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Riding the Streetcar
Take in the beautiful mansions and fun local vibe of Uptown via the St. Charles Avenue streetcar, which runs the length of the avenue, from Canal Street right outside of the French Quarter to the Carrollton-Riverbend. The relaxing ride takes about an hour and costs $1.25 one way.
If you're coming from the French Quarter, board at Canal and Carondelet. Jump off at Jackson Avenue (the ride will take 20 minutes) and follow our Garden District Walking Tour. Reboard at Louisiana Avenue, which forms the boundary between the Garden District and Uptown. As you approach Louisiana Avenue, the huge white mansion on your left at the intersection was formerly the Bultman Funeral Home, where Tennessee Williams staged his play Suddenly Last Summer. Note that unless you have an unlimited day pass ($5), you'll need to ask for a 25¢ transfer when you pay—otherwise you'll have to repay the fare (in exact change) each time you board.
The Columns Hotel, formerly a mansion, is on the right after Peniston Street. It's a great place to stop off for a cocktail on the grand veranda. Next you'll pass the Gothic-style Rayne Memorial Methodist Church, built in 1875, a block past the hotel, on the left. The 1887 Queen Anne-style Grant House up the block was designed by popular local architect Thomas Sully with a decorative porch and balcony balustrades.
As you continue, the large avenue at the next stop is Napoleon. The spectacular Academy of the Sacred Heart, a private girls' school, is on the right in the next block, past Jena Street. Across the street, the Mediterranean Smith House claims one of the most picturesque settings on the avenue. It was built in 1906 for William Smith, president of the New Orleans Cotton Exchange. The oldest house on St. Charles Avenue (circa 1850s) is the 4621 St. Charles House on the right, before Valence Street. Next door, Anthemion is an early example of the Colonial Revival movement. The Brown House, on the right before Bordeaux Street, is the largest mansion on St. Charles Avenue.
Several houses in the next block past the Brown House are turn-of-the-20th-century buildings that re-create an antebellum style. On the left, the neighboring Rosenberg House and Stirling House contrast Colonial and Classical Revival. The Tudor style of the house on the left, with its steep gables, Gothic arches, and half timbering, was popular when banana magnate Joseph Vaccaro built it in 1910. The Orleans Club, on the right at the corner of Robert Street, is an elegant ladies club. The Milton H. Latter Memorial Library, a beaux arts mansion that is now a public library, is on the left at Soniat Street. The library is worth a visit as it is one of the few mansions along St. Charles that is open to the public.
Several blocks ahead, the Benjamin House, between Octavia and Joseph streets, is a stunning mansion (circa 1912) made of limestone, an expensive and unusual building material for New Orleans. In the next block, past Joseph Street on the right, is the McCarthy House, a 1903 Colonial Revival home with ornate columns and flattop doors and windows. The plantation home used in the film Gone With the Wind was a set, but it inspired the columned New Orleans Tara, built in 1941, coming up on the right side of the avenue at the corner of Arabella.
As you cross Nashville Avenue, the Colonial Revival Wedding Cake House is on the right. Its most notable feature is the beveled leaded glass in its front door, one of the most beautiful entryways in the city. As you enter the university district, dominating the next block on the left is the neo-Gothic St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Castles House, on the left after State Street, is a similar Colonial Revival, as is the St. Charles Avenue Christian Church, two blocks up on the left. On the right, across from the church, is Temple Sinai, the first Reform Jewish congregation in New Orleans. This building dates from 1928; the annex on the corner was built in 1970.
Just beyond Calhoun Street, Loyola University, on the right, takes up the block past Temple Sinai. Tulane University, founded in 1884, is directly beside Loyola and houses the Newcomb Art Gallery and the Middle American Research Institute and Gallery. Campuses for both universities extend back several blocks off the avenue and are worth a visit. On the left, across the avenue from the two universities is Audubon Park and Zoo, Uptown's premier attraction.
Back on the streetcar, the heavy stone archway on the right just after Tulane University is the guarded entrance to Audubon Place. The private drive has some of the most elegant mansions in the city. Zemurray House, the columned white home facing the archway, was built in 1907 by the president of the United Fruit Company. It is now the official residence of Tulane's president. The Doll House, a miniature house in the corner yard on the right at Broadway, is said to be the smallest house in New Orleans to have its own postal address.
At Broadway, to the left, is the Loyola University School of Law, an Italianate building that housed the Dominican Sisters and the college they operated for almost a decade until the 1980s. The street continues several more stops past Broadway along St. Charles until it turns at the Riverbend onto Carrollton Avenue, once the entrance to a former resort town.
You'll travel through the Carrollton-Riverbend neighborhood before reaching the end of the line at Palmer Park. The park is the setting for an arts market held the last Saturday of every month. Reboard the trolley headed downtown at S. Carrolton Avenue and Claiborne Avenue where the St. Charles Avenue line both begins and ends.
In the early 1900s streetcars were the most prominent mode of public transit and ran on many streets. By the early 20th century, New Orleans had almost 200 miles of streetcar lines, and a ride cost just 5¢. In the 1920s, buses started to overtake the old-fashioned system. Today, three lines remain, operating along Canal Street, St. Charles Avenue, and Carrollton Avenue.
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