I didn't go on the carriage tour and am not normally inclined toward such things. But I overheard many of the drivers during my evening walkabout and was very impressed with their knowledge and charm. For a group of four I think the $100 price tag for a one hour tour might actually be worth it as an introduction to the French Quarter.
The driver in this picture has parked in front of Lafitte's and is shouting "Service!" to get drinks served to his clients in the carriage.
One of our favorite activities when we were in the French Quarter were the carriage rides around town. Most of the carriages utilize mules, which handle the heat better than horses, and offer a 30 minute ride around the city. The guide we had was very informative, telling us quite a bit about town in our half hour tour. I think this would be a great option when you first get to New Orleans, to learn more about your surroundings and get your bearings.
Our tour operator introduced us to Sweet Willie Brown, our mule for the ride, and then proceeded in with the history of the French Quarter, outlining several famous buildings and the different areas within the quarter. Bourbon Street actually has more to it than just the Mardi Gras debauchery, and took on a different perspective as we rode around.
Overall, I think this is a great use of time for an overview of the area, and was pretty reasonable as far as tours go at $12USD per person.
Tours start and end from Decatur Street next to Jackson Square and are available as soon as a cart fills up.
In the French Quarter and around you can see beautiful cabs pulled by not less beautiful mules. People (and me) call them horse cabs, but if you have a look, it is mules which trail the carriages!
Why mules? The French imported the mules, almost as strong as horses, when they began to build the city as these animals not only are resistant to heat and thirst, can stay in the same place for hours, but they are resistant to diseases which are easily caught in the swamps, and to which the horses are very sensitive, like “swamp fevers”. It seems the tradition of keeping mules has been maintained; good tradition, I like these animals (picture 2).
I did not make a tour on the carriages, they seemed expensive to me, and I like to walk. . . . You can make French Quarter tours, Marigny tours, Garden district tours, etc, etc, there are plenty waiting on Jackson Square (picture 3) and standing line on Decatur Street (picture 4). You can see from the previous pictures, there are all sizes of carriages, from four to 8 and even more places! The carriage drivers also are more or less guides and may give some advices to tourists about these establishments on Bourbon street! (picture 5).
Tours from 8:30 to late night.
Rates are apparently variable from 15-50 US$/half hour, depending what tour or destination you choose, and the number of passengers.
If you don't want to do the walking tour for any reason (too hot when I was there), go on the horse drawn carriage tour, you see the same sort of sights but in the luxury of your own carriage.
We found out that they went for half an hour and cost $50, $5 more than the three of us on the walking tour. The driver suggested we go on a bigger carriage for $10 each with other people. We found a fully shaded carriage and got in there. Three more people came and we set off. Our driver introduced himself and his mule and said "Rock 'n' Roll do the walkin,' I do the talkin'" His name was Willie. He was old, black and had teeth missing. It was a good tour. We passed a few places that we'd seen on the haunted tour, and it was a much better view in daylight.
A very interesting tour that will also help to orientate you for when you wander around by yourself
Being a frequent visitor to New Orleans over the years, a constant and very rewarding experience for my family has always been the carriage rides. Sometimes the driver is hilariously entertaining, but always teach you the ins and outs and historical facts of the city.
The prices have risen slightly since Katrina but the value of the tour is immense!
Take the tour first if you can! Save your feet for walking less to random destinations and walking more to places you want to spend more time at: like the jazz clubs, or those cute shops, or certainly a bar or three (but who's counting).
The French Quarter tour runs about 30 minutes and you get to see all the popular places around the French Quarter - or for more money you can see all of the French Quarter, but you must ask your driver about that. A longer tour runs you to the Faubourg Marigny or the Cemetery and there is one that goes uptown, to the Garden District, but you must ask your drivers before getting on the carriage which tours they provide. At nighttime tours veer into the darkside of the city with ghosts and vampires, more fun than historic perhaps, but the cocktail stop during the tour makes the trip!
The carriage tours are not always around in the summertime, to protect the mules the carriages do not work in extreme heat and are policed by the companies and the city. Most of the mules and pampered by the drivers and are full of personality, true characters in a city full of them. When it is hot, it is best to look for the carriages early in the day, catch them before they leave.
Overloading is not permitted, if you have a large group expect to have many carriages involved in the tour. Relax, everyone will have a great tour and will return to the same spot. This practice limits the workloads of the mules, which though extremely strong and pulling weight on wheels, do not get to pull much weight at all when they work.
Overall, day or night enjoy a tour: you will learn much from the licensed carriage drivers and have a lot of fun doing it. The tour will only enhance your vacation experience with the relaxing meandering rides and it is great to stop at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop for one of their very good Hurricanes while in the buggy.
Relax, enjoy, take some pictures, and learn some New Orleans lore: Take a buggy Ride!
Let me clear up some of the ignorance spewed on this site about Mule Carriages in New Orleans. Lets start with the Mules themselves. Most of the animals come from the Amish. The mules are bought from Amish farms all over the United States, by one of 4 companies in the city. Once here, they are checked monthly by a vet, checked weekly by a furrier (he checks the shoes that were said to be poorly attached in an earlier post), and put a strict diet that maximizes the health of the animal. Each mule has an individual stall, with food, water, and misters too keep them cool. They are allowed on the street 5 days a week for 7 hours maximum per day. If the temperature hits 95, they are taken back to the stalls. Each driver has one mule that he/she drives, forming a nice relationship between the driver and the mule. Also, the mules only work 9 months out of the year, the other three spent at one month intervals at a farm where they rest up. So to you ill-informed people that are wanting to have a mule "thank you" for not taking a ride....would you rather them sold as dog food? Thats what the Amish do with the ones that are sold to carriage companies.
On to the drivers. The drivers are required, and wear badges stating as much, to pass both a taxi test and a tour guide test. I can promise you, NO ONE will pass this test without studying, I dont care how long you have lived in New Orleans. Its detailed and diverse. For example, do you know the address and meaning of EVERY statue in New Orleans? A buggy driver does. Most of the drivers are natives of the city with backgrounds ranging from former College professors, to business owners, architects, and college students. Many speak multiple languages. Buggy drivers also take pride in their work. You will see them trying to give the most informative and interesting tour possible, ranging from basic history of the Quarter, to cemetary tours, and fun, historical ghost tours.
So to all of the ignorance being bestowed upon this site about carriage drivers and their trusty mules....you have no clue what you are talking about.
The architecture of New Orleans' French Quarter is very impressive with the simple style juxtaposed with its very elaborate and intricate iron workings. It's the ironwork that I feel gives New Orleans it's special look. Take a mule drawn carriage ride through the district and you'll learn so much about the history of this small but most famous area of New Orleans. It's been a residential neighborhood since 1718. You'll learn all of this and more with the knowledgable carriage ride guides!
The driver was very friendly and informative. The ride gave us an idea of where everything was and things we wanted to go back and see.
The carriages line up at Jackson Square and the Garden District. We got on ours somewhere else. I think they're happy to pick you up wherever, so if you see an empty one, ask. It was a lot cheaper than the New York ones, especially if you have another couple in the carriage! If you want the carriage all to yourself for a more romantic trip, it will cost a bit more.
I would pass on the mule rides. Most buggy drivers do not have a tour guiding license which is required of tour guides who are on foot. They are known for telling people mistruths. For instance, that Harriet Beecher Stowe stayed at the Cornstalk Fence Hotel or the that the Louisiana Purchase was signed at the Cabildo in Jackson Square! If you want real information go with certified tour guides on foot, such as The LA State Museum walking tours. They are on Jackson Square at the 1850 House. These tour guides take a rigorous month long course and are very informative.
Additionally, the mules are treated very inhumanely and tourists do not see this very ugly side of the industry. A closer inspection of the mules will show that the hooves are not shod properly, bits and bridles are not fitted properly and sometimes there are open sores. Locals frequently complain and have written to the local newspaper to express their disdain for the inhumane treatment the mules receive.
Locals pass on the buggy rides when visitors come to town...there are too many other options out there to get a great tour...pass on the mule ride... the mules will thank you.
We took one of these at night, which was really great, because I think New Orleans comes alive (even more) at night. The driver was very friendly and informative. We did it the first night we were there, which was good because it gave us an idea of where everything was, and things we wanted to go back and see. Also, it was freezing that night (in January) and he had a blanket for us to cover up with - very comfortable. We were able to squish 7 people in.
I'd skip the mule carriage tour. There are a host of other much better, cheaper walking tours in town (See tourbigeasy.com). In addition, it is clear that the mules are terribly uncomfortable pulling carts of up to 9 passengers without any limitations on temperature or weather in which they work. It's hard to enjoy yourself when you come to realize that it's at the expense of someone else's suffering. There are all kinds of awesome culinary tasting tours, haunted history tours, and voodoo tours that will leave you more informed, more entertained, and with more money in your pocket for a po boy and a daiquiri afterwards.
PLEASE DO NOT RIDE IN THE DONKEY CARRIAGES...IN THE FRENCH QUARTER OR ANYWHERE!!
I see horrible things happening to these poor beautiful animals daily..I LIVE IN THE FRENCH QUARTER!! Unfortunately, I see the old obese drunky driver yelling and whipping the Mule when she can't get her cart full of 12 tourist going because its so heavy!! They are so strapped down with all that equipment and Blinders to top it off!!
They are in heavy traffice 24/7 on Decatur Scary with a cart full of drunks...I have seen one completely collapse in 100 Degree weather. I see a few of their drinking fountains around the Quarter with dirt and seaweed slime all dried up with no water in it many times...I have often turned the hose on and walked away.. :)
They must stand ALL DAY in 100 Degree broiling sun with no shade in front of Jackson Square..
I am sure they don't like them having any food or water all day, so they will not use the street as a public bathroom...What driver wants to clean that up for min. wage!!
As far as their hours of work go...I would like to see their time card!! I live on a main street where they go down all day and all night..They pass my house at 2:AM very oftern in a high trot..propably starving and need water and trying to get back to their barn.. (which I am sure has a warm and snugly stall, with a meal and fresh straw waiting after a 24 hour work day) !!
Every time they go by with the hoofs on the Hot tar street and the jingle of their bells put on them to make tourist think its cute, I want to cry and save every one of them. I would love to see this out of date cruel tourist attraction end in my lifetime.. Its time to let them go to pasture and rest for all the misery they have suffered every day, every Sweltering Summer in the French Quarter..
Peddicabs are cheap, the drivers are young, helpful and full of information. They are available to pick you up 5-10 minutes anywhere in the Quarter. They also have a choice to do it or not.
Animals used for profit are always abused.. need to keep that food and shelter bill down to make a profit. God only knows what and how much they feed them.. I love my city..I just cant take looking at the sadness everyday of these prescious animals..
Have fun, run around the Quarter in a Pedicab, they even stop at bars so you can get a drink and get back in..total Pub Crawl if you want..
Thanks for listening..
While the clomping of mule/horse hooves on the cobblestone is romantic, the ride wasn't. We visited New Orleans in January 2012 (we go every year). We decided to try a mule drawn carriage tour this time for a change of pace.
Our trip was $30 per person and the cart had 3 other couples on it + the driver.
You're really at the mercy of the driver with these tours. Our driver was less than enthusiastic about the sites she was showing us and she was often over forceful with the mule (whipping and pulling at the reins very hard). I don't know if it was the result of a long day or if this is her general demeanor but for $30, I want a more polished presentation.
The mule had a little bag attached to its backside to collect his "waste". It was quite full and therefore hit on its legs with each step. Let's just say the aroma wasn't conducive to a romantic evening.
Other drivers were giving tours and they were yelling out the sites at the top of their lungs - almost in an effort to market their particular tour as the best. It was like a strange competition.
The smell of exhaust and the loud noises from the cars that shared the streets were also contributing factors to the less than enjoyable experience.
If there hadn't been 3 other couples on this buggy, we'd have asked to be dropped off just 15 minutes or so into the tour. It was not what we expected.
I'd rather take my $30 and go get a nice cup of cafe au lait and some beignets and ride the street car - and still have enough left over for a po boy.
Filed under: Total Bust
We went on a French Quarter mule carriage tour with Royal Carriages. It was OK, but at the end, there was something wrong with the mule, and another driver came over and did something which made the side of the cart break. This was pretty scary, but a few minutes later the other driver got into a screaming fight with a tourist, calling her names which my young daughter really didn't need to hear. The whole thing ended badly and was very upsetting. When we go back, I think we'll skip this whole group of people next time.
It is romantic to spend the evening sight seeing the French Quarters on a buggy. We couldn’t help but notice that the designs of wrought iron railings are uniquely different on every balcony.