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GoNOLA Tops: New Orleans Tours

Haunted tours, swamp tours, culinary tours, historic tours, gay tours … take your pick!

Dumaine Street in the French Quarter. (Photo: Paul Broussard)
- Photo by Paul Broussard

New Orleans is a treasure trove of history, culture, and legends…and while there are plenty of opportunities to explore the city on your own, sometimes you need some help from the pros. From carriage tours to swamp tours to ghost tours, we’ve got your guide to the best New Orleans tours for every type of traveler.

Top New Orleans Tours

Colorful homes in the French Quarter. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)
Colorful homes in the French Quarter. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

French Quarter and neighborhood tours

Each neighborhood in New Orleans has something unique to offer. The French Quarter (or Vieux Carre) may be the most famous, but other neighborhoods such as the Treme, the Garden District, the Marigny/Bywater, and Bayou St. John are full of interesting stories and sights.

Exploring the French Quarter by foot is a special experience — there are so many nooks and crannies to see. The Friends of the Cabildo offer a great basic walking tour of the French Quarter. For $22, you’ll visit all the neighborhood’s major historic and architectural sites with a licensed tour guide. Proceeds benefit the upkeep of the historical sites and other educational programs through the Louisiana State Museum.

Horse and carriage tours are also a great way to see the French Quarter if walking isn’t really your thing but still want to be immersed in your surroundings; book through Royal Carriages.

If you want to go beyond the French Quarter, try Gray Line for walking, bus, or riverboat tours of the whole city or Hop-on Hop-off for a comprehensive tour on a flexible schedule.

Kermit's Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge in the Treme. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)
Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge in the Treme. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

History and heritage tours

New Orleans is one of the oldest cities in the United States, making it an ideal destination for history buffs. Historic New Orleans Tours offers some historic neighborhood tours and themed tours, including a music tour. Hidden History Tours offers great bus and walking options that allow visitors to explore the city’s rich African-American heritage.  

Check out a Treme & Mardi Gras Indian Cultural Tour for a peek into the history and traditions of the oldest African-American neighborhood in the United States.  

Culinary tours

You probably don’t need to be told why culinary tours are a VIP experience in New Orleans. We are the only city in America with our own native cooking style: Creole cuisine. From gumbo to jambalaya to beignets, you’ll want to taste everything. New Orleans Culinary History Tours stop at iconic restaurants such as Antoine’s and Tujague’s.

If you’re more of a cocktail person and find yourself thirsty, try one of Drink and Learn’s cocktail tours. You’ll sip all the local specialty cocktails while learning the history behind them. 

Steamboat Natchez. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)
Steamboat Natchez. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

Riverboat tours

The Mississippi River is the lifeblood of New Orleans and runs straight through the city’s heart. Riverboat tours are a great way to see the cityscape, especially if you’re looking for a cool river breeze. The Creole Queen and Steamboat Natchez offer historic daytime tours and evening cruises complete with music and dining. You’ll also get a great view of the city from the water. 

St. Louis Cemetery No. 2. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)
St. Louis Cemetery No. 2. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

Haunted tours and cemetery tours

Whether or not you believe in ghosts, there’s no doubt that New Orleans is full of mystery and legends. From Anne Rice’s vampires to the tortured ghosts of Madame Lalaurie’s home, there are plenty of spooky stories to learn. Try a nighttime Haunted History Tour for a ghostly evening.  

You can also explore New Orleans’ above-ground cemeteries, known as the “Cities of the Dead.”  (And be sure to watch our video!)

A kayak swamp tour through Shell Bank Bayou. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)
A kayak swamp tour through Shell Bank Bayou. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

Swamp tours

While you’re in the New Orleans area, you’ll want to experience the great outdoors. Explore the swamps of southern Louisiana with Honey Island Swamp Tours or Jean Lafitte Swamp Tours. Take in the scenery and see if you can spot any alligators, turtles, or snakes! For those seeking a more immersive experience, try a Lost Lands Environmental tour, a kayak exploration of Shell Bank Bayou with an educational component. 

Riding bikes through the French Quarter. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)
Riding bikes through the French Quarter. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

Bike tours

Because of its flat geography, New Orleans is a very bikeable city. Crescent City Bike Tours and Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours offer both city tours and rentals, in case you want to explore the city on your own.

carousel bar
The Carousel Bar inside Hotel Monteleone. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

LGBT tours

Are you curious about the rich history of the New Orleans LGBT community? The French Quarter LGBT History Tour allows you to explore gay history in New Orleans through a trip to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shopthe French Quarter’s first gay-friendly bar, plus the story behind Lafitte’s In Exile. You’ll also visit some of Truman Capote’s and Tennessee Williams’ old haunts.  Or perhaps you prefer your guided tours with cocktails. In that case, you’ll want to try the Twirl tour. Either way, you can’t go wrong with these fabulous gay tours.

Lagniappe: Other Tours

In New Orleans, there is a tour experience for every occasion. In addition to the those we included, you can find New Orleans tours in French, Spanish and other languages, private and luxury tours, and much more.

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