New Orleans is a vibrant city on the Mississippi River, famous for its nightlife, unique inns, 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
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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.
520 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130, Phone: 504-523-4662
6. The Spotted Cat Music Club, New Orleans
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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
7. Maison Bourbon, New Orleans
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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, New Orleans
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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.
More ideas: New Orleans beaches
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
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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. Things to Do in New Orleans: Sylvain
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. Bourbon Orleans Hotel
© Bourbon Orleans Hotel
Guests looking for a historic luxury hotel with modern amenities will find it at Bourbon Orleans Hotel. Located in the French Quarter, this upscale hotel has been meticulously restored. Rooms come in three elegant styles featuring king, queen, and double beds. There are also five styles of suites. All rooms and suites include 42” TVs, MP3 docking stations, and complimentary Wi-Fi. Hotel amenities include valet parking, an outdoor saltwater pool, a fitness center, and their signature Bourbon “O” bar, and Roux on Orleans Creole Restaurant. The hotel is nestled between Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral, a half-block from famous Bourbon Street.
717 Orleans Street, New Orleans, LA, Phone: 504-523-2222
14. Hotel Mazarin, New Orleans
© Hotel Mazarin
Hotel Mazarin is located in the French Quarter one-half block from the jazz scene of Bourbon Street, and one-half block from the shopping of Royal Street. The 102 spacious rooms and suites cater to the savvy modern traveler. Guestrooms come in five styles – four with king beds and one with double queen beds. Rooms feature complimentary Wi-Fi, iPhone docking stations, walk-in showers, slippers and bathrobes, in-room safes, bottled water, daily newspaper, and coffeemakers. Three styles of suites – Petit, Presidential, and Fleur de Lis feature king beds balconies, faux fireplaces, and Keurig coffeemakers. Hotel amenities include complimentary deluxe breakfast, a fitness center, a business center, and their signature restaurant and bar – 21st Amendment Bar at La Louisiane and Patrick’s Bar Vin Wine Bar.
730 Bienville Street, New Orleans, LA, Phone: 504-581-7300
15. MoPho, New Orleans
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
16. Pizza Delicious, New Orleans
© 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
17. Things to Do in New Orleans: Kayak-iti-Yat
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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
18. Mardi Gras World Tour, New Orleans
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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: 504-361-7821
19. The Where Y'Art Gallery, New Orleans
© 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
20. Things to Do in New Orleans: 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
21. Things to Do in New Orleans: 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: 504-581-4629
22. Things to Do Near Me: Commander's Palace
© 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
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High Hat Cafe, New Orleans, Louisiana
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
Modernist Cuisine Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana
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
Best New Orleans Trolley Rides
New Orleans is an incredible city with a vibrant culture, never-ending nightlife, rich cuisine, and fascinating annual festivities. It's a must-visit Louisiana location, and there are a lot of things to do in New Orleans, so any visitors will need to be familiar with one of the most popular ways to get around the city quickly and easily: the New Orleans trolleys. Also known as streetcars or trams, the New Orleans trolleys run all around the city and have been in existence since the 1800s, making them one of the oldest trolley or streetcar systems in the entire world.
New Orleans Trolley Rides
Beloved by locals and tourists alike, the New Orleans trolleys provide a fresh, fun, original way to get around and see the sights, soaking up a little of the city's Creole culture on the way and enjoying convenient transportation at great rates. If you’ve never visited New Orleans or ridden the city’s trolleys before, you might need a little information to figure out how the system works, how much it costs, and which line you should be taking to get to where you need to go. Read on to learn all about the New Orleans trolley system.
First of all, one important thing to note about New Orleans trolleys is that the locals will always refer to them as 'streetcars'. They are basically trolleys, looking and functioning in the same way as the trolleys you'd find in other major cities all around the United States, but they're known as streetcars in New Orleans so if you need to ask for directions from a local, remember to ask for a streetcar station if you don't want to sound too much like a tourist!
The New Orleans trolleys run on five separate lines which are color coded on maps as blue, yellow, red, light green, and dark green. Each line also has its own names. There's the Riverfront Line, which is blue on maps; the Loyola/Rampart Line, which is yellow; the Canal St Line running to Cemeteries, which is red; the Canal St Line running to the City Park Avenue and the Museum of Art, which is light green; and finally, there's the St Charles Line, which is dark green on travel maps and is typically regarded as the main and most popular line on the New Orleans trolley system.
It's important to note that the New Orleans trolleys run around the clock almost all year long. This schedule is only interrupted by special events and festivities like New Orleans' famous Mardi Gras celebrations. Train schedules will vary but the trolleys can run as often as every five minutes during peak rush hours. It's important to keep your hands and legs inside the vehicle at all times as these trolleys can pass quite close to trees and other obstacles, and you'll need to pull a wire above your head to signal that you'd like the car to stop.
Riding the New Orleans trolleys or streetcars is very simple. The fares are really cheap, with single tickets available for only $1.25. Unlike some other trolley systems that you may have encountered around the United States, the New Orleans streetcar system involves payment on board the cars, so you don't need to worry about buying a ticket from machines in advance. Simply step on and pay your $1.25 for a one-way ticket. You can also choose to buy a 'Jazzy' pass which will give you full streetcar access for a whole day. Multi-day passes are available too and offer significant savings for people who are staying in New Orleans for several days or weeks.
New Orleans Trolley Lines
As previously mentioned, there are currently five lines in operation on the New Orleans trolley system. Read on to learn key details about each line, including schedules and important stops along the way.
- St. Charles Line
The St. Charles Line is the longest and most historic in New Orleans. It's the oldest continuously operating street trolley anywhere in the world, so it has a lot of history behind it, and it runs through the 'American' side of the city. It's one of the most popular lines with tourists, making major stops at places like the Garden District, the Audubon Zoo, the World War 2 Museum, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
- Loyola/Rampart Line
The Loyola/Rampart Line starts at Union Passenger Terminal, so it's a good starting point for people who are getting into New Orleans by public transport like bus or train. It heads off along the side of the French Quarter and through the business district of the city. It offers easy access to some of the bars and eateries in the French side of the city.
As its name suggests, the Riverfront line runs along the side of the Mississippi River. It's a good line to choose if you're looking to visit key areas in the French District like the French Market. You can also use this trolley line to check out locations like Jackson Square, the Convention Center, and the Audubon Aquarium.
- Canal Lines
The two canal lines have different end points but follow more or less the same routes. These lines are good options for people who want to enjoy the bars and restaurants of Canal Street itself. The line that heads up to Cemeteries is a good option if you'd like to explore the city's world-famous gravesites, while the Museum option is a good option for the New Orleans Museum of Art and surrounding City Park area.
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 collections 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