New Orleans climate
New Orleans is hot and muggy. Summer temperatures are well into the 30s (Celsius), the humidity oppressive, and there are occasional thunderstorms. September and October often have clear, mild days. Winter is short, overcast, and chilly. Temperatures are usually in the low teens but can drop and, combined with the dampness, make for a cold day. Spring is delightful with sunny, mild days.The city gets plenty of rain, about 150cm (60 inches) a year. The hurricane season runs from June to September.
When to fly to New Orleans
February through April is the peak season with the best weather and the city’s two biggest events, Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. Book your reservations at least six months in advance.
September and October tend to have good weather. The oppressive heat and humidity of summer even drives some of the residents away from the city, but you can find hotel bargains.
The damp cold of winter does not attract many visitors, and low rates can be found.
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Getting around New Orleans
New Orleans has an excellent bus system that covers most of the city and a streetcar service that is the oldest in the country and an attraction as well as a means of transport. Public buses are the most economical way to get around, but are relatively slow.
The vintage St Charles streetcar is a National Historic Monument and is a convenient way to get from downtown to uptown, while the Riverfront streetcar connects major sights along a two mile stretch of the Mississippi River. Tickets for buses and streetcars must be paid for in exact change. The VisiTour one- and three-day passes allow unlimited rides on all streetcars and buses. Metered taxis are inexpensive and plentiful and can easily be hailed in the busier areas or phoned for; they are the best way of getting around at night. Most taxis can be hired by up to five passengers for a hassle-free and economical tour of the city.
The Canal Street Ferry takes passengers across to the suburb of Algiers and is free for pedestrians, offering fine views of the city skyline.
Driving a car in New Orleans is not too much of a problem, though parking can be; if renting a car, drivers must be 21 and hold a valid driver's license or International Driving Permit. A major credit card and passport (for foreigners) are also required.
New Orleans insider information
- The French Market is a farmer's market which sells everything from canned alligator and chocolates to hot sauce. It’s a good place to pick up souvenirs.
- Julia Street is a well-kept secret. The 600 block has 13 mid-19th-century townhouses called Julia Row or the Thirteen Sisters. It has great art galleries, and the Contemporary Arts Centre is here too.
- Friday Lunch is a New Orleans tradition. The meal starts about midday - and lubricated by several drinks - lasts all day. Galatoire’s on Bourbon Street is the place to lunch for those lucky enough to get a reservation, although tables in the first floor dining room are first-come, first-served.
- Mardi Gras celebrations are world famous. The festivities start officially on January 6 (Twelfth Night or Little Christmas) and last until Shrove Tuesday and feature parties and parades. For visitors at other times of the year, there is Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World, where you can take a tour and see the props and giant figures. The tour includes coffee and King Cake (a Mardi Gras tradition, a ring cake like a brioche decorated with green, purple and gold sugar with a small figure of the baby Jesus baked inside).
- Take a swamp tour of Bayou Segnette, a Cajun fishing village, 20 minutes from the centre of New Orleans with Westwego Swamp Adventures. Included in the tour is an ecology/naturalist presentation. The nesting grounds of alligators, egrets, raccoons and many types of snakes can be spotted along the way.
- For a glimpse of the other side (perhaps), visit an above-ground cemetery. Saint Louis Cemetery No 1. is the oldest cemetery in the city, and boasts (it is said) several ghostly apparitions including an old man and most famously Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.