Most weekenders and conventioneers rarely get past the historic French Quarter and the Central Business District, which contain the lion's share of the larger hotels as well as the Convention Center and New Orleans' classic restaurants, bars, and other forms of adult entertainment (we have a sneaking suspicion you know what we mean). Travelers with even a hint of curiosity tend to head uptown to the other river-hugging historic neighborhoods (the Warehouse District, the Garden and Lower Garden districts, Uptown, and Riverbend) that are easily accessible via streetcar or taxi. Music fans looking for late-night options beyond Bourbon Street often find themselves in downtown neighborhoods near the QuarterTreme, Faubourg Marigney, and the hipster-heavy Bywater.
WHEN TO GO
New Orleans's biggest cultural eventsMardi Gras and Jazz Festtake place in late winter and spring, avoiding the summer heat waves and tropical storm activity. Large-scale convention traffic is on the uptick, especially during the shoulder seasons, with a few hardy organizations braving the summer heat to cash in on summertime deals. A little-known sweet spot for travelers is in March and April, when the city catches its breath between Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. As a local once put it, "Rooms cost a million bucks on Mardi Gras night, but on Ash Wednesday, you can buy the whole town for a dollar."
HOW TO GET THERE
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is located approximately 11 miles from downtown New Orleans (504-464-0831; www.flymsy.com). Taxis from the airport into town charge a flat rate for one or two people ($33), plus a surcharge for each additional passenger. There's also an airport shuttle that leaves every 30 minutes and stops at various hotels; buy your ticket ($20 one-way/$38 round-trip) at the booth in the baggage claim area (504-522-3500; www.airportshuttleneworleans.com).
From the French Quarter to the outer reaches of Mid-City, New Orleans' historic neighborhoods are well-suited for hour-long walks, but getting between them via public transit often requires both patience and good humor. RTA buses traverse major routes on a "less than clockwork" schedule. The city's historic green streetcars clack along stately oak-shaded St. Charles Avenue as they connect the French Quarter/Central Business District with uptown neighborhoods (Garden District/Uptown/Riverbend areas). They've been joined by modern red counterparts that run the length of Canal Street from the French Quarter to City Park. Current route maps and schedules are available at 504-248-3900 or www.norta.com.
In a town known for its ragtag fleet of owner-operated gypsy cabs, taxi service is slow, especially during busy tourist seasons. Even using the generally reliable United Cabs requires considerable patience during festival seasons (504-522-9771; www.unitedcabs.com). Ask your hotel's concierge for average wait times so you can plan accordingly.
The New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau provides basic tourism information; its Web site lists what's open and what's still closed (2020 St. Charles Ave.; 800-672-6124; www.neworleanscvb.com). There's also a state tourism welcome center in the French Quarter (529 St. Ann St.; 504-568-5661), and you can get great cultural guides to the city from New Orleans's official tourism Web site (www.neworleansonline.com). Offbeat, a free local monthly magazine, offers in-depth coverage of the music scene (www.offbeat.com). The city's Times-Picayune newspaper publishes its entertainment section on Fridays. The alternative paper, The Gambit, hits the stands on Sundays.