This is part 2 of the New Orleans article. Part 1 can be found here:
New Orleans – The Big Easy: Part 1 French Quarter, Canal Street, Garden District and Lafayette Cemetary which can be found here.
New Orleans City Park
The City Park is at the other end of the city. New Orleans’ City Park is double the size of Ne York’s Central Park. It has a botanical garden, a sculpture garden, a light railway and a collection of old oak trees, the oldest one being 800 years old. Moreover playing tennis or golf is possible.
The Park is north of the French Quarter. You will be driving a bit off the tourist routes to go there. Information on how to reach the park can be found here:
We could only go there for a very short time. Even though the driving instructions sound a bit difficult, it was not difficult. Signs were everywhere and parking was easy to find. If you have a rental car anyways, come here. We went there on the last morning and after that left New Orleans heading to Florida.
Steamboat Mississippi Tour
The tour on the Mississippi Steam Boat starts right at Jackson Square (Steamboat Natchez Tour). Because of New Orleans’ unique atmosphere and history, these tours somehow fit into the city and match its character. Don’t expect anything very spectacular. You enter the steamboat, can walk up and down on it and drive down the river a bit. The steamboat makes a turn and goes to same way back. You get to see some of New Orleans’ houses a bit later a sugar cane factory and all the other traffic on the river.
The tour is sold in several varieties: brunch tour, jazz tour, diner tour etc. We did the regular afternoon tour (at 2.30 pm, another one is at 11.30 am). The lunch buffet was offered for an additional 10 dollars. The tickets are sold directly at the port, the booths are very visible and easy to find.
The food at the lunch buffet was ok, you do not need to leave hungry. Neither food nor variety is outstanding. It’s in general ok, not more and not less.
All other things on the boat are a matter of taste. A band is there: they play for a very short period of time (very loud but not very good, literally all street bands were better). The tour is full-narrated (like so many tours in the US): that means someone has a mike and tells all kind of information about the tour and the area. I have to say, what they were telling was not even that interesting and the speaker sounded very repetitive and bored, almost to the point of rattling everything.
The only interesting thing was the engine room where you can see the steamboat engine.
It was a nice trip after all. The world always looks different from the water. I would not call this trip a must-do in New Orleans but it was still good.
More information about the tour: http://www.steamboatnatchez.com/
There is also a second tour option: http://www.creolequeen.com/
Streamboatnatchez says they are the original. Creole Queen does not use a steamboat at all. I don’t know it that’s right but it’s what they said at Steamboatnatchez.
Further Activities in New Orleans
New Orleans has many guided tours, most of them themed voodoo or ghost. Some of them only in the evenings when it’s dark. There are also Airboat and Kayak Tours to swamp areas of New Orleans (I wrote something about Airboat in the Everglades Article). A second larger park is the Jean Lafitte Preserve. Highway 1 and 23 are the southern end of the city (not really in the city but already far outside) and end in the ocean. At the very end of highway 23, there is Pass A Loutre State Park (only reachable per boat), the highways ends shortly before the park. At the end of highway 1, there is Grand Isle and a little protected area. Both tours need at least 1 ½ hours one way. I cannot say anything about that, we did not do them.
What is a Must-Do in New Orleans?
Definitely French Quarter, bring enough time to enjoy its atmosphere. Also walk along the Mississippi River, and to Jackson Square. You should definitely listen to some live music, either on the roads in French Quarter or in one of the bars. Also visit Garden District, maybe for lunch or dinner. Last but not least at least one of the Vacherie plantations (see Plantations in the South).
Safety in New Orleans
Safety has always been an issue in New Orleans; Americans call it “a dangerous city”. That means, you always need to be a bit careful where you go. French Quarter and Garden District are safe and not dangerous at all. The easiest thing is just to stay here in the evenings after sunset. All hotels are nearby and like that you do not take an unnecessary risk.
All standard tourist routes are safe, all booked tours of course as well. Everything else, unusual areas and routes, should be checked in advance. That does not mean that you cannot go there. But US cities have ghettos which mean that sometimes one side of the street is safe and the other one is not. At some bus stops, you can only walk left, never right or something like that. These invisible borders in cities are real. Every city has some blocks that you should better avoid.
I don’t know anything like that from Germany. I would recommend asking the hotel staff or a cop for advice. In the US, people are in general very kind and helpful and always answer friendly. Things like that change quickly and I think asking for updated information is the best.
New Orleans definitely has a poverty problem. We saw many people living under car bridges. Between French Quarter and Garden State, some of the larger roads have entrances and exits on big ramps. People were living there in tents, in the middle of that traffic mess.
Parking in New Orleans
Parking in New Orleans is – there is no nice way to put it – a pain in the ass. Our hotel charged 38 dollars for one day. For three nights (= four days) that was too much for us. Our hotel was not an exception; all hotels in the French Quarter have these kinds of parking fees.
You can use one of the parking decks or parking spaces in the French Quarter. Signs about them are everywhere. The thing is: the closer you are to French Quarter, the more expensive. We found a parking deck in advance on google. We were there but that did not work at all (the parking deck was either full or closed or we did it wrong, I don’t know). Anyways, it did not work for us. The second try was better: it was a parking space charging 10 dollars per day. Still a lot but better than 38 per day. We had to walk there twice and buy a new parking tickets (I was one of these “buy it and put it on the dash” systems). Of course, that wasn’t a perfect solution. A regular parking deck ticket with a total in the end would have been easier and better. But it was ok. It was just a daily walk from the hotel to the car.
Some advice: French Quarter and its many little roads were a bit confusing to us in the first evening. It was only a 2 km walk from the car to the hotel but finding the right way wasn’t easy. Our parking space was somewhere at North Rampart Street. Definitely take a map and a GPS phone with you to avoid walking the wrong way.
If you don’t mind walking, this could be the right option for you. If you do, find a parking garage or pay the hotel’s fee.
You don’t need a car in the French Quarter. It’s better to walk here. We used to car only for trips outside the French Quarter. We left our luggage in the hotel; one person of the group was watching it until the car was there. While looking for parking, always consider New Orleans’ safety issues and don’t park too far from the French Quarter.
Resumee New Orleans
New Orleans is a unique city, a place like no other. One of my all-time-highlights, I could have stayed much longer!