When you’re visiting New Orleans, do yourself a favor and don’t bother with a rental car. Parking in the city is pricey, and you can easily see most of the sights on foot or by using public transportation. Plus, if you plan on enjoying some cocktails during your stay (and let’s face it, this is New Orleans – you probably will), you won’t want to be behind the wheel anyway.

Hop on a Streetcar

The streetcar system in New Orleans is a great way to get around to most of the major attractions. And for the places the streetcars don’t go, the buses can fill in the gaps.

Navigating the French Quarter

You can easily explore the majority of the French Quarter on foot. This lets you take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the city at your own pace. But if you’ve had your fill of walking, hop on the Riverfront Streetcar Line (look for the red streetcars). This line runs from the French Market along the Mississippi River to the Riverwalk. Some key stops include:

  • Dumaine (Dutch Alley)
  • Toulouse (Jax Brewery; Riverboat Natchez)
  • Canal Street (Aquarium of the Americas; with connections to City Park, Cemeteries, UPT, and St Charles Streetcar Lines)
  • Poydras (Drago’s Seafood Restaurant and the Riverwalk)
  • Julia (Riverwalk and Cruise Ship Terminal)

Venturing Beyond the Quarter

If you want to explore outside the French Quarter, there are several streetcar lines to choose from. Two lines originate at Harrah’s Casino and cover different sections of Canal Street:

  • The City Park Line (red) takes you to City Park, NOMA (New Orleans Museum of Art), and the Sculpture Garden.
  • The Cemetery Line (also red) brings you to a cluster of historic cemeteries, including St Patrick’s #1, Greenwood, and Metairie.

The UPT Line (another red line) runs from the Union Pacific Terminal (where you’ll find the Amtrak and Greyhound stations) to Elysian Fields, with a stop at Tulane Avenue (a major city and parish bus hub) along the way.

The Iconic St. Charles Avenue Line

No visit to New Orleans is complete without a ride on the Saint Charles Avenue Line. This line uses the original, iconic green streetcars (note: these are not air-conditioned like the red streetcars on the other lines). The St. Charles line starts at Canal and Carondelet and ends at S. Carrollton and S. Claiborne. Notable stops include:

  • Various stops in the CBD (Central Business District)
  • Lee Circle (for the WWII Museum and Ogden Museum of Southern Art)
  • Several stops in the Lower Garden District and Garden District
  • Washington Street (for Commander’s Palace and Lafayette Cemetery)
  • Jefferson Avenue (for the Freret Street/Freret Arts & Entertainment District)
  • Tulane University/Audubon Park and Zoo (for Audubon Zoo)

One important thing to keep in mind when riding the streetcars: don’t expect them to run as smoothly or quickly as rail systems in Europe. The whole streetcar system in New Orleans is pretty slow. But that’s part of its charm. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride (and maybe a cocktail or two).

Buying Streetcar Tickets

You can buy streetcar tickets right onboard from the automatic ticket machines. The machines take bills and coins, but they don’t give change. Instead, you’ll get a printed voucher for the difference. Your ticket options are:

  • 1-day (24-hour) Jazzy Pass: $3.00
  • Single journey pass: $1.25 (plus $0.25 for a transfer)

These passes are also valid on all RTA (Regional Transit Authority) buses.

Riding the Bus

For destinations not served by the streetcars, you’ll need to take a bus. Here are a few key bus routes:

  • Bus #11 (board at Canal Street bus stop L; runs about 4 times per hour): Takes you to Camp at St. Joseph (for the WWII Museum and Ogden Museum of Southern Art), about 20 stops along Magazine Street, and ends at Audubon Zoo.
  • Bus #15: Takes you to Freret Street.
  • Bus #202 (Airport Express): Runs from Tulane Avenue to Louis Armstrong International Airport (MSY). Your streetcar Jazzy Pass or single journey ticket (with transfer) is valid on this bus. Note that there are only 9 trips per day and the ride takes about 40 minutes. Board at the corner of Cleveland Avenue and Elk Place.

Getting to the Airport

Along With the RTA’s Airport Express bus, you can also take the Jet E2 Airport bus. This bus offers more frequent service:

  • Weekdays: 25 trips per day from 6:15 a.m. to 6:52 p.m.
  • Saturdays: 19 trips from 7:09 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.
  • Sundays: 9 trips from 8:16 a.m. to 9:49 p.m.

The Jet E2 departs from Tulane Avenue/Carrollton Avenue (next to the Public Library) and ends at MSY. On weekdays until 6:52 p.m., the bus stops at the intersection of Tulane Avenue and Loyola Avenue in the CBD. On weekends, the bus only goes as far as the parish line at Tulane Avenue and Carrollton Avenue in Mid-City. From there, you’d need to transfer to a separate RTA bus to continue into New Orleans.

Biking in the Big Easy

Another great way to get around New Orleans is by bike. The city is mostly flat, and there are plenty of bike rental options. Just be sure to wear a helmet and watch out for potholes and uneven pavement.

A Few Final Tips

  • If you’re staying in the French Quarter, you likely won’t need to use public transportation much, if at all. Most of the Quarter’s attractions, restaurants, and bars are within easy walking distance.
  • The streetcars can get crowded, especially during peak times like Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest. Be prepared to stand if you can’t find a seat.
  • If you’re riding a streetcar or bus, have exact change or small bills ready. The ticket machines don’t give change, and the bus drivers can’t handle large bills.
  • Consider downloading a transit app like RTA GoMobile or Transit to help you plan your routes and track real-time arrivals.
  • If you’re unsure which stop you need, don’t hesitate to ask the streetcar conductor or a friendly local. New Orleanians are generally happy to help travelers navigate their city.

With a little planning and a sense of adventure, navigating New Orleans by streetcar (and bus) is a breeze. It’s a convenient, affordable, and authentic way to experience the city.

Similar Posts