16 Unmissable Things to Do in New Orleans

Before the darkness fell, we arrived in New Orleans. We tried one tourist office for help with accommodation, but it was closed, and then we decided to rely on the Lonely Planet New Orleans guide. We wanted to stay within easy reach of the French Quarter for two nights. 

Another wish was to feel the traditional Creole charm. And, of course, we did not want to pay a fortune for that. We found a cozy hotel, Rathbone Inn, for $70 per night in the Treme district, just a 10-minute walk from Bourbon Street’s main attractions. The Guest House is in two restored antebellum mansions, where we felt warm southern hospitality and an authentic New Orleans atmosphere. In particular, good memories are mainly from the breakfast table, where guests met each other.

New Orleans is different from most places you will see in the US. The architecture is different, the food is different, and even the time goes differently. New Orleans has its mysterious charm. Walking on the narrow streets of the French Quarter makes you relaxed and joyful. New Orleans allows it to be impractical, lazy, and romantic.

After checking in and having a quick shower the first night, we walked to Bourbon Street to enjoy the atmosphere. There are a lot of bars with excellent live music. We picked one based on the music we heard—the (Blondie) song from the movie Coyote Ugly—”One way or another…” and enjoyed what happened there.

New Orleans

After a delicious breakfast at Rathbone Inn (where we also met other visitors), we had a refreshing swim in the hotel pool. Then it was time to go and make ourselves familiar with the French Quarter.

We started with the French Market, a covered marketplace divided into different sections—food, clothes, books, and antiques—and open 24 hours. We found it an excellent place to buy souvenirs and Cajun spices.

Voodoo greatly influences New Orleans’s reputation as the “least American city.” Scores of shops selling voodoo dolls, gris-gris amulets, and other exotic items attest that you have visited New Orleans. In many people’s minds, voodoo means Marie Laveau. She is remembered as a beautiful, charismatic, and influential woman in 19th-century New Orleans. Marie Laveau popularized voodoo like never before. She is buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. We also visited the oldest cemetery in New Orleans and the tomb of the voodoo queen. The cemetery was very impressive. Due to the wet location, there are only tombs and no graves. We appreciated the statuary and ornate ironwork and stumbled upon many historic tombs.

Everyone who visits New Orleans will love it, and so do we. The reasons may differ in the music, Creole cooking, funky people, jambalaya, or beignets. For us, it was taking it easy in the Big Easy.

There are a few things to recommend to do in New Orleans:

From taking a stroll down Bourbon Street to visiting the French Quarter, here are 16 unmissable things to do in New Orleans.

Take a Stroll Down Bourbon Street

This famous street is the heart of New Orleans’ nightlife. With a wide variety of bars and clubs to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Bourbon Street has everything if you’re looking for live music, drinks, or a good time. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, as the street can get crowded and hectic.

Visit the French Quarter

The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans and is home to some of the city’s most famous landmarks. From the iconic St. Louis Cathedral to the beautiful Jackson Square, there is plenty to see and do here. Be sure to walk down Royal Street to see the beautiful architecture and check out the local shops and restaurants.

Explore the City’s Museums

New Orleans is home to several notable museums that are definitely worth visiting. The National WWII Museum is a must-see, as it tells the story of the American experience during the war. Other notable museums include the Louisiana State Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

Take a Swamp Tour

If you’re looking for a unique experience, take a swamp tour. These tours take you deep into the Louisiana bayou, where you can see alligators, snakes, and other wildlife. There are several tour companies to choose from, so be sure to research and find one that fits your interests.

Listen to Live Music

New Orleans is known for its vibrant music scene, and there are plenty of venues where you can hear live music. From jazz clubs to blues bars, there’s something for everyone. One of the most iconic venues to hear live music in New Orleans is Preservation Hall. This historic venue has been around since 1961 and is dedicated to preserving the city’s traditional jazz music. The venue has a small capacity and is a standing room only, making it an intimate and unique experience. Expect to hear some of the best traditional jazz bands in New Orleans at Preservation Hall.

Another excellent venue for live music is Snug Harbor. This jazz club is located in the French Quarter and features local and national jazz acts. The venue has a great sound system and is a perfect spot for a night out with friends.

Tipitina’s is another popular venue for live music. It’s a music club that has been around since 1977. This venue is known for hosting various music acts, including funk, soul, and blues. You can expect to see both local and national acts at Tipitina’s.

In addition to jazz, blues, and funk, you can also find live music venues that feature other genres like rock, hip-hop, and R&B. The Maple Leaf, for example, is a venue that focuses on roots music and regularly hosts acts from various genres.

Visit City Park

City Park is one of the oldest and most beautiful parks in New Orleans. It’s home to various attractions, including the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Storyland theme park, and the New Orleans Botanical Garden.

Eat Local Cuisine

New Orleans is known for its delicious food, and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. Try some traditional dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and po’boys. Some of the best restaurants in the city include Commander Palace, Galatoire’s, and Port of Call.

Take a Cemetery Tour

New Orleans is home to several famous cemeteries, and taking a tour is a great way to learn about the city’s history and culture. Some of the most famous cemeteries include St. Louis Cemetery #1 and Lafayette Cemetery #1.

Visit the Garden District

The Garden District is a historic neighborhood known for its beautiful homes and gardens. It’s a great place to take a leisurely stroll and admire the architecture. Check out the famous Lafayette Cemetery and the beautiful homes on Governor Nicholls Street.

Take a Streetcar Ride

New Orleans’ streetcar system is one of the oldest in the country and is a great way to see the city. Take a ride on St. Charles Line to see some of the city’s most famous landmarks.

Go on a Plantation Tour

Louisiana is home to several beautiful plantations that are definitely worth visiting. Some of the most famous plantations include Oak Alley Plantation, Laura Plantation, and Houmas House. These tours will give you a glimpse into the state’s history and the lives of the people who lived on these plantations.

Take a Cooking Class

If you’re a foodie, taking a cooking class is a great way to learn about the local cuisine. You’ll have the opportunity to learn from local chefs and gain a deeper understanding of the flavors and ingredients that make New Orleans’ food so special. Several cooking classes are available in New Orleans, so be sure to research and find one that fits your interests. Some popular options include classes on traditional Creole and Cajun dishes, how to make the perfect gumbo or jambalaya, or how to make classic New Orleans desserts like beignets and pralines.

Visit the Mardi Gras World

Mardi Gras is one of the most famous events in New Orleans, and a visit to the Mardi Gras World is a great way to learn about the history and tradition of the event. You’ll have the opportunity to see the floats and costumes up close and learn about the planning and production that goes into the celebration.

Attend a Second Line Parade

A Second Line parade is a traditional parade held in New Orleans. These parades are known for their lively music and vibrant costumes. They’re a great way to experience the local culture and have a good time.

Take a Boat Ride on the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is an integral part of New Orleans’s history and culture. Take a boat ride to see the city from a different perspective and appreciate the beauty of the river.

Visit the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park

This historical park is dedicated to preserving New Orleans jazz music’s history and legacy. You can take guided tours, attend live performances, and learn about the musicians and venues shaping the city’s jazz scene.

Remember to add these 16 unmissable things to your itinerary when planning your next trip. Happy travels!

The story continues at the Swamp tour in Louisiana.

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