Day Tours and Guides
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Day Tours and Guides
Given the variety of perspectives available in the city of New Orleans, a package tour can be a good option, especially for first-time visitors. Highlights will likely include the French Quarter and Riverwalk, with daytime visits to spots like Audubon Zoo, the Garden District, and possibly a plantation or swamp tour.
Several local tour companies give two- to four-hour city bus tours that include the French Quarter, the Garden District, Uptown New Orleans, and the lakefront. Prices range from $30 to $70 per person. Both Gray Line and New Orleans Tours offer a longer tour that combines a two-hour city tour by bus with a two-hour steamboat ride on the Mississippi River.
New Orleans Tours leads city, swamp, and plantation tours and combination city-paddle wheeler outings. Tours by Isabelle (the oldest tour company in New Orleans, operating since 1979) runs city, swamp, plantation, and combination swamp-and-plantation tours.
Gray Line and Tours by Isabelle both offer tours of Hurricane Katrina damage and recovery. For those visitors interested in seeing the scope of the impact of the 2005 storm and keeping the local economy in motion, these tours offer perspective on the area's geography, ecology, and recovery. For the more personal experience, choose Tours by Isabelle.
Full-day plantation tours by bus from New Orleans, which include guided tours through two antebellum plantation homes along the Mississippi River, are offered by Gray Line and New Orleans Tours.
Tours by Isabelle includes a stop for lunch (Note: The cost of lunch isn't included) in its full-day plantation package that traces the history of the Cajun people. Also available is the Grand Tour: a full-day minibus tour that includes a visit to one plantation, lunch in a Cajun restaurant, and a 1½-hour boat tour in the swamps with a Cajun trapper.
The New Orleans Steamboat Company offers narrated riverboat cruises and evening jazz cruises up and down the Mississippi on the steamboat Natchez, an authentic paddle wheeler. Ticket sales and departures for the Natchez are at the Toulouse Street Wharf behind Jackson Brewery.
New Orleans Paddle Wheel has a Mississippi River cruise aboard the Creole Queen, highlighting the port and French Quarter, departing twice daily from the Riverwalk. There is also an evening jazz dinner cruise from 8 to 10 (boarding at 7 pm, which is also when the band starts playing and the cash bar opens); tickets are available for the dinner and cruise, or just the cruise and live music. The company also offers a cruise to Chalmette Battlefield, the site of the Battle of New Orleans, that provides an opportunity to learn about the battle and tour the battle site. The ticket office is at the Poydras Street Wharf near the Riverwalk.
New Orleans Paddle Wheels (800/445–4109 or 504/529–4567. www.creolequeen.com.)
New Orleans Steamboat Company (800/365–2628 or 504/586–8777. www.steamboatnatchez.com.)
For highlights of African American history and culture, contact Le'Ob's Tours. It runs prearranged group tours (20-30 people, with a minimum of 10-12 people) of the city, swamps, and plantations, as well as large-group jazz history tours, complete with club recommendations for the week of your visit. One of our favorites is the Louis Armstrong tour. Based in Houston since Hurricane Katrina, Le'Ob's runs specialty tours primarily during conventions and festivals. Call for reservations.
Macon Riddle's Let's Go Antiquing offers personalized shopping itineraries of the city's antiques stores, galleries, or boutiques based on your interests and preferences (not all tours are about antiques). The number for appointments is her residence; don't be afraid to leave a message.
The New Orleans School of Cooking, in the heart of the French Quarter, offers classes on Cajun and Creole cuisine. Visit the website for details about class schedules and rates.
Limousine services make arrangements for personal interests and private guides; rentals vary. Southern Seaplane will fly you over the city and its surrounding areas.
African American Tours
Le'Ob's Tours (713/540–9399. www.leobstours.com.)
New Orleans School of Cooking (800/237–4841 or 504/525–2665. www.neworleansschoolofcooking.com.)
Let's Go Antiquing (504/899–3027. www.neworleansantiquing.com.)
Exploring an exotic Louisiana swamp and traveling into Cajun country is an adventure not to be missed. Dozens of swamp-tour companies are available. You can check at your hotel or the visitor center for a complete listing. Full-day tours often include visiting a plantation home.
Free one-hour walking tours along the Mississippi River levee, with a discussion of the interaction between the river and the city are given daily at 9:30 am by rangers of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. Tickets are available at the Jean Lafitte Parks French Quarter Visitor Center starting at 9 am on the morning of the tour. Check the National Park Service website for details. Tickets are free, but tours are limited to 25 people. Two-hour general history tours, beginning at the 1850 House on Jackson Square, are given Tuesday through Sunday at 10 and 1:30 by Friends of the Cabildo.
Several specialized walking tours conducted by knowledgeable guides on specific aspects of the French Quarter are also available. Be sure to make advance reservations to confirm the tour is being offered. Heritage Tours leads a general literary tour as well as others focusing on either William Faulkner or Tennessee Williams.
The cemeteries of New Orleans fascinate many people because of their unique aboveground tombs. Save Our Cemeteries conducts guided walking tours of St. Louis No. 1 as well as Lafayette No. 1. Reservations are generally required.
Voodoo- and spiritual-themed tours are popular in New Orleans and several companies, including Haunted History Tours, Historic New Orleans Walking Tours, and New Orleans Spirit Tours have spooky options to choose from.
Friends of the Cabildo (504/523–3939. www.friendsofthecabildo.org.)
Gray Line (800/233–2628 or 504/569–1401. www.graylineneworleans.com.)
Haunted History Tours (888/644–6787 or 504/861–2727. www.hauntedhistorytours.com.)
Historic New Orleans Walking Tours (504/947–2120. www.tourneworleans.com.)
Honey Island Swamp Tours (985/641–1769. www.honeyislandswamp.com.)
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve: French Quarter Visitors Center (419 Decatur St., French Quarter, New Orleans, LA. 504/589–2636. www.nps.gov/jela/french-quarter-site.htm. daily 9–5.)
Jean Lafitte Swamp and Airboat Tours (800/445–4109 or 504/587–1719. www.jeanlafitteswamptour.com.)
New Orleans Spirit Tours (504/314–0806. www.neworleanstours.net.)
Save Our Cemeteries (504/525–3377. www.saveourcemeteries.org.)
Tours by Isabelle (877/665–8687 or 504/398–0365. www.toursbyisabelle.com.)
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