Canal Street in New Orleans is one of the city’s most treasured historic landmarks. This thoroughfare has been the heart of downtown since 1807, serving as a parade route and community destination for locals and visitors alike. Whether you’re a history buff or just want to learn a bit more about the Big Easy before your visit, here’s what you need to know about Canal Street then and now.
The Origins of a Neutral Ground
Land surveyor Joseph Antoine Vinache created the wide, grassy common area that eventually became Canal Street as part of his plan to connect the city’s major bodies of water. Although this namesake canal never came to be, the street served as a neutral divider between the often contentious neighborhoods of the French Quarter and the Central Business District. Residents on both sides took advantage of the amenities along Canal Street, including government services and businesses.
The Advent of Electricity
In the 1880s, Canal Street became one of the first streets in the world to receive electric lights, placing New Orleans among the ranks of New York City, London, and Paris. This dazzling illumination led to neon signs highlighting the street’s retail locations, theaters, and restaurants by the 1930s. Since these early days, the lights have shined down on Carnival groups and parade-goers during Mardi Gras as well.
A Shopping Destination
Throughout the 20th century, a day shopping on Canal Street was considered a big day out for many New Orleanians. Department stores lined the length of the street and families wore their Sunday best while strolling the blocks. Today, shoppers can visit a hat shop dating to 1894 or a menswear store that opened in 1924, along with newer options like the Riverwalk outlets and the Shops at Canal Place.
Today, visitors to New Orleans can stay right on Canal Street at the Sheraton, Marriott, or Ritz Carlton hotels. In addition to the area’s rejuvenated retail, new attractions like the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium provide endless entertainment for families exploring Canal Street. Parades during Mardi Gras are a must, but you can also catch the street’s Christmas Parade in December.
Whether you’re popping in for business or planning to stay for a week or two, Joieful can help you enjoy the best historic sites, tours, and attractions in New Orleans. Browse through our many options and find an insider experience to the best culture, dining, and attractions all from a dependable local expert. Contact us at 504-207-4555 or connect with an expert online to get started today.