June 30th, 2011
Coming to NOLA for the holiday weekend? Have guests coming in for Essence Fest? If you answered “yes” to either of those questions, then you need to know about some of the best tours in the city. One of 411 NOLA’s fav tour companies is Southern Hospitality Tours. Locally owned and operated, this tour company offers a Pirate Tour, a Cocktail Tour, and more. If you are the DIY type, then you might consider a self-guided tour. With a pamphlet or smart phone app, you can show yourself the best that New Orleans has to offer: the French Quarter, swamps, eclectic neighborhoods, Jazz history, the Garden District, and more.
Self-guided French Quarter Tour
Visitors can download a free copy of the French Quarter Walking Tour pamphlet provided by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. This is the way to tour the French Quarter for true DIY types.
Swamp and Canoe Tours
The Barataria Preserve outside Marrero offers a taste of Louisiana’s wild wetlands. The preserve’s 23,000 acres include bayous, swamps, marshes, forests, alligators, nutrias, and over 300 species of birds. Boardwalk and dirt trails wind through the preserve; check out the trail map, enjoy a self-guided tour, or explore with a cell phone tour. Waterways can be explored by canoe or kayak; hikers and paddlers can check out the preserve map here. Admission to the preserve is free. Click here for directions and program listings for specific dates.
The Jazz National Historical Park, which is run by the National Park Service, “preserves the origins, early history, development and progression of Jazz.” In addition to its lectures and concerts, the park provides free audio-enabled self-guided tours of Jazz history. With brochures and mp3 files, you can take your own journey through the world of Jazz.
You don’t have to go to the visitor’s center to to take the tours; brochures and mp3 files are downloadable (see below). Nonetheless, you might want to go there to enjoy its lectures, exhibits, and free concerts. The park’s visitor center is located at 916 N. Peter St. in the French Market. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:00 a. m. to 5:00 p. m. Call 877-520-0677 for more info and directions or click here.
The Jazz Walk of Fame: Located just a ferry ride away from downtown New Orleans lies the Jazz Walk of Fame, a series of lampposts dedicated to influential Jazz musicians. Grab a brochure at the visitor center and take a self-guided audio tour atop the levee while witnessing great views of downtown New Orleans. Audio content of the Jazz Walk of Fame is available by dialing 504-613-4062 or by downloading the tour as an mp3 file. You can also download a PDF of the Jazz Walk of Fame brochure.
Jazz Sites: This self-guided walking tour of Jazz sites in New Orleans begins in Louis Armstrong Park and contains 11 stops in or near the French Quarter. The final stop of this tour is located across the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans in the neighborhood of Algiers Point, next to the Jazz Walk of Fame. Stop by the park visitor center to pick up a tour brochure or download a PDF of the tour map here. Audio content for the tour is available by dialing 504-613-4062 and entering the stop number preceded by a “0?. You can also download the tour as mp3 files here.
Sculpture Garden Tour
The public is invited to relax and walk along the meandering footpaths in the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which is home to more than fifty sculptures. The garden, which is located next to the New Orleans Musuem of Art in City Park, is open 7 days a week from 10:00 a. m. to 4:45 p. m. (and ’til dusk on Wednesdays). There is never a charge to get into the garden, and better yet, you can get a free self-guided tour via your cell phone. Ask for details at the main entrance to the garden.
A local company called Calliope Digital, LLC recently announced the release of its two newest iPhone applications related to New Orleans: The Historic French Quarter Tour and The Historic Garden District Tour. These apps allow users to take self-guided tours of two of the most historic neighborhoods of New Orleans at their own paces. Half the price of standard guided tours, these virtual tours have been fact-checked with information from multiple sources including the web, city archives, and word of mouth. Special app features include several photos of each location as well as related audial messages, so you can take a tour of the historic French Quarter or Garden District without even leaving home.
Walking Tours of New Orleans
The Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, a non-profit organization dedicated to “the preservation, restoration, and revitalization of New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods,” offers visitors (and locals) free maps, architectural guides, and brochures about twenty of New Orleans’ most interesting neighborhoods, all of which are available on its website. The brochures can be downloaded for free and include self-guided tour itineraries, neighborhood profiles, historical time lines, maps, lists of annual neighborhood events and of neighborhood organizations. The brochures are well written and feature stunning photos. You should get a copy of each one even if you don’t have time to tour each neighborhood. In and of themselves, the brochures can take you “walking through New Orleans” as Fats Domino would have said had he written a song about them.
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