I have always been skeptical about the Hop On Hop Off bus tours. I have always thought they were a waste of money and time. Why pay for a bus ticket that only have a couple of stops when most tourist cites have a decent public transportation city. I made my opinion after glancing at a brochure I was handed while wandering around during my first trip to London. I didn’t bother to look any further into Hop On Hop Off bus tours.
During my recent trip to New Orleans, Louisiana, I was given a complimentary bus ticket for the City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. The New Orleans tour costs $44.00 and is valid for three days of hopping. The tour has 14 stops listed and circles through the heart of the French Quarter and Garden Districts. Included in the ticket price is a walking tour of the French Quarter and a walking tour of the Garden District. Overall not a bad deal for 44 bucks. The ticket also provides some discounts but due to my limited time I didn’t use any of those.
I arrived in New Orleans and dropped my stuff off at a friend’s house in the Garden District. It was a little far to walk to the closest Hop on Hop Off bus stop so I got a Jazzy Pass to supplement my transportation around New Orleans. I walked 1 block from my friend’s house to the St. Charles Street trolley stop. New Orleans is an amazing city to explore, while I stayed with my friend, there are a lot of hotels for visitors to the city, for example near the French Quarter there is the InterContinental New Orleans hotel.
I am going to catch the Hop On Hop Off bus at Stop #6. Stop #6 is in front of the Sheraton Hotel on Canal Street. I got off the trolley around a block away from the bus stop. I enjoy walking down Canal Street and noting the streets change names as they cross Canal Street. I spent about 15 minutes people watching. The buses come every 30 minutes. I got on the bus and off we went on my New Orleans Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour.
It was late afternoon and I had about two hours before the bus stopped running. I had worked all day so I was just happy to sit on the bus and take the complete bus tour through New Orleans. Despite the rain, I decided to sit upstairs on the bus and enjoy some fresh air. This was my first trip to New Orleans and I want to see the sights. Hop On Hop Off provides a free rain poncho with your ticket. I was wearing my rain jacket but the poncho came in hand as something to sit on to keep my bum dry.
We drive down Canal Street towards, the guide goes into the history of New Orleans and points out some of the historic building. New Orleans was the home of some of the greatest innovations in building skyscrapers. Due to the soft marshy ground, the height of the buildings were greatly limited. The original skyscrapers had pilings that are 500 feet deep. They had to be that deep to hit bed rock and to keep the building from sinking. The double tube system techniques was used in New Orleans to help build the skyscrapers.
The tour took me through the central business district on our way to the Louisiana Superdome and some personal stories about Hurricane Katrina. I high recommend to taking to the tour for the personal stories alone.
After that we headed back through the central business district towards the National World War II museum. and Magazine Street. Magazine Street has a great collection of clothing’s shops specializing in high end boutiques to little Marti Graz costume shops. The area is also full of small restaurants and pubs. Some of the major Marti Graz parades run down magazine street and some of the trees still bare beads from the parades.
I didn’t have time to take the Garden District walking tour but from there the bus continued around the Garden District. The guide pointed out some of the houses and explained the differences between them. The second story on most of the houses is only on the back to avoid taxes. He made sure to point the few remaining original mansions in the district as well as some of the streets that are home to the rich and famous who live in New Orleans.
We did a circle around the Garden District and headed to Mardi Gras World and one of the world’s largest building under one roof, the New Orleans Morial Convention Center.
As we headed back into the French Quarter, the guide talked about Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is not an official event organized by the city of New Orleans. The many parades are put on by the many Mardi Gras Krewes. Anyone can hold a parade in New Orleans, all one need to do is submit the paper work. Each social club spends a year planning their parade and making floats. The prarade will have a theme and the costumes will match. Each social club throws 3 different kinds of things off their floats. The first are the traditional beads. The second are bead necklaces with a unique bead that is only used by that social club and the third is the unique throw. The unique throw can be anything. Such as Krewe of Muses’s decorated high heel shoes or Zulu’s decorated coconuts.
The bus headed back into the French Quarter where I decided to leave stops 3, 4, and 5 until the next day. I wanted some Cafe du Monde beignet. I have to say these beignets were good but aren’t worth waiting in a line around the block for. I spent the night wandering around Bourdon Street before calling it a night.
The following morning, I used the same route to Canel Street and took the bus to Harrods Casio where I switched direction and used the bus to head back into the French Quarter. I found a little not tourist filled beignet shop for breakfast and then took the bus up thorugh the stops I missed the day before. I got off at Stop #5 and took the $10.00 walking tour of St. Louis Cemetery #1. The tour was great but I nearly fell over when walking down one of the uneven paths! If you go on this tour just be careful about that and if you do fall and injure yourself then you might want to look into a law firm like these Albuquerque Slip and Fall Accident Lawyers to see if you can gain compensation for the fall.
St. Louis Cemetery #1 is a Catholic cemetery that is the burial site of many of the Voodoo priestess such as Marie Laveau. I don’t believe in Voodoo but at the same time, it scares me so I am not about to mess with it. Some brave tourist put three X’s on the Queens tombs in hopes of getting three wishes (or curses) depending on her mood. No one is entirely sure which above ground tomb she is buried in since the Catholic church would move the bodies to prevent worshiping of their bodies.
I then walked over to check out Armstrong Park & Congo Square. This is where the slaves would gather for events. I didn’t go into the park there was an event going on and I didn’t want to disturb it. I spent the rest of the day checking out the other sights in the French Quarter and exploring the area by the river. I wanted to go down Magazine Street but there was a parade going on and the buses were rerouted.
On Sunday, I took the bus down to the National World War II museum. The museum is located in New Orleans because a local manufacturer made 90% of all boats used in the war in New Orleans. The museum is massive and covers both the War in the Pacific and the War in Europe as well as D-Day planning and has some of the planes that were used in the battle. I spent almost 7 hours in the museum because it was so much to take in and I love learning about all the history. My favorite thing about the museum is that it starts with an exhibit on the Merchant Marine force. They suffered some of the highest casualty rates in the war and yet are hardly mentioned in the history books. I knew about their contributions due to some of the books I had read on the German U-boats in the Atlantic and the astounding amounts of cargo that was lost pre-USA entrance in the War.
The museum took up most of my day so I would have to take the self-guided tour of Lafayette Cemetery #1 before my flight on Monday.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with New Orleans Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. The guides added a lot of history that I would have missed on my own. They were happy to give directions from stops and recommend some great restaurants that aren’t in the tourist books/websites. I would happily take the tour again.
Have you taken the New Orleans Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour? What is your favorite thing to do in New Orleans?
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Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary ticket for the New Orleans Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour by City Sightseeing. All opinions are my own.