College Visit Guide: New Orleans

It’s been said that New Orleans is a drinking town with a college problem, but there’s a lot more educational learning to be had in the city than its reputation implies.


Some parents may recoil in horror with these simple words: “Mom, Dad—I want to look at going to college in New Orleans.” Images of 24-hour drinking establishments and Hurricane Katrina flashbacks may haunt many parents’ dreams. But I’m here to let you know as a New Orleans alum: Everything’s going to be OK.

It’s been said that New Orleans is a drinking town with a college problem. With more than 10 higher-learning institutions within the city limits, it may surprise some to learn about the amount of educational opportunities in the Big Easy.

Students interested in business, culture, music and community service will find that New Orleans is a very fulfilling city. From a jazz concert at a local restaurant to artist lectures and more, there is something to do every day in the Crescent City. For students interested in giving back and making a difference, one of the silver linings of Hurricane Katrina is that the city’s non-profit and community service sectors had a huge boom. Grassroots organizations have set up shop in the area to help facilitate the hurricane healing process, and the organizations are often dependent on the help of local students.

Getting Around

Unless you plan to travel outside of the city of New Orleans, a rental car is unnecessary. NOLA can be a confusing place to navigate if you don’t know where you’re going; not to mention the streets are often pockmarked with potholes, making some streets a rental car death trap.

Fortunately, most places you’ll want to visit are located right on or close to the city’s emblematic streetcar lines. Despite a complete closure of the historic lines after Katrina, the city recently reopened the last of the damaged sections. A streetcar ticket costs $1.25/trip; or get a three- or five-day VisiTour Pass, available for $5 and $12, respectively.

If a streetcar can’t get you there, taxis in New Orleans are plentiful and affordable. Most can be hailed on the street, or call United Cab, the city’s largest taxi service, at 504-522-9771.

Where to Stay

There’s no shortage on places to stay while visiting the Big Easy. However, families coming strictly to inspect colleges may want to remove themselves from the French Quarter hullabaloo and become more focused on what a non-tourist life may be.

The Hampton Inn is always a popular choice for parents visiting their New Orleans college student, thanks to its prime location on the streetcar line right in between Uptown and Downtown. Also, the city’s hotel district is filled with family-friendly options, like the Avenue Plaza Resort and the Prytania Park Hotel if your family would like the option of being closer to the Crescent City action.

For prospective Tulane University students, the school has secured special rates for families planning on checking out the Green Wave campus. A list of participating hotels can be found here. Read more in our New Orleans Hotels and B&Bs article.

What to See and Do

Sites on or near each of the campuses covered here are highlighted on the following pages. For more suggestions, read our New Orleans: City of Dreams overview article.


Next: Day One—Uptown Schools

Day One: Uptown Schools

Uptown is the heart of New Orleans’ higher education. This area is home to the most popular campuses for out-of-staters. Loyola University New Orleans (Go Wolfpack!), Tulane University and Xavier University of Louisiana are all located in the neighborhood, one of the greenest and most family-friendly in New Orleans. The three campuses, while all private institutions, have different atmospheres, and a visit to each will help your potential student find where he/she is most at home.

Tulane University

Located on New Orleans’ historic St. Charles Avenue with its own streetcar stop, Tulane University is the largest and most well known university in New Orleans. Students looking for the quintessential college experience will be most at home on the Green Wave campus. The campus of nearly 7,000 undergraduate students is into Greek life and supporting their NCAA teams. Because of the school’s notable name, the campus enjoys many renowned guest lectures, concerts and exhibitions that travel to the campus. Check the school’s event schedule before your visit to see if you can attend one.

Since Katrina, Tulane has revamped its student center, now known as the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life. The new center, which recently won an award for architectural ingenuity, features more dining options, a new bookstore, a large lecture and performing arts hall, retail space and much more for students.  

Loyola University New Orleans

Often overlooked in the shadow of its larger and more predominant next-door neighbor, Loyola University, a Jesuit university of fewer than 3,000 undergraduate students, seems a world away from Tulane. The Loyola campus is a fraction of Tulane’s size at almost 25 acres but still offers students many green spaces for students to lounge. Not to mention, the smaller campus size also means less hustle time from the comfort of the dorm bed to the much-dreaded 8 a.m. chemistry class.

Wolfpack students, in general, are less involved in Greek Life and, owing to the fact that the school has no football team, extra-curricular activities are less revolved around supporting the home team; instead, academic and non-academic groups thrive. Also, thanks to the school’s Jesuit background, giving back to the community is very important, and it provides many opportunities for students to help fellow New Orleanians, whether through community service groups or on-campus events.

When on campus, try to catch a play or music performance featuring students from Loyola’s College of Music and Fine Arts, or see an exhibit at the school’s Diboll Art Gallery.

Xavier University of Louisiana

The only historically black Catholic college in the United States, Xavier University is located a short distance from the end of the Carrollton streetcar line. The school was originally established in 1915 to develop African-American Christian leadership but has since developed into one of the top universities for African-Americans studying the sciences.

The campus, often dubbed the “Emerald City” for its numerous green rooftops, is the smallest of the New Orleans higher-education campuses but still provides plenty of space for its students. Also, unlike Loyola or Tulane, the campus is more like a city campus, with public buildings and academic halls mixed together. Stop by Xavier’s Art Village in a little neighborhood known as Gert Town. The Village is made up of five industrial buildings, most of which have been converted into state-of-the-art studios and educational facilities.

Sites to See and Where to Eat

Uptown New Orleans is one of the most family-friendly neighborhoods in a city that is often aged 21 and up. It stretches from historic St. Charles Avenue all the way towards the Mississippi River, and includes the Audubon Zoo. Loyola and Tulane are located across the street from Audubon Park, one of the most beautiful city parks in the country. Relax there in between campus visits.

For dad, there’s a golf course. For the little siblings, several playgrounds dot the park. For the college potential, they can find their peers, lazing their free periods away at the part of the park located on the Mississippi, also known as “The Fly.” For the whole family, a picnic at one of the gazebos will be a perfect way to end a day of soul-searching and college-chasing.

Everyone in the family will love a trip to Magazine Street, Uptown’s commercial center, which is lined with independent boutiques and delicious restaurants. Grab a few pounds of crawfish at The Big Fisherman or sandwiches at Guy’s Po’boys, to supply your Audubon park picnic. Read Cuisine Culture: New Orleans’ Best Restaurants for more suggestions.

Next: Day Two—Education at the Water’s Edge

Day Two—Education at the Water’s Edge

A trip beyond typical New Orleans tourist spots will lead you into Lakefront territory, an area close to Lake Pontchartrain that encompasses neighborhoods like Lakeview, Gentilly and more. While the schools in this area may be a bit farther from New Orleans’ main drag, the area offers its own appealing collegiate benefits.

University of New Orleans

For those looking for a larger campus feel within the Big Easy city limits, the University of New Orleans (UNO) may be the ticket. As one of the city’s few public higher-education institutions, the majority of students are declared as in-state students. However, there are students at the University who represent the rest of the 49 states and nearly 100 other countries.

One major highlight of UNO is that its main campus has a prime lakefront location on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain and in one of the city’s nicest residential areas. The Lakefront Campus, as it has become known, is one of five UNO campuses throughout the city. UNO’s Lakefront Arena, which seats 10,000, hosts everything from school sporting events to Madonna concerts to Disney on Ice performances. Plan your trip so you can one of the big shows that comes to the arena.

Dillard University

Dillard University is another one of the city’s historically black private colleges. The school has been located at its Gentilly campus since the 1930s. Its 55-acre grounds are some of the most beautiful of all the area’s colleges. Oak trees line pedestrian walkways and willows lumber throughout the campus. “Avenue of the Oaks” acts as the focal point for the campus and the students.

The school is home to the Institute of Jazz Culture. Founded by musical legend Irvin Mayfield, the IOJC combines community, music and education to help preserve, promote and celebrate the jazz culture. While on campus, stop by the Dillard University Art Gallery, which features traveling exhibitions often focused on African-American art and artists, as well as student shows.

Sites to See and Where to Eat

While Uptown has Audubon Park, Lakeview has City Park, the sixth-largest city park in the country. Young kids will love Storyland and the Carousel Garden Amusement Park, which features a more than century old carousel.

Parents of college-potentials will enjoy the Botanical Gardens and the New Orleans Museum of Art, all located on City Park grounds.

Get a taste of the fruits of the sea at Russell’s Marina Grill, known for its onion mumm—a sliced, diced and fried onion served with a spicy ‘rosette’ sauce. Located right at the water’s edge, Russell’s serves up crawfish beignets and savory Southern fried chicken.

For picky eaters that may be tagging along, Reginelli’s Pizzeria, located near City Park, is a local chain. With delicious pizza toppings like shrimp and andouille sausage, Reginelli’s is the ultimate New Orleans pizzeria.

Destinations: New Orleans

Themes: College Visits, Family Travel

Activities: Sightseeing

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