12 Best Tours in New Orleans, Louisiana

Carriage in front of St Louis Cathedral in New Orleans

Whether you’re spending a long weekend or 10 days, you can never spend enough time in New Orleans. There’s just so much to see and do! Sure, New Orleans’s most iconic landmark is the French Quarter, where you can grab a drink at any hour of the day and walk around with it, but the Big Easy is full of incredible adventures that highlight just how special it is.

The best part about visiting New Orleans is that there is truly something for everyone here. Are you into the spooky, paranormal side of things? Well, you’ve come to the right place, and there are plenty of ghost tours to stretch your spiritual knowledge.

Are you a foodie looking to expand your culinary palette? You could not find a better city to eat in, and a self-guided or guided food tour of some of New Orleans’s most famous restaurants will give you a taste of our famous Creole and Cajun cuisines.

Or maybe you’re a history buff, hoping to learn more about New Orleans history. And don’t forget about the music scene, after all, New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz. From pirates to Pimm’s cups and ghosts to gumbo, New Orleans welcomes you with open arms to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city.

We’ve done all the hard work for you, compiling a list of some of the best New Orleans tours to take while you’re here. Many of these tours are only a few hours long, giving you ample time to stack your day with a few different guided tours to make the most out of your time here in New Orleans.

TL;DR: Our Top Picks by Category

The Best Time to Tour New Orleans

Before we get into the tours, it’s worth mentioning that all of these tours are offered year-round, and while there’s no “bad time” to take one of these tours, there are a few things worthy of consideration. Chief among these considerations is the weather.

Keep in mind that hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30, and New Orleans typically sees the most dangerous storms in August and September. If you’re planning on visiting New Orleans during those months, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the Gulf of Mexico and stay flexible.

The good news is that hurricanes tend to come with plenty of warning, so you’ll have ample time to make adjustments to your travel plans.

June through September are some of the hottest months of the year for New Orleans, and the heat index can easily be triple digits. Such fierce temperatures are not ideal for walking around all day or being outside without plenty of water, so be sure to stay hydrated and slather on that sunscreen.

That said, the hot weather is great for watching swamp critters like alligators! These cold-blooded beauties love to sunbathe during the warm weather.

Best New Orleans Tours

Ready to let the good times roll? As all true New Orleanians would say: Laissez les bons temps rouler!

1. Jazz Cruise On The Steamboat Natchez

New Orleans Steamboat Natchez
Management / TripAdvisor

Best Time of Year for this Tour: Year-round

See New Orleans from an entirely new perspective when you take a two-hour tour on board the Steamboat Natchez, the last authentic steamboat to cruise down the Mississippi River. There are several cruises to choose from, including an evening jazz cruise, a day jazz cruise, and even tours with meals included. These historic riverboat cruises boast phenomenal views of the New Orleans skyline and often there is live jazz music playing as well.

See Related: Best Restaurants In New Orleans French Quarter

2. Ghosts, Vampires, & Voodoo French Quarter Tour

New Orleans Vampire Tour
Management / TripAdvisor

Best Time of Year for this Tour: Year-round, but the experience is heightened around Halloween

New Orleans is known for being one of the most haunted cities in the country, and it’s one of the most popular reasons people come to the Crescent City. The French Quarter is peppered with various Voodoo and occult shops for those that want to pick up a souvenir or two, and it’s these shops that often run walking tours where you’ll go on your own little guided ghost tour, Voodoo tour, or vampire tour, stopping off at all of the paranormal hot spots in the city. Just be warned: you very well could have a paranormal experience of your own!

3. Cemetery Tour

New Orleans Cemetery

Mark Gunn / Flickr

Best Time of Year for this Tour: Year-round, but the experience is heightened around Halloween

Few other cities parade their cemeteries like New Orleans, if you’re on the fence about taking one of the cemetery tours, do it. Because New Orleans sits below sea level (8ft), burning the dead 6 feet under isn’t really an option, so the dead are laid to rest in these huge vault-like structures, above ground. These historic tombs are the reason Mark Twain once referred to New Orleans cemeteries as “Cities of the Dead,” and that’s exactly how you’ll feel walking through these famous cemeteries.

There are several cemeteries in New Orleans that you can take a self-guided tour of, like Lafayette Cemetery, but not all of them. The most famous is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, and you’ll need a licensed tour guide to get in. This historic cemetery is the final resting place for many notable New Orleanians, including the Voodoo Queen herself, Marie Laveau.

Many bring her offerings to lay at her tomb in hopes that she will bless them with good fortune, and you are welcome to join in the tradition, just don’t permanently alter the tomb. This is also one of the most haunted cemeteries in New Orleans, and you very well could be visited by one of the many spirits unable to leave the grounds. In fact, Marie Laveau is one of the city’s most famous ghosts, and she’s known to appear all over the city, not just in this cemetery. You never know when and where she’ll pop up!

See Related: Best Family Road Trips in the US

4. Whitney Plantation Tour

New Orleans Whitney Plantation
Madalli169 / TripAdvisor

Best Time of Year for this Tour: Year-round, but keep in mind that the summer can be extraordinarily hot and there is little shade

Historic River Road, a road that runs parallel to the Mississippi River for hundreds of miles, is peppered with plantations, and while Oak Alley Plantation is perhaps the most well-known, we encourage you to visit Whitney Plantation. This is one of the only plantation tours where you’ll learn about the history from the perspective of the slaves.

The informative tour covers the Transatlantic Slave Trade, slavery in Louisiana, as well as the slaves who lived and worked on the plantation. It’s one of the most unique, and important, historical tours in New Orleans, and if you do no other plantation tour while you’re staying in New Orleans, make it this one. Many of these tours offer round-trip transportation from your hotel, so renting a car isn’t necessary.

5. Swamp Tour

New Orleans Swamp Tour
Michael Gaylard / Flickr

Best Time of Year for this Tour: These tours are offered year-round, but you’ll have a much higher probability of seeing wildlife like alligators during the summer months.

Louisiana’s wetlands are a sight to be seen, and you’d be surprised to learn that there are swamps and bayous not far from New Orleans. Swamp tours are a great option when you’re ready to take a break from the bustling French Quarter for a day and immerse yourself in a more natural setting with a scenic cruise through the swamp.

There are two primary types of swamp tours: airboat tours and pontoon boat tours. The airboats are high-speed boats that only need a few inches of water to skim across, giving you access to parts of the swamps that you wouldn’t be able to see any other way. The pontoon boat tours are larger and operate at a much slower pace.

No matter which swamp tour you take, you’ll be met with a front-row seat to Louisiana’s enchanting wetlands, just chock-full of wildlife. Your knowledgeable tour guides will cruise through the swamps, bayous, and marshes and tell you everything about these waters while you keep an eye out for wildlife. Alligators, snakes, turtles, nutria, and hogs are just some of the swamp critters you might see, as well as egrets, herons, anhingas, and if you’re really lucky, maybe even a bald eagle or two.

See Related: Family-Friendly Spring Break Ideas

6. Zip Line Swamp Tour

New Orleans Zip Line
Management / TripAdvisor

Best Time of Year for this Tour: Year-round

Once you’ve seen the swamps from the boat, take to the skies and see the New Orleans swamps from a bird’s eye view! Zip NOLA offers the rare opportunity to zip line over the Maurepas Swamp, a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.

From the treetops, you’ll have an amazing view of both the swamp and nearby Lake Pontchartrain, and as you make your way across the multi-part zip line, keep an eye below and you might see some of the local wildlife including white-tailed deer, an alligator sunbathing on the banks, or even an adorable swamp rabbit living its best life in the marsh.

7. Cocktails & Brunch Crawl In The French Quarter

Donuts and street art in New Orleans, Louisiana
Management / TripAdvisor

Best Time of Year for this Tour: Year-round, but people up their game around Mardi Gras

New Orleans certainly knows its way around a kitchen, and a brunch crawl in the French Quarter is the perfect way to sample some delicious New Orleans food. There are several food tours in New Orleans, but the brunch crawl is our favorite.

On your New Orleans food walking tour, you’ll get to sample some of the delicious dishes New Orleans is known for, as well as a cocktail or two, before strolling through the French Quarter to learn a little history of some of these iconic eateries. Did you know that Oysters Rockefeller and Bananas Foster were both invented right here in New Orleans?

See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in the USA

8. Garden District Walking Tour

New Orleans Garden District
Management / TripAdvisor

Best Time of Year for this Tour: Fall, winter, and spring provide the best temperature for walking around. Summer in New Orleans can be brutal!

Just outside of the French Quarter, you’ll find the Garden District, a quiet neighborhood in New Orleans just overflowing with antebellum houses. Easily one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in New Orleans, a guided tour of the Garden District is a must.

You’ll be walking underneath canopies of ancient oak trees, many of which are hundreds of years old, and as you stop off to read the plaques at some of the most historic homes, your tour will be accented with the smells of fragrant jasmine, wisteria, and sweet olive.

You might even recognize a house or two on this tour! In addition to the many celebrity homes in the Garden District, fans of American Horror Story will recognize the Buckner Mansion, one of the many historic and iconic homes in this part of town.

9. French Quarter Carriage Ride

New Orleans Carriage Ride
Management / TripAdvisor

Best Time of Year for this Tour: Year-round

You’ve seen the photos, now experience it for yourself. The French Quarter’s carriage rides may seem a little touristy (okay, a lottle touristy), but it’s absolutely worth it.

Both day and night tours are available, and it makes for a wonderfully romantic tour. Take a seat and let the mule do all the work as you sit back and enjoy a tour of downtown New Orleans from the comfort of a carriage ride. Don’t forget your camera!

See Related: Best Museums in the US to Visit

10. Mardi Gras World Tour

New Orleans Mardi Gras World
OutOfTheNorth / TripAdvisor

Best Time of Year for this Tour: Year-round

Mardi Gras and New Orleans go together like peas and carrots, but if you’re visiting outside of Carnival season, don’t worry, you can visit Mardi Gras World and learn all about the traditions, krewes, parades, and more.

Mardi Gras floats are handmade, and this is where many of the floats are built, and during your tour, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes peep at all of the work that goes into building a float. You may even get to see one of the talented artists in action! In addition to the floats, there are also exhibits with memorabilia and costumes from previous parades and endless selfie opportunities.

11. Frenchman Street Pub Crawl

New Orleans Music
David E. / TripAdvisor

Best Time of Year for this Tour: Year-round

For music lovers, there’s no better place to be than Frenchman Street. This three-hour tour will bring you to the front door of some of Frenchman Steet’s hottest bars, where you can grab a drink and listen to live jazz music from some of the city’s most talented local musicians.

This is an adults-only tour, and you’ll need to be 21+ to join, so leave the kids at home for this one. We’d recommend taking this tour and then taking the brunch tour the next day, so you can stave off any potential hangovers and keep the party going. You’re on vacation, treat yourself.

See Related: Budget-Friendly Family Vacations

12. Bayou Party Barge Tour

New Orleans Party Barge
Management / TripAdvisor

Best Time of Year for this Tour: Year-round, but spring break is always a blast

Speaking of keeping the party going, a two-hour party barge tour might just be the most incredible tour in New Orleans. Nola Pedal Barge has several different pedal boats and party barges that you can board to take the party to the water. You’ll cruise down Bayou Bienvenue, trading the city streets for beautiful bayou scenes with a trusty Captain on board to take care of all the details.

The tour starts in Chalmette, which is just a short drive away and it’s BYOB, so bring all the drinks and snacks you want for the tour. You’re also the DJ of this cruise, so be sure to have an epic playlist to score your bayou boat tour.

FAQs

What are the best tourist attractions in New Orleans?

The French Quarter is the most popular tourist attraction in New Orleans, but if you’re craving a little more greenery, both City Park and Audubon Park provide hundreds of acres of green space to enjoy. And of course, no visit to New Orleans is complete without visiting at least one of New Orleans’ iconic cemeteries. Take a two-hour walking tour to learn about the city’s history and then get more specific with cemetery tours, plantation tours, or the French Quarter’s endless hidden gems.

What are some fun things to do in New Orleans?

Whether you’re a history buff or a foodie, the Crescent City caters to everyone. Take a stroll through the historic French Quarter, grab a drink on Bourbon Street, enjoy the waterfront views of the Mighty Mississippi, and then indulge in some of the best food you’ve ever tasted for a perfect day.

What is the best thing to do with kids in New Orleans?

Audubon Park provides endless hours of fun for families with kids of all ages. The 350-acre park is home to the Audubon Zoo, one of the best zoos in the country. The 58-acre zoo provides a home for over 2,000 animals with several interactive activities, restaurants, and attractions the whole family will love.

What are some things to do in New Orleans when it’s raining?

New Orleans has plenty of museums to enjoy during those days when the weather just isn’t cooperating. Take a behind-the-scenes tour of Mardi Gras at Mardi Gras World, where you can see how the floats are created and maybe even catch one of the talented artists in action.

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Jacks
WRITTEN BY

Jacks

Jacks is a New Orleans native passionate about exploring the Arctic region. She's a frequent writer and contributor to Only in Your State. A mediocre ukulele player, photographer, and artist, she thrives on spontaneous solo adventures and encourages everyone to follow the deal, not the destination. When she’s not traveling, she’s feeding the neighborhood crows, squirrels, and bluejays that have befriended her, much to the dismay of her cat, Tugger.