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New Orleans is a city of contrasts: historic and modern, sinful and religious, raucous and full of life and yet, according to those who believe, deeply haunted by the souls of the dead. It’s not just ghosts wandering the old buildings of the French Quarter and the Garden District, though — New Orleans is also known for vampires, werewolves and the all-too-real monsters of the humankind. Take an expertly-guided ghost tour and maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of something unexplained yourself.
Best Bus Tour: Night Cemetery and Ghost BYOB Bus Tour in New Orleans
The eerie “cities of the dead” — the above-ground cemeteries where generations of deceased New Orleans citizens have made their final homes — are unsettling at any time of day, but at night, they’re truly frightening. This bus tour departs from the French Quarter after dark and sets off for some of the oldest and most ornate cemeteries in the city. A guide explains the history of New Orleans-style burials and some of the city’s more famous hauntings, and upon arrival at the cemeteries, you’re left to do a bit of exploration of your own. As is typically the case in New Orleans, you’re invited to bring a bottle of something warm to nip at while your guide weaves her tales.
Best French Quarter Tour: New Orleans Killers and Thrillers Tour
The French Quarter is New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood and, according to many experts, the most haunted square mile in the United States. This walking tour takes visitors through three hundred years of fascinating (and often gruesome) history, with stops at the house of famed psychopathic torturer Madame LaLaurie, drinks at the haunted brothel-turned-bar May Bailly’s, as well as a stroll past the home of the legendary Voodoo queen, Marie Laveau. The 1.5-hour tour moves quickly but does make stops at at least two haunted bars for both ghost-spotting and refreshments.
Best Garden District Tour: New Orleans Garden District Ghost Tour
The Garden District is home to the grandiose mansions of New Orleans’ sugar, cotton and fruit barons of old, and its spooky, Spanish moss-draped ambience inspired a number of terrifying novels by Anne Rice and others. This daytime walking tour shows you around the gothic Lafayette Cemetery and gives you a glimpse at a number of allegedly haunted houses, as well as the filming locations for Interview With a Vampire, Dracula 2000 and American Horror Story: Coven.
Best Vampire Tour: New Orleans Vampire Tour
Anne Rice’s famous vampire Lestat is fiction, but many of the vampires you’ll discover on this two-hour French Quarter walking tour are all too real. Your enthusiastic guide will regale you with tales of New Orleans’ history and myth and explain why the city is not just a favorite playground for television and movie vampires, but a real vampire subculture, as well. The tour, which also visits a number of haunted houses and true crime locations, includes a stop at a local vampire bar. Yes, really. Are you brave enough to pop in for a drink?
Best Voodoo Tour: New Orleans Cemetery Voodoo and Walking Tour
Voodoo, or vodoun, is a very real religion that came to New Orleans from West and Central Africa along with the enslaved people who were brought here by force and later syncretized with Roman Catholicism. On this tour, you’ll learn about the traditions and liturgy of this religion as well as the stories of some of its more famous practitioners, including Marie Laveau, whose grave you’ll visit. The tour brings visitors from the French Quarter to the city’s oldest extant cemetery, St. Louis No. 1, via air-conditioned motorcoach, and includes a complimentary gris-gris bag.
Best Ghost Hunter Tour: New Orleans Ghost Hunters 101
If simply hearing stories about legendary hauntings isn’t enough for you, tag along with the paranormal investigation crew that runs these tours and visit ten of the most haunted locations in the city. The researchers will teach you to look for photographic orbs and physical cold spots, and you’ll get to use an EMF meter to test for the electromagnetic frequency blips that are said to occur when paranormal activity is present. This tour is available both in the afternoon and, for the truly fearless, in the late evening.
Best True Crime Tour: Sinister Criminal Intentions — True Crime Tour
Sometimes humans can be far more terrifying than anything supernatural. Leave the kids at home for this adults-only French Quarter nighttime walking tour that tells the stories of many of the most horrifying and gruesome crimes ever to take place in New Orleans: Madame LaLaurie, the Katrina Cannibal, the Trunk Murders and more. It’s not for the faint of heart, for sure, but if you’re brave enough, it’s a fascinating couple of hours that’ll teach you more about the city than you ever wanted to know.