When I was planning what my parents and I would do for family weekend, I couldn’t help but feel that the French Quarter, Magazine Street, and Freret were all a little played out. It’s my senior year, and between the two of my parents, there have been a lot of visits down to the Big Easy. I wanted to show them something new and different, which is how I decided on a walk through the Marigny and Bywater.
Sure I’ve been to neighborhood gems Bacchanal and Pizza Delicious, but I’ve always heard about the unique quirks and vibes that both areas have to offer. So, I set out to plan a walk that started in the French Quarter and ended at the far reaches of the Marigny.
Warning: this was a long walk, so make sure the weather is nice and you have comfortable shoes!
First, we started on Frenchmen Street. We’ve all been here for Halloween and random date parties, but have you gone during the day? Especially on the weekends, all of our favorite music venues have their doors open and drinks flowing, with live bands playing for all to hear. Pop into a club or two, sit down and enjoy a nice beer. These bands are just as amazing as the ones that play to a packed house on a Friday night, and it’s easier to enjoy them when you can actually relax and listen. Bamboula’s is a small space right next to The Maison that you’ve probably never heard of, but they had a fantastic jazz band and a nice big window to sit in and watch.
Hang a right on Chartres and stop in Blue Dream. It’s one of the cooler vintage shops I’ve seen in New Orleans, and besides clothes, they also have a groovy selection of ash trays, incense and crystals. It’s impossible not to find something to love here.
Take Chartres across Elysian Fields Avenue (be careful, there is no light at this intersection), and you are officially in the Marigny! Welcome. One of the first things I noticed was how eclectic and beautiful all of the houses were. Similar to the adjacent edges of the French Quarter, the Marigny has more of a neighborhood feel; when spots say they’re local, they mean it. It was also very quiet, which was a refreshing change from the bustle of Downtown.
Our first stop was New Orleans Cake Cafe and Bakery, which was a super lucky find. We walked in just 15 minutes before closing, and were able to grab a refreshing cucumber lemonade for the walk. Their menu was extensive and the array of cakes and pastries were all too tempting, but we managed to resist. I would love to come back here with a book for one of their delicious looking sandwiches and some people watching.
P.S. There is a hub of appealing restaurants, cafes and bars if you take a left onto Franklin Avenue, but I’ll save those for another time!
Keep walking along Chartres until you reach True Mosaics Studio, which will be hard to miss. It’s a bright fuchsia wall covered in elaborate, stunning mosaic patterns. The studio was unfortunately closed when we were there, but the exterior itself was enough to make this spot noteworthy.
Take a left onto St Ferdinand Street and peer into Monkey Wid-a-Fez, which is a furniture store/carpenter space with blasting music and high-energy craftsmen. It was super cool to watch them work, and there are some seriously unique pieces there.
At the end of the block, go right on Royal Street. As you walk along, you’ll notice that it’s a pretty industrialized-looking area, but don’t let that fool you. The buildings are covered with meaningful graffiti art, most with a nod to the Civil Rights movement that was in-part born at this intersection. Make sure to check out the Plessy v. Ferguson Historical Marker on the left side of the street, which marks where Homer Adolph Plessy was arrested. Some of you may remember this court case from U.S. History in high school, but read the sign nonetheless and marvel at how such a significant event happened at such a nondescript location.
Keep moving onwards and you’ll make it to Studio Be, which is an all-around incredible experience. This gallery is so much more than a display of art; local artist Be Mike uses graffiti to create pieces that symbolize the Black Lives Matter movement, immortalize Civil Rights heroes, and comment on pervasive issues like systemic racism, police brutality, and discrimination. Really take your time going through all of the rooms and read, I guarantee you’ll learn a lot. The mixture of mediums, including sculpture and video storytelling will surely captivate you.
If it’s a nice day, continue on Royal and turn left on Clouet Street to enjoy the Clouet Gardens. This urban park has beautiful mosaics, and it’s a nice place to stop and take a minute to enjoy the day. If it’s not-so-nice, hang a right on Montegut Street and get back on Chartres to check out Dr. Bob’s Folk Art. This sign store is as funky as they come; all of his pieces are quintessential New Orleans style, ranging from an ode to Sno Balls to a colorful portrayal of a Second Line. There is something for everyone here, and it’ll be hard to not take something home.
Onward march! At this point we were getting pretty hungry, so we took Chartres down to Piety Street, which has the worship-worthy Pizza Delicious. This place is seriously so underrated (I get it, it’s far), but it’s one of the best pies in the Big Easy. We each got a slice to enjoy while we took in the interesting rusted metal decor along the interior of the restaurant. There is also an outdoor seating area in the back, which is perfect for a sunny day. After inhaling our ‘za in record time, we popped next door to peruse Euclid Records. This two-story shop has every vinyl, CD, and more you could ever want. It was a ton of fun looking through the stacks and finding unexpected gems.
Across the street from Euclid is the Rusty Rainbow Bridge, which takes you across the train tracks to the Crescent Park along the Mississippi. It’s a beautifully done garden-esque space with tables for eating and a trail to run or bike along. Not to mention, it has a great view of Downtown’s skyline silhouette. The climb is a little steep, but in a nice feel-the-burn kind of way.
If pizza isn’t your thing (not judging, just confused..) then keep walking to Elizabeth’s, which is your ideal country classic eatery. It’s hard to miss with its floor to roof signs, and the menu alone will make you want to unbutton your jeans. If you’re here early enough, try to get in for their super popular brunch.
Now for the long haul. You’re almost there! Stay on Chartres for nine blocks until you get to the pot of gold at the end of the road: Bacchanal!! After a long afternoon of exploring and walking, kick back with a bottle of wine and a charcuterie board and listen to some great music. If it’s chilly, make sure to claim your stake near the heat lamps, or order a hot dish from the kitchen. We spent a good hour here just taking in the day, and it was definitely the perfect way to round out our walking tour.
Stay tuned for more tips, tricks, and guides to your favorite New Orleans neighborhoods!
All Photos: Rachel Wine