New Orleans Travel Guide

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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 WWII 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

Updated March 15, 2019

  • #1
    Frenchmen Street
    View all Photos
    #1 in New Orleans
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, Wineries/Breweries, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Shopping, Wineries/Breweries, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    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. If you don't consider yourself a night owl, the Palace Market (open daily 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.) is a shopping haven where locals sell homemade art and jewelry.

    ...Read More »
  • #2
    French Quarter
    View all Photos
    #2 in New Orleans
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you want to experience New Orleans properly, it's best to begin your tour here. Recent visitors said the neighborhood is lively, with lots to do and see and offers a one-of-a-kind experience. 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, Faulkner House Books 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.

    ...Read More »
  • #3
    Garden District
    View all Photos
    #3 in New Orleans
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    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. Visitors rave about the beautiful houses and architecture. Some 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 WWII Museum
    View all Photos
    #4 in New Orleans
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    You don't have to be a history buff to enjoy The National WWII Musuem, according to recent travelers. Having opened June 6, 2000 (the 56th anniversary of D-Day), the 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 cautioned that some of the displays may be too disturbing for children. Past visitors said 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
    New Orleans Swamp Tours
    View all Photos
    #5 in New Orleans
    Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    ...Read More »
  • #6
    Cemetery Tours
    View all Photos
    #6 in New Orleans
    Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Some of New Orleans' must-see 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.

    ...Read More »
  • #7
    St. Louis Cathedral
    View all Photos
    #7 in New Orleans
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    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, describing it as "beautiful inside and out."

    ...Read More »
  • #8
    The Cabildo
    View all Photos
    #8 in New Orleans
    Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    ...Read More »
  • #9
    New Orleans Museum of Art
    View all Photos
    #9 in New Orleans
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    ...Read More »
  • #10
    City Park
    View all Photos
    #10 in New Orleans
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    City Park offers a lovely respite from the city and is a great place to spend an afternoon, according to recent visitors. Take a nature stroll through the 12-acre New Orleans Botanical Garden (which boasts 2,000 different varieties 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. Past visitors suggested setting aside plenty of time to enjoy the park as it offers so much to do. Others appreciated that it was off the tourist radar, and thus a quiet place to spend a few hours.

    ...Read More »
  • #11
    Audubon Nature Institute
    View all Photos
    #11 in New Orleans
    Parks and Gardens, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Families on vacation should make some time to visit the Audubon Nature Institute. This massive facility is home to a zoo, an aquarium, and butterfly garden and insectarium, not to mention the Entergy Giant Screen Theater (included with aquarium admission) 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. Don't miss the gigantic sharks, tarpon and rays in the 400,000 gallon Gulf of Mexico exhibit at the aquarium and the newly expanded Jaguar Jungle exhibit in the zoo, where you can not only see jaguars, but bats, tree frogs, poison arrow frogs and much more.

    ...Read More »
  • #12
    Studio Be
    View all Photos
    #12 in New Orleans
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    A massive warehouse facility in the Bywater district of New Orleans, Studio Be is an eye-popping and illuminating display of public art. The creator, Brandan "BMike" Odums, collaborated with more than 40 other artists to create large murals and exhibits that explore activism, resistance and black American history. Most displays use spray paint and graffiti techniques, and the entire project took six months to complete. The expansive facility is 35,000 square feet, and it encompasses four buildings and up to five stories. It is the largest single-site public art exhibition in the American South, and it attracts visitors from all over the globe.

    ...Read More »
  • #13
    Longue Vue House and Gardens
    View all Photos
    #13 in New Orleans
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Museums, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Museums, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Longue Vue House and Gardens is a lush display of Southern elegance and history. The historic estate features a museum and an interactive Discovery Garden, and it also boasts 8 acres of gardens with local plant life. The elaborate four-story house was built in the mid-20th century, and it contains 20 separate rooms, a unique basement and a large collection of English and American antiques. Visitors can take a tour of the entire facility, and enjoy the modern art on display throughout the estate. If you love exploring outdoor gardens and seeing what local plant life is in bloom, you'll appreciate wandering the pathways at this attraction.

    ...Read More »
  • #14
    Chalmette Battlefield & Jean Lafitte National Park
    View all Photos
    #14 in New Orleans
    Monuments and Memorials, Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Parks and Gardens, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    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.

    ...Read More »
  • #15
    Steamboat Natchez
    View all Photos
    #15 in New Orleans
    Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The only steamboat in New Orleans, Steamboat Natchez launched in 1975 and is a traditional sternwheel steamboat that takes visitors on a tour of the Mississippi River. The tours aim to cultivate an atmosphere that transports guests to another era, with the captain shouting through a hand-held megaphone and old-time music lingering in the air. Steamboat Natchez offers a few tour options, including a dinner jazz cruise, a harbor jazz cruise, a Sunday jazz brunch cruise and select special event cruises. The tours last about two hours and include a concert, a narration of historical facts and an optional meal, and a gift shop and bar are also available on board. Indoor and outdoor seating on the boat is available.

    ...Read More »
  • #16
    New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
    View all Photos
    #16 in New Orleans
    Museums
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located in the the historic and buzzing French Quarter neighborhood of New Orleans, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum showcases the unique heritage of medicine and pharmaceuticals. The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, exhibits a mid-19th-century apothecary shop. It also has numerous antiques from this instrumental era in healthcare on display. Plus, the museum celebrates Louis J. Dufilho Jr. of Louisiana, who was America's first licensed pharmacist. Recent travelers called their experiences at this attraction informative and interesting, and they especially recommended the (adult-themed) guided tour.

    ...Read More »
  • #17
    Backstreet Cultural Museum
    View all Photos
    #17 in New Orleans
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of the best places to get a feel for the city's unique identity is at 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.

    ...Read More »
  • #18
    Louisiana Children's Museum
    View all Photos
    #18 in New Orleans
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    When people say that New Orleans isn't the best place to bring 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. Recent families called it a great place to play with lots of interesting interactive exhibits. The St. Charles Streetcar also stops nearby.

    ...Read More »
  • #19
    Mardi Gras World
    View all Photos
    #19 in New Orleans
    Museums, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Tours
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    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. 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. According to recent visitors, it's fascinating to see artists hard at work creating the floats. Just make sure to bring your camera: Before the tour, visitors are invited to try on authentic Mardi Gras costumes. After the tour, visitors are treated to a piece of king cake.

    ...Read More »
  • Kayak-iti-yat Kayaking Tours
    View all Photos
    Recreation, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Recreation, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • Doctor Gumbo Tours
    View all Photos
    Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

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