New Orleans Tours & Tips to Choose

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What New Orleans tours should you consider when you visit this exciting city?

If you’ve been to New Orleans or you’re planning a trip, you’ll notice there are a lot of tours to choose from. A LOT! Even once you’re there, you’ll see large groups of tourists in tour groups day and night in areas like the French Quarter and the Garden District.

There are tours with all sorts of focuses, from food tours to history tours, ghost tours to voodoo tours, and more. There’s really no limit to what you’ll find!

I have been to New Orleans three times now, and there’s still so much to learn about this incredible city! I went recently and decided to do a little more touring than I had done in the past, and it was well worth it! Tours are a great way to make you fall in love with this city even more!

Here are the different types of New Orleans tours you’ll find, along with some suggestions for some of the best tours and some tips for how to choose which tour(s) you’ll take when there.

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About New Orleans

New Orleans is a one-of-a-kind city in the United States and is on most bucket lists to visit. And for so many good reasons!

There is tremendous cultural diversity in New Orleans, and it impacts everything in the city, from its unique personality to the food, the architecture, and the music. You’ll find an eclectic mix, given its heritage.

New Orleans was ruled during different times in its history by the French, Spanish, and British. Due to two devastating fires that burned most of the French Quarter, the historic downtown area of the city, you’ll find architecture from all three.

There’s also a strong African influence here as well as Native Americans. All of these groups converge on New Orleans, creating an eclectic mix that influences life in this thriving city.

From Creole and Cajun roots, as well as European influences, you’ll find incredible architecture, jazz music, and incredible cuisine. Of course, Mardi Gras is a highlight of life in New Orleans and the historic French Quarter.

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Types of New Orleans Tours

There are a lot of different kinds of tours in New Orleans based on different interests. Since New Orleans is known to be a very haunted city, you’ll find a lot of night tours focused on that aspect.

It can be quite overwhelming to decide, as you want to balance how much time you spend on tours vs. how much you explore on your own.

I know when I recently visited New Orleans, I was shocked by how many tours are offered and how many different types of tours are available.

And wandering through the city, which is so very walkable, not a day went by where I didn’t see dozens of tour groups wandering about! Some during the day, and many of them at night!

Of course, I couldn’t take them all, but I chose a few based on my top interests. And that’s how I recommend you tackle it as well!

I also did a good bit of research to determine some of the companies with the best reputation for tours as well as some specific highly recommended tours.

Here are some of the different types of tours you’ll see (though by no means an exhaustive list, as new ones pop up all the time!)

  • History tours
  • Food tours
  • Ghost, vampire, and voodoo tours
  • Cemetery tours
  • Swamp tours
  • Plantation tours

Some of these tours are specific to an area, like history tours focused on the French Quarter or the Garden District. So, this list is high-level, and you’ll find a lot of variety.

You’ll also find some very specific tours with visits to places like Mardi Gras World and the Sazerac House, where you can learn more about the drink created right here in New Orleans.

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Garden District

Top New Orleans Tours

This list is a collection based on both my personal experience and research. The tours I did choose to go on were well-researched, and I was happy with my experiences.

This is not to say that you won’t find perfectly good tours not on this list, but these are tours that people are raving about as of this writing. If you take a tour you love and don’t see it here, send me a message! I’d love to keep this up-to-date and incorporate reader experiences!

Here are some great ideas for the different tours. I grouped them by tour type to make it easier so you can choose what you’re interested in, then review, taking a look at the tours.

1. New Orleans Food Tour

This New Orleans food history tour by Doctor Gumbo is raved about! I really wanted to do this one but ran out of time. I read a number of reviews by bloggers that I follow and feel comfortable recommending.

On this “guided foodie walking tour,” you’ll sample up to nine foods in five eateries in the French Quarter. You’ll taste Louisiana staples like po-boys, pralines, Boudin, the muffuletta, and of course, gumbo.

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Catfish Po-boy and gumbo

This will be a mix of Creole restaurants and hole-in-the-wall local joints. While you’re filling your tummy with incredible local eats, you’ll learn about the culinary heritage of the city.

They also offer this combination cocktail and food tour. It’s a four-hour tour with 9 foods and 4 cocktails to try. You’ll learn about some of the cocktails and dishes that originated here and get to try them. Yum! Here’s another well-rated food and cocktail tour option.

Another option for a highly-rated tour is this food tour. It also delves into the history of this area through the food. Additionally, it’s showing as a carbon-neutral tour organized and led by an eco-certified tour operator.

If you want a private food tour, you have that option, too. And you can also take a cocktail tour (and skip the food!) Another fun option is a Frenchmen Street Pub Crawl to enjoy live music with cocktails.

Looking for a food tour of the Garden District? Check out this tour.

2. New Orleans Cemetery Tour

Visit two of the most haunted New Orleans cemeteries on a tour. In one, you’ll learn about New Orleans’s voodoo history and see where the most famous practitioner is buried. (Does the name Marie Laveau ring a bell?)

Cemeteries are now mostly closed to tourists, so the only way you can visit them is with a special tour. On this tour, you’ll get to visit cemeteries where other tours generally can’t go.

This tour has a special angle I haven’t seen on other ghost tours where you can see footage of EMF readers picking up ghostly activity where you visit. And you learn how to use it. It would be especially interesting for people who really believe in ghosts!

Here’s another interesting cemetery tour to check out if you’re interested.

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Lafayette Cemetery

You’ll learn chilling tales of the cemeteries’ inhabitants during their lives and after death.

Want to visit the tomb of Marie Laveau? She was believed to have been buried in a tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, marked by Xs. You can visit the tomb of the Voodoo Queen on this tour.

3. French Quarter Walking Tour

There are a lot of great walking tours of the French Quarter focusing on different things. If you’re interested in history and culture, this French Quarter walking tour may be right up your alley.

They are small group tours that cover the history, architecture, and food of this vibrant area. On the tour, you’ll see iconic landmarks like St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, the French Market, the Mississippi River, and more.

This is the French Quarter History tour that we took and really enjoyed.

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French Quarter balcony

You’ll also have a storyteller tour guide who shares the “stories of the triumphant and tawdry characters” of the past that influence this area.

Another fantastic tour, and one that I took during my last visit, is the New Orleans Secrets French Quarter Walking Tour. Our guide was wonderful and did a great job sharing the highlights of this intriguing city.

Here is a tour called: French Quarter Tour—Brothels, Bordellos, and Ladies of the Night. It might be interesting and a different aspect of the local history to check out. Here’s another French Quarter tour with the same company, Two Chicks. We took their Garden District tour and they’re a great company.

Want to learn more about the music history of the French Quarter? Check out this tour.

4. French Quarter Ghost, Vampires, and Voodoo Tour

Ghosts, vampires, voodoo.. it’s all good in New Orleans!

New Orleans is believed to be one of the most haunted cities in the US. Almost every hotel and every building seem to have a story of a haunting from the past.

It’s also rampant with stories of vampires and voodoo practice. So, it makes sense to combine them all into one tour to see all of the spooky sites in the French Quarter!

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You’ll see the infamous LaLaurie Mansion, St. Germaine House, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, Old Ursuline Convent, the Voodoo Museum, and more of the darker side of New Orleans. There’s even a haunted restaurant where they set a table to ensure diners have no issues!

If you’d rather focus just on ghosts, no problem! This New Orleans ghost tour may be just what you’re seeking. Or interested in a haunted pub crawl? There are a number of haunted pubs to visit on this tour.

True crime lover? Check out this tour focused on True Crime in the French Quarter.

5. New Orleans Garden District Tour

You’ll find almost as many tours of the Garden District just as you will in the French Quarter. This area was the American section before the time after the Louisiana Purchase and is known for its gorgeous antebellum mansions.

There are a lot of famous folks who live here, like Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, and more. In fact, Ann Rice’s former home is here, and the area, along with New Orleans’ French Quarter, serves as inspiration for her vampire books.

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Garden District antebellum home

On this tour, you’ll get to peek inside Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, currently closed to the public, and learn about New Orleans’ interesting burial customs. And walk along gorgeous tree-lined streets and learn all about the people who established this wealthy suburb after the Louisiana Purchase.

Just imagine what it might be like to live here! A Garden District tour is a highlight of any trip to New Orleans. This Garden District Food and History tour offers another great perspective, combining the unique history of this neighborhood with food tastings at some of the top spots.

This is the Garden District walking tour we took and enjoyed. It does focus a bit on the famous people living in the area, so if you are less interested in this aspect, you may want to check out a different one.

6. Plantation Tours in New Orleans

There are a few different plantation tours to choose from in New Orleans. The one I most highly recommend is a tour to the Whitney Plantation.

I’ll tell you—I’ve been to a lot of places in my travels, and this visit is still sticking with me. While most plantation tours in this area and others show you the beauty and glamour of plantation life, they gloss over one of the most important aspects: slavery.

The Whitney Plantation dives deep into slavery during the antebellum period of New Orleans. It’s not an easy tour to do, and be prepared with tissues. But it’s so very important.

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Whitney Plantation

Learn about the families that lived on this plantation, including both the owners and the slaves. It’s so important to learn both aspects when visiting a plantation, and this one does an incredible job of offering the balance that so many don’t.

I highly recommend this tour. If you go on one day trip from New Orleans, don’t miss the Whitney Plantation.

7. Swamp Tours New Orleans

Taking an airboat swamp tour is one of the most popular things to do in New Orleans. The swamps are under an hour from the center of New Orleans, so doing this makes an easy half-day trip.

On these tours, you get to take a high-speed airboat ride with a local that grew up in the area. During the tour, you’ll get to see wildlife like alligators, birds, and more.

The airboats can hit speeds of 35 miles an hour! It’s an exhilarating and exciting ride, albeit quite noisy. They do provide ear protection, and it’s a good idea to use it!

Not only will you see the mystery but also the beauty of the swamp. The guide will tell you all about living in and growing up in this area. And you’ll learn the living habits of alligators while getting to know more about them.

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What’s a Swamp Tour Like?

Hold onto your hat on a high-speed, small group (up to 16 passengers) airboat ride through the swamps and marshlands just outside New Orleans. Look for alligators and other wildlife, along with diverse bird species in their natural habitat.

The captain will stop for a bit for photo opportunities, and all of the boats have stadium seating so you can get good views. It’s a pretty amazing adventure as these boats can go in areas that are only inches deep, where traditional boats can’t go.

I had the opportunity to take this tour with the Louisiana Tour Company, and highly recommend them. The tour I took was in a 16-seater boat, which was perfectly fine. They also offer the smaller, 6-9-person tour as well.

Louisiana Tour Company offers other tours as well, including combination swamp and plantation tours if you’re short on time. They, unfortunately, don’t go to the Whitney Plantation, though.

8. Mississippi River Boat Tour

What could be more New Orleans than a jazz cruise on the Mississippi River? Enjoy the city of New Orleans on the Steamboat Natchez as it glides along the river. You can add a buffet if you choose.

The Steamboat Natchez jazz cruise is offered by day or night. It’s the only authentic steamboat surviving in New Orleans. Listen to the Dukes of Dixieland trio and enjoy a brief live narration by the captain.

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Steamboat Natchez

You’ll be wowed by breathtaking views as you journey back in time. Enjoy craft cocktails or a bite from the buffet, and make sure to check out all four decks and the top to see the best views of New Orleans and along the Mississippi River.

Other Top Tours

There are a lot of other places where you can visit and tour the property, including some businesses and museums. Here are some that I thought were interesting:

  • Mardi Gras World—THE place to go to learn about Mardi Gras in New Orleans. You might be surprised to learn it’s not just the party of a few weeks we come to learn about, but Mardi Gras is a part of the culture of this town. Check out the behind-the-scenes of one of the most famous parties in the world on this self-guided tour.
  • The Sazerac House—The place to go to learn all about the famous drink that got its start in New Orleans. The recipe changed when absinthe was made illegal for a time. If you’re of age, they offer three tastings where you can try a Sazerac and other related drinks like the Manhattan and the whiskey sour. See what you like the best!
  • 1850 House—This is a fun and short self-guided tour of a historic home located on Jackson Square. They have posted information and recordings so you can learn more of what it was like to live in New Orleans during this time period.
  • Hop-On Hop Off Tours—New Orleans does have one of those hop-on hop-off buses which can provide an option for tours. They’re particularly good when you don’t want to walk a lot to see the sites, and you’re limited in time and want a very specific itinerary.
  • New Orleans School of Cooking—If you’re inspired to learn to cook Cajun and Creole specialties after spending time in New Orleans, this cooking school has a class to teach you to do just that!
  • City of New Orleans and Katrina Recovery Tour—If you’re interested in learning about New Orleans from the perspective of the massive recovery and reconstruction effort following Hurricane Katrina, this is a great tour to take.
  • New Orleans Drunken History Walking Tour—Interested in learning about the history of New Orleans while enjoying a few locally-founded beverages? This tour offers some of the best of New Orleans’ cocktails while you learn all about the town. (First drink included only.)

Sazerac House

Which of the New Orleans Tours Will You Choose?

It can be tough to choose with so many options, so how will you do it? First, give some thought to what interests you most about the city.

If you’re into history or culture, a walking tour of the French Quarter or Garden District will be right up your alley. If you’re really interested in the paranormal or dark arts, check out ghost, vampire, and voodoo tours.

And if you really love history but want to learn more about the food, check out the many food tours available. The great thing is that there are tours for just about any topic, and many of the tours are combined, offering you things like food and history together. Perfect, right?

If you choose a tour on this list, I’ve done the homework for you checking ratings and reviews. If you decide to choose a different tour, just make sure it’s well-rated and that the company has been around for a while.

You really can’t go wrong with taking a tour of New Orleans, and it’s such a great way to learn more about this interesting and unique city. Which of the New Orleans tours will you try? If you have any favorites, let me know, and I’d love to update this post!

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One Comment

  1. Very informative and it kind of makes me feel like I’ve been there! I wonder if anyone has experienced any ghosts or unexplained occurrences…

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