New Orleans Swamp Tours#5 in Best Things To Do in New Orleans
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Stretching from Houston to Mobile, Alabama, the Bayou Country played a crucial role in the development of the United States in terms of communication and transportation. In fact, there would be no New Orleans without the bayous, so you owe it to yourself to take a swamp tour. Noel Minturn, a concierge at the Windsor Court Hotel for 25 years, said the swamp tours are a truly unique aspect of the city. "There are a number of companies that go out on either airboats or flatboats out into the swamps and you learn all about the ecology, the wildlife [and] how people live out there," Minturn said.
A mix of saltwater and freshwater, the bayous are home to crawfish, shrimp, snakes, alligators and crocodiles. Multiple tour companies offer different kinds of boat tours of the Louisiana swamps; several combine a swamp tour with a stop at a local plantation. The following are some of the most popular New Orleans swamp tours:
Cajun Pride Swamp Tours: This experience takes you deep into Manchac Swamp for a look at local flora and fauna and the Cajun town of Frenier. As you travel by flatboat through Cajun Pride Swamp Tours' private wildlife refuge, you may spot alligators, turtles, raccoons and bald eagles, but the highlight for many reviewers was being able to hold crawfish, baby gators and snakes on board. The tours run for an hour and a half and start at $27 for adults and $16 for kids ages 4 to 12; hotel pick-ups are available but cost extra. Book online to save $3 to $7 per ticket.
Canoe & Trail Adventures: If you're feeling brave – and don't mind being extra close to alligators – sign up for a kayak swamp excursion with Canoe & Trail Adventures. These experiences, which last three-and-a-half hours, give you ample opportunities to spot critters and are led by knowledgeable guides, according to travelers. Standard day tours will set you back $35 for kids and $65 for adults and include kayak rentals, water, snacks and loaner waterproof phone cases. Lunch and transfers to and from New Orleans cost extra.
Airboat Adventures: With this tour operator, you can expect interesting guides and multiple glimpses of alligators as you weave through 20,000-plus acres of cypress swamp. After your roughly two-hour boat ride, take some time to explore Airboat Adventures' indoor habitat, which houses Sugar, an albino gator. All airboat tour tickets cover access to this facility in the $55 to $95 fee. For a more intimate feel, visitors recommend paying extra for the small boat tour.
Cajun Encounters: Standard flatboat swamp tours are available through Cajun Encounters, but for a unique twist on this experience, travelers suggest opting for an evening tour. Lasting two hours, each boat ride includes commentary from a friendly guide as you watch the sun set over the bayou and explore Honey Island Swamp. With the aid of a spotlight, you may see alligators, wild boar, owls and more. Tours start at $29 for adults and $19 for kids; hotel transfers cost extra.
New Orleans Airboat Tours: Visitors say shuttle service with New Orleans Airboat Tours is hit or miss, but many rave about its informative, entertaining tours. Each airboat excursion lasts nearly two hours and gives you an up-close look at wild alligators. You may even get the chance to hold a baby gator at the end of your ride. Tickets range from $65 to $105 per person (depending on the boat and whether or not transfers are included) and are sold through the Jean Lafitte Swamp Tours website.
New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours: This tour outfitter offers three kayaking outings through regional swamps and bayous, including one in New Orleans' oldest neighborhood – Bayou St. John. During this two-hour tour, you'll paddle your way around the area's namesake waterway, passing historic homes and the 1,300-acre City Park as you go. Reviewers say you'll gain lots of insight about local history in a less crowded part of the city. New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours' Bayou St. John option costs $59 per person.
For more information and tour schedules, visit the tour companies' individual websites. Additional tour details are also available on Viator's website. For more ideas, check out the best tours in New Orleans.
More Best Things To Do in New Orleans
#1 Frenchmen Street
If you want an authentic New Orleans experience more removed from the touristy areas of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, head to the lively Frenchmen Street. A popular spot for locals, Frenchmen Street is a four-block stretch of live music, bars, restaurants, night clubs and art galleries. Here, not only will you find fewer crowds (albeit not by much), but you'll also encounter cheaper eats and drinks, and better music – it's kind of like Bourbon Street's hipper, trendier cousin. If you don't consider yourself a night owl, the Palace Market (open daily 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.) is a shopping haven where locals sell homemade art and jewelry.
Recent visitors agreed that a trip to New Orleans isn't complete without stopping by Frenchmen Street. Some even suggest skipping the more crowded and touristy Bourbon Street and instead meandering along Frenchmen Street where you'll find live music, specifically jazz, and great bars. Travelers and locals alike love The Spotted Cat, Three Muses and d.b.a thanks to their extensive beverage selections, fun atmospheres and, of course, talented musicians. "Frenchmen Street is what Bourbon Street used to be ... it's about four blocks of more laid-back, old-style jazz clubs. Nothing fancy to them, very local with great music. A much more laid-back area to stroll from bar to bar and listen to music," said Isabelle Van Bockel, a concierge at the JW Marriott New Orleans for 10 years.
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