Mid-City is a portion of New Orleans in the center of the metropolitan area, about midway between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. It is less visited by tourists than more famous areas like the French Quarter, but has impressive attractions of its own.
The area of Mid-City around the Fairgrounds and the nearby portion of Esplanade Avenue is often called the Bayou St. John neighborhood or Esplanade Ridge. The old Bayou itself can be seen when you cross the bridge over it at the tail of Esplanade in front of City Park; it is a calm long finger of water constrained by grassy levees as it winds through the old urban neighborhood.
Mid-City is filled with visitors each year for the week and a half of the New Orleans Jazz Festival, and again around Halloween for Voodoo Experience. The rest of the year the neighborhood is often comparatively neglected by travelers.
Mid-City is a portion of the city that is easy to get around in either with or without a car.
The restored Canal Streetcar line starts at the riverfront of the French Quarter (at Esplanade Avenue and the levee), turns on to Canal Street to go through the Central Business District, and continues into the heart of Mid-City. Once at the intersection of Canal Street and Carrollton Avenue in the center of Mid-City, the Canal streetcar branches into two lines. Cars marked "City Park" turn on to Carrollton Avenue, with the line ending at City Park in front of the NOMA Museum, a short walk from the Fairgrounds. Cars marked "Cemeteries" continue to the end of Canal Street at the far edge of Mid-City where a number of the city's old cemeteries are located.
- 1 City Park. The large park has winding lanes through old trees for walking or driving through, and includes such attractions as an outdoor sculpture garden, a botanical garden. As of 2011, renovations and improvements since Katrina have City Park looking more beautiful than ever. "Storyland", a children's playground based around fairy tale characters, has been a favorite of local children for generations, and has added attractions in recent years. The Carousel Gardens Amusement Park has a beautiful merry-go-round (known to local old timers as "the flying horses" dating back to 1906, as well as an assortment of other amusement park rides including a miniature railway to ride around part of the park. During nights of the Christmas season there is an elaborate celebration with lights, additional rides, and music in the park called "Celebration in the Oaks".
- 2 New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) (just in the park from the Carrollton & Esplanade entrance). Worth a visit for art lovers; the art of this fine museum was fortunately high enough to escape the flood. Highlights from the permanent collection include a fine collection of Fabergé eggs and jewelry, and paintings from France and Latin America. Open until 8:30PM Thursday nights. Louisiana residents get in free after 5PM with ID.
- Degas House Historic Home Courtyard and Inn, 2306 Esplanade Ave, ☏ , toll-free: . French Impressionist artist Edgar Degas. The only home and studio of the French Impressionist Master, Edgar Degas, open to the public anywhere in the world. Degas lived with relatives in this house on Esplanade Avenue during 1872-1873; it is now a bed & breakfast, gift shop, wedding and special event venue. Tours are available daily. Secured offstreet/motorcoach parking.
- Fairgrounds. Horse racing venue, and for two weekends of the year serves as the venue for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
- 3 Pitot House Museum and Gardens, 1440 Moss St (at Bayou St John). Historic house of a former mayor from the era of the Louisiana Purchase at the start of the 19th century.
Go to the cemetery? Yes, many visitors do, leaving alive and well with an interesting experience. Due to the high water table, most New Orleans tombs are in above ground crypts. Traditionally, many of the well to do adorned their tombs with marble or bronze decoration and statuary, and many of the city's less affluent joined fraternal organizations which built elaborate group crypts.
- 4 Saint Louis Cemetery #3 (on Esplanade Avenue a couple of blocks from City Park). 19th-century above ground tombs. Safe to walk around in during the day, this is popular with visitors.
- The Cemeteries is the informal name for a group of separate but adjoining or nearby cemeteries concentrated around the inland end of Canal Street. These include Odd Fellows Rest and Greenwood Cemetery. Some interesting monuments, but cemetery connoisseurs agree your time is best spent a little further on:
- 5 Metairie Cemetery (on Metairie Road up from City Park). This cemetery is just outside of Mid-City by most definitions, but is only a short drive from this neighborhood or a 5 minute walk from the end of the "Cemeteries" branch of the Canal streetcar line (Walking directions: from the end of the line, go left along City Park Avenue, past Greenwood Cemetery on the right, and continue under the Interstate overpass; Metairie Cemetery is on the right). Metairie is the city's most elaborate cemetery, with many interesting 19th century grand tombs and monuments.
- Longue Vue House and Gardens, 7 Bamboo Road. #. Elegant mansion set in lush gardens is pretty and historic. In Western central New Orleans off Metairie Road, a short drive from Metarie Cemetery and Mid-City.
- Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo. Popular festival one weekend each May featuring free live local music along the banks of Bayou St. John near Orleans Avenue. Lots of local food and crafts vendors too.
- Banks Street Bar & Grill, 4401 Banks St, ☏ . Local less well known live music acts, ranging from rock to all types of jazz, often at no cover; if they're good (often they are) put a buck or so in the tip jar.
- Chickie Wah Wah, 2828 Canal Street. Eclectic schedule of local artists. Music venue in a comfortable bar, easy parking as well as right on the Canal Streetcar line. The kitchen serves a limited menu significantly better than average bar food. Tel 304-4714.
- Rock-n-Bowl. 3000 S. Carrollton (at Earhart Boulevard -- note they moved a dozen blocks closer to the river from their old location in Spring 2009). Dance, or drink, or bowl while listening to great live local music. A great place to experience traditional Zydeco music or Cajun music, if you bowl or not. Also Rhythm & Blues acts, swing dancing.
Mid-City restaurants are loved by locals, and the visitor can easily find out why. If the French Quarter and Central Business District seem too overwhelmed by tourists, one can get away to Mid-City and enjoy some of New Orleans best and most distinctive food surrounded by locals.
As mentioned above, visitors flock here during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and to a lesser extent during Voodoo Experience. At these busy times it's best to either make reservations well in advance, or expect to wait in lines, or plan to eat in another part of town.
- Betsy's Pancake House, 2542 Canal St. Pancakes & such for breakfast and lunch.
- Bode's Catfish Shack, 3735 Ulloa Street (at corner of S. Cortez, just off Tulane Avenue). Some of the Gulf Coast's best fried catfish along with good soul food in this clean little place tucked away in an unprepossessing Mid City neighborhood. Lunch and early dinner, closed Sundays. Tel. 304-1471
- 1 Doson Noodle House, 135 N Carrollton Ave (between Iberville and Canal Sts). Vietnamese.
- Fellini's Cafe, 900 N. Carrollton. Artsy cafe with good food.
- Fiesta Latina, 133 N. Carrollton. Mexican & Central American
- Juan's Flying Burrito, 4724 S Carrollton Ave. Tasty Mexican, good prices. The staff sometimes have Punk Music on the sound system very loud.
- Lazaro's, 4413 Banks St. Pizza & po-boys.
- Little Tokyo, 310 N Carrollton Ave. Japanese
- Liuzzas. 3636 Bienville. New Orleans-style down-home Italian with a Creole touch. No credit cards. Tues-Sun 11a-10p
- Liuzza's By The Track, 1518 N. Lopez (at Ponce de Leon, a block off Esplanade towards the Track). "The other Liuzza's" is also a neighborhood favorite, known for Creole gumbo, seafood, and garlic roast beef po'boys. Reasonably priced lunches, also open for dinner weekdays.
- Mona's Cafe, 3901 Banks. Middle Eastern. Mona's also has restaurants in Marigny and Uptown, but this one has a fair sized Middle Eastern grocery attached as well, in case you need to buy a bag of loose tea leaves, a bucket of hummus, or a hookah.
- Neyow's Creole Cafe 3340 Bienville (at Davis Parkway). New Orleans Creole, lunch & dinner. Closed Weds; dinner only Sun. Tel. 827-5474
- Nonna Mia 3125 Esplanade. Pizza, pastas, and panini. Tel. 949-1717. Lunch & dinner 7 days.
- Parkway Bakery & Tavern, 523 Hagan St. An authentic neighborhood po-boy shop and bar; a favorite with locals.
- Ruby Slipper, 139 South Cortez Street (1 block off Canal Street). Tel. 309-5531. Breakfast & lunch Weds-Fri, Brunch Sat-Sun.
- Santa Fe 3201 Esplanade. Southwestern. Some people may remember its former location in the Marigny neighborhood.
- Theo's Pizza, 4024 Canal Street. Popular pizzaria from the Uptown neighborhood opened their Mid-City branch in late 2009. Tel. 302-1133
- Angelo Brocato's. 214 N. Carrollton. Italian ice cream, pastries, and sweets, a century old tradition.
- The Bean Gallery. 637 N. Carrollton. Coffee, sandwiches, gelato. Wi-Fi. Tel. 324-8176
- Blue Dot Donuts, 4301 Canal Street. Donuts of both common and unusual types (Key lime?! Maple bacon?!) Come early in the day for best variety. Mon-Sat 6a-6p; Sun 6a-3p. Tel. 218-4866
- Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, 3133 Ponce De Leon (just off Esplanade Avenue), coffee and light eats; neighborhood atmosphere; free Wi-Fi. Tel. 913-9072
- Cafe Degas. 3127 Esplanade. Very good French.
- Cafe Minh, 4139 Canal Street. Vietnamese.
- Canal Street Bistro, 3903 Canal St. Breakfast & Lunch daily except Tues; Dinner Weds-Sat. Eclectic. Tel. 482.1225
- Five Happiness, 3605 S Carrollton Ave. Local favorite for Chinese.
- Katie's Restaurant & Bar, 3701 Iberville. Neighborhood mainstay before Katrina; reopened March 2010. Creole Italian, fresh seafood and sandwiches. 11a-10p Tues-Sun; Lunch only Mon.
- Juicy Lucy's, 133 N Carrollton Ave. Quality burgers, specializing in "juicy" versions stuffed with cheese and other extras. 11a-midnight
- Lola's, 3312 Esplanade. Mediterranean and Spanish. Menu highlights include romescu lamb. The palleas fresh made to order take half an hour but regulars find them worth the wait.
- Mandina's, 3800 Canal Street. Louisiana, Italian, and Seafood.
- Venezia, 134 N. Carrollton Ave. Creole-Italian and Pizza, another Mid-City landmark.
- Ralph's On The Park, 900 City Park Ave (across from City Park). Highly regarded Contemporary Louisiana cuisine in a recently renovated 1860s tavern building.
- Redemption, 3835 Iberville Street (3 blocks from Canal & Carrollton), ☏ . "New Orleans Revival Cuisine". Housed in an old church building; pre-Katrina visitors may remember it as the former location of "Christian's" Restaurant.
- Bayou Beer Garden, 326 N Jefferson Davis Pkwy.
- Beach Corner Lounge, 4905 Canal St (almost at the end of Canal Street by the Cemeteries). Dive bar, burgers
- The Bulldog, 5135 Canal Boulevard (1 block back from City Park Avenue and the end of the Canal/Cemeteries streetcar line, right across from Greenwood Cemetery), ☏ . Great beer selection; nice outdoor patio area.
- 1 Pearl Wine Co., 3700 Orleans Ave, ☏ . Bar and adjacent wine store.
- Finn McCool's, 3701 Banks St. Very authentic Irish Pub, perhaps New Orleans' most internationally diverse clientele. Popular with European ex-pats and soccer fans. Pub trivia Monday nights. Can get smoky.
- 2 Mick's Irish Pub, 4801 Bienville St (at Bernadotte St), ☏ . Neighborhood bar. Darts, ping-pong tables, cheap drinks.
- Mid-City Yacht Club, 440 S St Patrick St. New since Katrina, a friendly, unpretentious bar with a great beer selection. Watch the game on one of the HDTVs, throw some darts, or just hang out. Ball field across the street has baseball, softball, and soccer during the summer.
- Pal's Lounge, 949 N Rendon St (at the corner of St. Philip Street, 2 blocks from the Bayou). Authentic old Mid-City neighborhood bar. Air hockey table. Eclectic crowd. Don't leave without taking a look at the men's room.
- India House Hostel, 124 S Lopez St (at Canal St), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Dorms (single-sex or co-ed) and private rooms (en suite or shared bathroom) available. Dorms $17+, privates $45+.
- NOLA Jazz House, 3416 Canal Street (Canal streetcar to Jefferson Davis Parkway), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 3pm, check-out: 11am. Funky hostel located on the corner of Canal and Jeff Davis. Convenient to Canal streetcar line. Free breakfast, free wifi, ourdoor patio, and communal kitchen. $18 dorm, $45 private.
As of Spring 2012, the Mid-City branch of New Orleans Public Library is in the American Can Factory Building at 3700 Orleans Avenue. Many of the cafes listed above have free wi-fi.
Mid-City is an excellent microcosm of New Orleans as a whole in that some upper-income neighborhoods are bordered by lower-income neighborhoods and the level of safety can change from block to block. The neighborhood is generally safe in the daytime, but avoid areas on the Eastern side of Broad and around much of Tulane Avenue. The area closer to City Park around and to the West of N Carrollton is generally very safe, but always have your wits about you in this urban area.
Mid-City's central location allows easy access to other parts of town. Take the Canal Streetcar to the French Quarter and the Central Business District. Drive or take the bus to the other end of beautiful Esplanade Avenue to arrive at the lower edge of the Quarter and the hip Faubourg Marigny neighborhood (alternatively reached by taking the Canal Streetcar to the far end at Esplanade and the river levee). Lakeview and Lakeshore neighborhoods are a short drive away to the north west; to the north east is the Gentilly neighborhood. The Carrollton neighborhood at the upper end of Uptown can be driven to by taking Carrollton Avenue to the other end. The #32 bus "Leonidas" runs from Carrollton Avenue at Esplanade Mid-City to the Old Carrollton Riverbend neighborhood then ends by the Zoo in Audubon Park. However it winds through a rather rough section of Hollygrove en route, and it runs less than once an hour. Those relying on public transit may wish to consider getting to Uptown and Carrollton by a more indirect route: take the Canal Streetcar to the Central Business District, then the green St. Charles Streetcar up. While this route is longer, it may be less aggravating and is certainly much more picturesque.