20 Things To Do In New Orleans

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New Orleans is nicknamed ‘The Big Easy’ for good reason. It has a lively music scene and a vibrant nightlife that carries on until early in the morning and the birthplace of jazz, with live jazz bands playing in many of the bars along Bourbon and Frenchman Streets. However, the city has more than just music and there is an abundance of other activities to enjoy, such as museums and city parks. It is also a great place to go if you need some retail therapy.

New Orleans is close to the Gulf of Mexico and is located along the Mississippi River with Lake Pontchartrain to the north, meaning it is surrounded by water. Being in the southeastern area of the U.S. means that it has mild and short winters and long, hot summers.

New Orleans is a melting pot of cultures, with French, Spanish, African, and American people having put their stamp on the city. This is seen particularly in the food as both Cajun and Creole cuisines dominate. If you like a bit of spice in your food, you will do well in the city. So, your ticket is booked, and you will soon be in New Orleans, but where do you start your exploration? These are the best things to do in New Orleans to give you a good start.

New Orleans, Louisiana

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New Orleans: Evening Jazz Cruise on the Steamboat Natchez
New Orleans paddle steamer on the Mississippi river in New Orleans, Louisiana.

20 Things To Do In New Orleans

1- Enjoy An Evening Jazz Cruise On A Steamboat

New Orleans: Evening Jazz Boat Cruise with Optional Dinner
A New Orleans paddle steamer cruise on Mississippi river is one of the things to do in New Orleans, Louisiana.

An evening cruise on the Mississippi on a steamboat is something to remember.

You will get spectacular views of the city while listening to a live jazz band.

You will also hear from the captain who will tell you about New Orleans and the places you sail by.

There is a buffet dinner which will consist of authentic New Orleans dishes such as chicken and sausage gumbo, Bayou seafood pasta, Creole vegetarian jambalaya, and herb-garlic fingerling potatoes.

Of course, there is a bar and craft cocktails are a speciality.

Recommended tour:

2- Take A City And Cemetery Tour By Bus

One of the best ways to get to know New Orleans is to take a guided bus tour.

You will get a good idea of what the city has to offer and you will then be able to decide which sights you want to see more of.

The tour will take you to places such as City Park with its museums and children’s attractions, the French Quarter, Audubon Park with the zoo, and the Garden District with its elegant mansions.

You will drive along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain where you will see beautiful marinas, a lighthouse, and many seafood restaurants.

The highlight of the tour is a visit to one of the above-ground cemeteries that New Orleans is famous for.

They are called ‘Cities of the Dead’.

The reason that the graves are built above ground is that a lot of the city is below sea level and has a high-water table in the soil.

If a coffin is buried normally, it could become waterlogged and it could even move.

Recommended tours:

3- Take A Spooky Ghost, Vampires, And Voodoo Tour

New Orleans: French Quarter Ghost and Murder Tour
Exploring the pubs and bars with neon lights in the French Quarter is one of the fun things to do in New Orleans USA.

New Orleans is synonymous with voodoo and witchcraft so if you like to feel a shiver run down your spine, you should take this tour.

It takes place in the French Quarter and your guide will tell you spooky stories relating to the places you walk by.

Pass by haunted sites such as Muriel’s Restaurant which is haunted by Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdon whose property was on this site.

He committed suicide and
now appears as a shining light rather than in human form.

See the outside of the New Orleans Pharmacy where, in the 19th century, leeching and bloodletting took place.

Walk by the house where Jacques Saint Germain lived.

He was reputed to be a vampire! Then go by the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum and finally stop at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop which is a bar where many people believe that they have seen ghosts.

If you can get a table, why not have a drink, and perhaps see one of these ghosts? The atmosphere is spooky enough without seeing a ghost as it is lit by candlelight.

Recommended tour: New Orleans: Ghosts, Vampires, & Voodoo French Quarter Tour

4- Enjoy The Music On Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street Sign In New Orleans, Louisiana
Exploring Bourbon Street is one of the fun things to do in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Bourbon Street is in the French Quarter, a lively neighbourhood where you can come across bands playing right on the street.

When you think of New Orleans, Bourbon Street easily comes to mind.

It is a street famous for its many bars, clubs, and restaurants, with stalls set up selling alcohol so you can wander along listening to the music coming from the bars without even going in.

It is home to some of the oldest bars in the city and many of the best restaurants.

Bourbon Street is just 13 blocks long, but it is packed full of entertainment.

It is a must-see, but it is directed at adult travellers on an evening out, not towards children.

For the best experience, start your walk along Bourbon Street from Canal Street and see how the street changes.

Take your time and enjoy the experience.

Where Canal Street meets Bourbon Street, there is usually a brass band playing.

A little way along, you’ll come to some upmarket restaurants and then the music scene starts.

If you can’t get into a bar, just buy a drink from a street vendor, and listen to the music from the street.

You will find that people will even dance in the street.

Where Bourbon Street intersects with St.

Philip, you will come to the last bar, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.

It is said to be the oldest bar in the U.S., so it is very popular.

Book before you go.

5- Get To See The Alligators On A Swamp Boat Tour

New Orleans is surrounded by swamps and wetlands, and you can take a trip out on them in a boat.

It is the perfect break from city life and gives you a chance to enjoy nature and some peace and quiet.

Your guide/captain will be knowledgeable in fishing, alligator hunting, and trapping.

From him, you will learn about Cajun life and about the swamps and what life is like there.

This tour is perfect for animal lovers.

Apart from seeing the alligators which may make a shiver run down your spine, you will have a good chance of seeing turtles, snakes, and birds, and on land, racoons, and wild pigs.

Recommended tours:

6- Explore New Orleans On A Hop-On Hop-Off Bus

Hop On Hop Off Bus Sightseeing Tour
Admiring St. Louis Cathedral is one of the things to do in New Orleans.

If you have limited time in New Orleans, the hop-on-hop-off bus could be just what you are looking for.

Your ticket lasts for a day, and it takes you to all the main attractions in the city.

There is commentary on board so you will learn about New Orleans as you travel.

You can get off the bus at any of the attractions, visit them, and then wait for the bus to take you to the next stop.

Some of the stops include the French Quarter, Jackson Square, Bourbon Street, the Garden District, St. Louis Cathedral, and Royal Street for art and museums.

Recommended tour: Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Sightseeing Tour

7- Visit The National World War II Museum

History buffs will love this museum which is located on Magazine Street.

yet another reason to visit this street.

It has six permanent exhibitions describing how the Second World War was fought and won.

There are artefacts relating to the war, as well as interactive exhibits.

The Higgins landing craft, used in the amphibious landing invasion of Normandy in 1944, was built in New Orleans and there are some of these boats exhibited as well as aircraft and tanks.

It is quite easy to spend at least half a day here.

However, it may not be the right place to bring young children as the Holocaust is highlighted and this can be disturbing.

The National World War II Museum is at 945 Magazine Street, New Orleans, 70130

8- Take Your Kids to City Park

If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, head to City Park.

Stroll through the 10-acre New Orleans Botanical Garden which houses around 2,000 different plants.

If you have younger children, this is the place to take them.

There is enough for them to do in a full afternoon while you relax.

They will love the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park where there are 12 rides for them to enjoy.

Take them to Storyland where they will be able to see 20 enormous sculptures of fairy tale characters.

In the Train Garden, they will like seeing miniature replicas of trains and streetcars from the late 18th century.

Finally, take them to the Louisiana Children’s Museum where there are interactive exhibits and story times.

9- Admire The Art At The New Orleans Museum Of Art

The New Orleans Museum Of Art is in City Park and is one of the best art museums in the U.S.

and also one of the oldest, having first opened its doors to the public in 1911.

It opened with nine pieces of artwork.

Now, there are almost 50,000.

There are permanent exhibitions of French and American art, photography, and glass.

You will see artwork by such painters as Degas and Monet.

The museum includes the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden which covers 12 acres within City Park.

Here you can see more than 90 spectacular works of art such as Pablo Casal’s Obelisk.

The New Orleans Museum Of Art is at 1 Collins Diboll Cir, New Orleans, 70124

10- Enjoy Food And Music Along Frenchman Street

New Orleans: Nightlife & Live Music of Frenchman St Tour
Streetcar in downtown New Orleans, USA at twilight.

Although Bourbon Street is great, it can be a little touristy.

If you want to get away from this and find authenticity, head to Frenchman Street.

Locals flock here more than to Bourbon Street.

It stretches for several blocks and offers live bands, bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.

Jazz is the main genre of music played here.

Music is played all day, but Frenchman Street really comes to life after 7 p.m.

You can spend the whole evening here having a meal first and then bar hopping.

The great thing about Frenchman Street is that drinks and food are cheaper than in the French Quarter.

At 7 p.m., the Palace Market opens where locals sell their homemade art and jewellery.

This is a great place to come to buy a gift for someone back home or a treat for yourself.

Recommended tour: New Orleans: Nightlife & Live Music of Frenchman St Tour

11- Take A Day Trip To A Plantation House

If you are interested in the history of the southern states of the U.S., a day or half-day trip to a plantation house should interest you, particularly if you love the film, Gone with the Wind.

It may be an old film, but it still captivates audiences to this day.

The plantation houses that you can visit were built in the early 19th century.

You will have a guide who will tell you about the houses and life at this time which includes the American Civil War and slavery.

In some plantation houses, there are guides dressed in period costumes.

One of the plantations you can choose to visit is Oak Alley Plantation where there is a quarter-mile-long alley of oak trees, all over 250 years old.

It has been used in many TV shows and films such as ‘Interview with a Vampire’.

Recommended tours:

12- Visit The New Orleans Jazz Museum

The New Orleans Jazz Museum is housed in what was the U.S. Mint.

It is located where the French Quarter and Frenchman Street meet which is apt as the museum celebrates everything that is jazz.

The museum has rotating exhibitions about the history of jazz and its’ culture.

There are listening stations, a recording studio, a dance floor, films, and instruments you can play.

On the third floor, you might be lucky enough to catch a concert.

The New Orleans Jazz Museum is at 400 Esplanade Ave., New Orleans

13- Enjoy A Cocktails And Brunch Tour In The French Quarter

Cocktails and Brunch Tour In The French Quarter
Learning about the Sazerac cocktail is one of the top things to do in New Orleans.

This tour will suit foodies down to the ground.

You will take a walk through the French Quarter with a guide who will tell you about the area and the food of New Orleans.

You will stop for brunch and try some typical Cajun and Creole dishes such as beignets, a deep-fried pastry, calas dumplings, boudin, which is a type of black pudding, frogs legs, alligator, and duck jambalaya.

Your palate will be introduced to a completely different cuisine.

Two craft cocktails are included in the tour.

One of the cocktails is the Hurricane.

To make this cocktail, two measures of different rums need to be mixed with orange juice, lime juice, passion fruit puree, grenadine, and simple syrup.

Yes, it’s sweet but it has a kick.

You will certainly know that you have had a drink.

Recommended tour: Cocktails and Brunch Tour In The French Quarter 

13- Admire St. Louis Cathedral

French Quarter Walking and Storytelling Tour
Saint Louis cathedral and Jackson square in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States at sunset.

If you want to experience something apart from music and food, visit St Louis Cathedral.

It is in the French Quarter and is the oldest continuously active cathedral in the United States.

It was founded in 1720 but it has been renovated and what you see now was finished in 1850.

The Roman Catholic St. Louis Cathedral is an impressive building.

It has three spires, stained glass windows, and Spanish colonial architecture.

You should go inside as the light streaming through the stained-glass windows is spectacular.

There are murals on the ceiling and walls as well, and the altar is gilded.

However, although you may be celebrating life when you go to the cathedral, death is close by.

Beneath your feet, in the crypts, are buried many archbishops and bishops.

However, the crypts are rarely opened so you just have to imagine what is below.

You can take a guided tour of the cathedral and you can also attend Mass, which is held each day.

Recommended tours:

14- Take The Kids To Audubon Zoo And Aquarium

If the kids have exhausted the attractions at City Park, you can take them to Audubon Zoo and Aquarium.

If you are there in the summer, it can get hot in the zoo so come early and then spend some time in the air-conditioned aquarium.

An exhibit in the zoo your children will love is Jaguar Jungle where they will be able to see not only jaguars, but bats, tree frogs, arrow frogs, and many other creatures.

Your kids will want to watch the daily feedings and there are lectures and films about the environment which your older children will enjoy.

In the aquarium, there is a 1,514,164 litre (400,000 gallons) tank which is home to sting rays, sharks, turtles, and fish.

16- Learn About The Sazerac Cocktail At Sazerac House

The Sazerac cocktail is famous throughout New Orleans.

It was created in 1838 by Creole apothecary, Antoine Peychaud.

At first, it was made with French brandy but then whisky replaced the brandy.

In 1873, bartender Leon Lamothe added a touch of absinthe.

When absinthe was banned in 1912, an anise liqueur replaced it.

The cocktail has just four ingredients: American rye whisky, a sugar cube, Peychaud’s bitters, and anise liqueur.

If you are interested in finding out more about this cocktail and the history of cocktails in New Orleans, visit Sazerac House.

There is a complimentary tour on offer and then a Sazerac cocktail tasting where you can taste the individual elements of the drink before having the cocktail.

There are other experiences on offer like a whisky tasting and a tropical cocktail tasting which teaches you how rum is made.

Sazerac House is at 101 Magazine Street, New Orleans, 70130-2420.

Recommended tour: Cocktails and Brunch Tour In The French Quarter

17- Take A Garden District Food & History Tour

The Garden District is an upmarket area filled with mansions and old oak trees.

Your tour starts at the Lafayette cemetery where you will learn about why bodies are buried above ground and more about funeral customs in New Orleans.

Your experienced guide will also tell you about the architecture in the district and the magnificent oak trees.

There are three food stops where you will learn about Cajun and Creole culture.

The first food stop is Creole and the second, is Cajun.

A drink at each stop is part of the package, and you can choose between beer, sangria, a cocktail, or a non-alcoholic drink.

The last stop is for dessert and here you will enjoy beignets and a cafe au lait.

A beignet is a piece of dough that is deep-fried and then dusted with icing sugar.

18- Visit The Museum Of The Southern Jewish Experience

This is a relatively new museum, opening in 2021.

It tells the story of the Jewish people in the American South, covering 13 states and 300 years of history.

It shows how they influenced the local communities and the local communities influenced him.

The museum houses over 4,000 artefacts and documents, including cash registers, electric signs from Jewish shops, many photos and letters, and a 19th-century wedding dress.

There are three permanent exhibitions and one area that holds temporary exhibitions.

The Jewish Museum is at 818 Howard Avenue, New Orleans, 70113.

19- Enjoy The Expressions Of America Sound & Light Show

If you are looking for something different to do in the evening, get a ticket for The Expressions Of America Sound & Light Show.

It is held at the National World War II Museum and through sound and light, you will learn how individual Americans have affected the world.

The show begins inside the museum where you will be treated to live entertainment relating to World War II.

Then you go outside where the sound and light show begins, introducing you to soldiers, nurses, entertainers and other people who affected the war.

Some of the projections are as high as 27.4 metres (90 feet).

After the show, jazz music is played and there are art projections.

You can choose to either book just the show or you can book the show with a three-course dinner served with two vintage cocktails.

Recommended tour: Expressions Of America Sound & Light Show

20- Shop ‘Til You Drop Along Magazine Street

Magazine Street is 9.65 km (6 miles) long and is packed full of shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants.

Many of the shops are locally owned and you can find such things as clothes, art, records, souvenirs, and home goods.

If you are looking for unusual and unique clothing, head to Funkey Monkey.

If it’s souvenirs you are looking for, go to Fleurty Girl and if art is your passion, visit the Terrance Osborne Gallery.

There are also some national chains to be found, such as Kendra Scott Jewellery.

All this shopping could make you hungry, but you won’t have a problem finding somewhere to eat.

There is a plethora of restaurants along Magazine Street to suit all tastes and budgets.

You can get traditional Creole and Cajun food in many restaurants as well as international cuisine such as Senegalese and Chinese.

Try The Rum House for a quick lunch or a long leisurely cocktail hour.

They do the best margaritas.

As the weather in New Orleans is so good, you will find that many bars and cafes are outdoors.

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cropped irena nieslony.jpg
Irena Nieslony was born in Windsor, England but now lives on the island of Crete, Greece, in a small village called Modi near the city of Chania. She has visited 32 countries in Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Africa. Her favourite country is Tanzania as she loves wildlife and was lucky enough to see ‘The Big Five”. She also loves Egypt, as ancient history intrigues her, the southern states of the US and the cities of Memphis, Nashville, and New Orleans for music. She has a B.A. Honours degree in English and Drama from Westfield College, University of London. She has been writing for over 13 years and has 13 novels, 7 short stories and thousands of articles published.