I have to respond to Dutch-Tulip who simply stated that "Bourbon Street smells like vomit."
We spend a lot of money having a company constantly moving around the Quarter picking up garbage and washing the streets and sidewalks. We can't help it that tourist don't drink or behave responsibly and puke on our sidewalks. People will come here and puke on our steps, pee on our doors and even defecate in our courtyard entrances. Then they go home and tell everyone how "filthy" New Orleans is. Well, Hello!?!
We love our tourist and we go out of our way to welcome and entertain them. All we ask is that you treat our homes and city with the same respect that you would expect.
A few tips:
Yes, the best way to see the city is on foot. Remember however that people live and work here. Stay on the sidewalks. If you step into the street, look before you do so.
Ignore the street hustlers
If you stop to watch or photograph a street performer , tip him or her
Do not feed the filthy gutter punks. They are transients and a nuisance . Giving them handouts only encourages them to stay.
If you take a carriage tour, LISTEN to the driver before you get into the carriage. If you can't understand him then, you won't understand the tour. There are several of the drivers who cannot be understood at all. Look for the guy in the cowboy hat, Jim gives a very entertaining and informative tour.
Plantation Tours- Destrehan and Laura Plantations are very accurate and professional tours. Evergreen
Plantation was a huge let down. The tour guide was unprofessional the house was unimpressive. It was the most expensive of the three and there was very little to see or learn.
Being from New Orleans and a retired history professor, I am very critical of some tours given to travelers in New Orleans. I will suggest that in choosing a carriage tour be aware that not all guides have the same level of knowledge. Written testing of tour guides was not begun until just before Katrina. Guides with long histories of giving carriage tours are grandfathered in and do not take the exam. Ask guide how long he or she has been a guide. Pick one post 2005. Most black drivers have not been tested and do not do as well as other guides. Several carriage tour guides are outstanding. If you get one of the better ones, you will experience one of the better tours in New Orleans. There is even one guide known as "the professor." He does an outstanding job. Beware of those whose speech is not distinct. That is a tell tale sign that you won't understand them and their tours are usually as sloppy.
You can usually book your tours at your hotel, but the tour companies traditionally pay the receptionist/concierge something to encourage them to recommend their tours to you.
Think carefully about what you want to see and do and whether the tour description sounds like it would be worth the money. Read up on the tours yourself rather than just taking the recommendation of the hotel person.
Actually I was mostly happy with the 3 tours we took
Unique Suggestions: I wanted to see New Orleans itself and I can't walk all that far. So the City Tour let me see the various sections of the city in comfort and the guide told us about the various types of architecture and stories of the people who lived in various homes. I was careful to book a tour in a small van so we could get into the narrow streets of the French Quarter.
Later we rode the St. Charles Line Streetcar. This was more interesting than it might otherwise have been since we had already had the tour. The only problem with this tour was the timing (it was longer and we got back later than I expected), and we didn't go to St. Louis Cemetery #1. A carriage ride would probably also have been interesting, but more expensive.
I wanted to take a trip on the river, and the Chalmette cruise allowed me also to see the battlefield. I enjoyed hearing about the things we saw on the river. This was an inexpensive cruise because the Chalmette part was done free by the US Park Ranger at the site. The problem with this tour was that they didn't allow you to bring food on the boat to eat, and the time at Chalmette was quite short.
I wanted to see a plantation and I wanted to tour the swamp. We had visited a plantation with big oaks, so we took the Oak Alley/Swamp combination tour. Oak Alley was a disappointment because they recently decided not to allow photos inside, and because it was NOT original inside.
Fun Alternatives: You can walk around the French Quarter on your own, and there is also a FREE walking tour offered by the NPS. You can take the St. Charles Streetcar out to the Garden District. You can take the FREE ferry across to Algiers.
If you have a car, or rent a car for the day, you can drive out to Chalmette, or the Jean Lafitte Reserve, or to the plantations along the River Road on your own, and take the tours when you get there.
This horse carriages tours are parked right infront of the moon walk across street from the Jackson Square in the french quarter area. Well, my husband's colleagues decided that we all should go for a horse carriage ride.. I was kinda hesitant coz personally I didnt really like french quarter that much. from the first time we were there, its was scarry and smelt horrible (smells like garbage and smoke).. But out of professionalism we joined in. Well, so much for the carriage tours! there was nothing in there to see but a bunch of small street with garbage all over the place and loud music/people yelling at each other (Bourbon Street) with lots of strip clubs.. (Im sorry not my dream horse carriage tour!)
So, after one hour of just going around french quarter we head back to Jackson Square and there goes our $35, (15 dollars/ per person /hour plus tip!)
If you're not a drinker and would like to explore french quarter (galleries, shops, restaurants) try to do it on foot in the morning.
The so called "Tourist Information Centers" on every French Quarter street are scam operators. They put heavy pressure on us to buy a "time share." They gave us a free tour - (you get what you pay for) - the tour was terrible. They use tour companies who use ignorant drivers - ours couldn't answer even simple questions.
We found out later from a tourguide at Laura Plantation that a group of tourguides own a free service web site that directs visitors to the quality tour companies: www.tourbookingsneworleans.com
Yes, there are good tours! Avoid the tourist traps!
Unique Suggestions: Avoid the so called "tourist information centers" in the French Quarter. (with the exception of the Louisiana State Tourism office at Jackson Square)
Fun Alternatives: We will try the tourguide owned web site recommended by our docent at Laura Plantation.
(It's a new free service website promoting quality tourism in New Orleans.)
I don't know if I would call this a tourist trap, but you can make up your mind. You will see horse and buggies lined up on Decatour St right past Jackson Square who offer French Quarter and Cemetery tours. They will take you through a few streets of the French Quarter and impart some local knowledge, but nothing too spectacular. The cemetery tour was not good. The guide took us to one cemetery and told us to look around. He only talked quickly about Marie Luvou's tomb. Nice guy (we said he looked like Brett Michaels of Poison), but I don't know if it was woth the $45-50.
Unique Suggestions: I highly recommend a tour, especially of the cemeteries. Just choose what you really want to see. Stay away from the French Quarter tours. Buy a book about it, read it before you go and walk around the Quarter yourself. Make sure you go in a group to the cemeteries. I saw all the warning on some other member pages and completely agree. As soon as you walk in, you will get the feeling you are happy you are not alone (with live people that is!). Nowhere to go as most have high walls.
Fun Alternatives: Talk with the conceirge about the best tours in the city. Some are expensive so check that out before you book one. A lot to do and see in New Orleans so figure out what it is you want to see.
We were sent on a plantation tour by the hotel bellman only to find out he got $20 from the company for each of us! The company saves money by not hiring qualified tour guides. The bellman put $40 in his pocket!
(The "driver" was ignorant, and could not answer even simple questions.)
Fun Alternatives: We got our information from a licenced tour guide that drove a group to the plantation that same afternoon. He told us he and other tour guides support a free internet site designed to direct visitors to quality tour companies: tourbookingsneworleans.com
DON'T GO on those daytime walking cemetery tours!!! and dont think they're supposed to be scary! they're nothing but a waste of time and money. unless you wanna waste $20 walking in the sun visiting vandalized graves and listening to a so-called 'voodoo princess' who lost her accent 15 minutes into her talk (we learned she's from chicago and an RN), then go for it!
Unique Suggestions: at least you get to exercise and lose calories from all the margaritas you had the night before.
Fun Alternatives: go on a cruise, bar crawl, plantation tour etc...anything!
If you go to New Orleans and are planning to take a haunted walking tour, go with this company. I had a blast. I started out with the ghost tour and had so much fun, I ended up taking the vampire tour the following night.
On the ghost tours, you'll hear tales of horror at the lalaurie mansion, the axe murderer who stalked his victims and then killed off the entire family and the woman who haunts the bar you'll stop at.
the picture here, is at that very same bar which used to be a house of ill repute. The story goes that there was a prostitute working there who fell in love with a soldier. They were to be married but he wanted to go on one final mission beforehand so they could later live in financial comfort. The young woman was apprehensive so she made him promise to come back to her.
when he finally was to arrive home, she put on her white dress and ran down to happily greet him, only to find that he had indeed returned, but he was dead in his coffin.
the young girl, distraught, locked herself in her room for weeks refusing to eat until finally one day overwhelmed with her sorrow, she hung herself from the tree by the stables. it's said that she haunts the courtyard.
take a look at the righthand side of the picture directly behind the plant, taken of that very tree. do you see what I see?
Unique Suggestions: go on the vampire tour and hear tales of the Count St-Germaine's reputed brief stay in new orleans and learn about the filles de cassette or 'casket' girls of ursuline convent . what really lies on the third floor? And why does it remain off limits to anyone save high ranking members of the church?
make sure you pick up a coupon before you take the tour. it'll save you some money.
Fun Alternatives: I took a cemetary and voodoo tour with another company, and the tour guide wasn't half as good as the ones with this company. the guides were well informed, entertaining and very funny. if you're going to be a tourist for a couple of days, why not make yourself obvious and take one of the tours. it beats spending the entire time drinking on bourbon st.:P
Since we weren't in New Orleans at the actual time of Mardi Gras, we felt the need to check out Mardi Gras World - I wanted to see the floats. I'm not ENTIRELY disappointed that we did, but I don't ever need to go back. We took the ferry over from Canal Street and, though they have a cramped-looking bus to take you from the ferry to the door of Mardi Gras World, we opted to walk. It was a fairly short, pleasant walk.
We entered the main building and paid - luckily we had a AAA discount, but I'm still not sure it's worth even $10. At the start of the tour, a movie is shown, touting the Mardi Gras parade, some of the famous people who have participated and Mardi Gras World's place in it (they make all the floats for the parade). I found the film interesting. Then everyone can try on various pieces of the costumes and take pictures - at least there is no additional charge for this!
The most interesting part of the tour for me was the room where you could actually see the workers painting and sculpting the floats. From there, we went into a room where there were assembled floats. The size of the floats IS impressive, no doubt about that! But overall, this part of the tour was too short. Unfortunatley, in addition, our tour guide was new, and couldn't answer many of the questions asked by the people on the tour.
All tours include some Mardi Gras "King Cake" and coffee. Not being a coffee drinker, and not needing the ultra-sweet piece of cake, I could have done without this as well.
I guess my biggest complaint is they took an interesting tour, and cheesed it up so that they could charge more for admission.
Unique Suggestions: The ferry ride across the river to Algiers, where Mardi Gras World is located, is FREE. Hop on at the base of Canal Street and ride over and back across the Mississippi. The poor man's river cruise!
Fun Alternatives: Unfortunately, there IS no alternative. If you're not in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and want to see the floats, this is your only chance. Maybe a glance through the website would be enough? http://www.mardigrasworld.com
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