The biggest city in Louisiana, New Orleans, is bursting with jazz and blues music, Creole and Cajun food, a rich history, annual celebrations, and vibrant festivals. Situated on the Mississippi River near the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans is a prime tourist destination and more than just a beautiful place in Louisiana to visit.
From Mardi Gras and beignets to museums, parks, and colorful architecture, New Orleans promises a fun-filled adventure for any traveler—on and off Bourbon Street. Here is the ultimate travel guide to New Orleans, Louisiana.
Top Things To Do In New Orleans
New Orleans is known for its festivals. From celebrating food (like beignets and crawfish) and music (like blues and jazz), the city loves to celebrate year-round. However, the Big Easy has a lot more to offer besides its iconic festivals. Here are the top things to do in New Orleans.
1 Attend The Mardi Gras Festival
Mardi Gras parades through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Mardi Gras is a Christian holiday dating back thousands of years and celebrated around the world, mostly in countries and cities with a large Roman Catholic population. New Orleans hosts the largest Mardi Gras celebrations.
In French, Mardi means “Tuesday,” and gras means “fat.” Fat Tuesday is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Celebrations of parades and parties usually start about two weeks before Fat Tuesday.
The busiest of which is the weekend before Fat Tuesday, where tourists and locals alike feast on classic Mardi Gras dishes and watch Bacchus and Endymion (two big Mardi Gras parades) march down the street. This year, in 2023, Mardi Gras Day (Fat Tuesday) falls on February 21st.
Visit Mardi Gras World in the lower Garden District for a behind-the-scenes look at how artists create the magnificent floats paraded during the Mardi Gras festival.
2 The Audubon Zoo
Louisiana Alligator in the water at the Audubon Zoo
Ranked one of the top zoos in the country, tourists won’t want to miss the Audubon Zoo’s unique attractions, like the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit, the Jungle Exhibit, the white alligators, or the Cool Zoo, which is a lifesaver on a hot day.
The 750-foot lazy river, with sandy beaches, water cannons, and jumping jets, will give tourists a break from the heat.
: 6500 Magazine Street, New Orleans
: Thursday through Monday, 10 AM – 5 PM
3 Check Out The City Museums
Voodoo artefacts, a museum exhibit of theNew Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
Museum of Death
There are many eccentric museums in America, including at least one in New Orleans. This world-famous museum is located in the French Quarter.
For tourists that love true crime, this is the place to go. With Manson family photos and morgue scene photos, tourists can learn more about skulls, body bags, coffins, morticians, and much more!
: 227 Dauphine St, New Orleans
: Open daily from 10 AM to 6 PM. Closed on Tuesdays.
National World War II Museum
Perfect for history buffs, this top attraction in New Orleans takes tourists on a powerful journey through the eyes of people who fought in World War II.
The National World War II Museum offers galleries, exhibits, interactive experiences, and oral histories that bring American experiences during World War II to life.
: 945 Magazine Street, New Orleans
: Daily from 9 AM – 5 PM
Don’t leave the museum without watching “Beyond All Boundaries”; this captivating 4D movie was produced and narrated by Tom Hanks.
4 Join The Locals At The French Quarter Festival
Music parade in New Orleans
The French Quarter Festival is the largest event showcasing Louisiana music in the world. A favorite for locals, the festival has over 20 stages throughout the French Quarter—all playing different genres of music. From jazz to New Orleans funk, R&B, folk, gospel, Latin, and cabaret—there’s something for everyone.
Over 60 local restaurants also participate in the French Quarter Festival, so attendees can munch on their favorite food while listening to their favorite music.
5 Explore The New Orleans City Park
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New Orleans, LA: The Peristyle New Orleans City Park
One of the largest urban parks in the U.S., this 1.300-acre property hosts some of the city’s main attractions.
Visit the New Orleans Botanical Garden, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Carousel Gardens, the Couturie Forest and Arboretum, rent peddle boats at Big Lake, or simply stroll (or bike) down the paths and explore the largest grove of mature live oaks in the world. Some are almost 800 years old.
: Sunset to sunrise
6 Explore The Lively Frenchmen Street
Old town Frenchmen street in Louisiana famous town city nightlife and people walking on sidewalk by cafe night club bar
Those looking for an authentic New Orleans experience must visit Frenchmen Street. An excellent alternative to the more touristy Bourbon Street, this popular spot is where locals converge for unadulterated entertainment. The district is home to a string of bars, live music venues, nightclubs, restaurants, and galleries.
Party lovers and night owls will have a blast hopping from one venue to another in one of the best areas to experience local nightlife. Some trendy establishments on Frenchmen Street to check out include The Three Muses and The Spotted Cat.
Target around 7 pm to visit Frenchmen Street. This is when the venue comes to its own as live music fills the air and revelers steadily trickle in.
7 Walk Around The Garden District
A classic yellow mansion on Old street historic Garden district in Louisiana’s famous town city of New Orleans.
Located around three miles from the French Quarter, the Garden District is a quaint suburb with historic homes, well-manicured gardens, and rows of ivy trees. The laid-back, peaceful atmosphere is perfect for a relaxed stroll while admiring exquisite architecture and beautiful gardens.
It is a worthy escape from the more crowded French Quarter and easily accessible to tourists via bus or carriage. Those who want to refuel will find several cafes, shops, and restaurants like the highly-rated Commander’s Palace Restaurant.
Fans of “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button” can walk past 2707 Coliseum Street to see where the iconic movie was filmed.
8 Catch The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
New Orleans, LA: Gnarls Barkley frontman CeeLo Green performs a James Brown Tribute at the 2022 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
This Jazz Fest celebrates New Orleans’ (and Louisiana’s) unique culture and heritage. The festival offers thirteen stages of music, not only jazz but also rock, funk, Caribbean, Cajun, gospel, and folk, to name a few. The festival also offers local delicacies, unique art, and second-line parades.
Considered one of the best music festivals in the country, the 2023 lineup includes hot stars like Lizzo, Ed Sheeran, Mumford & Sons, Ludacris, Leon Bridges, and many more!
: April 28-30, 2023, May 4-7, 2023
9 Marvel At The St. Louis Cathedral
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New Orleans, Louisiana, USA at Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral.
Originally constructed in the 1700s, the St. Louis Cathedral is the country’s oldest Catholic Church in continuous use. The magnificent structure stands out in the middle of the French Quarter and is one of the most famous landmarks in the Big Easy.
The cathedral is a vital point of convergence for the Catholic faithful, visitors, and locals as it hosts various events, including services and free concerts.
The church is an architectural masterpiece that attracts admirers of its unique facade and intricate interior. The St. Anthony’s Garden, just next to the church, is a great place to relax and view the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue.
: $1 for a self-guided tour
: Open daily, 9 am – 4 pm
The St. Louis Cathedral complex also hosts a museum and the Old Ursuline Convent that charge visitors $8 for a self-guided tour.
10 Spend A Fun Family Day Out At The Audubon Nature Institute
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New Orleans, Louisiana: New Orleans Audubon Zoo inside the Audubon Nature Institute.
The Audubon Nature Institute is a must-visit for vacationing families. This sprawling facility houses an aquarium, zoo, nature center, multiple parks, and a golf course.
Several other amenities ensure there is something to keep everyone in the family busy while kids are guaranteed a fun-filled day. Numerous exciting species at the center will leave the young ones in awe, such as sting rays, turtles, and sharks.
The Jaguar Junge exhibit is a hit with visitors and the 400,000-gallon Gulf of Mexico aquarium exhibit promises to leave first-timers speechless. Overall, this is a spectacular spot for kid-friendly activities with enough fun to last the whole day.
: $21-$27 (zoo), $26-$34 (aquarium)
: Thursday to Monday, 10 am – 5 pm
For those visiting the zoo in the summer, remember to carry enough water and dress warmly; it gets pretty hot inside!
11 Sample The Art Scene At The New Orleans Museum Of Art
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New Orleans Museum Of Art, New Orleans, LA.
Simply referred to as NOMA, the New Orleans Museum Of Art boasts a collection of at least 40,000 art pieces. It is the longest-tenured fine arts museum in New Orleans, housing a vast collection comprising medieval Asian and European artworks between the 16th and 20th centuries.
Despite the vast collection in the museum, its relatively small size allows vacationers to view them in a single visit. Nevertheless, it remains a go-to attraction for art lovers and those searching for a relaxed indoor pastime.
: Thursday to Tuesday. 10 am – 5 pm
12 Best Time To Go To New Orleans
Historic buildings in Bienville Street in French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana
The summer months get very hot in New Orleans. Paired with high humidity, the heat can be too much for some tourists. Temperatures usually stick around the mid-70s to upper 90s, with lots of humidity.
The benefit of traveling to New Orleans for tourists looking for a quieter experience is that it’s less crowded.
Early fall can be a little on the hot side, but temperatures do drop later in the season. Early fall is quiet, but crowds grow in October because of the festivals, such as the New Orleans Film Festival, Voodoo Music and Arts Experience, and Halloween.
Winter weather can be unpredictable. The weather tends to range between the low-40s to the mid-60s. Wear layers to be best prepared.
Streetcars are probably the most unique way to get around the city. Operated by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, they’re a staple attraction in the city. Buses offer more routes than streetcars.
For tourists looking to use public transportation frequently, consider a Jazzy Pass. It allows unlimited rides on streetcars, buses, and ferries from 1 to 31 days.
Prices range from $3 to $55.
14 Where To Eat In New Orleans
A line outside Commander’s Palace in New Orleans
New Orleans is best known for Creole and Cajun cuisines, but with over 1,000 restaurants in the city, it can be hard to choose which one to go to. With so many options for beignets, Po’ Boy sandwiches, fresh seafood, gumbo, and so much more—it might be helpful to know where the locals eat in New Orleans.
“Real Food Done Real Good.” A local favorite, Elizabeth’s Restaurant cooks everything from scratch, including a French toast burrito, redneck eggs, and chicken and waffles. The low-key atmosphere and delicious food make this eatery a perfect breakfast spot.
Try the praline bacon. It is delicious.
Address: 601 Gallier Street, New Orleans
Hours: Open daily from 8 AM – 2:30 PM. Closed on Wednesdays.
This fine-dining lunch spot has been a New Orleans landmark since 1893. The Commander’s Palace offers lunchtime 25-cent martinis (that is not a typo—the martinis really are 25 cents!) and local classics, like Wild White Shrimp and Grits.
They have a “dirt to plate within 100 miles” policy, which means customers are getting fresh flavors distinctive of Louisiana every single day.
Address: 1403 Washington Avenue, New Orleans
Hours: Lunch on Thursdays and Fridays from 11:30 AM to various times, depending on the season.
Nestled at the corner of Bourbon and Conti Streets, the Oceana Grill is in a prime location and considered one of the best restaurants in the French Quarter. This well-known hot spot serves crab cakes, gumbo, creole-inspired pasta, seafood, and po’ boys.
Address: 739 Conti St., New Orleans
Hours: Dinner – 4 PM to 1 AM. Also, open for breakfast from 8 AM to 1 PM and lunch from 10 AM to 4 PM.
Late Night Restaurants
In New Orleans, staying up late is expected. And there are many options for midnight snackers.
Vertie Marte is open 24 hours a day. Load up on their Creole-inspired sandwiches, including their signature sandwich (All That Jazz)!
Address: 1201 Royal Street, New Orleans
15 Where To Stay In New Orleans
New Orleans city skyline at night
After all the exploring, dancing, dining, and shopping, visitors to New Orleans will eventually need a place to lay their heads. Whether tourists are looking for luxury, comfort, or a low-budget deal, New Orleans has the perfect hotel up for grabs.
The Roosevelt Hotel
This historic hotel in New Orleans’ Central Business District is in a prime location. It is adjacent to the French Quarter and within walking distance of the theater district (Vieux Carre), award-winning restaurants, and fun bars.
Amenities: Home to New Orleans’ top attractions, including the Sazerac Bar, the Domenica Restaurant, the Fountain Lounge, and the Waldorf Astoria Spa; beautiful rooftop pool; flat-screen TVs, and bathrobes.
A busy French Quarter, New Orleans
Centrally located, Hotel Provincial is a boutique hotel in the French Quarter. Formerly the site of a French Market Ice House, it’s a family hotel currently operated by the third generation of the Dupepe family.
Amenities: French toast served daily for breakfast and lunch; swimming pool; complimentary Wi-Fi; Ice House Bar; business center, dry cleaning/laundry services, and a 24-hour front desk.
The Holiday Inn New Orleans – Downtown Superdome
Only a few blocks from the French Quarter and famous Bourbon Street, The Holiday Inn New Orleans is nestled in the heart of the historical city. With easy access to New Orleans’ top attractions, budget travelers can enjoy the city while saving money.
The French Quarter is New Orleans’ best-known neighborhood and a must-see destination, regardless of whether tourists decide to stay here.
It’s home to St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, and packed with history, delicious restaurants, live music venues, unique shops, beautiful architecture, and, of course, the center of the party—Bourbon Street.
Expect great views of the Mississippi, carriage rides, art, antique shops, and street performers.
The Garden District
Upriver from the French Quarter in the Garden District, tourists will find a more residential vibe with neighborhood cafes, family-friendly restaurants, unique shopping, and grand historic mansions.
It offers a lot of New Orleans culture without the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter.
Central Business District
Across Canal Street from the French Quarter, the trendy Central Business District contains a lot of office buildings and warehouses, but it’s also a cool spot for food, drinks, and culture.
Home to many renowned art galleries and museums, as well as the Superdome (New Orleans Saints), this is a popular neighborhood for the younger crowd.
Home to the annual Jazz and Heritage Festival, Mid-City is a neighborhood easily accessible to the French Quarter and located halfway between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain.
For those wanting a more local experience, Mid-City promises an artsy crowd, colorful houses, restaurants, bars, breweries, and historical landmarks.
17 Tips To Know When Traveling To New Orleans
Aerial view at sunset of New Orleans
Getting from the Airport to the Hotel
Since traveling by car is not advisable, a ride is recommended. The Airport Shuttle will take visitors from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport to the downtown and uptown districts for $24 per person or $44 per person round trip. Taxis, Uber, and Lyft are also available.
Wear Comfortable Shoes
Walking is definitely the preferred method of transportation. Tourists will probably walk quite a bit!
With very lenient alcohol laws, feel free to stroll and sip (in plastic to-go cups) down the street.
18 How To Spend The Perfect Day In New Orleans
Historic building in the French Quarter with lots of plants
Start the day with breakfast at Elizabeth’s Restaurant, or grab a few beignets and a coffee. Then stroll around the French Quarter and marvel at the beautiful architecture and vibrant colors. This area attracts artists and street performers, so don’t rush. Soak in the atmosphere before heading to one of New Orleans’ many top attractions.
Choose a museum to spend the afternoon in. Maybe the National World War II Museum or the eccentric Museum of Death. Or head to the New Orleans City Park and check out the botanical gardens, the Museum of Art, and the mature live oaks. Or maybe even rent a pedal boat on Big Lake!
When the day turns to evening, get ready for a night out on the town. Try local cuisine at one of New Orleans’ many delicious restaurants, and prepare to party in the French Quarter. Listen to lively music, mix with locals and tourists alike, and soak up the culture of one of America’s greatest cities.
Q: What is New Orleans known for?
Music. Lots of it, and lots of different kinds. New Orleans is also known for its Creole and Cajun cuisine, and its festivals, such as Mardi Gras.
Q: Is New Orleans worth visiting?
Absolutely! For tourists planning a trip, New Orleans should be right at the top of the list. With so many attractions, both indoors and out, New Orleans has something for everyone. For tourists looking for fun after the sun goes down, check out these ten restaurants in New Orleans to enjoy the nightlife!
Q: What is the number one attraction in New Orleans?