14 Fun Things to Do in New Orleans
New Orleans, a city that really needs no introduction!
Founded in 1718 and administered by both French and Spanish governments, this city has weathered tragedies and still shines.
While the Crescent City definitely has a reputation for wild parties, there is plenty for both extroverts and introverts to enjoy. Below I’ve listed a few awesome places to check out for your cultural, gastronomic, and partying fix!
1. The French Quarter
When you think New Orleans, you think the French Quarter. The French Quarter, also known as the Vieux Carré (“Old Quarter”) is the oldest neighborhood in NOLA, and the epicenter of attractions and nightlife. This is where all the craziest Mardi Gras celebrations take place.
Interestingly, the majority of buildings still standing today were actually constructed during Spanish colonial rule.
For many people, their entire trip takes place entirely within the French Quarter. While it is true that most of the more popular attractions are contained within these narrow, walkable streets, I would recommend stepping out of this most well-traveled/Instagrammed of ‘hoods and seeing more of what NOLA has to offer.
2. Garden District
Dating back to circa 1832, the Garden District is widely considered to contain one of the most well-preserved collections of historic mansions in the country. It’s so nice that many celebrities have called this neighborhood home at one point or another, such as John Goodman, Mos Def, and Nicholas Cage.
It’s a wonderful use of an afternoon to hop on a St. Charles Streetcar and cruise through the district, hopping off to explore on foot.
3. Mardi Gras
The celebration that puts New Orleans on the map. Taking place every year in February, Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”) is a notoriously laissez-faire celebration, but there are certain rules.
For example, “flashing” is perfectly okay to do…in the French Quarter. Outside of the French Quarter, Mardi Gras is a surprisingly family-friendly affair, and flashers will be charged with public indecency.
It’s also fun to get a cool Mardi Gras mask! For that, Kristen and I both recommend the Crescent City Mask Company.
4. Jackson Square
The main square in New Orleans. You can usually catch an amateur musical act or shop some vendors here. This is where they hold a number of high-profile celebrations, such as dropping the ball and shooting off fireworks for New Year’s.
5. St. Louis Cathedral
The oldest Catholic church in North America, St. Louis Cathedral was built in 1794, although the parish dates back to 1720. The structure is right next to Jackson Square and is worth a quick look. Check the website for tour times.
615 Pere Antoine Alley, New Orleans, LA 70116
6. Club Bourbon Heat
Bourbon Heat is a great time in the French Quarter. There is a ground level courtyard that plays pop and top 40 hits, and has an adjoining restaurant. The second story is dance club that plays hip-hop.
941 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116
7. Tropical Isle
Home of the Hand Grenade! Some may call Tropical Isle a tourist trap, but it’s a tourist trap you should go to once, just to say you did. After all, it did originate one of the most famous (and strongest) drinks in New Orleans.
721 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116
8. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
One of the oldest taverns in the United States, Lafitte’s has been around about as long as America’s been America. Sources differ, but it was built sometime between the 1720s and the 1770s, during the Spanish colonial period. Lafitte’s gets its name from the pirate Jean Lafitte, who owned a business in this cottage.
Today it is a popular drinking spot for locals and tourists alike. It’s pretty cool to sit down at the original wooden tables that have seen so much history. Having said that, be prepared for this place to be very crowded on holidays.
941 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70116
9. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Plenty of aquatic exhibits for even the most cynical aquarium visitor. The tanks feature mostly sealife from the New Orleans area, but include specimens from farther out, like the rare albino alligator.
Also check out the large sea life sculptures made from trash reclaimed from Lake Pontchartrain.
1 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
10. St. Charles Avenue Streetcars
The oldest streetcar system still in operation in the US, the St. Charles Streetcar Line began as horse-drawn carriages in 1835, becoming electrified later on. Think of them as New Orleans’ version of the San Francisco Cable Cars, but arguably much more functional.
11. Cafe du Monde (alternate: Cafe Beignet)
An appropriately world-famous NOLA institution, Cafe du Monde has been serving up coffee, beignets, and other pastries since the Civil War. While I have heard legends of people who simply walked in and found an empty table, both times I’ve gone here have involved waiting in line for a very long time.
If that line is just too much to deal with, I would recommend Cafe Beignet, a local chain with a location just a few blocks from Cafe du Monde. It has indoor and outdoor seating, and the beignets are a perfectly tasty alternative.
Cafe du Monde: 800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Cafe Beignet: 334 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
12. Roosevelt Hotel Bar
The Roosevelt New Orleans Waldorf Astoria Hotel is a beautiful structure inside and out, and has enough interesting Easter eggs tucked away to make it worth a stroll. If you drink, be sure to grab one at the bar. They mixed the best amaretto sour I’ve ever had in my life. You can sit in the bar lounge or in any of the comfy chairs set back from the main hall.
130 Roosevelt Way, New Orleans, LA 70112
13. National WWII Museum
A sprawling, in-depth museum covering the Second World War, and New Orleans’ unique contributions to the American war effort.
945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
14. New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
As inextricable from “The City That Care Forgot” as Mardi Gras and the French Quarter, is voodoo. Voodoo is a mix of African religions and local spiritualism that actually takes many forms depending on where in the world you are; in this case it goes by Louisiana Voodoo. If you want to learn more about voodoo and how it started, be sure to check out the Voodoo Museum.
The building itself is pretty compact, but they squeeze in a lot of cool stuff. They also offer cemetery tours and readings.
724 Dumaine St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Keep in mind that everything on this list is just a small part of what New Orleans has to offer! Whether you come for Mardi Gras to get the full French Quarter experience, or want to delve into the city’s three centuries of history in a more chill fashion, you won’t be disappointed!