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New Orleans has a lot for visitors to love, whether they’re in town to learn about the city’s rich musical scene, indulge in its famous food and cocktail scene, explore its voodoo history, or take in areas like the French Quarter and Garden District. A tour guide can be a huge help if there’s a particular area you want to focus your attention on or if there’s a special interest you want to dive into during the trip. It’s also helpful if you just don’t know where to start when it comes to beginning your explorations of the city — after all, there are so many intriguing quarters and entry points that it can be difficult to pinpoint just one. A tour guide will bring a ton of expertise to the table in whichever area you choose — and pepper your learning experience with tidbits you might not find in the history books.
We’ve rounded up some of the best Viator tours that New Orleans offers, whether you’re looking for a ghost tour or swamp tour, bike tour or Segway tour. Read through to get some serious trip inspiration going.
Best History: New Orleans City Tour: Katrina, Garden District, French Quarter
This tour covers a lot of the city in three hours — and if you’re visiting during summer, you won’t be walking around in the heat, either. Instead, this excellent introduction to the city can cover so much ground because it’s mostly via air-conditioned minibus (which, yes, picks you up from major hotels downtown and drops you back off too). You’ll take in the architecture and history of the French Quarter and Garden District with its stunning mansions from a professional guide, then move forward into recent history with a somber visit to the lakefront area, Ward Nine, and 17th-century canal briefed by Hurricane Katrina, learning along the way why recovery is still ongoing (and what’s been done to avert another such disaster).
Next is a stop to stretch your legs and eat lunch at the city park, followed by a museum tour focusing on cemeteries — which many consider the highlight of the tour. It’s a great way to get an idea of the city’s many complexities and twists and turns of its past — then get ideas for what kinds of interesting facets you’d want to dive more into on another tour or during the rest of your visit.
Best Swamp Tour: New Orleans Swamp and Bayou Boat Tour With Transport
The bayous around New Orleans are changing, and this two-hour tour is a great opportunity to see Honey Island Swamp, one of the state’s last protected wetland areas — and take in a Cajun village only accessible by boat to learn about its culture. You’ll get picked up from (and dropped back off at) your NOLA hotel and then head out across Lake Pontchartrain to the swamp on a bespoke 22-passenger boat that runs quietly enough for groups to catch glimpses of the important wildlife in the area, like wild boar, snakes, bald eagles, turtles, and, of course, alligators. Guides are highly experienced, and well-briefed on the flora, fauna, and culture of this unique area of the world. Those who love the natural world will love learning about how the state’s wetlands were formed, as well as learning about the different elements of the area ecosystem — while those into history and culture will love getting briefed on the relationship between people in the surrounding villages and the bounty of the swamp.
Best Mixology-Focused Tour: New Orleans Original Cocktail Walking Tour
New Orleans is famous for two kinds of spirits: Those making up its haunted history and the liquid ones that get poured out on Bourbon Street. This Travel Channel-featured tour focuses on the later, and it’s a must for anyone who loves good food and strong drinks. The two-and-a-half-hour tour explores the past behind some of New Orleans’ most beloved cocktails, like the pack-a-punch Sazarac and summery Pimm’s Cup.
The tour first takes thirsty tourists to the French Quarter, where you learn about the neighborhood’s distinctive architecture, from its famous mansions to Creole townhomes — then enjoy exploring some of the city’s most iconic cocktail bars, learning about the drinks as some incredibly talented mixologists create them before your eyes (and yes, you can indulge in one or two yourself — including a Grasshopper at the bar in which it was invented). You’ll also stop for a bite at Tujague’s, the city’s oldest genuine Creole restaurant, which has been around for more than 150 years.
Best Ghost Tour: Ghost and Vampire Walking Tour of the French Quarter
If part of the draw to romantic, gothic New Orleans for you is its macabre and haunted side, the Ghost and Vampire Walking Tour of the French Quarter shouldn’t be missed. Although ghost tours are common in this city, it’s not often you get bonus vampires added into the mix. The two-hour tour is family friendly, too, with expert guides offsetting the spookiness with humor. You’ll start at the aptly named Voodoo lounge (where Hurricanes are two-for-one beginning an hour before the tour starts) before heading out to learn about Madame LaLaurie and her horror-filled mansion.
Guides are officially certified by the city and share fascinating stories and legends about the famous ghosts, hauntings, sightings, and vampire tales. You’ll also get a break from the scary stuff by learning about the famous district’s mansions and cathedral. Although you won’t be walking too far — about a mile over the course of the hour — a pair of comfortable walking shoes during this tour will be helpful.
Best Food Tour: New Orleans Food Walking Tour of the French Quarter
Coming to New Orleans to take in the foodie scene? We can hardly blame you: The city is known for its delicious specialties, like gumbo, jambalaya—and, of course, sugary, fluffy beignets. Dive into it with this three-ish-hour French Quarter walking tour that explores the best of what famous restaurants in the neighborhood have to offer — and you’ll eat plenty along the way.
Past tours have stopped for gumbo at Dickie Brennan’s, brisket at a pre-Civil War Creole restaurant, as well as muffuletta, jambalaya, pralines, and boudin beignets. Wash them all down with a sampling of New Orleans’ famous cocktails, like Pimm’s Cup or Hurricanes.
You’ll also learn plenty about the creation and history of these dishes. If you have a particular food interest, you let the tour guide know to tailor the tour to it — and of course, they’ll be able to offer up top-notch restaurant recommendations for the rest of your trip.
Best Bike Tour: New Orleans Bike Tour
Whether you’re an early riser or an afternoon rider, seeing New Orleans by bike is truly an incredible way to see the city, and this bike tour shows you the best of it from the saddle during this 3.5-hour ride that takes you past the city’s top sights — and one of the city’s coolest neighborhoods.
Start in the gorgeous French Quarter, where your guide will help you fit your bike and provide you with a helmet, then take off for your half-day excursion through seven city neighborhoods to learn about how each has shaped the city’s history and current state.
You’ll follow the Mississippi to peep the steamboats, cycle back through the French Quarter to the trendy, music-filled Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, before passing Esplanade Avenue’s elegant Creole homes.
Next stop is St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 for a dose of New Orleans’ spooky side, followed by a contrasting — and beautiful — stop at City Park. On the way back, you’ll pass through Bayou St. Lohn, Mid-City, and Treme. After all that, a jambalaya dinner and ice-cold Pimm’s Cup will be just the thing.
Best Voodoo Tour: New Orleans' City of the Dead Cemetery No. 1 Tour
It might seem like yet another graveyard tour, but this tour delves far beyond that and into New Orlean’s unique voodoo history — as well as the city’s incredible architecture. You’ll start the two-hour walking tour in the heart of the French Quarter, learning about the impact of French, Spanish, and Creole design styles on the homes and mansions in the area, as well as spotting a few of the city’s “shotgun homes.”
Along the way, you’ll learn about the city’s voodoo history and even stop in a shop that sells the tools of the trade — the religion is still going strong in the city. Next up is your destination, Cemetery No. 1, which is New Orleans’ oldest. The city-block sized graveward will explain just why there are so many above-ground plots and tell the stories behind some of the more famous bodies buried there—including Marie Laveau.
On the way back, a highlight is Congo Square, where both slaves and free people met up to socialize (and yes, there’s an intriguing voodoo component here, too).
Best Segway Tour: New Orleans French Quarter Segway Tour
If bikes and walking won’t do it for you, a Segway might be just the thing to add a little extra to your standard city tour. And this isn’t your standard city tour: You’ll be zooming around on Segways — after a 30-minute training course to make sure you’re comfortable before the tour gets going. Once on the way, you’ll see the French Quarter, learning about its architecture and culture, before heading to the Mississippi River where you’ll learn about the French colonial history of the city and glimpse steamboats.
Next are stops at Jackson Square (the old city center where art vendors gather), its St. Louis Catheral, and the building where the Louisiana Purchase was signed. After you'll visit Louis Armstrong Park, which is on the edge of Treme-Lafitte and marks the birthplace of jazz. It’s a beautiful park to walk — or, in this case — glide through. Finally, you’ll wrap up on Bourbon Street with a visit to the old U.S. Mint. Want to have an even grander adventure? Upgrade to the three-hour tour.