It is my second to last day in New Orleans, and I am enjoying my morning cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe Du Monde. My phone tweets at me, I have a message from a buddy in Toronto who wants to know if I am still in New Orleans. Over the course of a few texts back and forth I find out he was here a few weeks back with his wife. They went on a bike tour of New Orleans that was the highlight of their trip, and he wanted me to give it a try if I had the time. Of course, I am always up for an adventure. Spontaneity is my middle name, so I get the tour company’s name, Abel Tours and book myself on a bicycling tour of New Orleans for that very afternoon. It is time to Bike NOLA y’all.
It is a typical muggy day today in New Orleans but thankfully it is a little cooler than the previous couple of days. I’m anticipating sweating a lot, so I’m in very casual shorts and a t-shirt. Abel Tours or Bike NOLA as the sign says is located in the French Quarter at 1209 Decatur Street. It’s very close to the French Market, an outdoor food and artisan bazaar dating back to the original French and Spanish settlers.
My tour guides name is Keith and not only did he start the company he also runs a high percentage of the tours. It is because of Keith and how much fun he has with these tours that my buddy reached out and wanted me to experience this adventure. Keith is a New Orleans native and aside from his personal experiences to add to the tour he is also a certified tour guide. New Orleans takes their tour guides very seriously so when you book a tour make sure the guides are certified otherwise you may not get the best experience.
According to Keith our tour will last about three hours and cover approximately thirteen miles. I’m happy to say that New Orleans is a flat city so this should be a piece of cake, especially on these Cruiser bikes. On our bikes, we are ready to roll. The first stop is along the boardwalk on the Mississippi River.
As we ride Keith chats the whole way. He greets everyone we pass, and he is always laughing. It’s infectious, and if you are not in a good mood by the time he makes the first stop then you should go back to bed. The first stop is where Keith talks about the founding of New Orleans by the French and the original inhabitants of the area the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. It is also a place of great views of the river and the Natchez Paddlewheeler which goes out every day on river tours.
We are off to our next stop at Jackson Square. More stories on the history of New Orleans and in particular how it went from French to Spanish rule, back to the French and finally sold off to the Americans it what is known as the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
We hop back onto our bikes and wind our way through the French Quarter. A note here for people not used to being on a bike. The streets of New Orleans are bumpy, and pot hole riddled, so your bum gets hammered a lot, this si why you want to wear comfortable clothes. Back to the tour, as we cycle through the streets, Keith continues to share stories. Some are about people he knows, and some are about the various forms of architecture. As an example, we stop at an intersection, he points to the building on the left corner and then the right. The left corner building is an example of French design while the building on the right is of Spanish influence. To tell the difference just look at the balconies.
Back on our bikes we enter the 9th Ward. The neighbourhood of New Orleans that was most affected by Hurricane Katrina. We stopped at one house where Keith showed me a piece of art commemorating the event. It’s a sculpture immortalizing the spray paint tag left by the first responders as they made their way through the ward finding survivors and recovering the deceased. A very sobering moment.
We continue on; I ask Keith about his Katrina story, and he shares it with me without pause. No one who calls New Orleans home was left unscathed. Keith wasn’t in town during the hurricane, but his story is still one of loss and regeneration. It is the story of New Orleans.
From here we make our way to City Park to visit the Singing Oak. A Living Oak with chimes hanging from it’s branches. At the slightest breeze, it makes beautiful music.
There is a lot more of the tour to come, but I want you to experience it for yourself. This is my #1 recommendation of Things To Do in New Orleans. When my buddy from Toronto said, I would love this adventure he wasn’t wrong. Since I’ve taken the tour I’ve actually sent a family I met in Lafayette on it, and they emailed me to say how much they enjoyed it.
I can’t guarantee what you’ll see on your Bike NOLA adventure, but there is a good chance you might get to eat a Poor Boy and see a random Second Line performance happen right in front of your eyes. This is New Orleans; anything can happen here, Cher.
This is an easy cycle through a city that has no hills. 13 miles on a cruiser bike over 3 hours. Wear comfy clothes and be prepared to have a sore bum afterwards as the roads are bumpy and pot hole riddled. Great stories, history and a real feel for what it's like to be a local in New Orleans. You will get some great personal stories from Keith and laugh plenty.
Value for $10
suitable for everyone10
would I go back?10