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Let’s face it….Bourbon Street is one of the most fun places in New Orleans. BUT….there is so much more to the Big Easy than the bars! If you are visiting New Orleans for the first time, make sure you set aside a day to do a tour to learn about the rich history, beautiful architecture, and stunning sights and stories of the city!
Paul Angelica runs an enlightening two and a half hour adventure tour in New Orleans that first-time visitors cannot miss! The tour is called EXPERIENCE THE BIG 4 in THE BIG EASY!
The sightseeing tour highlights the French Quarter, the Garden District, Metairie Cemetery, and City Park. We were lucky enough to get a tour with Paul when we visited during the spring season. The tour was certainly one of the best things to do in New Orleans!
The Big 4 in the Big Easy Tour Guide
Paul, the enthusiastic New Orleans tour guide who developed the tour, is a born and raised 49-year-old native of the city. He has given hundreds of tourists from around the world the Big 4 (French Quarter, Garden District, Metairie Cemetery, & City Park) in The Big Easy Experience.
Paul has taken several courses on New Orleans and read most of the books on her 300-year-old history. He is also a Licensed New Orleans Tour Guide and has a Bachelor of Science in Marketing & Business Administration from The University of New Orleans.
Paul can pick guests up anywhere in the city and can fit up to four passengers in his sparkling clean and comfy Toyota SUV. You can take drinks with lids on the tour and request a bathroom stop whenever you need one.
You can book this 5-star top rated New Orleans tour, Big 4 in the Big Easy Private Tour, on Viator, a TripAdvisor Company. It tends to sell out during busy travel seasons, so make sure book early to ensure you can fit the tour into your travel itinerary.
The French Quarter
First, we drove to the French Quarter. Every first-time visitor to New Orleans usually spends most, if not all, of their time in this district. On our way to the “Quarter”, Paul told us that we MUST go to Frenchman Street one night. It has been considered the locals’ Bourbon Street, but word is getting around to tourists. He also mentioned that Bacchanal Wine Bar is another local favorite in the Bywater area.
Paul encouraged us to take a stroll off of Bourbon Street and look through some of the alleys. Many of the homes look boarded up from the outside for privacy but are 200-year-old multi-million dollar fancy properties that have magnificent fountains and gardens behind them. Sometimes you can take a peak and see into the backyard from the street.
During the experience, you will be able to get out and walk around to take as many pictures as you like. You will also have the opportunity to purchase cocktails at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop & Bar. It is the home of the Frozen Voodoo Daiquiri, better known as the “purple drank.” Constructed in 1722, Lafitte’s is reputed to be the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States since 1772.
Our last stop in the French Quarter was the oldest active cathedral in America – St. Louis Cathedral. Paul told us that the statue in the courtyard behind the cathedral is known as “Touchdown Jesus” because New Orleans is home to the New Orleans Saints NFL team and was founded on November 1, 1966, All Saints Day. It looks especially stunning at night!
New Orleans Garden District
Next, we visited the Garden District, which is famous for its Antebellum Mansions. We drove down St. Charles Avenue which is one of the most famous streets in the city bordering the Garden District. St. Charles Avenue is part of the Mardi Gras parade route, lined with centuries-old southern live oak trees, and houses the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar line since 1830 – the oldest active streetcar line in the World!
Paul took us past several celebrity homes in the Garden District including those of musicians Jay-Z and Beyonce, NFL football quarterback Drew Brees, film star Sandra Bullock, and television actor John Goodman. (Side note: you’d never guess what kind of car John Goodman drives!) We also got to see the houses where the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and television series American Horror Story: Coven both were filmed along with several other notable mansions. This was my favorite part of the tour!
As we drove, Paul explained that he has six years of experience as a realtor. He knew a lot about the homes and their value, which was what we were most intrigued with along with finding out where all the celebrity homes were! He told us some facts and figures and explained that since only one Fortune 500 company is headquartered in New Orleans, the high-end housing market is much lower-priced than in other cities.
New Orleans City Park
The next stop on this action-packed New Orleans sightseeing tour is City Park, which is considered as enchanting and unique as the city of New Orleans. This magical outdoor retreat has captivated New Orleans locals since 1854, making it one of the nation’s oldest metropolitan parks in America. Set on 1,300 sprawling acres, it is approximately 50% larger than Central Park in New York City. It is revered nationwide as the archetypal urban greenspace.
The crown jewel of this famed municipal park is the world’s largest collection of mature southern live oaks, which includes an 800-year-old grand oak tree. These trees are appreciated for their rare shape and wide-stretching branches. Some of the oldest trees have limbs that that extend out twice as long as the tree is tall.
A few highlights of note that you’ll see on the tour are the stadium where The Beatles played in 1964 and the original swamp from the year 1718 that the park was built upon. You can also touch and take Instagram-worthy pictures with the 800-year-old oak tree!
Our final destination (pun intended) was Metairie Cemetery. This cemetery was established in 1872 and is the largest cemetery in New Orleans.
Even though it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and includes several Civil War memorials and monuments, most first-time visitors to New Orleans miss this gem. There are over 10,000 family tombs and 120,000 people buried here across 127 acres of land. There is also a separate pet cemetery.
Paul drove us around to the most famous spots including what is known as “millionaire’s row” including tombs of the New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, the founder of Popeye’s fast0food chain, and the founder of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.
We also saw a Civil War monument and tomb of Confederate soldiers and the well-known Weeping Angel Statue. We heard several intriguing tales along the way, including one about Josie Arlington, the famous red-light madam of Storyville.
Why You Should Book The Big 4 in the Big Easy Tour in New Orleans
If you are looking for the best tour in New Orleans, you will love this tour with Paul! He focuses on facts and history – not ghosts or voodoo stories. It is one of the best ways to see a lot of New Orleans in just two hours. We learned and saw A LOT in our time with Paul! We would have certainly gotten lost in the cemetery if we tried to navigate it on our own. If it is your first time to New Orleans, the Big 4 in the Big Easy Tour is the perfect way to see the city quickly without having to plan a thing yourself!
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