Getting around the city
The most interesting way to get around New Orleans is on foot. The architecture, color, aromas, and streetscapes that make the city unique are best experienced at a walking pace. The Sheraton's location puts you only steps away from the French Quarter, the city's most famous district; many New Orleans visitors are quite content to spend all their time here.
Other attractions of interest to GWS2011 attendees are also within easy walking distance, including the French Quarter Visitor Center of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve and New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park.
That said, there is much to see elsewhere in New Orleans, outside the tourist zone. To get there, you have two public transport options, both run by the New Orleans Regional Transport authority: buses and streetcars.
The integrated system has extensive coverage (download system map, 3.5mb; refer to the downtown inset on the map and zoom in for legibility). Both buses and streetcars run from early morning until late at night (view schedule).
Lines 5, 16, 47, 48, and several others run close to or right by the Sheraton.
New Orleans' streetcar system, immortalized in Tennessee Williams' 1947 play (and subequent 1951 movie) "A Streetcar Named Desire," is still very much in operation, and not just as a means of carrying tourists around. Streetcars in New Orleans have been an integral part of the city's public transportation network since the first half of the 19th century. The longest of New Orleans' streetcar lines, the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar, is the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world, according to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Enjoying the city
There are hundreds of websites that provide travel and dining info for New Orleans. To get you started, here are three provided by the city's Convention & Visitors' Bureau:
Another good site is www.neworleansonline.com.
As an international travel destination, New Orleans is very much geared toward tourism. With this orientation comes all the challenges you as a visitor will find in any such destination. The staff of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve offers this advice: "As in any big city, conference attendees should be aware of their surroundings, travel with others, and keep to well-traveled streets. In New Orleans, panhandlers and street performers are frequently asking for attention and money. Your best bet is to say "no thank you" and not get caught up in it. Most simply move along. However, if someone is being aggressive, then do not hesitate to tell them to back off and then turn around and walk in the opposite direction."
In addition, you should be aware of what you carry with you as you walk through the French Quarter and elsewhere. Is your camera, expensive watch, or jewelry clearly visible? Is your backpack or purse being held securely? Especially be aware if you are out and about on Thursday, March 17, St. Patrick's Day, when there will be even more partying in the French Quarter than usual.
You should also use the same care with your valuables while in the conference hotel itself. As a busy public venue, it is possible for non-registrants to circulate through the common areas of the hotel. Keep your laptop, smart phone, and other valuables with you at all times.