New Orleans, also known as Big Easy, is a vibrant city located on the Mississippi River in Louisiana. It’s known for its vibrant culture, delicious Cajun and Creole cuisine, the world-famous Mardi Gras celebration, and vibrant nightlife. From the French Quarter to the Garden District, there’s plenty to explore!
Some of the best things to do in New Orleans, NOLA include checking out the Bourbon Street for some wild nightlife and live music; exploring the French Quarter to visit historic architecture and grab some beignets at Cafe Du Monde; visiting Frenchmen Street for some killer jazz music.
You can also take a stroll through Jackson Square and check out the street performers; take a swamp tour to see some alligators and other wildlife; visit the Saint Louis Cemetery to see the above-ground tombs. And, of course, eat all the amazing Creole & Cajun food you can handle.
30 Best things to do in New Orleans, Louisiana
1. French Quarter
The French Quarter, referred to as the Vieux Carré in French, is one of the best things to do and see in New Orleans as it is the heart and cultural center as well as one of the oldest neighborhoods of New Orleans.
Situated along the Mississippi River, the French Quarter has a rich history, founded by the French in the 18th century.
The French Quarter is home to many famous attractions such as Bourbon Street, which is known for its lively bars, jazz clubs, and street performers; Jackson Square, which is home to several museums and monuments; and the St. Louis Cathedral, which dates back to the late 1700s.
The streets are lined with quaint boutiques, art galleries, and delicious Creole restaurants. There is also the French Market, a shopping and dining destination spanning 5 blocks, featuring food stands, restaurants with outdoor seating, and street performances. Local artisans also sell handmade crafts, paintings, and jewelry at affordable prices.
The French Quarter is also the location of important events and festivals such as the Mardi Gras celebration and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
There are some unique experiences in the French Quarter such as ghost tours at the haunted LaLaurie Mansion, visiting above-ground tombs at St. Louis Cemeteries, exploring voodoo at the Historic Voodoo Museum and Museum of Death, and shopping for psychic readings, voodoo items, and gothic memorabilia.
Popular places for dining in the French Quarter is the Cafe du Monde, which is known for its café au lait and beignets. You can eat gumbo, a must-try dish, at Stanley restaurant.
2. Frenchmen Street
Frenchmen Street is a popular spot among locals for live music, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and art galleries. It offers a more authentic New Orleans experience away from the busy tourist areas of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter.
Many visitors recommend taking a stroll down Frenchmen Street for its lively atmosphere, jazz music and great bars. Popular venues in Frenchmen Street are the Blue Nile, Three Muses, The Maison, and Apple Barrel offering jazz, funk, blues, and other genres.
Dragon’s Den features multiple stages and a diverse range of music, and Washington Square Park offers a relaxing spot to enjoy street performers and special events.
As it caters to locals, food and drinks are cheaper. If you are not interested in nightlife, you can visit the Palace Market, which sells homemade art and jewelry.
Frenchmen Street is situated in the Faubourg Marigny suburb, east of the French Quarter and runs side by side with Elysian Fields Ave. as far north as the university campus in Gentilly and south to the Mississippi.
3. LaLaurie Mansion
The LaLaurie Mansion is a notorious haunt in New Orleans, known to locals simply as the Haunted House. Popularized by the show American Horror Story, the majority of the filming was done at the Hermann-Grima House, likely due to the belief that the LaLaurie Mansion is cursed.
The LaLaurie Mansion is a popular destination on Ghost Tours in New Orleans. It is believed that the ghosts of former slaves haunt the mansion in the French Quarter.
The LaLaurie Mansion was built in 1832 by a wealthy Creole socialite named Delphine LaLaurie. The mansion is infamously known for the horrific treatment of enslaved African Americans by Madame LaLaurie and her family.
In 1834, a fire broke out at the mansion and when firefighters entered, they discovered the slaves in the attic, who had been brutally tortured and mutilated. The discovery caused a public outrage and Madame LaLaurie fled the city.
The mansion has since been used for various purposes and is now a tourist attraction. Many people believe that the ghosts of the enslaved individuals still haunt the property to this day.
4. National WWII Museum
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans is one of the best things to do in NOLA for WWII enthusiasts and worth visiting for those with no prior interest to learn about life during the war. A great option for group activities in the city.
The National WWII Museum provides a unique and educational experience for people of all ages. It has a variety of interactive exhibits, permanent galleries, and 4D theatre presentations, all of which are designed to accurately depict the reality of World War II.
Visitors can explore the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, the US Freedom Pavilion, the Final Mission: USS Tang Submarine Experience, and the Victory Solomon Theater, which shows the Tom Hanks-narrated Beyond All Boundaries film.
While it is a great experience, some of the exhibits can be intense for younger audiences, so viewer discretion is advised.
If you’re looking to visit the National WWII Museum, you can hop off the St. Charles Streetcar at the St Charles at Lee Circle tram stop and it’s only a short 5-minute walk from there. It’s located in downtown New Orleans on Magazine Street.
5. Magazine Street
Magazine Street is an ideal destination for shopping in New Orleans, offering a 6-mile stretch of vintage shops,fashion boutiques, art galleries, and specialty stores.
It runs through popular neighborhoods, and is close to attractions such as Spanish Plaza, Harrah’s Casino New Orleans, and Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. Exploring the street on foot is easy, with plenty of cafés, restaurants, and bars for when you need a break.
Magazine Street features many independent and international stores, occupying 19th-century buildings. Visitors can find locally sourced souvenirs, vintage clothes, handmade jewelry, Victorian-inspired tiles and more.
There are also historical and family-friendly attractions nearby, such as the National WWII Museum, Contemporary Arts Center, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and Audubon Park with its live oak trees, cycling paths, playgrounds and zoo. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a day in central New Orleans.
6. City Park
The City Park is a sprawling 1,300-acre oasis north of the city, featuring 26 tennis courts, 12 soccer fields, two football stadiums, a 36-hole golf course, and the world’s largest grove of mature live oaks.
The City Park is one of the best things to do and see in New Orleans for families and kids since it has so many kid-friendly attractions. Storyland is a great spot for children who enjoy classic fairy tales, with giant sculptures from their favorite stories.
Carousel Gardens Amusement Park is also popular with kids of all ages, featuring over 15 different rides, including a historic, handcrafted carousel that is one of only 100 in the country.
You can enjoy the 10-acre botanical garden, art at the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Train Garden with replicas of the streetcars and trains of the past.
Visitors should plan to spend plenty of time here, as there is so much to explore, and can find free parking and access via the Canal Streetcar. Admission to the park is free, but some attractions have fees.
7. New Orleans Museum of Art
The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) is home to a permanent collection of 40,000 pieces, ranging from French and American art, to African and Japanese works, to photography and glass.
The museum runs a wide range of temporary exhibits, often with local relevance, and appealing to a broad range of art buffs. The facilities are accessible, and Café NOMA, run by local restaurateur Ralph Brennan, is a great pitstop.
For those short on time or attention, the museum offers a free highlights tour with curators and educators discussing their favorite pieces.
Located at the south side of City Park, the NOMA museum is open to visitors from 10 in the morning to 5 in the evening from Tuesday to Sunday. The Canal Streetcar provides the closest stop which is located at the bottom of Lelong Drive, which is just a few steps away from the museum’s entrance.
8. Café du Monde
Café Du Monde has been operating for more than a century, welcoming an ever-changing clientele of tourists, locals, families, couples and late-night revelers.
The menu is simple, offering beignets (like Spanish buñuelos) and café au lait – both of which have remained popular despite the passing of time.
The beignets are light and fluffy, yet still come piled with a generous helping of powdered sugar. Despite sometimes long lines, locals still love this touristy trap and come back for more of the classic French delights.
The original store opened in 1862 near Jackson Square and, over the years, has expanded to include eight locations throughout New Orleans and 20 in Japan.
Cafe du Monde is a must stop for any traveler visiting the Crescent City.
9. Lafitte Greenway
The Lafitte Greenway is an incredible transformation of a 2.6 mile stretch of land in New Orleans – from an 18th century canal to a railroad – into a vibrant pedestrian and bike path.
It connects six neighborhoods while providing sports fields, playgrounds, public art, stormwater features and various programs throughout the year.
Over 300,000 people use the Greenway annually to get to work and school, to have fun, and to connect with their community. It is a great example of how an urban greenway can bring people closer to nature, transportation and each other.
10. Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience
The MSJE examines the history of Jews in the American South, exploring their experience of religious freedom and economic opportunities.
With over 4,000 artifacts and documents, the museum follows the diaspora inland, highlighting the Jewish people’s influence on their local communities.
Exhibits cover 13 states and 300 years of history. The museum may struggle with few visitors, and the gift shop is small and desperate. There is no café.
11. Algiers Ferry
The Algiers Ferry is one of the best things to do in New Orleans to experience the beauty of New Orleans both day and night. Operating since 1827, it takes passengers from the foot of Canal Street to the historic Algiers Point on the West Bank.
Pedestrians and bikers pay a fee of $2 to board and those driving can park in nearby lots for a fee. At Algiers Point, visitors can explore the Jazz Walk of Fame, take a self-guided walking tour and enjoy local cafes and pubs.
The ferry is an affordable, scenic and fascinating way to explore the Crescent City.
12. Studio Be
Studio Be is a visually stunning public art exhibition located in the Bywater district of New Orleans. It was created by Brandan “BMike” Odums and over 40 other artists, and it covers 35,000 square feet of four buildings with up to five stories.
It is a powerful display of activism, resistance and Black American history, with many of the pieces featuring spray paint and graffiti techniques. Admission costs are $15 for adults and discounted price for children and seniors.
Reservations must be made in order to visit the facility, which is open Wednesday through Saturday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
13. Crescent Park
Crescent Park is a must-see destination for anyone visiting New Orleans. It is a 20-acre linear riverfront park with amazing views and native vegetation.
Visitors to the park can enjoy a range of activities such as sitting on the bank of the Mighty Mississippi, exploring the park via the iconic Rusty Rainbow bridge, participating in regularly scheduled programmes and special events, or taking a leisurely stroll.
With plenty of amenities such as lift access, dog-friendly areas, and handicap-accessible pathways, Crescent Park is sure to be an unforgettable experience for all.
14. St. Louis Cemeteries
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is New Orleans’s oldest existing cemetery, founded in the late 1700’s. It has become a top tourist attraction and is the burial ground of many notable figures.
It has been used as the final resting place for many prominent families, particularly the Creole population.
The cemetery was divided into sections for Negroes, Catholics, and non-Catholics. The former site was located on swampy, below sea level terrain, and a canal was installed next to the cemetery for drainage.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 was created in 1823 as the cemetery No. 1 began to fill up. The cemetery has seen many changes over the centuries, including the construction of the Municipal Auditorium, the filling in of the canal, and the demolition of Storyville.
15. Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street is an iconic street in the heart of the French Quarter, making it one of the best things to do and see in New Orleans.
Bourbon Street offers an abundance of drinks, live jazz music, Creole and Cajun cuisine, voodoo tricks & exotic dancers. People can get to Bourbon Street using a rideshare, taxi or trolley.
You can find plenty to do, from people-watching to live music, drinks, voodoo and themed tours. There are also many restaurants and bars to enjoy, such as Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, Galatoire’s Restaurant, and The Carousel Bar.
Despite its many attractions, visitors should take precautions when visiting Bourbon Street, looking out for pickpockets and scams.
16. Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits
Bacchanal is a unique Bywater bottle shop that offers the city’s best backyard parties. Every night, the patio is alive with live music and people enjoying the night.
Seats fill up quickly, so it’s best to arrive early. Unfortunately, Bacchanal is licensed as a bar and not a restaurant, so it’s not suitable for children under 21.
What makes Bacchanal special is its laid-back atmosphere despite its bustling location and the incredible jazz music. It’s perfect for a more dignified night out, with plenty of biodynamic wine to enjoy.
Tipitina’s is a classic New Orleans music venue that has been around for decades. It is an intimate and unpretentious warehouse-style space with modern sound and lighting set against a weather-worn and authentic atmosphere.
Live music is the mainstay of the venue, with local brass bands, funk, rock and medium-sized touring acts all gracing the stage. It is a 21-plus venue and is best known for hosting Galactic, a local funk and jazz band that is co-owned by the venue.
Tipitina’s is one of the best places to visit in New Orleans, especially during big music festivals like Jazz Fest or Voodoo.
18. Jazz Fest
Jazz Fest is the perfect way to experience the unique culture and heritage of New Orleans and Louisiana. With 13 stages of music, delicious food, handcrafted art and crafts, and traditional parades, every year people from all over the world come to enjoy this remarkable event.
Pollstar magazine has even named Jazz Fest the Festival of the Year four times and Life magazine has called it “the country’s very best music festival.” It’s a celebration not to be missed!
If you’re looking for a delicious summer treat in New Orleans, you have to try one of the famous Sno Balls! Sno Balls are a NOLA specialty – they’re soft, fluffy snow cones that come in a variety of flavors.
From the classic pink lemonade to wild options like strawberry cheesecake, you’re sure to find a Sno Ball to suit your tastes. Best of all, they’re super affordable and can be found all over the city.
So, the next time the summer heat starts to get to you, grab yourself a Sno Ball and cool off!
20. New Orleans Jazz Museum
Located in the heart of the French Quarter, the New Orleans Jazz Museum celebrates the city’s jazz music and culture with performances, exhibitions, audio preservation and art installations.
With Louis Armstrong’s first cornet and Sidney Bechet’s soprano saxophone amongst its many artifacts, the Museum also showcases photos, original manuscripts, recordings and rare film footage.
Exhibits include The Wildest! and Drumsville: Evolution of the New Orleans Beat, while iconic events like Satchmo Summerfest and French Quarter Festival bring renowned musicians from around the world. It’s a vibrant destination for all things music in the Big Easy.
JAMNOLA is an immersive 12-room exhibit located in New Orleans, designed to inspire joy and creativity. The rooms are constantly changing and filled with art, music and interactive elements such as the WHO DOT, which pulls user-created photos from social media to become part of the art.
You can explore different Experiential Rooms such as the Feather Forest and All on Mardi Gras Day video immersion room. Tickets for adults are $29, and discounted prices for students and seniors.
There is no camera ban and guests are encouraged to take photos and videos and share them on social media. JAMNOLA is the perfect place to take a break from the French Quarter and explore New Orleans’ culture.
22. Sazerac House
The Sazerac House is a must-visit for any New Orleans native or visitor. Located at the intersection of Canal and Magazine Street, it’s just a few hundred yards from the original 1850 Sazerac Coffee House.
You can explore the French Quarter in the 1800s, chat with virtual bartenders and learn how to make drinks from the Mr. Boston guide.
Plus, there are event spaces for groups up to 400 people and even private tasting rooms for up to 18 guests. Admission is free, but you’ll need tickets, so check out www.sazerachouse.com to get yours.
23. Audubon Zoo
The Audubon Zoo has been located in Uptown New Orleans’ Audubon Park since the 1930s. Covering an area of 58 acres, the zoo houses over 2000 animals, and is named after the French-American naturalist John James Audubon.
The zoo was originally founded in 1919 and was expanded and renovated in the 1930s with the help of the Works Progress Administration. It was then renamed the Merz Memorial Zoo after local benefactor Valentine Merz.
The zoo underwent another renovation in the 1970s, and in 1981 it received accreditation from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. Visitors can now explore a variety of expansive natural habitats for the animals, as well as a Children’s Zoo and a primate exhibit.
The zoo is surrounded by thick trees and two large lagoons, plus a 1920s-era sea lion pool.
24. Local breweries
If you’re a beer lover visiting New Orleans, you’re in luck! The city has some of the best breweries around. There’s something for everyone, from Abita Brewing Company to NOLA Brewing.
The breweries offer a variety of styles, from classic lagers to innovative IPAs. You can take a tour and sample the beers on-site, or simply kick back in the taproom and enjoy a pint.
You’re sure to have a great time and a delicious beer no matter which brewery you choose. So grab a friend and head out to one of the city’s top breweries – you won’t be disappointed!
25. New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum is a great place to learn all about the mysterious aspect of the city’s history. It showcases numerous cultural and historical artifacts, as well as offers tours and walkthroughs.
You can explore relics, sculptures, paintings, and more, all related to voodoo and the city. There are also cemetery tours and voodoo services, such as readings, rituals, and gris-gris.
Before visiting, make sure to book the cemetery tour in advance and prepare for rain since the tour goes on regardless of the weather. Located in the French Quarter, it is also close to many other attractions.
26. New Orleans Streetcars
The New Orleans streetcars are a unique part of the city’s history, with their first appearance in the 1800s. You can find them in almost every major tourist neighborhood, with 4 currently operating lines – the oldest being the St. Charles Streetcar Line, which is the oldest continuously running streetcar line in the world.
Visitors can ride in the 1920s streetcars on this line, as well as the newer trolleys on the Canal, Rampart and Riverfront lines, which offer different sites and attractions around the city.
Fares are incredibly affordable, with 1-way tickets costing just over a dollar, or you can purchase Jazzy Passes for 1, 3, 5 or 31 days. Senior citizens, disabled riders and Medicare cardholders can also receive special fares.
27. Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World
Even if you’re not in town for the actual Mardi Gras festival, you can still get a unique behind-the-scenes experience at Mardi Gras World.
This warehouse workshop is where flamboyant floats are being created and stored. Take the self-guided tour to learn more about the festival’s history and watch the artists at work.
You can also try on costumes and enjoy a piece of king cake afterward. Admission costs $22 for adults, and discounted prices for seniors and children. Your ticket includes a free shuttle ride from several downtown and French Quarter pick-up locations.
28. Uptown & The Garden District
When you visit New Orleans, taking the St. Charles Avenue streetcar is a must. Uptown is a beautiful historic neighborhood filled with beautiful homes and parks.
Plus, it’s home to Tulane and Loyola Universities, the Audubon Zoo, and the Fly. Enjoy the local culture and shopping on Magazine Street and catch the Mardi Gras parades taking off from St. Charles Avenue.
For a truly unique experience, stay in an Uptown B&B and get to know the city like a local. From the scenic views to the delicious restaurants and unique shopping, you won’t regret making Uptown your first stop in New Orleans.
29. Audubon Park
Audubon Park is a popular destination for New Orleans residents and tourists alike. Located just minutes from downtown, the park was opened in 1898 and is named after John James Audubon, an artist and naturalist who lived in New Orleans from 1821.
Audubon Park is home to beautiful oak trees, lagoons, green space and a 1.8-mile paved loop for joggers and cyclists. It’s also a great spot for picnics, relaxing, special events and outdoor wedding ceremonies.
The park is also home to the Audubon Zoo and Audubon Trail Golf Course. It was the location of the World Cotton Centennial in 1884 and continues to be a place where people can enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
30. Crescent City Farmers’ Market
New Orleans’ culture is deeply rooted in its food, and the Crescent City Farmers Market is a great place for locals to get local produce and support the regional economy.
Unfortunately, the city is also home to many food deserts, which largely contribute to the food insecurity crisis. Organizations like Second Harvest Food Bank and Market Umbrella are doing great work to address this issue, but they need more support from the community & the government.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is New Orleans most popular for?
New Orleans is famous for its unique culture, delicious food (especially Creole and Cajun), lively music scene (especially jazz), and annual events like Mardi Gras and jazz fest.
Is 3 days enough to visit New Orleans?
Three days is definitely enough to see major attractions and get a taste of all the amazing things New Orleans has to offer, but I’d recommend staying a little longer if you really want to experience the city to the fullest.
How do people spend 3 days in New Orleans?
People usually spend 3 days in New Orleans by indulging in the city’s lively nightlife, sampling the delicious Cajun & Creole cuisine, and exploring the city’s unique neighborhoods and architecture. They can also take a cruise on the mighty Mississippi or visit the historic French Quarter.
Is 2 nights enough in New Orleans?
Two nights in New Orleans can be a great way to experience the city’s unique culture and cuisine. But it may not be enough time to explore all the city has to offer.
What should I be careful of in New Orleans?
When visiting New Orleans, be aware of your surroundings. Avoid walking alone after dark, be sure to lock your car and hotel doors, and be aware of pickpockets. Also, know the locations of the nearest police and fire stations in case of emergency.
How many days do you need in New Orleans?
It depends on what you want to do, but most people find three days to be enough time to explore the city’s sites and attractions. Enjoy the unique food, culture and music New Orleans has to offer!
What are the best things to do in New Orleans for couples?
Some must-do activities include taking a stroll through the French Quarter, enjoying a romantic dinner at a Creole restaurant, and catching a live jazz performance. You can also check out the Mardi Gras parades, and take a swamp tour to see alligators!
What are the fun things to do in New Orleans for adults?
You can check out Bourbon Street for lively nightlife, take a ghost tour to learn about the city’s spooky past, eat some delicious Creole cuisine, and listen to live jazz music in the French Quarter.
What are the best things to do in New Orleans at night?
Check out bars and nightclubs Bourbon Street for nightlife and enjoy live jazz music in the French Quarter. Indulge in some of the city’s famous Cajun and Creole cuisine, then end the night with a beignet from Cafe du Monde.
See more: Where to Stay in New Orleans First Time
So there you have it, the best things to do in New Orleans, Louisiana for your next trip. If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment below.