As New Orleans gains popularity nationwide and internationally as a top-notch tourism destination, many enterprising companies offer a variety of tours running the gamut from the standard ghost tour to the red-colored double-decker riding tours that take visitors around to various parts of the city. However, some of the most interesting and engaging tours aren’t given by the biggest and most well-known tour companies. In fact, some of the most noteworthy tours are rather unconventional and given by smaller companies and individuals hailing from the city, informed by years of personal experience. Even if you’re a person who “doesn’t do tours,” there’s surely something here to pique your interest.
Drink and Learn (formerly The Cocktail Tour)
While several cocktail tours exist in New Orleans, Drink and Learn stands above the rest due to the creator and tour guide, Elizabeth Pearce. Pearce is a writer,culinary historian, cocktail enthusiast and a fantastic storyteller. Her walking tour through the French Quarter not only provides attendees with the drinks they’ll need for the full experience, but it serves to educate people on the history and evolution of New Orleans’s cocktail culture. Notable stops include the Pharmacy Museum, Jackson Square and the Port of New Orleans. The tour is offered only via advanced registration and is given Thursday through Sunday most weeks (some holidays excluded). The cost is $50 and includes four cocktails made by Pearce herself.
Madams of New Orleans
For those of you interested in New Orleans’s more “colorful” history, check out the Madams of New Orleans tour, given by Ella Tours. Katie Landry, the owner of Ella Tours, has painstakingly researched the history of the city’s madams, brothels, and our own red light district Storyville, birth place of jazz legend Louis Armstrong. Landry’s walking tour throughout the French Quarter has several stops including the former Storyville District, May Bailey’s Bar, and Smoky Row, the former heart of the city’s African-American brothels. The tour is offered each week on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 7:30 p.m. The tour takes approximately two hours, covers a mile and a half, and costs $20 per person.
New Orleans Culinary Bike Tour
For those of you who’d rather bike than walk, you’re in luck. The city offers several bike tours but none as tasty as the New Orleans Culinary Bike Tour. Offered by New Orleans’ own Confederacy of Cruisers, this tour takes attendees out of the French Quarter and into the neighborhoods like Bywater, Mid-City and Faubourg St. John. Hidden in these neighborhoods are tasty plates and neighborhood restaurants, famous for their food, drinks, and even some of their regular patrons. Potential stops on this tour include Elizabeth’s, Liuzza’s by the Track, Parkway Bakery and Angelo Brocato’s. This tour is by reservation only and is offered every day of the week except Tuesdays. The cost of the tour is $89 but that includes the four-hour tour plus all the food and tips for the restaurants. You must pay for your own beverages (besides water) separately at each stop.
Big Easy Bayou Tour
This tour takes place totally on the water in a kayak. Kayak-iti-yat offers a leisurely two hour Big Easy Bayou Tour that’s appropriate for novices and experts alike and includes the history and information behind the sights and neighborhoods situation along Bayou St. John in Mid-City. In the warmer summer months this tour departs during the twilight hours. To get there, take the RTA 91 Bus route to Bayou St. John or the Canal Streetcar line to the New Orleans Museum of Art if you’re reliant on public transit. Tours are offered by reservation only but take place seven days a week and only require a minimum of two kayakers. At $40 per person, this is tour is a great value.
A Cynic’s Ghost Tour
Finally what would a New Orleans tour guide be like without at least one ghost tour? Don’t fret, though, because this isn’t your standard ghost tour. Offered by Two Chicks Walking Tours, this tour is for the cynics and skeptics out there. The tour guides explore and dissect the Big Easy’s most noteworthy and well-known ghost and haunting stories. This tour is a bit more pricey than some of the others because it’s only currently offered as a private tour, which means it costs $250 for up to six people and of course, must be booked in advance. Though, if you bring six people, the $41.66 price tag puts this tour right in line with any other tour offered here. The best part of this is that you can schedule this two-hour tour at a time and starting place that works best for you and your group.