Travel writer Shauna McCrudden shares the Big Easy’s rich culture, music, cuisine and motorcycle trails in and around New Orleans, Louisiana to get you ready for your two-wheeled adventure in this Bikers Guide to New Orleans
“There are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better” Bob Dylan
Riding into New Orleans is like entering a world where history, culture, and music combine into something that is unlike anything you’ve experienced before. From the rhythm of jazz clubs to the aroma of Creole and Cajun cuisines in the air, you will be enchanted by the Big Easy’s charm.
Everyone has a story to tell, and there is a promise of adventure everywhere you travel, so it’s perfect for motorcycle enthusiasts looking for a little extra excitement.
As American writer Ruta Sepetys said about the city, “New Orleans is unlike any city in America. Its cultural diversity is woven into the food, the music, the architecture – even the local superstitions.
“It’s a sensory experience on all levels and there’s a story lurking around every corner.”
For those that need motorcycle rentals in New Orleans, head on down to Explorify Motorcycle Rentals New Orleans, based in New Orleans Airport, which offers Harley-Davidson, Indian, BMW, Honda, and more.
So, gear up and prepare yourself for an unforgettable motorcycling experience in New Orleans. Whether you’re here for the music, the food, or the endless cultural experiences, you’ll find that the Big Easy has something for every biker.
Here are just some suggestions in and around New Orleans:
Explore the French Quarter
As a motorcyclist, there’s no better place to rev up your engine than in the French Quarter, the soul of New Orleans. While Bourbon Street might be the most famous for its nightlife and atmosphere, streets like Royal and Chartres also offer stunning architecture, lots of interesting shops, and historic sites. Ride slowly down the cobblestone streets, pull over and snap a photo of Napoleon House, offered to Napoleon Bonaparte as a refuge after his exile in 1821. He never made it, but the name stuck!
Stop off at Jackson Square, where you might see musicians, painters or even some magicians working their magic. Or the St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in North America! Or just park up and enjoy a quick plate of beignets (small, square-shaped donuts!) at Café du Monde.
Ride along the Mississippi River
Hugging the curve of the Mississippi River, the New Orleans roads offer motorcyclists a smooth journey with fantastic views. Whether it’s during the day, when the river bustles with steamboats and cargo ships, or during the late evening when the sun sets, it’s a ride to remember.
Stop by Woldenberg Park and Crescent Park, where you can stretch your legs and maybe catch a street performance or a jazz band with some of the best views of the river in the city as a backdrop.
Experience the music scene
New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz! Brass bands still electrify the Mardi Gras celebrations, while clubs in the French Quarter offer live improvisational sessions nightly. The annual Jazz and Heritage Festival unites generations of jazz talent each spring too. Ellis Marsalis, Kermit Ruffins, Irvin Mayfield, and Troy ‘Trombone Shorty’ Andrews are just some of the big names who sustained the jazz legacy here.
These all keep New Orleans’ standing as the global epicenter of jazz. A ride through the Faubourg Marigny and Bywater districts is a must as you get to experience the city’s vibrant music scene. Everything ranging from jazz and blues to rock and soul is there to enjoy. These neighborhoods have several clubs like Preservation Hall and Snug Harbor for you to lose yourself in the city’s musical heritage. There’s no experience like listening to a live jazz band after a satisfying ride.
Ride the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar Line
One of the most picturesque routes in the city, St. Charles Avenue, is a dream come true for anyone interested in architecture and history. You’ll see grand Southern mansions, and beautiful gardens, and you can even ride the iconic St. Charles Streetcar making its journey past classic New Orleans stops.
The road is long, so there’s plenty of time to explore the Uptown and Garden District neighborhoods too, as well as enjoy the local shops and cafés along Magazine Street. You also need to stop off at Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 so you can wander through the historical above-ground tombs. The films Interview with the Vampire and Double Jeopardy have both been filmed here, as well as The Vampire Diaries!
Explore City Park
Stretching over 1,300 acres, City Park is a great destination for motorcyclists, offering winding roads flanked by ancient oak trees. It’s also a calming experience, as the Park is a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
It’s home to the New Orleans Museum of Art, with a collection of almost 40,000 objects, and the world-renowned Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. Tickets for the Museum are €15 for adults and the Garden tickets are €25 for adults. You could even switch from horsepower to pedal power for a while; the park offers bike rentals that let you explore areas less accessible by motorcycle.
Visit the Garden District
The Garden District is filled with beauty and is a relaxing area for all visitors. Riding through this area, you’ll see meticulously preserved antebellum mansions, intricate ironwork, and stunning gardens. You get to step back in time and admire the charm of old New Orleans. The ‘Painted Ladies’ on Prytania Street are a must-see, as they are grand old homes known for their elaborate, colorful paint schemes. The well-paved roads make for a smooth ride too, perfect for soaking in the grandeur.
Enjoy delicious Cajun and Creole cuisine
What’s a trip to New Orleans without savoring its world-famous cuisine? Pull over for some gumbo, jambalaya, beignets, or a shrimp po’boy (a crispy cajun fried shrimp sandwich!) at any of the restaurants and cafés that line the city’s streets.
Don’t forget to try traditional New Orleans dishes like crawfish étouffée and red beans and rice for a real New Orleans meal. From high-end restaurants to food stalls offering quick bites, the city has it all. There’s no end to delicious food here, so stop off and indulge.
Ride the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway
For thrill-seekers, riding along the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, typically known only as The Causeway, is one of the most exhilarating rides you can take. The Causeway is made up of two parallel bridges crossing Lake Pontchartrain. Spanning over 24 miles, it’s the longest continuous bridge in the world over water.
The spectacular views of the lake and its surrounding marshlands are very impressive, and the ride is smooth and enjoyable. Just make sure to check for any tolls or travel restrictions before you set out!
Take a swamp tour
For a real New Orleans dose of nature, consider taking a swamp tour just outside the city. There are plenty of these guided boat tours and they can be a break away from the urban hustle and into the beauty of Louisiana’s unique ecosystem. Venture into the bayous and swamps to see the alligators, the herons, and maybe even a snake or two! Read more here.
Attend festivals and celebrations across the city
From Mardi Gras (13th February 2024) to the Jazz and Heritage Festival (April 26th-May 5th, 2024), there’s always something happening in New Orleans throughout the year. Mardi Gras has the parades, the floats, the marching bands, the music, the food – and of course, non-stop partying!
While the Jazz and Heritage Festival’s line-up for next year has yet to be released, based on 2023’s festival which saw Ed Sheeran, Lizzo, Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, Santana, Jon Batiste, Jill Scott, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss and hundreds more perform, it’s bound to be a great time!
Riding safely in New Orleans
Before hitting the road, you also need to consider safety. New Orleans can be very busy, especially during festivals and events as parades and marching bands are on the road. The city’s roads can also be uneven or under repair, making it a challenging ride for even experienced bikers. Make sure you’re prepared by wearing the proper gear and keeping your motorcycle in top shape.
New Orleans has many options of bike-friendly accommodations and services too, from historic bed-and-breakfasts in the French Quarter to modern hotels in the Central Business District. But it’s always a good idea to call ahead and ensure your requirements can be met first.
Don’t forget to check out local motorcycle shops and dealerships, in particular, Explorify Motorcycle Rentals New Orleans, in case you need a rental, repairs or advice.
New Orleans is more than just a destination; it’s an experience you have to have at least once in your life. A motorcycle trip through the city and its surrounding areas offers history, culture, and natural beauty. From the buzzing nightlife of the French Quarter to the scenery of City Park, from the architecture of the Garden District to the swamps of the bayous, the Big Easy has something for every type of rider. So, rev your engines, and explore New Orleans. Or as Bob Dylan put it when he waxed nostalgic about the city:
“Around any corner, there’s a promise of something daring and ideal and things are just getting going…The city is one very long poem… New Orleans – exquisite, old-fashioned. A great place to live vicariously.” Bob Dylan