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Best Things To Do in New Orleans

Nightlife and rolling good times are the main attractions, with Bourbon Street's plentiful live-music clubs of nearly every style. Tours of the French Quarter or the Garden District will easily fill the day of those who love to stroll, while Chalmette Battlefield and The National World War II Museum pack in the amateur historians. For a unique glimpse of the Crescent City's culture, explore one of the famous cemeteries or pay a visit to the Backstreet Cultural Museum. When it comes time for souvenir shopping, check out the antiques stores along Magazine Street in the Garden District. 

How we rank Things to Do.

#1 Frenchmen Street

#1 in New Orleans

If you want an authentic New Orleans experience more removed from the touristy areas of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, head to the lively Frenchmen Street. A popular spot for locals, Frenchmen Street is a four-block stretch of live music, bars, restaurants, night clubs and art galleries. Here, not only will you find fewer crowds (albeit not by much), but you'll also encounter cheaper eats and drinks, and better music — it's kind of like Bourbon Street's hipper, trendier cousin. And if you're not into nightlife that's OK, too, because the Frenchmen Art Market (open daily 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.) is a shopping haven where locals sell homemade art and jewelry.
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Entertainment and Nightlife Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Frenchmen Street
If you want an authentic New Orleans experience more removed from the touristy areas of Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, head to the lively Frenchmen Street. A popular spot for locals, Frenchmen Street is a four-block stretch of live music, bars, restaurants, night clubs and art galleries. Here, not only will you find fewer crowds (albeit not by much), but you'll also encounter cheaper eats and drinks, and better music — it's kind of like Bourbon Street's hipper, trendier cousin. And if you're not into nightlife that's OK, too, because the Frenchmen Art Market (open daily 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.) is a shopping haven where locals sell homemade art and jewelry.
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#2 French Quarter

#2 in New Orleans

Free
If you want to experience New Orleans properly, it's best to begin your tour here. As one TripAdvisor user put it, "You cannot visit New Orleans without making a stop in the French Quarter." The neighborhood, also known as Vieux Carré, is the heart and soul of this city, and it's also a National Historic Landmark. As the site of the original New Orleans colony (established by the French in 1718), the French Quarter has held on to its heritage, complete with street names that are still listed in French. Wander the narrow cobblestone streets to find such attractions as Jackson Square, the Faulkner House and the Cabildo. While you're strolling, pay attention to the neighborhood's architecture: balconies are designed with baroque ironwork and hanging plants, while leafy courtyards are filled with bubbling fountains. The scene is definitely charming, but it can also be expensive if you choose to stay at any of the French Quarter's hotels.
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Neighborhood/Area Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
French Quarter
If you want to experience New Orleans properly, it's best to begin your tour here. As one TripAdvisor user put it, "You cannot visit New Orleans without making a stop in the French Quarter." The neighborhood, also known as Vieux Carré, is the heart and soul of this city, and it's also a National Historic Landmark. As the site of the original New Orleans colony (established by the French in 1718), the French Quarter has held on to its heritage, complete with street names that are still listed in French. Wander the narrow cobblestone streets to find such attractions as Jackson Square, the Faulkner House and the Cabildo. While you're strolling, pay attention to the neighborhood's architecture: balconies are designed with baroque ironwork and hanging plants, while leafy courtyards are filled with bubbling fountains. The scene is definitely charming, but it can also be expensive if you choose to stay at any of the French Quarter's hotels.
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#3 Garden District

#3 in New Orleans

Free
Take a walking tour of the Garden District (located a little less than 3 miles southwest of the French Quarter) for a peek at some of the city's most beautiful homes. Like its name suggests, this historic residential neighborhood is laden with trees, ivy, and yes, gardens."It's a great place to wander around the streets and appreciate the architecture," one TripAdvisor reviewer said. Some visitors even preferred the Garden District over Bourbon Street, citing the peaceful atmosphere and well-preserved properties as a much needed break from the city's crowded tourist spots.
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Parks and Gardens Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Garden District
Take a walking tour of the Garden District (located a little less than 3 miles southwest of the French Quarter) for a peek at some of the city's most beautiful homes. Like its name suggests, this historic residential neighborhood is laden with trees, ivy, and yes, gardens."It's a great place to wander around the streets and appreciate the architecture," one TripAdvisor reviewer said. Some visitors even preferred the Garden District over Bourbon Street, citing the peaceful atmosphere and well-preserved properties as a much needed break from the city's crowded tourist spots.
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#4 The National World War II Museum (National D-Day Museum)

#4 in New Orleans

You don't have to be a history buff to enjoy The National World War II Musuem, according to recent travelers. "This will move you," one TripAdvisor reviewer noted. Having opened June 6, 2000 (the 56th anniversary of D-Day), the National World War II Museum houses an impressive collection of artifacts and educational films documenting all aspects of the war, from D-Day to the war in the Pacific to the Holocaust. The brainchild of Stephen Ambrose — a best-selling author and consultant on the film "Saving Private Ryan" — the museum also features oral recantations of civilians' and soldiers' experiences throughout the early 1940s. The museum offers a unique educational experience, though recent travelers caution that some of the displays may be too disturbing for children. Visitors say you can't leave without watching the "Beyond All Boundaries" 4-D movie, narrated by the film's executive producer, Tom Hanks.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
The National World War II Museum (National D-Day Museum)
You don't have to be a history buff to enjoy The National World War II Musuem, according to recent travelers. "This will move you," one TripAdvisor reviewer noted. Having opened June 6, 2000 (the 56th anniversary of D-Day), the National World War II Museum houses an impressive collection of artifacts and educational films documenting all aspects of the war, from D-Day to the war in the Pacific to the Holocaust. The brainchild of Stephen Ambrose — a best-selling author and consultant on the film "Saving Private Ryan" — the museum also features oral recantations of civilians' and soldiers' experiences throughout the early 1940s. The museum offers a unique educational experience, though recent travelers caution that some of the displays may be too disturbing for children. Visitors say you can't leave without watching the "Beyond All Boundaries" 4-D movie, narrated by the film's executive producer, Tom Hanks.
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#5 Swamp Tours

#5 in New Orleans

The Louisiana bayous hold a special place in New Orleans locals' hearts. Stretching from Houston to Mobile, Alabama, the Bayou Country played a crucial role in the development of the United States in terms of communication and transportation. In fact, there would be no New Orleans without the bayous, so you owe it to yourself to take a swamp tour. Noel Minturn, a concierge at the Windsor Court Hotel for 25 years, said the swamp tours are a truly unique aspect of the city. "There are a number of companies that go out on either airboats or flatboats out into the swamps and you learn all about the ecology, the wildlife [and] how people live out there," Minturn said.
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Natural Wonders Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Swamp Tours
The Louisiana bayous hold a special place in New Orleans locals' hearts. Stretching from Houston to Mobile, Alabama, the Bayou Country played a crucial role in the development of the United States in terms of communication and transportation. In fact, there would be no New Orleans without the bayous, so you owe it to yourself to take a swamp tour. Noel Minturn, a concierge at the Windsor Court Hotel for 25 years, said the swamp tours are a truly unique aspect of the city. "There are a number of companies that go out on either airboats or flatboats out into the swamps and you learn all about the ecology, the wildlife [and] how people live out there," Minturn said.
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#6 Cemetery Tours

#6 in New Orleans

Some of New Orleans' must-see (albeit morbid) attractions are its cemeteries. Many of the tombs found in these "cities of the dead" are above ground to protect them from rising water levels, and they're embellished with ornate designs inspired by French and Spanish architecture. Though the city's older cemeteries are admittedly dilapidated, with crumbled tombs and patchy grass, the decaying grounds add to the ghostly atmosphere.
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Cemetery Tours
Some of New Orleans' must-see (albeit morbid) attractions are its cemeteries. Many of the tombs found in these "cities of the dead" are above ground to protect them from rising water levels, and they're embellished with ornate designs inspired by French and Spanish architecture. Though the city's older cemeteries are admittedly dilapidated, with crumbled tombs and patchy grass, the decaying grounds add to the ghostly atmosphere.
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#7 St. Louis Cathedral

#7 in New Orleans

Free
As the centerpiece of the French Quarter, St. Louis Cathedral is one of New Orleans' most recognizable landmarks. The oldest cathedral in North America, St. Louis Cathedral was originally built in the early 1700s. The structure standing today is actually the third cathedral built on this spot, since the first two were destroyed. Religious services are still held here, as well as numerous cultural events, including free concerts. Even if you're not interested in attending a service, past visitors urge you to take a peek inside. "A beautiful piece of unique religious architecture in the middle of the French Quarter. Definitely worth walking through," one TripAdvisor user noted.
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Churches/Religious Sites Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
St. Louis Cathedral
As the centerpiece of the French Quarter, St. Louis Cathedral is one of New Orleans' most recognizable landmarks. The oldest cathedral in North America, St. Louis Cathedral was originally built in the early 1700s. The structure standing today is actually the third cathedral built on this spot, since the first two were destroyed. Religious services are still held here, as well as numerous cultural events, including free concerts. Even if you're not interested in attending a service, past visitors urge you to take a peek inside. "A beautiful piece of unique religious architecture in the middle of the French Quarter. Definitely worth walking through," one TripAdvisor user noted.
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#8 The Cabildo

#8 in New Orleans

Flanking Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter, the Cabildo was originally constructed in 1799 (when New Orleans was under Spanish rule), as the seat of the Spanish government. Later on, it was here that the Louisiana Purchase took place and after that, this Spanish-style building served as city hall and the Supreme Court. Today, the Cabildo is home to a three-floor branch of the Louisiana State Museum, which recounts Louisiana history with the help of Native American objects, Colonial-era paintings, and even Napoleon Bonaparte's death mask. Visitors can also see the room where the Louisiana Purchase was finalized. If you're interested in more recent history, you'll find that at the Cabildo, too. An entire floor is devoted to Hurricane Katrina — the 2005 storm that left New Orleans and surrounding regions devastated. Within the exhibit you'll find multimedia displays and artifacts collected during the cleanup of both Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
The Cabildo
Flanking Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter, the Cabildo was originally constructed in 1799 (when New Orleans was under Spanish rule), as the seat of the Spanish government. Later on, it was here that the Louisiana Purchase took place and after that, this Spanish-style building served as city hall and the Supreme Court. Today, the Cabildo is home to a three-floor branch of the Louisiana State Museum, which recounts Louisiana history with the help of Native American objects, Colonial-era paintings, and even Napoleon Bonaparte's death mask. Visitors can also see the room where the Louisiana Purchase was finalized. If you're interested in more recent history, you'll find that at the Cabildo, too. An entire floor is devoted to Hurricane Katrina — the 2005 storm that left New Orleans and surrounding regions devastated. Within the exhibit you'll find multimedia displays and artifacts collected during the cleanup of both Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
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#9 New Orleans Museum of Art

#9 in New Orleans

Since opening in 1911, the New Orleans Museum of Art (known simply as "NOMA") has assembled more than 40,000 works of art­ — an impressive compilation considering the museum opened with only nine pieces. NOMA's vast collection ranges from early Asian works to European masterpieces from the 16th to 20th centuries. While here, be sure to stroll through the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden — located adjacent to the museum in City Park. Among the park's Spanish-moss covered live oaks, you'll find 64 sculptures designed by artists from around the world.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
New Orleans Museum of Art
Since opening in 1911, the New Orleans Museum of Art (known simply as "NOMA") has assembled more than 40,000 works of art­ — an impressive compilation considering the museum opened with only nine pieces. NOMA's vast collection ranges from early Asian works to European masterpieces from the 16th to 20th centuries. While here, be sure to stroll through the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden — located adjacent to the museum in City Park. Among the park's Spanish-moss covered live oaks, you'll find 64 sculptures designed by artists from around the world.
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#10 City Park

#10 in New Orleans

Free
Although it was hit rather hard by Hurricane Katrina (95 percent of the park sat in floodwaters for weeks), recent visitors insist that City Park is almost as good as new, and a great place to spend an afternoon. Take a nature stroll through the 12-acre New Orleans Botanical Garden (which boasts 2,000 different varities of plants) or peruse the art hanging in the New Orleans Museum of Art. And while New Orleans isn't generally classified as kid-friendly, City Park has several diversions for your young ones, including Storyland (home to giant storybook and fairy-tale characters, and an antique carousel) and the Train Garden. Sprawling across 1,300 acres, the expansive City Park features 26 tennis courts, 12 soccer fields, two football stadiums and an 18-hole golf course. Aside from all of the park's recreational facilities, it's also home to the world's largest grove of mature live oaks, including the Anseman Oak and McDonogh Oak — both believed to be between 600 and 900 years old.
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Parks and Gardens Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
City Park
Although it was hit rather hard by Hurricane Katrina (95 percent of the park sat in floodwaters for weeks), recent visitors insist that City Park is almost as good as new, and a great place to spend an afternoon. Take a nature stroll through the 12-acre New Orleans Botanical Garden (which boasts 2,000 different varities of plants) or peruse the art hanging in the New Orleans Museum of Art. And while New Orleans isn't generally classified as kid-friendly, City Park has several diversions for your young ones, including Storyland (home to giant storybook and fairy-tale characters, and an antique carousel) and the Train Garden. Sprawling across 1,300 acres, the expansive City Park features 26 tennis courts, 12 soccer fields, two football stadiums and an 18-hole golf course. Aside from all of the park's recreational facilities, it's also home to the world's largest grove of mature live oaks, including the Anseman Oak and McDonogh Oak — both believed to be between 600 and 900 years old.
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#11 Audubon Nature Institute

#11 in New Orleans

Families on vacation should make some time to visit the Audubon Nature Institute. This massive facility is home to a zoo, an aquarium, and an insectarium, not to mention an IMAX Theater and a golf course. Special kid-friendly exhibits feed curious minds while allowing little ones to get up close and personal with their favorite furry (or scaly or slimy) friends. You can also watch daily feedings or sit in on numerous lectures and films about the environment.
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Parks and Gardens Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Audubon Nature Institute
Families on vacation should make some time to visit the Audubon Nature Institute. This massive facility is home to a zoo, an aquarium, and an insectarium, not to mention an IMAX Theater and a golf course. Special kid-friendly exhibits feed curious minds while allowing little ones to get up close and personal with their favorite furry (or scaly or slimy) friends. You can also watch daily feedings or sit in on numerous lectures and films about the environment.
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#12 Chalmette Battlefield & Jean Lafitte National Park

#12 in New Orleans

Free
Chalmette Battlefield — the site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans — is just 6 miles east of New Orleans along the Mississippi River. As many history buffs know, this battle never should have taken place. The War of 1812 ended two weeks before British and American troops stormed the field, but word had not yet reached Congress, the British general or Andrew Jackson — commander of the American troops. Today, Chalmette Battlefield displays historical markers that help visitors trace the history of the Battle of New Orleans. You can also pay your respects to those that fell at the national cemetery, which can be found on the grounds.
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Monuments and Memorials Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Chalmette Battlefield & Jean Lafitte National Park
Chalmette Battlefield — the site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans — is just 6 miles east of New Orleans along the Mississippi River. As many history buffs know, this battle never should have taken place. The War of 1812 ended two weeks before British and American troops stormed the field, but word had not yet reached Congress, the British general or Andrew Jackson — commander of the American troops. Today, Chalmette Battlefield displays historical markers that help visitors trace the history of the Battle of New Orleans. You can also pay your respects to those that fell at the national cemetery, which can be found on the grounds.
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#13 Backstreet Cultural Museum

#13 in New Orleans

One of the best places to get a feel for the city's unique identity is the Backstreet Cultural Museum. This off-the-beaten-path attraction was established by local photographer and history buff, Sylvester Francis. Visit his museum to view an eclectic collection of costumes, memorabilia, photographs, films and other artifacts related to African American culture. Fans of HBO's "Treme" may also recognize the museum from its brief cameo in the series.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Backstreet Cultural Museum
One of the best places to get a feel for the city's unique identity is the Backstreet Cultural Museum. This off-the-beaten-path attraction was established by local photographer and history buff, Sylvester Francis. Visit his museum to view an eclectic collection of costumes, memorabilia, photographs, films and other artifacts related to African American culture. Fans of HBO's "Treme" may also recognize the museum from its brief cameo in the series.
... more

#14 Louisiana Children's Museum

#14 in New Orleans

When people say that New Orleans isn't the best place to bring the kids, they're forgetting about the Louisiana Children's Museum. Yes, Bourbon Street may be too rowdy, but this two-story facility is a playtopia in disguise. The museum features hands-on exhibits that cover everything from body mechanics to architecture. The museum also hosts numerous special events, from near daily story times to holiday-related activities. Many travelers agree that this is a must-do with younger kids, especially on days when everyone needs a break from the heat and humidity. However, some recent visitors mention the admission price was a little steep for the shabby nature of some of the exhibits. Travelers also warn that you'll have to pay for parking, either at nearby lots ($5) or in metered spots on the street. The St. Charles Streetcar also stops nearby.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Louisiana Children's Museum
When people say that New Orleans isn't the best place to bring the kids, they're forgetting about the Louisiana Children's Museum. Yes, Bourbon Street may be too rowdy, but this two-story facility is a playtopia in disguise. The museum features hands-on exhibits that cover everything from body mechanics to architecture. The museum also hosts numerous special events, from near daily story times to holiday-related activities. Many travelers agree that this is a must-do with younger kids, especially on days when everyone needs a break from the heat and humidity. However, some recent visitors mention the admission price was a little steep for the shabby nature of some of the exhibits. Travelers also warn that you'll have to pay for parking, either at nearby lots ($5) or in metered spots on the street. The St. Charles Streetcar also stops nearby.
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#15 Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World

#15 in New Orleans

Even if you're not in town for the actual festival, don't miss your chance to go behind the scenes of one of America's most renowned (and most raucous) celebrations. Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World offers a close-up look at some of the flamboyant floats and costumes used during New Orleans' famous party. One thing to know upfront: This isn't a museum — it's a warehouse workshop where current floats are in the process of being completed and old floats are stored. Take the guided tour through the maze of props or sit in on one of the multimedia presentations to learn more about the festival’s history. Just make sure to bring your camera: Before the tour, visitors are invited to try on authentic Mardi Gras costumes.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World
Even if you're not in town for the actual festival, don't miss your chance to go behind the scenes of one of America's most renowned (and most raucous) celebrations. Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World offers a close-up look at some of the flamboyant floats and costumes used during New Orleans' famous party. One thing to know upfront: This isn't a museum — it's a warehouse workshop where current floats are in the process of being completed and old floats are stored. Take the guided tour through the maze of props or sit in on one of the multimedia presentations to learn more about the festival’s history. Just make sure to bring your camera: Before the tour, visitors are invited to try on authentic Mardi Gras costumes.
... more

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