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New Orleans news from Royal Carriages Tours

Discover the French Quarter through the eyes of our tourism team. Our guides, mule groomers, tour sales reservationists, and everyone in between are a family who takes pride in our culture and giving back to the community. Check back often to get the latest in our New Orleans news!

Nancy's Story: How I Became A French Quarter Carriage Driver

Posted by Nancy Landry on February 08, 2016

In my early 20s, I left behind a good job, friends, and family in rural Louisiana for a life in The Big Easy. Never living in a city, I was completely unprepared for such change. Constantly struggling to find enough work to pay rent like most, I found myself slinging drinks on at a jazz club on Bourbon Street. Working late nights in a crowded and smoky environment for months on end was enough to drive for me to find something different. 

For years, I had wanted to become a licensed city tour guide, but the application process and tests through City Hall were discouraging. I wanted formal education to prepare me and within a few months, I graduated from the Friends of the Cabildo Tour Guide Class and began working as a professional city tour guide. Walking groups of 25+ visitors throughout the French Quarter  for 2-hours at a time was not as much fun as it seemed and neither was giving tours on a tour bus. Once again, I found myself struggling financially and still searching for a rewarding experience. 

Through Friends of the Cabildo, I met an older man with a big smile named Mick. After expressing my concerns to him, he told me that I needed to work as a carriage driver for Royal Carriages. I never considered driving carriages or working with “poor overworked horses” and my own stubborn ignorance didn’t think highly of the carriage industry. He laughed and said, “If you see anything you don’t like, then don’t do it.”

Before applying to Royal Carriages to work as a carriage driver, I researched the carriage industry. I wanted to know everything that I could about what I was about to do. I learned that the horses were not horses at all, but mules, and that Royal Carriages has been in business since 1941! My confidence in the industry grew, and I looked forward to my job interviews with Royal Carriages. I even came across a vintage brooch of a horse-drawn carriage at a local thrift shop, felt that fate was working its magic, and wore it as good luck to the interview. 


Nancy is pictured with Queenie

Most carriage drivers agree that it is the best job in the city. We have the opportunity to spend our days working with hard-working and hard-loving mules that are well cared for, and provide visitors with the best tour experience possible. Our mule-drawn carriages enhance the beauty of the French Quarter, and the initial encounter that people have with a carriage mule can be unforgettable. Artists have painted works of art of my mule and me, and our photo has been taken by countless strangers. Those types of things don’t happen when you are a walking tour guide or a bus tour guide. 


Original Artwork by New Orleans Artist Wayne Griffin 

Over the years, I have become somewhat of a carriage mule-advocate. Whenever someone discovers that I work as a carriage driver, they have a ton of questions. They are always surprised and delighted to hear my response. I show them pictures of the carriage mule that I work with on my cell phone and speak of it as if it were my child. They are reassured knowing that people like me truly do fall in love with their working partners. 

When you're a newbie, your mule teaches you a lot. One of the most important things I've learned is that life is like a stubborn mule. You can try to be in control, but you’re not. I do my best to just work with it. I believe that fate can be a series of unfortunate events that lead you to a worthwhile experience. In this case, it leads me to loving mules and appreciating those who work with equines in various industries. I'm one of those "mule-crazy" people now. 

Kim's Story: How I Became A French Quarter Carriage Driver

Posted by Nancy Landry on January 04, 2016

For as long as I can remember I have always been in love with equines.  As a child, I begged and begged my father for a horse.  I believe he thought I would grow out of it, but by the time I was eight years old, he realized this wasn’t a phase.  We lived on a small farm about twenty miles West of Casper, WY that my father purchased when I was about six.  One of the first animals my father got for the farm was a Shetland pony named Shorty who taught me as a small child all the easy and difficult things about having an equine friend.  My body still bears a few scars from our original adventures together.

It was when I set up wood fence rails on top of buckets and short posts and started teaching my pony to jump that my father decided it might be time for a full-size horse.  This started an adolescence of competitive jumping and showing.  We never had mules on our farm although we had friends with mules who participated in mule day’s events and pack horse races around the country.  I remember competing against a girl who had a mule that she jumped with.  Yet, like most people, as a youngster, I remained pretty snobbish towards the long ears and their abilities.  

As I reached adulthood, I would’ve liked nothing more than to make a profession in animals but, agricultural opportunities were slim in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and my parents urged me on to college where I just couldn’t decide on a major.  Eventually, I became a paramedic and moved to New Orleans, LA where I worked for the city of New Orleans until 2010, including during hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Time and circumstances will eventually take its toll on a paramedic’s body and mind and as my mother was aging, I felt the pressure of a job that has little room for family leave wearing on me.

One night my partner and I were driving the ambulance down Decatur street in the French Quarter and as we passed Jackson Square I saw the carriages lined up there and thought back to a time about fifteen years earlier when I’d seen an ad in the newspaper for carriage driver positions.  In New Orleans, the carriages use mules to pull them (it has been a law since the early 1980’s) and I loved walking around the square and taking in all the smells and affections of the horse hybrid that brought back memories of my childhood.  Walking by Jackson Square was just about the only equines I got to experience since the days back on the farm of my childhood.  Although I’d been interested in the carriages all those years ago when I saw the ad, I thought there was no way that I would ever be hired for the position since I’d never driven a carriage, much less in city traffic.  Something in me that night in the ambulance was different and I decided that carriage driving was the alternative I was looking for.  

The next day I started checking into the process and found out about the licensing for tour guides.  I signed up for a class through the Louisiana State museum system that trains tour guides on the history of the French Quarter.  After a month long every day of the week intensive program, I arrived at the offices of Royal Carriages armed with my tour guide license, my resume, and a staunch determination to become a carriage driver.  A couple of days later I was learning how to drive a mule!


Pictured is Blue who assists Kim in training new mules

My trainer told me to throw away anything I ever knew about horses because mules were totally different.  I wouldn’t say it’s a good idea to throw away all your equine knowledge but it wasn’t long before I realized how incredibility smart and special mules are.  My childhood experiences came flooding back to me and just like when I was a child I wasn’t nearly satisfied with just holding onto the lines while my mule leisurely ambled around the French Quarter.  I found myself consistently working on my technique to improve my line handling and communication with my mule.  My mule partners impressed me daily with how smart and responsive they were to me.  I love to call the mules connivingly smart.  As time passed, I was handed more and more challenging mules based on my ability, until I was driving the newly trained mules.

In July of 2013, the trainer suffered a debilitating hand injury that required surgery and in the days following, I arrived at the stable to help him groom and dress the mules that he was currently training, as his bandaged hand made it impossible to do some tasks.  I also rode along with him in case he needed help during the process. Before long everyone considered me the assistant trainer, helping with the daily training even after his hand had healed. In April 2015, the trainer left the company and I was promoted to his position.  I wasn’t quite sure I was ready but, we had nine mules in the wings waiting to be trained so it was time to step up to the task.


Week 2 of Training Elizabeth 

The hardest part about training the mules is the location I’m training them in, the French Quarter.  The mules come to me with some training already but they’ve never been in a city, or seen traffic, street construction, or pedestrians in feather boas with hurricane cocktails on Bourbon Street.  The mules and I are on stage every day in front of thousands of people who know nothing about mules much less the training process.  That means that nothing can go wrong once I’m out in the French Quarter with a new mule.  If people feel the mule is sweating too much or if it has a little white saliva around its bit from working, or it struggles with an obstacle, I’m suddenly the center of attention and advice.  That aspect alone was nerve racking at first because I was so afraid of making mistakes and having the general public go crazy yelling at me.  These days my skin is much thicker and I’m often so focused on my mule that I rarely hear comments from the sidelines.  Most individuals although well intentioned, are grossly uneducated in mulemanship and they all come bearing an opinion.


Week 1 of training Foot Loose

I love training the mules. I love watching them progress as they learn new tasks and become familiar with their new jobs.  It’s amazing to me when I see them learn something and remember it and when I watch them figure out an obstacle while those long ears I love to call radar turn forward and back while they think and listen to directions.  I love the bonding process with the mules when I recognize that they’ve begun to trust me and depend on me for direction.  There is something very therapeutic to my soul every morning when I walk into the stable, and I’m greeted by their beautiful faces. Each one hanging their head out of the stall looking for their morning affection.

I don’t miss being a paramedic, I realized what I was missing in my life was the fulfillment that working with a mule brings.  So many of my co-workers are the same way.  Many leaving professional careers like teaching, drafting, and the legal field to work with mules guiding visitors around our magnificent city.

-Kim Weikum, Stable Manager at Royal Carriages

10 Reasons To Take A Carriage Ride In New Orleans

Posted by Nancy Landry on December 08, 2015

Reason #1 - Grab A Seat, Rest Your Feet!
When visiting New Orleans, travelers often get sore feet from all of the constant walking. Mule-drawn carriage tours allow travelers to sit back and relax while being entertained and informed.

Reason #2 - Local, Professional, and Licensed Tour Guides!
The tour guides at Royal Carriages are all local, professional, and licensed tour guides. Together, our tour guides have over 160 years of combined tour guide experience.

Reason #3 - Carriage Rides are Picture Perfect!
Our tour guides will be happy to take photos of you onboard the carriage in front of the historic Jackson Square. This iconic picture will serve as a fantastic mule-drawn memory of your trip to New Orleans.  

Reason #4 - Learn the Layout of the French Quarter!
In just 1 one-hour, our carriages roll by major landmarks, historic restaurants, celebrity homes, and haunted locations. You will be well oriented with your surroundings at the end of your carriage ride and you'll be eager to check out all of the free museums and hot spots you just discovered! 

Reason #5 - You never know what you're going to see! 
Carriage tours are filled with the randomness and hilariousness of the French Quarter. Perhaps you’ll see a small assortment of beautiful Mardi Gras floats heading to a parade or celebrities filming for an upcoming blockbuster! 

Reason #6 - No Script! No Set Routes!
We don’t believe in cookie cutter! We support the individuality of each tour guide, therefore, there are no scripts and no set routes. Big personalities shine through each personally crafted and researched tour. 

Reason #7 - Go Way BEYOND Bourbon Street!  
Travelers are impressed with the large area a carriage can cover in just 1-hour. Expect to go way beyond Bourbon Street, exploring more residential neighborhoods, visiting above ground cemeteries, local music districts, and more.

Reason #8 - Avoid overcrowded tours! 
Don’t get lost in the crowd! Why walk or ride a bus when an intimate mule-drawn adventure is an option? Walking tours generally have up to 28 people in each group. Our large group carriages seat no more than 8 passengers comfortably, which provides an overall better tour experience for each traveler.

Reason #9 - So Iconically New Orleans!
Royal Carriages is a third-generation family owned company and has been a New Orleans tradition for 75 years. Our mule-drawn carriages are just as iconic as the streetcar, an overstuffed po'boy, or a bag of beignets. 

Reason #10 - MULES!
Last but not least, our beloved carriage mules are so much fun to interact with! Words cannot express the joy our tour guides experience by working alongside these incredible animals daily. Stronger than a horse, our mules tolerate the heat better. Most worked hard as Amish plow mules before being introduced to the city life here in New Orleans. Each mule works no more than 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. Each mule receives 3-6 months vacation. If we treat our mules this good, imagine how we’ll treat you! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Posted by Nancy Landry on November 30, 2015

How much are the carriage tours?  

We offer six different carriages tours of the city, which can be viewed in detail on our website. The most popular 1-hour tours are priced at just $36 per person on our group carriages, which seat no more than 8 people. We also have shorter tours priced at just $18 per person. Advanced tickets can be purchased on our website.

 

Do you have carriages for just two?

Yes. We have small private carriages that hold no more than four passengers. The carriage is priced at $90 for the Classic` Carre Carriage Tour of the French Quarter, which would break down to just $45 per person for 2 passengers OR $22.50 per person for 4 passengers. This ½ hour carriage tour is perfect for your introduction to the elaborate history, the architectural landmarks, and features some of the oldest bars and restaurants in America. Each licensed tour guide customized the tour to suit your interests. We also have 1-hour private carriages tours available. Advanced tickets can be purchased on our website.

 

Which tour should I take?

The most popular tour is the 1-hour History & Haunts Carriage Tour. On this 1-hour carriage tour, our licensed tour guide will bring you to sites of documented hauntings, which have been documented in police records, city archives, and various paranormal investigations through the years. Customers have actually captured ghost-like activity in photographs, so we encourage our guests to bring their cameras along for the ride. This tour is offered nightly.

 

Another best-selling tour is our 1-hour Dixie Bohemia Carriage Tour of the Faubourg Marigny, which was a former plantation. Today, the Marigny is home to the local music district known as Frenchmen Street, where the authentic jazz clubs can be found far away from Bourbon Street. This neighborhood is also filled with tiny shotgun homes and brightly colored Creole cottages, as well as the grand Creole mansions and townhomes of Esplanade Avenue. This tour is only available via carriage, priced at just $36 per person on our group carriages, and we also have private carriages available if you are interested.

 

Do you do cemetery tours?

YES! Royal Carriages is the ONLY carriage company licensed by the Archdiocese to enter the cemetery gates of St. Louis #1, where Marie Laveau the Voodoo Queen was laid to rest. This is the oldest above ground cemetery in North America, and it is also where the actor Nicolas Cage chose to build a pyramid tomb for himself. The 1-hour carriage tour of the cemetery also includes a tour of the French Quarter. Our licensed guide will tell you the stories of our elaborate history while bringing you past some of the oldest bars and restaurants in America. The Hallowed Graves St. Louis Cemetery Carriage Tour is priced at just $36 per person on our group carriages, and we also have private carriages available if you are interested.

 

That’s expensive! I’m not sure…

Walking tours offered by other companies are priced at $25 per person will have no less than 27 people in each group. These large groups can only hit a limited amount of locations within 2-hours. In 1-hour, our carriage tour covers more ground, and there are no more than 8 passengers on each of our group carriages. At just $36 per person, carriages tours are not only a better value but also a better experience. We also have private carriages are also available if you are interested. 

 

Are the carriage drivers licensed tour guides?

YES! To become a carriage driver, you must first have a tour guide license, issued by the city of New Orleans, before you apply to obtain your carriage driver license. All Royal Carriage have current tour guide licenses, as well as licenses provided to us by the Archdiocese to enter St. Louis Cemetery #1. Often time, guest will say that they learned more on a 1/2 carriage tour than they did on a 3-hour bus tour.   Carriage drivers are able to customize their tour route to suit your personal requests. 
 

Is there a set route? Is there a script?

NO! The city does not restrict where the carriages are allowed to go, but the city does restrict the route of the tour bus companies. Our carriages have the ability to travel throughout all areas of the city. We offer six different carriages tours throughout the city. Also, there is no script! Each driver has prepared their own research, choosing the stories they feel best represent New Orleans. We encourage our guide to continue their education, and we provided historical reference guides for their use. Each tour is completely different from the next! Returning guests always learn new information!
 

Why mules?  

Royal Carriages began to use mules in 1975. In 1982, it became a city ordinance for all carriage companies to use mules for carriage tours. This decision was made mostly because of the humid heat in the summertime. Being half dessert animal (donkey), mules tolerate the heat far better than horses. Just because they tolerate the heat better doesn't mean that they work in the extreme heat. When the temperature hits just 95 degrees, all carriage tours are suspended until the temperature cools. During this time, all carriage mules are relocated to the stable. Carriage mules work no more than 7 hours per day, 5 days per week, and no more than 9 full months out of each year. Each Royal Carriage mule receives 3-6 months vacation on 100 acres of farmland just north of Lake Pontchartrain. 

Travel Tips: Christmas in New Orleans

Posted by Nancy Landry on November 10, 2015

We are so excited that you'll be joining us for one of the most happiest times of the year! The City of New Orleans is beautiful throughout the holiday season. These are a few things to consider for your trip.

Weather! Our winters are typically warmer than most, but nonetheless, our drivers are always prepared with blankets on hand to keep you warm on your ride. Please check the weather conditions in advance and dress appropriately. You won't regret bringing the extra layer. Trust us when we say you can leave the shorts and sandals at home. Think about bringing a comfortable pair of waterproof shoes with you on your travels. 

Hot Toddy! Warm cocktails heat up the evening! Visitors love taking advantage of walking through the streets with their cocktails. You can always have it "to-go", as long as you aren't walking the streets with glass containers. Hot Buttered Rum is a delicious treat, but so are Hot Toddies, Irish Coffees, or ...Barengjager Honey Liqueur with hot water and extra lemons to help soothe your throat. Think about bringing a canister with you to keep your cocktails hot!! Drinking Hot Buttered Rum out of styrofoam isn't classy, but most of all...it's not the best for the environment. 

Gumbo! Mmm....the perfect dish to warm you up on a cold winter night. Try a cup (or bowl) of gumbo at each restaurant you visit so you can taste the difference. Don't let me be the one to tell you who has the best tasting gumbo in town, I want you to decide for yourself. Remember, just like cocktails...you can get a bowl of gumbo to go, which helps warm your belly as your walk to your destinations. My favorite is always the Chicken & Sausage Gumbo when offered! 

Carriage! Throughout the holiday seasons, the doorways and the balconies will be dressed in their holiday splendor and twinkling lights add to the ambiance of your nighttime carriage ride. Royal Carriages have helped many families create a fantastic holiday memories year after year with nighttime carriages rides throughout the French Quarter enjoying the holiday adornment. The neighborhood begins to hang decorations towards the end of the Thanksgiving holiday, and they tend to hang with pride until January 1st. If you will be traveling to New Orleans during this time, please keep in mind that is extremely important to reserve your carriage in advance! 

Royal Carriages presents Christmas Carre`: The New Orleans Christmas Carriage Tour

Create a mule-drawn memory this holiday season with Royal Carriages. Let our Christmas carriages bring your family on a mule-drawn adventure, complete with a fully narrated introduction to the elaborate history, architectural landmarks, and also features the magical holiday displays throughout the historic French Quarter. Each licensed tour guide customizes the tour to suit your family’s interests. 

...and Free! Sometimes the best things on vacation are FREE! For family-friendly events are sure to please, visit the Convention Visitor Bureau's website, Follow Your Joy. There are lots of wonderful concerts and holiday events for families to enjoy!

This is a treat from the booking to the touring. If you would like to know more about New Orleans, then I encourage you to take a tour. We took an hour night tour and it was Fantastic!! Our tour guide was full of history! I wished the ride went on a little longer because I wanted to know and see more. This is a must when visiting!! Thank you Royal Carriages for making our 30 Wedding Anniversary memorable!

Bonnie McKeithen of TripAdvisor.com

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