Pride of uptown New Orleans, the Garden District drapes itself seductively across a thirteen-block area bounded by Magazine Street and St Charles, Louisiana and Jackson avenues. Two miles upriver from the French Quarter, it was developed as a residential neighbourhood in the 1840s by an energetic breed of Anglo-Americans who wished to display their accumulating cotton and trade wealth by building sumptuous mansions in huge gardens. Today, shaded by jungles of subtropical foliage, the glorious houses – some of them spick-and-span showpieces, others in ravishing ruin – evoke a nostalgic vision of the Deep South in a profusion of porches, columns and balconies. While it’s a pleasure simply to wander around, you can pick up more details about the individual houses on any number of official or self-guided tours.
The historic St Charles streetcar is the nicest way to get to the Garden District and uptown, affording front-row views of “the Avenue” as St Charles is locally known. It’s a popular Mardi Gras parade route; keep an eye out for the tossed beads and favours that missed outstretched hands and now adorn hundreds of tree branches here. Just before the streetcar takes a sharp turn at the river bend, it stops at peaceful Audubon Park, a lovely space shaded by Spanish-moss-swathed trees. You can also approach the Garden District and uptown via Magazine Street, the city’s best shopping stretch, a six-mile string of clothing boutiques, restaurants and stores that runs parallel to St Charles riverside.