New Orleans is a vibrant city on the Mississippi River, famous for its nightlife, unique inns, shopping, music, free attractions, family activities, great seafood and other fantastic cuisine. Explore the historic French Quarter, visit the New Orleans Museum of Art, and take a cooking class. Listen to jazz at one of the local music clubs, and go on a Mardi Gras World Tour. Here are the best things to do in New Orleans.
1.The French Quarter
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The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans, and it is steeped in history and heritage. Dating back to 1718, the district was established by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville and grew around the central square of the Vieux Carré.
Home to magnificent historic buildings, cathedrals, and famous jazz clubs, the French Quarter is one of the top New Orleans attractions. It has a history that goes back 200 years and it has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Resting at the heart of the French Quarter is the 18th century historic Jackson Square, formerly known as the Place d’Armes. It was later renamed in honor of Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans.
Overlooking the Mississippi River, the square is surrounded by famous old buildings, including the St. Louis Cathedral, the Presbytere and Cabildo Museums, and the stunning Pontalba Apartments, as well as a plethora of restaurants, museums, cafés, and art galleries.
2.New Orleans Garden District
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Tucked between St. Charles Avenue and Magazine Street in uptown New Orleans, the historic Garden District is a famous neighborhood that is home to a beautifully preserved collection of antebellum mansions, immaculate gardens, and tree-lined avenues.
Established by Barthelemy Lafron in 1832 as an upper class settlement for new American residents in the city, the area flourished as lavish homes were built in the Italianate, Greek Revival, and Victorian styles on large plots surrounded by spectacular gardens. Today, the district is home to several movie stars and celebrities, the famous Lafayette Cemetery # 1, and quite a few boutiques and excellent restaurants, including the renowned Commander’s Palace Restaurant.
3.New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park
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The New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park is the home of jazz, and it hosts live educational performances at two locations in the city - the Old U.S. Mint on Esplanade Avenue and the visitor’s center on North Peters Street in the heart of the French Quarter.
Excellent 11-stop guided tours of both venues are offered, starting at the modern visitor center in Peters Street, where visitors can learn about the history and culture of New Orleans jazz from ranger-led demonstrations, talks, video documentaries, and live music. If you are wondering what to do in New Orleans today, this is a great place to visit.
Enjoy live music performances by world-renowned jazz artists every Saturday and Wednesday night, as well as during guided tours.
916 N. Peters Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, Phone: 504-589-4841
4. New Orleans Museum of Art
© New Orleans Museum of Art
Established as the Delgado Museum of Art in 1911, the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) is the oldest fine arts museum in the city. Situated in City Park, the Museum is home to a renowned sculpture garden and a magnificent permanent collection of almost 40,000 art pieces. The collection, which has a distinct focus on French and American art, consists of several paintings, including works by masters of the School of Paris such as Picasso, Braque, Dufy and Miro, drawings, photography, glass, and African and Japanese works.
he New Orleans Museum of Art is one of the best things to do in New Orleans. The five-acre Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden features over 60 sculptures dotted around a beautifully landscaped site. Winding footpaths, ancient oak trees, and pedestrian bridges, surround the garden, which is one of the most important sculpture installations in the United States.
One Collins C. Diboll Circle, City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana, Phone: 504-658-4100
5.The Historic New Orleans Collection
© The Historic New Orleans Collection
The Historic New Orleans Collection is an institution dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans. Founded in 1966, the museum has a collection of over one million items from more than three centuries across four exhibitions spaces – namely the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art.
These galleries are home to both permanent and rotating exhibitions that showcase fine art and celebrate the history and culture of the Southern Gulf. The Williams Research Center offers scholars and students a wide variety of publications to explore the various genres of art and decorative art, history, and culture.
Visitors can also enjoy two guided tours of the William’s Residence and the historic buildings that make up the complex in an Architecture and Courtyard Tour.
533 Royal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, Phone: 504-523-4662
6.The Spotted Cat Music Club
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Located in the heart of the charming Faubourg Marigny District in the French Quarter, The Spotted Cat Music Club is a famous jazz club that is a favorite amongst locals. Known simply as The Cat and world-renowned for its music and ambiance, this quintessential New Orleans jazz club offers a variety of music from blues and jazz to funk, klezmer, and more.
Their stage hosts up to three bands a night. The club does not serve food, but there are several restaurants close by, including Snug Harbor, Cafe Negril, Praline Connection, and Adolfo's.
623 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, Louisiana
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Maison Bourbon is one of two historic jazz clubs that still exist on New Orleans’ famous Bourbon Street, and it is legendary for being the home of many notable jazz musicians such as Harry Connick, Jr. Dedicated to the preservation of jazz music, the club is a popular tourist attraction that showcases authentic jazz every evening in a comfortable, laid-back atmosphere.
A quaint courtyard and wrought iron balcony overlooking Bourbon Street offer an ideal place to relax with a drink and enjoy the music. The club has two private event venues that can be rented for special occasions - the Jazz Parlor, which is located above Maison Bourbon and the Speakeasy.
641 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, Phone: 504-522-8818
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8.FreeWheelin' Bike Tours
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FreeWheelin’ Bike Tours is a family-owned company that offers visitors a relaxing and healthy way to experience New Orleans. Passionate, experienced local guides lead bicycle tours that take visitors through various parts of city, including City Park, the Garden District, and the French Quarter, and the guides share interesting information and facts along the way.
Guests ride through the town on reliable cruiser bikes, which boast comfortable 13-inch seats, puncture resistant tubes and tires, and eye-catching chrome. Visitors can book private tours for two or special family group trips, and FreeWheelin’ Bike Tours also provides services for corporate and team-building events as well as specialized VIP tours.
9.New Orleans School of Cooking
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The New Orleans School of Cooking offers an introduction to the diverse cuisine and food culture of New Orleans and Louisiana through a range of cooking lessons using products from the Louisiana General Store.
Located in an early 1800s molasses warehouse that has been beautifully renovated in the heart of the French Quarter, guests can take advantage of cooking lessons, tips, and tricks taught by Cajun / Creole experts who share their expertise on local Gumbo, Jambalaya, and Pralines, along with their culinary history, trivia, and interesting foodie facts.
The New Orleans School of Cooking offers individual and private group classes, as well as catering for special events and off-site events. The Louisiana General Store is packed with local Louisiana delights such as cookbooks, spices, gift baskets, and cookware.
524 St. Louis Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, Phone: 800-237-4841
10.21st Amendment at La Louisiane
© 21st Amendment at La Louisiane
21st Amendment at La Louisiane is a stylish French Quarter cocktail bar that pays tribute to the Prohibition era of the 1920s. Located in a historic 1881 building that now houses the Hotel Mazarin, the speakeasy-style bar is decorated with black and white photographs and memorabilia of some of the country's most infamous mobsters who lived during the time of Prohibition.
The bar offers a unique menu of handcrafted cocktails and custom libations created with a range of infused spirits, homemade syrups, and locally grown herbs. Guests can enjoy a line-up of live jazz and blues music every night from Tuesday to Saturday, and up to three bands play on weekends.
725 Iberville Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, Phone: 504-378-7330
11.New Orleans Glassworks & Printmaking Studio
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The New Orleans Glassworks & Printmaking Studio features a gallery of glass works and prints, open working studios where visitors can watch nationally and internationally renowned artists at work, and free, hands-on daily demonstrations. Located in the American Sector on celebrated Magazine Street, the studio offers mini-workshops where visitor can learn to blow their own glass and short courses on glass and printmaking.
The studio also provides instruction in glass torchworking and copper enameling, and stained glass programs are available for all ages and areas of interest.
727 Magazine Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
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12.Sylvain, New Orleans, LA
Sylvain is an old-world bistro steeped in the rich history and tradition of New Orleans. Located in a three-story carriage house overlooking St. Louis Cathedral, the restaurant has been beautifully renovated into a stylish and sophisticated space with a warm ambiance.
A roguish copper bar is the focal point of the elegant gastropub, and it serves an array of handcrafted cocktails, signature beers, and boutique wines. The restaurant, on the other hand, serves a simple yet sophisticated menu of appetizers, salads, entrées, and desserts, along with classic sandwiches, burgers, seafood, and pasta.
If you are looking for romantic date night ideas in New Orleans, this is a great place to try.
Well-worn wooden floors, a tucked away side alley entrance, and ambient lighting emanating from the street lamps and candles create a sultry, yet cozy atmosphere that has visitors returning time and again.
625 Chartres St, New Orleans, Louisiana, Phone: 504-265-8123
13.High Hat Cafe
© High Hat Cafe
Open seven days a week from brunch until dinner, the High Hat Cafe is a casual neighborhood eatery serving food from Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta. Located in the old Long’s Bakery building, the restaurant features a menu consisting of dishes made with locally sourced, sustainable ingredients such as American farm-raised catfish, which is a menu favorite, and locally caught shrimp and fish.
The High Hat Café offers a full bar service with an impressive wine list of local and international vintages, local craft beers, and a range of signature, handcrafted cocktails and spirits.
4500 Freret Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, Phone: 504-754-1336
14.Modernist Cuisine Gallery
© Modernist Cuisine Gallery
Modernist Cuisine Gallery features the artwork of photographer Nathan Myhrvold. It is the world’s first gallery completely dedicated to food photography created by a single artist. The gallery walls are covered by large-scale pieces made to order for each client’s space and cannot be found anywhere else. The gallery is located in a beautifully preserved historic building that once housed furniture by the designer Prudent Mallard and was for a time the home of writer E. Hoffman Price. In the heart of French Quarter, surrounded by other art galleries and New Orleans’ famous restaurants, Modernist Cuisine Gallery is in the right neighborhood.
305 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130, Phone: 504-571-5157
15.MoPho, New Orleans, LA
Southeast Asia meets Louisiana at MOPHO on City Park Avenue. Combining a delicate fusion of Vietnamese and Louisiana cuisine, Chef and co-owner Michael Gulotta has created a menu featuring po-boys, pho, rice and noodle bowls, and the ever-popular sweet-crispy-salty chicken wings.
The drinks menu is as “off-beat” as the food menu, and it offers cocktails that include cooking ingredients, such as tamarind-honey syrup, as well as a range of medium-bodied white wines to offset the Southeast Asian spices. Dark spaces and exposed ductwork in the dining room create a svelte, rather cool ambiance, and a shaded back patio is great for outdoor dining on warm evenings. MoPho is open for lunch and dinner, Wednesday to Monday.
514 City Park Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana, Phone: 504-482-6845
More things to see: New Orleans Jazz Park
© Pizza Delicious
One of New Orleans’ best pizza restaurants, Pizza Delicious is a comfortable, family-friendly neighborhood hotspot ideal for a hot date or a family feast. Owned and managed by Michael Friedman and Greg Augarten, Pizza Delicious, also known as Pizza D, offers several daily specials, including homemade spaghetti, bucatini carbonara, and a variety of pizzas, including everyday favorites like cheese, pepperoni, and Margherita pizzas.
Diners can enjoy pizza by the slice or as a whole pie and an uncomplicated menu of wines and beers are available to accompany the food.
617 Piety Street, New Orleans, LA, Phone: 504-676-8482
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Experience New Orleans from a different perspective on a Kayak-iti-Yat tour. Kayak-iti-Yat offers a range of kayaking tours through the city on the historic bayous of Bienvenue and St. John. Glide through the historic waterways of New Orleans and take in the city’s most beautiful sights and attractions, stunning natural scenery, and exciting wildlife along the way.
Kayak-iti-Yat offers three tours of different levels to cater to every level of physical fitness and kayaking experience. There are two urban-based trips along Bayou St. John, which gives paddlers a feel for the city, and one in Bayou Bienvenue, a wilder and more nature-based experience for adventure-lovers. Kayak-iti-Yat offers year-round kayaking tours which need to be booked in advance.
3494 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans, LA, Phone: 985-778-5034 or 512-964-9499
SoBou is a popular eatery and lounge designed as a modern Creole saloon located in the W New Orleans hotel in the French Quarter’s SoBou (South of Bourbon) neighborhood. The place is famous for its inventive cocktails and elevated pub grub with a Creole touch and produced by Chef Juan Carlos Gonzales. Try his sweet potato beignets or yellowfin tuna tartar with basil and avocado. While the service is excellent, if you’d rather not wait for the refill of your beer of wine, choose one of the tables in the restaurant’s beer garden, which has built-in wine and beer on tap so you can serve yourself. There is always something going on at SoBou, so check out their list of events for the next jazz evening or Burlesque Brunch.
French Quarter, Rue Chartres, New Orleans, LA 70130, Phone: 504-552-4095
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19.Brown Butter Restaurant
© Brown Butter Restaurant
Brown Butter Restaurant is a locally owned and operated eatery that offers a creative menu rooted in Southern culture and tradition. Located in Mid-City New Orleans, the restaurant was founded by Chef Dayne Womax and Simon Beck, who wanted to provide New Orleanians with “food that is both thought-provoking and consistently delicious.”
They serve their dynamic cuisine in a casual and relaxed atmosphere. Dishes are made with the freshest seasonal and local ingredients to come out of the south, and the bar serves a range of delicious, signature cocktails, micro-brewed beers, and in-house sodas. Brown Butter Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, and the bar serves small plates and drinks.
231 North Carrollton Avenue Suite C, New Orleans, LA, Phone: 504-609-3871
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20.Mardi Gras World Tour
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Mardi Gras World Tour offers a behind-the-scenes look at the world of Mardi Gras on a fantastic one-day tour of the Blaine Kern Studios, which is world-renowned for building magnificent parade floats for Mardi Gras and other parades all over the world. Knowledgeable guides lead visitors through the vast studios, sharing the history of the unique and festive tradition of Mardi Gras.
Tour goers will gain a better understanding of the planning and work that goes into the annual parade. Visitors get to see how the massive floats and props are built and can explore the art behind the costume making before enjoying a complimentary slice of King Cake. Tours are offered seven days a week and run every 30 minutes.
1380 Port of New Orleans Place, New Orleans, LA, Phone: 504-507-9319
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Balise is a new restaurant recently opened by Justin Devillier, well-known chef of the uptown restaurant La Petite Grocery, and it features an innovative menu of New American cuisine. Located in the vibrant Warehouse District, the restaurant is housed in an elegant two-story bar and parlor and is open for lunch, dinner, and drinks. The menu offers a range of small cold plates such as venison tartare, and they are prepared in an open garden manger kitchen.
The restaurant also offers other dishes of sublime cuisine like the Brussel sprouts chicken wings and several tempting desserts. Ace bar director Jesse Carr creates a seductive range of signature cocktails, and the bar also offers an impressive list of wine and craft beers.
640 Carondelet Street, New Orleans, LA, Phone: 504-459-4449
22.The Where Y'Art Gallery
© The Where Y'Art Gallery
Located in the historic Faubourg Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans, The Where Y'Art is a unique art gallery with satellite galleries across the city where visitors can discover, buy, and experience the best of New Orleans art. It is also an online gallery that represents more than 100 New Orleans artists – painters, sculptors, craftsmen, and jewelry designers. The Where Y'Art Gallery helps visitors get the curated picture of the rich art offering of New Orleans, and it offers artists the opportunity to connect with buyers and art lovers. The online gallery offers 24-hour access to New Orleans art and information about the artists behind each piece. It allows art lovers to search artworks by category, collection, color, price, or neighborhood. It directly connects potential buyers with participating artists and provides information on the latest trends in the art world of New Orleans.
1901 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70117, Phone: 504-325-5672
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23.Bevi Seafood Co.
© Bevi Seafood Co.
Bevi Seafood Co.
is a neighborhood seafood market and restaurant that serves seasonal dishes according to the traditions associated with New Orleans' crawfish, crab, shrimp, and oyster seasons. Located in Metairie and soon to be located in Mid-City, Bevi Seafood Co. works closely with local seafood suppliers to ensure their seafood is sea-smacking fresh.
Menus feature made-from-scratch Po-Boys using homemade ingredients and a variety of hot plates and platters laden with fresh Louisiana seafood. The menu also features specialty-to-go items such as various soups, salads, and sauces, and it also caters special occasions and private events.
236 Carrollton Ave., New Orleans, LA, Phone: 504-488-7503
24.Audubon Nature Institute
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The Audubon Nature Institute was established to celebrate the wonders of the natural world through a variety of museums and parks dedicated to nature. The aim of the institute is to preserve Louisiana’s natural habitats and exhibit the diversity of wildlife that live within them, as well as encourage and inspire visitors to learn more about the natural world and to work towards conserving it.
There are eight museums and parks that make up the Audubon Nature Institute: the Audubon Park and Riverview, the Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, the Audubon Zoo, the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, Audubon Wilderness Park, Woldenberg Riverfront Park, the Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, and the Entergy IMAX Theater.
6500 Magazine St. New Orleans, New Orleans, LA, Phone: 800-774-7394
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© Commander's Palace
Occupying the spectacular blue mansion snuggled in the middle of the historic Garden District and shaded by 100-year old trees, Commander’s Palace is one of New Orleans’ most venerated restaurants, and it has been in operation since 1880. Grand, elegant rooms, terraces, and gardens are spread throughout the palace.
Commander’s Palace is the place for celebrations and festivities, and this New Orleans’ icon will give you one of the best culinary experiences of your life. Executive Chef Tory McPhail continues the tradition of world-renowned chefs like Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse, and Jamie Shannon to provide guests with superbly prepared and expertly presented Haute Creole cuisine. The wine list has 2,400 titles, with 240 half-bottles and 50 wines by the glass.
1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130, New Orleans, LA, Phone: 504-899-8221
25 Best Things to Do in New Orleans
- The French Quarter, Photo: Courtesy of Fotoluminate LLC - Fotolia.com
- New Orleans Garden District, Photo: Courtesy of Natalia Bratslavsky - Fotolia.com
- New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park, Photo: Courtesy of 1L26 - Fotolia.com
- New Orleans Museum of Art, Photo: New Orleans Museum of Art
- The Historic New Orleans Collection, Photo: The Historic New Orleans Collection
- The Spotted Cat Music Club, Photo: Courtesy of Zsolt Biczó - Fotolia.com
- Maison Bourbon, Photo: Courtesy of GeoffGoldswain - Fotolia.com
- FreeWheelin' Bike Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Hayes - Fotolia.com
- New Orleans School of Cooking, Photo: Courtesy of zadorozhna - Fotolia.com
- 21st Amendment at La Louisiane, Photo: 21st Amendment at La Louisiane
- New Orleans Glassworks & Printmaking Studio, Photo: Courtesy of wip-studio - Fotolia.com
- Sylvain, New Orleans, LA, Photo: Sylvain
- High Hat Cafe, Photo: High Hat Cafe
- Modernist Cuisine Gallery, Photo: Modernist Cuisine Gallery
- MoPho, New Orleans, LA, Photo: MoPho
- Pizza Delicious, Photo: Pizza Delicious
- Kayak-iti-Yat, Photo: Courtesy of upslim - Fotolia.com
- SoBou, Photo: SoBou
- Brown Butter Restaurant, Photo: Brown Butter Restaurant
- Mardi Gras World Tour, Photo: Courtesy of David - Fotolia.com
- Balise, Photo: Balise
- The Where Y'Art Gallery, Photo: The Where Y'Art Gallery
- Bevi Seafood Co., Photo: Bevi Seafood Co.
- Audubon Nature Institute, Photo: Courtesy of Patrick Rolands - Fotolia.com
- Commander's Palace, Photo: Commander's Palace
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Calee Allen - Fotolia.com
City Park is one of the nation’s oldest urban parks, and it is home to beautiful botanical and sculpture gardens with ancient oaks and picturesque moss canopies, walking and biking trails, tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course, and several outdoor concert venues. Established in 1854, the charming 1,300-acre urban oasis has enchanted visitors to the city for decades, offering something for everyone. Stroll through the Besthoff Sculpture Garden or the beautifully maintained colletions of the Botanical Garden. You can also enjoy a game of tennis on one of 26 tennis courts or ride a “flying horse” on the one-of-a-kind antique wooden carousel in the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park.
1 Palm Drive, New Orleans, Louisiana, Phone: 504-482-4888