Plan your visit to the famous Garden District, New Orleans most charming neighborhood, with this fun, comprehensive guide!
This lovely neighborhood is the city's prettiest, and this detailed guide covers all the best things to do in the Garden District, from attractions (like the historic mansions) to shopping on Magazine Street, amazing restaurants, and so much more!
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Planning a vaction to New Orleans? No visit to this unique city is complete without a trip to the gorgeous Garden District!
The minute you step off the streetcar and onto this lovely neighborhood's oak tree-lined streets, you'll feel like you've stepped back in time. Somehow, each home—from the expansive mansions to the petite cottages—truly seems lovelier than the last!
I've spent lots of time in New Orleans, and the Garden District is my favorite neighborhood ... it really doesn't get more charming! And once you read this detailed guide, you'll discover all my favorite spots, learn about the neighborhood's history, and get tons of helpful tips for making the most of your visit.
Whether you're planning to spend the afternoon, or you'd like to stay the night, this guide covers everything you need to know about this enchanting neighborhood.
History of the Garden District
La Nouvelle-Orléans was founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, a French explorer and early governor of French Louisiana, on land inhabited by Native Americans. He chose a crescent bend in the Mississippi River as the location of New Orleans, because he thought it would be safe from tidal surges and hurricanes.
In 1720, Bienville's engineer drew plans for the new city, an eleven-by-seven block that's now known as the French Quarter (Vieux Carré). The area outside the small city eventually developed into to a number of plantations.
As the city grew, the French Quarter became crowded, and the city's elite didn't want to live amongst the Creoles and immigrants who resided in the Quarter. In the 1830s, the Livaudais Plantation outside New Orleans (in what's now considered the Garden District) was divided and sold to these wealthy Americans.
The area was partitioned into blocks and became the City of Lafayette. Originally, there were only a couple houses per block, each with a large lot surrounded by landscaped gardens (hence the neighborhood's name). However, by the late 1800s the city became increasingly urban, and the blocks were further subdivided and more homes were built.
In 1852, the City of Lafayette was annexed to New Orleans. Today, the Garden District is known for its breathtaking oak-lined streets and gorgeous houses. As you explore the neighborhood, you'll discover a wide-variety of homes, ranging from mansions (often with large yards not seen elsewhere in NOLA) to much smaller shotgun cottages. Predominant architecture styles include Greek Revival, Italiante, Queen Anne, and Eastlake.
With all those mansions, it's a pretty swanky neighborhood! Some of the more famous Garden District residents have included Drew Brees, Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, Eli and Peyton Manning, Nicholas Cage, Mos Def, Trent Reznor, and the late Anne Rice.
Location + Map
Depending on who you ask, the boundaries of the Garden District will vary. However, they're roughly St. Charles Avenue (to the north), Magazine Street (to the south), Jackson Avenue (to the east), and Louisiana Avenue (to the west). First Street (to the east) and Toledano Street (to the west) are often given as alternate boundaries.
The boundaries of the official Garden District Historic District are larger. They're considered to be roughly Carondelet Street (to the north), Magazine Street (to the south), Josephine Street (to the east), and Delachaise Street (to the west). Homes facing St. Charles Avenue, which is considered its own Historic District, are not included (except at the intersection of Jackson and St. Charles).
Check out the map below, which has the neighborhoods boundaries labeled. I also created a custom Google Map, which includes all the attractions, restaurants, and other places mentioned in this guide. I'd recommend opening it on your phone, and using it to get around during your visit.
15 Things to Do in the Garden District
Ready to start exploring? You'll find you many attractions and things to do in this historic neighborhood! Here are my faves:
1. Take a Walking Tour
In an area teeming with so much history and striking architecture, one of the best ways to explore the neighborhood is on foot. You'll discover lots of hidden details on a walking tour that you'd be sure to miss otherwise.
If you'd like to take a self-guided tour, check out my FREE Garden District Walking Tour, which covers all the neighborhood highlights. Would you prefer to have someone else lead you around? This Highly-Rated Walking Tour is an excellent option, or you could cover more ground with a Bike Tour. Prefer a little celebrity gossip alongside your history? Then this Secrets & Scandals Tour is for you!
2. Ride the St. Charles Streetcar
You can't visit New Orleans without riding the streetcar! While there are multiple lines, the St. Charles streetcar is the most scenic route, and it's the best way to get to the Garden District from the French Quarter. When you're done exploring this neighborhood, you can also ride it into Uptown to visit Audubon Park, check out Tulane and Loyola Universities, and see even more stately homes!
3. Go Shopping on Magazine Street
Magazine Street is one of the most popular shopping streets in New Orleans! And for good reason: it's lined with one-of-a-kind boutiques and popular chains selling everything you possibly could desire. As you explore the street, you'll find clothing, home goods, antiques, gifts, and more, plus lots of bars and restaurants that will call your name when you need a break.
Magazine Street stretches for six miles, so you'll want to pace yourself! Rather than get overwhelmed, I'd suggest tackling it in short stretches, either by walking, or if you'd like to see more, by driving or taking the bus.
In the neighborhood, you'll find the greatest concentration of shops between Washington Street and Louisiana Avenue. If you want to shop until you drop (and you're up for a long walk / drive), keep going after Louisiana to follow Magazine into Uptown (heading toward Audubon Park). This stretch is best tackled on a cool day, or with many air-conditioned stops along the way!
A smaller stretch of shops can also be found between Jackson and Felicity, just outside the neighborhood boundaries, and it's also worth checking out.
4. View the Stunning Mansions + Houses
If there's one thing the Garden District is especially known for, it's the historic mansions! The area is positively chock a block with these stately homes, but you'll find modest cottages and townhomes in the neighborhood, too. Architectural styles include Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Eastlake, Gothic Revival, Victorian, and more.
Don't have a lot of time to explore? Wander down lovely Prytania Street. It's home to many of the area's more noteworthy homes, including Colonel Short's Villa, which has a distinctive cornstalk fence, and Toby's Corner, the oldest house the neighborhood.
5. Visit Anne Rice's Mansion (and Other Sites)
Speaking of noteworthy homes, one of the most popular attractions in the Garden District is author Anne Rice's mansion! Rice, who was born and raised in New Orleans, was especially well-known for her popular series The Vampire Chronicles.
Through the years, Rice owned a number of homes in New Orleans, including the 1857 Greek Revival-Italianate house located at 1239 First Street. The home provided inspiration for Mayfair Manor in her Mayfair Witches series. It's privately owned, so please do not disturb the property or residents.
You'll also want to visit Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 (it's currently closed, but you can peek in), which the author frequently explored as a child. To introduce her book Memnock the Devil, Rice staged a jazz funeral during which she rode through the cemetery in a glass coffin. The cemetery is also home to the (fictional) tombs of the Mayfair witches (modeled after the Lafayette and Jefferson fireman tombs) and the vampire Lestat (which was inspired by the cast iron Karstendiek tomb).
From the cemetery, cross the street to visit Commander's Palace, the restaurant where many Mayfair family dinners took place. And you could also visit the Pontchartrain Hotel on St. Charles, which appears in her book The Witching Hour.
6. Discover NOLA's Literary History
Anne Rice isn't the only author with Garden District roots! With its fascinating history, it isn't surprising that New Orleans has inspired many a writer. Here a some of the literary sites you'll find in the neighborhood:
- George Washington Cable House (1313 Eight Street) - Cable was born in New Orleans in 1844 and known for his realistic portrayals of Creole life. Although he served in the Confederate cavalry, his experiences during the war changed his views on slavery. His essays called for racial equality and opposed Jim Crow laws, and his fictional work, including Old Creole Days and Madame Delphine, were critical of contemporary society.
- Kate Chopin Home (1413 Louisiana Avenue) - Chopin, whose writing often focused on women's issues, has frequently been called an author ahead of her time. Her well-known 1899 book, The Awakening, is a feminist classic that's set in New Orleans. Chopin was born in St. Louis but moved to the NOLA after marrying her husband, and the couple owned three homes in the city. The first two are no longer standing, but you can visit the last at 1413 Louisiana.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald's Boarding House (2900 Prytania Street) - Fitzgerald rented a room in a boarding house here (staying less than a month), while editing This Side of Paradise. Nearby, you can also visit 2707 Coliseum Street, which was used as Benjamin Button's childhood home in the movie adaptation of Fitzgerald's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
- Pontchartrain Hotel (2031 St. Charles Avenue) - Today a luxurious hotel, the Pontchartrain was once an artist's hangout ... Tennessee Williams stayed here while working on A Streetcar Named Desire. You definitely won't regret spending the night, but if you're short on time, enjoy a drink at the Hot Tin rooftop bar (named after Williams' A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof). It was designed to resembles a 1940s artist loft and has amazing views of the city. Tip: the bar gets very crowded, visit during an off-hour if you'd prefer some solitude.
- Walt Whitman (Washington Avenue) - Whitman, one of the most influential American poets ever, lived in New Orleans very briefly in his late 20s, however his experiences in the city were thought to have had a profound effect on him. While there, he lived on Washington Avenue (though the building no longer stands) among other places. His poem I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing was inspired by his time there.
- Garden District Book Shop (2727 Prytania Street) - To complete your bookish tour of the neighborhood, make sure to stop by The Rink (more info below) to visit Garden District Book Shop, one of my favorite New Orleans bookstores!
7. Grab a Bite to Eat + Drink
Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in the Garden District is to treat yourself to a delicious meal or a fancy cocktail. There are so many amazing choices, but these are my faves:
- Magazine Street - You'll find tons of options here. Make sure to check out Juan's Flying Burrito (one of my fave NOLA restaurants!) for delicious Mexican food + margaritas, Pho Tran for scrumptious Vietnamese dishes, HiVolt for tasty coffee, pastries, and bowls, District for decadent donuts, Turkey and the Wolf for creative sandwiches, Empanola for yummy empanadas, Dat Dog for loaded hot dogs, sausages, and tots, The Daily Beet (another of my all-time faves!) for the best avocado toast and bowls, or Breaux Mart for snacks and groceries.
- St. Charles Avenue - There are fewer options on St. Charles, but Gracious Bakery has excellent breakfast and lunch sandwiches (plus salads and pastries), Avenue Cafe has tasty salads and sandwiches, The Fresh Market is a convenient spot for groceries and convenience foods, Hot Tin has fancy cocktails and expansive views, and the Delachaise Wine Bar is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine (the food is just okay), especially if it's cool enough to sit on the patio.
- Coffee - Visit Gracious Bakery or Avenue Cafe on St. Charles (both mentioned above). Still Perkin', located in The Rink, is right by Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 / Prytania St. (it's also very close to St. Charles). On Magazine Street, stop by District Donuts (mentioned above), PJ's Coffee (a local chain), French Truck Coffee (my fave ... get the New Orleans Iced Coffee), or Hi Volt (also mentioned above), which is just off Magazine. The Daily Beet (noted above) also has a small coffee menu, too.
Tips: Check hours ahead of time ... most restaurants don't stay open late! All of these places are veg-friendly. A few of them are located slightly outside the neighborhood boundaries, but they're definitely worth the (very short) walk!
8. Treat Yourself at Commander's Palace
Speaking of Garden District restaurants, I'd be remiss not to mention Commander's Palace, one of the city's most iconic fine dining destinations! Commander's Palace has been serving up noteworthy cuisine since 1893. They're known for serving New Orleans classics, like Turtle Soup, their festive Jazz Brunch, and yes, their 25¢ martinis at lunch.
Reservations are required, and you'll want to dress up (the dress code is business attire). Forgot your jacket at home? You can also order takeout from La Petit Bleu, which is located right next door.
9. Explore Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
New Orleans is known for its cemeteries which have European-style above ground tombs, and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is one of the best to visit! The cemetery was built in the City of Lafayette (now the Garden District), which was annexed to New Orleans in the 1800s.
This historic cemetery may have a small footprint, but over 7,000 people have been buried there. It's known for its society tombs, the tomb of Judge Ferguson of the famous 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson Supreme Court case that upheld racial segregation, and it was a favorite location in Anne Rice's books (more details on that above). There are also many family tombs and about 500 wall vaults.
Unfortunately, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is currently closed, and it’s not clear when it will reopen (read more about the closure here). While you can't enter the cemetery, you can still walk around the walls and take a peak through the main gate.
10. Stop by The Rink
Another historic site you won't want to miss is The Rink, which was built in the 1880s as the Crescent City Skating Rink. The roller skating only lasted four years before building was turned into horse stables. Through the years, it has also housed a shoe repair shop, grocery story, Texaco service station, and even a mortuary!
The building was restored in 1979, and today it's a small shopping center with a bookstore, gift shop, home textiles store, coffee shop, and more. It's not a lot to look at from outside, but The Rink's charming interior is the perfect place to escape the heat (and take a bathroom break), especially after a walking tour or a visit to the cemetery across the street.
11. Watch a Mardi Gras Parade
The Garden District is one of the best places to experience Mardi Gras. Beautiful oak tree-lined St. Charles Avenue is on the Uptown parade route, and it's a great family-friendly place to watch the parades. Many local residents also decorate their houses during carnival season, which makes the neighborhood extra festive!
If you'd like to stay in the Garden District during Mardi Gras, you can't beat the Hotel Indigo and the Pontchartrain Hotel. Both hotels are located right on St. Charles Avenue, so you can basically step outside their doors and start catching beads! Plus, you won't need to deal with traffic, and you'll always have bathroom access, which can't be underestimated. Make sure to book your room well in advance, because they do sell out.
12. Visit Famous Movie + TV Filming Locations
New Orleans has a thriving film industry (it's sometimes called Hollywood South), so it's not surprising that numerous movie and TV locations can be found in this picturesque neighborhood.
Here are a few of the more famous ones that you can visit:
- American Horror Story - This TV show filmed two seasons in NOLA, Coven and Freak Show. In Coven, the Buckner Mansion (1410 Jackson)was used as the exterior of Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies. There are lots of locations nearby in the Lower Garden District and Uptown, too ... check out this Deep South Mag article for more details.
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - A lot of filming took place at the Nolan House at 2707 Coliseum Street, which was used for Benjamin's childhood home.
- Django Unchained - This movie was shot on multiple locations, including the interior of the Maddox-McClendon House located at 2507 Prytania Street.
- Interview with a Vampire - Head to Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 which both Lestat and Claudia roamed around. Lestat's tomb was also modeled after the cast iron Karstendiek tomb, which can be found there.
- The Originals - A spinoff of The Vampire Diaries, The Originals filmed frequently in Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, which was used as a meeting point and a place the witches practiced their magic.
- Your Honor - This Showtime series featured numerous Garden District locales, including Commander's Palace, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, and the St. Charles streetcar.
13. Check out the Tile Street Signs
As you walk around the neighborhood, make sure to look down when you come to a corner. Many streets here are marked, not with street signs, but with letter tiles set right into the sidewalk. These distinctive tile signs have been used since the 1880s and can be found in many older areas of the city. Replicas of the original tiles make a great souvenir ... purchase them from Derby Pottery & Tile, the company that has been making the city's tiles since 2003!
14. Spend the Night
As much as I love the French Quarter, the Garden District is my favorite place to stay when visiting New Orleans! It's quieter, less crowded, and oh so pretty. Yet it's still easy to access the Quarter (and other neighborhoods) via the streetcar. Keep reading below for details on my favorite hotels.
15. Explore Uptown + Beyond
The Garden District is a fairly compact area, so once you've explored it, make sure to check out Uptown and the other neighborhoods that surround it. While these areas are mostly residential, there's still plenty to discover, including beautiful Audubon Park, Tulane and Loyola Universities, Maple Leaf Bar and Tipitina's, museums, Freret Street, and even more mansions. My favorite way to get around Uptown is on the St. Charles streetcar (you can take it right to the end of the line, if you want). However, there are lots of fun shops and restaurants on Magazine Street, too, that you can explore on foot or by bus / car.
Tips for Planning Your Visit
Before you go, keep these helpful tips in mind:
- Give yourself enough time. Plan on allotting at least a couple hours to explore the neighborhood. If you'd like to get to know the area a little better, add extra time to go shopping, grab a bite to eat, relax with a cocktail, or even spend the night.
- Mind the weather. New Orleans weather is hot and humid for much of the year, although it can be cooler and less muggy in winter. Check the forecast before you leave home, wear sunscreen, and grab a cool drink. It also rains a lot, so you may want to carry an umbrella.
- Dress comfortably. During summer, a light dress or shorts will help you stay cooler. In winter, a pair of jeans / pants, sweater, and a light jacket is warm enough for most days. And don't forget to wear comfortable shoes! The sidewalks in this neighborhood tend to be pretty uneven, and even downright hazardous in spots. A pair of tennis shoes or flat sandals (definitely no heels) will save your ankles.
- Be respectful. This is a residential neighborhood, so please respect the people that live there. Don't open gates, pick flowers, or take photos on private property. While it's okay to carry a go-cup with an adult beverage around NOLA, keep the noise and partying to a minimum, and always pick up after yourself.
How to Get to the Garden District
There are a few different ways to get to the Garden District:
- St. Charles Streetcar - If you're coming from the French Quarter / Central Business District (CBD), the St. Charles streetcar is the best way to get to the Garden District. Catch it at Carondelet at Canal Street, as well as a number of other stops in the CBD. I'd recommend getting off the streetcar at Jackson Avenue, or anywhere between Jackson and Louisiana Avenue. Don't worry if you miss your stop, the neighborhood is compact, and it's easy to backtrack.
- Magazine Street Bus - You can also take the #11 Magazine Street bus from the French Quarter or the CBD. It's much quicker than the streetcar, but it doesn't have quite the same charm! If you do take the bus, get off at Magazine at Jackson Avenue, or anywhere between Jackson and Louisiana Avenue.
- By Car - Driving to the Garden District? You're in luck, because this historic New Orleans neighborhood has lots of street parking. Just make sure to check out the street signs carefully to make sure you're not parking in a restricted area or somewhere with a meter.
Garden District Hotels
Spending the night is truly the best way to experience the magic of this stunning neighborhood! It's much quieter than the French Quarter, and you'll wake up surrounded by beautiful mansions and ancient oak trees.
Here are a few of my favorite Garden District hotels:
- Hotel Indigo Garden District - This more affordable hotel has a fun, modern vibe. It's also steps from the St. Charles Streetcar, making it a super convenient starting point for exploring the Garden District, French Quarter, and Uptown.
- The Pontchartrain Hotel - An upscale hotel that's also located steps from the streetcar, The Pontchartrain's rooms are elegant with old school touches and European flair. The hotel's rooftop Hot Tin bar has amazing views which are often cited as the best in the city!
- Henry Howard Hotel - A boutique hotel set in a historic double gallery mansion? Sounds like the perfect escape to me! This charming Lower Garden District hotel features rooms with unique touches, like fireplaces, four poster beds, and musical instruments as decor.
- Hotel Saint Vincent - This recently updated hotel is located in a historic Lower Garden District building that was once an orphanage. The cozy rooms feature luxurious decor that feels classic, but with an eclectic, trendy twist.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Yes, as one of New Orleans most upscale neighborhoods, the Garden District is generally considered very safe. Of course, you should follow the same common sense principles you'd use anywhere: don't flash cash; avoid wearing expensive jewelry; hide all belongings in your car; and stick to well-lit streets (like St. Charles) at night.
The Garden District is known for its opulent mansions and oak tree-lined streets, the St. Charles streetcar, Magazine street shopping and restaurants, the renowned Commander's Palace restaurant, and the historic Lafayette Cemetery No. 1.
When the Garden District was first developed, there were only a couple of houses per block. The neighborhood got its name, because the houses were set on large lots and surrounded by beautiful landscaped gardens.
Yes, the Garden District is a compact neighborhood that's perfect for walking around. Not sure where to start? Follow my free self-guided walking tour.
To get to the Garden District from the French Quarter, take the St. Charles Streetcar (Carondolet at Canal) or the #11 Magazine Street bus (Canal and Magazine). Get off both at Jackson Avenue, or anywhere between Jackson Avenue and Louisiana Avenue.
The best thing to do in the Garden District at night is to enjoy a meal at one of its numerous restaurants. You'll find many options, from casual spots to upscale restaurants, like Commander's Palace. With its upscale atmosphere, the neighborhood is also the ideal place to kick back with a cocktail (or two) for a relaxed evening.
With its opulent mansions, many celebs and notables have called the swanky Garden District home through the years, including Drew Brees, Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, Eli and Peyton Manning, Nicholas Cage, Mos Def, Trent Reznor, and the late Anne Rice.
Other Things to Do in New Orleans
Now that you know all about the Garden District, you can start thinking about the rest of your trip. Make sure to read my New Orleans Travel Guide ... it has everything you need to know to plan an awesome trip!
Then, check out some of my favorite things to do in NOLA:
- Visit a museum. There are so many amazing museums worth visiting in this historic city. I especially love the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the WWII Museum in the Warehouse District, and the quirky Pharmacy Museum in the French Quarter.
- Tour a city of the dead. New Orleans is known for its beautiful cemeteries. Take a self-guided walking tour of my favorite, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 as mentioned above, or visit one of the city's other cemeteries.
- Experience Mardi Gras. A trip to NOLA during Mardi Gras is on many a bucket list. But even if you're visiting at another time of year, you can still enjoy the fun at Mardi Gras World.
- Escape the tourists. It's never not touristy in New Orleans. Need a break from all the people? Take the ferry across the river to quiet, charming Algiers Point.
- Deal with the crazy weather. New Orleans is notorious for its bad weather ... it's often hot or rainy, maybe both! Learn how to beat the heat in summer, and find all the best ways to spend a rainy day with my helpful tips.
- Grab a bite to eat. If you're traveling with a vegetarian, this can be a tricky city. My New Orleans vegetarian-friendly restaurants guide has tons of spots that will please your whole group (veg or not!)
- Save a buck. A NOLA trip can get expensive, but not every activity has to be super pricey. Check out my favorite free things to do in New Orleans to help you stay on budget.