New Orleans – OUTSIDE

By Jimmy, The Outsider – 

Before setting out to explore New Orleans, take a good close look at a city map. Like an elegant scallop shell cradled by the Mississippi River, The Crescent City street plan is logical and orderly with long continuous streets. Having a mental picture of the city helps to successfully navigate the numerous treasures of the city, reduce frustrations and minimize getting lost.

New Orleans is hot and humid much of the year, so come prepared:

  • Light weight, wicking shirts with SPF protection for men and women.
  • Comfy, yet fun, walking shoes for women and men.
  • Protect yourself from the hot sun with hats for women and men.
  • Stay hydrated! Bring your own insulated bottle to fill up.
  • For still humid days, a personal fan will be your best friend!
  • New Orleans Online is a great source to plan your trip.

Walk

From lovely Jackson Square, Camille and I enjoyed these walking adventures…

The French Quarter in central New Orleans, walkable like a European village, is full of rich architecture, history, vivid street life, and street artists. Uniquely New Orleans, jazz parades down Bourbon Street celebrate life’s biggest moments like marriages and deaths. Jazz groups set up shop on street corners, filling the air with music day and night.

Stroll the open-air French Market along the Quarter’s edge, grabbing delightfully messy beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde. Climb the stairs of the nearby levee to stroll along the riverfront toward the ferry station. Take a cheap ferry over to Algiers Point for a quieter neighborhood ambience. With restaurants and bars, you’ll find a nice place to relax and gather your strength.

Garden District. Grab the St. Charles Trolley line to enjoy elegant and historic homes, the campuses of Loyola and Tulane, and Audubon Park. This is a lush and calming area, with plenty of eateries that make it a friendly destination to spend the day.

Cemeteries: Even after death, flood-prone New Orleans follows a different beat with people buried above ground in grand cities of the dead, replete with elaborate tombs, sculptures and loads of history. The Canal Street Trolley visits storied cemetery grounds.

Cycle

The Big Easy, built on flat terrain, is an easy ride. But that also depends on the time of year! Hot and humid from May through September, be sure to watch the heat index forecast and carry plenty of water! Camille passed on cycling in favor of more air conditioned pursuits – so I set out to find a group to join, and really lucked out!

The spicy gumbo that is the story of New Orleans is also what made America, and Confederacy of Cruisers brings it to life! I took a guided tour with Casey, a local who wove together the long fascinating history into a hilarious yarn, full of human foibles. Our group meandered the calm, gentrifying streets of the Treme and Marigny neighborhoods to meet the locals, tour historic cemeteries, sip beers and feast on bread pudding and fried chicken from corner shops. (Try a “Pedal to Kayak” tour to really get close to nature!)

On your own, rent a bike and ride for miles along the top of the Mississippi River levees to catch a loftier view of the city, the busy river traffic, birds and the impressive infrastructure of this important commercial port. Two easy going cycling itineraries:

  1. Cycle upstream from central New Orleans, out to the Huey P. Long Bridge, then turn around and stop at The Rivershack Tavern. This casual local’s spot is perfect to have a cold brew and a bite to eat on their big outdoor patio or inside. (Careful crossing the busy road at the foot of the levee!)
  2. Take the ferry over to Algier’s Point to access the Mississippi River Trail; ride for miles along the river, car free! While in Algiers Point, meander the quiet streets and grab a frosty brew at Old Point Bar, a dive bar made famous by numerous movie scenes celebrated by walls of photos signed by Hollywood actors.

Click for more helpful bicycling info.

Battlefields

The War of 1812 ended at The Battle of New Orleans, fought just outside the city at The Chalmette Battlefield. Take a walking or driving tour of the grounds to experience the decisive event. Free admission. (Not easily accessible by bike from central New Orleans.)

Swamp Tours

Equal parts solid and liquid, New Orleans is an intricate tapestry where land dissolves into water, both fresh from the mighty Mississippi and salty from the gulf. A fascinating ecosystem teeming with life in the water, on land and in the air, it is impossible to avoid the allure of the great outdoors.Two popular, yet very different, ways to experience the wilds near New Orleans…

Airboat tours, loud and fast, are not for the faint of heart! Prepare for a shock and awe experience as your fan boat scurries over the watery landscape of bayous and marshes.

Kayak tours offer a much quieter, peaceful and more physically demanding approach to NOLA’s swamplands.

Beaches

For a city so close to so much water, swimming beaches are in short supply! The closest spot to pleasantly dip your toes in the warm gulf waters is Grand Isle – 2 hours south of New Orleans. Laid back, nothin’ fancy… a perfect mellow spot for a day trip!