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Touring New orleans ... On the Cheap 

Three books provide points of interest for self-guided tours of the city's architecture, culture and history

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One of the great things about having visitors is getting to show off our hometown and vicariously re-experience discovering the wonders of the city and hearing the quirky stories that make New Orleans unique. Almost anyone who has lived in the city for long (say six months) has realized that residents tend to have a lot of company, and you can't always take vacation or an unpaid day off to act as a tour guide.

  For those times, especially when your visitors are on a tight budget, it pays to keep a few books around to help them develop their own itineraries. Touring New Orleans on a Shoestring Budget by Huey Pablovich (2011, $20; www.touringneworleans.com) gives points of interest around which a person can plan a day of sightseeing and takes visitors to areas where they can easily find side diversions close by. The book also includes interesting tidbits or advice Pablovich calls "secrets," plus lagniappe for each spotlighted area. For the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 entry, for example, the secret is that voodoo queen Marie Laveau's tomb is there, and the general description adds tombs of first African-American mayor of New Orleans, Ernest "Dutch" Morial; Creole playboy Bernard de Marigny; one of Jean Lafitte's alleged pirates, Barthelemy Lafon; and one of the world's earliest chess champions, Paul Morphy.

  Pablovich includes any tours that are available, admission costs, what's free, etc., and there are sections on streetcars and bus transportation.

  The entries themselves cover the bases pretty well, but one of the best ideas is the comment pages. The book is intended for one person or family to keep and use in subsequent trips to remind them of favorite spots or places they missed the last time around. When you keep it on your bookshelf for multiple visitors to use, their written comments and the pamphlets they tuck in and notes they jot down can be helpful to guests who use it later.

  Many people who visit New Orleans are fascinated by the architecture, peculiar street layouts, remnants of cobblestone roads and the ways engineers, builders and residents adapted to establishing a vibrant city on the shifting sands of a cypress swamp along the Mississippi River.

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  R. Stephanie Bruno's book New Orleans Streets: A Walker's Guide to Neighborhood Architecture, takes two unique approaches to exploring the different layers of architecture in the city: She arranges it as a very detailed walking tour and writes with a focus on the city's neighborhoods and their characteristics. Bruno, an architectural historian and preservationist, seeks to familiarize locals and visitors alike with the unique aspects of the various building styles in New Orleans by describing houses and pointing out often-overlooked features — one block at a time. The book doesn't include every street in the city, but selected blocks with good examples of styles that make up the architectural fabric of New Orleans. Bruno includes short introductions about the neighborhoods and easy-to-read maps so visitors can get around by themselves. (A supplementary guide, if you can find it, is A Guide to New Orleans Architecture published in 1974 by The New Orleans Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It pictures and describes famous and well-known buildings in the city and is arranged by neighborhood for convenience.)

  Kevin J. Bozant gives readers a tour of New Orleans landmarks, commemorative plaques, statues and more in his African American New Orleans: A Guide to 100 Civil Rights, Culture & Jazz Sites (Po-Boy Press, 2012, $14.99). The book has interesting photos of the attractions, which makes them easier to find, since some are off main thoroughfares. There's also a neighborhood index so tourists can determine what points of interest are nearby, whatever neighborhood they are visiting.

  The 100 attractions included range from Willie Mae's Scotch House, a restaurant that served as a meeting place for civil rights activists and African-American leaders; a block where slaves were displayed for sale at the former St. Louis Hotel; the New Orleans musicians' tomb where any local musician can choose to be interred; the now-closed Ernie K-Doe's Mother-In-Law Lounge and the murals painted under the interstate on Claiborne Avenue.

  With these three books on your shelf, even guests who stay a week will remain occupied and happy — without breaking the bank.

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