Friday, Aug. 07, 2009

New Orleans

Route: French Quarter to Lower Ninth Ward to City Park
Distance: 9 miles (14.5 km)

New Orleans is home to a bevy of historic neighborhoods — all of them fascinating, all of them topographically flat. Touring by bike is an easy way to take in the details. Start by renting your two-wheeler at Bicycle Michael's, near the French Quarter. From there, head east to the adjacent bohemian neighborhood of Bywater. Even though you will have just started your ride, stop here for breakfast at Elizabeth's (don't miss the praline bacon) or, if it's lunchtime, try Bacchanal Wine, where the garden is open in the afternoon.

From Bywater, continue on Saint Claude Avenue across the Industrial Canal (be warned: the bike path stops just before the bridge) to the Lower Ninth Ward, where the devastation of Hurricane Katrina is still evident in the neighborhood's empty, silent streets. There are some bright spots, though: the renovation of Fats Domino's home is under way at the corner of Caffin Avenue and Marais Street, and the House of Dance and Feathers, a cool museum of local culture on Tupelo Street, is now open (call 504-957-2678 for appointments). From the Lower Ninth, Claiborne Avenue will take you back across the canal to Bywater; continue west on Esplanade Avenue to see some 150-year-old mansions en route to your endpoint: City Park, where you can visit the New Orleans Museum of Art and the sculpture and botanical gardens or ride the carousel.