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New Orleans skyline | © Michael Maples / WikiCommons
New Orleans skyline | © Michael Maples / WikiCommons
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The Coolest Neighborhoods in New Orleans

Picture of Carolyn Heneghan
Updated: 1 August 2017
New Orleans remains a top destination on many travelers’ bucket lists, but once visitors arrive, they may not realize just how much the city has to offer once they look beyond the more famous and publicized areas. These eight neighborhoods represent some of the best spots to start planning an upcoming trip to New Orleans during any time of year.

Marigny

Past the far edge of the French Quarter from Canal Street lies the Faubourg Marigny. It’s arguably best known for Frenchmen Street, a popular strip of music clubs, bars, restaurants, tattoo parlors, and other local shops patronized by both New Orleanians and visitors. Besides Frenchmen Street, much of the Marigny neighborhood’s charm and entertainment appears in the form of tiny, intimate gatherings of audiophiles, hipsters, and a handful of in-the-know tourists. Often these diverse gaggles of individuals will be sipping bourbon and $3 beers in front of dimly lit musicians at venues such as Hi-Ho Lounge and Siberia on St. Claude Avenue or The Spotted Cat or The Maison on Frenchmen.

Bywater

A touch further east resides the Bywater, the Marigny’s next-door riverfront neighbor and hipster half-sibling. This area shares the eclectic nature of the Marigny but at times intensifies its dedication to grimy late-night dive bars and artsy, hedonistic bohemia. Experiences in the Bywater might include everything from a full-scale music and visual arts production at Music Box Village or Castillo Blanco Art Studios, home of the infamous Krewe of Chewbacchus, to a dip in the formerly clothing-optional pool at The Country Club.

Lower Garden District/Irish Channel

On the opposite side of the French Quarter/downtown area resides the Lower Garden District and Irish Channel neighborhoods, which can sometimes overlap depending on the map. The architecture in this area is distinctly different from other areas of town, with 19th-century mansions and cottages that tower over side streets and major commercial strips such as St. Charles Avenue, Prytania Street, and Magazine Street. Window-shop for vintage clothes and antiques on Magazine St., or grab a pint and some grub from New Orleans-style Irish pubs such as Parasol’s and Tracey’s before hopping on a streetcar to your next destination.

Magazine Street || © JasonParis/Flickr
Magazine Street | | © JasonParis/Flickr

Carrollton/Riverbend

The oak-lined streetcar route Carrollton Avenue runs through this busy Uptown neighborhood, ending where the Mississippi River bends and St. Charles Avenue begins. In addition to local shops and small businesses, the Carrollton/Riverbend area is home to a slew of restaurants featuring both global cuisines, including Barcelona Tapas and Lebanon’s Cafe, and Southern favorites, such as Brigtsen’s and Carrollton Market. Oak Street also offers its own series of shops and restaurants alongside popular entertainment venues such as Maple Leaf Bar, next door to the constant line of voracious diners outside Jacques-Imo’s Café.

Freret

Freret is technically the name of a major thoroughfare running through Uptown New Orleans, but Freret has since become a term referring to the street’s busiest commercial stretch and its immediate surroundings. It has undergone a major renaissance in the past decade as the street came alive with new bars, restaurants, and music venues catering to a younger, hipper crowd. That includes residents, such as students at the nearby Tulane and Loyola universities, and other locals and tourists alike looking to enjoy a craft beer (Freret Beer Room), upscale cocktail (Cure), or live music (Gasa Gasa) outside the city’s downtown areas.

Mid-City/Bayou St. John

Another New Orleans waterway worth visiting is the Bayou St. John and the Mid-City neighborhood situated around it. Mid-City tends to have a more low-key and laid-back vibe compared to other popular areas, and it’s chock-full of neighborhood bars that especially come alive during the NFL/college football season, World Cup, and other peak sports-viewing hours. Not to be left out, Mid-City has its own established and up-and-coming locales, from hot spots such as Banks Street Bar & Grill and Twelve Mile Limit to newcomers, including SideBar Nola and The Drifter Hotel.

Bayou St. John, Mid-City New Orleans | © Infrogmation/Wikimedia Commons
Bayou St. John, Mid-City New Orleans | © Infrogmation/Wikimedia Commons

Lakeview

Though one of the neighborhoods hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent levee breaks, Lakeview has bounced back in a big way over the past decade. The architecture and layout of the neighborhood’s homes and streets sustain a sense of old-world charm, but one that differs from the more distinctly European feel of the French Quarter. In addition to strolls along the Lakefront at sunset—or sunrise—visitors can also enjoy a wide range of local shops, restaurants, and neighborhood grocery stores along the bustling stretch of Harrison Ave.

French Quarter

Last but not least, no list of not-to-miss New Orleans neighborhoods would be complete without mention of its most famous—and infamous—neighborhood, the French Quarter. Here, visitors will find some of the oldest architecture still existing in the city, particularly the Spanish influences that seem to defy the neighborhood’s historical name. Bourbon Street may be many tourists’ ultimate destination in the French Quarter, or New Orleans in general, but this area offers a great deal more than the bars and strip clubs that sometimes dominate tourism marketing materials. From strolls along the Mississippi River and guided ghost and cemetery tours to restaurants both modern (SoBou, Restaurant R’evolution) and historical (Antoine’s, Galatoire’s), the French Quarter always has something exciting and inviting to behold.

French Quarter
French Quarter | © llambrano / Pixabay

Each of New Orleans’ neighborhoods offers a distinct sense of history, style, and the potential for entertainment, making the possibilities for each visit’s adventures truly endless.