Touring New Orleans, from the swamps to the arts
From the April ACP Observer, copyright © 2004 by the American College of Physicians.
By Jodi E. Knapp
Well-known as a city for adults, N'Awlins (as pronounced by native New Orleanians) is more than just an open-all-night entertainment mecca. The "Birthplace of Jazz" is one of the most culturally rich cities in the world and offers a wide assortment of museums, shopping venues and educational events.
The city boasts numerous activities ranging from enjoying marine life at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, open Sunday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m. (1 Canal Street, 504-565-3033), to visiting wildlife at the Audubon Zoo, open weekdays from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. and weekends from 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. (6500 Magazine Street, 504-861-2537).
If water activities are more your style, you can frolic with the 'gators on a bayou swamp tour or take a paddle-wheeler down the Mississippi. Plenty of companies offer tours: Honey Island Swamp Tours (985-641-1769) offers two-hour tours daily for $20 per adult and $10 per child.
Louisiana Swamp Tours (504-689-3599) cruises into the Barataria swamps and wetlands at 9:30 a.m., 12 p.m., 2:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. daily. Cost is $24 per adult, $15 per child. Some companies also offer round-trip transportation from area hotels for an extra fee.
Or climb aboard the Cajun Queen Riverboat (610 South Peters, 504-529-4567; reservation line, 504-524-0814), an authentic replica of a 19th-century passenger steamboat. The boat departs from the Aquarium of the Americas—Sunday through Thursday at 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.—for one-hour harbor tours. (Longer tours are also available.) Cost is $14 per adult, $8 per child, ages 6-12.
New Orleans' only authentic stern-wheel steamboat, the Steamboat Natchez (2 Canal Street, 504-586-8777), departs daily from the Toulouse Street Wharf at 11:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. ($18 for adults; $9 for children, ages 6-12) and 7 p.m. ($30 for adults; $15 for children, ages 6-12) for a two-hour cruise of the harbor. Dinner or lunch is included for an extra charge, and the cruises feature live jazz.
Uniquely New Orleans
Because New Orleans is the only major American city below sea level, early residents of the city found it necessary to bury their dead above ground-or risk seeing them float back up to the surface.
The brave at heart can tour the oldest "City of the Dead," St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, visit the tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau and learn some of the ancient secrets of voodoo on tours departing from Zombie's Voodoo Shop (725 St. Peter Street; reservations through Bloody Mary's Hotline, 504-915-7774). Cemetery tours depart at 1 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. Reservations are required. The cost is $20 per person.
The city also offers tours of several plantations, including Destrehan Plantation (Destrehan, 985-764-9315). Built in 1787, Destrehan is the oldest plantation house in the area. Tours are offered daily 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Cost is $10 per adult, $5 for teens and $3 for children, ages 6-12. Houmas House Plantation and Gardens (Darrow, 504-891-9494) represents one of the South's most authentically restored homes. Tours run from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Cost is $20 per adult, $10 for children under 12.
Antebellum mansion tours of Oak Alley and Evergreen plantations are available through The Old River Road Plantation Adventure tour company (866-671-8687). Daily tours leave from area hotels at 8 a.m. and return at 1:30 p.m. Cost is $65 for adults, $50 for children.
Jackson Square, in the heart of the French Quarter, is home to sidewalk artists, musicians, jugglers, mimes and other theatrical entertainers. St. Louis Cathedral (615 Pere Antoine Alley, 504-525-9585), considered the jewel in the crown of Jackson Square, is open for free guided tours daily. The cathedral houses a collection of ecclesiastical art. Tours are available Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, 1:30 p.m.-5 p.m.
For family fun, visit Carousel Gardens (504-482-4888) in City Park. It features a circa-1906 working carousel. Nearby are a roller coaster, tilt-a-whirl, Ferris wheel, bumper cars and a miniature train. General park admission is $1; unlimited ride ticket, $8; carousel, $1; free for ages two and under. Carousel runs weekends from 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
And music lovers won't want to miss the Old Mint (Esplanade Avenue and Decatur Street, 504-568-6968). The Mint, dating from 1835, is the home of the New Orleans Jazz Collection, which contains Louis Armstrong's first trumpet, as well as historical sheet music, artifacts and photos of jazz players. The building became a functioning mint again until 1909. Cost is $5 per person. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Famous for its French Quarter and Garden districts, New Orleans also has other neighborhoods that are a must visit. The thriving community of Algiers Point, located directly across the river from the French Quarter, offers sightseers an architecturally rich neighborhood that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Greek Revival and Victorian homes line its streets, and a thriving artists' colony has developed. Catch the Canal Street ferry, which leaves the East Bank on the hour and half hour and the West Bank on the quarter hour and three-quarters hour, daily from 5:45 a.m. to midnight. The cost is $1 round-trip per car, free for pedestrians.
Take time to tour the Garden District, the grandest of New Orleans' neighborhoods. Defined by Italian villas, Queen Anne-style mansions and West Indies-inspired raised cottages, the Garden District also boasts Lafayette (Washington Avenue and Prytania Street), another aboveground cemetery.
The Warehouse Arts District, often referred to as the "Southern SoHo," has put New Orleans on the map as a center for emerging artists. Fashionable art galleries and condos carved out of old warehouses dot the area. The heart of the district is Julia Street, home to many leading galleries.
In addition, the Contemporary Arts Center (900 Camp Street, 504-528-3805) is an important part of the district. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Cost is $5 per adult, $3 for students and seniors (15 and under free).
Take a New Orleans streetcar, one of the oldest forms of transportation, up and down St. Charles Avenue to see some of the most historic and beautiful thoroughfares in the country. The street is lined with elegant homes, 100-year old oak trees and a variety of shops and restaurants.
Or hop on the Riverfront Line Streetcar and Vieux Carré trolley bus to visit arts and entertainment centers, shopping areas and historic sites. Visitor transit passes are available through many hotels and retail centers; call RTA RideLine (504-248-3900) for the closest distributor. Cost is $5 for a one-day pass; $12 for three days.
The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum (514 Chartres Street, 504-565-8027) is an authentic 19th-century apothecary located in the heart of the French Quarter. It is complete with prescription files that date back to 1867, proprietary medicines that predate the Pure Food and Drug Act, and surgical instruments used before the Civil War.
Louis J. Dufilho Jr., one of the first licensed pharmacists in the United States, opened the pharmacy in 1823. For 43 years, patients could fill prescriptions, buy medicinal herbs and cosmetics, or find relief from such ailments as locomotor ataxia and insanity simply by drinking soda fountain elixirs. The pharmacy was re-opened as a museum in 1950.
Today, visitors can see an authentic 1855 soda fountain made of Italian black and rose marble. First introduced in the 1830s, such fountains were a way of making medications more palatable by adding flavoring and seltzer to them.
Other popular elixirs included Moxie, a soft drink patented as being able to cure "brain and nervous exhaustion, loss of manhood, imbecility and helplessness." And in 1929, Charles Grigg marketed the original "7Up," which contained lithium and was prescribed for gout, uremia, kidney stones and rheumatism.
The museum also exhibits a variety of 19th-century medicines, miracle cures and remedies.
Hand-blown apothecary jars filled with crude drugs, medicinal herbs and gris-gris potions are on display, next to live leeches, leech jars, bloodletting devices and other tools of the 19th-century pharmacy trade. A working botanical garden in the rear of the museum still grows kitchen herbs, spices and medicinal plants.
The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students, and free for children under 5.
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