New Orleans is a charmingly diverse city. That diversity is clearly expressed through the city’s 17 wards. While the original purpose for the creation of the city’s wards was political, they have been giving a cultural significance by residents.
New Orleans’ vibrant hip hop and jazz music scenes began the tradition of identifying what ward in which the artist resides through song or hand gestures. You can still see this tradition of identification today at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. While a small number of residents believe this practice comes across as territorial and hostile, the majority of residents take solace and pride in the camaraderie of their fellow ward residents.
Because of the diversity of the wards, understanding their offerings will allow you to plan your next trip to New Orleans with the greatest of ease. After reading up on each ward, decide which suits your traveling style and book your hotel in New Orleans.
The 1st Ward is not, as you might expect, the oldest section of New Orleans. But, this area of Uptown New Orleans was urbanized in the early 19th century. This ward is flanked by the Mississippi River on the southern border, and Claiborne Avenue to the north. While this one of New Orleans’ geographically smaller wards, it houses restaurants that serve up some seriously delicious cuisine.
If Mexican is more your forte, Casa Borrega cannot be missed (pictured above). The restaurant itself is housed in an 1892 Greek revival home completely renovated with recycled materials. Patrons rave about the atmosphere and the delicious Pico de Gallo.
Casa Borrega: 1719 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard
The 2nd Ward is also bordered on the south by the Mississippi River, but is significantly larger than the 1st Ward. The riverfront which was previously the Old Warehouse District is now home to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Just a few blocks in from the banks you’ll find a museum lover’s heaven. Treat the kids to the Louisiana Children’s Museum’s plethora of interactive exhibits.
Or soak in the history and pay homage to our soldiers at The National WWII Museum. The museum’s mission is to tell the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world.
As you travel north you’ll find yourself in the 3rd Ward. Within this ward is the majority of New Orleans’ business district and its seat of government. After Hurricane Katrina, much of the 3rd Ward was damaged, but is now seeing a rebirth.
It’s tough to miss this wards largest resident, The Mercedes-Benz Superdome. If you’re visiting during football season, a trip to a New Orleans Saints game will please any sports fanatic. Even if sports aren’t your thing, the Superdome plays host to the biggest names in music, too.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome: 1500 Sugar Bowl Drive
New Orleans’ 4th Ward extends from Lake Pontchartrain to the Mississippi River. It’s also the perfect ward in which to begin a true New Orleans style good time. A trip to the city is not complete without a stop on Bourbon Street. Stop by the landmark saloon Old Absinthe House that serves one-of-a-kind absinthe cocktails in a quirky yet historic atmosphere.
While you’d expect to find stellar bars and clubs in this region, what you might not expect is the multitude of fine art galleries that call this ward home. A Gallery for Fine Photography is a large gallery with original prints that tell the story of New Orleans’ history and culture. It’s also home to Henri Cartier-Bresson and Ansel Adam masterpieces.
The 5th Ward is similar in shape and size to the 4th Ward; it also extends from Lake Pontchartrain to the Mississippi River and is a part of the French Quarter. This ward contains the earliest and most famous portions of New Orleans. The Mississippi riverfront can be experienced to the fullest on a stroll down the Moonwalk.
The Moonwalk was named for former mayor Maurice “Moon” Landrieu and is the perfect location for a romantic sunset stroll. Visit the heart of the old French Quarter, Jackson Square (pictured above), and see a wide range of artists painting, drawing, and selling their works of art.
Considerably smaller than its neighbors, the 6th Ward is just 4 blocks wide and just under 40 blocks long. Even with its size, it’s not short on must-see New Orleans attractions. Along the Mississippi River is the French Market. Since 1791, this open-air market boasts 6 blocks of shopping and is open daily.
Just one block away from the French Market is The Old U.S. Mint. The mint is the only one in the United States that has produced American and Confederate coinage. Over 100 years ago, the minting stopped and it wasn’t until 1981 that they mint was designated as a State museum site. It still stands today as the Louisiana Historical Center and houses a jazz venue on its upper floors.
The 7th Ward is the second largest in New Orleans. It occupies a tiny portion of the Mississippi Riverfront, and the second largest amount of Lake Pontchartrain coastline. Occupying the majority of the Lake Pontchartrain shoreline is The University of New Orleans campus. In addition, this ward is home to the exciting New Orleans Fairgrounds.
Here, visitors can watch a horse race at the third oldest continuously operating thoroughbred racetrack in the United States, the Fair Grounds Race Course. A month after racing season ends, the fairgrounds host the yearly New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (pictured above). The festival has hosted legendary artists such as Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, and Bob Dylan.
New Orleans Fairgrounds: 1751 Gentilly Boulevard
The majority of the 8th Ward remained under-developed until improved drainage systems were put into place at the beginning of the 20th century. Along the lake in this ward, the Pontchartrain Railroad ran for almost 100 years. Today, the ward houses landmarks like Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in the St. Roch neighborhood.
After visiting this historic church, travel just a few blocks to the Venusian Gardens (pictured above). The Gardens is another historic church, but converted into a fine art gallery that features luminous art and sculpture.
The 9th Ward is the largest of all of New Orleans’ 17 Wards. The ward is so large it’s separated into three distinct neighborhoods: the Lower 9th Ward, the Upper 9th Ward, and Eastern New Orleans.
The Lower 9th Ward was completely ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. While there were several years when the national spotlight shown on this neighborhood and help came in spades, it has unfortunately faded into obscurity once again. The Upper 9th Ward is the area “above” the canal and the Lower 9th Ward. In recent years, efforts through Habitat for Humanity and other philanthropic organizations have worked to improve the living conditions in this region.
If you’re flying into the city, you’ll may visit Eastern New Orleans first, as it is home to the Lakefront Airport. This neighborhood has seen the least urban development, and includes the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Rescue.
The 10th ward is rich in American history, as it is the former location of America’s first foray into large-scale public housing, brought on by President Roosevelt’s New Deal. While that is no longer standing, the ward has transformed into a blossoming community.
Several blocks away from the Mississippi River is the Eiffel Society that touts itself as a museum with a bar and a stage. The trendy club overlooks the street-car line on St. Charles Avenue through panoramic glass walls.
Eiffel Society: 2040 St Charles Avenue
Unlike the no longer standing housing projects in the 10th Ward, the 11th Ward is home to a number of them. The Ward itself includes sections of the Garden District and Irish Channel neighborhoods. The most visited landmark in the Ward is the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1.
If you’re itching for a good scare or you just enjoy soaking in the spirits of days gone by, the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest of seven municipal, city-operated cemeteries in New Orleans. The Ward is also home to several art galleries, including Anton Haardt Gallery Inc. and The Neighborhood Gallery.
Although the majority of the 12th Ward was flooded after Hurricane Katrina, it has been given new life by several cultural additions. The Fine Arts Theater has been newly restored, but still maintains its historic charm. Currently, the venue features the Children’s Dinner Theater once a month and each Sunday it features the Jazz and Gospel Brunch.
If your thirst for performance still isn’t satisfied, check out historic music venue Tipitina’s. The venue began as a neighborhood “juke joint” in 1977 and is dedicated to performer, composer, and pianist Henry Roeland Byrd (a.k.a. Professor Longhair).
Also badly flooded by Katrina, the small 13th Ward is still showing its persevering spirit. Like the 12th Ward, the 13th Ward is home to countless cultural gems. These include the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts and several galleries.
If moving pictures excite you more, you can’t miss the Prytania Theater. The theater was constructed circa-1914 and has just one screen. Prytania’s single screen showcases new, classic, kids’ and indie movies.
If you’re looking for a bit of greenery within the bustling city, look no further than the 14th Ward. The site of the 1884 World’s Fair is now the Audubon Park recreational area. Within the expansive park lies the Audubon Golf Course, Audubon Nature Institute, and Audubon Zoo.
If your visit brings you to New Orleans in the summer, a visit to the Whitney Young Pool will please all water-loving kids. Across the street from Audubon Park is Tulane University. Tulane’s campus is a sprawling 110 acres of 14th Ward beauty.
The 15th Ward is only one along New Orleans’ West Bank. Most commonly, the locals call this region Algiers instead of the 15th Ward. Algiers Point is New Orleans’ second oldest neighborhood and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
If you need a break from the fast-paced French Quarter, Algiers Point’s 19th century small town atmosphere will leave you wonderfully recharged. The neighborhood has seen great ups and downs throughout its history, including a devastating fire and high crime rates, but has risen as a premier historic village within New Orleans.
Locate: Algiers Point
The 16th Ward borders Tulane University in the 14th Ward. What this creates is a few dozen blocks of a truly viable college town. Maple Street runs through the ward and acts as the area’s own mini main street. It’s dotted with shops, bars, coffee shops, and restaurants.
Bruno’s Tavern is a favorite bar in the neighborhood that draws the college crowds for its on-tap beers and delicious bar fare. Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge is a legendary New Orleans dive bar that’s open every single night of the year, even Christmas!
The 17th Ward is the upper-most ward of New Orleans that shares a boundary with Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. A visit to this ward isn’t complete without stopping by the Longue Vue House and Gardens. The mansion is a classical revival mansion that is open to the public for free tours Monday through Friday from 10:00am to 5:00pm, Saturday and Sunday 1:00pm to 5:00pm.
In 1991, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2005. After you’ve visited the grand Longue Vue House, visit the Maple Leaf Bar for live music every night at a friendly dive bar.
As you explore New Orleans ward by ward, you’ll not only uncover some of the oldest original history in America, but you’ll also uncover new parts of yourself — for instance you may find yourself enjoying more jazz venues than you’d expected.