One of the quietest, most scenic and historic streets in New Orleans, Esplanade Avenue is a hidden treasure running through the heart of the city. From its beginning at the foot of the Mississippi River levee to its terminus at the entrance of City Park, Esplanade is a slow pace thoroughfare with quiet ambiance and local charm.
In the 19th century, Esplanade was an important portage route of trade between Bayou St. John, which linked to Lake Pontchartrain, and the Mississippi River. Many 19th century mansions still line the street that once functioned as a "millionaire's row" for the Louisiana Creole section of the city, similar to that of St. Charles Avenue in Uptown New Orleans.
Forming the "downriver" boundary between the French Quarter and the Faubourg Marigny, Esplanade shows its history in its very first block. It is there that the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint stands. Built in 1839, it produced currency for both the United States and the Confederate States over its 70-year history as a mint and is now open for tours.
Today the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint produces music instead of money. With live concerts by both traditional jazz legends and contemporary artists, you can find music here every Tuesday through Sunday and many other events during the year.
Directly opposite the New Orleans Jazz Museum, branching off Esplanade, is the beginning of Frenchmen Street and the two-block-long music and entertainment district that is a lively spot for tourists and locals looking for incredible live music.
Moving away from the river and across North Rampart Street, Esplanade forms part of the boundary between the Treme neighborhood and the city's Seventh Ward, formerly a multigenerational Creole enclave.
Moving farther along, you'll come to the Esplanade Ridge/Faubourg St. John section of the city, characterized by elegant two- and three-story townhouses and a large number of whitewashed, black-trimmed Creole mansions surrounded by wrought iron fences and neatly manicured lawns and gardens.
It was in one of these two-story townhouses that the celebrated French Impressionist painter Edgar Degas stayed with his American family for several months in 1873. The Edgar Degas House, built in 1852, was owned and occupied by the Musson family, Degas' cousins on his mother's side. While in residence there, Degas painted some of his most famous works before returning to France. Today the house is a bed and breakfast and a mini-museum.
Degas is also commemorated with a world-class bistro named after him, Café Degas, eight blocks from the house. The café sits in the middle of small commercial district that features a coffee shop, health food store and several other small businesses.
On the final leg of its five-mile length, Esplanade passes by one of the city's most famous aboveground cemeteries, St. Louis No. 3. Then, finally, it crosses Bayou St. John before ending at Beauregard Circle where North Carrollton Avenue and Wisner Boulevard intersect to form part of the boundary of City Park. Continuing straight across from Beauregard Circle, you'll come to the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park.
Nearby Esplanade Avenue is Fair Grounds Race Course, third oldest thoroughbred track in the nation where the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is held every spring. Thanks to its multitude of shady oak trees, offering respite from the hot sun, Esplanade is a popular route for several key foot races, including the Crescent City Classic and the Rock 'n' Roll Mardi Gras Marathon.
Just on the edge of the French Quarter, Esplanade Avenue is within easy walking distance of any spot in the neighborhood. From Uptown, you can take the St. Charles streetcar or take the Magazine Street Bus 11 to Canal Street, and then walk a few blocks down to Esplanade.