Here are the top ten reasons to take the New Orleans Tour Guide Class at Delgado Community College and learn all about the history of New Orleans, Louisiana. The Introduction to Tour Guilding/Art of Storytelling non-credit course is part of Delgado's Workforce program. The course includes the option to take the test to become a certified New Orleans tour guide, but that need not be part of your plan and iss not the only reason to take this fascinating class.
The tour guide course is generally offered in the fall, spring, and summer, meeting on Monday nights for class as well as on several Saturdays for tours. At last check, the fee was about $200. I wish I had taken it in the spring when the weather would probably be the best for those walking tours.
1. The Learning
I know it's billed as tour guide training, but the best reason to take this class is the pure pleasure of the learning. It covers sooo much about the city, its history, its geography, and its people. And in a fascinating and entertaining way. The class leaves you wanting more - which amazing when you see how much is is packed into each session. Many students, including me, hope that perhaps one day there will be an advanced class.
The course certainly teaches all the New Orleans historical and cultural basics, the big influential factors from international events, economic impacts, wars, and all the big shots. But it also highlights daily life, ethnic experiences, lesser known legends and individual stories.
The education includes a crash course on New Orleans architecture from colonial times on. You'll never look at the neighborhoods and buildings of New Orleans in quite the same with your new insight. It's also likely to increase you preservationist instincts.
2. A New Career
In New Orleans, tour guides are required to pass an examination and obtain a tour guide permit. That's why you'll see tour guides wearing their licenses conducting the tour. Very few cities have this mandate, but then again not many cities have a history that can equal New Orleans.
So not just anyone can be a guide. And it could be your new profession, a part-time job or a moonlighting gig.
The Delgado tour class includes the option of taking a license at the last class meeting. To become an official NOLA tour guide, you must pass the test, pay the various fees, clear the background check, and jump through the bureaucratic hoops of the New Orleans Taxicab Bureau which issues the licenses. One of the prerequisites are is a residency requirement - but it is not limited to Orleans Parish. If you live in one of several metro-area parishes, you can be a New Orleans tour guide.
The first question of many people when they first learn about this license requirement is about the carriage drivers in the French Quarter. They are notorious for giving out bad information. Even if you've never taken a ride, just overhearing the talk as the slow moving mule carriage pass can make natives cringe or laugh, even if they just a basic knowledge of the city. If you've had that reaction you won't be surprised to learn that the carriage drivers are not required to be licensed tour guides.
P.S. - The Friends of the Cabildo, which offers tours, also has a tour guide class that can lead to a NOLA tour guide license. The City of New Orleans also offers the test directly. The Tour Guide Association of Greater New Orleans is an active group. It's a good source for tour guide information and events, including a summary of how to become a licensed tour guide.
3. The Tours
The New Orleans Tour Guide course at Delgado includes five actual tours. These tours are worth the price of tuition alone!
There's a general tour of the French Quarter, the Garden District, a city-wide bus tour, a St. Louis Cemetary No. 1 Tour (It's the oldest in New Orleans and where many historical figures are buried as well as purported voodoo practitioners including Marie Laveau.), an African-American centric French Quarter tour, and a day-long regional tour including inside tours of three plantations. These tours are all scheduled for Saturdays during the course
AND, there's a bonus tour by the class itself one evening in the French Quarter. Everyone in the class chooses a topic, selects a relevant French Quarter location, researches, prepares, and delivers a short tourguide presentation on site.
The class instructor, Bill Norris, is a great storyteller. He paints a picture with words and brings the city's history alive. It's astonishing how much he packs into the course. His has a vast knowledge and is constantly researching and learning even more. And his enthusiasm about the city is catching!
Bill has an advanced degree in Communications. After a brief try at country living after retirement, Bill and his family moved to the French Quarter. He took the Delgatdo tour guide class himself years ago and he became a tour guide. When his instructor retired, she suggested Bill as her successor. He's been teaching the course ever since. Keep up to date with Bill at his tour guiding blog.
Seeing Bill in action - he takes the class on several tours himself - is a highlight of the course.
By the way, Bill with his white hair and moustache bears a striking resemblance to an old New Orleans visitor - Samuel Clements. And upon occasion he does play Mark Twain at special events.
5. Impress Your Friends
Your new knowledge - and story-telling skills - will impress your friends and family. You'll have the scoop as you drive through the neighborhoods of New Orleans. And they'll get it for free just by hanging around with you. You'll even be able to add an historical edge to a night out on the town in the French Quarter. Even the bars are drenched in history in the New Orleans. Upon completion of the course, you can even get a cool course diploma to hang on your wall if you like.
6. Resume and Job Value
If you work for a museum or cultural institution, in an historic part of town, in a job brings you in contact with tourists with a cultural or historic entity, in education, as a writer, or volunteer around town - The knowledge you gain from this course could be invaluable in your current and future endeavors. And it could make your resume stand out.
There are many ways the knowledge can help your career. In one class there was a young waiter who wanted to be able to answer questions from his customers at a French Quarter restaurant. There were also several young staffers from tourist organizations. Students have also included already licensed NOLA tour guides coming for booster knowledge, out-of-town tour guides, and tour bus drivers.
7. Become a Ranconteur
Learning to tell a story in an entertaining and information manner is an important part of the class. After learning the facts, a tour guide must distill, condense, edit, and come up with the best way to tell story. It's a skill for tours or any kind of storytelling. And the teacher, Bill Norris, is a perfect role model to become a ranconteur.
8. A New Passion
You may come of out the class with a new passion - New Orleans, her history, and her people, starting with Bienville and his brother Iberville. Fall in love new orleans hisoty
You won't be the only former student who starts looking for books and films to quench your desire to learn more. And you may find yourself going to more museums, cultural events, and even city tours.
9. A New Awareness
You will look at the city with new eyes. You'll see more than you ever expected when roaming New Orleans. I practically trip on the French Quarter sidewalks, looking up at the buildings with my newfound knowledge. When driving around, you might imagine the Indian and first settler camps at Bayou St. John, the plantations backing up on Saint Charles Avenue, the old Lakefront resorts, etc. Or is that just me?.