Sometimes the quickest way to get to know a place is to have a tour guide tell you everything about it. We’ve gone on a couple walking tours during our trips and they always have delivered humor alongside interesting stories about the place. The Garden District of New Orleans seemed perfectly suited for such a tour.
The Garden District
Lesser known than the French Quarter, the Garden District has a different kind of charm to it.
Back in the 19th century, Yankees from up North in New England started moving down to New Orleans. This didn’t sit too well with the Catholic French Creole population, so the Northerners ended up living outside the downtown.
These Northerners wound up quite wealthy and built beautiful ornate homes borrowing from many architectural styles.
The Walking Tour
The tour we took was with Free Tours By Foot. We chose the “Garden District Tour with Lafayette Cemetery” option. Meeting outside the cemetery, a few blocks from the St. Charles streetcar, we began our tour with the Lafayette Cemetery.
Our tour guide was a history teacher and had an encyclopedia of New Orleans facts in his head.
I don’t want to get into the facts he taught too much because it would be better to take the tour yourselves. It was a very informative tour that he led us on: it wasn’t only a background on the neighborhood, but the history of the city, and the French law system of Louisiana as well.
He focused a little too much on which celebrities have lived in which mansions and which ones were featured in movies. I’m sure there are people that are interested in that, but the tour doesn’t market itself as a “Celebrity Homes” tour, so it could do with a little less of it.
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
Named after the city of Lafayette that the Garden District used to occupy, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is one of several cemeteries in the city, and the best-preserved. With that said, you may think it’s terribly neglected.
According to our tour guide, even though it is a tourist attraction, the city holds no responsibility over it, nor does it want to. The cemetery is maintained by a volunteer organization, and the families that own the grave sites.
A single grave may hold several generations of remains. For a long time, it was common practice to open up a grave, and dump the bones of the latest person in there.
While it’s a morbid place, it’s a cool cemetery to check out.
While you don’t need to go with a walking tour to see the area, you’d derive some benefit out of taking one.
The tour we took was free with the implication that you should probably tip the guide for their time.
Our tour took about 2 hours. They met at the Northeast corner of Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, on the corner of Prytania St. and Washington Ave.
The sidewalks in the area are very uneven due to the tree growth, and very wet weather. Be extra careful to watch your step, and maybe bring an umbrella. It rained on and off during our tour.
If you’ve been to the Garden District before, what did you think of it? Leave a comment on the post and let us know!