French Quarter, New Orleans
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.
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.
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.
I agree with most posts, you do need to be careful in the Quarter, especially at night. BUT, I have to say that for the most part, people are out for a good time, a little partying, a lot of good food and a few hurricanes. We have never had any problem. One year during Mardi Gras a guy came up and offered a "line"...... but when we refused (nicely) he told us to have a good night and left us alone. If you aren't looking for trouble, it won't find you.
IT SEEMS AS THOUGH MOST COMMENTS ARE REVOLVING AROUND MARDI GRAS, I HAVE BEEN ATTENDING JAZZ FEST FOR 9 YEARS, AND AM FEMALE. I HAVE NEVER HAD A PROBLEM IN THE QUARTER. I BELIEVE IF YOU ARE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS AND HAVE FRIENDS YOU ARE FINE. I THINK NEW ORLEANS GETS A BAD RAP SOMETIMES. YES BAD THINGS HAPPEN THERE, BUT KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN AND YOU CAN HAVE A GREAT TIME. JAZZ FEST IS BEST