A Garden District Walking Tour in New Orleans
When deciding where to stay in New Orleans, I knew we wanted to be near the Garden District.
We’d been to New Orleans before, staying in the French Quarter. Don’t get me wrong, it was awesome. But this time around, visiting New Orleans with kids, we were looking for a little slower pace. And so, we found ourselves a little Airbnb in the Irish Channel, just a few blocks south of Magazine Street, bordering on the beautiful Garden District.
From there we got to spend lots of time exploring this charming New Orleans neighborhood and all that is has to offer.
Whether you’ll be staying in the Garden District, or visiting from afar, here’s how you can enjoy all of the Garden District’s beauty in just one day:
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Getting to the Garden District in New Orleans
If staying in the Garden District, you’ll find that despite the neighborhood’s large size, it’s quite walkable. For those venturing in from the French Quarter or Uptown, the easiest (and funnest!) way to get there is by streetcar.
PS. If you’re staying elsewhere in the city and driving to the Garden District, you’ll find plenty of street parking in the area around Lafayette Cemetery no. 1.
The St. Charles Avenue Streetcar runs every 10 minutes or so. If you’re staying in the French Quarter, you’ll start your journey at Canal and Carondelet streets on the far west edge of the Quarter. Be sure to bring exact change for your tickets (which you can either purchase as a one-way ride or an all-day pass – find the current fares here).
Hop off the street car at St. Charles & Washington to start your perfect day in the Garden District.
Walk the Garden District Mansions
Hopping off the streetcar at St. Charles and Washington, head one block south where you’ll meet the famous Lafayette Cemetery no. 1. But instead of going inside just yet, head east on Prytania Street.
One of New Orleans most prestigious streets, you’ll find many of New Orleans’ well-preserved and restored mansions dotted along this street, many in the gothic and greek revival styles unique to the area.
Many of the amazing homes have historical markers so you can learn about the previous owners and historical significance. Some of our favorites architecturally were Colonel Short’s Villa (with its cornstalk fence), the Women’s Opera Guild Home, and the gorgeous Gilmour-Parker House. I’ll be honest, I didn’t read up too much on the history before our little self-made tour, but we still had fun admiring the beautiful homes anyway.
Walk 7 blocks east on Prytania until you reach Jackson, and then head south for 1 block. At the end of the block you’ll pass by the Buckner Mansion, a popular spot since its use as a filming location on American Horror Story: Coven.
Next, taking another right, head back west on Coliseum. This street’s a little more rugged, so hold onto your strollers.
Along Coliseum, you’ll pass the Seven Sisters (or Brides Row), an odd nickname for the 8 shotgun style homes that reside on this block, side-by-side. The story goes that a father built the cottages for each of his 7 daughters, but sadly the real history behind them is much less boring and involves a real estate developer who wanted to make the most efficient use of the land (sigh).
Still, the homes are simply adorable, if not slightly out of place amongst their neighboring mansions. So is a familiar story throughout the Garden District. It was common for homeowners to sell off part of their land parcels (i.e. their gardens) as land become more scarce and valuable in New Orleans. Today, you’ll find the Garden District’s mansions a bit more dense than they were 150 years ago.
Continuing down Coliseum, meander a block or two up and down First Street. You’ll find more gems along this street, like the Carroll-Crawford House and the Rice-Brevard House. Then, back on Coliseum, carry on 4 more blocks until you reach the legendary Commander’s Palace (undoubtedly too formal for a family lunch, but a New Orleans icon nonetheless).
PS. Before you go, check out this walking tour guide by Free Tours on Foot for some more history on many of the homes along this route.
Lunch & Shopping on Magazine Street
Instead of lunch at the prestigious Commander’s Palace, walk 3 blocks south to Magazine Street where you’ll find plenty of family-friendly eats. The Ruby Slipper is great for classic breakfast and brunch offerings and Joey K’s is a local favorite for creole food and po’boys. Further down Magazine Street, Basin Seafood and Spirits serves delicious southern-style seafood dishes, while Dat Dog offers kid-friendly eats with a huge outdoor patio!
As you walk to and from lunch, be sure to take your time and peruse the many shops, clothing boutiques and antique stores that line Magazine Street. A few worth popping into include Zele, Queork, Funky Monkey, Lucy Rose & Lionheart Prints. And I personally couldn’t resist a sweet treat from Sucre – their macarons are to die for!
Explore Lafayette Cemetery no. 1
With bellies full, head back north to Lafayette Cemetery no. 1. The entrance to the cemetery is along Washington, and once inside you’ll find wide avenues that connect the four quadrants of the cemetery. The cemetery itself is only one (albeit, large) city block in size, so it’s easy to weave your way in and out of the tombs without getting lost.
We decided not to do a tour, only because we wanted to keep our schedule open with two littles, but there are plenty of great ones that will take you through the cemetery (most in combination with a Garden District mansion tour). This can be a fun way to learn about the area and all of its notable residents in one fell swoop. Some are even free, like this one from Free Tours on Foot.
After exploring the cemetery, this is a good time to stop over at The Rink on the corner of Washington and Prytania. Inside the neighborhood shopping center (which used to be a roller rink!), you’ll find a little coffee shop (Still Perkin), Mignon children’s boutique, Garden District Book Shop and a few other boutique gift shops. It’s the perfect place to grab a souvenir or stop for a bathroom break (though do be prepared for a long wait to use the public restrooms inside).
Bonus: Ride the St. Charles Streetcar
It’s been a long day of walking, but I hope you’re up for one last adventure. If you’ve got some time left, late afternoon is a great time for a scenic ride on the St. Charles Streetcar.
Instead of following the usual tourist route and riding downtown towards the Quarter, we had fun riding Uptown with the locals! Along the line, stop at Daneel Playspot at Jefferson to give the kids a break, or carry on all the way to Carrollton for a treat at Sno-La (New Orleans’ very own cheesecake stuffed sno-cone)! You’ll pass by lots of beautiful sights along the way, like the mansions of Uptown, Aububon Park, and Loyola and Tulane Universities.
After a busy day, board the streetcar one last time for a ride back to the Garden District (or on home to the French Quarter).
Where to Stay in the Garden District, New Orleans
Want to extend your stay in the Garden District? Check out these hotels which make a perfect base for your New Orleans trip:
Hotel Indigo ($) | This classic hotel situated along the St. Charles Streetcar line has fresh, modern decor with an on-site bistro and outdoor patio overlooking St. Charles Avenue.
Compare Prices at: Hotels.com | Booking.com
Pontchartrain Hotel ($$$) | Stylish digs await at this luxury boutique hotel which underwent an expansive renovation in 2016. With 4 eating and drinking establishments, including a rooftop bar, you may never want to leave. Rumor has it, Tennessee Williams wrote a ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ at this historic hotel.
Compare Prices at: Hotels.com | Booking.com
Have you been to New Orleans? What’s your favorite neighborhood?