Mansion in the Garden District, New Orleans

Garden District, New Orleans: Things to Do and How to Visit

While most people visit New Orleans for the French Quarter and party vibes, my favorite part of the city is the leafy Garden District, which is known for its tree-lined streets and beautiful mansion homes. It’s a very peaceful area and feels like it’s worlds away from the chaos of Bourbon Street. 

Exploring the Garden District should take about half a day and is definitely worth including on your New Orleans itinerary. To help you plan your visit, I’ve put together a list of the best things to do in the Garden District, as well as information on how to get there.  

Where is the Garden District?

Below is a map of the Garden District to help you pinpoint where it is:

The Garden District is located southwest of the French Quarter in the 11th Ward of New Orleans. This leafy neighborhood is part of Uptown New Orleans, meaning upriver from the Mississippi River. Its official boundaries are St. Charles Avenue to the north, 1st Street to the east, Magazine Street to the south, and Toledano Street to the west.

It’s about a fifteen minute drive from the French Quarter or a 50 minute walk. If you travel by streetcar, the journey should take around 30 minutes. 

How to Get to the Garden District, New Orleans

Walking around the Garden District in New Orleans

To get to the Garden District from the French Quarter, take the historic St. Charles Streetcar (green and brown), which runs 24 hours a day, seven days per week. If you don’t want to take public transportation, you can also order an Uber or hail a taxi.  

The best way to buy tickets for the streetcar is by downloading the Le Pass app, which allows you to check schedules and purchase tickets. A single ride costs $1.25, but if you plan on riding it a few times, you can buy a Jazzy Pass for unlimited rides. A single day pass costs $3, so if you plan on riding the streetcar, bus or ferry more than 2 times, it’s worth it. 

If you can’t download the app then you can also buy a single ticket in cash from the driver when you board the trolley, or you can purchase tickets from vending machines along Canal Street and certain stores around the city. 

Streetcar in New Orleans

In the French Quarter you can catch the streetcar from the corner of Canal Street and Carondelet Street, or at the corner of St. Charles Street and Common Street.

The best stop to get off the streetcar when you reach the Garden District is St. Charles at Washington, which is close to Lafayette Cemetery No 1. However, there are numerous stops along St. Charles Ave so it doesn’t matter too much which one you choose. 

When you reach your stop, just pull the cord above the windows to tell the driver you want to get off. 

Why Is It Called the Garden District?

Garden District sign

The Garden District was developed in the 19th century, more specifically from 1832 to 1900. The area was once home to a number of plantations, which were eventually sold off in parcels to wealthy newcomers who didn’t want to reside in the French Quarter with the Creoles. 

The district was planned by New Orleans architect Barthelemy Lafon and originally featured only two houses per block, each surrounded by a large garden. This is how the Garden District got its name! 

Eventually some of the lots were subdivided with more houses built. This is why you’ll see a variety of 19th century mansions interspersed with houses from the late Victorian period.

Things to Do in the Garden District, New Orleans

Leafy street in the Garden District, New Orleans

As I mentioned previously, you can get off the streetcar anywhere on St. Charles Ave but most people opt for St. Charles & Washington because it’s close to Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. From this stop, you can easily wander around the tree-lined streets of the Garden District as the area is very walkable. Below are some of the top things to do in the Garden District.

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, established in 1833 in the historic Garden District of New Orleans, is one of the city’s oldest and most significant resting places. Known for its above-ground vaults and aged tombstones, it chronicles the lives of generations within an ambiance of creeping ferns and Southern Gothic allure. The cemetery reflects the city’s diverse heritage, containing the remains of immigrants, yellow fever victims, and Civil War veterans, while also providing a hauntingly picturesque setting for various films and literary works.

Lunch at Commander’s Palace

If you’re feeling hungry, stop for lunch at Commander’s Palace, a landmark New Orleans restaurant established in 1893. Known for its distinctive turquoise and white striped exterior and a legacy of culinary excellence, the restaurant offers a quintessential Creole dining experience. Commander’s Palace has helped launch the careers of renowned chefs such as Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme. It is celebrated for its inventive dishes, exceptional service, and elegant atmosphere. The restaurant’s commitment to locally sourced ingredients and innovative cuisine has made it an enduring favorite among both locals and visitors.

Drinks at The Rum House

The Rum House is a vibrant Caribbean taqueria celebrated for its inventive tacos, rum-based cocktails, and island-flavored menu. This casual dining spot boasts a lively atmosphere and colorful decor, attracting locals and tourists with its laid-back vibe and friendly service. It serves as the perfect destination to unwind and enjoy the taste of the tropics.

The Garden District Bookshop

The Garden District Book Shop stands out with its wide selection of books, featuring local authors and signed editions. Within the confines of a picturesque 19th-century building, this bookshop provides a cozy atmosphere complemented by a friendly staff. It is a lively center for the literary community, hosting frequent events, readings, and signings, making it an essential destination for book enthusiasts.

Shopping on Magazine Street

When you visit Magazine Street, you’re stepping into a diverse retail experience unique to New Orleans. As you explore, you’ll discover everything from the treasures of antique stores like M.S. Rau to the latest trends at fashion boutiques such as Buffalo Exchange. For unique local gifts, don’t miss Fleurty Girl, and if you’re an art lover, you’ll appreciate the finds at Cole Pratt Gallery. This street is lined with numerous cafes and restaurants, allowing you to enjoy a leisurely exploration filled with great shopping and delightful dining options.

Snap Photographs of the Mansions

When you’re strolling through the historic streets, taking photographs of the grand mansions should definitely be on your list. Each mansion has its own story, like the elegant Walter Grinnan Robinson House with its intricate architecture, or the imposing Buckner Mansion, famous for its appearances in popular culture. The Caroll Crawford House embodies classic beauty, whereas the George Washington Cable House gives you a peek into the literary history of the area. And you can’t miss the Sporia Creeel Mansion, with its luxurious details begging to be captured on camera. These key mansions are monumental pieces of history, each showcasing a unique character that’s waiting for you to discover and capture through your lens.

Where to Stay in the Garden District

The Garden District is easily explored as a day trip, but if you’d like to stay a while, here are some good options:

Ponchartrain Hotel: A historic hotel offering beautiful views, luxurious accommodations, and a famous rooftop bar, this is a choice spot for travelers seeking an upscale experience.

Hotel Indigo New Orleans Garden District: With its modern design and commitment to showcasing local culture, Hotel Indigo offers a comfortable stay right on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line.

The Sully Mansion Bed & Breakfast: For those looking for a more intimate, personalized stay, the Sully Mansion provides beautiful rooms in a historic setting, complete with a lovely breakfast each morning.

Henry Howard Hotel: An antebellum mansion turned boutique hotel, the Henry Howard Hotel is known for its beautiful architecture and cozy, music-infused atmosphere.

Garden District Bed and Breakfast: This charming bed and breakfast is a delightful way to experience Southern hospitality and the architectural beauty of the neighborhood in a more relaxed setting.

The Columns: This hotel offers a blend of historical elegance and modern comforts, famous for its Victorian Lounge and picturesque porch overlooking St. Charles Avenue.

Each of these hotels provides a unique way to experience the charm, history, and beauty of the Garden District, making your stay in New Orleans unforgettable. Make sure to verify the current status and offerings of these establishments, as details can change.

FAQs About Visiting the Garden District, NOLA

Street in the Garden District, NOLA
What famous people live in the Garden District?

Apparently Sandra Bullock and John Goodman live in the Garden District. Nicholas Cage, Anne Rice, Peyton Manning’s family and Beyonce & Jay-Z have also owned homes there at some point or another. 

Is the Garden District worth visiting?

Yes, the Garden District is totally worth visiting! It’s my favorite part of New Orleans because it’s so peaceful, green and beautiful. 

Can you walk the Garden District in New Orleans?

Yes, the Garden District is totally walkable. That’s the beauty of it! The streets all have pavements so you can wander around and admire the stunning mansions and gardens. 

Can you drive through the Garden District in New Orleans?

Yes you can drive through the Garden District in New Orleans. The roads are arranged in a grid pattern and the cross streets (roads running north to south) are one-way. Avenues such as St Charles Ave, Coliseum St and Magazine St are two-way. Driving through the Garden District you’ll be able to see plenty of oak trees and mansions through your car window. 

Is it better to stay in the French Quarter or the Garden District New Orleans?

If it’s your first time visiting New Orleans I would stay near the French Quarter since this is where all the major attractions are. You’ll probably spend most of your time around Bourbon and Frenchmen Street, so it’s best to stay close so you can easily get around on foot. 
The Garden District is a 30-minute streetcar ride away, so if you stay there you’ll have to go back and forth on the streetcar or spend money on Ubers. That being said, the Garden District is gorgeous and very peaceful, so you won’t be woken up by street noise. If you don’t mind spending time traveling to and from the French Quarter, then you may really enjoy it. 

A Final Word

The Garden District is beautiful at any time of year and is one of the best things to do in New Orleans. If you’re visiting NOLA in summertime the weather can get very hot and humid, so I’d suggest visiting in the morning and then cooling off at a hotel pool during the afternoon! 
For more inspiration, check out my USA travel guide, which features my latest blog posts, itineraries and practical info for traveling the USA.

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