What to Expect on a New Orleans Walking Tour
Okay you’ve settled into your hotel or BnB, you’ve got your list of restaurants, bars and museums to hit, but you really want to dive into the New Orleans experience. A New Orleans walking tour can be the best way to get an idea of what makes us so great.
Here’s a few things to expect (and to avoid) when you take a New Orleans walking tour:
First of all, New Orleans is pretty flat and the sidewalks are (mostly) navigable. In both the French Quarter and the Garden District the sidewalks are (mostly) friendly to those that are mobility-challenged. So the stroll should be easy. Also, the French Quarter is full of balconies, so it’s pretty easy to dodge raindrops.
Next, a tour guide must be three things: a historian, a writer and an entertainer. You may get a funny guide, but he or she might be making things up. You may get an egghead guide, but sometimes they can be dry. That’s why our guides are locals who have assorted other entertainment and academic backgrounds – we have authors, movie actors, local celebs and just plain curious folks who can relate to you in a friendly, funny and informative way.
Look Under the Hood of New Orleans History
There are a couple of tests that kind of “look under the hood” at whether a tour guide has done their research. For example if you’ve got someone spending fifteen minutes explaining the difference between a balcony and a gallery, well chances are they are not motivated enough to research more about actual architecture.
Another “gotcha” moment: If, in the telling of the infamous Axeman murders, where he asks the city to have jazz bands going all night, your tour guide says “Every home had a radio blaring jazz all night.” Well, the Axeman prowled the streets of New Orleans in 1918 and 1919. The first radio broadcast in New Orleans was in 1920.
A final example of what not to expect on a New Orleans walking tour is plain made up stuff. We have the famous Cornstalk Fence Hotel, where they have a cast iron fence in the form of, well, cornstalks. The lazier guides will tell you the house was built by a guy that fell in love with a girl from Iowa. He built the fence to make her feel at home. Romantic story.
Here are a couple of tidbits some research would reveal: The house was built in 1832. Iowa became a state in 1846. The corn industry in Iowa didn’t really begin until the 1880s. Finally, there are at least eight cornstalk fences in New Orleans, so either a bunch of Iowa gold-diggers came down and made the rich guys build fences or something else is going on.
Our non-lazy, researching, dedicated guides will get into exactly what that something else is. We pride ourselves on being committed historians, well-crafted writers and pretty entertaining.
Another pitfall to look out for is the size of groups the tour companies send out. Legally we can’t send out more than 28 people, though some of the larger companies send out way more than that. This is not enjoyable for the guests, and honestly, for the tour guide either. That’s why the better tour guides migrate away from the big, greedy companies and end up with a quality company like Unique Nola.
At Unique, we don’t send out public New Orleans walking tours bigger than 16 people, and very often the groups are even smaller. This creates a more intimate and peaceful experience. It really feels like you are in your own live documentary about the Crescent City.
Not only should you expect your guide to be knowledgeable and truthful, you should expect your expert to be tuned in to what you are interested in. Our tours come in at around two hours, but we could easily talk about our city much longer than that. There is so much to talk about here.
So you have a professional group that are in town, say for a women’s conference and have no interest in sports, for example. Why would you spend ten minutes talking about your favorite New Orleans Saints players? A great idea would be to come up with a story about a couple of the great women from our past.
If a group is active in civil rights, or foodies, or LGBTQ interests, or any of a number of other areas – New Orleans has facets that guests would find fascinating. You should expect your New Orleans walking tour guide to be right there with those stories.
Finally, you should expect your New Orleans walking tour to be conducted with respect. Our tour guides do not show up drunk, do not drink on tour, do not get inappropriate with guests. We want you to walk away from your tour as in love with New Orleans as we are.
We really look forward to having you as our guest. Welcome!