French Quarter Tours du Jour
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While the French
Quarter is a fascinating place to simply sit and stare, it becomes
ever more so when you make the effort to learn a bit about its
history, quirks and secrets. A veritable panoply of guided tours
are available to address all manner of subjects specific to the
French Quarter and a knowledgeable, enthusiastic tour guide can
peel back the wrappings and allow you to see what’s really
inside. These quick crash courses take the form of everything
from polite, informative walking tours to pub-crawls, paddle wheeler
sojourns, horse-drawn carriage rides and bizarre nocturnal romps
in search of ghosts and vampires.
Some tour guides work independently and offer
their services almost as a “friend in New Orleans”
– for hire. Some of them are highly specialized and offer
a microscopic look at one area of interest. Others just touch
on a little bit of everything. At the other end of the spectrum
is Gray Line Tours, a comprehensive one-stop shopping Mecca on
the tourism front with numerous tour options available from one
brochure. The company offers investigative tours of the French
Quarter and Garden District as well as a sweeping look at the
entire city. Specialty tours include a cocktail tour, swamp and
bayou tours, plantation tours and ghosts and spirits tours.
Due to its status as the epicenter of the New
Orleans, many tour companies offer transportation from French
Quarter hotels and landmarks for exploration of other parts of
Highlighted below are a few of the many tours
available. Some are noted for their outstanding reputations, others
are noted for the unique nature of their offerings.
This is the very best way to familiarize yourself with
the French Quarter. Get a comfortable pair of shoes, some sunscreen
and a hat for the walk.
Friends of the Cabildo French Quarter
Walking Tours - two hours long and led by highly trained
volunteers with the Louisiana State Museum System who educate
on architecture and historical fact. The tour visits Madame
John’s Legacy as well as the 1850 House.
Free Tours by Foot - Presenting a new walking tour company with a new concept in New Orleans. Free Tours by Foot offers free, tip-based walking tours of the French Quarter as well as walking tours of other neighborhoods and cemeteries. We are a group of experienced local tour guides, who have come together to offer tours for tips. If our tours are not good, we don't get paid. It's the best money back guarantee in the business.
Free Tours by Foot
French Market Tour - Become a market insider on this behind-the-scenes adventure to experience the sights, sounds, and flavors of this historic 221 year old landmark, from literary and political tidbits to culinary history and current happenings at the French Market. Laugh (and learn!) as you hear entertaining stories of the Market's rich history and culture.
For more information, see French Market Walking Tours. The tour's listed at the top of the page.
Nola Tour Guy - Our walking tours are FUN: because we are experts at breathing life into the amazing history of New Orleans. & FREE: because this ensures the guide will give the best possible tour so you, the guest, will tip!
Nola Tour Guy, Fun Free Walking Tours! 504-300-9489
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park
& Preserve – These popular 90-minute walks are
free and led by rangers from Jean Lafitte Park. These tours
are hugely informative and focus on history and architecture.
Gray Line French Quarter Walking
Tour- These tours make up at the River and Toulouse
Street then range throughout the Quarter visiting all the key
points including Jackson Square, the Old Ursuline Convent, the
Pharmacy Museum, Washington Artillery Park, Royal and Bourbon
Kenneth Holditch’s Literary Tour
– Area historian and university professor Kenneth Holditch
is legendary for his knowledge of literary history, particularly
the minutiae of Tennessee Williams’ life in the French
Every day from about 8 a.m. to midnight mule-drawn carriages
line up on Decatur Street in front of Jackson Square. These tours
are a staple in New Orleans tourism. Some carriages hold four
people, others hold six. They roll through the French Quarter,
rain or shine, pointing out all of the expected sites. For something
more substantial than the standard nickel tour, carriage drivers
can be engaged for private tours of the city.
See the city from the body of water that made it all possible.
Steamboat Natchez Cruise - Riding the last steamboat on the Mississippi River recalls an era when steamboats were the main source of transportation, communication and commerce. It cruises downriver to Chalmette (7 ½ miles) and back twice daily, and once in the evening for a Dinner Jazz Cruise with the Grammy nominated Dukes of Dixieland. During the day there is live jazz and optional food and beverage in addition to the historic and port narration.
Voodoo, Vampire and Haunted Places Tours
These tours range from highly educational and informative,
such as those offered by the reputable Save our Cemeteries, to
absolutely ridiculous to the point of insult. Due to their popularity,
there are so many vampire, voodoo and whatnot tours currently
available that over-competitive guides have been known to engage
in battle over customers in Jackson Square.
Gray Line Ghost & Spirits Walking
Tour - Includes roundtrip transportation to cemetery and the tomb of Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans! Walk through St. Louis Cemetery #1, the site of the classic movie "Easy Rider," as your professional licensed guide recounts the background of the famous and infamous people who are buried there. Make a wish or cast a spell at the tomb of Marie Laveau - the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans - and discover how she was able to be in two places at once. Listen to the evolution of Voodoo - which is still practiced today - and learn how it became such a factor in the Crescent City. Learn about our unique above ground burial customs and the tombs of various "societies."
Historic New Orleans Walking Tours: Cemetery
& Voodoo Tour – Historian and preservationist
Rob Florence has a talent for sprinkling just enough intrigue
and mystery over the facts to keep them compelling. His tour
visits St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the grave of Marie Laveau,
and a voodoo temple.
Save Our Cemeteries – This outstanding
non-profit group works to preserve the city’s fragile,
crumbling burial places. The tours are led by S.O.S.-trained
volunteers who unveil the mysteries of Lafayette Cemetery No.
1 in the Garden District as well as St. Louis Cemetery No. 1,
which is adjacent to the French Quarter. The wise folks at SOS
are wise to the reality that these places are compelling enough
without the mythical embellishments some others place on the
Cities of the Dead.
New Orleans Ghost & Vampire/Cemetery
& History Tour – British import Tom Duran used
to conduct Jack the Ripper site tours in London and now dons
a creepy Victorian top hat and cloak for his nightly visits
to vampire sites and haunted houses. The less creepy Hannah,
a self-proclaimed “good witch” conducts the Cemetery
& History tour each morning
Learn serious facts about the history of jazz or bang
your head at a nightclub. The offerings are diverse.
Gray Line Crescent City Nights Walking
Enjoy an evening as a native New Orleanian and meet people from around the world on this intimate tour of dining and music in the French Quarter! The evening begins with a three course dinner at Tujague's Restaurant, a New Orleans tradition since 1856 and the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans. Your tour guide will then lead you on a stroll along world famous Bourbon Street on your way to a local nightclub to enjoy native jazz music. Enjoy a complimentary cocktail as you listen to the sounds of New Orleans music.
Cradle of Jazz Tour – Board
a bus and visit the birthplaces of JellyRoll Morton and Buddy
Bolden with jazz aficionado and historian John McCusker during
his three-hour Saturday morning tour into the heart and history
of the city’s definitive musical style. The tour also
visits the cemeteries, old jazz clubs and other significant
Off the Beaten Path Tour –
Gray Line’s three hour van tour explores the Faubourg
Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods outside of the French Quarter
and loads participants up with facts, figures and details on
Louis Armstrong. You even get to buzz past his bright yellow
house. Available for groups only until further notice.
Though there are days when the French Quarter may feel
like a swamp to really see one you will have to leave the neighborhood.
Several of the numerous swamp tour companies distinguish themselves
for their quality while others merely ride along on ridiculous
bits of pseudo Cajun folklore and pantomimed accents, which people
seem to eat up. The Louisiana bayous and swampland are stunning,
majestic and mysterious. In summer, when the heat can be brutal,
a morning tour is recommended. Insect repellent and sunscreen
are a must. Reservations are required. These tours offer transport
from French Quarter hotels.
Gray Line Swamp & Bayou Tour –
After a short motorcoach ride across the Mississippi River, take a fascinating boat trip into the Louisiana Swamps & Bayous. Experience the timeless beauty of South Louisiana in a custom built, all weather swamp boat. Native guides will reveal the mysteries of the swamps and bayous and the Cajun "joie de vivre". Hear how the Cajuns turned soup into gumbo, the washboard into a musical instrument, and the swamps of Louisiana into a paradise. Alligators! Observe the nesting grounds of alligators, egrets, raccoons, nutria, and many species of snakes. Some wildlife are more numerous during the warmer months of the year. Swamp Boat You will be treated to a Bayou Nature Wildlife Show by a local naturalist. Snakes, alligator snapping turtles, raccoons and nutria will be among the animal guests. These tours have been featured on The Discovery Channel, The Travel Channel, CBS, NBC & ABC. Bring your camera to capture the "bon temps" (good times) on the bayou!
Pearl River Eco-Tours –
While Swamp Tours may be numerous, this one, located 45-50 minutes
from downtown New Orleans, distinguishes itself in a number
of ways. The folkloric approach is avoided in favor of a learning
adventure that is richly informative and exciting in its own
right. The company’s young president and founder is a
lifelong resident of the area. The tour which heads deep into
the Honey Island Swamp and White Kitchen Nature Preserve, has
become a favorite for its intelligent focus and quality experience.
The site’s attention to detail - such as comfortable,
well-appointed flat boats; a large, covered dock seating area;
clean handicap accessible restrooms; complimentary insect repellant
and sunscreen; and available refreshments - are unique bonuses
not often encountered at this type of facility.
Most companies offer pick-up from French Quarter hotels
or central locations in the Quarter.. Check with your concierge
for exact pick-up times and locations..
Gray Line 's Oak Alley Plantation
Motorcoach guided tours leave from the Gray Line Lighthouse
in the French Quarter at Toulouse Street and the River, visiting
Oak Alley. RIding upriver to the Plantation, you can also take
in some swamp and River Road scenery .
Editor's note: Since Hurricane Katrina many
of the tour operators have changed their routes and schedules.
Be sure to check in with them when you come to town for the
Jyl Benson is a New Orleans-based writer
and publicist and frequent contributor to Time, New Orleans, St.
Charles Avenue and the Times Picayune. She also regularly contributes
to travel and guide books on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.