Gentilly is a large section of New Orleans generally paid little or no attention by visitors. Nonetheless, Gentilly has a variety of local restaurants -- mostly very reasonably priced for local clientele -- some inexpensive accommodations, and a few unique sights.
Around 100 years ago, most development in Gentilly was confined to Gentilly Ridge, a narrow stretch of higher ground around Gentilly Road. Most of the rest of the area was farm and pasture land, which tended to get marshy in heavy rains or when Lake Pontchartrain rose above its banks. Starting in the late 1920s, land reclamation projects and the construction of a flood wall along the lakefront opened the area to development. Whatever land that was still vacant in the 1940s was quickly filled with new housing in the post World War II boom.
For generations Gentilly was perhaps the quintessential New Orleans middle-class residential neighborhood. Then in 2005 Gentilly, like the majority of Greater New Orleans, was severely flooded in the great levee failure disaster during Hurricane Katrina. As of spring 2012, Gentilly is back, but at half strength. The 2010 census showed a bit less than half the pre-Katrina population. There are new and rebuilt restaurants and businesses dotting Gentilly, but there are still about an equal number that remain vacant and boarded up.
Gentilly is about 3 miles north-east of the French Quarter. From out of town, drive in on Interstate 610, (a short-cut within the city of Interestate 10)
While there are some bus routes along major avenues, it's best to have a car to get around in Gentilly.
Bus 55, which travels the length of Elysian Fields from the UNO main campus down to the French Quarter.
- Architecture New Orleans is mostly known for its Colonial and 19th century architecture, which Gentilly lacks. But people whose appreciation for historic architecture extends into the 20th century will find some interesting residential neighborhoods, some of which one might not expect to see in New Orleans: Spanish Revival Bungalows that look like something out of the 1920s Florida Land Boom, and Louisiana's biggest collection of California Craftsman style architecture (around 1909 a real estate developer brought in a foreman from Los Angeles to teach local carpenters the style). Just drive along Gentilly Road, and when you see a residential avenue with a big metal sign announcing its name (like "Gentilly Terrace", "Gentilly Woods", or "Sugar Hill") take a little drive to the side.
- McDonalds, 4240 Louisa Street (between Chef Menteur Highway and Old Gentilly Road). Usually a branch of the ubiquitous McDonald's chain wouldn't be worth mentioning, but this one is an exception for the single reason of its architecture. The building wasn't updated for so long it became an anachronistic bit of fast food marketing history: It still has the old style "Golden Arches" built in to the structure, and the facade displays rare surviving images of "Speedee" the anthropomorphic hamburger, McDonald's mascot long before there was a "Ronald McDonald". (They happen to sell "fast food" here too, but hey, you're in New Orleans, so why not try some New Orleans food, such as can be found at the places listed below in "Eat")
- Hellenic Cultural Center, Robert E. Lee at St. Bernard, by Bayou St. John. Large Greek Orthodox Church and a building complex, puts on the popular Greek Festival each summer. The popular "Greek Fest" with Greek food and live music is held each year in the last weekend of May. If you go here, note that the ruins of Old Spanish Fort are just across the Bayou in the Lakeview & Lakeshore neighborhood.
- University of New Orleans, Main campus is near the lake end of Elysian Fields Avenue. The UNO Arena is at a separate location at the lake end of Franklin Avenue. The modern campus has little to see and there is little reason for the visitor to come to the campus except for when special events, exhibitions, or concerts are held here.
- Lake Pontchartrain, Lakeshore Drive is a park along Lake Pontchartrain that has playgrounds,picnic areas, shelters,a seawall where you can go crabbing and fishing, and Pontchartrain Beach at Lakeshore Drive and Elysian Fields. Many families in New Orleans use this park as a barbeque and picnic areas. Swimming is allowed at some parts of the lake by the Seabrook Bridge and on Pontchartrain Beach but on the rest of Lakeshore Drive but sun bathing is good too.
- Krewe of Dreux (pronounced "Crew of Drew") Mardi Gras parade and party. The Saturday before Mardi Gras Day, forgo the big famous parades elsewhere in the city to check out New Orleans Carnival Gentilly style. People gather in "People's Park" (along People's Avenue around Filmore) for a big informal outdoor party; then parade around the neighborhood in the afternoon. Come in costume if you like; it should just be something comfortable for walking around in (serious costumers save their best for Mardi Gras Day). For fuller immersion in the local experience, bring some food or beverage to share, or if you happen to play New Orleans style/Dixieland jazz, bring your instrument.
- New Orleans Greek Festival. The last weekend each May at the Hellenic Center, 1200 Robert E. Lee Boulevard (at Bayou St. John). Popular local festival of Greek food, drink, music, and entertainment.
- The Sandbar, in the University Center of the University of New Orleans, off Elysian Fields near Lake Pontchartrain. Sometimes hosts good modern jazz.
- Big Shirley's, 5222 Elysian Fields (just off Filmore Avenue), ☏ . New Orleans Soul Food, bbq, po-boys, fried chicken. Live jazz on Fridays at 6PM. BYOB (there's a grocer across Elysian Fields for beer).
- Daddy's Donuts, 2051-A Caton St (in a stip mall at Norman Mayer Avenue; 2 blocks from the intersection of Gentilly Boulevard and Elysian Fields), ☏ . 6a-1p daily. Good donuts and coffee.
- Chinese Tea Garden, 2170 Filmore Avenue (just off the corner of Elysian Fields), ☏ . M-F 11a-10p, Sat Sun 12 noon-10p. Feeding Gentilly Chinese food for 20 years
- The Original Fiorellas' Cafe, 5325 Franklin Ave (just off Filmore Avenue), ☏ . Mon-Sat 11a-7p. Southern cooking favorites.
- Mc Kenzie's Chicken In A Box, 3839 Frenchmen St. (just off Gentilly Boulevard, a block up from Elysian Fields), ☏ . breakfast and lunch. Fried chicken and New Orleans Soul Food, eat in or to go. Neighborhood favorite. cheap.
- Munch Factory (near Filmore Avenue), 6514 Congress Dr, ☏ . Tues-F 5p-9p, also lunch Fridays. Local dishes and innovative specials. Great roast beef po-boys. $10-20.
- Old Gentilly Spicy Kitchen, 4058 Old Gentilly Rd, ☏ . Big portions of tasty soul food served by friendly folks in an inconspicuous white house off the Chef Menteur Hwy. The dining room is hidden in the back, and late breakfast is the most popular time of day; closed for dinner. $4-12.
- Sweet Savor's Bakery, 5242 Elysian Fields (corner of Filmore Avenue), ☏ . Sweet bakery; donuts, cakes, etc.
- Daiquiris and Company, 6301 Elysian Fields Ave, ☏ .
- New Orleans Original Daiquiris, 4450 Chef Menteur Hwy, ☏ .
- Econo Lodge, 4940 Chef Menteur Hwy, ☏ . Econo Lodge is a reliable bottom budget chain, but this one hits a bit below the usual reputation. The location is in a fairly charmless part of Gentilly near the Industrial Canal. It is, however, near a cluster of inexpensive national chain shops and restaurants, a frozen daiquiris shop, and local favorite Old Gentilly Spicy Kitchen (listed at "Eat"). And for cheap rooms, a much closer drive to New Orleans' most famous sights than similar accommodations in Greater New Orleans' further flung suburbs. $65-75.
- Motel 6, 4200 Old Gentilly Rd, ☏ . While suffering from the location, similar to the nearby aforementioned Econo Lodge, the Motel 6 here is spectacularly cheap and serves its function fine. $50-65.
- New Orleans RV Resort & Marina, 6001 France Rd (Enter via Hayne Boulevard, turn right just before the Canal), ☏ . RV Park in the port facility area beside the Industrial Canal.
Free Wi-fi at Juju Bag Cafe listed above.
At writing April 2012, the new Gentilly branch public library at 3001 Gentilly Blvd. 70122 is newly opened, but does not yet have wi-fi; it is expected to offer full access by sometime in May.