New Orleans, a city pulsating with culture, history, and an unmatchable festive spirit, stands as a beacon of unique experiences ranging from its world-renowned cuisine to its vibrant music scene.

Known as the birthplace of jazz, the city’s streets echo with the sounds of musicians and performers, especially in neighborhoods like the French Quarter and Marigny. 

With a population that embraces its French, Spanish, and American heritage, New Orleans offers a kaleidoscope of activities, attractions, and traditions that blend to create an atmosphere where every moment feels like a celebration. 

In 2023, New Orleans attracted over 19 million visitors, drawn by its famous Mardi Gras celebrations, incredible dining experiences, and rich historical sites.

The city is not just a place to visit; it’s an experience to be lived, with each corner offering new delights in food, music, and art.

Whether you’re exploring the historic streets, sampling breakfast in New Orleans, or enjoying a night out at some of the bars in New Orleans, this city promises an enriching and exhilarating adventure.

In this article, we will explore the same best things to do in New Orleans.

Table of Content

1. French Quarter

French Quarter

The French Quarter, known as the heart and soul of New Orleans, is where you’ll find a vibrant mix of history, music, and culinary excellence.

This historic area is famed for its stunning colonial architecture, lively Bourbon Street, and the serene beauty of Jackson Square. 

To truly appreciate the quieter, more historic side of the French Quarter, visit early in the morning when the streets are less crowded.

It is truly one of the top tourist attractions in New Orleans. 

The French Quarter offers an immersive experience of New Orleans’ rich cultural vibe, with endless shops, art galleries, and cafes set among historic homes.

Highlights include the lively street performances, the open-air artist colony around Jackson Square, and iconic eateries like Café du Monde.

Pro Tip: 

Visit early morning to enjoy the architecture and quieter moments before the crowds.

Type of Attraction: 

Historic District, Cultural Experience

Time to Spend: 

2-3 hours

Visitor Information:

2. Frenchmen Street

Frenchmen Street

Frenchmen Street is the alive heart of New Orleans’ live music scene, known for its vibrant nightclubs, bustling jazz clubs, and fantastic eateries.

This street offers an authentic taste of New Orleans nightlife and is a must-visit in New Orleans for music lovers. 

Known as the local Bourbon Street, Frenchmen has been the hub of New Orleans’ live music scene for decades, with venues hosting jazz, blues, and funk nightly.

It’s the place to experience live jazz in an intimate setting, offering a more authentic nightlife experience without the tourist crowds of Bourbon Street. 

The street is lined with music venues, some of the best bars, and restaurants, making it perfect for an evening of exploration and enjoyment.

Pro Tip: 

Arrive early to grab a good spot at famous venues like The Spotted Cat Music Club or Blue Nile, especially on weekends.

Type of Attraction:

Nightlife, Music Venues

Time to Spend: 

3-4 hours

Visitor Information:

3. The National WWII Museum

The National WWII Museum

The National WWII Museum is a must-visit in New Orleans for history buffs and anyone interested in understanding the American experience during the Second World War.

This museum offers a comprehensive view of the war’s global impact, with immersive exhibits and original artifacts. 

Opened on June 6, 2000, as the D-Day Museum, it has since expanded to become a national treasure dedicated to WWII history.

The museum provides an in-depth look at the war, from the beaches of Normandy to the Pacific Islands, with personal stories, vehicles, and wartime artifacts.

Highlights include the 4D theater presentation “Beyond All Boundaries,” the USS Tang Submarine Experience, and the Road to Tokyo exhibit.

Pro Tip: 

Allocate at least half a day here, as the museum offers an extensive array of exhibits that can take several hours to appreciate fully.

Type of Attraction: 

Museums, Military History

Time to Spend: 

Half-day to Full day

Visitor Information:

4. Vue Orleans

Vue Orleans

Vue Orleans is an unparalleled observation deck offering panoramic views of New Orleans and the Mississippi River. 

This attraction provides a unique perspective of the city’s landscape, from the French Quarter to the bustling river ports and beyond, thus making it one of the top things to visit in New Orleans. 

With interactive exhibits and a high-definition telescopic system, visitors can get a bird’s-eye view of the city’s most iconic landmarks and hidden gems. 

Vue Orleans is not just about the view; it’s about experiencing New Orleans from a new height, with cultural exhibits that delve into the city’s music, geography, and history.

Pro Tip: 

Visit just before sunset to watch the city lights come alive from 470 feet in the air. It is a mesmerizing experience.

Type of Attraction: 

Observation Deck, Scenic Views

Time to Spend: 

1-2 hours

Visitor Information:

5. Magazine Street

Magazine Street

Magazine Street is one of New Orleans’ most vibrant and eclectic shopping districts.

It extends six miles and features an array of boutiques, art galleries, craft shops, and restaurants.

This street is a shopper’s paradise for shopping and dining in NOLA. It offers everything from vintage clothing and antiques to local art and handmade jewelry. 

Magazine Street is also home to some of the best dining in the city, with a range of cuisines that reflect the city’s diverse cultural influences.

So, if you are a food enthusiast and like tasting various cuisines, it is a must-visit site in New Orleans.

Pro Tip: 

Start at the Lower Garden District end and work your way up, stopping for coffee or a meal at one of the many unique cafes and restaurants.

Type of Attraction: 

Shopping, Dining, Boutiques

Time to Spend: 

3-4 hours

Visitor Information:

  • Price: Free to explore; shopping and dining costs vary
  • Timings: Store and restaurant times vary; most are open from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Days: Most venues open daily
  • Website: Explore Magazine Street
  • Phone: +1 504-342-4435
  • Address: Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA
  • Tours and Tickets: Magazine Street Shopping Tours

6. Audubon Zoo

Audubon Zoo

The Audubon Zoo is one of New Orleans’ most cherished attractions, offering an exotic mix of animals from around the globe, engaging educational programs, and beautifully landscaped natural habitats. 

This zoo is not just about seeing animals; it’s about experiencing wildlife in a way that inspires conservation and education.

The zoo provides a journey through ecosystems worldwide, from the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit, which offers a glimpse into the local bayou wildlife, to the African Savanna, where majestic elephants and rhinos roam.

If you are looking for spots or things nearby to visit with your children in New Orleans, this is a must-visit site for family fun at the zoo.

Pro Tip: 

Visit during the weekday mornings for a more relaxed experience and the opportunity to see the animals at their most active.

Type of Attraction: 

Wildlife, Family-Friendly

Time to Spend: 

Half-day to Full day

Visitor Information:

7. Garden District

Garden District

The Garden District is a splendid example of New Orleans’ grandeur and Southern charm.

This neighborhood features tree-lined streets, historic mansions, and vibrantly colored gardens. 

Known for its well-preserved antebellum mansions and the famous St. Charles Avenue, the Garden District is a picturesque area where every turn offers a view of architectural elegance and lush greenery. 

It’s a fantastic place to explore the quieter, more opulent side of New Orleans life and to see how the city’s wealthy residents lived during the 19th century.

The peace makes it one of the top things to do in New Orleans.

Pro Tip: 

Take a leisurely walk or hop on a streetcar to truly appreciate the beauty of this historic neighborhood.

Type of Attraction: 

Historic Homes, Walking Tours

Time to Spend: 

2-3 hours

Visitor Information:

  • Price: Free to explore; guided tour prices vary
  • Timings: Always open for walks; guided tours available at scheduled times
  • Days: Open Daily
  • Website: Visit Garden District
  • Phone: +1 504-488-2896
  • Address: Garden District, New Orleans, LA

8. New Orleans Cemetery Tours

New Orleans Cemetery Tours

New Orleans Cemetery Tours offer a unique glimpse into the city’s haunted history.

Guided Tours take you through the famous resting places of legendary figures and introduce you to chilling Ghost Stories and intriguing tales of Voodoo

Experience cemetery tours that explore NOLA’s haunted past, making them one of the best things to do in New Orleans.

These tours provide an eerie yet fascinating look at the city’s cultural and spiritual heritage.

Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a thrilling adventure, this is a must-visit.

Pro Tip: 

Wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll be walking a lot.

Type of Attraction: 

Historical Tours, Paranormal

Time to Spend: 

1-2 hours

Visitor Information:

  • Price: $25-$40 per person
  • Timings: Vary by tour operator
  • Days: Open Daily
  • Website: Check local tour operators
  • Phone: Varies by a tour operator
  • Address: Various locations across New Orleans

9. City Park

City Park

New Orleans City Park is one of the country’s oldest and largest urban parks.

It offers a lush oasis filled with magnificent oak trees, tranquil waterways, and various attractions.

It is one of the top contenders for looking for lush green parks in New Orleans to visit nearby.

The park is home to the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, and numerous outdoor activities, including boating, golf, and walking trails. 

Whether you want to picnic under the ancient live oaks, stroll through the botanical gardens, or engage in more active pursuits like biking or paddle boating, City Park has something for everyone.

Pro Tip:

Don’t miss the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park and Storyland, which are perfect for families looking to entertain children with rides and fairy-tale exhibits.

Type of Attraction: 

Urban Park, Outdoor Recreation

Time to Spend: 

Half-day to Full day

Visitor Information:

10. Audubon Park

Audubon Park

Audubon Park is one of the best things to do in New Orleans.

This picturesque park offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and recreational activities. 

Nature Trails wind through lush landscapes, making it ideal for Birdwatching and strolls.

Picnic Spots are plentiful, providing serene settings for a relaxing day outdoors.

Explore Audubon Park and enjoy its tranquil Riverside Views along the Mississippi River, offering a peaceful escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.

It’s a top spot for relaxation in NOLA.

Pro Tip: 

Bring a blanket and picnic basket for a perfect day out.

Type of Attraction: 

Outdoor, Recreational

Time to Spend: 

2-4 hours

Visitor Information:

11. Preservation Hall

Preservation Hall

Preservation Hall, located in the heart of the French Quarter, is a storied jazz venue that has been dedicated to preserving the New Orleans jazz tradition since 1961.

With nightly concerts featuring a rotating lineup of musicians, this intimate space provides an authentic and unforgettable up-close-and-personal jazz experience. 

The hall is a piece of history, unaltered through the years, offering visitors a step back to the early days of New Orleans jazz.

If you are a jazz buff, this is a must-visit place in New Orleans.

Pro Tip: 

Be sure to book your tickets in advance, as shows can sell out quickly due to the intimate nature of the venue.

Type of Attraction: 

Jazz Music, Live Performances

Time to Spend: 

1-2 hours
Visitor Information:

12. New Orleans Swamp Tours

New Orleans Swamp Tours

New Orleans is not just about urban entertainment; it’s also about exploring the wild beauty of Louisiana’s swamps and bayous.

Swamp tours offer a thrilling way to get close to the state’s unique wildlife, including alligators, herons, and other swamp critters. 

These tours, often conducted on airboats or flat-bottomed boats, provide an educational and exciting adventure.

They showcase the importance of wetlands and the ecosystems they support, making them one of the cool things to do in New Orleans.

Pro Tip: 

Choose a tour that uses smaller boats for a more personal and closer view of the wildlife and flora.

Type of Attraction: 

Nature Exploration, Boat Excursions

Time to Spend: 

2-3 hours

Visitor Information:

13. Jackson Square

Jackson Square

Jackson Square, a historic park in the French Quarter, is one of New Orleans’ most iconic sites.

Historic buildings surround this beautifully landscaped square, including St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo, and the Presbytère. 

It’s a popular spot for artists, musicians, and street performers, offering a lively atmosphere that captures the essence of New Orleans’ vibrant street culture.

If you appreciate the vibrant art scene, this is one of the best things to do in New Orleans.

Pro Tip: 

Visit Jackson Square early in the morning to see the artists setting up their displays and to enjoy a quieter, more peaceful experience.

Type of Attraction: 

Historic Landmark, Public Square

Time to Spend: 

1-2 hours

Visitor Information:

14. St. Louis Cathedral

St. Louis Cathedral

St. Louis Cathedral, overlooking Jackson Square, is one of New Orleans’ most notable landmarks.

Known for its stunning architecture and as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans, this historic cathedral is one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States. 

Visitors can explore the serene interior, which features beautiful stained glass windows and detailed paintings, or attend a mass to experience the vibrant community that has been worshiping here for centuries.

So, this is the one if you want to visit things nearby with a historic charm.

Pro Tip: 

Take a moment to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the cathedral’s interior and the beautiful organ music during mass.

Type of Attraction: 

Historic Landmark, Religious Sites

Time to Spend: 

1 hour

Visitor Information:

15. Ride the St. Charles Streetcar

Ride the St. Charles Streetcar

Riding the St. Charles Streetcar is one of the best things for urban adventure lovers to do in New Orleans.

This historic route offers a charming and vintage experience as it travels through some of the city’s most beautiful neighborhoods. 

Sightseeing from the streetcar includes views of grand mansions, ancient oak trees, and vibrant city life, and makes it one of the best things to do in New Orleans.

Take the St. Charles Streetcar and enjoy a quintessential NOLA streetcar experience that combines public transportation with a delightful tour of New Orleans’ architectural and cultural landmarks.

Pro Tip: 

Carry exact change or buy a Jazzy Pass for unlimited rides.

Type of Attraction:

 Public Transportation, Historical

Time to Spend: 

1-2 hours

Visitor Information:

  • Price: $1.25 per ride
  • Timings: 24 hours a day
  • Days: Open Daily
  • Website: Visit New Orleans Regional Transit Authority
  • Phone: +1 504-248-3900
  • Address: St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA
  • Tours and Tickets: Not required; pay onboard

16. The Backstreet Cultural Museum

The Backstreet Cultural Museum

The Backstreet Cultural Museum is a vital cultural institution in New Orleans that documents, preserves, and presents the rich history of the city’s African American community. 

The museum features an extensive collection of Mardi Gras Indian costumes, second-line parade memorabilia, jazz funeral artifacts, and other items celebrating local traditions and African American culture. 

This museum offers a deep dive into the vibrant, grassroots traditions that are a significant part of New Orleans’ cultural fabric.

Pro Tip: 

Participate in a guided tour to better understand the stories and traditions behind each exhibit.

Type of Attraction: 

Cultural Heritage, Museum

Time to Spend: 

1-2 hours

Visitor Information:

17. The Cabildo

The Cabildo

The Cabildo, one of New Orleans’ most significant historical buildings, was the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer ceremonies in 1803 and has served various governmental functions over the years. 

Today, it is a museum that showcases Louisiana’s history and multicultural heritage from its colonial days to the present.

The exhibits include artifacts from the French, Spanish, and American periods, providing a comprehensive view of the state’s complex history.

This makes it one of the best places to visit in New Orleans.

Pro Tip: 

Visit the Napoleon Bonaparte death mask and the Battle of New Orleans exhibits.

Type of Attraction: 

Historic Building, Museum

Time to Spend: 

1-2 hours

Visitor Information:

18. Mardi Gras World

Mardi Gras World gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the art and preparation of Mardi Gras floats and festivities.

This expansive warehouse is where many of the elaborate floats and costumes are designed and constructed and is one of the top places to see in New Orleans.

A tour of Mardi Gras World offers a chance to understand the hard work, creativity, and artistry of preparing for one of the world’s most famous celebrations.

Pro Tip: 

Don’t miss the chance to try on some of the extravagant Mardi Gras costumes for a fun photo opportunity.

Type of Attraction: 

Carnival Experience, Behind-the-Scenes Tour

Time to Spend: 

1-2 hours

Visitor Information:

19. Know NOLA Tours

Know NOLA Tours

Joining Know NOLA Tours is one of the must-do things in New Orleans for an authentic and personalized exploration of the city. 

These guided excursions provide local insights into New Orleans’s rich history, culture, and vibrant life.

You can discover hidden gems many tourists miss with customized tours tailored to your interests.

Join Know NOLA Tours for an insider’s perspective on NOLA.

They ensure a memorable and enriching experience as you explore the city’s charm and character.

Pro Tip: 

Book a private tour for a more tailored experience.

Type of Attraction:

 Guided Tours, Cultural

Time to Spend: 

2-3 hours

Visitor Information:

20. New Orleans Museum of Art

New Orleans Museum of Art

The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), located in City Park, is the city’s oldest fine arts institution and hosts an impressive permanent collection of more than 40,000 works and numerous visiting exhibitions. 

The museum’s collection includes French and American art, photography, glass, African and Japanese works.

This cultural gem offers something for every art lover, from classical European paintings to modern American and contemporary art lovers; it is one of the best things to do in New Orleans.

Pro Tip: 

Don’t miss the adjoining Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which features over 90 sculptures in a beautifully landscaped garden.

Type of Attraction: 

Fine Arts, Exhibitions

Time to Spend: 

2-3 hours

Visitor Information:

21. Studio Be

Studio Be

Studio Be is one of the top places to visit in New Orleans for art enthusiasts and those looking to experience powerful “Artistic Expression in NOLA.” 

This urban art gallery showcases stunning street art and murals that reflect social justice and community empowerment themes.

Featuring works by prominent contemporary artists, Studio Be offers a compelling visual narrative of New Orleans’ vibrant culture and history.

Pro Tip: 

Visit on weekdays to avoid the crowds.

Type of Attraction: 

Art Gallery, Cultural

Time to Spend: 

1-2 hours

Visitor Information:

22. The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, adjacent to the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), features over 90 sculptures by renowned artists set among a lush landscape of live oaks, pines, magnolias, and reflecting lagoons. 

This outdoor gallery includes works by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and several other significant artists.

The garden is designed to foster peaceful contemplation and an appreciation of art and nature and is one of the best things to do in New Orleans.

Pro Tip:

Early morning is a magical time to visit, as the soft light beautifully highlights the sculptures, and the garden is tranquil.

Type of Attraction:

Outdoor Art, Sculpture Garden

Time to Spend: 

1-2 hours

Visitor Information:

23. Steamboat Natchez

Steamboat Natchez

Experience the romance and charm of the Mississippi River aboard the Steamboat Natchez, the last authentic steamboat operating on the river.

This historic vessel offers daily cruises featuring live jazz music, Creole food, and unparalleled views of the New Orleans skyline. 

Whether you choose a daytime cruise or a dinner jazz cruise, you’ll enjoy a step back in time aboard this beautifully preserved steamboat, definitely one of the best things to do in New Orleans.

Pro Tip: 

Opt for the dinner cruise for an enchanting evening of jazz under the stars.

Type of Attraction: 

River Cruise, Historic Vessel

Time to Spend: 

2-3 hours

Visitor Information:

24. Café du Monde

Café du Monde

Café du Monde is one of the best things to do in New Orleans for anyone seeking iconic sweet treats in NOLA

This legendary Coffeehouse is renowned for its delicious beignets—fried pastries dusted with powdered sugar—and its signature Chicory Coffee.

Located in the heart of the French Quarter, Café du Monde has been a beloved staple since 1862, offering a taste of traditional New Orleans flavors.

Pro Tip:

 Visit early in the morning or late at night to avoid long lines.

Type of Attraction: 

Food & Drink, Cultural

Time to Spend:

 30 minutes – 1 hour

Visitor Information:

25. Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium 

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium

The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium invites visitors to explore the world of insects and their ecosystems through interactive exhibits and a tropical butterfly conservatory. 

Located in the U.S. Custom House on Canal Street, this family-friendly attraction is the largest insect museum in North America.

It offers an educational and fun experience for all ages.

Its sheer size and interesting exhibits make it one of the must-visit tourist destinations in New Orleans.

Pro Tip: 

Make sure to spend time in the Butterfly Garden, where you can walk among hundreds of live butterflies in an indoor tropical garden setting.

Type of Attraction:

 Insectarium, Family-Friendly

Time to Spend: 

1-2 hours

Visitor Information:

Best Things to Do in New Orleans According to Reddit

If you’re searching for authentic New Orleans experiences, a dive into Reddit’s r/AskNOLA gives you the inside scoop from locals and frequent visitors.

In discussing “must” experiences in New Orleans, users highlighted various activities and attractions beyond the typical tourist itinerary.

Reddit users recommend exploring the vibrant French Quarter Festival, especially for first-time visitors arriving mid-April.

This free festival fills the streets with music across multiple stages, offering a fantastic way to experience a wide array of local foods and incredible live performances.

Redditors also suggest, amongst other must-do things in New Orleans:

  1. Strolling through the Garden District: Enjoy the stunning architecture and historical ambiance. Locals suggest joining an architecture tour for a deeper insight into the area’s history and beauty.
  2. Enjoying live jazz on Frenchmen Street: For a break from the mainstream, users love Frenchmen Street’s authentic jazz bars and lively atmosphere, away from the more tourist-heavy Bourbon Street.
  3. Relaxing at City Park: City Park is a great place to unwind with its beautiful oak trees and open spaces. Users recommend Café du Monde for beignets and coffee.
  4. Kayaking in Bayou St. John: For a touch of adventure, locals suggest renting a kayak to explore the waterways and enjoy a unique city view.

This conversation, among many others on Reddit, provides a treasure of local favorites and the best things to do in New Orleans, ensuring your trip is filled with unforgettable experiences.

NOLA experiences that are a “must”
byu/MaverickGoose81 inAskNOLA

Conclusion

New Orleans is a city of innovation, history, and endless excitement, making it an ideal destination for travelers seeking a blend of urban sophistication and traditional charm. 

From the reflective journey through The National WWII Museum to the green expanses of City Park and the artistic treasures of the New Orleans Museum of Art, there’s something in New Orleans for every visitor.

Whether you’re here to explore the bustling streets, relax in beautiful parks, or explore the rich cultural tapestry, New Orleans offers a unique experience where the cosmopolitan meets the classic Louisiana spirit. 

Pack your bags, bring your curiosity, and immerse yourself in the best things to do in New Orleans — a city where every corner tells a story.