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36+ Insider Tips for What to Do in New Orleans Told by a Local

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New Orleans is a great place to visit, and one of the best ways to get around town is by foot and hanging out in the different eclectic neighborhoods. But if you’ve been to New Orleans several times or wanted to do something more adventurous than strolling down the iconic Bourbon Street. This guide will help you find popular places in the Big Easy with a few local gems.

New Orleans is a touristy city and a popular place to visit, but after checking off some of the standard things to do, it is time to expand your horizons and explore. 

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What to do in New Orleans?

There are so many things to do in New Orleans that you should prepare yourself to either go on a week-long vacation or plan to come back a couple of times for additional vacations. From Festivals like the French Quarter Festival to celebrating Mardi Gras, there is always something to celebrate in the Crescent City.

What is the #1 Attraction in New Orleans?

The National WWII Museum is the #1 paid attraction in New Orleans. Perfect for history buffs, and many spend 1-1.5 days exploring the National WWII Museum. It is a must-do for anyone to add to their itinerary!

How many days in New Orleans is enough?

For a first trip to New Orleans, 3 or 4 days is perfect to get a taste of everything there is to do in the City. You can easily explore one or two neighborhoods and eat at delicious local restaurants.

French Quarter

The French Quarter is New Orleans’ most famous neighborhood. When most tourists come to Crescent City, they want to stay in or around the French Quarter. There are many things to do in the French Quarter besides just the infamous Bourbon Street. Whether you are looking for Live Music, something delicious to eat, or you want to wander around, The French Quarter has something for everyone.

1. St. Louis Cathedral

While in town, take a tour or go to mass at St. Louis Cathedral. The Cathedral has daily mass at 12:05 and weekend services. If you cannot make mass, the Cathedral is open daily from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., and self-guided brochures are available at the entrance. If you are lucky, a volunteer may be available for a tour.

2. Jackson Square

Jackson Square is a historic landmark in the French Quarter of New Orleans. This public space is in front of the St. Louis Cathedral, and you can hang out on the square, check out art from a local artist, or just be entertained by sightseeing.

3. Horse-drawn Carriage

Horse-drawn carriages were the original way to get around the unpaved streets of New Orleans. Nowadays, you generally find Mule-Drawn Carriages up Decature right by Jackson Square, offering tours of the City. Each tour will give you their commentary on the French Quarter and surrounding areas.

4. Café du Monde

Grabe is a world-famous Beignet at the original location of Cafe Du Monde! Only go so far with ordering a frozen Cafe Au Lait. You can even go on a Beignet Tour if you want!

beignets nola fall

5. French Market

Originally laid out as a farmers market, the French Market is where you can find delicious dining, eateries, and food stalls. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and you are bound to find a souvenir or two to bring home to your loved ones.

6. Street Performers

The French Quarter is full. Of street performers, stroll down any street, and you will see a crowd gather to enjoy the different local musicians, performances, art, and fortune tellers. If you enjoy the performance, give the street performers a dollar or two for a tip!

Two street musicians in New Orleans
Welcome to New Orleans – where street music and walking around with an open container law is a usual thing!

7. Steamboat Natchez

Spend an evening on the mighty Mississippi River on a Steamboat Natchez. You can sail during the day, night, or Sunday Jazz cruises. There are options to cruise with food, but I highly suggest getting a bite to eat before or after the cruise!

Book your river cruise on the Steamboat Natchez!

The steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River

8. St Louis Cemetery, No 1.

It is only a vacation to New Orleans if you stop and explore at least one of the historic cemeteries. Currently, only one tour can bring you into St. Louis Cemetery, No. 1, to see the voodoo queen Marie Laveaulaveau’s grave. Tours leave every 20 minutes, but they book quickly, so reserve well in advance.

Book your tour of St. Louis Cemetery No 1 now!

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One Sign in New Orleans

9. Louis Armstrong Park

Just steps from the FrenhQuarter, Louis Armstrong Park pays tribute to the icon himself – Louis Armstrong. The two main areas of attraction in this park are Congro Square and the Mahalia Jackson Theater.

Congo Square is an open space where enslaved and free people gathered throughout the 19th century for meetings, markets, and African dance rituals.

10. New Orleans Jazz Museum 

Nestled within the Historic Old U.S. Mint, the New Orleans Jazz Museum showcases an extensive collection of artifacts, instruments, memorabilia, and interactive exhibits that trace the origin of Jazz. Music history buffs must put this place on their itinerary. The New Orleans Jazz Museum hosts live performances, workshops, and events to keep Jazz alive in New Orleans.

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11. Preservation Hall 

An Iconic Music venue, Preservation Hall is a living treasure that carries the soul of New Orleans. Nightly Preservation Hall Jazz Band performances give you ample time to add this to your itinerary list of incredible New Orleans attractions.

Outside of Preservation Hall in New Orleans

12. New Orleans School of Cooking 

If cooking or eating is your thing, you will want to spend some time at the New Orleans School of Cooking. You can do a hands-on demonstration or sit in a large class where the chef makes some of the best creole and cajun recipes. You will walk away with more than a full belly as you will learn the history and art behind making a pot of gumbo, jambalaya, pralines, and other iconic dishes from the region.

Book your Hands-on Cooking class now!

13. Lafitte Greenway

The Lafitte Greenway is a 2.6-mile bike and walking track that connects the French Quarter to Mid-City. This stretch of bike trail offers a significant corridor connecting the two sections of New Orleans. The Greenway provides a safe and scenic route for pedestrians and cyclists to navigate the City quickly. Local businesses such as The Wrong Iron have formed with access right onto the Greenway.

Take a New Orleans Bike tour!

New Orleans City Park

New Orleans City Park is always a great time for all your family members! City Park has something for everyone, from exploring beautiful gardens to playing in the children’s museum. If, for some reason, someone is not excited about spending time in a park, let them know that there are beignets located both in and right outside of the historic park. 

Check out this City Park Walking tour.

14. New Orleans Botanical Garden

The New Orleans Botanical Garden is located in the heart of historic City Park and is a beautiful place for visitors to come and explore the meticulously landscaped grounds. Visitors can stroll through the rose gardens, admire seasonal blooms, and even explore a greenhouse.

Young lady standing in a greenhouse of the Botanical Garden

15. New Orleans Museum of Art

The New Orleans Museum of Art, fondly known as NOMA amongst the locals, is one of the best museums to attend in the City. This museum offers rotating and permanent exhibits spanning European masterpieces, American Art, photography, and more.

16. Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden

The Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden is one of my favorite free things to do in New Orleans! It is an outdoor museum over several acres with loads of sculptures created by artists. This garden offers an escape from the City while enjoying nature and art simultaneously.

17. Louisiana’s Children’s Museum 

The Louisiana Children’s Museum recently relocated to City Park with an expansion. If you have small children, this is one of the perfect places to bring your kids to run off some energy. Several hands-on exhibits and activities encourage learning through play. The Children’s Museum even nods to the Mississippi River you must visit.

Did you know that there are a lot of Alligators in City Park? Yes! You can go to City Park and see real-live alligators on most days. Be careful – they are usually lurking around the Children’s Museum.

Add some of these activities to your upcoming trip or staycation!

🚌 Take a 2-Hour City Sightseeing Bus Tour which is great way to learn about the history and romance of this magnificent city
🚢Experience Evening Jazz Boat Cruise with dinner while soaking in incredible views.
👻 Hear tales of vampires, voodoo, and witchcraft on this city walking tour of New Orleans’ French Quarter
🦸 Try Escape Room Adventure and test your problem-solving skills with fun and tactile challenges
⛰️ Go on a food tour and explore the history and culture of the area with an expert local guide while tasting regional specialties at some of the best restaurants around.

Open only on the weekends and featuring 18 rides, Carousel Gardens Amusement Park is a super fun place to bring kids for some family-friendly fun. Children under 36 inches get in for free, and there are tons of rides for the taller kids. Your kids will enjoy rides from the Carousel to Bumper Cars, Ferris Wheel to the Ladybug Roller Coaster.

Warehouse District and Central Business District 

The New Orleans Central Business District rests just outside the confines of the French Quarter. Originally designated as the industrial hub of New Orleans, this district served as a colossal repository for goods within its expansive warehouses. It’s often referred to as the Arts District of New Orleans due to its proximity to art galleries and museums.

Like any typical CBD, this downtown expanse accommodates many businesses vital to New Orleans. Contrary to common belief, the French Quarter isn’t the heart of New Orleans’s downtown landscape but is where many locals gather for business, lunch, and leisure. Read my Warehouse and Central Business District guide, or continue exploring the highlights. 

New Orleans is a fun city no matter the holiday! Check out our guide on What to do during Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Halloween and Christmas! If you need more ideas on where to spend a long weekend in the United States check out this post!

19. National WWII Museum

The National World War II Museum is constantly listed as one of the top things to do in New Orleans. This is the perfect place to go if you are a history buff. This museum started as the D-day museum, so while you are exploring, you may figure out that D-day heavily influences this museum. To fully explore this museum, dedicate a whole day to the museum, shows, and restaurants. You can purchase your tickets for a rainy weekend or even to escape the hot summers of New Orleans. 

Click now to book your tickets to the WWII Museum.

Being a tourist in your town is one of the best things you can do if you cannot get away on a trip or a vacation. The month of August is always hot and steamy, and organizations will do everything and anything to get us out of our air conditioning and into the streets celebrating.
Courtesy of The National WWII Museum

20. Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World

If you love Mardi Gras and cannot attend during Fat Tuesday or the Mardi Gras Season, spend an afternoon at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World! You can get up close and personal here with many world-famous floats parade during Mardi Gras

21. Art Galleries

The Warehouse District has many different nicknames, and one is the Arts District. There are several impressive galleries located in and around Julia Street. From vital oil paintings to more abstract art, you may wander into one of these galleries and take home a piece for your collection.

If you are interested in art, Spend some time in the Contemporary Art Museum or the Odgen Museum and explore what they have on display. 

22. Museum of Southern Jewish Experience 

You do not need to be Southern or Jewish to appreciate the Southern Jewish Experience. With 9000 square feet and rotating exhibits, it can be different every time you visit the Southern Jewish Experience. In this museum, the Southern Jews can share their stories about their immigration to the United States and the South. 

23. Vue Orleans

Located on top of the Four Seasons and overlooking downtown New Orleans and the River, Vue Orleans is an observation deck with interactive exhibits sure to keep you entertained. The 360-degree indoor and outdoor observation decks celebrate life in New Orleans like never before. 

You can even grab a bite to eat or have a cocktail in the cafe on the 34th floor. 

Add some of these activities to your upcoming trip or staycation!

🚌 Take a 2-Hour City Sightseeing Bus Tour which is great way to learn about the history and romance of this magnificent city
🚢Experience Evening Jazz Boat Cruise with dinner while soaking in incredible views.
👻 Hear tales of vampires, voodoo, and witchcraft on this city walking tour of New Orleans’ French Quarter
🦸 Try Escape Room Adventure and test your problem-solving skills with fun and tactile challenges
⛰️ Go on a food tour and explore the history and culture of the area with an expert local guide while tasting regional specialties at some of the best restaurants around.

Marigny & Bywater

The Marigny and the Bywater are two distinct neighborhoods but are typically visited simultaneously by tourists. These neighborhoods offer a laid-back vibe with a vibrant neighborhood and authentic New Orleans Experience.

You can wander around and see the beautiful, colorful Creole cottages and historic architecture.

24. Studio Be

Studio Be is an immersive and thought-provoking space created by Brandan “BMike” Odums, a local artist. BMike showcases stunning large-scale mural-style portraits in his studio to pay tribute to social justice, civil rights, and cultural movements. His work can also be found in murals all over the City.

25. Frenchman Street 

If you are looking for live Music, late-night eats, and plenty of bars, look no further than Frenchman Street. You can easily stumble into any live music venue on many nights to catch live jazz bands or excellent brass bands playing their heart out. Live Music is the main appeal to this street, but you will also find art galleries, shops, and delicious dining.

Frenchman Street is one of my favorite streets to celebrate Halloween. Many locals (and tourists) mingle in this area the weekend before Halloween and Halloween night.

26. JamNola

If you want something fun for the whole family, go to JamNola. Teens and tweens will love taking their selfies in this interactive exhibit. Ensure you bring the camera or have extra battery life on your phone; JamNola is so much fun you might not want to leave!

Buy tickets to JamNola now or read my full blog post reviewing it!

Costume Closet in New Orleans JAMNOLA

27. Crescent Park 

Spanning only 1.4 miles on the Bank of the Mississippi River, Crescent Park is the perfect place to soak in the sights of downtown without being downtown. The views from this area of town are stunning. My favorite place to go is by the Rusty Rainbow – but traveler beware – it is rusty and can move slightly when climbing!

28. Music Box Village

One of the more exciting places to visit in New Orleans is Music Box Village. Open only a short time throughout the year, you do not want to miss going to this Unique New Orleans Attraction. Music Box Village is where everyone can become a local musician by playing in the different musical shacks around the property.

Garden District & Uptown New Orleans

Tourists like to spend a lot of time in two other neighborhoods: the Garden District and Uptown New Orleans. These two areas of town are the best places to go if you want to escape the usual tourist spots and live like a local.

29. St Charles Avenue 

You can ride a streetcar from the Warehouse District down St. Charles Avenue to Uptown, New Orleans. It is a fun and economical way to get around the City and is perfect if you do not want to take a ride share or move your car. There are many historic houses, delicious restaurants, and things to do on St. Charles Avenue.

St. Charles Avenue is one of the best places to see Christmas Lights in New Orleans.

30. Magazine Street

Magazine Street is another famous street where people wander up and down. You can easily spend a day on Magazine Street with all the different boutiques, galleries, antique shops, and local businesses. Other than shopping and eating, you will find historic landmarks and charming homes. Make sure you plan your day for all the exciting things to do on Magazine Street.

31. Audubon Park

Whether you are looking for a place to exercise, a place to take photos or a place to Golf, Audubon Park is a must-do on your New Orleans itinerary. This park surrounds Audubon Zoo and even has a section called The Fly where you can watch the Mississippi River roll on.

32. Audubon Zoo

They will all ask for you when you go to the Audubon Zoo! If you do not know that song, you must look it up! The Audubon Zoo is New Orleans’s best place to see wildlife (including alligators!). From Majestic elephants to playful primates, The Audubon Zoo tries to replicate natural environments that the animals would live in to provide visitors with an authentic visit.

Day Trips in and around New Orleans

New Orleans is so compact that many people will do short-day trips to see other parts of the Greater New Orleans Area. With an area with such a rich history, you should add some places and landmarks to your trip.

33. Take a Swamp Tour

Many Swamp tours are outside New Orleans, so you must take a day trip out to Jefferson Parish or the Northshore to take a Swamp Tour. There are many options for a swamp tour; you must decide if you want to rent a car and drive to the swamps or have a tour operator pick you up and bring you. Either way, get ready for some Alligators!

34. Oak Alley Plantation

Plantations are always a controversial piece of Louisiana History. Still, if you want to learn more about this period, Oak Alley Plantation is one of the best plantations to visit. Oak Alley is known for its massive oak trees with sweeping canopies and Spanish moss-draped branches.

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35. Chalmette Battlefield

The Chalmette Battlefield is where the Battle of New Orleans unfolded during the War of 1812. This historical park showcases a significant battlefield and estimate of resilience in this region. Each January, on the anniversary of the battle, a reincarnation of the war happens on the battlefield and should not be missed!

36. Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve

Hang out in the Barataria Preserve to walk through a swamp and see some Alligators. This location is under the day trips section because renting a car to reach Barataria Preserve is highly advisable. Ubers and Lyfts can drop you off, but sometimes cell service could be better, and getting a ride back to town is hard!

Every Wednesday through Sunday, there is an accessible wetland walk that guides you through the boardwalk, swamp, and marsh.

Looking for more blog posts on where to eat in New Orleans? Check out:

We love talking about our favorite places to eat in New Orleans. There are so many different restaurants you could eat at a different place for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and never eat at all of them!

Check out these interesting guides below!

Where to eat in New Orleans
Eating Gluten Free in New Orleans
Eating Healthy in New Orleans
Black Owned Restaurants in New Orleans
Where to eat by the Saenger
Where to eat by the New Orleans Airport
Late Night Eats In New Orleans

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