The city is known for its multicultural heritage as well as its music and cuisine, and is considered the birthplace of jazz.
New Orleans’ status as a world-famous tourist destination is due in part to its people, culture, architecture, music, cuisine, its annual Mardi Gras,and many other celebrations and festivals. The city is often referred to as “the most unique city in America.”
The New York Times named New Orleans as the number 1 destination for 2018. The city is celebrating its 300th birthday this year.
If you plan on visiting I compiled a list of neighborhoods or as we call them “wards” to assist you with getting around town.
The city of New Orleans, Louisiana, is divided into 17 wards. Politically, the wards are used in voting in elections, subdivided into precincts. Under various previous city charters of the 19th century, aldermen and later city council members were elected by ward. The city has not had officials elected to represent wards since 1912, but the ward designations remain a part of New Orleans’ fabric. Socially, it is not uncommon for New Orleanians to identify where they are from by their ward number.
- French Quarter: Truman Capote once described New Orleans as, “of all secret cities, the most secretive, the most unlike, in reality, what an outsider is permitted to observe.” New Orleans’ French Quarter may be its most secretive neighborhood. Here, in an area famous for its raucous nightlife and hedonistic abandon, there lives a community in love with the area’s timelessness, its beautiful buildings and handcrafted details, its proximity to the river, and its quality as a great, walkable neighborhood of world-class restaurants and vibrant street life.If you like the pulse of great music coming to you on the coffee-scented air; if you enjoy walking down an ancient street where overhanging balconies spill pools of mysterious shadow; if stepping off a crowded sidewalk into a secret garden makes your heart skip a beat, then you “get” the French Quarter.Here in one of the oldest communities in the United States, history isn’t distant…it isn’t even the past. In the French Quarter, where the ravages of Hurricane Katrina touched only lightly, artists, writers and performers are back in business, living side-by-side with successful businessmen, street urchins, restaurateurs and the descendants of French aristocrats. They’ve created a culture that’s unlike anything anywhere else: part Venice, part Venice Beach, part magic, and purely and inimitably the French Quarter.
Jackson Square is the heart of the French Quarter: a beautifully landscaped park surrounded by shops, artists, museums, the St. Louis Cathedral, and just across from a splendid view of the Mississippi River.
You’ll find traditional jazz clubs, strip joints, restaurants, bars of every type and souvenir shops on this infamous stretch of road in the French Quarter.
Pirate Alley (or Pirate’s Alley, as many call it) is the subject of much legend and lore, some true, and much false. It is one of the “must see” locations of the French Quarter.
When you visit the world-famous French Market, you step back into amazing history as it blends with today’s vibrant French Quarter culture.
- Upper Garden District:Tradition, opulence and beauty can all be used to describe New Orleans’ historic Garden District. With its well-preserved collection of antebellum mansions, pristine gardens and southern charm, the Garden District certainly stands out as one of the country’s most lovely neighborhoods, and a popular destination for visitors. A common destination for those visiting the Garden District is the intersection of Prytania Street and Washington Avenue. Here you will find a pocket with shopping, cafes and the historic Lafayette Cemetery. From the Jazz Market to the Audubon Zoo, Uptown’s world is a New Orleans one where limestone mansions mix with modest homes on Mardi Gras parade routes. The fashion’s forward on Magazine Street but restaurants like Commander’s (locals drop the “Palace”) still celebrate classic Louisiana…Love at first sight is a common experience for first time visitors to the Garden District. It often goes something like this: they’re traveling up St. Charles Avenue via the streetcar when they get their first glance of the oak tree lined streets and historic homes. You can tell by the pristine look on their faces, that the Garden District has started a new found romance.The romance blooms as the afternoon is spent exploring memories of New Orleans’ antebellum past, gazing at secluded mansions, wandering down the brick lined sidewalks. Its canopy of oak trees is world-famous, while its characteristic gardens of hibiscuses and crepe myrtles, angel trumpets and bougainvillea, make it one of New Orleans’ most beautiful neighborhoods. The Garden District has worked its magic again.
- Lower Garden District: The Lower Garden District is often confused with its more famous neighbor, the Upper Garden District, but it has a unique, eclectic flavor all its own. Centered around Coliseum Square, the area is one of graceful vistas and curving streets, replete with classical names like Dryades, Melpomene, and Terpsichore. Indeed, Lee Circle, originally named Tivoli Circle, was envisioned as an anchor for the nine streets that extend from it, all named after the nine muses. The houses here actually predate those of the Garden District proper, since they were built in the early years of the 19th century during the city’s upriver expansion from the French Quarter. Since the area is still in the process of being revitalized, many magnificent homes can be purchased here at reasonable prices, especially for those willing to invest a little “sweat equity.”A subdistrict of the Central City/Garden District area, the Lower Garden District’s boundaries as defined by the City Planning Commission are: St. Charles Avenue, Felicity, Prytania, Thalia, Magazine and Julia Streets to the north, the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, Crescent City Connection and Mississippi River to the east, Felicity, Magazine and Constance Streets, Jackson Avenue, Chippewa, Soraparu, and St. Thomas Streets to the south, and First Street to the west.The Lower Garden District was already in a revival process before Hurricane Katrina, and the area remained dry and relatively undamaged during post-hurricane flooding. Today, as in the past, the Lower Garden District is a neighborhood ripe for discovery, filled with architectural gems, magnificent old streets, interesting residents, and a rich cultural heritage that only gets better with time.The Lower Garden District is often confused with its more famous neighbor, the Upper Garden District, but it has a unique, eclectic flavor all its own. Centered around Coliseum Square, the area is one of graceful vistas and curving streets, replete with classical names like Dryades, Melpomene, and Terpsichore. Indeed, Lee Circle, originally named Tivoli Circle, was envisioned as an anchor for the nine streets that extend from it, all named after the nine muses. The houses here actually predate those of the Garden District proper, since they were built in the early years of the 19th century during the city’s upriver expansion from the French Quarter. Since the area is still in the process of being revitalized, many magnificent homes can be purchased here at reasonable prices, especially for those willing to invest a little “sweat equity.”A subdistrict of the Central City/Garden District area, the Lower Garden District’s boundaries as defined by the City Planning Commission are: St. Charles Avenue, Felicity, Prytania, Thalia, Magazine and Julia Streets to the north, the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, Crescent City Connection and Mississippi River to the east, Felicity, Magazine and Constance Streets, Jackson Avenue, Chippewa, Soraparu, and St. Thomas Streets to the south, and First Street to the west.
The Lower Garden District was already in a revival process before Hurricane Katrina, and the area remained dry and relatively undamaged during post-hurricane flooding. Today, as in the past, the Lower Garden District is a neighborhood ripe for discovery, filled with architectural gems, magnificent old streets, interesting residents, and a rich cultural heritage that only gets better with time.
- CBD & Warehouse District: This area of the city features great dining and casual bars. Easy cab ride for a simple night out. Lots of Art Galleries, Restaurants, Sightseeing. The Warehouse Arts District embodies New Orleans now, a community celebrating and reimagining its culture. Residential lofts, museums, restaurants and art galleries find a perch in a neighborhood more brick than wood, more open than shut and where three centuries of commerce and…The Central Business District (CBD) in New Orleans is what most cities call their downtown.The CBD is the hub for more than just business in New Orleans. In addition to the sky scrapers, you can find popular destinations like the Mercedes Benz Superdome where the Saints play, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and Harrah’s casino and hotel.It also home to retail locations, popular bars and restaurants, premier art galleries and residents inhabiting restored historic commercial and industrial buildings.
The CBD encompasses, the American Sector, the area the American’s settled in after the United States took over control the city. The CBD’s boundaries as defined as Iberville, Decatur and Canal Streets to the north, the Mississippi River to the east, the New Orleans Morial Convention Center, Julia and Magazine Streets and the Pontchartrain Expressway to the south, and South Claiborne Avenue, Cleveland and South and North Derbigny Streets to the west.
One side note, Canal Street is most commonly thought of the dividing line between the French Quarter and the American Sector, technically both side of the street are considered part of the CBD for regulatory and zoning purposes.
Central Business District History
The Central Business District was already known as Faubourg Ste. Marie. It was originally settled in the 18th century as a residential area.
In the 19th and well into the 20th century, the area was going through constant development. My mid-20th century, the majority of professional offices in the region were located in the CBD. Canal Street developed into a retail destination for that city’s residents and those living in near by cities. Theaters and movie palaces took up residence, the Saenger, Loews State, Orpheum, Joy and Civic decorated the city with their multicolored lights.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, a number of construction projects were completed including a six-lane Loyola Avenue, an extension of Elk that cut through a low-income resident district and became home to the city’s new civic center. Poydras Street was widened to create another six-lane arterial for vehicle traffic, as well as accommodate the sky scraper construction.
The Warehouse District
The Warehouse District name comes from the warehouse and manufacturing industry that once filled the section of the CBD closest to the Mississippi River and south of Poydras Street. When centralized shipping became popular, the area fell into disuse, but only for a short time. In 1984, the World’s Fair came to town and brought renewed attention to the area that resulted in new investment and redevelopment into the area. Many of the 19th century warehouses were transformed into art galleries, condos, hotels and restaurants.
The Warehouse District is said to be the New Orleans’ equivalent to New York’s SoHo. It has become the focus of a major visual arts renaissance in New Orleans in the last twenty years, as more and more painters, sculptors and photographers move here to live and work.
Uptown: The grand mansions along St. Charles Avenue drowsing beneath ancient, stately oaks. The energetic bustle of Magazine Street. The spires of Tulane and Loyola Universities. The cool shade of Audubon Park. The raised Creole cottages and restrained Greek Revival houses and gabled Tudors and Carpenter’s Gothic fantasies that line streets named Jefferson and Napoleon and Austerlitz and Amelia. And did we mention the zoo? And the golf course? Uptown New Orleans is the epitome of the gracious, gentle beauty that’s defined New Orleans for many generations.Historically, “Uptown” was a direction, meaning movement against the direction of the flow of the Mississippi. After the Louisiana Purchase, many settlers from other parts of the United States developed their homes and businesses in the area upriver from the older Creole city. In the 19th century, Canal Street was known as the dividing line between “Uptown” and “Downtown” New Orleans: the boundary between the predominantly Francophone area downriver and the predominantly Anglophone area upriver.The very broadest definition of “Uptown,” if derived from the historic definition including everything upriver from Canal Street, would encompass about one-third of the city. In its narrowest usage as a New Orleans City Planning neighborhood, “Uptown” refers to an area of only some dozen blocks centering on the intersection of Jefferson and St. Charles Avenues. Neither of these is what most New Orleanians of recent generations usually mean by “Uptown”. While some may quibble about the exact boundaries, “Uptown” generally refers to the areas of the city closer to the river (the river side of S. Claiborne Avenue), upriver from the Pontchartrain Expressway, and nearer the modern CBD/Warehouse District neighborhood.
- The boundaries of the federal Uptown New Orleans Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are: the river to S. Claiborne Avenue, and Jackson Avenue to Broadway. Adjacent areas, which are often colloquially referred to as parts of Uptown, are other federal historic districts: Carrollton, the Garden District, the Irish Channel, Central City, and the Lower Garden District. According to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, Uptown, as a specific neighborhood, is bounded by Napoleon Avenue, Magazine Street, Jefferson Avenue and LaSalle Street. The neighborhood was once known as the Faubourg Bouligny until it became part of Jefferson City. The area was annexed by New Orleans in 1870.Uptown was developed during the 19th century, mostly from land that had been plantations in the colonial era. Several sections were originally developed as separate towns, like Lafayette, Jefferson City, Greenville, and Carrollton. For a time in the early 19th century, most of Uptown was part of Jefferson Parish, until the City of New Orleans annexed the two. In 1874, New Orleans added the towns of Lafayette (not to be confused with the present city of the same name located in Lafayette Parish) and Carrollton. This newly-absorbed area became known as Uptown New Orleans.
People from other parts of the United States settled Uptown in the 19th century, joined by immigrants, notably from Italy, Ireland, and Germany. Uptown has always had a sizable African-American population. Notable Uptowners have included jazz musicians Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden, George Brunies, Harry Connick, Jr., Percy Humphrey, the Neville Brothers, Joe “King” Oliver, Leon Roppolo, singers the Boswell Sisters and Mahalia Jackson, author Anne Rice, inventor A. Baldwin Wood, ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin, professional football players Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, and Drew Brees, and rappers B.G., Birdman, Soulja Slim and Lil Wayne.
- Mid-City: Mid-City is a neighborhood that has carved out its own unique identity. It is a generally local, middle-class neighborhood in that it contains fewer tourist destinations than other parts of the city. Restaurants and bars rely heavily on local clientele, giving the area a quirky local flavor. It is egalitarian, cheerful, a little more blue-collar, and a lot more diverse than its staid Uptown neighbor.A sub-district of the Mid-City District Area, Mid-City’s boundaries as defined by the City Planning Commission are: City Park Avenue, Toulouse Street, North Carrollton and Orleans Avenues, Bayou St. John and St. Louis Street to the north, North Broad Street to the east, and the Pontchartrain Expressway to the west. It is a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. Colloquially, a somewhat larger area surrounding these borders is often also referred to as part of Mid-City.Mid-City is located, as the name indicates, in the middle of New Orleans on what was once the backslope of the Mississippi River’s natural levee, a gradually declining section of the river’s flood plain. As such, it was not settled as early as adjacent neighborhoods and was called the “backatown (back of town),” as the city ended at the swamp back then. The Esplanade Ridge and adjoining Metairie Ridge formed a natural spur from the river, but what is now Mid-City, surrounded by these higher-elevated sections, was part of the “backswamp” until development in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Mid-City offers younger people looking to purchase historic homes a great value. Residences boasting original architectural features, including gas jets, cypress cabinetry and wide-plank wooden floors, can be purchased for a fraction of the price of similar Uptown properties.
- Treme:With a history as colorful and intertwined as trellised morning glories, the Treme stands strong as the oldest African-American neighborhood in the nation. Discover its museums, churches and centuries-old architecture — all waiting just on the other side of Rampart Street.
Buckjumpin’ & Havin’ Fun
Located on the northern border of the French Quarter above Rampart Street, Tremé is a uniquely historic neighborhood–one of the oldest neighborhoods in New Orleans. Early in the city’s history, it was the main neighborhood of free people of color, and remains an important center of the city’s African-American and Creole culture, especially the modern brass band tradition.
The modern Tremé neighborhood began as the Morand Plantation and two forts—St. Ferdinand and St. John. Near the end of the 18th century, Claude Tremé purchased the land from the original plantation owner. Within a few decades, the Carondelet Canal was built from the French Quarter to Bayou St. John, splitting the land. Developers began building subdivisions throughout the area to house a diverse population that included Caucasians, Haitian Creoles, and free pe of color.
Tremé abuts the north, or lake, side of the French Quarter, away from the Mississippi River—the “back of town,” as earlier generations of New Orleanians used to say. Its traditional borders are Rampart Street on the south, Canal Street on the west, Esplanade Avenue on the east, and Broad Street on the north. Claiborne Avenue is a primary thoroughfare running through the neighborhood. At the end of the 19th century, the Storyville red-light district was carved out of the upper part of Tremé; in the 1940s, Storyville was mostly razed and made into a public housing project. This area is no longer considered part of the neighborhood. The “town square” of Tremé was Congo Square, originally known as “Place des Nègres,” where slaves gathered on Sundays to dance. This tradition flourished until the United States took control of Louisiana, and officials grew more anxious about unsupervised gatherings of slaves in the years before the Civil War.
Congo Square was also an important place of business for slaves, enabling some to purchase their freedom with proceeds from sales of crafts and goods there. For much of the rest of the 19th century, the square was an open-air market. “Creoles of Color” brass and symphonic bands gave concerts, providing the foundation for a more improvisational style that would come to be known as “jazz”. At the end of the 19th century, the city officially renamed the square “Beauregard Square” after Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, but the neighborhood residents seldom used that name. Late in the 20th century, the city restored the traditional name of “Congo Square”.
Musicians from Tremé include Alphonse Picou, Kermit Ruffins, Lucien Barbarin, and “The King of Treme,” Shannon Powell. While predominantly African-American, the neighborhood’s population has been mixed from the 19th century through the 21st. Jazz musicians of European ancestry, such as Henry Ragas and Louis Prima, also lived in Tremé. Also, Joe’s Cozy Corner in Tremé is often considered the birthplace of Rebirth Brass Band, one of New Orleans’ most notable local groups. Alex Chilton, who led the rock groups Big Star and The Box Tops, lived in Tremé from the early 1990s until his death in 2010.
Tremé has recently gained much exposure via the HBO series “Tremé”. The series is shot on location, and stars many local musicians, actors, artists, and personalities. The series begins three months after Hurricane Katrina, and focuses on the residents of New Orleans, including musicians, chefs, Mardi Gras Indians, and other New Orleanians trying to rebuild their lives, homes and the city’s unique culture in the aftermath of the 2005 disaster. While the series has been met with various levels of criticism and praise from New Orleanians, it has undoubtedbly had a positive effect on city tourism.
- Lower & Upper 9th:A very distinctive region of New Orleans, the Ninth Ward refers to the area located in the easternmost portion of the city. This downwater area of the city is famous in name for being the largest, geographically speaking, of New Orleans’ 17 wards.To the south, the Ninth Ward is bounded by the Mississippi River. On the western or “upriver” side, the Ninth Ward is bounded by (going from the Mississippi River north to Lake Pontchartrain) Franklin Avenue, then Almonaster Avenue, then People’s Avenue. From the north end of People’s Avenue, the boundary continues on a straight line north to Lake Pontchartrain: this line is the boundary between the Ninth and Eighth Wards. Lake Pontchartrain forms the north and northeastern ends of the ward. Saint Bernard Parish is the boundary to the southeast, Lake Borgne the boundary further southeast and east, and the end of Orleans Parish forms the eastern boundary at the Rigolets.Pre-Katrina, landmarks of this region were given extra exposure by the Hot Boys music video “We On Fire,” which was filmed in part in the Ninth Ward. Many local musicians now frequently mention the area within their tunes, and many of the neighborhood’s landmarks have been featured in TV and film.
The area along the riverfront was developed first, at the start of the 19th century, followed by the natural high land along Gentilly Ridge. The designation of this area as the “9th Ward” dates from 1852, when the boundaries of the Wards of New Orleans were redrawn as part of the city’s reorganization from three municipalities into one centralized city government.
Along the lakefront stood various fishing camps built on piers, the most famous collection being Little Woods. Such camps were common along the lakefront in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The collection of camps at Little Woods was the longest-lasting concentration, with many surviving until Hurricane Georges in 1998.
The area of the 9th Ward on the back side of St. Claude Avenue experienced the city’s most significant and longest-standing flooding from the New Orleans hurricane of 1915, due to a break in the protection levee at Florida Avenue. Then, the Industrial Canal was dredged through the neighborhood at the start of the 1920s.
The 9th Ward neighborhood was thrust into the spotlight once again during Hurricane Katrina. Much of the 9th Ward on both sides of the Industrial Canal experienced catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, a majority of which was caused by storm surges through multiple severe levee breaks along both the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) and the Industrial Canal.
During several days of the hurricane aftermath, live television news coverage from reporters and anchors who had little familiarity with New Orleans frequently included misinformation, such as references to the Lower 9th Ward simply as “the 9th Ward” and misidentification of helicopter shots of the Industrial Canal breach as the 17th Street Canal breach (which was actually at a nearly opposite end of the city.)
Today, much of the Ninth Ward has recovered or is well on its way to recovery. Reconstruction efforts have been buoyed in part by organizations such as Brad Pitt’s “Make It Right” project, which focuses on developing and rebuilding homes in the Lower Ninth Ward.
- Bywater: Nestled into the curve of the Mississippi as it winds its way downriver from the French Quarter and the Marigny, the Bywater is a relaxed neighborhood of shotgun houses and Creole cottages, and is home to the most thriving bohemian art scene in the city. Although the area endured moderate Katrina flooding, this vibrant, creative and eclectic place has barely missed a beat in digging out and transforming its trash into treasure. Here, corner groceries and neighborhood bars coexist with artists’ studios and late-night cafes in a way that truly says New Orleans: funky, cutting-edge, and embracing and fiercely protective of its own unique energy. Whether you’re looking for a home with lacy woodwork and heart-of-pine floors or a gallery selling fine jewelry and outsider art, Bywater has it all in a way that will charm, delight and astonish you.A subdistrict of the Bywater District Area, Bywater’s boundaries as defined by the City Planning Commission are: Florida Avenue to the north, the Industrial Canal to the east, the Mississippi River to the south and Franklin Avenue, St. Claude Avenue, Clouet, Burgundy, Lesseps, North Galvez and Mazant Streets to the west. Bywater is part of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, but is located along the natural levee of the Mississippi River, sparing the area from significant flooding. It includes part or all of the Bywater Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.During Mardi Gras, the Society of Saint Anne’s marching krewe starts their procession on Mardi Gras morning in Bywater, gathering marchers as it travels through the French Quarter, and ending at Canal Street. This walking parade of local residents, artists, and performers is preceded by the Bywater Bone Boys Social Aid and Pleasure Club, an early-rising skeleton krewe made up of writers, tattoo artists, painters, set designers, musicians, and numerous other pre-7 a.m. revelers.The area is home to young professionals, musicians, painters and photographers who find inspiration in its closely packed houses and unexpected gardens. Bywater isn’t just an area where history is preserved: it’s an area where the 19th and 20th centuries live in cheerful cross-pollination with the 21st, and tomorrow’s creations are nurtured in the warm glow of an intact and colorful past.
Marginy: Residents of the Faubourg (an ancient French term for “suburb”) Marigny are very proud of their neighborhood…and who can blame them?Here in this small wedge of real estate located just downriver from the French Quarter, you’ll find everything that makes New Orleans a uniquely wonderful place. The jazz clubs lining Frenchmen Street are world-famous, and every night you can hear big-name acts jamming with the hippest stars of tomorrow. The Marigny is home to some of the city’s trendiest restaurants: places where new chefs constantly reinvent the city’s cuisine. Neighborhood galleries and antique stories offer gems for every pocketbook, from museum-quality art to thrift-shop chic. And the area’s eclectic late Georgian, Creole, and Greek Revival houses nestle closely together, forming a fascinating and varied cityscape.The Marigny’s boundaries as defined by the City Planning Commission are: North Rampart Street and St. Claude Avenue to the north, Franklin Avenue to the east, the Mississippi River to the south and Esplanade Avenue to the west.
- The Marigny was laid out in the first decade of the 19th century by eccentric Creole millionaire developer Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville on land that had been his family plantation, just downriver from the old city limits of New Orleans. The portion of the Marigny closer to the river was built up first; the area on the side of St. Claude Avenue (formerly “Goodchildren Street”) away from the river was sometimes called “New Marigny”. In the early 19th century, New Marigny was where white Creole gentlemen set up households for their mistresses of color (and their offspring) in the tradition of “plaçage.”
Broad Elysian Fields Avenue, named after the Champs-Élysées in Paris, was designed to be the main street of the Faubourg Marigny. It was the first street in New Orleans to extend all the way from the riverfront straight to Lake Pontchartrain, 8 km (5 miles) away. From 1830-31, the Pontchartrain Railroad was built, with tracks running down the center of Elysian Fields. The area at the other end of the rail line developed into Milneburg. Marigny’s town square, Washington Square, fronts Elysian Fields.
The neighborhood declined badly in the mid-20th century, but came back strong in the late 20th century. Profiteering centered around the 1984 World’s Fair drove many long-term residents from the French Quarter into the Marigny. Frenchmen Street soon developed the city’s premier collection of live music venues and restaurants, and is a popular destination for both locals and knowledgeable out-of-towers.
bohemian spirit burbles in the Marigny and Bywater, located just down river from New Orleans’ historic center. Once working class neighborhoods, the cottages and bungalows of longshoremen and factory hands are now the studios and start-ups of 21 Century urban adventurer.
Whether you are in the 9th Ward on a tour of the ruins of Katrina or Uptown on Magazine Street boutique shopping, you will defiantly feel the spirit of New Orleans no matter what part of the city you live or visit.