We are New Yorkers; we walk everywhere. Since we don’t have a car, we get a lot of mileage out of our legs. So when we go to a new city, our inclination is to figure out how to explore that city on foot. Touring a city on foot is the easiest and best way to get a feel for a new area and get in some exercise to work off the extra vacation food. When we got to New Orleans, I was excited to walk around and see the historical cemeteries and beautiful garden district.After doing some research, we decided to go with Free Tours on Foot. The tour is run by local Orleanians who are familiar and knowledgeable with the culture and the city. As the name suggests, the tour is offered FREE of charge but you are supposed to tip the tour guide appropriately at the end if you are happy with their service. If you are interested, Free Tours on Foot is also offered in 10 other cities.
The city of New Orleans is spread out, so the best way to get from downtown to the Garden district is on the St Charles streetcar. These antique trolleys are the oldest streetcars still operating in the world. It’s like riding on a piece of history! Beware, sometimes there are accidents that occur on the streetcar line causing significant delays. This happened to us and we had to scramble to flag down a taxi and get uptown in time for the start of our tour.
The outing started at Lafayette Cemetery #1 and continued around a five block radius encompassing the neighborhood. During our tour, the sky opened up and we got to experience a torrential downpour which I’m sure occurs frequently in the south during summer. Streets were flooded in minutes and we had take cover under the veranda of one of the houses. These wide covered porches really come in handy during the shower. The rain did not let up, but after 30 minutes we decided to venture out anyways. Our tour guide was kind enough to provide umbrellas and rain ponchos.
The opulent houses in the garden district were originally built between 1832 and 1900 and are considered one of the most beautifully preserved collections of historic mansions in the country. These multi-story Victorian houses were constructed in the days where excellent craftsmanship and intricate details were the norm. Each house had a wrap-around porch where people would congregate at night back when there was no air-conditioning. A well manicured garden surrounds the house creating an oasis from the bustling city. Beautiful wrought iron fences in elaborate designs enclose the whole area. These mansions are still occupied today, mostly by the rich and famous. If you are thinking of moving here, you better think again, the property taxes alone are upwards of $30,000 a year, but you’d be in good company. On our tour we walked by the house of actors (Sandra Bullock, John Goodman), author (Anne Rice), and sports legends (Archie Manning, Drew Brees).
Walking around this historic neighborhood, you will also see hundred year old trees lining the wide open streets, giving shade and privacy to the residents. Along the sidewalk there are many remnants of the past still present today like the hitching posts that were used to tie horses or the stepping stones used by ladies to get out of their carriages. Even though they don’t have a practical uses anymore, their presence lends an air of authenticity to the whole district.
A visit to New Orleans is not complete until you walk around the Garden district. We learned a bit of history and saw many elegant houses full of characters. Our guide was knowledgeable and filled with many funny stories about the area. He entertained us during the downpour while we waited under the porch. In fact, we had such a great time that we decided to come back and do another tour with them again. Check back next week for our cemetery tour post.
- Street car: $1.25 per person one way
- Free Tours on Foot: free + tip
10 thoughts on “New Orleans: Garden District”
I visited back in the first week of June and absolutely fell madly in love with New Orleans. I agree, the walking is the only way to enjoy it. Something stirred in me while I was there that I can’t seem to shake off. I don’t want to go back…I NEED to go back.
I think New Orleans have that kind of pull for people. Did you do the walking tours while you were there? I find it a bit hard to walk during the day when the sun and humidity is at their highest, but late afternoon and evening it’s beautiful.
The group I was with wasn’t up to that much walking so we took the van tour but thankfully, we had several stops and were given a decent amount of time to explore. Those of us who did want to explore on foot did so but we were very careful and avoided areas we were warned about. Just exploring the French Quarter and walking down to the river was like sensory overload and I couldn’t get enough of it. I’d go back today if I could afford it. 🙂
As I went through your post, I had taken a walk along side you. Nice description and great photos!
Thank you so much!
Great pictures and I loved the garden district of New Orleans. I also lived in New York so agree with walking to really discover an area. When my friend and I went to New Orleans, we skipped most of the tours and just explored. We came across this small house museum that wasn’t listed (private home) and learned some great history about the past residents and gorgeous rooms!
That’s awesome! I love finding hidden gems.
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Thank you for taking me touring new orleans through your eyes, your great pictures, and great description of it all!!
Next time maybe you can come too.
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