New Orleans has been described as one of the most unique cities in the USA, thanks to its cross-cultural and multilingual culture. Founded in the early 1700s, New Orleans qualifies as one of the oldest cities in the States. In the Big Easy, there is something for everyone. Are you passionate about art, history, architecture, or music? New Orleans has that and more to offer visitors, including eateries that will leave you licking your fingers, famous streets for partying, and even some mystical mysteries!
So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your visit to New Orleans with this list of 15 things to do in New Orleans, which you can add to your New Orleans itinerary!
1. Eat Beignets in Cafe Du Monde
What is it: Cafe Du Monde is an iconic New Orleans cafe famous for serving delicious beignets and coffee. The charming cafe is located right near the heart of the French Quarter. It was built in 1862, and to date, it is devoted to serving only the best doughnuts and coffee to locals and visitors.
Why visit: You cannot say you’ve been to New Orleans if you missed the chance to enjoy the best combination of coffee and steaming hot beignets at this famous cafe. Cafe Du Monde is an open-air coffee stand, meaning you can enjoy the view of the city while you sip their famous Chicory coffee. The fluffy texture of the beignets sprinkled with powdered sugar can hardly be found anywhere else in the world.
The Cafe is a classic, open every day, all day! However, it’s can get super crowded during peak times. Prepare to stand in line if you want a table, or there is also the take out window and you can enjoy your coffee and sweet treats in a nearby park.
2. Have a Drink on Bourbon Street
What is it: Stretching 13 blocks from Canal Street, Bourbon Street is by far the most popular street in New Orleans! It is every visitor’s destination, especially if you are visiting for the first time.
Why visit: You have probably heard of the infamous Mardi Gras celebrations in NOLA, the season where thousands of locals and visitors flock the iconic streets for parades and shenanigans. Apart from that, Bourbon is the hub of New Orleans nightlife. A night in Bourbon is defined by endless partying, drinking and dancing, live music venues, strip clubs, bachelorette parties, you name it!
The only disclaimer is Bourbon is not child-friendly. You should also ensure to take care of yourself and your property.
3. Buy Local Products at Jackson Square
What is it: Jackson Square, a historic square that makes for an excellent destination for a walk when you are looking to explore the city and see the different architecture. The square was named after U.S president, Andrew Jackson, who won The Battle of New Orleans in 1815.
Why visit: Jackson Square is the location of the famous and magnificent St. Louis Cathedral, which overlooks the Mississippi River. During the day, the area around Jackson Square is bustling with street musicians, artists, palm readers, and performers.
The place is usually flooded with people taking strolls and selling and buying local products. You can have your portrait painted, then go on a horse and carriage ride. Sadly, the Square itself is not dog-friendly (which we found out because we love to take our pup, Hana, with us wherever we travel). However, we were able to snap a few pictures and look inside from one of the entrance gates.
The square is open from 8.00 am to 7 pm every day.
4. Voodoo Tour of New Orleans
What is it: The word Voodoo may take you by surprise and maybe even shock. Voodoo is a religious practice that gets its beliefs from a little bit of everything, to say the least. Voodoo collects beliefs from Catholicism, West Africa, and Haiti. It’s quite complex to understand.
Why visit: if you have the slightest curiosity about Voodoo practices, then going on a tour is a great way to gain insight. Voodoo tours are a top-rated attraction in New Orleans. And on the tour, you get to understand the history of voodoo, and the different rituals performed and the practices. The visits cover modern voodoo temples, NOLA cemeteries, Marie Lareau, and Voodoo Queen for an exquisite experience.
5. Shop on Magazine Street
What is it: Where are the shopping junkies? Magazine Street is another go-to in New Orleans if you like shopping.
Why visit: Magazine Street is the home of fashion. You will find every design of clothes to suit your taste. It doesn’t hurt to spoil yourself once in a while. Are we up for a shopping spree?
6. Steamboat Cruise on the Mississippi River
What is it: Steamboat Cruises on the Mississippi River are a nostalgic experience to look forward to when visiting New Orleans. Steamboat Natchez dates back to a century ago and is known for its authentic charm.
Why visit: Cruising on the Mississippi is a classic experience. There are a variety of cruise options, may include music, food, and other live performances. You may also enjoy a romantic evening Jazz Cruise with an elegant dinner, or even a holiday or special event cruise.
7. Have a Beer at Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
What is it: Jean Lafitte Blacksmith Shop is located on Bourbon Street. It was built in the 1700s, making it one of the oldest buildings hosting a bar in the US.
Why visit: The bar has an interesting story because it was neither owned by Jean Latiffe, a pirate nor was it ever a blacksmith shop! The bar is a cool spot to enjoy sipping your beer on a hot afternoon since it’s on the quieter end of Bourbon Street. And the history and ambiance of the place make it well worth a visit.
8. Take a Cooking Class (Cajun & Creole)
What is it: One of the reasons we enjoy traveling is tasting different foods. But how about learning to make some New Orleans cuisine for when you return home?? Cajun and Creole are some traditional styles in these parts of the country, and learning how to make the local food is often a fun experience when traveling!
Why visit: We have enjoyed taking cooking classes in many destinations that we’ve traveled to, including cooking in Thailand. One reason we enjoy it is that we can return home and attempt to recreate some of the flavors in our own kitchen – which brings memories of our trip flooding back! Even if you don’t want to cook back at home, it’s a lot of fun to meet other people, chit chat, have some drinks and eat some food together. Always a good time!
9. Listen to New Orleans Jazz (local bars/music)
What is it: The French Quarter is full of jazz musicians playing at various venues. The preservation hall is a venue for traditional jazz music performances by locals, with the goal of preserving the culture of jazz music.
Why visit: Who doesn’t want to spend an afternoon or evening enjoying some classic jazz music? After all, that’s what New Orleans is famous for! Get those toes tapping and those hands clapping. There’s something about great jazz music that fills your body with the spirit of the movement.
10. Take a Tour of Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World
What is it: If you missed Fat Tuesday, then no worries! You can still experience the magic of Madri Gras by visiting Blaine Kern’s Madri Gras World, where all the costumes and the giant themed parade floats are made.
Why visit: Seeing these incredible works of art is quite interesting, but also impressive! You can only imagine what it’s like to see these going down the street while music and laughter fill the air.
11. Ride a New Orleans Streetcar
What is it: Have you ridden a streetcar before? These classic cars are iconic to the city and are even convenient transportation options to get around key areas of New Orleans.
Why visit: Make sure to catch a ride on the streetcar along the St. Charles Avenue through the Garden City to uptown New Orleans. Relax and take in the scenery along the ride and imagine all the history and stories that were written in this unique city.
12. Tour the Local Swamps
What is it: Southern Louisiana is home to a fascinating eco-system and swamplands. Traditional Swamp Tours are a popular activity for those who want to do something outside of town. These tours take place in the bayou about 20 minutes outside New Orleans.
Why visit: Seeing the classic bayous of Louisiana makes for an interesting experience, and you may even spot an alligator! Many tour companies will pick you up in town and take you out to the swamplands for a tour before bringing you back.
13. Haunted Pub Crawl
What is it: Your time in New Orleans can be an excellent time to spook yourself out if you are into that sort of thing. One popular activity is the Haunted Pub Crawl, which takes you to popular haunting grounds for some drinks, stories, fun…and maybe some scares!
Why visit: With a city so historic (and a bit seedy), there’s bound to be some haunts around here! It is an exciting yet eerie experience you won’t forget.
14. Oak Alley/Plantation Tour
What is it: The Oak Alley is undoubtedly the most beautiful plantation in New Orleans, standing out amidst other plantations. The plantation gets its name from the oak trees, which form a canopy and an alley emerges from underneath, leading to the buildings.
Why visit: This is a classic place to visit for any tourist in New Orleans. The well-maintained lawns are a sight to behold and you can also tour the buildings on the plantation.
15. Stroll Through the Garden District
What is it: Although the French Quarter is one of the main areas in New Orleans, we also recommend that you visit other areas of town. The Garden District is a hub of history since it was used by Americans who came to New Orleans after the Revolutionary War and settled in New Orleans. The architecture is stunning and the environment is tranquil.
Why visit: Feel like you are in another era, and see and experience some of the histories of this part of New Orleans.
Plan Your Trip to New Orleans With These Ideas for Things to Do!
We hope this list has given you a few ideas for what you can do during your trip to New Orleans. As you are planning your trip, don’t forget to grab our New Orleans sample itinerary too. Whatever you do, we are sure you will have a fun and memorable experience in New Orleans – one of America’s truly unique cities.