New Orleans is one of the most diverse and vibrant cities in the country – and the perfect distance for a short road trip from Houston. With multiple districts to explore, an abundance of restaurants, unforgettable sights and attractions, and multiple music venues, there’s no shortage of things to keep you entertained during your visit. Whether you’re traveling alone, with a group of friends, or visiting with family, a little research beforehand can make your trip to the Big Easy even better.
If you’re looking for some of the best things to do in New Orleans, we bring you 19 must-do activities.
Take a tour of the Garden District
While you can take guided tours of the Garden District, sometimes a leisurely way to spend a morning in New Orleans is to wander the beautiful neighborhoods on your own. Dating back to the early 19th century, the Garden District is filled with historic homes, sidewalks covered by a canopy of mature trees, and beads still hanging from past Mardi Gras celebrations.
Find it: The Garden District consists of St. Charles Avenue (to the north), Magazine Street (to the south), Jackson Avenue (to the east), and Louisiana Avenue (to the west)
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Explore the National World War II Museum
While there is much Civil War history to explore in New Orleans, military fans more interested in modern warfare will want to visit the National World War II Museum. Here you will find a variety of exhibits, including those dedicated to the Normandy invasion, the battles in North Africa and the invasion of Sicily. A unique thing about the museum are the battlefield artifacts from those who fought at Normandy Beach.
Find it: National World War II Museum, 945 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA 70130; 504-528-1944
Take a haunted cemetery tour
With so many historic cemeteries in New Orleans, you’re likely to end up in one, whether you just want to browse the crypts or take a guided tour. There are many tour operators in the city, but among the top-rated by Google users are French Quarter Phantoms Ghost Tours and Ghost City Tours, both of which have near-perfect marks. Expect the guides to be talking about the lore behind the city’s cemeteries and what life was like here at the time of some of those buried there.
French Quarter Phantoms Ghost Tours, 718 N Rampart St, New Orleans, LA 70116; 504-666-8300
Ghost City Tours, 19349 N 12th St, Covington, LA 70433; 855-999-9026
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Explore one of America’s finest aquariums
Take a break from basking in the southern sun and sipping on hurricanes and head inside the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. This massive aquarium, scheduled to reopen in summer 2023 after a major renovation, is home to creatures from around the world, including the Amazon rainforest, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. There are more than 3,600 animals to see, from African penguins to sand tiger sharks. Allow at least two or three hours for this experience, as there are two floors to explore.
Find it: Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, 1 Canal St., New Orleans, LA 70130; 504-565-3033
Blow up Instagram in City Park
In City Park it is easy to enjoy a little bit of nature. The 1,300-acre public area has a quiet walking trail and lots of green space where families can often be seen playing together. There is a large pond in the center of the park, which provides a beautiful backdrop for photos. Speaking of which, the park offers a self-guided tour of “Instagram-worthy hotspots” online, perfect for staging your next profile or family photo.
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Find it: City Park, 1 Palm Drive, New Orleans, LA 70124; 504-482-4888T
Take a ride through the swamp
If you have a car in New Orleans, take the short drive out of town to the swamp, where you can hop on an airboat or kayak and explore the bayous. Those interested in kayaking should consider going with New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours as they offer tours led by local eco-guides. For an airboat ride, consider Cajun Encounters, which conveniently offers pickup from many French Quarter hotels. Expect to see alligators, wild boar and birds on the airboat.
New Orleans Kayak Swap Tours, 1407 Piety St, New Orleans, LA 70117; 504-571-9975
Cajun Encounters, 55345 US-90, Slidell, LA 70461; 504-834-1770; 504-834-1770
Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral are an iconic visual pairing in New Orleans.
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Stroll through Jackson Square
Jackson Square is one of the most famous places in New Orleans. At the back of the square is St. Louis Cathedral, which you can enter and look around when there are no services. This is also a great place to grab a grab and go breakfast in the morning as it offers great people-watching potential. If art is on your list of things to bring home from town, then you’re in luck, as local artists often display and sell their work just outside Jackson Square.
Find it: Jackson Square, 701 Decatur St., New Orleans, LA 70116
Check out the floats at Mardi Gras World
If your New Orleans trip is outside of Mardi Gras, check out Mardi Gras World. This vast warehouse is where many of the beautiful floats for the festival’s iconic parades are designed and built. Self-guided tours are offered every day and tours last about an hour. There are also some great photo spots in the studio, so have your camera ready.
Find it: Mardi Gras World, 1380 Port of New Orleans Place, New Orleans, LA 70130; 504-361-7821
Eat beignets at the Café du Monde
A plate of sugar-dusted beignets usually tops the list of things to do in New Orleans, and the Café du Monde is one of the most famous places to get the sweet treat. The bustling place is often filled with powdered sugar-covered tourists, but that shouldn’t stop you from going there. The big question here is how many beignets you can make Strictly speaking eat, and how much chicory coffee would you like with it?
Find it: Cafe du Monde, 848 Decatur St., New Orleans, LA 70116; 800-772-2927
Cool off with a snowball
Another New Orleans must-try are snowballs (aka snoballs), which have been popular in the city since the 1930s. While you might imagine these to be like Hawaiian shaved ice, locals will tell you the two are definitely not the same. You can find stalls selling these fluffy iced treats all over town and everyone has their favourite, so try a few and decide for yourself where the best frozen treats are. Just try the most popular local flavors like tiger blood and king cake.
The Steamboat Natchez sails the Mississippi River and treats riders to live jazz music and cocktails.
Cruise on the Natchez Steamboat
Enjoy an afternoon on the Mississippi River aboard the Steamboat Natchez. This impressive paddle steamer takes guests on a two-hour tour down the river. Cruise ships can enjoy live jazz music and craft cocktails onboard while taking in the sights and sounds of New Orleans and the surrounding communities from one of the boat’s four decks.
Find it: Steamboat Natchez, 400 Toulouse St., New Orleans, LA 70130; 504-569-1401
Walk down Magazine Street
Magazine Street is one of the liveliest streets in New Orleans and is home to over six miles of shopping, dining and entertainment venues. Because of the often beautiful weather in the city, there are many outdoor restaurants overlooking the street. Before or after your meal, stop by the Kevin Gillentine Gallery to see some of the artist’s beautiful landscapes, or visit The Bead Shop to create your own jewelry using beads from around the world.
Find it: Magazine Street is nestled in Uptown New Orleans
Check out a special exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art
The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) is a beautiful museum that features photography, pottery, paintings, and mixed media. The museum is best known for its rotating exhibitions, which have historically included favorites such as Queen Nefertari’s Egypt and showcased the artwork and culture of the ancient Egyptians. Check the museum’s website to find out which exhibitions are on during your visit.
Find it: New Orleans Museum of Art, 1 Collins Diboll Circle, New Orleans, LA 70124; 504-658-4100
Learn about the city’s most famous creation
The New Orleans Museum of Jazz is housed in the former US Mint building. Exploring the many rotating exhibits, visitors can hear music and audio sessions, watch movies, hit the dance floor, and even see a recording studio. The museum hosts weekly jazz yoga classes and a live piano lesson where guests can linger and hear live music performed by a jazz professional.
Find it: New Orleans Jazz Museum, 400 Esplanade Ave., New Orleans, LA 70116; 504-568-6993
Hop on a tram to get around
One of the most iconic ways to get around New Orleans is on the streetcar. There are four different lines, all of which start downtown and go to places like the French Quarter and down to the end of Canal Street. While there’s a small fare to ride the trams, you can also buy a 1-, 3-, or 7-day Jazzy Pass for next to nothing, which also gives you access to the city’s buses and ferries.
The mural in front of Studio Be in New Orleans is adorned with a Mardi Gras mask and beads on February 16, 2021.
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Explore Studio Be’s giant murals
Studio Be is a warehouse art gallery that features large-scale murals and paintings depicting black life and culture in New Orleans. This gallery differs from other museums in the city by encouraging free-flowing exploration and using larger-than-life paintings to engage with visitors. Be sure to check out the outside wall of the yellow warehouse for one of the most impressive pieces in the entire collection.
Find it: Studio Be, 2941 Royal Street, New Orleans, LA 70117; 504-252-0463
Get to know the history of Sazerac
The Sazerac cocktail is considered one of the oldest mixed drinks in American history – and it originated in New Orleans. Though the cocktail is now served worldwide, there is one place in the Big Easy that serves up all the history and culture that goes with the special drink and that is Sazerac House. Part museum and part tasting bar, Sazerac House is a must-visit for anyone interested in cocktail culture or just those who love a good drink.
Find it: Sazerac House, 101 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA 70130; 504-910-0100