New Orleans is a fantastic destination for a family, friends, or solo trip. It has so many highlights waiting for you to discover and is world-renowned for its culture.
If you’re intrigued by visiting New Orleans, but aren’t sure how to fill your time when you go, look no further! We have compiled the ultimate list of the best things to do in New Orleans.
21 of the Best Things to Do in New Orleans
From the French Quarter to the swamp tours offered around New Orleans, the list encompasses all of the main highlights.
If you know anything about New Orleans, you likely picture the French Quarter when thinking about the city. This area is also called Vieux Carre, or the Crown Jewel of New Orleans, making this a must-see.
Because the French Quarter is so historic, the culture and architecture are unmatched. Stroll along the old cobblestone streets, listening to live music, perusing shop windows, drooling over delicious food, and considering having your fortune told.
Don’t forget to take in the Mississippi river on the French Quarter’s edge. You also can’t miss the French Market, selling all kinds of goods.
You can’t visit New Orleans without visiting Bourbon Street at least once. For plenty of people, Bourbon Street is not their speed, but for others, it’s a paradise.
This is one of the most well-known places in New Orleans, crawling with tourists and partiers alike. It is unique and full of life and character, making it worth a stop. The nightlife on Bourbon Street is always bustling, and the food is usually delicious.
People stumble through the street, drinks in hand, singing and chatting through the night. If Bourbon Street is too crazy for you, consider visiting Frenchmen Street instead.
Frenchmen Street is just like if Bourbon Street were way less crazy and a bit more trendy. It has become more popular recently, but it is still a gem partially hidden from the masses.
In the adjacent neighborhood to the French Quarter lies Marigny, and in Marigny, you will find the musical, lively Frenchmen Street. Because you’re still close to the action and excitement, it is not an obscure place to be at all.
The music on Frenchmen Street is unparalleled, with popular opinion particularly highlighting The Spotted Cat, d.b.a., and the Blue Nile as the best spots for live music.
After walking among the French Quarter and checking out both Bourbon Street and Frenchmen Street, you’ll be ready for a reprieve from all the excitement and chaos.
In New Orleans City Park, you can find one of the biggest oak tree groves in the United States. Their formidable size and shade make for the perfect place to kick back and relax for a few hours.
There are also many attractions inside and around the park, like ball courts, Storyland, and a Train Garden. This would also likely be one of the best places in the city to take the kids.
One of the most serene and lovely sections of New Orleans, the Garden District is a neighborhood of old mansions complete with picturesque gardens and trees.
You can take a guided tour through the district or wander around on your own, ogling at all the beautiful homes in the Garden District. Many homes have plaques on display that tell you about the mansion’s history, so it’s easy to learn when you’re alone as well.
The peaceful atmosphere in this grand district is an enticing way to spend a few hours after the hustle and bustle of the city. But don’t worry, if you find yourself getting bored, Magazine Street is just at the edge.
This six-mile stretch of good food, antique shopping, and all things souvenirs and trinkets is perfect for a shopping day. You could spend all day getting your steps in on this street.
The brunch spots here are some of the most famous in the city, including Gris Gris and Saba. Some of the best places to stop for a treat, drink, or coffee are on Magazine Street: Dat Dog, Rum House, and CR Coffee.
Be sure to wear your best walking shoes, sunscreen, and a smile for your adventure down Magazine Street. Don’t forget to buy all your friends and family unique New Orleans gifts!
The World War II history buffs will be thrilled to make a stop at one of the best World War II Museums in existence. This museum features many artifacts from the actual war, lots of riveting history and stories, and it showcases various perspectives on the war.
Everyone in the family will love this activity, especially the gift shop with the various 1940s paraphernalia.
The National WWII Museum is open Monday-Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. Tickets are $29.50 for adults, $18 for those under 18 years of age, and free for kids under five years of age.
The Audubon Aquarium is one of the most well-loved aquariums in the country. As one of the ten nature projects overseen by the Audubon Nature Institute, this aquarium is a must-see – especially if you’re with the kids!
The aquarium is filled with fun activities for everyone to enjoy, including a gift shop and informed staff members that can answer even the most curious visitor’s questions.
The aquarium is open from Thursday-Monday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday) from 10 am to 5 pm. When booking tickets for the aquarium, it’s best to buy as far in advance as possible.
Because of their Plan-Ahead Pricing policy, dates closer to when you buy are more expensive than dates further away from when you buy. Generally, though, the range for a ticket is anywhere from $27-$35 for an adult and $20-$27 for a child.
The Audubon Zoo is also an excellent choice for families with kids – and those traveling without them. The animals here are amazing, and the zoo is relatively large. Not to mention, this zoo is consistently ranked among the country’s best every year.
Much like the aquarium, this zoo offers fun activities and unique experiences. You won’t want to miss out while you’re visiting New Orleans.
The zoo follows the same hours of operation and Plan-Ahead Pricing policy that the aquarium has. It is open from Thursday-Monday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday) from 10 am to 5 pm.
It is still best to book your zoo tickets as far ahead as possible because they also go up in price the closer you buy them. Generally, the range for a ticket is from $23-$28 for an adult and $18-$23 for a child.
Opened on December 16, 1911, this pivotal museum in New Orleans is praised as one of the best in the South. With over 40,000 pieces, it has something for everyone. You could get lost for endless hours in this treasure of a museum.
You’ll notice that the collection of French and American works is vast and unique. These works are among the museum’s specialties. If you’re interested in art, the New Orleans Museum of Art is an essential stop.
The museum is open 6 days a week (excluding Mondays), with slightly varying hours depending on the day:
- Sunday: 11am-5pm
- Tuesday: 10am-6pm
- Wednesday: 10am-6pm
- Thursday: 10am-6pm
- Friday: 10am-9pm
- Saturday: 11am-5pm
Tickets for adults cost $15, and entry is free for all people aged 19 and younger.
Overlooking Jackson Square, this iconic cathedral is beautiful and quite photogenic. The Cabildo is also just adjacent, which means you can knock out two visits to incredible buildings at once. This cathedral is the oldest in continuous use in the United States, so it’s a formidable building.
It has also been featured in many TV shows and movies, making it instantly recognizable to many. Don’t forget to get a good group photo in front of this beautiful building and then relax in Jackson Square.
You are also welcome to step inside the cathedral if no other events are occurring. It is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm, Saturday from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm for mass, and Sunday from 9:00 am-12:00 pm for church service.
Louisiana and New Orleans in particular are famous for their swamplands, full of alligators and other critters. If you’re visiting the area, you shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to see the swamps up close.
Many tours even offer a chance to feed the alligators! Tours vary in pricing and scheduled times, so check out the list linked above and find your favorite.
You’re sure to enjoy the adventure on the bayou. You can find a list of some of the most popular New Orleans swamp tours here.
Another one of the things New Orleans is renowned for is the large, beautiful cemeteries you can find in and around the city. Some of the cemeteries are home to some famous and infamous historical figures.
For all tours, you will be paired with a knowledgeable guide who will inform you of the rich, intriguing history of the cemetery itself and those that it houses.
As with the swamp tours, each tour company or guide operates at different scheduling times and various prices. You can find a list of some of the most popular New Orleans cemetery tours here.
As efficient as they are charming, streetcars in New Orleans are easy to work into your itinerary. Because they run frequently from many of the most popular points of interest in the city, you can hop on and off to get to your next destination easily.
There are four lines of streetcars, and each starts Downtown, branching out into the city in various directions. A map of each line’s route can be found here.
The fare for boarding the streetcar one time is $1.25, but if you know you’re going to be needing to take the streetcars a lot, some passes can help save you some money:
- 1-day unlimited pass: $3.00
- 3-day unlimited pass: $9.00
- 31-day unlimited pass: $55.00
Much like New Orleans City Park, this park is vast and beautiful. It is also under the umbrella of the Audubon Nature Institute, which runs the zoo and aquarium in New Orleans.
This park houses the zoo, so it could be a great way to knock out both activities at once. It also is situated just across from both Loyola and Tulane universities which are both pretty and historic in their own right.
There are baths for running, walking, biking, or skating, and many benches with pleasant shade from the trees for relaxing. However you want to spend your time, you’ll be happy within Audubon Park.
Studio Be is an incredible and unique art gallery, showcasing all kinds of talent. It was started by Brandan ‘Bmike’ Odums and is now full of works of art from many different artists. There is a shop inside the gallery selling original pieces from each of the included artists.
It would be a great place to pick up a one-of-a-kind souvenir for someone back home. Studio Be also has an incredible non-profit that supports Black artists in New Orleans, fueling their dreams and focusing on their culture and history.
In all, Studio Be is a uniquely New Orleans experience that will have you in awe of the beauty and creativity of these artists.
If you’re looking for real Louisiana beignets and café au lait, you absolutely must stop at Café du Monde. This coffee stand and French market has been open since 1862 and is still a crowd favorite today.
If you’re unfamiliar with what a beignet is or what café au lait is, you’ll be pleased to learn about how delicious both are. A beignet is a small square piece of dough, fried to perfection and topped with powdered sugar.
It’s a delicious sweet treat that is considered the French donut. And café au lait is coffee that is mixed half and half with hot milk. At Café du Monde, the coffee is also brewed with chicory, the root of the endive plant.
This gives the coffee a chocolate-y flavor. Café du Monde is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, closing only on Christmas Day.
It’s true that during Mardi Gras, and the week surrounding it, prices for flights, accommodations, and activities are much higher than normal. Not to mention, things get booked very far in advance.
So it’s not unlikely that you may not be able to visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras. That’s okay, though, because if you want a taste of what the celebration is like, you can head to Mardi Gras World.
This is where they make the iconic floats that feature in the Mardi Gras parade. They allow you to try on authentic costumes from Mardi Gras parades as well.
There are a lot of informational, educational stories shared at Mardi Gras World too, so if you’ve ever found yourself wanting to know more about this special tradition, look no further!
If you’re still looking to know more about the many integral parts of New Orleans history, including Mardi Gras, jazz funerals, and so much more, head to the Backstreet Cultural Museum.
One of the biggest attractions in this museum is the wide collection of Mardi Gras Indian costumes. You’ll be entranced by their intricacies and beauty when you see them.
Currently, The Backstreet Cultural Museum is closed due to damage from Hurricane Ida. We can hope that it will reopen and share its beauty with the world soon.
If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to take a leisurely cruise along the Mississippi River back in the 1800s, Steamboat Natchez is your only opportunity to do so. The last authentic steamboat left in the river, the Natchez is a can’t-miss.
You can choose between evening, daytime, or Sunday options for the jazz cruises. Some of the features included in this wild experience are a meal and beverages, live Jazz music, beautiful views, historic narration, and a gift shop – to name a few.
The steamboat departs 7 days a week at varying times. The pricing will also vary depending on which day and time you choose.
Found inside the Vieux Carre district, this museum showcases the health and medicinal culture of New Orleans in its past.
Complete with all kinds of interesting remedies and concoctions, including Voodoo potions and other questionable practices, it will have everyone in your group intrigued from start to finish.
The museum is open from Wednesday to Saturday from 12 pm – 5 pm, and tickets cost $10 for an adult and $7 for a student.
Things to Consider
If you’re planning to visit New Orleans during the week of Mardi Gras (always the day before Ash Wednesday), be aware that the city will be bustling and overwhelmingly packed full of visitors.
The parade is loud and exciting, and people continue the fun, crazy energy into the latest hours of the night. Don’t forget that New Orleans is also a humid, subtropical climate. Even in the winter, it is never very cold.
In the summers, the heat can be oppressive and sticky due to the humidity. Make sure you bring your sunscreen, loose clothing, water, and hats.
While New Orleans is not a huge city, it is still quite spread out with many different corners to visit. Be prepared to either walk a lot or take as much public transportation as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the questions about visiting New Orleans that people ask the most often:
What should I avoid in New Orleans?
Some things to be avoided when visiting New Orleans:
- Walking alone at night
- Chain restaurants
- Con-artists trying to sell “authentic” trinkets
- Walking around without water or sunscreen
What is the number one attraction in New Orleans?
By far, the highest-rated and most visited attraction is the French Quarter, and for good reason! It is certainly a must-do on your trip. Just be sure to see other parts of the city as well.
Is 3 days enough to visit New Orleans?
It of course depends on what you want to accomplish in your time, but 3 days would certainly be enough to see all of the biggest highlights and leave some of the others for next time.
What is New Orleans most popular for?
There are many things that people immediately associate with New Orleans, and it’s nearly impossible to rank them:
- Jazz music
- French influence and culture
- Mardi Gras
- Creole and Cajun food
- 18th-century architecture
What is the best month to visit New Orleans?
If you’re interested in Mardi Gras, the weeks leading up to it and the week of are the best times to visit, which means usually February and March.
Because the weather is still fairly cool at this time, it will be pleasant to experience the city. You could even visit November-January if you’re interested in seeing the city in its more quiet state and staying out of the biting heat.
What Are the Best Things to Do in New Orleans?
Of all the options listed above, it’s hard to ignore the fame and high reputation of the French Quarter. This lone neighborhood is synonymous with New Orleans, offering everything you could hope for and more.
Many of the activities compiled above are also in the French Quarter, so it’s a great place to get a lot done in a small area.
But overall, the very best part of New Orleans is simply soaking in its unique, bubbly culture and energy that can be found nowhere else in the world. Happy travels!