By Holly B. Morris
Squealing hot brakes, grinding metal and a bumpy ride—in New Orleans this means one thing, a ride on an authentic streetcar. Not far from the crowded sidewalks of the French Quarter, visitors can escape more than 150 years back in time on the St. Charles Streetcar.
Beginning where Bourbon Street meets Canal Street, the trip through New Orleans starts as soon as you board. The lacquered mahogany seats with brass fittings will take you back to the early days of Louisiana luxury.
Soon you’ll be rambling by pristine homes with breezy wrap-around verandas, or much grander three and four story ante-bellum masterpieces with Greek revival columns, fountains and gardens bursting with azaleas, hydrangeas and confederate jasmine.
Lee Circle is an ideal stop for art and history, with the National World War II Museum and Louisiana’s Civil War Museum close by. The Arts District, home to more than 25 galleries, is also near. Julia Street features an impressive array of artists, so be sure to stop by, and for families the Children’s Museum is right around the corner.
Step off at Washington Street into the elegant Garden District. Originally a sugar plantation, the district was divided into large garden parcels in the 1830s. Soon, wealthy cotton, sugar and shipping tycoons, wishing to distance themselves from the French Quarter, built opulent homes there.
In nearby Lafayette Cemetery, visitors can walk and view hundreds of aboveground tombs and statuary. Or, hire a local guide for fascinating stories about the cemetery and Garden District residences. Commander’s Palace, home of New Orleans’ finest Sunday jazz brunch, is also found here, nestled in the Garden District across from the cemetery.
The St. Charles Streetcar is also the perfect mode of transportation for those wanting to visit Tulane or Loyola University. If campus strolls aren’t your fancy, you can stop at Audubon Park, home to the Audubon Zoo. Offering up-close animal encounters and award-winning exhibits, the Audubon Zoo is a New Orleans’ treasure.
With colorful restaurants, elegant mansions, family-friendly fun, and a chance to see the city at it’s own pace, the St. Charles Streetcar is a ride worth taking. For more information on the St. Charles Streetcar, click here.
For New Orleans visitor information, go to neworleanscvb.com.