8 Reasons to Tour New Orleans by Streetcar

8 Reasons to Tour New Orleans by Streetcar

The streetcars in New Orleans are an iconic part of the city. Here are 8 reasons you have to experience travel by streetcar when you visit NOLA.

The streetcars in New Orleans are an iconic part of the city. Here are 8 reasons you have to experience travel by streetcar when you visit NOLA.

1. It's historic.

The St. Charles Avenue line, the primary branch of New Orleans' streetcar system, is the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the entire world. The line first opened in 1835 as a steam-engine passenger railway. The locomotives were briefly replaced by horse-drawn streetcars before the installation of electricity on the line in 1893, which is how the streetcars are powered today. The St. Charles line was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 to prevent the streetcars from being supplanted by city buses. The tradition of the streetcars was preserved for future generations, and you can still enjoy the charm and romance of the streetcars today. The cars that run on the line now have the same mahogany seats, brass fittings and exposed lightbulbs that passengers saw in 1920. The sound of streetcars rumbling up the street is one of the most recognizable traits of New Orleans, and riding one is a step back in time through the city's vivid history.

2. It's inexpensive.

Riding the streetcars is one of the best deals in the city. A one-way ride costs only $1.25, and an all-day Jazzy Pass, which gives you access to any RTA bus as well as any streetcar, is just $3. Three-day passes are available for $9 and 31-day passes, ideal for commuters or visitors on longer stays, are $55. 1-day passes can be purchased directly from the conductor when you step on the streetcar. (Just make sure you have exact change in cash.) For travelers keeping an eye on their budget, the streetcars offer an efficient and fun way to see the city that is far cheaper than renting a car or taking cabs.

3. It's convenient.

Using public transportation in an unfamiliar city can sometimes be a hassle. But New Orleans offers an especially user-friendly experience on its streetcars, making it easy to enjoy one of the city's most famous experiences. The St. Charles line operates 24 hours a day on most days, and the other lines run from early morning to late night. During peak travel times, you won't have to wait more than 5 minutes for the next streetcar. It's far easier than searching for a parking space on the street or paying a premium for parking garages. You can buy your one-way ticket or all-day pass from the conductor, or you can use the RTA GoMobile app to purchase tickets right from your smartphone. And if you're ever lost or uncertain of where to get off, ask the conductor! They're usually very friendly (like most people in New Orleans), and they'll be happy to let you know when your stop is coming up.

4. It's the easiest way to get to and from the French Quarter.

One of the biggest draws of New Orleans is the romance, history, and thriving nightlife of the French Quarter. It's a vibrant and unique center of culture, arts, food and music that is unlike anywhere else in the world. The St. Charles line will take you right up to the edge of the French Quarter; you'll disembark at the Canal Street and Carondelet stop. (Carondelet will turn into Bourbon St.) From here, you can wander through the Caribbean-inspired streets and sample some of New Orleans most famous eats - from jambalaya, gumbo and po-boys to sweet pralines and beignets, the French Quarter is the perfect place to experience the best of Creole and Cajun culinary traditions. Just a few of the superb restaurants in the area include Muriel's Jackson Square, Arnaud's, Three Muses, GW Fins, and Brennan's (be sure to try the bananas foster!). Other attractions of the French Quarter include world-famous music clubs like the Balcony Club and the Chris Owens Club. No description of the French Quarter, of course, would be complete without a mention of the bars on Bourbon Street: Pat O'Brien's, Saints and Sinners, Tropical Isle, The Beach on Bourbon, and many, many others offer cocktail creations galore.

5. It will meet you at the station.

The latest addition to the streetcar network in New Orleans is the Loyola/Union Passenger Terminal line. This 1.6-mile loop, which opened in 2013, starts at the Greyhound and Amtrak terminals. Travelers arriving by bus or by train can hop on the Loyola/UPT line and take it straight to Canal Street in the heart of the city. From there, they'll have access to the city's major hotels in the downtown/French Quarter area. This is the central hub for transportation in the city, and passengers can transfer to the Riverfront, Canal St. or St. Charles lines. To help ease your arrival into the city, the streetcars on the Loyola/UPT are more modern than those on the other lines; they are fully air-conditioned and offer more conveniences than the vintage cars in other parts of the network.

6. It gives you access to some of the city's hidden natural gems.

After a late night on Bourbon St., a relaxing day in one of New Orleans' many beautiful natural spaces can be just what you need to recharge. New Orleans offers plenty of green space to help you escape the rush of city life. Visitors can board the Canal St. line on any of the cars marked "CITY PARK/MUSEUM" on the sign above the conductor. These specially marked cars will travel on a spur off the main line along North Carrollton Avenue to Beauregard Circle, where travelers can experience City Park. This 1300-acre oasis features a stunning botanical garden, tennis courts, a golf course, and the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, all set against a backdrop of 800-year-old oak trees and elegantly draping moss canopies. From the St. Charles line, visitors can also visit Audobon Park, bordered by St. Charles Avenue on one side and the Mississippi River on the other. Once a plantation, the land was purchased by the city in 1871 and converted to a public park. Visitors will enjoy the miles of paved paths winding through the picturesque scenery, as well as the exhibits and events at the nearby Audobon Zoo.

7. It will take you to the door of NOLA's thriving arts and cultural centers.

New Orleans is home to world-class centers of music, art, and learning, all with a unique New Orleans flavor that can't be found anywhere else. If visitors continue on the City Park spur of the Canal St. line to the end, they'll find themselves at the New Orleans Museum of Art, one of the premiere galleries in the United States. Only a short distance away is the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, where visitors can stroll through the tranquil 5-acre park and admire over 50 modern and contemporary works by some of the world's most celebrated sculptors. From the Riverfront line, you can experience the newly-opened Aquarium of the Americas that promises to impress and inspire. Countless other smaller, but no less wonderful, art galleries and live music venues are dotted along the streetcar lines; hop off the streetcar whenever you see something that interests you, and you're sure to find hidden gems all throughout the city.

8. It's charming, vintage, and altogether unique - just like New Orleans itself.

Other cities have trolleys, but any New Orleans resident will be quick to tell you that New Orleans isn't like other cities. Unlike the attractions of many other major destinations, the streetcar network in the Crescent City is far from a tourist trap. The streetcars (never "trolleys" here in the Big Easy) are an integral part of the city, used by travelers and locals alike to get them wherever they need to be. The iconic sound of the green cars as they rumble up St. Charles Avenue is a quintessential part of New Orleans. From the vintage mahogany seats, you can see the vibrant bustle of the French Quarter, the stately, ancient oak trees of Uptown, the towering centers of finance and commerce in Central Business District, and the resplendent old mansions of the Garden District. The streetcars can take you to all of the premier destinations of New Orleans, as well as being a fun and unique destination in and of themselves. No New Orleans visit would be complete without a ride on the St. Charles streetcars. Be sure not to miss this experience when you're in the Big Easy.

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