Exploring Historic New Orleans
History abounds in New Orleans; in fact, the Big Easy boasts a whopping 17 historic districts recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. And although historic sites sometimes lack access features, that’s not the case in modern day New Orleans. Truth be told, although some access barriers exist, it’s still possible for wheelchair-users and slow walkers to enjoy many parts of this thriving Mississippi River port. In fact, from city walking tours to a cruise on the Big Muddy, there’s a bevy of accessible choices in the Crescent City.
The French Quarter is the most famous historic district in New Orleans, and although some side streets lack curb-cuts, Decatur Street is wide, level and fairly accessible. This main drag runs parallel to the Mississippi River and adjacent to the accessible Woldenburg Riverfront. There is level access to Jackson Square from this street, and barrier-free access throughout the park.
The Ann Street Visitors Center, located next to Jackson Square, boasts a knowledgeable staff and a good collection of tourism resources. Be sure and pick up the excellent French Quarter Walking Tour map; as most of the tour route is accessible, and you can do it at your own pace.
Behind Jackson Square, the Presbytere features ramped access in front, and good access throughout the building. This former residence for clergy from neighboring St. Louis Cathedral, is now part of the Louisiana State Museum. Next door, the Cabildo features level access to the front entrance, good pathway access, elevator access to all floors and a wheelchair available for loan at the front desk. As the site of the Louisiana Purchase Transfer, this historic building houses exhibits which highlight the history of Louisiana.
Cafe Du Monde, located across the street from Jackson Square, is also a required stop. There is level access to this open-air cafe, and it’s the place to get cafe au lait and beignets in the French Quarter.
If you’d like a bus tour, then check out Gray Line’s Super City Tour. This narrated coach tour includes historic sites in the French Quarter and the Garden District, plus a stop at St. Louis Cemetery #3. Lift-equipped coaches are available with 48 hours notice; and manual wheelchairs can be carried on the standard coaches.
If you’d prefer a walking tour, then sign up for a Friends of the Cabildo Walking Tour, which operates twice daily, except Mondays. The volunteer guides are excellent and they are very flexible with their routes, so the tours can be made wheelchair-accessible upon request. Tours start at the 1850 House Museum Store, next door to the Ann Street Visitors Center.
Last but not least, you can also see New Orleans by boat, on a two-hour tour aboard the steamboat Natchez. There is ramp access to the boat, but only stairway access between the decks. It should be noted that the onboard bathrooms are tiny, so plan ahead. All in all it's a great cruise, and a fun way to get a look at historic New Orleans.
If You Go
Gray Line Tours
Friends of the Cabildo Walking Tour
New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau
Candy Harrington is the editor of Emerging Horizons and the author of 101 Accessible Vacations; Travel Ideas for Wheelers and Slow Walkers. She blogs regularly about accessible travel issues at www.BarrierFreeTravels.com.