Known as one of the most culturally rich cities in America, New Orleans welcomes over 10 million visitors each year. Tourists come to experience the city’s distinct blend of art, music, cuisine, Mardi Gras celebrations, and its unique history.
With a population of nearly 370,000 people and diverse neighborhoods throughout, New Orleans offers something for everyone—from local festivals to world-renowned attractions like Bourbon Street and Jackson Square.
Let’s explore together the best 20 things to do in New Orleans, Louisiana:
1. Explore the historic French Quarter
Located in the heart of New Orleans, this area is a must-see for anyone visiting the city. Enjoy walking around the cobblestone streets and admiring stunning French colonial architecture that dates back centuries.
This is a free activity and you and roam around the streets as much as you want. You can start your walk from 701 Chartres St., New Orleans, LA.
2. Visit Jackson Square
Another free activity is at the center of New Orleans’ famed French Quarter lies Jackson Square—a lush urban park surrounded by some of the city’s oldest architecture with The St. Louis Cathedral at its center and beautiful gardens, statues, and monuments throughout it makes it an ideal spot for any tourist to explore!
3. Experience live jazz music at Preservation Hall
Get your dose of soulful Southern sounds with an evening spent listening to Jazz at Preservation Hall in downtown New Orleans! This intimate venue has showcased some of America’s most iconic jazz artists since 1961—it’s definitely a must if you’re looking for something unique to do.
The entrance fee is usually $15 USD and you can find this venue at 726 Saint Peter Street, New Orleans, LA.
4. Admire the stunning St. Louis Cathedral
One of Nola’s most famous landmarks stands proudly in Jackson Square–The St Louis Cathedral is an architectural masterpiece with stunning gothic features throughout that will leave all visitors awestruck!
Also known as the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis King of France, this is one of the oldest continuously active Roman Catholic cathedrals in the United States. You can enter for free and you should keep quiet while visiting. Find the cathedral at 751 Chartres StreetNew, Orleans, Louisiana, 70116
5. Take a stroll through the beautiful Garden District
The historic Garden District of New Orleans is renowned for its charming 19th century architecture.
The Delesseps Square Fountain, built in 1871, is a lovely place to take photos and admire the leafy trees along Magazine Street. When you finish your walk, take some time to check out the nearby Lafayette Cemetery No 1—the oldest cemetery in New Orleans filled with intriguing local history.
6. Shop, dine, and explore the eclectic boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants along Magazine Street
Stretching all the way down to Uptown New Orleans, this six-mile stretch of urban street has something for everyone. With stunning 19th century homes as well as an endless supply of independent boutiques and restaurants perfect for window shopping or grabbing something delicious to eat.
Streetcars line up both sides of this iconic strip making it easy to explore everything along its length without having to loop back around. Sample po’ boys at corner cafes or try your hand at antique shopping—just don’t forget your wallet because you won’t be able to resist all these goodies!
7. Enjoy a day at Audubon Park
Tucked away in Uptown near Audubon Zoo is one of Louisiana’s most beautiful parks—Audubon Park! Spanning over two hundred acres this picturesque spot offers endless opportunities for taking nature walks or cycling through Lagan Canal Trail encircling its perimeter, even canoes can be rented here if you want an even more intimate view below its long-standing oaks.
Also included here are tennis courts, golf courses and Frisbee golf courses s throughout its grounds so make sure you pick up some supplies before getting started on any type of outdoor adventure in these lush grounds!
Entrance is free and you can find this park at 6500 Magazine Street New Orleans LA 70118.
8. Immerse yourself in the local music scene on Frenchmen Street
Located in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, just east of the French Quarter, this neighborhood is known as the “live music district” of the city.
Because Frenchmen Street is lined with an array of music venues, bars, clubs, and lounges, you can hear live performances of various music genres coming from everywhere.
The jazz, blues, funk, reggae, and brass bands make the street offers feel like a celebration each evening.
9. Take a scenic steamboat cruise on the Mississippi River aboard the Steamboat Natchez
For over 175 years, guests of New Orleans have had to chance to sail away on this beloved boat.
Hop aboard the two-hour cruise and enjoy remarkable views of downtown’s skyline, the mighty Louisiana Flag with its divine hues that can be viewed from both indoor and outdoor spaces, along with exceptional live jazz music entertainment.
If you opt for their grand dinner deck party—enjoy a zesty six-course Creole meal prepared fresh during this journey and a fully stocked bar in an elegantly rearranged floor plan that puts you high up so the allure below is extra mesmerizing.
This might not be a cheap activity and the prices start from $25.
10. Learn about the history of World War II at the National WWII Museum
Trace back some of America’s darkest yet most significant periods in history at this downtown hotspot. Multistory galleries portray events spanning before Pearl Harbor strikes and after it ceases—all are ingeniously designed to bring bygone eras back to life with vivid detail from start to finish.
Guests engage themselves deeply within these interactive war pieces including tanks, planes, uniforms and even posters used during wartime campaigns, located on higher floors are other spectacles like blockbuster documentaries or current exhibitions showing many more facets of World War II than imaginable.
11. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the costumes used in Mardi Gras parades at Mardi Gras World
Have been curious to know the process of creation behind the customs seen at the Mardi Gras parades each year? Now you have the chance in New Orleans at the Mardi Gras World.
Did you know that the Mardi Gras celebrations have taken place in the United States since 1837? Because of the history it holds, Mardi Gras World offers this unique experience to visitors interested to explore the workshops and warehouses where Mardi Gras floats and costumes are created.
This is an amazing opportunity to learn about the history, artistry, and traditions behind Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
12. Explore the French Market
Find local art galleries selling precious gems as souvenirs crafted under the influence of nature from local designers plus heaps of fresh produce all setup merchant style along quaint cobblestone pathways beneath fluttering patio umbrellas.
Don’t forget smaller trinkets such as masks some adorned with purple feathers others with shiny sequins, all tastefully colored, hand-painted pieces bring charm beyond compare distinctly giving each one its own unique and distinct personality which extends onto its buyer.
13. Take a day trip to Oak Alley Plantation, located about an hour from New Orleans
Sometimes history ain’t the most pleasant but it is important to know it. That is why the Plantations like Oak Alley hold significant historical and cultural importance.
They offer insights into the region’s complex past, including the era of slavery and the grandeur of antebellum life. These plantations serve as educational allowing people to learn about the plantation system and the lives of enslaved people.
To reach the Oak Plantations is easier by car. But if you do not want to rent a car for a day just for this, then there are also tour companies that provide guided excursions from New Orleans to Oak Alley Plantation.
14. Visit the New Orleans Museum of Art
For all art lovers NOMA museum in New Orleans is one of the reasons to visit the city in the first place. The New Orleans Museum of Art is situated in City Park, a beautiful green space in the heart of the city. The museum boasts an impressive collection of over 40,000 works spanning various art forms and periods.
This art museum showcases art from around the world, including European, American, African, and Asian art. But the most interesting part of the museum is the masterpieces by renowned artists such as Monet, Picasso, Renoir, Degas, and Georgia O’Keeffe.
15. Hop on one of New Orleans’ iconic streetcars
The streetcars in New Orleans are not just a means of transportation but also treasured symbols of the city. The streetcars are historic and come in different styles, including the iconic green St. Charles Avenue streetcars and the red Canal Street and Riverfront streetcars.
The St. Charles Avenue line is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the United States. It runs along the historic St. Charles Avenue, passing through picturesque neighborhoods such as the Garden District and the University area. This line is known for its charming, tree-lined streets and beautiful historic mansions.
Riding the streetcar is an affordable way to get around New Orleans as the fare is around $1.25 per ride, payable with exact change when boarding the streetcar.
16. Walk or drive along St. Charles Avenue
St. Charles Avenue is a historic street that stretches through several neighborhoods in New Orleans, including the Garden District, Uptown, and Carrollton.
The street is also famous for its iconic live oak trees that form a captivating canopy along the street. The majestic oaks provide shade and create a serene atmosphere as you stroll or drive along the avenue.
The sight of the oak-lined street is particularly enchanting, especially during spring when the trees are adorned with Spanish moss.
17. Learn the art of Creole and Cajun cooking in a New Orleans cooking class
What better way to try the local cuisine than making it yourself at a cooking class? This is a great way to experience eating local food in a different style than restaurant dinners.
Here you can taste unique flavors on display, and learn special techniques while preparing authentic gumbo with okra, shrimp, red beans and rice, fish court bouillon and so much more.
From start to finish you will have a complete understanding of the local dishes together with brand new skills for your future kitchen endeavors. The fee for a cooking class depends on the package chosen.
18. Discover the diverse art of the American South at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art
What differentiates this museum from others is that this museum is dedicated exclusively to showcasing the art, culture, and history of the American South. With a collection that has a comprehensive array of over 13,000 pieces within its gallery space, this is definitely a place to visit to learn more about Southern Art.
Through its exhibits and programs, the museum explores themes that are relevant to the South, such as social and political issues, cultural identity, folklore, and the natural environment.
19. Take a walking tour of the Garden District
The Garden District is located in Uptown New Orleans, just a few miles from the bustling French Quarter. This area brims with a stunning 19th-century mix of Greek Revival, Italianate, and Victorian styles mansions, quaint gazebos, and plenty of lush gardens which are a delight to admire for 1-2 hours.
20. Learn about the history of jazz music at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
This park hosts special events and festivals throughout the year that celebrate jazz music and its impact on New Orleans’ cultural fabric. These events may include concerts, lectures, workshops, and jazz heritage celebrations, offering a deeper immersion into the world of jazz.
The musical programs at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park can vary in terms of timing and scheduling so it is best to check the official website or contact the park directly
21. Explore the Frenchmen Art Market
Featuring art from local painters, jewelry makers, and other creative artists come shop for authentic souvenirs at this ‘open gallery’ showcasing imaginative pieces buyers won’t find elsewhere
Here you can find locally grown sundries like fresh pastries or bars like Café Du Monde It which is one of the city’s most famous and popular destinations for locals and tourists.
22. Visit the Whitney Plantation
If you did not go to the Oak Alley Plantation, then you could try to make a visit to Whitney Plantation. Since the New Orleans area is known for its historic plantations that were an integral part of the region’s history, there were numerous plantations in the area.
The main purpose of all these plantations nowadays is for educational purposes, for people to know the honest and comprehensive history of the times, shedding light on the lives of enslaved people and their contributions to the development of these estates.
23. Discover the mystical world of voodoo at the Historic Voodoo Museum
Are you into the mystical and cultural aspects of voodoo in New Orleans? Then you should know that voodoo is a religion with deep roots in New Orleans.
This was influenced by African, Caribbean, and Catholic traditions over the years. In this museum, you can learn more about the beliefs and practices of voodoo in New Orleans and its cultural significance. Some of the things you can find here are altars, ceremonial objects, talismans, dolls, and artwork depicting voodoo deities and rituals.
24. Indulge in delicious street food from the city’s numerous food carts and street vendors
The heart of New Orleans’ culinary scene can be found in the French Quarter. Who does not love street food variety options that are both delicious and cheap? From classic beignets and po’ boys to Creole and Cajun specialties, you’ll find numerous street vendors and carts scattered throughout the area.
Just go around, have a look and make sure you taste a bit of every local dish.
25. Step back in time at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
Discover the fascinating evolution of medical science at this pharmacy museum located within the French Quarter showcasing artifacts from 200 years ago.
Here you can see various exhibits giving detailed accounts of treatments used which evolved over time. With examples like leeches used to treat illnesses in 1840 and syringes as small as tweezers, you can get an intimate look into early medical practices.
The collection of the museum also has a presentation about forensic investigations that can give you a glimpse of medical breakthroughs that helped convict criminals during the Civil War era times! The entrance fee is $10 USD.