Whenever I visit a new-to-me city, I schedule a tour with a local tour company. There’s no better way to get the lay of the land than to grab your shoes and hit the streets. And with a local leading you around town, you’ll learn way more, way faster than you would on your own. I have a particular fondness for culinary tours. There’s nothing better than enjoying great, local food and getting to know the stories behind it.
On my recent visit to New Orleans, I was lucky enough to experience a fabulous food tour that took us through the foods of the French Quarter. While there are lots of great food tours to choose from in NOLA, the city offers tours on almost any subject you can think of. From cemeteries to cocktails, there’s a tour (or two) for everyone. Here are some of the most amazing tours to experience in New Orleans.
1. New Orleans Food Walking Tour Of The French Quarter
When you visit a food-centric city like New Orleans, a food tour is a must. A tour with Destination Kitchen Food Tours is perfect if you’re looking for a locally-led, small food tour, with lots of stops at unique places in the French Quarter. Our tour leader, Susan, led our group of 13 on a 3-hour walking food crawl all through the Quarter.
One of the first things she pointed out is that New Orleans is a city on the brink of a party — pretty much at all times. After all, the city is quickly sinking, and tomorrow is promised to no one. So it’s always drink-o’clock in NOLA. And with that, we were off to sample all the wonderful dishes (and cocktails) New Orleans is known for. At the top of my list are the boudin on a stick, the po’ boy, and the Southern fly cocktail.
Honestly, I think it’d be tough to find bad food or drink in New Orleans. Gastronomy is what they’re known for here. So while you can find good food on your own, you can’t learn about the history and culture of the people and the city unless you do a tour. Destination Kitchen provides expert, local tour leaders that know their stuff.
They’re a local, small business that’s based in New Orleans, not a gigantic tour company with offices in every city. The folks here are either native New Orleanians or have been here long enough that they’re the next best thing. This personal connection is what makes their tours a cut above.
2. New Orleans Garden District Tour
Two Chicks Walking Tours
If you want to learn about the Garden District, one of the most exclusive areas of New Orleans, a walking tour is the way to go. Two Chicks Walking Tours offers a great walking tour through the Garden District. See incredible homes and learn about the neighborhood’s history on this 2-hour tour.
Two Chicks Walking Tours is a small, locally owned tour company that’s been doing tours for about 10 years. We spent a couple of hours with our tour leaders, walking through the neighborhood viewing gorgeous homes, grand gardens teeming with all sorts of flowers and plants, and hearing fascinating tidbits about the history of the Garden District. Our Two Chicks tour guide was a wealth of knowledge about the area and the city of New Orleans in general.
We learned a lot about why the city has a “French” quarter, along with information about the original American sector of town. You’ll see magnificent homes built in a wide range of architectural styles including my favorite, the Greek Revival style. Known for its historic mansions and a range of architectural styles, the Garden District is one of the most fabulous areas in New Orleans.
We liked Two Chicks because they have insider information about famous people who have lived in the Garden District. Most of these historic homes have at least some intriguing history attached to them. Two Chicks will give you the low-down.
3. Treme/Storyville/Cemetery/Voodoo Tour
NOLA Historic Tours
If you’re looking for a combo tour that highlights multiple areas of the city and covers history, culture, and religion, book the Treme/Storyville/Cemetery/Voodoo Tour with Nola Historic Tours. A provider of educational and entertaining tours in the city since 1995, Nola Historic Tours does unique tours that you won’t find anywhere else, and their guides are some of the best.
According to NOLA Historic Tours President Robert Florence, they look for guides that have impressive credentials on paper, but more importantly, they hire tour guides that have great communication skills, charisma, warmth, and a sense of humor.
As part of the cemetery tour, you’ll tour St. Louis Cemetery #2, the historic above-ground cemetery where many notable African American historical figures and musicians are buried. Among those buried here are Henriette Delille, founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family, the nation’s second oldest order of African American nuns; Jordan Noble, the free military drummer who drummed commands in 4 different wars; and early civil rights publishers Jean Baptiste Roundanez and Paul Trevigne.
If you’re into voodoo, this is the tour for you! You’ll visit Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, New Orleans’ oldest surviving Catholic Church, and learn about the connection between West African spiritual beliefs and Roman Catholicism. This is one tour offers a little bit of a lot of subjects that will appeal to a diverse group. So if your group can’t agree on just one tour, do this one with NOLA Historic Tours.
Pro Tip: If you want to visit St. Louis Cemetery #2, you need to go on a tour because it’s closed to the public due to recurrent vandalism issues.
4. New Orleans Streetcar Cocktail Crawl
Self-Guided Cocktail Tour On St. Charles Avenue
A self-guided cocktail tour through the Big Easy is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Did you know that New Orleans has a streetcar system that’s easy to navigate? To help promote the streetcar system and the local watering holes, the city has created a tour that allows you to experience both.
Jump on the St. Charles Streetcar and begin your New Orleans Streetcar Cocktail Crawl. This low-commitment tour allows you to plan your stops, using the framework of the streetcar stops. For only a few dollars you can ride the streetcar all day. The route goes from South Carrollton Avenue to St. Charles Avenue, and then into downtown. Stop at any or all of these restaurants and bars for a drink.
Cooter Brown’s is a sports bar where you can grab a cold beer and freshly shucked oysters. The Delachaise, a French wine bar, offers frog legs and frites with wine. To get a look at the New Orleans skyline, head to the Pontchartrain Hotel rooftop bar, the Hot Tin, where the views are amazing.
5. Burlesque NOLA Or NOLA Literary Craft Cocktail
NOLA Historic Tours
A salon tour is a unique splurge experience for people who are interested in history and culture and want to actually experience what life was like in the city’s early years. These Salon experiences combine a live, interactive experience and make the history and culture of New Orleans come alive.
NOLA Historic Tours offers several Salon Experiences, or you can create your own. Listen to readings from New Orleans literary greats like William Faulker, Ernest Hemingway, and Truman Capote and indulge in a cocktail they enjoyed.
Or, take in a live burlesque show as many did back in the day when New Orleans was a burlesque hot spot, and learn the stories of some of the most famous dancers. If you’d rather create your tour NOLA Historic Tours can customize a once-in-a-lifetime salon experience for just about any subject you may be interested in.
6. Our Favorite Ghosts
Unique NOLA Tours
Are you looking for spooky fun after dark? If you’re into paranormal activity, the Our Favorite Ghosts tour from Unique NOLA Tours may be just what you’re after. After all, New Orleans is known far and wide as one of the most haunted cities in the United States. In fact, many of the famous ghost-chasing series like Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and even American Horror Story have all filmed in New Orleans.
More specifically, the French Quarter is said to be a hotbed for ghosts and goblins. This 2-hour tour winds through the French Quarter, going to the highly haunted spots, where you’ll learn the history of all the ghostly activities that took place here. At one French Quarter stop, the St. Louis Cemetery, you may even catch one of the city’s most well-known ghosts, Marie Laveau, a Creole woman who was quite fond of practicing voodoo. Legend has it that she enjoys hanging around her tomb!
Pro Tip: This ghost tour commences in the evening when it’s dark and creepy!
Enjoying a local tour with a local tour operator is the best way to learn about a new city. These New Orleans tour guides are professionals and they know their stuff. No matter which tour you decide to try, you’re practically guaranteed to learn something new and have some fun.