This post covers some of the most notable tourist traps in New Orleans, how to avoid them, and how to use them to your advantage. Let's begin!
1. Rua Bourbon
The first, and most obvious, isBourbon Street🇧🇷 People who live in New Orleans don't normally spend a lot of time on Bourbon Street unless we work there.
And we love seeing who can hate Bourbon Street the most.
Visitors are a different story. If you walk down the street at night, it's clear that many people get exactly what they hoped for.
But if you squint a little, you can also spot people who would rather be elsewhere, and unfortunately, our city's reputation sometimes doesn't make it clear that there's much more to it than that.
So when it comes to Bourbon Street, you better know what you're getting, which is too big, too strong, drinks too sweet, classic rock cover bands and plenty of other visitors, who are eager to mingle.
Also, maybe people will come to us hungry, which is a change of pace, regardless of the consequences that might have in the morning.
Drinking so much can help people feel like they've strayed from the rules they're used to.
The problem is that Bourbon Street is not the only place where you can drink a lot or even outdoors.
You can do this virtually anywhere in the city. actually thefrench quarterit's the most restrictive, not least, place around alcohol in the city.
There is a regulation just for this neighborhood that says that it is not allowed to bring glass outside, whereas in the rest of the city it is.
So if you're visiting Bourbon and you're not feeling it, you can walk down the block to Royal Street and browse art galleries and antique shops.
You can walk along Frenchmen Street and find more distinctive local music.
You can stroll through the French market and shop for souvenirs, or much, much more, all with a drink in hand if you prefer, just know that you have options.
2. Souvenir shops
Speaking of souvenirs, they are our second thing to keep in mind.
ofrench quarterit's full of souvenir shops, sometimes three shops to a block selling the same T-shirts, shot glasses and figurines.
And these places can come in handy if you want to buy something for a group of people quickly, or if you've spent the night on Bourbon Street and need a new T-shirt for some reason.
However, the things they sell are usually mass-produced far from here, and most of these stores are owned by a single family.
If you like the idea of coming home with something made locally or sponsoring a small business, then you better look a little further.
The easiest option to find is the surrounding fences.jackson squareand backSaint Louis Cathedral, where artists sell their work.
The license they get from the city requires them to sell the original art made by the person doing the selling, so it's as far from mass production as you can get.
And some big name artists started with these billboards, so you might even invest in something that will increase in value over time.
We also have art markets infrench streetand periodically in other parts of the city where you can find similar things.
not end offrench marketIt's a flea market that stretches over a couple of blocks, and while much of what's sold there is mass-produced, it benefits small independent vendors and local artisans are among the crowd too.
If you're looking for a little something and want to take home something with some real local history, you can always visit one of the local voodoo shops, although you might be surprised to find out what it is. really all about.
Take our voodoo tourfor more on this subject.
Street performers and small vendors can be a lot of fun to meet, and one of the great joys of New Orleans for some visitors is being able to talk to strangers, something that's part of the culture here.
But there are also people here who are eager to take advantage of these open hearts, so our next article is about scammers.
The New Orleans scam usually takes the form of someone talking to you, complimenting your shoes and saying I bet they can tell you where you bought them.
The correct answer is that they are in New Orleans.
The banter and conversation throws you off guard enough that they get down on one knee and start shining your shoes, quotes in the air because they do it regardless of what kind of shoes you're wearing and they don't use polish.
The aim is to pressure you for money.
And most of the time I see people paying just to be left alone, and people make enough money doing that that this whole scam will go on pretty much unchanged for at least 50 years.
I'm not going to suggest that there's any redeeming value here and I'd particularly hate it if these guys left people thinking that everyone in New Orleans is out to get them.
Again, talking to strangers is something we do, and many of my favorite French Quarter stories started this way, so coming here in extreme danger from strangers is not the solution.
You just need to exercise a little vigilance, and maybe if your shoes are cute enough to attract compliments from strangers, consider switching to something more comfortable.
There are too many sidewalk cracks and mysterious puddles in the French Quarter to make it worth your while.
My fellow citizens, think twice before driving a car in New Orleans.
Many of our visitors come from close by, so sometimes there is no alternative. But if you can avoid it, going without a car can save you time and money.
New Orleans is an 18th century city.
Most roads are wide enough for a lane of on-street parking and a single lane of one-way traffic, and in the French Quarter that lane is packed with pedestrians.
In addition, the streets are in terrible condition. So if you love your car, don't put your crappy suspension in all of our potholes. Also give him a vacation and leave him at home.
If you're going without your car, as far as transportation costs go, you're looking at around $30 for a 2-person airport cab ride, $10-$15 for city cab rides, maybe $30 a day to rent a bike, $1.25 a ride on our tram and bus system, and lots of beautiful free rides.
Whereas if you have a car and you're staying in or near the French Quarter, you're paying upwards of $20 just to park it overnight, on top of all the garage parking costs.
Many people make their private fortune from parking spaces in New Orleans, and the city itself derives a not insignificant part of its budget from parking tickets.
And our street parking can be quite confusing. Seriously, we have street signs all over the city that say "No Parking - Parade" and you should know if there's a parade that day or not.
Maybe the idea was to hang a year-long calendar on each one, but it ran out of budget, but keep paying parking tickets in the French Quarter and we'll be able to add that in no time.
The fashion shows also deserve a minute of our attention. New Orleans is famous forCarnavaland there is a lot of fun if you come here at this time of year.
But just like on Bourbon Street, reality and expectation can look quite different from each other.
Many of our visitors come here thinking that Mardi Gras is a full day of parades on Bourbon Street, and it's true that on Mardi Gras you can find big parties on Bourbon Street with people in costume and playing beads.
Problem is, it's any day on Bourbon Street. The difference is that at Mardi Gras the crowd waits for a parade that will never happen.
Most parades never enter the French Quarter. Also, most of them are family friendly and most of them don't happen on Mardi Gras day. We have dozens of shows for several weeks before the big day.
Sometimes visitors come here looking for the Mardi Gras experience only to find they missed out on some of the best parts by only doing it for one day.
And other people travel here looking to avoid the Mardi Gras crowds and accidentally find themselves right in the middle of parade season.
So if you're planning to be here in February or March, it's best to do some research on the parade schedule well in advance of travelling.
You should also know that most Mardi Gras events are free, driving during parade season is even more impossible than usual, restrooms are extremely difficult to find, crowds can be so large that your cell phone won't work, and basic services closed on carnival day.
If that sounds like too much, there are many other holidays where we run a more modest parade schedule, like St. Patrick's Day, only six parades for that one.
If you end up missing Mardi Gras, be sure to check it out.mardi gras worldto see some of the best floats used in the parades.
Besides parades, parties and people watching, another thing we are famous for is our food. New Orleans has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the country.
We could dedicate entire videos to picking out the good ones, and we did. Watch our video on some of the top foods to try while you're here.
But many French Quarter restaurants don't serve what people in Louisiana would recognize and appreciate as local food.
For example, there's an amazing restaurant in Treme, near the French Quarter, called Willie Mae's Scotch House, which serves objectively the best fried chicken in the universe.
But, there's only one location and it takes a little traveling to get there, whereas throughout the French Quarter, there are Willy's Chicken Shack locations.
The name is similar enough to confuse even some foodies, but the two are unrelated.
This is a chain owned by the same family that owns all the t-shirt stores. And sometimes that's what you need.
Maybe you have fussy kids, maybe you've eaten all the food with French names you can stomach for a while, or you're having a few shots on Bourbon and just need a burger NOW.
But if you want to have good and satisfying adventures with your meals, it's worth making them.
Speaking of which, here are some resources you can use to find the best food in New Orleans:
- New Orleans' Best Po-Boys
- Best Beignets in New Orleans
- The Difference Between Cajun and Creole
- Food Tours in New Orleans
7.Visitor information centers
With all these different things that require research, it can be really comforting to think that there are people whose job it is to give visitors good advice, and these people are our next point.
Throughout the French Quarter, you'll find small kiosks and shops offering information to visitors, and many of the hotels in the area also offer concierge services.
There is no doubt that these people have very useful knowledge and can save time booking dinners, tours, concert tickets and whatnot.
However, visitor information centers are mostly owned by tour companies who, of course, have an interest in selling their own services, and most hotel concierges make their living through commissions.
In other words, what these professionals offer is a combination of their own specialized knowledge and what they have been paid to offer.
You might get your best recommendation from services that give them a cut, but you'll rarely find them referring people to, say, pay-what-you-want walking tours.
So while it's worth checking with them, it's also worth approaching them with a clear idea of what you want and tipping so that you, not the company offering the service, are the customer.
8. Tours in the Pantanal/Outdoor Adventures
For another example of what you might be missing out on if you are only told about expensive services, many of our visitors love to drink.swamp ridesyboat trip.
This can be a lot of fun, and if you want to spend big, it could be worth more than the cost of participating. But, if you are on a budget trip, you have free and low cost alternatives.
If you have a car and want to see some nature for yourself, thecheap reserveit's a free national park that preserves 26,000 acres of wetlands just a short drive from the French Quarter across the river.
And if you don't have a car,city's park, just a tram ride from the French Quarter, contains areas of nature conservation called Scout Island and Couturie Forest.
If you want to enjoy the river scenery, there is a ferry that crosses the river from theFrench Quarter to Punta Algiersround trip for $2 round trip per person.
9. Hop-on hop-off bus tours
We are starting to get into our specialist territory as a tour company here and although we are a tour company there are many ways to explore, each onewith your own precautions that are worth taking, for exampleget on and off buses.
This can be great for people with limited mobility or if you just want a bird's-eye view of the city when you arrive.
But, the quick impression they can offer is not necessarily the most interesting or the most representative. Remember what I said about New Orleans having small streets?
If a normal car is difficult to drive, you can imagine that a double-decker bus doesn't stand a chance.
Therefore, they can only visit the edge of historic districts, and while they offer short walking tours of some of the areas where they stop, they generally make for a pretty basic impression.
All tour guides have different approaches, but in my opinion New Orleans is different enough (from most other places in the world) that you really need some time to get your head around it or just fully appreciate the vibe.
10. Carriage rides/taxis
Other entertainment options on wheels are mainly found here in the French Quarter. You have carriage rides and taxis.
Like most things I've mentioned, they can be great in the right context, and one of their selling points is pretty obvious, you can sit back.
I like to do my best to give people what they ask for on my walking tours, but I've never taken anyone, I've rarely taken anyone.
So a carriage ride offers a relaxed way to see the French Quarter from behind a mule with a relatively small group.
But with a few exceptions, if you're looking for in-depth history, it's harder to find here than on a walking tour.
As the carriage continues to move, the driver doesn't have much time for anything but cliff notes. So, in the end, what they're selling is less a story than an experience.
Trikes also mostly appear in the French Quarter.
Unlike carriage drivers or walking tour guides, they are not required to pass a basic history test to obtain their license, so for the most part they are not gatekeepers of neighborhood history.
Their big advantage is that they can usually get between the cars that are driving and parked cars; so if you need to get somewhere fast and it's rush hour they can deliver it faster than a taxi.
They are generally fun people to talk to and sometimes know a lot about things to do in the French Quarter and beyond.
So if you're getting your background somewhere else, say on a YouTube channel, but need a quick hand to get your bearings and havesomewhere to be, maybe you want a breeze on your face, rickshaw can be a good option.
And you'll want to weigh those benefits because a tricycle usually costs more than a taxi for the same distance, and you'll want to ask about those rates because tricycle drivers set them themselves.
11. Free guided tours of pie
Finally, there is the service that we provide ourselves.
I'm obviously a fan, and I think it's fair to say that of all the various experiences you have with a local during a stay in New Orleans, a walking tour has one of the most profound potentials.
I've had long conversations with visitors about their plans, and sometimes I can help them find things to do that are a good fit but weren't on their radar.
But, it's still worth being skeptical aboutNew Orleans Walking Tours, as it is up to the company and the individual to determine what kind of experience they will have.
I've already mentioned why relying on advice from people working behind a desk can be misleading, and the same goes for ratings on review sites that may have a similar sales relationship with the companies they recommend.
And it can be quite disappointing if you feel like you've done your research and then show up to what looks like a cattle call.
So it pays to do some qualitative research up front, not just to see where a particular business ranks, but also to read reviews and talk to other travelers and see if it sounds like the right experience and flavor. for you
People come on tour looking for very different things, and everyoneWin if you find someone who matches.As you may know, our focus in the tourism business is the pay-what-you-want model in New Orleans and all other cities where we operate.
we offerfree tours or for a few dollars booking fee, and from there, the price is yours to decide based on how you feel about the experience, giving us a reason to try to exceed expectations every day.
Many of our tour guides provideVideo tours on our Youtube channel, so you can check them out and get an idea of whether or not they are offering the type of tour you would like to do.
You can also offer tips if you enjoyed the video tour!
12. Shooting Girls
There's one last thing to keep in mind when walking through the French Quarter, and Bourbon Street in particular.
You will sometimes find people known colloquially as "Shot Girls" offering you drinks as you walk down the street. Often, they will try to get you to take the photo and then ask for money.
Now, there's nothing wrong with asking someone to pay for a drink you just got, but you might not realize that these drinks are often very watered down.
Plus, you might also find that they're asking more for their drink than you'd pay in one of the nearby bars!
That said, with so many different places to grab a drink in New Orleans, we'd recommend avoiding Shot Girls and supporting local establishments.
13. Account scam
This one came to us from a viewer who personally experienced the scam firsthand.
If you come to New Orleans during Mardi Gras (or maybe even other times of the year), you might be greeted by people ready and willing to adorn you with plastic beads.
You might think it's a nice gesture at first, but after they put the bills on you, these people will immediately ask for some sort of payment for the bills.
They usually ask for a lot more than the beads are worth, and considering you can usually get them for free during Mardi Gras, they're definitely not worth the asking price.
If you want beads, we recommend heading out of the center to a store outside the French Quarter for much better prices on these decorations.
This is another scam you're more likely to experience on Bourbon Street and similar areas, so keep an eye out as you explore these neighborhoods.
Whatever you decide to do from now on, we hope these tips and tricks for avoiding New Orleans tourist traps will help you on your next trip to the Crescent City.
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About the author
Sarah moved to New Orleans in 2001 to work for the American Red Cross of Southeast Louisiana. While working in New Orleans communities, she fell in love with the unique culture of the Big Easy; it's food, music, architecture, wildlife and, above all, history. Sarah started her career with the FTBF, first as a guide and then as owner/operator. She believes that every day is good if she can share her love for her beloved New Orleans with Free Tours By Foot guests. She especially enjoys converting new Who Dat Saints fans!
Updated: June 25, 2022