The slow buggy ride might still be the most romantic way for visitors to take in the sights of the French Quarter, but a local tourism company has started a new service that should be familiar to world travelers from other cities, one that offers both a broader perspective on the city and – literally – an elevated view of town.
This fall, City Sightseeing New Orleans began operating a small fleet of five bright red, double-decker buses on a route that brings passengers to sites around the French Quarter, CBD and Warehouse District. It is the local franchise of a global company based in Seville, Spain, that has similar bus fleets in 98 cities, where in many cases they have become part of the tourism infrastructure.
“There are a lot of goals for this,” says Emily Valentino, marketing manager with the local franchise. “One is to help distribute visitors around New Orleans so they can experience more of the city and the attractions that are out there. There are so many different areas of the city to explore.”
She says the company may expand its routes to bring visitors farther outside the downtown and French Quarter areas. For now, the buses follow a loop that covers roughly nine miles and takes about 80 minutes to complete. But part of what differentiates the concept from a regular tour is a “hop-on, hop-off” policy. Passengers buy full-day passes that allow them to get out and explore a particular area or attraction, and then board the next bus that comes along when they’re ready to move on.
The concept essentially melds the predictable route of a public transit system with the visitor-oriented information of a tour, and these City Sightseeing tours are narrated by licensed guides. A recorded version of the narration is available in seven languages and also in Cajun and New Orleans dialects. For that latter, think lots of “who dats” and “dawlins.”
“We know a lot of New Orleans residents will want to take the tour, too, so (the dialects) are a fun way for them to reconnect with the history of their city,” says Valentino.