35 Things To Do in New Orleans

By Janet Benoir – May 18, 2024

New Orleans, a city alive with dynamic music, delicious food, and diverse culture, welcomes you to dive into its rich history and modern appeal. Whether you love history, food, or adventure, the Big Easy has a wide array of experiences that will enchant you and make you crave more.

Here are the top 35 must-do activities in New Orleans:

Steamboat Natchez in Mississippi River

Set sail on the iconic Steamboat Natchez for a captivating evening on the Mississippi River, immersing yourself in the deep musical roots of New Orleans. As the city’s skyline drifts past, live jazz fills the air, performed by some of the finest local musicians. This is a dynamic journey through the heart of jazz culture, where every note tells a story of the city’s rich heritage.

Steamboat Natchez in Mississippi River

Experience the vibrant spirit of New Orleans as you glide down the Mississippi River. Enjoy the soothing breeze and watch the sky change colors at sunset while indulging in delicious Creole cuisine. The cruise offers a perfect blend of relaxation and entertainment, with cozy spots on the deck and lively music. It’s an unforgettable experience that pairs the gentle flow of the river with soulful jazz melodies.

French Quarter

Delve into the heart of New Orleans as you explore the French Quarter, a neighborhood brimming with historical intrigue and European flair. Stroll under intricate balconies and through bustling streets as your guide shares tales of the architects and iconic figures who shaped this vibrant area. With every corner turned, you encounter the rich tapestry of sounds from lively jazz and the inviting aromas of Creole cuisine.

French Quarter

The French Quarter is not just a place to visit; it’s an experience that envelops you. Artists line the sidewalks, their brushes capturing the essence of ornate ironwork and verdant courtyards, each scene telling its own story. This immersive journey through New Orleans’ most famous district offers a vivid snapshot of the city’s soul, showcasing why it remains a beloved destination for travelers around the world.

Cafe Du Monde

Start your morning in the heart of New Orleans with a visit to Cafe Du Monde. Famous for its beignets and cafe au lait, this iconic cafe offers a taste of New Orleans’ French heritage. As powdered sugar fills the air, bite into the warm, fluffy beignets that have become synonymous with New Orleans’ culinary delights.

Cafe Du Monde

Seated at a bustling table amidst locals and tourists alike, you can watch the Mississippi River and the energetic street life of the French Quarter. There’s no better way to start your day than with the taste of sweet beignets and the robust flavors of chicory coffee, setting the perfect tone for exploring the vibrant city.

National WWII Museum

Delve into America’s wartime history at the National WWII Museum, where a vast collection of artifacts, photographs, and personal accounts vividly bring to life the nation’s involvement in the global conflict. Each exhibit is carefully curated to offer a deep understanding of the sacrifices and strategies that shaped the war effort.

National WWII Museum

As you navigate through the museum’s immersive galleries, interactive displays, and multimedia presentations offer a dynamic educational experience. The museum serves not only as a tribute to those who served but also as a comprehensive exploration of WWII’s complexities and the American spirit during a pivotal time in history.

Garden District

Stroll through the Garden District, where the shade of ancient live oaks and the splendor of antebellum mansions transport you to a more genteel era. The neighborhood is a showcase of Southern charm, featuring meticulously manicured gardens and homes built in the Greek Revival and Victorian styles. This historic area is not only a visual feast but a serene retreat that seems to whisper tales of the past.

Garden District

The essence of the Garden District goes beyond its stunning architecture; it’s found in the peaceful atmosphere and the rich history that permeates its streets. Walking tours here offer a deeper understanding of the illustrious families who once walked these paths—famous authors, movie stars, and New Orleans legends included. Each corner of the district offers a new narrative, making every visit a fascinating journey through time.

Preservation Hall

Preservation Hall stands as a beacon of traditional New Orleans jazz, maintaining its historic charm and dedication to the genre since its inception in 1961. As you step into this timeless venue, you’re greeted by the soulful sounds of veteran jazz musicians and the occasional contemporary icon, all contributing to the hall’s vibrant ambiance and rich musical legacy.

Preservation Hall

This iconic venue offers a raw and intimate jazz experience, where simplicity in seating and the absence of amplification draw audiences into a deeply personal encounter with music. Visiting Preservation Hall means more than just attending a concert; it’s an immersive journey into the heart of New Orleans’ jazz culture, where each note played is a reflection of the city’s profound musical heritage.

French Market

Step into the vibrant heart of New Orleans at the French Market, the city’s oldest public market. You’ll find handcrafted jewelry, unique artworks, and an array of local delicacies, all under the enticing aroma of Creole spices and freshly baked beignets. This marketplace not only offers a taste of New Orleans’ rich cultural fabric but invites you to indulge in its colorful array of goods and flavors.

French Market

Spanning six blocks along the Mississippi River, the French Market is a bustling hub of activity, offering both locals and visitors a unique shopping and dining experience. Whether you’re on the hunt for the perfect souvenir, a striking piece of local art, or a savory treat, the market’s festive atmosphere and diverse offerings capture the essence of New Orleans’ vibrant spirit.

Jackson Square

Jackson Square, the vibrant heart of the French Quarter, is enveloped by historic landmarks including the iconic St. Louis Cathedral. This lively square serves as a cultural canvas where street performers, artists, and musicians contribute to the dynamic spirit of New Orleans. Visitors are treated to spontaneous jazz performances and local crafts beneath the watchful gaze of Andrew Jackson’s statue, offering a slice of the city’s vibrant public life.

Jackson Square

Surrounding the square are significant historical treasures like The Cabildo and the Presbytère, which provide deep insights into Louisiana’s rich history and cultural heritage. A stroll through Jackson Square allows visitors to experience a mosaic of activities and historical narratives, making it a microcosm of New Orleans’ enduring charm and its centuries-old stories.

Audubon Zoo

Nestled in the historic Uptown district, the Audubon Zoo offers an exotic journey into the wild, right within the bounds of New Orleans. From majestic elephants to playful monkeys, each exhibit is a vivid portrayal of animal life and conservation efforts, inviting visitors to appreciate the beauty and diversity of nature.

Audubon Zoo

The zoo also features a splash park to provide relief from the Louisiana sun and a swamp train that offers serene views of both local and exotic animals cohabiting in meticulously crafted habitats. This family-friendly destination successfully combines educational experiences with exciting encounters, making it a memorable visit for everyone.

Mardi Gras World

Step into Mardi Gras World to experience the year-round vibrancy of New Orleans’ most famous celebration. This unique attraction offers visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the meticulous craftsmanship involved in float building and costume design that brings the city’s legendary parades to life. As you explore, you’ll encounter life-sized figures of jazz musicians, mythical creatures, and celebrity likenesses—all created by talented local artisans.

Mardi Gras World

This does not only reveal the extensive preparation for the annual festivities but also envelops you in the culture and creativity that fuel this centuries-old tradition. Visiting Mardi Gras World provides a deep dive into the artistry and spirit that define the heart and soul of New Orleans, making it an essential experience for those looking to grasp the essence of the city’s celebratory spirit.

Candlelight Concerts

Candlelight Concerts bring a touch of classical elegance to New Orleans’ vibrant scene, combining the soft glow of candlelight with the mesmerizing sounds of live classical music. In the intimate setting of a dimly lit venue, the string quartet or piano offers a transcendent experience that bridges the past and present. These concerts are perfect for those seeking a romantic night out or a tranquil retreat.

Candlelight Concerts

Set in historically rich locations, these concerts showcase a blend of classical compositions and contemporary pieces, enveloping attendees in a serene auditory embrace. As candles flicker, the music envelops the space, creating a soothing atmosphere that feels both secluded and expansive. Whether it’s a date night or a quiet evening alone, the Candlelight Concerts offer a unique way to experience the quieter, yet equally profound, cultural side of New Orleans.

Carousel Bar & Lounge

Step into the historic Hotel Monteleone and experience the whimsical charm of the Carousel Bar & Lounge, where the bar itself takes you on a gentle spin. As you enjoy a classic Vieux Carré cocktail, the rotating bar gives you a panoramic view of the grand room, alive with the echoes of laughter and the clink of glasses, capturing the spirit of New Orleans’ vibrant nightlife.

Carousel Bar & Lounge

Each turn on this unique merry-go-round bar offers a new angle on its elegant surroundings, reminiscent of the city’s perpetual vibrance and historical charm. This isn’t just a place to grab a drink; it’s an invitation to step back in time and immerse yourself in the golden age of New Orleans, surrounded by the mystique and glamour of days past.

New Orleans Museum of Art

Nestled amid the lush greenery of City Park, the New Orleans Museum of Art offers a world-class cultural experience, featuring a diverse collection that spans thousands of years. From ancient artifacts to contemporary masterpieces, each piece is curated to inspire and engage visitors as they wander through the museum’s impressive corridors and galleries.

New Orleans Museum of Art

Just outside, the museum’s sculpture garden presents a serene retreat where art and nature blend beautifully. Amid Spanish moss-covered oaks and reflective lagoons, visitors can relax and reflect on the art and the tranquil environment. This peaceful escape provides a welcome pause from the hustle and bustle of the city, inviting you to enjoy the beauty of both the art and its natural setting.

Royal Street

Royal Street, a picturesque artery of the French Quarter, offers a treasure trove of antique shops, art galleries, and boutiques set against a backdrop of historic architecture. As you stroll this charming street, the air is filled with the sounds of street musicians and the enticing aromas from nearby cafés.

Royal Street

Each store and gallery on Royal Street invites you to step back in time or discover unique contemporary finds. From rare antiques and fine art to handmade jewelry and chic fashion, shopping here isn’t just retail therapy—it’s an adventure in cultural discovery, making every purchase a keepsake of your time in New Orleans.

Jazz & Heritage Festival

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, often simply Jazz Fest, is an epic celebration of the music, culture, and spirit of Louisiana. Attendees are treated to an auditory feast of jazz, blues, R&B, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk, Latin, rock, rap, country, bluegrass, and everything in between, performed by both local legends and international stars.

Jazz & Heritage Festival

Beyond the music, the festival grounds bloom with tents and booths offering an array of local foods that tell their own stories, arts, and crafts that showcase the region’s rich cultural tapestry, and demonstrations that bring the traditions of Louisiana to life. Jazz Fest is more than a festival; it’s a vibrant expression of New Orleans’ soul.

Bayou St. John

Kayak down the tranquil Bayou St. John, a scenic waterway winding through New Orleans, where paddlers gain a unique perspective of the city’s lush landscapes and diverse wildlife. As you navigate under canopies of moss-draped oaks and past historic homes, enjoy the serene environment that offers a peaceful break from the city’s lively atmosphere.

Bayou St. John

Bayou St. John provides more than just a scenic escape; it serves as a living history lesson on New Orleans’ longstanding relationship with its waterways. This peaceful journey through nature offers a chance to experience quiet reflection and a refreshing contrast to the jubilant chaos of the urban surroundings.

Ogden Museum of Southern Art

At the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, immerse yourself in the essence of the American South. This museum houses an expansive collection that spans from the colonial period to the present, each piece narrating the intricate story of Southern identity through visual art. From representations of the dusty Delta blues to the lively jazz scenes, the artwork vividly brings to life the region’s cultural history.

Ogden Museum of Southern Art

More than just an art repository, the Ogden Museum stands as a dynamic cultural center that challenges and celebrates the South’s diverse heritage through contemporary exhibitions. Each visit not only deepens understanding but also connects visitors emotionally to the vibrant cultural fabric of the South, making every experience both enlightening and impactful.

St. Louis Cathedral

Step into the serene world of St. Louis Cathedral, a cornerstone of faith and architecture in New Orleans’ vibrant French Quarter. This iconic sanctuary offers a tranquil escape from the bustling activity outside, with its spires stretching towards the sky symbolizing the city’s enduring spirit and hope. Inside, the cathedral’s peaceful ambiance and stunning stained glass provide a profound sense of tranquility and reverence.

St. Louis Cathedral

Surrounding the cathedral, the energetic Jackson Square buzzes with life, yet inside, the cathedral maintains its role as a cultural hub, hosting an array of musical concerts and community events. It stands as a testament to New Orleans’ rich historical and cultural tapestry, offering both locals and visitors alike a place to gather, reflect, and celebrate the city’s diverse heritage.

Creole Queen Paddlewheeler Cruise

Embark on a journey down the Mississippi River aboard the Creole Queen, where every paddle stroke through the water syncs with soothing jazz melodies, echoing New Orleans’ profound riverborne heritage. As you glide along, the city’s skyline unfolds, each structure whispering stories of a past interwoven with the present, offering a picturesque view that marries history with natural beauty.

Creole Queen Paddlewheeler Cruise

This river cruise not only captivates with its stunning panoramas but also enriches with engaging narrations of pivotal moments like the Battle of New Orleans and the evolution of river commerce. It transforms a scenic ride into a dynamic history lesson, delivered amidst the calming embrace of gentle waves and a refreshing river breeze, making the past come alive in an immersive, educational experience.

Second Line Parade

Participating in a Second Line Parade immerses you in the vibrant essence of New Orleans. This lively tradition draws both locals and visitors into the streets, dancing to the spirited beats of brass bands. It’s more than a musical event; it’s a communal celebration of life, music, and cultural heritage, making every participant feel like a part of the city’s dynamic tapestry.

Second Line Parade

As the parade winds through the city’s historic neighborhoods, it transforms into a grand display of joyful expression. Each step and tune connects you deeper to the soulful heart of New Orleans. The atmosphere is electric—streets turn into stages, and for those moments, everyone moves in harmony, encapsulated in the city’s infectious energy.

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

Step into the intriguing world of 19th-century medicine at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, located in a historic Creole townhouse. The museum’s collection, featuring items like leech jars and Voodoo potions, showcases the mysterious and artful practices of early pharmacists. Each artifact tells a compelling story about a time when pharmacists were both healers and guardians of medicinal secrets.

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

As visitors wander through the museum, they are transported back to an era when apothecaries were pivotal in community health. The authentically preserved setting, complete with original furniture and medical tools, offers a unique glimpse into the life and work of a 19th-century pharmacist. This educational journey not only highlights historical medical practices but also adds a slightly macabre charm to the experience.

Voodoo Museum

Step into the mystical realm of the New Orleans Voodoo Museum, an enclave that reveals the enigmatic world of voodoo with its rituals, spells, and storied past, deeply intertwined with the city’s cultural tapestry. Artifacts and talismans, alongside expert guides, offer a deep dive into the origins and practices of this ancient religion, shedding light on its significant role in New Orleans’ history.

Voodoo Museum

Delve further into the mysterious allure of voodoo through exhibits that detail the connections between the religion and the city’s unique heritage, including the story of the famed Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. Her tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 draws both devotees and the curious, making the museum a captivating destination that educates and enchants visitors with its intriguing and somewhat eerie atmosphere.

Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Experience the electrifying atmosphere of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as the New Orleans Saints take the field. The stadium comes alive with fans in black and gold, cheering with a contagious energy that epitomizes the city’s spirit. The blend of roaring crowds, pulsating music, and the excitement of the game create a memorable sports experience that’s quintessentially New Orleans.

Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Join in the fun with locals and visitors at the tailgate parties, where the air is thick with the aroma of local cuisine and the spirit of camaraderie. Whether you’re a seasoned football enthusiast or a newcomer to the sport, a Saints game embodies the heart and soul of the city, offering an essential New Orleans experience.

The Historic New Orleans Collection

Discover the rich history of New Orleans at The Historic New Orleans Collection, a museum and research hub located in the picturesque French Quarter. This facility preserves the vibrant history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South through a vast array of artifacts and documents spanning hundreds of years. The beautifully restored historic buildings that house the collection provide the perfect backdrop for exploring the city’s colorful past.

The Historic New Orleans Collection

The museum offers comprehensive exhibits that explore significant aspects of the region’s history, from the jubilant celebrations of Mardi Gras to key developments in the civil rights movement. Each exhibit is thoughtfully curated to both educate and inspire visitors, making The Historic New Orleans Collection a must-visit for history enthusiasts and anyone eager to delve into the diverse heritage of this unique city.

Frenchmen Street

Immerse yourself in the vibrant pulse of New Orleans’ music scene on Frenchmen Street, where jazz, funk, and blues flow from every corner, enchanting visitors with their rich, soulful melodies. As you wander, the air buzzes with music from eclectic venues. This is the heartbeat of the city, where each note played tells a story deeply woven into the cultural fabric of New Orleans.

Frenchmen Street

The music of Frenchmen Street offers a joyous, spontaneous celebration that epitomizes the spirit of New Orleans. Each club and hidden alleyway delivers an auditory feast that resonates with the city’s deep-rooted traditions and African-American heritage. It’s a place where music lovers of all kinds come together to experience the profound impact of live performances that both entertain and inspire.

The Spotted Cat Music Club

The Spotted Cat Music Club, a beloved gem on Frenchmen Street, is celebrated for its intimate atmosphere and top-notch jazz performances. Affectionately known as ‘The Cat,’ this venue is steeped in a rich musical history, creating an ambiance where every show feels uniquely personal. Its charming, weathered interior adds to the allure, drawing in both locals and visitors.

The Spotted Cat Music Club

A visit to The Spotted Cat is essential for anyone eager to experience the true essence of New Orleans’ jazz scene. The consistently exceptional live performances offer a deep dive into the city’s rich musical heritage. The club’s renowned reputation as a hotspot for jazz lovers is well deserved, making it a pivotal part of any musical journey through New Orleans.

Horse and Carriage Ride

Take a magical horse-drawn carriage ride through the French Quarter and feel the romance of New Orleans’ historic heart. As you travel under the soft glow of lanterns, each turn brings into view the well-preserved architecture and whispers of stories from centuries past. This serene journey offers a vivid contrast to the vibrant city life, wrapping you in the charm of old-world elegance.

Horse and Carriage Ride

During the ride, knowledgeable guides share fascinating tales and trivia that deepen the mystique of the Quarter. Whether you’re seeking a romantic evening or a peaceful solo outing, these carriage rides provide a unique perspective on the city’s rich history, all set against the enchanting backdrop of New Orleans.

Cafe Amelie

Cafe Amelie is a culinary experience nestled in a picturesque 19th-century courtyard in the heart of the bustling French Quarter. As you dine amidst lush greenery and the soothing sounds of a nearby fountain, you can savor Southern-inspired dishes that blend local flavors with innovative twists. The outdoor setting creates a tranquil oasis that invites you to relax and enjoy a celebration of Louisiana’s rich culinary traditions.

Cafe Amelie

The chefs at Cafe Amelie take pride in crafting dishes that are not only delicious but also memorable, making each visit a unique dining experience. It’s the perfect spot for those looking for a peaceful retreat where they can indulge in food that comforts the soul while soaking in the ambient charm of one of New Orleans’ most beautiful settings.

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar

Step into the historical allure of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar. The bar’s dim lighting, weathered wooden beams, and flickering candles provide a unique ambiance that’s as much about savoring the rich history as it is about enjoying a drink. This tavern not only serves up traditional cocktails and its unique concoctions but also immerses you in a setting that feels like a step back in time.

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar

As one of the oldest bars in America, Lafitte’s marries the charm of old New Orleans with the lively spirit of its modern nightlife. Guests at Lafitte’s can sip on classic drinks while surrounded by tales of pirates and hidden treasures. Whether you’re a history buff or looking for a unique place to unwind, Lafitte’s offers a captivating glimpse into the past amid the bustling energy of New Orleans today.

The Backstreet Cultural Museum

Nestled in the Treme neighborhood, the Backstreet Cultural Museum provides an in-depth look into New Orleans’ rich cultural tapestry. This vibrant museum celebrates the spirit and traditions of the African-American community, showcasing an impressive array of Mardi Gras Indian costumes, each a detailed masterpiece of wearable art that reflects the community’s vibrant heritage.

The Backstreet Cultural Museum

The museum also preserves the social and artistic customs that shape New Orleans’ iconic celebrations, like jazz funerals and second-line parades. A visit here enriches understanding and appreciation of these traditions, illuminating their integral role in the everyday life and ongoing cultural evolution of the city.

Treme’s Petit Jazz Museum

Treme’s Petit Jazz Museum, located in America’s oldest African-American neighborhood, offers an insightful exploration of jazz’s origins and its development. Though compact, the museum is rich with artifacts and narratives that highlight the foundational figures of jazz and the significant role the Treme neighborhood played in shaping the genre’s global influence.

Treme’s Petit Jazz Museum

As a cultural hub, the museum not only displays the instruments and belongings of jazz icons but also promotes an understanding of jazz’s deep roots in African-American history. It is an essential destination for anyone looking to grasp the essence and resonance of New Orleans’ music culture, providing a deep connection to the city’s historical and cultural fabric.

New Orleans Opera Performance

Dive into a world of theatrical magic at the New Orleans Opera, where each performance marries dramatic tales with enthralling music in a lavish setting. The opera house showcases a range of works from classic to contemporary, all brought to life with dazzling costumes and powerful vocals. It’s an artistic experience that captivates both first-timers and seasoned opera enthusiasts alike, ensuring an unforgettable night of culture and elegance.

New Orleans Opera Performance

Situated amid New Orleans’ dynamic music landscape, the New Orleans Opera offers a unique blend of high culture and exquisite entertainment. Each show is a profound journey, with performers who expertly transform stories into emotional experiences that linger well beyond the evening’s end. Dress up and step out for an exquisite night at the opera, leaving a lasting impression of the city’s rich cultural tapestry.

Old Ursuline Convent

Step into history at the Old Ursuline Convent, the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley. This architectural gem captures the essence of French colonial design and has been beautifully preserved, allowing visitors to explore its peaceful courtyards and discover the lives of the nuns who shaped its legacy. You’ll encounter rich artifacts and informative exhibits that narrate the vital role of these women.

Old Ursuline Convent

The Old Ursuline Convent is more than just a historical site; it’s a celebration of New Orleans’ enduring architectural spirit. Through guided tours, you can uncover hidden stories of the building’s past, including its significant contributions to education and healthcare in the community. Visiting this landmark offers a deep connection to the city’s history, inviting you to appreciate the foundations on which modern New Orleans was built.

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium

Step into the enchanting world of the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, nestled within the historic U.S. Custom House on Canal Street. This remarkable sanctuary is a haven for thousands of vibrant butterflies, fluttering freely within a specially designed conservatory that replicates a lush tropical environment. It’s a captivating display of colors and movement that appeals to visitors of all ages, offering a tranquil escape into nature’s delicate beauty.

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium

The insectarium reveals an extensive collection of insects from around the globe, showcasing their crucial roles within various ecosystems. Interactive exhibits and live insect displays provide a closer look at everything from hard-working ants to glowing fireflies. Ideal for both nature enthusiasts and the inquisitively minded, the insectarium is a place where the small wonders of the world are magnified into an immersive learning adventure.

Louis Armstrong Park

Louis Armstrong Park, nestled near the French Quarter, serves as a vibrant tribute to one of jazz’s most iconic figures. This lush park features meandering paths and tranquil ponds, adorned with sculptures of Armstrong and other music legends. It stands as a serene spot amidst the city’s dynamic surroundings, celebrating New Orleans’ rich musical legacy through its peaceful landscape and the cultural vibrancy that echoes from its past.

Louis Armstrong Park

More than just a memorial, the park is a lively hub for music and cultural events that capture the essence of Armstrong’s contributions to jazz. Visitors often encounter live performances, where modern musicians channel the innovative spirit of the jazz greats who once roamed these grounds. Louis Armstrong Park provides a meaningful setting for both contemplation and celebration, inviting everyone to experience its historical and cultural richness.

From the sultry notes of jazz that fill the air to the irresistible allure of its gastronomic delights, New Orleans promises an unforgettable journey through one of America’s most spirited cities. Pack your bags, bring your appetite for adventure, and get ready to fall in love with the soul of the South!