New Orleans in November - public transit touring & local picks
October 16, 2018 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Please tell me about touring New Orleans by public transit and name your favorite places. I am coming to New Orleans in November and have the basics down - lodging, airport transfer (hello E2!), Jazzy public transit pass, city layout and the Ignacious O'Reilly statue. I haven't visited since Katrina.

How do I get to Whitney Plantation without a car? Is a tour really the only option? If so, please recommend tour companies. I haven't enjoyed the standard "big house rich white people" plantation tours in the past. I don't want to see an extra plantation and don't want to spend hours stuck at a guide kickback restaurant + gift shop. Here's a tour company list on the Whitney website.

I like exploring by getting on a bus and taking it to the end of the line. What one bus line should I take to the end and come back? What's there to see at the end of the line? Along the line? ALL the streetcar lines and both the Algiers and Chalmette ferries also beckon to me. Where should I eat and drink in Algiers?

Where can I listen to daytime live music- blues, jazz, funk, anything danceable? Afternoon drinking and live music is the best.

Where can I walk along the river and explore? Much of the shore looks like it's blocked by big roads, like near the Irish Channel and Uptown.

Name your best chatty non-sports bar. Name two, no need to play favorites. Hell, name them all.

I'm reading A Confederacy of Dunces, Nine Lives, The Earl of Louisiana and Unfathomable City A New Orleans Atlas. I'm planning on a bicycle ride, a kayak trip on Bayou St. John, a train ride in City Park. a cemetery tour and perhaps a swamp kayak trip. I don't usually enjoy art museums. I like sitting on a porch or veranda or in a window and watching people go by. Happy hour at the Columns Hotel would make me happy.

What are your off the beaten tourist track recommendations?

And, who wants to get together IRL?
posted by jointhedance to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How do I get to Whitney Plantation without a car?

Man, that's a good question. I have absolutely no idea, to tell you the truth. I'll ask around and see if there's some solution but honestly if there's a tour bus that leaves from anywhere near your lodging and heads that way, I'd get on it.

ALL the streetcar lines and both the Algiers and Chalmette ferries also beckon to me.

I wouldn't bother with the Chalmette ferry, but absolutely do the Algiers ferry.

Where should I eat and drink in Algiers?

Crown and Anchor, Old Point Bar.

Where can I walk along the river and explore? Much of the shore looks like it's blocked by big roads, like near the Irish Channel and Uptown.

Take the St. Charles streetcar out to the riverbend and get off near where it turns NE away from the river. At that point you're right on the levee and there's a walking / bike path up there. If you continue to head upriver on foot you can check out the batture houses built on what most folks would consider to be the wrong side of the levee.

a cemetery tour

If you feel the need to get a tour then by all means do so, and I believe that's the only way you'll find yourself in St. Louis #1 and #2. However, almost all the rest are open and walkable, no need to pay for a guide. I definitely recommend Lafayette #1 and any / all out there at the end of the red streetcar Cemeteries stop, especially Masonic (for reasons I can't really explain; I just like it).

Name your best chatty non-sports bar.

For the record, any day the Saints play there is no such thing as a non-sports bar. See also: LSU games, though not to the same extent. With that caveat out of the way: Twelve Mile Limit.

I like sitting on a porch or veranda or in a window and watching people go by. Happy hour at the Columns Hotel would make me happy.

What are your off the beaten tourist track recommendations?

On whatever day you do your Bayou St. John stuff grab a drink at Pal's and sit outside.

There are a million watering hole recommendations in past Asks and they're all relevant so I'll just say the newest place with which I'm enamored is Manolito in the Quarter. Also possible to do some people-watching there without being right in the thick of it on Decatur.
posted by komara at 12:47 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You said you don't like art museums, but if history is at all your thing, check out the WWII Museum. It is infinitely better than it sounds.
posted by cholly at 12:53 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Check out the Gambit for live music schedule. Anything with "Brass Band" in the name is going to be really fun. Frenchman Street always has live music as well.

I like the swamp tours, I have done several but I don't remember which companies. I recommend doing the regular boat, not the airboat, those are too loud.

I agree that the busses are...finicky...but riding the streetcar is fun.

It's not "off the beaten path" but I love Mardi Gras World. You get to learn a ton about the history of Mardi Gras and see the floats being made. WWII Museum is also great.

If you don't want to rent a car, you're going to need to take a tour bus to a plantation.

If you want a fancy, delicious meal but with less pretentiousness, I always like Palace Cafe (it's run by the Brennan family but is not as well known). Best po' boys are at Parkway in Mid-City.
posted by radioamy at 4:25 PM on October 16, 2018

Best answer: I'm a daily RTA rider and the new app is actually reliable probably over 80% of the time, which is a huge improvement over past iterations:

For the airport you might prefer the RTA 202 Airport Express over the the Jefferson Transit E2, if the more limited timetable works for your arrival/departure. It's much faster.

There isn't any public transportation to upriver plantations.

If you do the 32 Leonidas-Treme bus (which is a good suggestion) to the end of the line at Audubon, you can walk up to the Fly (labelled as River/Riverview/East Drive on the map) along the levee, then back down to Tchoupitoulas Street where you can catch the 10 back to the Quarter. You'll have made a big circle. The maps and schedules on the RTA website will make it clear.

You could also take the 55 Elysian Fields up to the end of its line, where a walk through UNO's campus will put you at the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. This area is not touristy at all and you won't find an abundance of restaurants and stuff up there, but there is a decent daiquiri place at the top of Elysian Fields where you can get a drink and a sandwich for a picnic or whatever, it opens daily at 11:00.

These are off the beaten track, commuter type routes and the normal caveats about buses here not running on time apply. Feel free to PM me if you have more transit questions.
posted by CheeseLouise at 9:03 AM on October 17, 2018

Best answer: For fancy food, a hidden gem is Upperline in the Garden District. It's not far from the St. Charles streetcar. I second the recommendation of the Fly and the streetcars for transit.
posted by domo at 11:32 AM on October 17, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks all. Is the Fly short for Butterfly? It looks like you could walk along the Mississippi from near the airport until the riverbend near the St. Charles streetcar if you wanted, assuming the google map green footpath line is real.

I'm reading Dan Baum's Nine Lives and that means I must go to Kajun's Pub.

I also found the New Orleans Blues Society's calendar with a promising music line-up.
posted by jointhedance at 1:12 PM on October 17, 2018

Best answer: > Is the Fly short for Butterfly?

Technically yes but no one calls it anything but the Fly.

> assuming the google map green footpath line is real

It is. I used to do that ride on my bike when I lived Uptown.

> I'm reading Dan Baum's Nine Lives and that means I must go to Kajun's Pub.

If you have time to squeeze in one more I recommend Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran.
posted by komara at 8:02 AM on October 18, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks for all the best replies. Local knowledge is the best. My ambition is to do a trip report when I get home.
posted by jointhedance at 12:00 PM on November 5, 2018

Response by poster: New Orleans public transportation report

So. Many. Tourists. My best shout out to the streetcar and bus drivers who with great kindness, patience and skill welcomed people and helped them get around town. I told a couple of them, "You just get us trained and then we leave again."

Thanks to CheeseLouise for the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority app recommendation. RTA GoMobile app info

The app worked well and made it easier to find my way around on the buses and streetcars. Quibble: you have to create a GoMobile account before you can use the app for directions even if you are not buying fares through the app. I used $3 paper one day passes because that's what I started with and then my phone battery kept dying by mid evening so I stuck to the paper passes. Caveat: getting wet can mess up the reader strip on the paper pass.

Airport Transfers:

Plot your route from the airport to your lodging on the RTA GoMobile app. Arrive at the New Orleans MSY airport with five $1 bills for public bus transit to New Orleans.

Get your luggage, go all the way to the end of the terminal with the luggage carousels on your right and take the escalator upstairs. Take a left at the top of the escalator, go out of the terminal doors and cross the inner drop off lane to the median. The E2 bus picks up on the outside of the median. The fare is $2, cash only, exact change only. Put your $2 into the fare machine and then sit down and settle in for the ride to town. My ride was fast because the bus didn't halt at the many empty bus stops.

The E2 drops you off at the corner of Loyola and Tulane by the New Orleans Public Library. Take a left, cross Tulane and go two short blocks to Canal Street. Towards the river / French Quarter / downtown is to your right. Look for the streetcar tracks and overhead power lines in the median, locally called the "neutral ground". You'll find a streetcar stop sign along the tracks in the neutral ground not far from the Saenger Theater. (There may be a streetcar shelter as well.) Wait for the Canal Street streetcar, board and put your three $1 bills into the fare machine and get a one-day transit pass in return. (If you don't have exact change you will get a paper "change card" back. The "change card" is valid on the streetcars and buses and maybe the RTA fare machines in the neutral ground.) A paper one day pass lasts for 24 hours.

Head downtown on the streetcar towards the French Quarter and look for your stop. You're on your own from here.

On the way back to the airport use your last day pass to take the Canal Street streetcar to Basin Street by the Saenger Theater. Disembark and go left on Loyola to Tulane to the E2 bus stop. If you're early you can wait in the bus stop or go into the public library. Put your two $1 bills in the fare machine on the E2 bus. Ride all the way out to the airport, get off of the E2 bus and give your day pass to someone waiting to get on.

These directions will change when the new New Orleans airport terminal opens. The (delayed) opening date of the new terminal is May 2019. There is also a RTA 202 bus that serves the airport. 202 bus fare may be included in the $3 day pass.

Ferry: I took the Algiers ferry from the foot of Canal Street. The area is a mess of construction so look for the ferry signs as you pick your way through the upheaval. Ferry fare is $2 cash each way, exact change, and is not included in the day pass. The Algiers side is oddly quiet. I took a left out of the Algiers ferry and walked downriver a few blocks to the Old Point Bar. No food, I think it was cash only. The Old Point is a high ceilinged locals joint that used to be a grocery store and changed to a bar in the 1970s. I talked with a couple of local people who said that Airbnb gentrification had pushed up housing prices in Algiers to the point they'd had to move out of the neighborhood last year even though they had lived there for decades. That may explain the oddly quiet. You can also walk along the top of the levee for miles.

Easy circle route: Take the Canal Street streetcar downtown and along the riverside of the French Quarter to the end of the line at the French Market stop. Walk up Esplanade a half a block and then dogleg right up Frenchmen Street. Walk all the way up Frenchmen to St. Claude. Take a break and turn right on St. Claude and walk down to Kajun's Pub at 2256 St. Claude Avenue for a drink and a chat at a friendly bar off the beaten tourist path. Cash only. Then go back and catch the St. Claude / Rampart streetcar back to Canal Street. Also, if you turn right from Frenchmen at Washington? Park and go to Elysian Fields you will be find Confederacy of Cruisers bicycle tours.

Scenic upriver route: Take the Magazine Street streetcar uptown and get off at Riverbend. Head towards the river,figure out how to get across the train tracks and climb up on the levee to the bike path. You really can't see the river because of the trees. Walk upriver to the batture houses between the river and the levee. One is bright shiny and new, others are becoming one with the water.

City Park: one branch of the Canal Street streetcar goes all the way to City Park and turns around. It's an easy ride. It's hard to believe City Park was four or five feet underwater during Katrina. It's a lovely spot for a stroll and a coffee at Morning Call. There's a legal tussle over the Morning Call venue over who gets the concession location.

Magazine Street: take the 11 bus out Magazine Street and back to see the Lower Garden District and visit shops and restaurants. Pro tip: Magazine Street is one way outbound Uptown until you get away from downtown, then turns into two way traffic. This is confusing on the return leg because the 11 bus inbound Downtown bus veers off onto Camp? Street at the one way/two way point and you get back to Canal Street via Camp Street, not Magazine Street. So if you're looking for that interesting looking restaurant that you saw on the way Uptown you may not pass it on your way back Downtown.

Next time:

I didn't take the 55 bus to Lake Pontchartrain because it was a cold monsoon day. Ditto the 32 bus through Midtown. Ditto the Canal Street streetcar to the Cemeteries. Ditto the Fly and the 10 bus.

I'd like to connect with public transportation into other parishes and see what more of the area outside of New Orleans proper looks like. Jefferson Parish? Slidell?
posted by jointhedance at 7:02 AM on November 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Oops. Scenic upriver route: take the *St. Charles* streetcar uptown.
posted by jointhedance at 2:35 PM on November 20, 2018

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