Saturday was a beautiful October day so my wife and I decided to explore New Orleans by taking a ride on the big red City Sightseeing tour bus, officially known as the City Sightseeing New Orleans Hop-On Hop-Off bus. October/November is probably the ideal months of the year to get out and enjoy New Orleans. Fall is finally trying to push its way through the Deep South bringing us relief from the fading August heat. As a result you will find many days that are clear and comfortably cool. But keep in mind that if you can’t make it to New Orleans at this time The Hop On Hop Off bus runs 7 days a week throughout the year. We began our journey by purchasing our tickets and boarding the bus at the Basin Street Station Visitor Center. For those taking the Hop-On Hop-Off bus from the Basin Street Visitor Center there is abundant all day parking at a minimal price.
After we boarded the Hop-On Hop-Off bus we climbed the stairs to the upper deck and found a seat where we could enjoy our open air tour of the city. On the top deck there is a canopy that provided minimal cover from the sun and the weather, it is perfect for those spring, summer and fall days. The bus also has an enclosed lower deck with big windows but I would only recommend this if the top is full or during inclement weather. After everyone was aboard and seated our tour guide, Philip introduced himself and Cynthia the bus driver. At its appointed time the bus pulled into traffic on Basin Street and we began our two hour tour, that is if you stay on the bus and do not take advantage of any of the dozen and a half Hop-On Hop-Off stops.
Early on in the tour the Hop On Hop Off bus headed down Canal Street towards the river as Phillip our bus tour guide narrated along the way. It was obvious that Phillip loves New Orleans and enjoys his current career. He was extremely knowledgeable about the Crescent City, it history, landmarks and value as a destination city. As the bus rolled down Canal Street towards the river we passed Royal Street, Bourbon Street, and the St. Charles Streetcar. Once at the end of Canal we stopped at the Riverfront Harrah’s Casino bus stop. This stop is the gateway to many of New Orleans attractions, landmarks and the stop of three of the four streetcars. This is one of the great values to have unlimited hop-on hop-off access to the red bus which passes by every 30 minutes for your convenience.
After leaving Harrah’s Casino the Hop-On Hop-Off bus continued on its merry way past the World Trade Center building, the entrance to Spanish Plaza and onto Poydras Street which is the main thoroughfare of the New Orleans CBD. We stopped once along Poydras Street to allow riders on and off who were dinning, exploring or had accommodations in the CBD. As we traveled lake bound, further away from the river the Mercedes-Benz Superdome loomed up ahead between the buildings. As we passed the Superdome on this beautiful New Orleans fall day it seemed as if all aboard the bus scrambling for their cameras.
Leaving the Superdome behind us and pressing on with our tour we rode past the Hyatt Regency Hotel (a convenient Hop On Hop Off bus stop is located here), past the Cancer Survivor Memorial, past the Union Passenger Train/Bus Station, drove into the Arts/Warehouse District where we passed through historic Lee Circle, past the Civil War Museum, and the Ogden Museum. Finally our big red bust came to a rest at the Hop-On Hop-Off stop next to the National World War II Museum with its accompanying theater, restaurant and own Stage Door Canteen. I need to mention that all as we travelled along our hop-on hop-off route Phillip our tour guide never failed to keep us informed and amused. He would continually point out places of interest and explain events in New Orleans history all the while he seasoned them with his own stories of the Crescent City.
At the World War II Museum bus stop many of our current riders hopped-off and we picked up a bus load of weary museum visitors. They looked ready to sit down, relax and continue on their New Orleans bus tour. After this exchange of passengers was complete our big red bus wheeled into traffic and headed up river on Magazine Street towards the Garden District. As we entered the lower garden district the bus stopped at Jackson Avenue. At this bus stop riders who wanted to take advantage of the free Hop-on Hop-off Garden District Walking tour clamored excitedly off of the bus. Next the bus passed through the antique shops, art galleries, craft shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants on Magazine Street and again stopping to allow shoppers and dinners to hop-off or hop-on the bus. With Magazine Street behind us our big red bus naturally found its way to St. Charles Avenue and began heading down river towards the CBD, all the while passing the historic homes and mansions that line this magnificent thoroughfare.
After we were thoroughly educated about the history and architecture of the Garden District by our tour guide; the bus as though traveling though a time machine brought us out of the past and back to the future. By the time we realized we were back in the 21st century we were closing in fast on Mardi Gras World. At this stop the bus negotiated around the Mardi Gras World building and brought us out by the river for a beautiful view of the Mississippi River and the Crescent City Connection bridge that connects the New Orleans East bank with the West bank. At this stop you can get off the bus and take a tour of Mardi Gras World where Mardi Gras happens all year round.
The final leg of our City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off tour brought us down Convention Center Boulevard, past the Riverfront Outlet Mall, once again past Harrah’s Casino and into the historic French Quarter. As the bus passed by Jackson Square and Café du Monde the beautiful weather combined with the excitement of the visitors enjoying the sights and sounds of the French Quarter became an irresistible force that compelled us to hop-off at the French Market bus stop. It was a beautiful day to explore the French Quarter and explore we did. So much that we never had a chance to re-board the big red bus and complete our tour. Fortunately the Hop-On Hop-Off tickets include three long days of unlimited hop-on hop-off privaledges.