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One of the best ways to see a city is to tour it — and in New Orleans, particularly, it’s also one of the best ways to experience everything the destination has to offer.
“A walking tour is a great way for families to learn the history and culture of New Orleans,” said Thu Tran, tourism sales account executive for New Orleans & Company. “Families can visit historical structures, shop at the French Market — an open-air marketplace offering specialty goods unique to New Orleans — and explore the French Quarter for musical performances and award-winning restaurants.”
We’ve rounded up four family-friendly New Orleans tours that are sure to delight clients, whether they’re foodies, history buffs, active outdoorspeople or fans of the supernatural.
Bike ToursIf clients are looking to pedal instead of walk, FreeWheelin’ Bike Tours is the way to go. This local, family-owned company was the first to offer bicycle tours through the most notable sections of the city. Plus, each FreeWheelin’ retro cruiser bike is custom designed to comfortably cruise NOLA’s bumpy streets.
“A bike tour is the absolute best way to see the city,” said Ryan Bergeron, owner of FreeWheelin' Bike Tours and The American Bicycle Rental Company. “We have history galore, fantastic architecture and ancient oak trees. What else do you need for a great experience during a vacation? And the smells of food cooking, musical melodies floating through the air and nice folks waving from their porches bidding you a good afternoon — it can't be beat.”
The three-hour Creole & Crescent tour — the company’s first and most popular tour — is perfect for beginners looking to spend a day cycling and sightseeing. Riders embark on an 8-mile loop that starts in the French Quarter; explores the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods (and the largest collection of 19th-century homes in America); cruises along Esplanade Avenue, which is lined with centuries-old oak trees; cuts through St. Louis Cemetery No. 3; and, finally, heads back to the French Quarter by way of the famous Treme neighborhood.
Food ToursNew Orleans is well-known for being a foodie destination. With sweet beignets, spicy jambalayas and savory muffuletta sandwiches, the city offers something delicious to try on every block of its famous French Quarter.
And clients can sample tasty treats like these during a French Quarter walking food tour with local operator Destination Kitchen.
“At Destination Kitchen, we treat your clients as our guests and invite them into New Orleans' most famous — and infamous — restaurants, bars and unique venues,” said Julie Barreda, owner of Destination Kitchen. “We strive to be memory-makers and provide a ‘behind the scenes’ history and introduction to New Orleans cuisine, history and culture.”
On my tour with the operator, the bites were delicious, but the tales of the French Quarter were equally satisfying. A visit to the Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights workshop that has been making New Orleans’ iconic gas lamps for nearly 75 years was the icing on the cake (or powdered sugar on the beignet, as the case may be).
Historical ToursSt. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest of New Orleans’ distinctive “Cities of the Dead,” with more than 100,000 souls resting in 700 tombs on just one square block. Visitors can only enter the cemetery with an official guide, so I booked with French Quarter Phantoms. With so much fascinating history and lore to be found inside the walls, I was happy to have an expert explain it all.
“The most compelling reason to choose French Quarter Phantoms is the quality of the guides,” said owner Cindi Richardson. “They are very well-educated, highly-entertaining, unique personalities who have a true passion for sharing what they know with our guests.”
French Quarter Phantoms offers two-hour daytime tours of the 230-year-old cemetery that contains the tomb of voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, as well as the future — and somewhat controversial — pyramid-shaped tomb of actor Nicholas Cage. As the tour crisscrosses the rows of ornate vaults, guides also describe New Orleans’ unique burial process, which allows many generations of family members to rest together for eternity.
Spooky ToursFor clients interested in an even darker side of New Orleans, a nighttime ghost tour is the perfect way to learn about the history and folklore that has made the city the ghost and vampire capital of the U.S. — and, some say, the country’s most haunted city.
Ranked on TripAdvisor as one of the top 10 ghost tours in the world, French Quarter Phantoms’ nightly Ghost + Vampire Tour is a fun and spine-tingling experience. Described as having a vibe that combines the best of Alfred Hitchcock and “The Twilight Zone,” the tour is perfect for families who want to hear spooky stories about the restless spirits lingering in the French Quarter.
“Haunted by phantoms and the hovering mysteries of past tragedies, the French Quarter is a place where the spirits often find the coffin too confining,” Richardson said.
The 90-minute tour recounts ghost tales and vampire lore, including the real story of the notorious Madame LaLaurie and the LaLaurie Mansion, which is considered the most haunted house in the U.S. Plus, if clients have a favorite New Orleans ghost story, French Quarter Phantoms is happy to do some paranormal research so the master storytellers can include it in their tour.
Note: French Quarter Phantoms considers the tour appropriate for all ages, but as with any spooky experience, parents are the best judges of what their children can handle.
The DetailsNew Orleans & Companywww.neworleans.com