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New Orleans

Get Away to the Big Easy

Arpad Benedek/iStockphoto.com

Get Away to the Big Easy

Inexorably altered by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans was once called “The City that Care Forgot,” a nickname that aptly described its bon vivant atmosphere. It was always a melting pot of peoples and cultures, with diversity not merely recognized but celebrated. Out of this eclectic blend of French, Spanish and African influences came jazz, Cajun cooking and Mardi Gras. Built in an improbable location—on a swamp in a bend between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain—the Crescent City nonetheless became the fifth-largest convention destination in the United States, attracting 10 million visitors a year.

Today, New Orleans is a city almost fully recovered. A famous vacation destination, tourism remains the city's lifeblood. Visitors can still expect the same charm, the same Creole hospitality, the same indomitable spirit that gave rise to the Big Easy's unofficial motto, Laissez les bons temps rouler. Let the good times roll, indeed.

Getting There

By CarTwo major automobile routes enter New Orleans from the north. I-59, a four-lane controlled-access freeway, comes from Hattiesburg, Miss.; it is paralleled by two-lane US 11. North of Slidell US 11 becomes I-10, an east-west route linking New Orleans with Baton Rouge to the west and Mississippi's Gulf of Mexico beaches to the east.

From Jackson, Miss., I-55 leads south between lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain. It then connects with I-10 at La Place for the final 26 miles into New Orleans. The 24-mile, four-lane Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, a scenic route into the city, is accessible from both I-55 and I-59 via I-12; the toll is $5.

I-10 and US 90 are the main east-west approaches, running parallel east of New Orleans. US 90 passes through a series of beach communities; I-10 affords faster travel. US 90 follows Claiborne Avenue through the city, crossing the Mississippi River via the Huey P. Long Bridge.

Near the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, US 90 Bus. Rte. follows the Pontchartrain Expressway across The Crescent City Connection Bridge. Then, as Westbank Expressway, it runs through the suburbs to rejoin US 90 near Bridge City. I-10 offers expressway travel through the heart of the city and is the direct link to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport via a four-lane airport access road.

From the west, I-10 and US 90 are parallel or combined routes to Lafayette. From there US 90 takes a scenic, southerly swing through bayou country, and I-10, which is the shorter and faster route, heads for New Orleans via Baton Rouge.

Air TravelLouis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is about 21 miles west of downtown New Orleans in Kenner and is served by nearly all major domestic and foreign carriers. Citybound traffic exits the airport in two directions.

To connect with the expressway, exit the airport to the east and take Airport Road (not Airline Highway) north to I-10 east. After about 10 miles I-10 moves southward into town. Exiting to I-610 east will lead to the eastern leg of I-10. Another route into New Orleans is via US 61 east (Airline Highway), which is accessed just south of the terminal building.

The average taxicab fare from the airport to the Central Business District (CBD) is $41 for one or two people and $15 per person for three or more riders. Limousine service is available starting at $58 for up to two passengers. The Airport Shuttle has ticket booths on the lower level of the baggage claim area. Vans depart every 15 minutes from the airport and provide transportation into the city for $24 one-way and $44 round-trip; phone (504) 522-3500 or (866) 596-2699 for reservations. Jefferson Transit operates a bus from the airport to Tulane and Loyola avenues Monday through Friday (fare $2), and to Tulane and Carrollton avenues Saturday and Sunday (fare $1.50); phone (504) 818-1077.

New Orleans is served by several major car rental agencies. Arrangements should be made before you leave on your trip. Your local AAA club can provide this service or additional information. Hertz, (504) 568-1645 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.

Getting Around

Street SystemThe street system is determined by the natural boundaries of the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. North-south streets are usually perpendicular to the lakeshore or riverbank, while east-west routes are more or less parallel to them.

Uptown means upstream and generally toward the river. Lakeside indicates the general direction toward the lake; riverside denotes the direction toward the river. Downtown, which encompasses the central business district, is east and northeast of Lee Circle.

The river-oriented part of the city falls within the triangle formed by Carrollton and Esplanade avenues and the Mississippi. Canal Street, Tulane Avenue and the Pontchartrain Expressway are the main thoroughfares. New Orleans' principal routes across the city are Tchoupitoulas Street and St. Charles, Claiborne and Broad avenues.

Above the Carrollton-Esplanade apex, roads run approximately northward to Lake Pontchartrain. In addition to Pontchartrain Expressway, the main routes are Wisner Boulevard and Elysian Fields Avenue. Major crosstown routes through New Orleans are Airline Highway, City Park Avenue, Gentilly Boulevard and Lakeshore Drive.

Canal Street, which runs northwest, divides north from south. Thus, street numbering moves outward from it as well as lakeward from the Mississippi. Streets also change names as they cross Canal. For example, Royal Street becomes St. Charles Avenue, and Bourbon Street becomes Carondelet Street. Except for divided thoroughfares such as Canal, Tulane, Basin and St. Charles, most streets downtown and in the French Quarter are one-way.

Few left turns are permitted from major arteries or moderately traveled downtown streets. It is easier to loop to the right back around the block than to drive a mile or more in search of a legal left turn. Right and left turns on red at one-way intersections are permitted unless otherwise posted.

The speed limit is 30 mph on most streets and 35 mph on boulevards, or as posted. However, on many streets these limits will rarely be reached. Heat, humidity and a water table that lies only 2 to 3 feet below the surface make street maintenance a continuing problem. A buckle of pavement may be the closest thing to a hill you see in New Orleans.

Rush hours are from 7 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Avoid driving during these hours whenever possible. Congestion is greatest on bridges, I-10, I-610 and on the narrow streets of the French Quarter, several of which are blocked off for pedestrian use. Royal Street turns into a pedestrian mall from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Bourbon Street is a pedestrian mall from dusk to early morning hours.

ParkingParking lots and garages can be found throughout the downtown business area; fees vary and may be increased during special events. Parking fees at the Riverwalk and in areas of the French Quarter are typically higher than in other areas of the city (the closer to Bourbon Street, the higher the rates).

On-street parking is scarce and is prohibited in most central sections. Visitors should read—and heed—the rather small signs that tell where and when parking is legal, as the regulations are strictly enforced by prompt towing and heavy fines.

Regular 2-hour meters are $2 to $3 per hour. Meters are enforced Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Parking is prohibited at meters in designated rush hour zones from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. For towing/auto pound information phone (504) 658-8284 or (504) 565-7451.

Public TransportationNew Orleans' city bus system is inexpensive and efficient. On regular runs within the city limits the bus fare is $1.25 and transfers are 25c; express fare is $1.50 or 25c with a transfer from a regular bus. The Jazzy pass—$3 for 1 day or $9 for 3 days—allows unlimited rides on all Regional Transit Authority buses and streetcars; exact change is required.

The clanging streetcars that ply St. Charles Avenue are part of the transit system. The Canal Streetcar has two lines. The Canal-City Park/Museum line runs from Esplanade Avenue to Canal Street, then along Canal Street from the Mississippi River to the City Park Avenue terminal. Canal Street connects to City Park at Beauregard Circle via a line along North Carrollton Avenue. The Canal-Cemeteries line runs the length of Canal Street, from the Mississippi River to the old historic cemeteries. The Rampart-St. Claude Streetcar runs along Loyola Avenue to N. Rampart Street to St. Claude Avenue. The Riverfront Streetcar provides transportation along the Mississippi River from Earhart Boulevard to Elysian Fields Avenue. One-way fare is $1.25 and transfers are 25c. The Regional Transit Authority can provide more information about both bus and streetcar routes and fares; phone (504) 248-3900.

Outlying parishes are served by other bus companies. East Jefferson Parish, including the airport, is served by Jefferson Transit which also operates buses to Gretna, Harvey, Westwego and other suburbs across the river. Phone (504) 818-1077.

A ferry system connects New Orleans with the West Bank and provides excellent views of the downtown skyline. The 10-minute trips depart from Algiers Point and Canal Street docks (pedestrians only) and from Lower Algiers to Chalmette docks; the cost is $2 per automobile or pedestrian. For ferry schedule and updates, phone the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development at (888) 613-3779.

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New Orleans, LA

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Travel Information

City Population

343,829

Elevation

11 ft.

Sales Tax

Louisiana's statewide sales tax is 5 percent; an additional 5 percent is levied in the New Orleans metro area, and Orleans Parish has a .5 percent tax on food and beverages. The city has a 14 percent lodging tax, plus an occupancy tax of $1-$3 per night. The state's car rental tax is 3 percent.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

(504) 821-2222

Fire (non-emergency)

(504) 658-4700

Time and Temperature

(318) 324-8808

Hospitals

Ochsner Medical Center, (504) 842-3000; Touro Infirmary, (504) 897-7011; Tulane Medical Center, (504) 988-5263; University Medical Center New Orleans, (504) 702-3000.

Visitor Information

1221 Elmwood Park Blvd. Suite 411 New Orleans, LA 70123. Phone:(504)731-7083 or (877)572-7474

Air Travel

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is about 21 miles west of downtown New Orleans in Kenner and is served by nearly all major domestic and foreign carriers.

Rental Cars

New Orleans is served by several major car rental agencies. Arrangements should be made before you leave on your trip. Your local AAA club can provide this service or additional information. Hertz, (504) 568-1645 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.

Rail Service

Amtrak uses the Union Passenger Terminal at 1001 Loyola Ave. Daily service is offered. Phone (800) 872-7245 for further information.

Buses

The Greyhound Lines Inc. bus terminal is at 1001 Loyola Ave.; phone (504) 525-6075 or (800) 231-2222 for schedule and fares.

Taxis

Cabs are plentiful in the main business and tourist areas. Average fare is $3.50 initially and $2.40 for each additional mile and $1 for each additional person. The largest companies are Carriage/Yellow/Checker, (504) 207-7777; Metry, (504) 835-4242; and United, (504) 522-9771. Information about taxi service also can be obtained from the Taxicab & For Hire Bureau at (504) 658-7176.

Public Transportation

Transportation by bus, streetcar and ferry is available in New Orleans.

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