Ages-old oak trees line residential streets. Locals (and adventurous visitors like yourself) sip local brews and watch the sun glimmer along the bayou. Tucked-away places to eat, drink, and play abound in this picturesque New Orleans neighborhood.
For the traveler who wants to pedal a bike away from the bustling French Quarter and head for a leisurely ride along Esplanade Avenue, this guide is for you. Rent a bike (or a kayak) and spend a day of your trip checking off this must-experience list of things to do in Bayou St. John.
Pro-tip: Both newbies and vets of Jazz Fest can use bits and pieces of this guide during their festival weekend to see more of the neighborhood that calls itself home to the legendary music event.
All around New Orleans, you’ll notice blue bicycles, which are part of a city-wide bike-share initiative. For a small cost, you can hop on a bike at the stand nearest you (find out where here) and head on your journey. We’d recommend pedaling to the picturesque Esplanade Avenue, where you’ll pass by breathtaking Creole mansions, the historic Edgar Degas House, and eventually, end up at New Orleans City Park. Be sure to visit Le Musée de f.p.c. on Esplanade as well - a stunning house museum that is the only museum of New Orleans’ Free People of Color. The museum preserves these stories of New Orleans - 300 years of black history and culture.
New Orleans Museum of Art is a sight in itself - the beautiful building sits besides Big Lake in City Park and beckons any traveler looking for an art fix. But another gem is the FREE Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden that sits beside NOMA. Over 60 sculptures by renowned global artists live here and serve as constant inspiration to Bayou St. John residents, and the travelers who seek out the garden as well. A major expansion was completed in 2019 and is worth checking out.
Bayou St. John isn’t named arbitrarily - the neighborhood’s namesake waterway is perhaps the highlight of this Mid-City micro-neighborhood. The bayou makes for a tranquil place to picnic, watch the sunset, or toss a frisbee. Most notably, you can easily rent kayaks or paddle boards (try here or here) and get on the water yourself, taking in views you’ll only find in this neighborhood.
If you’re a yogi (or at least an aspiring yogi), be sure to check out yoga on the bayou classes, where you can practice yoga right on a paddle board.
A trip to New Orleans isn’t complete without a po-boy, and fortunately one of the best ones in town is nestled in a historic spot just steps away from the bayou. Walk over to Parkway Bakery & Tavern and order your choice of sandwich. We encourage any and all combinations of ingredients, so long as you remember to order your po-boy “dressed.” You’ll thank us later.
Just a block away from the water, you’ll find two connected bars with outdoor patios: Bayou Beer Garden and Bayou Wine Garden. Walk back and forth between them or choose your favorite: at either, you’ll find a local crowd enjoying seasonal sips. At Bayou Beer Garden, choose from hundreds of brews - local, Louisiana-made, and beyond. Plus, on Fridays during crawfish season, join in the bar’s weekly crawfish boil. At the wine garden, grab a bottle of vino and sit in the outdoor garden. Treat yourself to a cheese plate - you deserve it.
As you can tell by now, Bayou St. John is a treasure trove of hidden gems. Grab dinner at one of the adorable local spots you’ll stumble upon in the neighborhood: Lola’s for sangria and paella, 1000 Figs for Mediterranean fare, and Café Degas for French food under twinkling lights. All are great for solo dinners, date nights, or group dinners - they’re cozy and low-key with cuisine & cocktails that don’t disappoint.
One of the most special parts about traveling in New Orleans is the welcoming atmosphere. It’s a perfect combination of Southern hospitality and a “come as you are” policy at each doorstep that gets visitors booking their next trip before they’ve even returned home. And Pal’s is a place you go to experience just that. It’s a dive that residents head to whenever they’re in the mood to kick back with their neighbors or cheer on the Saints. But visitors come too, and by the time they’ve left, they’ve tried at least one new kind of beer with the new friends accumulated at the bar.
While we love spending a relaxing day (or weekend, or more) in Bayou St. John, there are some events in the neighborhood that change the atmosphere of the neighborhood from serene to festive. These include New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Bayou Boogaloo, among others. Check ‘em out for experiences you can only have in New Orleans.