If you want to learn about the “real” Crescent City, consider signing up for a tour. In the hands of a knowledgeable, entertaining guide, you can have a blast. As the following list shows, there are tours for just about every taste, from those who
want to see the impact of Hurricane Katrina firsthand to outings
for foodies, music lovers, ghost seekers and more. To save you
time, we put in the research hours and came up with adventures by
more than 20 top tour companies. To make things even more
interesting, comments from actual clients, gleaned from Yelp, are
included. These firms offer all sorts of tours, so if any strike
your fancy, check their Websites for more info.
CITY & POST-KATRINA
Gray Line Tours
The scoop: The 3-hour Hurricane Katrina Tour is
done respectfully, and part of the $48 ticket price is donated to
relief efforts. The van drives by levees that breached, through
affected neighborhoods such as Lakeview, Gentilly, New Orleans
East, the 9th Ward and more. Also, there’s a Super City Tour
for $43 adults. Contact: (504) 569-1401; (800) 233-2628; graylineneworleans.com.
The score: “It’s one of those
experiences where you’re really watching a part of history,
and it has a long-lasting effect.” - Mo, Upper Marlboro, Md.,
on the Katrina tour
The scoop: The City Tour includes some of the
areas hardest hit by Katrina, as well as the French Quarter, Cities
of the Dead, the Garden District and more. The 3-hour tour is $49
adults. Contact: (504) 587-7115; (888) 587-7115; celebrationtoursllc.com.
The score: “Our guide was professional and
witty. The tour was filled with fascinating tidbits of local
trivia.” - Ed, La Palma, Calif.
Tours by Isabelle
The scoop: The Post-Katrina City Tour is a
thorough van tour through the French Quarter, past affected areas
and the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet. The 3.5-hour tour is $65
adults. For a more traditional trip, there’s the City and
Estate Tour, a 4-hour drive ($70) past famous landmarks, including
stops for a guided tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 and the
beautiful Longue Vue Mansion & Gardens. Contact: (504)
398-0365; (877) 665-8687; toursbyisabelle.com.
The score: “Our tour of Katrina
damage/repairs was excellent. [The guide was] knowledgeable and
willing to show us any area affected by the storm.” - Steve,
The scoop: For a leisurely view of the city, this
is the way to go. Mule-drawn carriages line Decatur St. outside
Jackson Square, 8 a.m.-midnight. You can take your chances and hope
you pick a good guide — or check out these: Royal Carriages
(504-943-8820; neworleanscarriages.com) is a 71-year-old, family-run
enterprise. Horse & Buggy Sightseeing Tours (504-943-8820)
offers historical factoids as it saunters around the French
Quarter. Carriage Rides by Robin Coffey (504-715-9066) is a very
The score: Vanessa of Houston says Horse &
Buggy’s guide Sam is “funny, smart and very
sweet.” Meanwhile, reviewers rave about Coffey. Typical is
Corie of Houston: “Robin Coffey is the most entertaining,
informative, wonderfully delightful driver we’ve experienced
in New Orleans, and this is our third trip. You will love every
CUISINE & COCKTAILS
New Orleans Culinary History Tours
The scoop: The French Quarter Tasting Tour mixes
history and food, walking to classic eateries such as
Antoine’s and Tujague’s. The New Orleans Classic Drinks
Tour does the same. Advance tickets required: tasting tour, $46;
drinks tour, $58. Contact: (504) 875-6570; (800) 979-3370; noculinarytours.com.
The score: “We sampled eight native dishes.
Three hours [for a tour] may sound like a lot, but time passed
quickly.” - Nicole, San Jose
The scoop: This 3-hour walking tour stops at five
French Quarter eateries to sample po’ boys, jambalaya,
beignets and more. Buy tickets ($44) in advance. Contact: (219)
The score: “Our culinary adventure was the
highlight of the trip. All the restaurants we visited have been
featured on Food Network shows.” - Julie, Philadelphia
Gray Line’s Original Cocktail Walking Tour
The scoop: This 2.5-hour tour winds through French
Quarter bars and restaurants, where you can buy Hurricanes, Hand
Grenades, Sazerac and more. Reservations recommended; $29. Contact:
(504) 569-1401; (800) 233-2628; graylineneworleans.com.
The score: “A great introduction to the bar
scene. An interesting historical tour is served up with a potent
cocktail or two (or three).” - Jamie, Rancho Santa Margarita,Calif.
The Original Cocktail Tour
The scoop: This 2-hour trek stops at the French
Market, Jackson Square, Port of New Orleans and more. Starting
Fridays at 6 p.m., or by appointment, it doesn’t visit bars,
but cocktails are included in the $45 ticket. Reservations
required. Contact (504) 578-8280; thecocktailtour.com.
The score: “Being a local, I am averse to
tourist-y tours, but this was different. It incorporates cocktails
and corresponding landmarks into a vibrant narrative about how each
came about.” - Maggie, New Orleans
French Quarter Phantoms
The scoop: Ghost & Vampire Tours are guided
walks leaving at 6 and 8 p.m. There’s also a Cemetery Tour
and a True Crime Tour. Tickets are $20 adults. Contact: (504)
The score: “I thought it would be a
cheeseball experience, but it wasn’t. It was one of the
highlights of my trip.” - Tracie, Kapolei, Hawaii, on the ghost tour
Haunted History Tours
The scoop: The Ghost Tour includes a stop at a
haunted French Quarter bar. The Vampire Tour also visits a
“vampire” tavern. The New Orleans Cemetery History Tour
focuses on St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Tours are $20. Contact (504)
861-2727; (888) 644-1444; haunted
The score: “You will never look at New
Orleans the same again, nor think of vampires the same.” -
Hayley, San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Bloody Mary’s Tours
The scoop: Bloody Mary is a Creole and an ordained
voodoo priestess. She offers the Tour of the Undead, a walking tour
of ghost, vampire and voodoo sites; Haunted Pub Crawl Tour;
Moonlight Graveyard Tour; and more. By reservation only. Contact:
(504) 523-7684; bloodymarystours.com.
The score: “[Bloody Mary] knows how to wow a
crowd. We liked her so much, we took three of her tours. The
nighttime Tour of the Undead is the best.” - David, Rosyln,N.Y.
Spirit Tours New Orleans
The scoop: The Cemetery & Voodoo Tour visits
St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery, a voodoo temple and more. The Ghost &
Vampire Tour delves into the haunted side of the French Quarter.
Tours are $20 adults. Contact: (504) 314-0806; (866) 369-1224;
The score: “We took the nighttime ghost tour and it totally
rocked.” - Greg, Brentwood, Calif.
Free Tours By Foot The scoop: Yes, a free, tip-supported walking tour company
does exist. Its 2-hour Ghost Tour runs Friday-Sun., 7:30 p.m.
Reservations are recommended. Contact: (504) 222-2967; freetoursbyfoot.com.
The score: “The guide was charismatic, funny
and seems to know a lot about … stuff. I would do this again
if I came back.” - Charmaine, Denver.
MUSIC & MOVIES
Historic New Orleans Walking Tours Inc.
The scoop: Jazz lovers are in for a treat. The
Preservation Hall/New Orleans Music Tour starts at the legendary
Hall. Other notable stops on this 2-hour walking tour include the
site of the Old French Opera House, Basin Street Station, Louis
Armstrong Park and more. Tickets are $20 adults. Contact: (504)
The score: “Our great experience was the
direct result of the knowledge, passion and friendliness of our
tour guide.” - Nick, Long Island, N.Y.
New Orleans Steamboat Co.
The scoop: If jazz cruises on the Mississippi
sound like fun, make a beeline for the steamboat Natchez. You can
sign up for a 2-hour daytime cruise, with or without lunch
($37-$26, adults) or the nighttime cruise, with or without dinner
($70-$42). Contact: (504) 586-8777; steamboatnatchez.com.
The score: “You should do it at least once
in your life. It is one of the only steam-powered paddle-wheelers
in the U.S. that’s not docked and being used as a
casino.” - Deno, Dallas
The Original New Orleans Movie Tours
The scoop: Snack on popcorn and view clips on the
van’s monitors while visiting the actual filming locations.
The 2-hour tour is $39 adults; must buy in advance. Contact: (504)
520-9747; (800) 979-3370; nolamovies.com.
The score: “Our tour included a visit to an
active movie set. This was the highlight of our trip.” - Ed, San Francisco
PLANTATIONS & SWAMPS
The Old River Road Plantation Adventure
The scoop: This award-winning tour firm’s
guides are experts in antebellum life. Each van tour visits two
plantations — the iconic Oak Alley Plantation and one other.
Tickets are $75 adults. Contact: (504) 671-8687; (866) 671-8687;
The score: “Oak Alley — wow, amazingly
beautiful, breathtaking! The Laura is a Creole plantation with a
very unique history.” - Jessica, Manhattan, N.Y.
Cajun Encounters Tour Co.
The scoop: Besides the Plantation Tour to the
Laura and Oak Alley mansions ($79 adults), there are combo tours
that pair plantations with either a swamp, city and/or cemetery
($120 adults). Contact: (504) 834-1770; (866) 928-6877; cajunencounters.com.
The score: “We [took the] plantation tour in
the morning and a swamp tour in the afternoon. Very knowledgeable
tour guides, and we saw alligators!” - Tiffany, Newark, N.J.
Jean Lafitte Swamp & Airboat Tours
The scoop: Cajun guides explore the Jean Lafitte
National Historical Park & Preserve daily by boat. Ticket price
for the 1.5-hour tours depends on whether you drive or require
transportation to and from the park. Swamp boat, $25-$39 adults;
airboats, $54-$90. Contact: (504) 689-4186; jeanlafitteswamptour.com.
The score: “We [took] the speed boats, which
was more fun.” - Emmie, Milpitas, Calif.
Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tour
The scoop: These 2-hour boat tours in the pristine
Honey Island Swamp are led by native guides daily; $23 adults;
reservations required. Transportation ($22 extra) is available to
and from New Orleans hotels. Contact: (985) 641-1769; honeyislandswamp.com.
The score: “ We saw gators, owls, blue
herons and turtles. Cool experience!” - Kate, Chicago.