Before we even arrived in New Orleans, Lynn and I planned to ride a streetcar. It was on our list as something that we had to do, even it if was just one time to get the experience and say we rode a streetcar in New Orleans. As a tourist, I would probably compare it to riding a streetcar in San Francisco, the “L” in Chicago, or even the subway in New York City.
We had read that the streetcars in New Orleans are slow and that usually you can get places faster by walking there. I guess it depends on where you’re going, but we both found it pretty useful and a nice affordable option for public transportation. We decided it wasn’t really necessary to take taxis in New Orleans, especially to get any place downtown. We obviously love saving money when we can, so walking or taking streetcars from place to place was a nice cheap option.
Luckily for us, we were staying right at Canal Street and Bourbon Street at the Crowne Plaza Astor Hotel in the French Quarter, which is a great location for catching three of the main streetcar lines. There are two lines that run up and down Canal Street, and the St. Charles line starts/ends right across the street from the hotel. There are five different streetcar lines, but we only used two of them during our visit.
New Orleans Streetcar Schedules & Maps
- Canal Streetcar – Cemeteries
- Canal Streetcar – City Park/Museum
- Loyola-UPT Streetcar
- Riverfront Streetcar
- St. Charles Streetcar
Our Streetcar Experience
Lynn actually knows a couple people that lived or grew up in the New Orleans area, so we got some advice on things to see and places to eat. One of the places we were told to go was Samuel’s Blind Pelican which is located south of the French Quarter on St. Charles Street. We ended up walking out there because we had plenty of time before dinner and thought it would be a nice walk. They have a lot of specials including a 25 cent raw oyster happy hour from 4-8 and a crawfish boil that starts at 5pm.
After our dinner we found out from a couple sitting next to us that it cost $1.25 to take the St. Charles streetcar. We were told to make sure we had exact change because the streetcars do not give change, so before we left we got a dollar worth of quarters from the bar.
We only waited a couple minutes for the next streetcar to get there and we were even able to get a seat. It was nice to just relax on the streetcar after our dinner and especially after all the walking we did that day. It didn’t take us long at all to get back to Canal Street and it was definitely a lot faster than walking back to our hotel from the restaurant.
While we were on the streetcar we noticed that there was an option to get a daily pass (called a Jazzy Pass), so later that night we looked online to see how much it was and where we needed to buy it. The 1 day Jazzy Pass is $3 per person and you can buy it (cash only) from the streetcar driver when you get on. It’s a good deal as long as you plan on taking more than 3 rides on a streetcar during that day.
On our second day in New Orleans we decided to each get a 1 day Jazzy Pass because we were pretty sure we would be riding streetcars at least three times that day. That morning we took the St. Charles line all the way over to East Carrollton to eat breakfast at another recommended restaurant called The Camellia Grill, which is best described as an old fashioned diner where you can sit at the counter and order your food… and watch them make it on a flat-top just a few feet away.
From there, we were all over the place and taking the streetcar as much as we could. One of the great things about riding the St. Charles line is that you get to ride right through one of the historic areas of New Orleans. Both sides of the street are lined with beautiful well kept historic homes. Seeing the beauty, detail, and charm of these historic houses is well worth the trip back and forth on the St. Charles line.
That day we headed back to the French Quarter to watch Michigan State beat Virginia to advance into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA basketball tournament. Then we walked north to check out some old cemeteries that date back to the early 19th century (and possibly earlier). We didn’t stop there though… We took the Canal Street streetcar south from there and hopped back on the St. Charles line to go see another cemetery near the Garden District.
I would say that we definitely got our money’s worth from the 1 day Jazzy Passes we bought to ride the streetcars. I think we ended up riding the streetcars 5 different times that day. Even though we thought riding the streetcars was a good, cheap option, we still had our frustrations at times.
What We Learned from Riding Streetcars in New Orleans
- On the weekends the streetcars can get very crowded with tourists, so there’s not always a lot of room and you may end up standing and squeezed in during your ride.
- When the streetcars are crowded, this sometimes means that you could wait at a stop for while until you’re able to get on.
- The main reason why people are not able to get on a crowded streetcar is because the people riding the streetcar do not know how to move to the back of the car and fill the space. This is our #1 public transportation pet peeve and it happens in every city where public transportation is available! We watched multiple streetcars go by with plenty of room in the back no one was smart enough to keep moving back and fill that space.