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French Quarter Frequently Asked Questions

1. What does “Vieux Carre” mean?
2. Is the French Quarter really French?
3. How big is the French Quarter?
4. Can I drive in the French Quarter?
5. Can I park in the French Quarter?
6. Is it safe in the French Quarter?
7. Is it always like Mardi Gras in the French Quarter?
8. What are the drinking laws in the French Quarter?
9. Can I drink on the streets of the French Quarter?
10. Isn’t the French Quarter dirty?
11. What’s that smell?
12. Will I get blown away by a hurricane (the storm)?
13. Will I get blown away by a Hurricane (the drink)?
14. Is there only Jazz in New Orleans?
15. Is all of the food spicy?
16. When is the best time of the year to visit?
17. Where are the cemeteries and how can I tour them?
18. Where can I get some aspirin/bottled water/groceries?
19. Should I stay in the French Quarter or the Garden District?
20. What’s the weather like?

1. What does “Vieux Carre” mean?
On the way into New Orleans on Interstate 10, don’t bother looking for the “French Quarter” exit. Exit 235 directs travelers to the “Vieux Carre” (say: Voo Car-Ay), which literally translated means “Old Square” in French and for all practical purposes means French Quarter.
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2. Is the French Quarter really French?
The French Quarter is a melting pot of French, Spanish, Cajun and Creole influences that all add up to a very American neighborhood. Born as a French territory in 1718 and raised by the Spanish until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the French Quarter today reflects and embraces the diversity of the U.S.A.
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3. How big is the French Quarter?
The French Quarter is a 78 square-block area, 13 blocks long and 6 blocks deep. Bordered by Esplanade Avenue, Canal Street, North Rampart and the Mississippi River, the Quarter is an entire neighborhood in the city of New Orleans, not just a “strip” lasting a couple of blocks.
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4. Can I drive in the French Quarter?
French Quarter streets are all very narrow, single lane, one-way streets. Vehicles are allowed in, but be advised that street closings are common and so is gridlock. Bourbon Street is blocked to traffic every night, as is Royal Street every day to give pedestrian revelers and shoppers more room to wander. Some trucks, buses and motor homes may not be able to clear the tight corners, so check ahead for specific details if arriving in a larger vehicle.
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5. Can I park in the French Quarter?
Parking in the French Quarter is often hard to find and always expensive. If the hotel offers parking, take it. Public lots are just as expensive and not as secure. Street parking is a gamble, and many a vacation has been ruined by costly parking tickets and towing. Meter Maids are everywhere and take their jobs very seriously. ALWAYS look for signs before parking on a French Quarter street, and if possible just leave the car at home.
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6. Is it safe in the French Quarter?
The French Quarter is the crown jewel of New Orleans, and as such is heavily patrolled and protected 24 hours a day by the New Orleans Police Department. While crime is very low in the neighborhood, common sense is a necessity when traveling in any large and unfamiliar city. Be sure to carry a map of the area to avoid wandering off of the beaten path, and use extra care at night to stay where people are. If a block seems a little too quiet, turn back onto one of the main streets of Bourbon, Royal, Chartres or Decatur.
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7. Is it always like Mardi Gras in the French Quarter?
A little bit of Mardi Gras lasts all year long on Bourbon Street. Beads, boas and general revelry are condoned and even encouraged. Contrary to popular belief, public nudity is not legal anywhere in New Orleans, but that doesn’t stop some of the more intoxicated visitors. For a more genteel, civilized French Quarter experience, simply stay off of Bourbon Street. There are another 20 historic, charming and fun streets to explore, after all!
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8. What are the drinking laws in the French Quarter?
The city of New Orleans is not required to close its bars at any particular time. This means that a bar may stay open around-the-clock, 24 hours a day, and many in the French Quarter do just that. Not all bars serve all night, many close at 2 a.m., 4 a.m. or 6 a.m., or simply whenever the last customer finally staggers home. Most bars enforce an “18 to enter, 21 to drink” law at the door, although many choose to require all patrons to be 21 to enter. Each particular establishment reserves the right to close whenever they choose, and refuse service to those underage or already intoxicated.
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9. Can I drink on the streets of the French Quarter?
As native New Orleanians know, asking for a “go-cup” anywhere else in the country simply produces blank stares. In the French Quarter, getting a go-cup and transferring your drink from glass to plastic to take it outside on the way to the next bar is a ritual and a tradition. Alcohol may be consumed outside of a bar as long as it is in an unbreakable container, but beware - public drunkenness is an easy way to go to jail in New Orleans, so always use moderation!
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10. Isn’t the French Quarter dirty?
Thousands of visitors eating, drinking and being merry on the streets of the French Quarter all day, every day, creates a lot of garbage, and early morning on Bourbon Street after a typical wild night smells pretty bad. Luckily, the Mayor’s Clean Team picks up the trash every single day, and power washers and street cleaners scrub the streets down weekly. Help make the job easier by using the many garbage cans throughout the Quarter.
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11. What’s that smell?
The French Quarter appeals to all of the senses, including the sense of smell. The aroma of a hundred restaurants’ kitchens mingles with the scent of flowers on the breeze to create an intoxicating perfume. Night Blooming Jasmine wafts from secret courtyards, and Sweet Olive blossoms delicately infuse the air with romantic southern charm.
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12. Will I get blown away by a hurricane (the storm)?
Hurricane season on the Gulf Coast runs from June to October. A true hurricane brings torrential rains and winds upwards of 74 mph, but New Orleans itself has only been affected by tropical depressions and storms in recent years. During its long history, the Quarter has survived hurricanes that have leveled other parts of the city due to being built on a high ridge along the Mississippi River. With the protective shutters on the windows and solid construction of the older buildings, the French Quarter is actually the safest place in the city to be during a severe storm.
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13. Will I get blown away by a Hurricane (the drink)?
Pat O’Brien’s serves more alcohol than any other bar in the world. Most of it goes into the infamous “Hurricane” a deceptively tasty yet deadly concoction made up of rum, more rum, yet more rum and other secret ingredients. Served in a gigantic 26 fluid ounce glass, over-consumption of Hurricanes can lead to fun, embarrassment, and jail, in that order, so use moderation!
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14. Is there only Jazz in New Orleans?
No. The French Quarter and the adjacent Faubourg Marigny are home to over 100 live music clubs playing all varieties of blues, pop, rock, zydeco, folk and funk. Every night of the week both local and national acts entertain both locals and visitors.
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15. Is all of the food spicy?
New Orleans is known for Cajun food, and Cajun food is known for its generous use of cayenne pepper. However, many restaurants will modify the amount of heat in their dishes according to the diner’s palate. And with over 200 restaurants in these 78 square-blocks, there truly is something for everyone, from burgers to bagels and from seafood and steaks.
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16. When is the best time of the year to visit?
July and August offer the best deals on hotels and fewer visitors than the spring or fall, but the heat index soars. December and January also offer reasonable deals along with milder temperatures. The busiest times to visit (other than Mardi Gras, of course) are March and October when the weather is gorgeous and city wide conventions are most commonly booked. Hotel rooms can be hard to find and expensive.
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17. Where are the cemeteries and how can I tour them?
The above ground cemeteries of New Orleans are fascinating and eerily beautiful. Just steps from the French Quarter sits St. Louis Cemetery #1, where voodoo queen Marie Laveau rests alongside early founders of the city. Located on the edge of an unsavory neighborhood, it is not recommended to visit outside of a guided tour, many of which are available daily through any hotel front desk.
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18. Where can I get some aspirin/bottled water/groceries?
The French Quarter is an actual neighborhood that over 4,000 residents call home. As such, there are many little convenience stores and a couple of larger ones that supply life’s necessities. A & P, Walgreens and Circle K are the more familiar names, but prices are sometimes better at the smaller “mom and pop” stores, so be sure to give them a try first.
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19. Should I stay in the French Quarter or the Garden District?
The Garden District of New Orleans is celebrated for its stately homes and lush greenery. When staying in the French Quarter, the St. Charles Streetcar is easily accessible for the scenic trip up the Avenue, and many other attractions such as the French Market, Bourbon Street, Harrah’s Casino and the Aquarium of the Americas are within easy walking distance. The Garden District area is mostly residential, and while we at FrenchQuarter.com are no doubt biased, we believe that the Quarter just has more to offer and is a more convenient place to stay while visiting New Orleans.
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20. What’s the weather like?
Generally speaking, the winter months are mild with highs in the 60’s and lows usually in the 40’s. Spring and fall have near perfect weather, with sunny skies and temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s. The sticky summer months feature high humidity, daily rain showers and highs hovering in the 90’s. Summer nights however are often pleasant, with lows around 70 degrees and clear skies. Pack a variety of clothing no matter what time of the year to prepare for the often unpredictable weather. It is not unusual to hit 85 degrees in December, 50 degrees in May or 20 degrees in January.
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