Streetcars going along the Cemetery Route came regularly. These are quite popular. Personally, cemeteries do not interest me. Unfortunately, the City Park/Museum trolley does not run regularly. Again, I waited. Frustrated, I gave up and rode in the opposite direction to the riverfront.
New Orleans Riverfront
The riverfront promenade stretches from Jackson Square in the French Quarter to Canal Street. The area is called Woldenberg Park. This pleasant walk gives delightful views of the Mississippi in a park setting.
Along the way, you pass the Natchez riverboat dock and the Holicost Memorial. At the Canal Street end, the Aquarium of the Americas and Children’s Museum await.
The afternoon was perfect for a leisurely stroll: sunny in the upper 60s (20 C). I enjoyed walking, relaxing, and people watching. Even though things did not go as planned, it was still nice. These photos were taken during the rainy day that I explored the French Quarter.
While my day did not go as planned, touring New Orleans by streetcar only costed $3. I did not get to see much of what I had hoped. I spent little money and enjoyed what I did see, though. This was my first time riding an old-style trolley. That experience alone was worth the money.
Would I tour New Orleans by streetcar again? It depends. The next time I visit New Orleans, the World War II Museum tops my list. I will not need the streetcar for that.
New Orleans by streetcar is a cheap, but inefficient way to tour the Big Easy. If you have limited time, then I cannot recommend it: your flight leaves in a few hours, you have dinner reservations. People who are impatient will be driven nuts.
If time is not an issue and you are patient, then touring New Orleans by streetcar provides an inexpensive, laid back means of transportation. Throw in some nostalgia and a little people watching and for $3 a day, it is hard to beat.
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