New Orleans Feature
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Crude and crass, New Orleans's most famous entertainment strip isn't to everyone's taste, but you have to see it at least once—preferably under the nighttime neon lights. Tawdry strip clubs and souvenir shops scream for attention, but take a closer look: you'll find local jazz musicians showing off their chops, elegant restaurants, and faded bars where luminaries like Mark Twain and Tennessee Williams imbibed.
Flanked by St. Louis Cathedral, the antebellum Pontalba apartment buildings, and the Mississippi River, postcard-pretty Jackson Square has been the hub of New Orleans life since the city's colonial start. Artists, musicians, and fortune-tellers congregate on the plaza surrounding the square, but the manicured park itself is a peaceful oasis in the midst of the French Quarter bustle.
A field day for architecture buffs and gardeners, the leafy Garden District is a remarkably intact collection of 19th-century Greek Revival mansions and raised cottages, many built by wealthy merchants during New Orleans's cotton heyday. Cap a visit here with lunch at Commander's Palace and browsing the shops and cafés on Magazine Street.
St. Charles Avenue Streetcar
Three streetcar lines converge on Canal Street, but this one packs the most bang for the buck-and-a-quarter. Following a route in use since a steam train first plied the avenue in 1835, the old-school streetcars clatter through the CBD, then roll along the oak-shaded median past some of the city's most exclusive addresses. Stops include Audubon Park, the Garden District, and the Riverbend shopping district.
Picturesque Audubon Park, across from the campuses of Tulane and Loyola universities and on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line, is an uptown oasis featuring waterfowl-filled lagoons, oak trees draped in Spanish moss, and wide-open green spaces. The park also includes the world-class Audubon Zoo, the Audubon Park Golf Course, Audubon Stables, and Audubon Tennis Courts, and has great views of the Mississippi River.
French trappers, seafood vendors, and more than a few rowdy sailors traipsed through these open-air stalls once upon a time. Today the place more resembles a bazaar, and alongside vegetable stalls and charcuteries selling alligator-on-a-stick, crawfish, and Cajun sausages you'll find stands packed with jewelry, bags, cheap sunglasses, and antiques. The quality of the merchandise varies (it's a great place to pick up Mardi Gras beads and hot sauces), but the scene is a lot of fun—especially on weekends and whenever live music takes over the market.
Accessible by the Canal Street streetcar line, City Park offers 1,300 acres of recreational and cultural opportunities in the heart of New Orleans's Mid-City. The park is home to the New Orleans Museum of Art and the adjacent, first-rate Besthoff Sculpture Garden. The New Orleans Botanical Gardens, the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, Storyland, and the miniature train that tours the park are other big draws. There's a walking track around the lake near the museum, where you'll find a genuine Venetian gondola for hire. The Spanish mission–style Old Casino Building houses the Parkview Café for a light bite, a cool drink, or an ice-cream treat on a hot day.
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