Sightseeing and Ways to Stay Fit for Active Visitors

Photo by Carl Barcelo on Unsplash

If you plan to stay active and keep fit while you’re visiting New Orleans, the many versatile ways to explore the French Quarter and nearby areas like City Park, Bayou St. John, and the Marigny could mean anything from kayaking along Bayou St. John to doing yoga at the Cabildo. Depending on your stamina and interests, these indoor and outdoor suggestions, below, can’t be beat if you’re looking for a self-powered, self-guided adventure throughout the city or just need to squeeze in a quick workout while on the road.

Bike tours and rentals

New Orleans is getting more bike-friendly with recently repaved roads, new dedicated and shared bike lanes, and increased bike safety awareness. Whether you’d prefer to strike out on your own or be guided in a group, the local nonprofit and bike safety advocate Bike Easy has a city bike map to help you navigate. Plus, no hills! If you do just want to rent a bike and be on your own, we recommend Blue Bikes, an inexpensive rideshare option that came to New Orleans relatively recently.

Most tour companies that offer guided bike tours will also let you rent a bike for several hours and up to several days, and most of the time helmet, bike lock, maps, and “concierge support” are included in the rental fee.

Crescent City Bike Tours offers several bike tours that focus on New Orleans history. There are nighttime tours, seasonal tours, and tours in French. You can also rent a bike for half a day, the whole day, and up to a week.

Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours last three hours on average, and cover about 10 miles each. The Creole & Crescent tour includes the French Quarter and the Marigny; the Beyond the Bourbon Street tour takes you through the Marigny and the Bywater. The company also has rentals for both kid and adult cruisers (multi-day rental fees vary; please check the website).

Nation Tours offers Segway tours. There are several time slots throughout the day, and you can book a New Orleans Experience tour, the Historic French Quarter tour, or a Haunted History tour.

Drop-in exercise classes

Exercise surrounded by opulence at the New Orleans Athletic Club on N. Rampart Street on the edge of the Quarter. Established in 1872, the club has seen quite a few famous people, from Tennessee Williams and Huey Long to the contemporary Hollywood celebrities who film here. As one of the oldest athletic clubs in America, NOAC boasts a pool, sauna, steam room, a well-stocked library, spa, coffee stations, and even a bar. A daily drop-in includes access to group exercise classes, or come as a member’s guest. Bring your ID and hotel room key to register.

Downtown Fitness Center has locations at the New Orleans Healing Center in Bywater and on the third floor at the Shops at Canal Place in the French Quarter. Visitor passes are for one, two, or three days; classes include Zumba, yoga, pole fitness, and aerobics.


“For residents and travelers at all levels of practice,” Yoga at the Cabildo classes are held at the historic Cabildo on Jackson Square on Saturdays at 9 a.m. History meets fitness in a sun-filled gallery inside a 1700s Spanish colonial building, now housing an excellent museum.

Wild Lotus Yoga is located Uptown. It offers sliding-scale community classes like family yoga, alignment, and yoga for new moms. Swan River Yoga is popular among the locals and offers restorative, beginner, and prenatal classes at its Mid-City location on Canal Street (ask about a single-class drop-in rate). 


The two-hour bayou tour by Kayak-iti-Yat is a good fit for first-time kayakers to explore Bayou St. John with not too much athletic commitment. It focuses on history, community and architecture; and, even though the tour will take you through residential areas, you’ll get to spot some wildlife like birds and turtles.

Massey’s rentals include canoes and kayaks, both solo and tandem. You can rent one for a few hours to take out on the bayou, or for a weeklong fishing expedition out of town. If you need a kid kayak, Bayou Paddlesports offers those along with adult ones.

Finally, the New Orleans City Park offers good deals for bike and boat rentals, morning to sunset, weather permitting. Since personal boats are not allowed in the City Park’s historic bayous and lagoons, your best bet is to rent. The four miles of the Park’s bike paths can take you from Bayou St. John to Lake Pontchartrain, plus there are additional trails around the lake and on festival grounds.

Book a stay at our historic French Quarter boutique hotel, right in the epicenter of all of the action!

Exploring the 19th-Century Architecture of the French Quarter

french quarter fall

Few cities in the U.S. are brimming with as much well-preserved, irresistible architecture as New Orleans. Think about it: There are 20 historic districts on the National Register in this city! We have French doors, Caribbean colors, high ceilings, wrought-iron fences, stucco exteriors, wooden shutters, hardwood floors, antique mantels, and lush tropical courtyards.

The French Quarter in particular is great for exploring as you’ll find lots of examples of Creole cottages and townhouses, plus the ubiquitous shotguns and camelbacks dating back to the 19th century. Then there are those seductive courtyards with gurgling fountains, bursting with flora, plus all the unique porches and lacy Victorian ironwork.

Below are our suggestions on how to best view the architecture of the French Quarter — either with a guided tour or by walking on your own — with a focus on historically significant 19th-century buildings. Whether you decide to go inside some of those or just admire the exterior, unveiling the city’s colorful past with these gems is as easy as taking a stroll.

Guided architecture tours

The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) offers docent-led tours of buildings and courtyards with emphasis on their architectural styles and the history of their residents. THNOC also offers free, self-guided iPod and cell phone tours (check the website for instructions). Locations include the Merieult House (533 Royal St.), the Williams Residence (718 Toulouse St.), and the Louis Adam House (722 Toulouse St.).

Explore French and Spanish Colonial and Greek Revival styles by taking a walking tour with New Orleans Architecture Tours. You’ll get to see St. Louis Cathedral, Ursuline Convent, Napoleon House, and witness four types of Creole townhouses during this tour.

Preservation Resource Center also offers guided tours. They are seasonal and have specific themes, so please check the website for tour info.

19th-Century Historically Significant Buildings of the French Quarter

With fires in 1788 and 1794, and a post-Louisiana Purchase Victorian makeover on the Quarter, only a handful of “first-generation” Creole buildings in the original French colonial style has survived. Most buildings you see today are “second-generation” Creole and Greek Revival.

The 1820s were hailed as the most thriving decade in terms of adding to the structure of the French Quarter we’re seeing today, with elements of French and Spanish colonial, and Caribbean influences. During that time, the original Spanish architecture was gradually replaced. To prevent fires, strict building codes were enforced, and a lot of brick was introduced to replace the wood.

The 1850 House

523 St. Ann St., Lower Pontalba Bldg., Jackson Sq.

Built in the late 1840s by Baroness Micaela Almonester Pontalba, the Lower and Upper Pontalba Buildings flank the sides of Jackson Square. The Upper Pontalba buildings at 1008 N. Peters St. house residential apartments, but you can tour the 1850 House of the Lower Pontalba buildings to get a glimpse at how the upper middle class lived in prosperous antebellum New Orleans.

Old U.S. Mint

400 Esplanade St.

Built in 1835, the Old U.S. Mint served as both a U.S. and a Confederate Mint. Now a museum, research facility and site for music festivals and performances, the building houses several exhibits, including its permanent collection. You’ll find a display of coins and stamping presses, a jazz exhibit with Louis Armstrong’s first cornet, plus historic recordings and rare film footage. Current exhibits explore the life of Louis Armstrong, showcase Southern art, and display a collection of musical instruments, including Fats Domino’s Steinway grand piano. Free admission.

Beauregard-Keyes House and Garden

1113 Chartres St.

Built by Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard in 1826, the Beauregard-Keyes House stands opposite the old Ursuline Convent, boasting a splendid garden and lavish interior. The house changed hands many times and is now owned by the Keyes Foundation, which was established by the late resident, Frances Parkinson Keyes, who has restored the house.

Gallier House

1132 Royal St.

Tour the gilded Victorian splendor of Gallier House, designed by a prominent architect, James Gallier, more than 150 years ago. The house is full of antique children’s toys, chandeliers, and period art that reflect life in New Orleans at that time.

The tour touches upon the lives of enslaved people and domestic servants who made this luxurious lifestyle possible. For the summer, portions of the house are redecorated in the “Summer Dress” tradition of protecting the furnishings from the elements and insects, to show what life was like here during the hot months — before air conditioning, fans and screens.

Hermann Grima House

820 St. Louis St.

This restored Federal mansion was built in 1831 and features the only working open-hearth kitchen in New Orleans. The interior is furnished with period pieces and historically accurate reproductions of carpets and upholstery. Both the house, adjacent outbuildings and the courtyard tell a story of what life was like for wealthy Creole families in the 1830-1860s. November through April, open-hearth cooking demonstrations are offered in the outdoor kitchen, using traditional recipes and techniques of the 19th century.

And then there’s all that romantic ironwork

Always a hit with visitors and locals alike, the intricately decorated wrought-iron balconies, gates, doors, and fences of the French Quarter are a timeless treasure. To take it all in, try walking the length of Royal or Chartres streets from Esplanade to Jackson Square.

Cornstalk Hotel

915 Royal St.

Cornstalk Hotel is one such (stunning) example of ironwork. It was built in 1816 for the first Attorney General of Louisiana, Francois Xavier-Martin, and then bought in 1834 by Dr. Joseph Secondo Biamenti. The legend goes that his wife grew homesick, so the doctor had commissioned a decorative iron fence depicting corn, abundant in her native state of Iowa. The hotel has had its share of famous visitors, including Elvis Presley, who stayed there in 1958 while filming King Creole.

All of these attractions are located in the heart of the New Orleans French Quarter, short blocks from French Market Inn. Book a stay at our historic French Quarter boutique hotel, right in the epicenter of all of the action!