Tips + Trends

How to See New Orleans the Streetwalker Way (and Not That Kind)

Frenchmen Street (Photo: Joshua Brasted)

Brian Huff has been leading walking tours of the French Quarter for five years through his own company, New Orleans Streetwalkers Tours. He offers three tours, which focus on history and spirits — both the ghostly and the potable kind. Why does he do it? “I love meeting people from all over the world and turning people on to a town that I love.”

Here are some of his dos and don’ts for getting the most out of your visit.

What’s the biggest mistake first-time visitors make?

They think New Orleans is Bourbon Street. Some people will be here for days and never leave it. No offense to Bourbon Street, but there’s much more to see.

What’s a lesser-known neighborhood shouldn’t visitors miss?

The Bywater, where I live. [Note: It’s a mile walk from Jackson Square to the edge of Bywater, or an easy taxi or bike ride downriver from the French Quarter.] It’s up and coming and has endlessly great cocktail bars and restaurants, and there’s a new park right along the river. People in town know about it, but not many visitors think of heading down there.

Where do you send guests who want to go out and hear music?

Generally speaking, I tell people they have to go to Frenchmen Street. That’s a no-brainer. But I also recommend Preservation Hall, a legendary destination.

If a visitor wants to dive deeper into local history, where should they go?

I always suggest The Cabildo (a state-run museum on Jackson Square) — it’s a great museum. And also sign up for a French Quarter history walking tour — I offer a history tour, but so do a lot of others. And I always suggest you do a tour on your first day in town. Some people make the mistake of waiting until the last day, when they’ve missed an opportunity get the lay of the land early, and pick up some advice they can use while here.

Also, if you sign up for an evening ghost tour, don’t show up drunk! You’re not retaining anything, you’ve wasted your money, and you’re disruptive to others around you.

When you’re selecting a tour guide, what’s a good question to ask?

Many visitors just pick a tour based on its name — look beyond that, and take the time to see what you’re actually being offered. Also, ask about the maximum number of people on the tour. By law, it’s 28, and many tours max that out. I limit mine to 12 — the point is to keep it intimate. I’m trying to create more or a boutique experience.

When someone’s trying to winnow down the huge selection of New Orleans restaurants: Yelp, UrbanSppon, or TripAdvisor?

I prefer Yelp. They seem to weed out the cheating and invalid reviews better. And look for places where all the reviews are killing it. In New Orleans, where the food is endlessly great, why would you go to a place with reviews that aren’t uniformly fantastic?