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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.

#1

#1 in New Orleans

Free
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.
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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. 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.
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#2

#2 in New Orleans

Free
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.
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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. 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.
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#3

#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. 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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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. 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

#4 in New Orleans

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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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
The National WWII Museum
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.
... more

#5

#5 in New Orleans

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
New Orleans Swamp Tours
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

#6 in New Orleans

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.
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Cemetery Tours
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.
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#7

#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, describing it as "beautiful inside and out."
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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, describing it as "beautiful inside and out."
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#8

#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.
... more

#9

#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.
... more

#10

#10 in New Orleans

Free
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.
... more
Parks and Gardens Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
City Park
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.
... more

#11

#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 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.
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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 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.
... more

#12

#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.
... more

#13

#13 in New Orleans

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.
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Sightseeing Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Steamboat Natchez
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.
... more

#14

#14 in New Orleans

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.
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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 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.
... more

#15

#15 in New Orleans

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.
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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 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.
... more

#16

#16 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. 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.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
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. 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.
... more

Recreation Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend

Tours Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend

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