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Esplanade Avenue & Bayou St. John Self Guided Tour

Posted by & filed under New Orleans.

One reason the French decided to settle New Orleans was the nearby Bayou St. John, a sluggish outlet of nearby Lake Pontchartrain. The waterway skirted the relative high ground of the Esplanade Ridge, which stretched down toward the city. Here in this area the first French settlers established a camp. Here is where the French first staked their claim. Today, the area is quiet and relatively overlooked, but offers some wonderful sights off the beaten path. Begin the tour by heading down Esplanade Avenue away from the French Quarter.

Be sure to also check out our other self-guided tours of New Orleans.

Click here for a larger and interactive tour map.

Bayou St. John Map 1

 

Stop A – 2023 Esplanade Ave., Charpentier House

2023 Esplanade Ave., Charpentier HouseOriginally a plantation home, this house was designed in 1861 for A. B. Charpentier. Esplanade Avenue became the Creole answer to the lush homes on St. Charles Avenue, right down to the prevalence of Oak trees. This home is odd in that it combines Creole and American architecture, drawing from the Americans, with a center hallway and large porch, but sticking with Creole style windows. Although Americans and Creoles were rivals, after the Civil War the two groups started to intermarry.  Today the home operates as Ashton’s Bed & Breakfast, one of the highest rated establishments of this kind in New Orleans. Read more »

Things to see in Marigny

Things to See in Faubourg Marigny | A Self Guided Tour

Posted by & filed under New Orleans.

Bounded by Elysian Fields and Esplanade Avenue, the Faubourg Marigny is one of New Orleans’ oldest neighborhoods. Originally it was a prosperous plantation, and much the old French colonial buildings were constructed from cypress trees cut to clear the land. The plantation later specialized in brick laying.

The owner in 1805 was Bernard de Marigny. He decided to chop up his plantation into lots that he sold at a good price. While the Americans moved into present day Central Business District and Garden District, refugees from Europe and Haiti gravitated to the Faubourg Marigny. Here they built a unique culture that is still visible today in the neighborhood’s architecture and music scene.

Learn about the things to see in Farbourg Marigny or take our guided tour of this New Orleans neighborhood.  Also, be sure to check out our other New Orleans self-guided tours.  This self-guided tour should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.

View the full and interactive map and view this tour as a PDF.

Farbourg Marigny Tour Map Read more »

Things to Do in the French Quarter

Things to Do in the French Quarter | A Self-Guided Tour

Posted by & filed under New Orleans.

This post is a guide to the French Quarter in New Orleans that provides a neighborhood map, tips on restaurants and nightlife as well as a self-guided tour which highlights the top 25 things to do in the French Quarter.  This map and guide serve as a great companion to our guided tour of the French Quarter as well as our ghost, food and cocktail tours (all in the FQ).

French Quarter Map
Things to See and Do
Jackson Square
Guided Walking Tour
Restaurants

 

 


FRENCH QUARTER MAP

In this section, we provide you with access to several maps of the French Quarter that cover food, drink, attractions and hotels.  To begin with, we have our self-guided tour map, which takes you to all the important sites of the French Quarter.  You can skip straight to the self-guided tour.  You can enlarge the map and you could download it to your smartphone to use offline.  

Click here to be taken to the movable map

Things to see in the French Quarter a self-guided tour Read more »

Is Travel Insurance Worth It?

Posted by & filed under A Blog on Visiting New York City, Berlin, Boston, Charleston, Chicago, London, Miami, New Orleans, Paris, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington DC.

Is Travel insurance worth it?Travel insurance is often the last thing you have on your mind when planning your next trip for just yourself, with your family or with friends. We look forward to a well-earned and long-desired vacation and we know deep down, however, that travelling brings about the unexpected (mostly in good ways). For the hopefully rare bad case scenarios, where you need to cancel a trip due to hazardous weather, sickness, the death of a family member, or any accidents during your trip, stolen or lost luggage/passports/wallets, and even worse injury or death of a travel mate, you want to be covered. Instead of overthinking the many things that might happen, travel insurance can help to put your mind at ease for the many what-ifs, so you can get back to planning and enjoying the fun things about your next trip.  So, is travel insurance worth it?

Be sure to read our post on purchasing a SIM Card for the US.

Travel insurance – what to look for:

Most travel insurance plans cover 2 main things: travel benefits and medical benefits. Those usually entail:

  • a refund when you need to cancel your trip due to emergency
  • covered expenses when a flight is delayed or cancelled or when you miss your flight
  • compensation of expenses if your carrier loses or delays your luggage
  • Coverage of expenses for any medical or dental emergency during your trip
  • Coverage of cost for medical emergency evacuation or accidental death or dismemberment
  • Optional benefits include car rental insurance

Depending on the provider benefits may differ in cost and range, so make sure you read the small print. Read more »

Oak Alley Planation Review

Oak Alley Plantation Tickets, Tours and Reviews

Posted by & filed under New Orleans.

This post is a review of Oak Alley Plantation near New Orleans, with info on tickets, tours and online review analysis. Oak Alley Plantation is often thought of as the most iconic plantation is Louisiana. With its massive, 300 year old Live Oak trees, well-preserved mansion, and close proximity to New Orleans, Oak Alley has become a must-do for many travelers to the Big Easy.  Be sure to read our post that compares Oak Alley with other plantations near New Orleans.

Pro Tip: Admission to this plantation is included in the New Orleans Power Pass! Get free admission to over 26 attractions around New Orleans, and skip the lines with the Power Pass.


Directions, Hours + Tickets

Movies Filmed Here

Tours from New Orleans


 

 


DIRECTIONS, HOURS AND TICKETS 

Oak Alley Plantation is located approximately 1 hour west by car from New Orleans in Vacherie, LA.   We recommend using this link for a map and directions to Oak Ally Plantation. There is no public transportation to Oak Alley. Guests without a car must either rent one or go with a tour company.   Expect to pay around $80 for the trip, which includes transportation and the cost of admission to the plantation.

 

Map and Directions to Oak Alley Plantation

 

Hours and Availability

The plantation is open everyday except New Year’s Day, Mardi Gras Tuesday, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Tours of the house run on the hour and 1/2 hour daily.

  • March – October: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily
  • November – February: 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday; 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. Saturday & Sunday

Tickets

Tickets can be purchased upon the arrival at the plantation.

Pro Tip: Admission to this plantation is included in the New Orleans Power Pass! Get free admission to over 26 attractions around New Orleans, and skip the lines with the Power Pass.

  • $22 – Adults (19 yrs & older)
  • $8 – Youth (13 to 18 yrs old)
  • $5 – Children (6 to 12 yrs old)

TIP: There appears to be an online coupon for $3 off an adult ticket.

Oak Alley Plantation currently has a 4 ½ star rating on TripAdvisor. A very small percentage of reviews for this historic location are negative, indicating that most visitors absolutely love exploring the grounds. As a matter of fact, some guests felt that it was quite easy to spend several hours discovering Oak Alley. Thousands of positive comments recommend a visit to this estate. By and large, couples were the most likely to enjoy their trip.

 


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SHORT HISTORY OF OAK ALLEY PLANTATION

The incredible Live Oaks that welcome guests to the mansion and give the property its name were planted between 1725-1750, though why they were planted and by whom remains a mystery.

Valcour Aime, a prominent sugarcane farmer, purchased the land in 1830 and established a community of enslaved people to care for the plantation. A few years later Aime traded the plantation with his brother-in-law Jacques Telesphore Roman who would eventually build the mansion that sits on the property today. The mansion was completed in 1837 and was built entirely by slave labor.

There was a large enslaved community that lived on the property throughout the antebellum period. One of the most famous enslaved men to reside there was Antoine, who gained great recognition for grafting “paper shell” pecan trees.

The Roman family continued to live at Oak Alley until just after the Civil War, when it was sold at auction due to the high cost of maintaining it. The plantation was not damaged during the war, but quickly fell in disrepair. Oak Alley relied heavily on slave labor, and with the ratification of the 13th Amendment, it became impossible for the plantation to continue operating as it originally did.

In 1925,  Andrew Stewart purchased the property as a gift for his wife Josephine. Together, the Stewarts initiated a restoration project that would span the rest of their lives. In 1966, a few years before her death and decades after her husband’s, Josephine established a non-profit foundation to preserve the home and 25 acres of the grounds. Josephine Stewart passed away in 1972.  As the longest resident of Oak Alley and in honor of her memory, all the clocks in the mansion are stopped at 7:30, the time of Josephine’s death. Both she and her husband are buried on the property. In 1978 Oak Alley became officially designated as a National Historic Landmark.

 


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MOVIES, TV SHOWS AND MUSIC VIDEOS FILMED AT OAK VALLEY PLANTATION

  • Midnight Bayou
  • Ghost Hunters
  • Nightrider
  • Primary Colors
  • Interview with a Vampire
  • Beyoncé’s “Déjà Vu” Music Video

 


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TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

The Mansion Tours of the mansion run every half hour and are included in the cost of admission. Guides dress up in antebellum clothing and take groups through the many different rooms of the home, all the while sharing stories of how the property developed, why it eventually declined, and where it stands today.

A majority of guests who visit the mansion are very impressed with their experience. Several reviewers enjoyed both the beauty and the history behind this building, making sure to take several pictures during their trip. There are very few negative reviews, and none of them indicated any serious problems with the tour. Couples were the most likely to enjoy this guided walk around the house.

 

 

Live Oaks – The row of (nearly) 300 year old live oak tree is what differentiates Oak Alley from other southern plantations. The mansion’s balcony offers a great view and photo opportunity, though nothing emphasizes the true magnitude of the trees like a picture of someone standing next to one of them!

Several guests visit Oak Alley just to see the beautiful trees. Reviewers claim that this plantation features oak trees larger than cars! Some visitors felt that the pictures of this location simply didn’t do it justice. Even customers who didn’t enjoy their visit were taken aback by the size and grandeur of these Oaks. Couples, families and those who brought a friend for the trip were most likely to leave a positive remark about the foliage.

 

 

 

Slavery at Oak Alley Exhibit – One of the newer exhibits on the property, “Slavery at Oak Alley” features 6 reconstructed cottages that tell the story of the enslaved people who resided at the plantation. This tour includes a lot of live performances re-enacting life on the plantation for slaves.

Although this journey may not be for everyone, most visitors feel that it is important to experience. A few guests were disappointed with the level of detail that they put into this interpretation of the plantation lifestyle, but this wasn’t a common complaint. In fact, an overwhelming majority of reviews for this exhibit are absolutely stellar. Couples were the most likely to appreciate this tour.

 

 

Reviews of Oak Alley Plantation

Reviews for these tours are generally very favorable. Although they have received some negative comments, most visitors have a wonderful time exploring Oak Alley Plantation with the help of a tour guide. Several guests indicated that their docent was very knowledgeable, providing a lot of valuable information about the mansion and its history. Customers were most likely to leave a glowing review after taking one of these plantation tours with either their family, friends or significant others.

Read some of the reviews here.

 


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DAY TRIPS TO OAK ALLEY PLANTATION

In addition to tours offered at the plantation, there are also a few companies that offer day trips to Oak Alley. These trips typically last for approximately 5-6 hours, giving you plenty of time to explore the grounds. This is a perfect opportunity for anyone who wants to avoid driving to and from the area, allowing them to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Ticket prices typically fall in the $60 range, which is fairly reasonable for a half-day outing. For more information, check out our post covering New Orleans Plantation Tours.

Gray Line Tours – This trip is offered daily at 12 PM and runs for about 5 hours in total (including travel time). Gray Line has very good reviews in New Orleans, and most guests who took this particular tour were very impressed. Tickets are $63 for adults and $31 for children.

Cajun Encounters – This company offers a slightly longer trip at 5 ½ hours in length. Unlike their competitors, this tour is offered twice daily at both 8:30 AM and 11:45 AM. Although they have received some negative reviews, it’s worth noting that they do provide more than one outing per day. Tickets are $62 for adults and $49 for children.

Cajun Pride Tours – Much like their competition, this company also provides daily tours to Oak Alley Plantation. This trip departs at 12:30 PM and runs for between 5-6 hours. Unlike Gray Line, Cajun Pride offers hotel pick-up for their customers. This very highly rated tour is $59 for adults and $40 for children.

 


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Ghosts at Oak Alley Plantation 

As with most antebellum plantations of the South, Oak Alley is rumored to be home to some spiritual activity. Of course there is great debate as to how much truth is behind these tales, but a few of the more well supported stories include:

  • A woman who very much resembles Mrs. Stewart, the last private owner of the property, has been seen looking out the window of the mansion’s lavender room after dark.
  • The sound of a horse-drawn carriage and the whirl of dust being kicked up by some sort of presence, both of which were unaccompanied by a material explanation.
  • A candlestick that flew across the room in front of a tour guide and 35 guests.
  • Empty chairs rocking in unison.

What is the weather like in New Orleans during June?

Posted by & filed under New Orleans.

It is summer this month in New Orleans so that means it will be very warm and humid but with plenty of sunny days to explore the city. Click on the links below to learn more.  If you are coming at the start or end of the month, you may want to read our weather guides to May and July.

Average Temperatures
How Much Sun/Rain
What to Wear
Things to Do in June
Free Tours by Foot

Read more »

FTBF History’s Hall of Fame

Posted by & filed under A Blog on Visiting New York City, Boston, Charleston, London, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Washington DC.

Congratulations to Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio on joining baseball’s Hall of Fame! Even though Smoltz is an Altanta Braves player and our Washington, DC guides consider the Braves to be arch-enemies (Go Nationals!), he is quite the player. We’re excited our Boston Red Sox Martinez will be inducted in the July ceremony.

In their honor, Free Tours by Foot have elected a few historical figures to our own Hall of Fame. One historical figure to represent some of the cities where we offer walking tours:

Chosen by a student on one of our DC school tours!

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born and raised in NW DC, primarily around the U Street neighborhood, where we see his childhood home on our U Street Tour. Both of his parents played the piano and he began taking lessons from a neighbor at an early age. He was taught manners and elegance, and obviously learned enough to earn the nickname “Duke” from his friends. Fitting for this post, as a young boy, Ellington preferred baseball to piano and his first job was selling peanuts for the Washington Senators.

His early inspirations into the music scene came from sneaking into a local pool hall. As he moved jobs to become a sign painter, he started to ask clients if their events also needed music. His first gig was at the True Reformer’s Hall on U St NW, where he charged his friends more because they already knew he was good.

Though Duke Ellington is known for jazz, he preferred to be beyond categorization and considered himself more a part of American Music than only jazz.

Chosen by our Boston City Manager, Brian who said “hands down (my favorite Boston historical figure). No one greater. (He was) the mouth of the American Revolution. Without who we may be speaking British today!”

Sam Adams, a native Bostonian and graduate of Harvard, was the publicist of the American Revolution. He was known for being a great orator and his passion for independence from Great Britain. Adams was the first to suggest a continental congress. He spent his life mostly in Boston, when he wasn’t a representative at the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Though he was a brewmaster, he was not very good at it. That photo on the bottle of well-known Sam Adams beer? That’s not Sam Adams. It’s probably Paul Revere.

A blog post is not going to do justice to the story of Sam Adams, for more, take Brian’s Freedom Trail tour to visit Sam Adam’s grave, hear about his twists on the Boston Massacre and more.

Technically, George Meade was born in Spain but to a Philadelphian merchant. He returned as a teenager and continued on to become a career United States Army officer. He fought in the Mexican-American War and most notably the Civil War, where he defeated the Confederates at the Battle of Gettysburg.

He had only been appointed leader of the Army of the Potomac three days before the Gettysburg campaign. Meade organised and successfully led his troops against one of the most formidable Confederate generals, Robert E. Lee. Contemporaries criticized him for not pursing Lee on the retreat and for being short tempered. As time has passed, historians focused more on his successful tactical decisions in the face of new military technology.

Chosen by one of our New York City tour guides, Tom.

Technically, he was born in Minnesota, but that was Robert Zimmerman. “Bob Dylan” was born in Greenwich Village, New York City. His first night in town, he played a set of Woodie Guthrie songs at Cafe Wha? – still in the village and seen on our Greenwich Village Tour.

Though he wouldn’t claim it, his songs from the 1960s became anthems for the anti-war and civil rights movements. Many of them inspired by and written in Greenwich Village.

We have a post about Bob Dylan’s time in the Village and sites associated with him.

Our New Orleans city manager, Sarah, didn’t have any trouble picking this one – it was the quickest answer we got.

Josie Arlington, nee Mary Deubler, was a fiery and spunky madam, so a seemingly odd choice for favorite historical figure but hey, it’s New Orleans! Her brothel, The Arlington, was at 225 North Basin Street in the heart of famed Storyville. This neighborhood was a separated district of legal prostitution and her house was opened 1898 as one of, if not the most, opulent house in the neighborhood.

Her four-story mansion was filled with fireplaces, bay windows, works of great artists and topped with a cupola. In Storyville, you could find women in dark alleys with mattresses on their backs who charged a quarter. The Arlington was a $5 house. Josie’s goal was to run the classiest establishment. She had a shrewd business mind and even as a women in the 19th century she had a successful business, running the preferred brothel for the well to do gentleman.

In the early 1900s, tours of New Orleans would often include a stop in Storyville, to start at The Arlington. Though she is buried in Metairie Cemetery, her story is covered on our St. Louis Cemetery no. 1 tour.

Diana, our Charleston city manager, says the story of Woodward is one of the most important stops on her Historic Charleston tour.

Little is known about the early life of Dr. Henry Woodward. We do know that he volunteered to reside amongst the local Native Americans in the mid 1600s to learn the customs and language. It wasn’t long before he was captured by the Spanish and taken to St. Augustine, Florida.

After his escape, he would join the Carolina fleet on their way to the coast to establish Charleston, South Carolina. The new colony benefited from a successful trading relationship with the local tribes, thanks to Woodward. His interpreting skills, and medical skills as a doctor, helped this fledgling settlement – the natives provided food when the colony was impoverished, they warned of a forthcoming attack by the Spanish, and he helped expand trading routes.

Without Dr. Woodward, there might not be a Charleston to tour!

London: Margaret Beaufort

Chosen by Margaret, our London City Manager, and discussed on our Westminster and City of London tours

Margaret Beaufort was the child bride of a Welsh king who gave birth do Henry Tudor at age 14. She was the one who engineered his return from Europe, his marriage with the Yorkist princess to combine families/forces and also set her son up to eventually usurp the throne at the end of the Wars of the Roses. Throughout her later marriages, the King told her repeatedly to stop her meddling in political affairs and she always said ‘Yeah, okay…’ then did it, anyway! She also managed to sneak correspondence into Westminster Abbey to liaise with Elizabeth Woodville (wife of the disposed Edward IV) who was being held captive and wasn’t allowed visitors whatsoever.

She was a fabulous lady and continued to give good advice to her son well into his reign. She also insisted that her grandchildren be educated – even the ones that weren’t to take the throne, which was a radical way of thinking for the time.


These are our picks for History’s Hall of Fame. Who would you add for historical figures from New York, DC, Charleston, New Orleans, London, Boston and Philadelphia?

What is the weather like in New Orleans during May?

Posted by & filed under New Orleans.

This post is a summary of the New Orleans weather in May, with tips on what to pack and things to do (updated for 2018).  May is the transition month from the warm but comfortable spring weather to the more humid summer weather. Click on the links below to learn more.  If you are coming at the start or end of the month, you may want to read our weather guides to April and June.  

Average Temperatures
How Much Sun/Rain
What to Wear
Things to Do in April
Free Tours by Foot


Read more »

What is the weather like in New Orleans during April?

Posted by & filed under New Orleans.

This post is a summary of the New Orleans weather in April, with tips on what to pack and things to do (updated for 2018).  Spring is now in full swing, which means pleasant, warm weather.  Click on the links below to learn more.  If you are coming at the start or end of the month, you may want to read our weather guides to March and May.  


Average Temperatures

How Much Sun/Rain
What to Wear
Things to Do in April
Free Tours by Foot
  Read more »