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Famous Street in New Orleans: Canal Street

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New Orleans Canal Street

Canal Street in New Orleans is one of the most iconic thoroughfares in the Crescent City. From its fascinating history to its modern-day significance, it’s hard not to be entranced by this vibrant area.

Located near Jackson Square and the French Quarter, Canal Street’s trajectory over the centuries has undergone a renewed resurgence filled with music, stunning architecture, delicious food, and more. With a fascinating history that shaped New Orleans’ culture since its inception centuries ago, it’s no wonder why new visitors and locals alike walk down Canal Street daily – come join us as we explore what makes this American treasure so unique! 

History of Canal Street

New Orleans canal street in the early 19th century
Source: Library of Congress

Canal Street was incorporated in the early 19th century. The road’s impressive 171 ft. width was originally meant to accommodate a canal that would connect the docks along the Mississippi to Bayou St. John and Lake Pontchartrain. This canal was never completed however, so the center of Canal Street instead became a “neutral ground” for trading and socializing between French Quarter Creoles, and the rapidly growing American population upriver. As a result, center medians all over New Orleans are known as “neutral grounds” today. 

During the 19th century, Canal Street rapidly developed as a hub for commerce, industry, shopping, and even housing for some of the city’s elites. Canal Street was one of the first streets in the world to electrify and became the premier destination in New Orleans for theater fans.

While Canal Street temporarily lost much of its vibrance to late 20th century urban decay and Hurricane Katrina, this famous corridor has been steadily revitalizing since the 1980s and today offers numerous activities for locals and visitors alike.

Canal Street Landmarks

Streetcars pass a hotel on Canal Street in New Orleans
Source: neworleans.com, photo by Rebecca Todd

Canal Street’s historic buildings are its most important landmarks. While few of these buildings still contain the businesses they were originally built for, many of their historic facades and interiors have been carefully maintained or refurbished. For example, the 1908 structure that once housed the famous Maison Blanche department store at 901 Canal St. is now a glamorous Ritz-Carlton hotel. Architecture fans will note prominent displays of the Italianate, Beaux Arts, Greek Revival, and Art Deco styles, among others. 

Activities on Canal Street 

Canal Place, the premier shopping center of Canal Street in New Orleans
Source: Photo News 247

Shopping

Canal Place, a mall located near the street’s terminus at the Mississippi River, is the premier shopping destination on today’s Canal Street, featuring luxurious retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Brooks Brothers. Shoppers in search of a more vintage experience can pay a visit to Rubenstein’s Men’s Clothing & Shoes (est. 1924) or Meyer the Hatter (est. 1894).

Parades

Canal Street is on the home stretch for most of the biggest annual Mardi Gras parades, including Rex, Endymion, and Bacchus. It also draws some of the biggest crowds. Waving for beads and cheering on the Krewes under the glow of Canal Street’s regal buildings is a quintessential Mardi Gras experience.

Streetcars

Canal Street is the most connected hub in town for New Orleans’ historic streetcar system. Riders can embark from Canal Street on a route that takes them across the French Quarter to the Marigny, down St. Charles Avenue to the Garden District or Tulane University, or to City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art.  

Theaters

Canal Street’s stages are among the grandest in the South. Most opulent of all is the Saenger Theatre, which originally opened in 1927. After Hurricane Katrina, the Saenger was successfully restored and reopened in 2013. Today, the Saenger is New Orleans’ home base for Broadway shows, operas, musicians, and more. Other popular theaters along Canal Street include the Joy, the Orpheum, and the recently opened Fillmore, all of which primarily feature live music.  

Walking Tours New Orleans

New Orleans Legendary Walking Tours

Unlock the secrets of Canal Street’s past on a captivating French Quarter Tour through one of New Orleans’ most historic areas. Visit iconic sites, sample delicious beignets, and uncover interesting stories about who shaped this vibrant part of the Crescent City.

New Orleans walking tours allow you to take in all of the cultural contributions of Downtown New Orleans while enjoying many of its lively street-level energy. So don’t miss out on this incredible activity and book your tour now for a truly unforgettable experience! 

New Orleans Legendary Walking Tours
French Quarter Tour  |  Garden District Tour  New Orleans Ghost Tour  |  New Orleans Cocktail Tour

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