Best Time of Year to Take a Garden District Walking Tour
Many folks get excited about a Garden District walking tour. These guests want to experience the elegance, the history and the stunning character of the two century old neighborhood. But when is the best time to come here to do the tour?
Well here’s the good news: it’s not about when to come, but what you can expect when you do come. The fact is, New Orleans weather ranges from its hot and humid summers to its mild and cool winters. Each season has its challenges, sure, but each also has its advantages. This is a runthrough of what to expect on a Garden District walking tour at every time of the year.
Well ok, let’s not be coy, it does get rather toasty here in our subtropical climate. Additionally, the humidity can be a challenge for some people. However, the Garden District was built by really rich families who lived here before air conditioning. You just know they came up with ways to deal with the heat.
First, they cut the streets in wide swaths, even in those horse and carriage days toward the Mississippi River fourteen blocks away. This allowed, and still allows, breezes off the river to flow through the area. Even in the middle of July, there are light zephyrs lending relief from the warmth.
Next, the entire Garden District is canopied by regal live oak and magnolia trees. These magnificent trees are green throughout the year, meaning our Garden District walking tour strolls in the shade. While downtown, the concrete and tall buildings exacerbate the heat, in the Garden District we stroll in a more pleasant atmosphere.
Summer is also the time that the magnolias bloom with their fragrant, enormous blossoms. They lend a lemony tinge to the air. At that time we also enjoy the crisp aroma of the many types of ginger plants blooming. Also, while many plants are waiting, the towering crape myrtles are in full show with their fuschia, white and watermelon petals.
It is called the Garden District after all, and we will see cascading bougainvillea, showy hibiscus and the intriguing clerodendrum. This last plant is a flowering bush that attracts tons of butterflies and hummingbirds. We have ruby-throated which breed here, and every now and then, like our guests who want to visit the Garden District, we will get a curious Rufous or an Anna’s hummingbird.
For a lot of visitors wanting a Garden District walking tour, autumn rocks. The temperature comes down a notch, the humidity is less, well, humid and local events are gearing up.
School will be back in session and proud parents will have little lawn flags of their students’ alma maters. The homes’ decor will be leaning toward the warm colors of Halloween and Thanksgiving (tasteful of course, never tacky).
The many citrus trees will be fruiting – Meyer lemons, satsumas and kumquats, alongside fig trees. Being on the Mississippi flyway and in the tropical belt, the trees will be full of northern birds coming south and blow-ins from Gulf breezes. Don’t tell anyone, but there is even a nesting Osprey in the neighborhood.
Now that the heat is subsiding, locals fill their gardens with the more delicate petite perennials like Columbine, Dianthus and Petunias. One lady managed a black and yellow petunia – perfect for us New Orleans Saints fans. On your Garden District walking tour you will also see decorative, and edible (!) kales. Please don’t eat them.
The holidays add a wonderful old-days feel to a Garden District walking tour. Besides the army of poinsettias on every gallery, the pansies will be blooming and the (sometimes brisk) air will smell of cheery fireplaces.
If you come at the right time you can add a holiday home tour to your walking tour. With a donation to a local preservation trust, you can go into several of the mansions in the Garden District. The owners go all out in putting the right aesthetic touches to their grand homes. The home tour even ends up at a school where the students carol while serving cookies and cocoa.
Also, pro-tip, even famous people take time off at the holidays, and there is never a better time of year to get a glimpse of a movie star, athlete or artist enjoying the time where they actually live. Who knows whom you might meet?
Doing a walking tour in a place called “the Garden District” during the spring almost doesn’t need a discussion. This is when the 60 square block dream really comes alive.
The decadent camellias are in full display, followed closely by the cloud-like azaleas along almost every house front. Jasmines and sweet olives are filling the air like a perfume counter at an elegant shoppe.
Now the birds, who came down for the winter are going back north, and once again we will see chickadees, juncos, mockingbirds and woodpeckers. Also the local pets, who spent too much time inside last winter will be out shamelessly begging for the affections of visitors. These animals have seen their share of Garden District walking tours and French Quarter walking tours, and they are super well behaved and pretty adamant about getting a pat from you.
A Garden District walking tour truly is an all-year attraction to our great city. In fact, when you take your first tour, you may very well want to return in every season to see the grandest parade of all – the procession of colors and aromas of the Garden District.