New Orleans is something of an assault and a delight to the senses. Better still, it’s one of the most fun cities in the USA to explore. This is made even better with the best things to do in New Orleans that are dotted across the city that I’m sure you’ll love.
Now, the best way to describe New Orleans is through its history, unique culture and vibrant streets. After all, these are the things that make the city so famous.
First off, the French influence sets this city apart from lots of other major cities in the USA. It feels totally unique and somewhere fun, exciting to boot.
Plus, it’s also home to one of the US’s most famous street parties; Mardi Gras.
Honestly, there’s a whole mix of the best things to do in New Orleans that you really can’t miss. So, whether you’re visiting for a long weekend, or a little longer, I’m hoping to introduce you to a fair few I hope you’ll love as much as we did.
New Orleans is such an exciting city (we loved it).
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in New Orleans. Have the best trip.
1.) French Quarter
Also known as the Vieux Carré, the French Quarter in New Orleans is the oldest and most popular neighbourhood in the city.
This, alone, makes it one of the best things to do in New Orleans if you want to explore the cities heritage.
You see, New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville and slowly grew out from the French Quarter into what it is today.
Prepare to see some truly beautiful old buildings, with lovely little balconies wrapping around them, as you wander down the old streets to sounds of jazz music and smell of gumbo.
Oh, also, be sure to check out some of the many art galleries in the area, find some spooky souvenirs and eat as much Cajun food as you possibly can.
Also, don’t forget to book tickets to Preservation Hall, too.
It’s one of the most special music venues in New Orleans and is so intimate.
2.) Bourbon Street
For something a bit more lively, head to Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
Located within the French Quarter, Bourbon Street is the place you want to head to when the sun goes down and the lights come on, as the colourful lights entice you to come inside on of the bars that line the streets for a drink or two.
Honestly, it’s a total assault on the senses, which initially took me back. Out of curiosity (and wanting to party), we all decided to walk down Bourbon Street. A couple of drinks later, all 4 of us had joined in on the massive crowds that line the streets and this night became one of our most fun nights on our road trip across America.
My point is, Bourbon street doesn’t feel too shiny, chilled or even overly ‘jazzy’; there are other places in New Orleans for that. What Bourbon streets is for is fun.
Oh and when you’re here, be sure to try a hurricane, a drink famous in the city and also check out the oldest bar in the United States: Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.
This was our the first bar we popped into and it’s great.
3.) Jackson Square
Located in front of the St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter, Jackson Square is a beautiful and historic park area surrounded by some of the oldest buildings in the city.
Once here, you will find a local artist colony here, too. Many artists paint, draw, create, and display their works throughout the Square and is really great for an afternoon stroll.
Originally called the Place d’Armes in the 18th century, the Square was renamed after Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans (just in case you’re interested in the history).
Also, there are plenty of little stores and restaurants surround the square, too. Oh, and it is just a few steps from the Mississippi River itself. Exploring Jackson Square is pretty easy and really one of the best things to do in New Orleans on a nice sunny day.
4.) Cafe Du Monde
Located just across Decatur Street (from Jackson Square) is the most famous coffee shop in New Orleans, Cafe Du Monde.
It’s the place to go for coffee, and more importantly, try some of the city’s famous beignets (at Cafe Beignet), too. They’re made fresh to order and they’re so good.
Walking into this open-air style cafe from 1862 is a bit like walking into a powdered sugar-filled wonderland.
Honestly, you’ll leave with a sugar-high but it’s totally worth it.
5.) French Market
Wandering through the stalls and shops of the French Market is easily one of the best things to do in New Orleans if those beignets haven’t filled you up. It’s filled with foodie joints and little stalls.
Running parallel to the Mississippi River, the French Market is awash with plenty of treats and trinkets to try.
In the market, you can buy items ranging from jewellery and masks to old-fashioned Creole candy. Try not to get too lost, though, it gets really busy and you can lose track of time here.
Afterwards, take a ride on one of the old streetcars that trail across New Orleans, too. They’re so retro and pretty unique to the city.
Also, don’t forget to take a trip to Mother’s, too. We had the biggest Po Boys! They’re massive.
6.) St. Louis Cathedral
What looks like a castle in the French Quarter is actually the oldest cathedral in North America. This alone makes it one of the best things to do in New Orleans, especially when you head inside.
You see, St. Louis Cathedral was founded as a Catholic Parish in 1720 and includes both Renaissance and Spanish Colonial architecture that is totally gorgeous.
The cathedral is still in use, as masses are held every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Tours are available, and the cathedral is open daily from 8:30 am to 4:00pm.
Afterwards, take a ride on one of the New Orleans paddle steamers that depart pretty close to the cathedral itself.
It’s totally incredible to see and pretty unique.
7.) City Park
Located slightly northwest of the French Quarter, City Park is a huge park and Botanical Garden to explore.
The Park is full of the best things to do in New Orleans, especially if you’re looking for a more chilled out day.
From carousels and statues (which you’ll find in the Storyland section) to stunning walks, it’s totally gorgeous and well worth a visit.
Honestly, you could very easily spend hours wandering the park.
If all that exploring makes you hungry, head over to Olde Nola Cookery for a tasty lunch. They have the tastiest fried oysters in New Orleans.
8.) New Orleans Cemeteries
Now, this might sound pretty macabre but give me a moment to explore.
The New Orleans cemeteries have become something of a place to see whilst in the city, especially as they house some voodoo remnants from the people that rest there.
You see, since New Orleans is actually built on a swamp. This all meant that the dead were buried above ground in crypts and mausoleums.
Now, it’s not for everyone but St Louis Cemetery probably the most famous of these cemeteries. Perched near the French Quarter, it’s the final resting place of the ‘voodoo queen’, Marie Laveau.
Guided tours are available in many of the cemeteries, including a few night-time ghost tours. Though, definitely give this a miss if you feel like its a bit too dark or macabre.
No trip to New Orleans would be complete without trying one of the city’s most famous dishes. Gumbo!
Honestly, gorging on some gumbo is easily one of the best things to do in New Orleans after a long day exploring.
Now, just in case you were wondering, Gumbo is essentially a Cajun-Creole dish that includes a roux, spices, okra, tomatoes, and herbs. This is then typically with either includes chicken and sausage, or shrimp and other seafood. Oh, don’t forget the filé powder, which is powdered sassafras leaves, that is sprinkled on top.
Some of the most popular places to find gumbo in New Orleans are located in the French Quarter, too. This all means it’s really easy to try when you’re in the city.
10.) Frenchmen Street
Located on the edge of the French Quarter, in the Marigny neighbourhood, Frenchmen Street is a popular destination for live music and entertainment to enjoy.
Here, you’ll find everything from; jazz, rock, blues, Latin, funk, zydeco, brass bands, and even EDM can be found here. Plus, you’ll easily find plenty of bars, clubs, and restaurants to spend a weekend at.
The Young Fellaz Brass Band plays several nights a week on the corner of Frenchmen Street and Chartres, too. Plus, an open-air art market is also located in the area, providing unique art for all visitors to the area.
11.) Mardi Gras
If you’re wanting to party, and a truly New Orleans experience, head to the city during Mardi Gras.
Typically, Mardi Gras happens in February and it’s a really vibrant and exciting time to explore the city. Expect lots of parades, parties and plenty of people. The city comes alive.
That being said, you can also stop by during Bayou Classic Parade that typically gets held in November.
It’s totally amazing to see and one of the best things to do in New Orleans if you’re visiting around this time of year.
Afterwards, pop over to GW Fins for some of the tastiest seafood. Their scallops are so good!
12.) Oak Alley Plantation
About a one-hour drive from the centre of New Orleans, Oak Alley Plantation is well worth a visit if you’re heading out of the city.
Now, a tour here will usually mean a two-hour stay but it’s well worth it if you want to learn more about the history of this house and plantation at your own pace.
It’s easily one of the best things to do in New Orleans if you’ve got a car or on a wider road trip (like we were).