French Quarter, New Orleans
For all of you family travellers out there, hopefully you have heard about New Orleans and what it is about. If not, then please be warned that Bourbon St might not be the place for that wholesome family outing you have been planning. With strip clubs beckoning, and a cast of hundreds of shady characters on every corner, it might be time to take the children to an amusement park. As you can see in the picture, "Big Daddy" is not a Disney character!
I had always heard that the French Quarter is dirty, but that is far from true. Granted Bourbon Street can get a bit messy, but every morning it is hosed down, so I didn't think it was too bad. However, I can imagine that it would be pretty bad during Mardis Gras with all the drunks and revelers. My warning is to watch out for the business owners who will be spraying down the sidewalks in the morning. There's nothing like a splash of cold hose water in the morning!
I just wanted to say that while crime is a problem, New Orleans is still a beautiful city. I have gone to N.O. for the last three years and have never had a problem more serious than the occasional bum asking for some change. I have been on Bourbon St., day and night, and even walked around the less crowded areas, (down to the river, around the french quarter, jackson park, etc., and have never had a problem. However, part of the reason I may have never had a problem is that I use common sense. I always travel with atleast two or three other people and stay in well lit areas. So yeah, N.O. may have a high crime rate, but don't let that discourage you from enjoying a beautiful city rich with culture. For every thug in the city, there are hundreds of decent, wonderful people.
As you walk around the French Quarter, there will be a number of people who will approach you. They will offer you bead, balloons, jokes, songs, etc. They want some money in return.
I have stopped for some of these people, and once the transaction is completed, they are usally very willing to talk to you and give you tips about what to see and what to avoid. But do not feel that you have to stop!! The best thing to do when approched is KEEP MOVING and say "No thank you" quickly and calmly.
New Orleans is a great city that could be enjoyed without any problems if you use very simple common sense.....avoid badly lit area's and alleys in the French Quarters......avoid people who approach you trying to sell you drugs.....and avoid the street walkers that often come out very late at night to prey on the extremely drunk........If possible walk in groups or pairs.....
The Quarter is a beautiful, historic, (now) relatively clean, (sort of) well-policed area. Many folks here have said it's safe in the day time. I say, "bullSH**!!" People get shot and stabbed in broad daylight here. Granted, it's rare, but it can still get ugly. Here are some safety tips from a local (because some part of me cares when good, decent people come to visit the most precious and screwed-up city in the country):
1. When walking, try not to dress up too, too much unless you are armed. It's actually a good idea to be armed at all times.
2. Don't speak with, look at, or even barely acknowledge anyone who looks even remotely suspicious.
3. Try to walk in a group of at LEAST 3 people, if possible.
4. Don't hang out in the blocks between Canal St. and Toulouse on Burgundy at night or in the day time if you can. There's a lovely wedding chapel and a couple of decent bars, but there's also a LOT of riff-raff in this part of town.
5. Did I mention that it's a good idea to carry a weapon?
6. PLEASE don't take the kids on Bourbon. And, avoid the hustlers and at Chris Owens (St. Louis at Bourbon).
7. From St. Ann to Esplanade is primarily gay, so avoid it if you're a pretty conservative person. Then again, why would you come here if you were conservative?
8. AVOID NORTH RAMPART!
9. ***DEFINITELY*** avoid Basin St., as it borders the Iberville Housing Project (the one they DON'T tell you about in the tourist guides). It is one of the poorest, dirtiest, and most dangerous parts of the city right now.
10. Don't buy cannabis on the street here. Ever.
11. Don't do anything to get yourself noticed by the police. They might do more than just arrest you. And, by God, DO NOT get in an NOPD officer's way if you can.
12. Avoid the bums in Jackson Square (very sad that there are so many bums in our most notable park).
13. Be careful of the levee and of the Moonwalk and the Riverwalk. A LOT of bums can be seen there.
14. At night, walk on the side of the street where cars AREN'T parked. We have people jump out and mug tourists and locals alike pretty often.
15. USE COMMON SENSE WHENEVER YOU ARE OUTDOORS. THIS TOWN IS FULL OF FACADES.
We just got back from a week in the French Quarter. It was our first time and the tip I can give is take a taxi from the airport and don't rent a car. Everything is within walking distance, cable car, and bus. If you drive in you will have to find a place to park and run the risk of either paying high parking prices or getting your car booted. Use your good sense and talk to people...ask where you are welcome and where you may not be. We didn't have any problems other than not having enough time to take it all in.
It's just as well that you spend your cash on the many beautiful shops, or the food (Oh man the food!!!) and the natives. I've never been any place that was so welcoming. If I could I would move there, live there and die there. We will be coming back to NOLA real soon. It gets in your blood and becomes a wonderful addiction. You won't be able to get enough... and that's the truth.
Simply put, just use common sense. Don't go into the alleys alone (there's little to do there anyway), don't get too lost, etc. I would say you should be weary of anyone giving you free things before the night gets started, as they are bound to hit you up for money for some cause by the end of the discussion. If you are with a group, be sure to keep a close eye on each other during the parade, it's easy for smaller members to get swept down the flow of the street and its difficult to get them back. Also, the Quarter is a reasonably fine place for families with kids during the day, but once the place gets heated up (which is rather early in the evening) its best to get the young ones out. Also, Bourbon street has some particularly lude photos on some buildings, its a fun quirk for some, an offensive trait to others. Just a friendly warning
So I had to write my own little blurb about staying safe in New Orleans.
I think the fact I was dressed like a slob with no cash helped...If you are out to score a hottie for the night do it with your charm, not your wallet, because the bad element will take the time to case you out...then hit you the NEXT evening... I saw quite a few "jet setters" having difficulty with local riff-raff...then I sat down next to them and had a beer without issue.
Truth is I was pretty relaxed the whole time I was there. I was followed once but simply turned and asked..."wasssup jeeves?!?!" and the guy walked away. I think that if you are yourself and aren't out to look like a rich...arrogant a$$hole you will be just fine.
I stayed about three blocks from Burbon Street, at the St. James hotel and never took a cab, I walked the ENTIRE french quarter and never had a problem (aside from having too much fun.) I'm sure that there is a bad element to the downtown area but it seemed pretty tame to a guy living in Anchorage, Alaska. I'm more intimidated by Chilkoot Charlies up here than anywhere I visited in New Orleans.
The famous wicked clowns of New Orleans are vicious and will strike without impunity.
Sometimes they recruit Japanese ninja and Siberian tiger assassins to commit their dirty work.
Beware of these nefarious people.
Be very careful when taking a cab out of the French Quarter, many are known to rip you off-BIG TIME. It happened to me and I lived there, the driver got lost, I had to get out and call a friends' mom to come get me, so know where you're going or better yet always have the hotel you're staying at call a cab-- they know the reputable ones.
During Mardi Gras time, the streets will be filled with people, some well on their way to intoxication. Still the police patrol on horseback and when they want the crowds to move, they mean it. They will warn you once to move if the parade floats are coming down the street. If you don't move and continue to move into the streets trying to "catch beads" you'll end up with the rump of a large horse pushing you back into line.
The "conventional wisdom" concerning my ex-home town unfortunately no longer applies. At one time if you: walked in groups; kept to Bourbon & Royal streets; remained reasonably sober; watched your back; did not look for trouble... all would be well. All these things were great advice... forty years ago! New Orleans has suffered radical change over the years which left three prime groups in charge: 1. Uptown wealthy upper class, the landed gentry. 2. The corrupt and incompetent local political class. 3. The amoral super violent thugocracy which now kills, robs, rapes and terrorizes. (The decent hard working middle class moved out decades ago... they are gone.) The city apologists will never admit the current state of decay, because N.O. stays afloat by tourist and convention dollars. (You will not get the straight story from the powers that be... trust me.) Driving down Canal St. near the Quarter I go into a black depression. Looking at the T shirt shops- the third world vendors, and hotels on every corner, its almost like an advanced civilization died out leaving the degenerate barbarians to tend the ruins.
Should you come to New Orleans and tour the Quarter? Forty years ago I would say yes, now I make no recommendations.
Yesterday at about 5:30 I was hit hard on the head with a broomstick by a group of boys who asked me for a dollar. It was on Conti St about half a block from Bourbon St in the French Quarter.
I'm not a weak-looking person, it was early, it wasn't quite dark yet, there were people around. This is the first time I've been attacked in many years of travel and living in American cities.
Be careful when you travel to New Orleans - watch out for kids with sticks, wherever you are and whatever time it might be.
In most cities in the world there are areas in which you are advised not to venture into; well I couldn't stress more how far away one should stay from this one. Walking through the French Quarters of N.O., my friend and I were disgusted by a variety of sights. First, there are too many rude street people. They try to stop you while walking past them, they will continue walking beside you, persisting on selling to you, or getting something from you. Just the same, the merchants are rude when you are in their shops looking at the merchandise. Yet, ALL of the shops have the same exact, over-priced merchandise. Yes, there definitely is a strong stench, but it's not only urine! If you want to look more closely in this area, you must be on foot. If you're driving, consider this: there is nowhere safe to park. Finding this, we parked far from most of the shops, and went off on foot. A woman who worked at a tourist info shop gave us directions to meet up with a tour group. And, she charged us $10 for the info! The ten dollars was nothing compared to where she sent us, via a map in which she drew clear directions. She did however, tell us to walk fast and to speak to no-one! That wasn't hard considering there was no-one in that dirty vacant area! DON"T ever attempt to search these streets for the so-called renowned sights that you've heard of before regarding the area's scary past. Oh, the sights were memorable alright! We saw a man with a needle in his arm. We witnessed a guy lighting up his crack pipe between two utility boxes, as we walked past. We were subjected to seeing someone throw up on the side of a vacant building there are many of, maybe due to Katrina, but more than likely to the beings who slum around in the area. On several different streets after that, we witnessed more bold crack or pot smoking- with no regard to who might see! A man who was slumped in his parked, junky car on one of the streets, who had two very young children jumping around inside, let me know what he intended (sexually) to do to me, as my boyfriend walked right beside me. Next, we couldn't help hearing a couple of guys beating on upside down buckets (wow!)which were placed stratigically in the middle of the sidewalk, blocking everyone's way. Their group tactic is to force passers by to give up money, while several other guys loudly promoted them and harassed the unaware people. There were also many prostitutes, pan handlers, drunks, verbal assaults toward bystanders by angry transients; garbage and excrement was everywhere. I found later, that I had walked a maggot in the tread of my boots into the car that we drove!! We unfortunately saw a fight involving an older man and an filthy, young guy. My question is why did we see so many empty cop 'cars', but we never saw any 'cops' in that entire area? Were they undercover? That I doubt. But where were they? Yea, we could hear sirens, but where were the cops while there car windows were rolled all the way down? And yet there was no activity going on near these officer's cars! The next day we went to see the famous St. Louis Cemetery #1, only to find out they have to lock it up... ALL THE TIME. A sign at the entrance states: Warning- Enter At Your Own RISK! --- They can't afford security cops for this historical sight? On the outside walls which confine the cemetery from the public, is a strong smell of urine. If you don't smell it, you'll see it for sure! In the entire New Orleans area, people speed and drive ruthlessly, with no regards to other's on the road. Yet even when a cop is right there, and obviously witnesses an incident, no-one gets pulled over! There are drive-through daiquirie stands; they sell other alcoholic drinks in these places as well. It doesn't seem to matter if there could be a DUI charge waiting to happen...or worse. Then I ask once again, where are the police? Wow, driving on their roadways there made me feel very insecure! For most of my life, I had wanted to visit the sights, and be a part of the festivities that take place in New Orleans. Now, I feel the need to suggest that no-one visit that city until they gain 2 centuries worth of progress in law and in order. The French Quarter is truly a scary place. But not because of ghosts from the past; it's scary due the huge majority of allowed misconduct and mis-guided inhabitants. Literally deemed a tourist (trap), so where the hell are the police in this completely lawless area? Yes the weather in N.O. was great. The weather where I live is not so great; it's horrible and it usually is. But coming back home far away from New Orleans, was like entering paradise. If you ever do end up in N.O.---my word of warning: be cautious! PLEASE! Or better yet, don't end up there at all!