New Orleans first-timers are often surprised to find an entire city outside of the 14 blocks of the French Quarter. More than just the Vieux Carré, the Crescent City is made up of dozens of neighborhoods, each with its own distinct personality and charm. The same goes for the local retail scene. From Hattie Sparks in the South Market District and the Marigny's Louisiana Music Factory to Ellen Macomber Fine Art & Textiles in the Garden Districtand Riverbend’s consignment shops, you’ll score great shopping citywide. Here we focus on four main areas where shopaholics are guaranteed to find their fix.
The French Quarter
Once they get their fill of Bourbon, visitors discover a wealth of shopping options along Royal, Chartres and Decatur streets.
Known worldwide for its fine antiques and numerous art galleries, Royal Street reigns as one of the South’s premier retail rows. Closed to cars during the day to encourage foot traffic, the seven blocks between Bienville and Orleans sparkle with great jewelry and antiques boutiques (Wellington & Co., Antiques de Provence, M.S. Rau), clothing stores (Fleur de Paris, Trashy Diva, Goorin Bros. Hats) and gift shops (The Historic New Orleans Collection, Dirty Coast, Roux Royale). Bag a few edible souvenirs at Rouses then sidestep down nearby Pirate’s Alley to page through Faulkner House Books. Upper Royal is likewise packed with hip galleries and cool shops, such as Krewe du Optic, Papier Plume, Nadine Blake and Fifi Mahony’s, where the gravity-defying Day-Glo wigs are sure to shock the folks back home.
Boutiques catering to everyone from foodies (Crescent City Cooks) to foot fetishists (Shoe Be Do, John Fluevog) abound one block over on Chartres Street. Louisiana icons figure into the jewelry designs of Jose Balli, while Jamie Hayes makes voodoo child’s play. The scent of vetiver, a Creole ladies’ dressing-table staple, will draw you in at Hové, as will the windows at Lucullus, the first culinary antiques store in the U.S. Chartres collides with Jackson Square, where the Pontalba Buildings (the nation’s first apartment complex) are lined with shops on the ground floor and private residences above. Super-cool Queork, with its all-natural cork products, is found on the other side of Chartres, along with Violet's, Fleur d'Orleans, The Giving Tree and more.
Peppered amid the hot sauce and T-shirt shops dotting Decatur Street are trendy national retailers like H&M and Urban Outfitters. (OK, so they’re technically on N. Peters Street, which turns into Decatur at St. Louis … which turns into N. Peters again after Dumaine; for simplicity sake, let’s call it Decatur.) Jax Brewery, a former brew haus that now houses two floors of shops, is at one end of the street, while the French Market sits at the other. Along with fresh produce stands (and it’s own fair share of hot sauce vendors), the market incorporates the group of stores that occupy the Decatur colonnade, which connects to Café Du Monde. On the opposite side of the street you’ll find century-old Central Grocery, where jars of olive salad are ready and waiting to be carted home, and Santa’s Quarters, where Christmas comes year-round.
From the turn of the 20th century to the late 1960s, Canal Street was the epicenter of Crescent City shopping, with dozens of swanky department stores drawing hordes decked in their Sunday best. While you won’t spot many (if any) white gloves along the thoroughfare these days, you will see remnants of Canal’s retail heyday (such as Rubenstein’s, which recently turned 90, and Meyer the Hatter, the South’s oldest haberdasher) and evidence of its current-day comeback. Today two massive malls anchor the foot the street: The Shops at Canal Place and the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk.
Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue, Michael Kors and Coach top a long list of the tony Shops at Canal Place. National notables, such as lululemon, J. Crew and Brooks Brothers, are coupled with leading local retailers, including jeweler Mignon Faget and luxe leather purveyor Wehmeier’s, in the soaring glass-and-steel structure. Along with a health club, the Shops’ third floor offers a nine-screen, state-of-the-art movie theater with its own café and bar.
Stretching along the Mississippi from Canal toward the Convention Center, the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk is the nation’s first urban outlet mall. Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio, Coach and Nordstrom Rack are just a taste of the 70-plus retailers lining the multi-level space, which is also home to a variety of eateries. International visitors will be rewarded for swinging by the Louisiana Tax-Free Shopping refund desk.
Just minutes from Canal Street, Veterans Boulevard in neighboring Metairie offers a number of nationally recognized retailers between Clearview Parkway and Causeway Boulevard. It may require a car to access this one, but you’ll need the trunk space for all you’ll find here. In addition to a 12-screen movie theater, Clearview Mall supplies the basics with Target, Sears and Bed, Bath & Beyond, while Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are found further down the busy stretch. The big draw is Lakeside Shopping Center, which counts more than 120 stores, ranging from Apple to Williams-Sonoma. Coach, Michael Kors, J. Crew, Banana Republic, Sephora, Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware share space with Dillard’s J.C. Penny’s and Macy’s (in which international shoppers will find another Louisiana Tax-Free refund center), along with a massive food court. Grab a couple of macaroons from Sucré—or something slushy from New Orleans Original Daiquiris—to keep you going.
With six miles of prime retailing, it can take days to explore all Magazine Street has to offer. Known as the “street of dreams,” Magazine lives up to its moniker with block upon block of chic boutiques, galleries and restaurants housed in revamped Victorian homes. The shopping starts in earnest around St. Andrew Street and continues all the way to Nashville. Don’t attempt to walk it all; hail a cab or catch the #11 Magazine bus at the corner of Magazine and Canal streets and ask for a $3 Jazzy Pass, which allows you to get on/off throughout the day. It’s near impossible to list every must-stop shop along Magazine, but half the fun of the hunt is making your own discoveries. A sample of the first two blocks:
Aidan Gill for Men, named the best barbershop in America by Playboy
Derby Pottery, where elements from the city’s past are recast as contemporary art
Gogo Jewelry, for designer Gogo Borgerding’s way-cool sterling-and-anodized aluminum cuffs
Goorin Bros. Hats, home to head-turning headwear
Luca Falcone, suited to dapper dudes in search of custom-made duds
Trashy Diva, where Candice Gwinn infuses modern style with retro flair