Experiencing the grandeur of St. Charles Avenue is one of the things you simply can't miss when visiting New Orleans. Stretching all the way from Downtown through Uptown, St. Charles is a great way to see many different sides of the city, all along one gorgeous avenue. You can explore St. Charles on foot, by car, or for $1.25 you can hop on the historic, green St. Charles streetcar, cited as the oldest continuously running streetcar in the world and a National Historic Landmark.
You can catch the streetcar steps from the French Quarter at Canal Street and St. Charles. As you travel up the avenue, first you will pass through Downtown and then the Arts/Warehouse District, where restaurants, museums and art galleries are waiting. Pass by Lafayette Square, the second-oldest park in New Orleans and the American counterpart to Jackson Square. Designed in 1788, the square is flanked by iconic architecture such as Gallier Hall. Built in 1845, the Neoclassical-style Gallier Hall served as New Orleans' City Hall from 1853-1956.
You'll know you are entering the Lower Garden District when you reach Lee Circle and spot Alexander Doyle's 1884 sculpture of Confederate General, Robert E. Lee. Here in the Lower Garden you'll find dining options from sushi to Emeril's along with wine bars, pubs and coffee shops in which to relax. Stop by the Convention & Visitors Bureau Welcome Center located at 2020 St. Charles Avenue to pick up attraction brochures, maps or visitor guides. The center is open 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday.
As you move along St. Charles into the Garden District, live oaks, some more than one hundred years old, stretch across the avenue creating a magnificent canopy. And nowhere else in the South is there such a marvelous collection of antebellum mansions clustered together on one strip. Developed throughout the 19th century, the Italianate, Greek Revival and Victorian mansions are remarkable examples of historic preservation and craftsmanship. Many visitors choose to disembark at Washington Avenue, heading towards the river to Prytania Street to wander through the unique tombs and wall vaults of Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Featured in numerous films, it is one of the oldest and most-frequented cemeteries in the city. Guided tours of the cemetery are available.
Further upriver, St. Charles Avenue leads to two of New Orleans' acclaimed universities, Tulane and Loyola. With their pristine campuses and assorted architectural styles, both institutions have become signature landmarks for the city. Directly across St. Charles Avenue from Tulane's entrance are the gates of Audubon Park, where bike trails, golfing and pastoral beauty awaits. Named after the artist and naturalist John James Audubon, the park is also home to the celebrated Audubon Zoo, exhibiting a wide range of exotic wildlife such as their rare white tigers. You may walk through the park to the zoo or catch the Audubon Shuttle at the gates to the park.
St. Charles Avenue continues on until it merges into Carrollton Avenue, where there are even more shops and restaurants to discover. Oak Street just off the streetcar tracks is a throwback to a 1950's main street with a funky New Orleans twist. Cafés, thrift stores, snowball stands and home décor can all be found on Oak.
Exploring St. Charles Avenue is a great daytime activity, and riding the streetcar is a relaxing way to tour the city. As you travel along the six and a half miles of track, there's time to admire the beauty of the avenue and to chat with locals eager to share their opinions on where to get the best gumbo or hear the best jazz. St. Charles Avenue is a surefire people pleaser for young, old and those in-between.