New Orleans shopping offers all the souvenirs and trinkets you can find in any major tourist destination, as well as all the outlets and upscale boutiques you might find in any other urban center. But you can also do some bargain hunting that provides a taste of the city’s colorful history, rich multiethnic diversity, and its music and festival traditions. Whether you find great Magazine Street shopping or French Quarter shopping, there is something for everyone.
Most visitors will do a great deal of their New Orleans shopping in the legendary French Quarter. For a taste of history try the French Market, set along the banks of the Mississippi River since 1791 when it began as a Native American trading post. Once strictly a farmer’s market with fresh vegetables, spices, herbs, and coffees, today it is a five block long string of boutiques, galleries, shops, and dining spots. Here you will find places such as Café du Monde, which has been a purveyor of fine coffees and beignets since 1862. It’s also possible to hop on one of the city’s historic streetcars to enjoy tours of this famous district.
Only a few blocks to the south, you will find Canal Street shopping in New Orleans that begins around the river and the riverfront casinos and extends towards Lake Pontchartrain into the Mid City district, where it is stopped by a number of different atmospheric cemeteries. This is the westernmost boundary that separates the French Quarter from the city’s Central Business District. There had been plans to connect the river with the lake by building a canal, but that never materialized. The wide median on this street is still referred to a “neutral ground,” which originally referred to the animosities between the French and Creole speakers on the French Quarter side and the English speakers on the upriver side.
Canal Street shopping in New Orleans is part of the history of the city. This was once the center for business, as well as the famous New Orleans streetcars (which still run along the street). For more than 100 years, well into the 1980s, it was the central shopping area of the city. There were many large department stores here well after the traditional Main Street department stores disappeared throughout the United States. During the latter part of the twentieth century, several sections of the street were gentrified, providing wonderful Canal Street shopping in New Orleans for locals and visitors alike. Start at Canal Place on the river, with dozens of chic boutiques and galleries, and many fine dining spots. Once you’ve finished your shopping, hop on the streetcar and ride to Mid City to enjoy the superb New Orleans Art Museum and Walda Bestoff Sculpture Garden.
Magazine Street shopping provides some of the best shops, boutiques, galleries, and dining spots outside of the French Quarter. The street stretches from the Audubon Zoo and Institute in the Uptown area all the way east through the Garden District and to Canal Street and the Central Business District. In addition to trendy shops, Magazine Street shopping offers some of the best antique stores in this part of the Gulf Coast.
New Orleans shopping is great even if you leave the better known parts of the city. You can shop for souvenirs where the locals do in Faubourg Marigny, find great bargains at the malls of Kenner, and fine art in the gift shops of museums.