New Orleans, often called the “Big Easy,” has a rich history, vibrant music, and a unique culinary scene. For those pondering things to do in New Orleans, wandering through the French Quarter with its historic architecture and lively street performers and indulging in the city’s culinary delights, like beignets at Café du Monde and spicy gumbo, are top activities.
The city’s Bourbon Street is synonymous with nightlife and entertainment, offering a mix of jazz clubs, bars, and Mardi Gras celebrations. Nearby, the Garden District showcases antebellum mansions, tree-lined streets, and the famous Lafayette Cemetery.
Beyond its urban allure, New Orleans is deeply rooted in its musical heritage, particularly jazz, blues, and zydeco. New Orleans’s blend of cultural festivities, historic landmarks, and soulful music makes it a truly unique destination for those seeking the best places to visit in the USA.
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Attractions & Things to Do in New Orleans, USA
1. French Quarter
The French Quarter, known for its historic architecture and vibrant nightlife, is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans. With its colorful buildings, iron-laced balconies, and numerous bars and restaurants, it serves as the cultural heart of the city.
Travel Tip: Wear comfortable shoes and take a guided walking tour to learn about the area’s rich history. Evening strolls come alive with street performers and musicians.
2. Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street is perhaps the most famous street in New Orleans, known for its lively bars, clubs, and musical venues. You’ll find a spirited atmosphere at any time of the day or night, making it a must-visit for those looking for entertainment.
Travel Tip: It can get crowded and intense, especially at night. Always stay aware of your surroundings and avoid overindulging.
3. Garden District
This area stands in picturesque contrast to the French Quarter, boasting well-preserved antebellum mansions, oak-lined avenues, and historic cemeteries. It’s a testament to the city’s Southern charm and a paradise for architecture enthusiasts.
Travel Tip: Consider renting a bike or taking the historic St. Charles Avenue streetcar to explore the area leisurely.
4. St. Louis Cathedral
Overlooking Jackson Square, the St. Louis Cathedral is one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States. With its stunning Gothic architecture, it stands as a symbol of New Orleans’ Catholic heritage and history.
Travel Tip: Attend a mass or visit to admire the interior. Always be respectful of services or events happening during your visit.
5. Preservation Hall
Dedicated to preserving traditional New Orleans jazz, Preservation Hall hosts nightly concerts in an intimate setting, providing an authentic experience for music lovers. Its history dates back to the 1960s, and it has since become an emblem of the city’s rich musical heritage.
Travel Tip: Seating is limited, and it’s first come, first served. Arrive early to secure a good spot.
6. The National WWII Museum
Recognized as one of the top museums in the country, this institution offers an immersive experience of World War II history. Visitors gain insight into the global war that changed the world through multimedia displays, personal testimonies, and artifacts.
Travel Tip: Allocate a whole day for your visit, and don’t miss the Beyond All Boundaries film narrated by Tom Hanks.
7. Café du Monde
Famous for its beignets and café au lait, Café du Monde has been a staple in New Orleans since 1862. This iconic coffee shop is buzzing with activity, whether early or late at night.
Travel Tip: Visit during off-peak hours to avoid long lines; remember, it’s cash-only.
8. New Orleans City Park
Spanning over 1,300 acres, this vast urban park offers an array of attractions, including the New Orleans Museum of Art, botanical gardens, and Storyland, a fairytale-themed playground. It’s a perfect spot for picnics, boat rides, and outdoor relaxation.
Travel Tip: If you’re visiting in the summer, go early in the morning or late afternoon to beat the heat.
9. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Located along the Mississippi River, this world-class aquarium showcases a diverse collection of marine life from the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and beyond. Visitors can marvel at sharks, rays, sea turtles, and even an albino alligator.
Travel Tip: Purchase a combo ticket if you plan to visit other Audubon attractions, such as the zoo or insectarium, to save on admission fees.
10. The French Market
Stretching six blocks along the riverside, the French Market is a bustling space where visitors can find fresh produce, crafts, souvenirs, and delicious Creole cuisine. It has served as a trading post for over two centuries, blending history and culture.
Travel Tip: Visit on a weekday morning for fewer crowds and the best selection of fresh goods.
11. Magazine Street
Known for its eclectic range of shops, restaurants, and galleries, Magazine Street stretches six miles and offers a unique shopping experience. From vintage finds to contemporary fashion and artisanal creations, there’s something for everyone.
Travel Tip: Wear sunscreen and a hat, especially on sunny days, as some streets have limited shade.
12. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
Situated in the heart of the Garden District, this historic cemetery offers a unique perspective on New Orleans’ past. Its above-ground tombs and ornate statues provide insights into the city’s burial traditions and history.
Travel Tip: Guided tours offer a deeper understanding of the cemetery’s history and notable residents. Ensure you bring water and wear comfortable shoes.
13. Voodoo Museum
Dive into the mysterious world of Voodoo, a spiritual practice that has played a significant role in New Orleans’ cultural fabric. This small museum provides an intimate look at Voodoo rituals, artifacts, and famous practitioners.
Travel Tip: Keep an open mind and consider buying a protective charm or gris-gris from the museum store.
14. Steamboat Natchez
Relive the romantic era of riverboat travel aboard the Steamboat Natchez. With live jazz music, traditional Creole cuisine, and the scenic Mississippi River as a backdrop, it offers a truly classic New Orleans experience.
Travel Tip: Book a dinner cruise for a memorable evening experience with stunning city skyline views.
15. Mardi Gras World
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the magic of Mardi Gras! Here, visitors can see how the incredible floats are designed and built, try on costumes, and enjoy a slice of the traditional King Cake.
Travel Tip: Take the free shuttle from famous locations in the city to avoid parking hassles and get a quick tour on your way to the venue.
16. Faubourg Marigny & Bywater
Adjacent to the French Quarter, these vibrant neighborhoods are filled with colorful Creole cottages, innovative restaurants, and lively music venues. They offer a less-touristy, bohemian vibe, with many local artists calling these areas home.
Travel Tip: Rent a bicycle to explore these neighborhoods, as many of the best spots are spread out and best discovered leisurely.
17. Jackson Square
A historic park in the French Quarter, Jackson Square is surrounded by iconic New Orleans landmarks, including the St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo. Artists, musicians, and street performers often entertain visitors, making it a lively hub of activity.
Travel Tip: Grab a coffee or snack from a nearby café and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere. It’s also a prime spot for people-watching.
18. The Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Dedicated to showcasing Southern art, this museum offers an impressive collection from the colonial era to the present. Exhibits include paintings, sculptures, photographs, and more, all celebrating the culture and history of the American South.
Travel Tip: Visit on a Thursday evening when the museum hosts its weekly live music series, showcasing local musicians.
19. Treme Neighborhood
As one of the oldest African-American neighborhoods in the U.S., Treme boasts a rich cultural heritage and has played a pivotal role in the development of jazz. Highlights include the historic St. Augustine Church and the Treme Market Branch.
Travel Tip: Take a guided walking tour to delve deeper into the area’s history and significance in the civil rights movement.
20. The Carousel Bar & Lounge
Located in the historic Hotel Monteleone, this iconic bar rotates like a merry-go-round, offering a unique drinking experience. Its elegant ambiance and signature cocktails make it a favorite among locals and tourists.
Travel Tip: Arrive early, especially on weekends, as the rotating bar seats fill quickly. Don’t miss their famous Vieux Carré cocktail.
21. Le Bon Temps Roule
A beloved music venue, Le Bon Temps Roule offers live music every night, showcasing a range of genres from jazz and blues to rock. The bar’s authentic, no-frills atmosphere captures the essence of New Orleans’ music scene.
Travel Tip: Check their schedule ahead of time to catch a performance by your favorite band or genre, and be prepared for a late night; things often don’t get started until after 10 PM.
FAQ About Things to Do in Orleans, USA
What is Orleans most famous for?
Orleans is renowned for its historical significance, mainly its association with Joan of Arc. The city played a pivotal role during the Hundred Years’ War and is home to several monuments dedicated to the Maid of Orleans.
Are there any must-visit museums in Orleans?
The Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Orléans is a must-visit, housing an impressive collection of European paintings. Additionally, the Maison de Jeanne d’Arc offers insights into the life and times of Joan of Arc.
Is there a specific time of year that’s best to visit Orleans?
While Orleans is beautiful year-round, many visitors prefer the spring and summer months for outdoor activities. The annual Joan of Arc Festival in May is a highlight, celebrating the city’s heroine with parades and events.
Are there any natural attractions or parks in Orleans?
Absolutely! The Parc Floral de la Source is a beautiful botanical garden located south of the city center. It’s a serene spot for relaxation and offers a variety of flora and fauna.
What are some recommended activities for families in Orleans?
Families can enjoy a day at the Loire Valley, exploring its castles and vineyards. The city also offers boat rides on the Loire River, which can be a fun experience for kids and adults alike.
Where can I experience the local cuisine in Orleans?
Orleans boasts a range of traditional French bistros and modern eateries. Local specialties include “Tarte Tatin” (an upside-down caramelized apple tart) and “Andouille de Jargeau” (a type of smoked sausage).
Are there any guided tours available to explore the city?
Several tour operators offer guided walking tours of Orleans, covering its historical sites, architecture, and more. Some tours also delve into the city’s culinary scene, offering local produce tastings.
Can I explore Orleans by bike?
Definitely! Orleans is a bike-friendly city with several dedicated cycle paths. You can rent a bike and explore the city at your own pace or join one of the guided bike tours available.