Sweet Ride

Published Mar/Apr 2005

See New Orleans like the locals do
on one of three street car lines.
By Barbara Baird

Park the car, board a streetcar and enjoy the ride while taking in New Orleans’ glorious architecture, landmarks and attractions. It’s easy for visitors to learn a little streetcar savvy and enjoy a day on the lines.

For the first savvy tip, don’t call them trolleys. That’s a dead giveaway you’re a tourist. Exact change, or a pass, is required to ride.

The streetcars in New Orleans have names, although those can change as they are dubbed after the key streets on the routes, and a particular car does not always travel the same route.

It’s easy and inexpensive to spend a day riding all three lines: the Canal, Riverfront and St. Charles. This experience offers the tourist an opportunity to see the old, the new, and if they look up into the trees, a bit of the Krewe.

Start with St. Charles

Begin with the St. Charles Avenue Line, a moving National Historic Landmark; it has been around for more than 165 years. Popular with commuters and school children, consider planning your day accordingly and avoid the rush hours.

With the RTA/JeT DayRide pass in hand, get onboard outside the French Quarter at Canal and Carondelet streets. For $5, you’re now ready to ride all day either on the streetcar or bus.

Settle in and enjoy the show of stately old homes as the streetcar heads down St. Charles Avenue toward Carrollton. A one-way trip along the 6 1/2 -mile route, without getting off, takes about 45 minutes.

Once in the Garden District, see streets lined with live-oaks and mansions, many owned by former Mardi Gras kings and queens. If you look up, you’ll likely see colorful beads in the trees, remnants of past Mardi Gras celebrations.

To visit a cemetery, get off at Washington, take a left and walk a couple of blocks to Lafayette Cemetery, graveyard of choice for writer Ann Rice’s vampire books. The cemetery is open daily from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon. Guided tours through this cemetery are offered, but it is quite navigable on your own.

Head back to the streetcar and board. Once in motion, notice the lush greenery of Audubon Park and then Loyola and Tulane Universities.

The Ladies in Red

Get off at Carondelet and Julia and walk down Julia Street to the Riverfront Line near the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Streetcars on this line, replicas of vintage Perley Thomas streetcars, are painted red instead of green and are dubbed the “Ladies in Red.” Cars are wheelchair accessible.

This is a short route (just under two miles) and full of tourists, but it affords the opportunity to hop on and off at popular stops in the French Quarter, including the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Jax Brewery, the French Market and the Old U.S. Mint.

Save the best for last

It's time to board the newest and most modern streetcars, the Canal Street Line. These streetcars are the cream of the crop, featuring ADA-equipped cars with air-conditioning and a low-noise braking system. This line reopened, after an absence of 40 years, on April 18, 2004, and runs 5 1/2 miles. The route starts on the riverfront at the French Market, then turns onto Canal Street in the Central Business District, moving to Mid-City and ending at City Park Avenue and the historic city cemeteries.

Mid-City touts restaurants for every palate, from Mediterranean cuisine to a local brew house's fare. Art galleries and eclectic shops sit comfortably in this residential area.

The streetcar reverses at the city cemeteries. On the return trip, get off the streetcar at Carrollton Avenue and board the spur line to City Park/Museum, a destination containing 1,500 acres filled with plush picnic areas, lagoons, an ice cream parlor and an amusement park.

Also located here is the New Orleans Museum of Art, and nearby, The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. The New Orleans Botanical Gardens are located across from this verdant setting.

A ride back to the heart of the city is just the ticket for tired feet after walking in these parks. The St. Charles and the Canal Street Cemeteries lines run all day, every day. City Park runs daily from 4:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Riverfront operates 7:15 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily.

In “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Blanche confesses that she depends on the kindness of strangers. Tourists can depend on the New Orleans streetcar lines to show them the town.

Barbara Baird is a contributor from Rolla, Mo.

Above: A Riverfront streetcar passes the Aquarium of the Americas.

Below: Tourist attractions, such as the New Orleans Museum of Art, is a stop on the Canal Street Line. Louisiana Office of Tourism photos

Before You Go
To plan a daytrip on the streetcar, call the Ride Line hotline at (504) 248-3900. Helpful Web sites include www.regional transit.org or www.neworleansonline .com.

Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks and TourBook guides. View a list of offices.

Order free information through the Reader Service Card online. Click on Reader Resources.

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