The New Orleans Streetcar is the most historic mode of transportation in the Crescent City. Traveling through the middle of major streets such as St. Charles, Canal and Carrollton and soon Rampart Street, the streetcar is an affordable method of transportation that allows you to soak in the sights as you move closer to your end destination. $1.25 gets you aboard, and if lucky, you'll have a street car operator that will act as a pseudo tour guide, pointing out important landmarks. The streetcar itself is of historical significance to the city. It is the oldest continually operating street railway system in the entire world, moving city-goers around since the 19th century.
Bike tours are a thing in New Orleans, and with good reason. There's not a hill in sight, the city has ramped up its bike lanes and there are gorgeous avenues shaded by live oaks all over town. Fat Tire Bike and Segway Tours is a super option for getting a visitor out and about. Knowledgeable tour guides (shout out to Charlie, what a funny, smart guy!) set the stage for an in depth exploration of New Orleans, especially outside of the French Quarter, as well as in the Garden District. After a brief orientation by the Mississippi, guides lead guests through neighborhoods including the Marigny and Treme and into City Park, with plenty of stops for water and breaks along the way. The tour is about 3 1/2 hours and the pace is relaxed. This is an international company with locations in cities from D.C. to London and Paris, so the website is high caliber and there's great customer support. The company's fleet of three speed cruiser bikes is in great shape. Book online and if you've never tried a segway tour - give it a shot, it's fun!
While offering similar types of shops, the Royal Street experience differs significantly from Magazine Street. First, located a block away from Bourbon street, the area is more reminiscent of a European 19th century city, with horse drawn carriages and cobblestone providing the ambiance. Higher end jewelry, art and antique shops are the specialty on this strip, which also has a handful of very nice hotels. And there are constant reminders that the French Quarter is a living neighborhood, as you pass an elementary school, a vet's office and a supermarket. The heart of the street is closed to car traffic during the day, making it an easy pedestrian destination.
A snowy egret watches cagily from the banks of Bayou St. John, strutting with his over sized yellow feet like a clown on parade. Maybe he's not used to seeing humans kayaking in his urban waterway, a sight that's becoming increasingly common, thanks to Kayak-iti-yat, a business owned by local partners Sara Howard and Sonny Averett. Founded in 2011, Kayak-iti-yat (a paddling riff on the local query, where y'at?) sheds new light on the city's charming Mid-City neighborhood bounded by the historic canal, once a vibrant transportation waterway connecting to Lake Ponchartrain. Sara and Sonny take turns leading the tours, which are geared mostly to novices, unless a wind whips chop into the usually placid canal. Bits of history and lore are shouted into the breeze, historic homes are identified and a growing confluence of birds remarked upon, from great blue herons to beady-eyed pelicans.
Outdoor attractions are plentiful on this side of Lake Pontchartrain, a world away from the excess of New Orleans. The Global Wildlife Center is the Northshore's answer to Disney's Animal Kingdom, an eco-friendly 900-acre predator-free animal park that offers 90-minute covered wagon tours to view the 40 species, 2700 animals in all, which live in the park. You're likely to see giraffes, antelope, Father David deer, dromedaries and bison on your Louisiana safari, which includes feeding the curious critters from an open air safari-like vehicle. There is so much to do for families on this side of the lake that you might want to stay over for a night or two.
The Steamboat Natchez is a throwback to the days when steamboats cruised up and down the mighty Mississippi for commerce and pleasure. The Natchez floats its lunch/dinner guests down the Mississippi daily as they enjoy a menu of Creole favorites and soak in some live jazz. The climate controlled dining area ensures the boat's casually dressed guests stay dry and warm regardless of weather occurrences. Food is pretty straightforward comfort specialties, hearty and all you can eat. There's room for dancing to the spirited music of the Dukes of Dixieland and several bars that deliver one of the best bloody Mary's in town.
Magazine Street, which runs from Canal Street to Audubon Park, is a six mile long shopper's paradise. With dozens of funky boutiques, galleries, and restaurants to choose from, Magazine Street is a terrific place to connect with local owner/operators and sample some famous New Orleans hospitality. Say hello to Mark and Candace Latter, owners of the popular Tujague's Restaurant as well as Bin 428 (2801), a boutique wine store inspired by a passionate love of the grape. And the energetic guy you're likely to see greeting customers at Salu Bistro (3226) is co-owner Tarek Tay, the creative force behind this sunny Mediterranean restaurant, which features local ingredients in specialties like paella, best enjoyed to live Spanish guitar.
Audubon Zoo, located in Uptown New Orleans is a great place for a family visit. Home to more than 2,000 animals, the zoo is open year round, from Tuesday through Sunday (seven days a week during the summer). Learning the eating habits of a Komodo Dragon under the Louisiana sun can get hot, so the Zoo features "Cool Zoo", a small scale water park complete with an alligator water slide. The zoo is located across the street from Audubon Park, and adjacent to "The Fly", a great place to lay out in full view of the Mississippi River. Ask about Monkey Hill, a mound for climbing popular with local tykes.
City Sightseeing New Orleans offers visitors a chance to tour the city in the comfort of a big red double-decker bus. As you peruse around the French Quarter and along the Mississippi River, feel free to plug in complimentary ear buds and listen to the recorded informative audio track. The bus visits sights such as the Superdome, Historic Treme and the spooky St. Louis Cemetery #1. City Sightseeing has tourism buses in cities all across the world, and is known for offering visitors a chance to observe most of the "must see" destinations all in one ride.
The largest green space in New Orleans, City Park boasts 1,300 acres featuring dozens of colorful original artworks, excellent sports facilities and beloved attractions, such as the New Orleans Botanical Garden and the New Orleans Museum of Art, all surrounded by picturesque lagoons and sprawling lawns. Locals adore this place, walking, biking, strolling and picnicking in the shade of the wonderful live oak trees. Little ones love the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, home to an antique carousel, and the whole family can enjoy boating, biking or picking crawfish under the Spanish moss-draped oak trees. There's also a wonderful free sculpture garden behind the New Orleans Museum of Art.