Just one of the floats the team is working on for Mardi Gras 2015.

New Orleans tours you need to check out

Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez

I pride myself in the ability to navigate my way through a new city and locate unique and under-the-radar restaurants, hotels, shopping and art. But if you’ve only got a few days in one of the cities that’s always been on your bucket list, sometimes it’s smart to do what the tourists do and go on a guided tour. I had the opportunity to spend a few days in New Orleans and when I wasn’t hunting down famous restaurants and landmarks, I tried my hardest to see what NOLA had to offer. While you can only see the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all that the city has, these tours are a great starting point. Here are my suggestions for New Orleans tours that you need to check out.

City Sightseeing New Orleans Double Decker Buses

Hop on, hop off!

I see them all the time in metropolitan cities and tourist traps. Those double decker buses are everywhere these days and they’re definitely plentiful in NOLA. I highly suggest you climb aboard one of these buses on your first or second day so you can get a lay of the land. We spent an afternoon with City Sightseeing New Orleans, a super friendly and convenient red double decker bus that shows you some of the highlights of the city.

Get off at the St. Louis Cemetery shuttle stop and take a self-guided tour of this above-ground cemetery.
This cemetery is the final resting place of Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.

What I love about the City Sightseeing buses is that there are a number of stops around town, including the Garden District, Magazine Street, Jackson Square and more. Buy a day pass (good for a full 24 hours) and locate one of the 18 stops. The entire tour takes about 90 minutes or so and you can hop on or off at any point during running hours. If you’re sans car and in town for a few days, the three-day pass is perfect if your hotel is within walking distance of one of the stops. Buses run every 30 minutes so it’s a great way to get around town if you want to spend more time at a specific destination.

Driving through the Garden District with City Sightseeing New Orleans.
See where the locals hang out when you take a tour of the city.

Howie was our guide for the afternoon and he knew the ins and outs of all of the neighborhoods we drove through. Locals are the guides on these tours and they’ll give you an inside scoop on where else you should go around town. The tour company also has free walking tours at three of their stops and you can even get extra specials and savings when you show your shuttle ticket at various locations in town. Check out the website for more info.

Get a peek behind the curtains at Mardi Gras World

Artists working on Mardi Gras 2015 floats.

Mardi Gras needs no introduction at all and if you’re intrigued by the process of float making, you’ll absolutely love getting a behind-the-scenes experience at Mardi Gras World. Blaine Kern Studios has been making Mardi Gras floats since the 1940s and you’ll see designers and artists at work all throughout the day and year up until the big day. Go on a guided tour, watch a short film about the history of Mardi Gras World and nibble on a slice of King Cake while you’re there.

Hold your next event at Mardi Gras World.

This space is also great for groups and large events so you’ll definitely want to check this place out while you’re in town. The amazing photos and photo ops are worth the ticket price alone. Make sure to add Mardi Gras World on your to-do list.

Just one of the floats the team is working on for Mardi Gras 2015.

The food, history, culture in New Orleans is something to enjoy and appreciate and these tour companies are just a couple of the several tours available. While Bourbon Street and the French Quarter are entirely walkable, you’ll definitely want to venture into the various districts and landmarks all throughout the area.

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