January 20, 2014
Named after a gunpowder magazine (warehouse) that was built at the western end of the street in the late eighteenth century, the lower part of Magazine Street was initially used as a storage area for commercial and industrial goods.
Magazine Street stretches from the outskirts of the French Quarter (downtown) to the Mississippi River levee just past Audubon Park (uptown). Each block of the narrow, rambling thoroughfare wears a different mask “”commercial, seedy, ultra hip and cool, country-cosy, cutesy and provincial, quietly residential””and most have taken on defining shopping, dining and nightlife venues. Offerings throughout are diverse and include rare and fine antique furniture, art, and collectibles such as pharmaceutical objects, Newcomb pottery, Venetian glass, china, Victorian ephemera, rare textiles and rugs from far-away lands, simple unfinished and country furniture, and clothing stores stocking everything from haute couture to second hand frocks. The vast majority of these shops are privately owned by local proprietors, allowing for a diversity of unique goods that would never be found in a typical shopping area. If you’re seeking something eye catching and memorable for your home or your person there’s an excellent chance you’ll find it here.
With its small-town, main street charm, it’s hard to believe this district is only minutes from downtown. Before tackling Magazine Street remember that it’s six miles long, so all but the hardiest among us will want to forgo exploring on foot. While parking can be a nuisance on the narrow street, a clean, efficient public bus runs from early morning to late at night and taxis are easy to catch. Have the driver drop you at one of the farthest-away shops you want to browse then work your way back to a restaurant or coffee shop for a break; then begin again. Many choose to spend the day shopping on Magazine and enjoying lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants along the street. Magazine is also home to quaint coffee shops, cosy pubs and sweet shops, all perfect places to recharge and relax throughout the day.
Start your day at the downtown end of Magazine Street. One of the street’s most impressive attractions is the National World War II Museum in the Warehouse District neighbourhood. The ever-expanding museum presents a remarkable collection of artefacts and exhibits, as well as featured documentaries and symposiums about the Second World War.
Dense, eclectic retail opportunities begin just upriver from the Warehouse District at the intersection of Magazine and Felicity known as “Lower Magazine.” The six blocks or so from Felicity to Jackson Avenue have a heavy concentration of ethnic restaurants, bohemian and vintage clothing stores, and offbeat galleries. Aidan Gill epitomises Lower Magazine’s cool vibe: this stylish barbershop offers gents a haircut or shave, as well as a range of stylish accessories like flasks and cufflinks.
The next stretch, also about six blocks, from Jackson to Washington Avenue features private homes, businesses and retail establishments in picturesque buildings both simple and grand. You’re officially in the Garden District here, which draws visitors from all over for its colourful, historic mansions. After admiring the sights, stop by Coquette, regularly listed among the city’s best restaurants. The stylish bistro puts an upscale spin on New Orleans’ inimitable cuisine.
Modern home furnishing enthusiasts will find plenty to choose from in the eight-block span from Washington to Louisiana Avenue. Perch is one such option: specialising in both vintage and contemporary furnishings, it offers a number of one-of-a-kind pieces with a special Louisiana flair. This busy retail corridor is also loaded with casual, locally owned restaurants and bars and clothing stores geared to the young and hip.
The vibe is a bit more grown up in the 13 blocks to Napoleon Avenue with a heavier concentration of upscale restaurants, fine European antique stores, high-end art galleries, jewellery stores, and fashionable boutiques. Lilette makes for sophisticated, European-influenced dining, while Cole Pratt Gallery specialises in innovative contemporary art.
Things get hip again once you cross into the 13-block run that ends at Jefferson Avenue, with down-home shops and hangouts frequented by locals. This is also the perfect stretch for those with a sweet tooth. Visit La Boulangerie for a selection of flaky pastries, while Tee Eva’s is a local classic for its pralines and southern pies.
The remainder of the street (nine blocks) has a village feel to it with an equal mix of high-end and moderately priced clothing boutiques, cafes and bars (many with outdoor seating), pastry shops, small galleries.
Magazine Street ends at the historic Audubon Park, an oasis of green in New Orleans. After your window-shopping and dining expedition, take some time to wind down and meander along its trails. Bird Island, located in the middle of the Audubon Park Lagoon, is perfect for nature-lovers, while the Audubon Zoo is a family favourite.
For more information and maps, log on to magazinestreet.com.
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Have you explored Magazine Street? Where was your favourite spot along this six-mile stretch? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Written by Jyl Benson