Visiting New Orleans is always on my mind and for a good reason. I love the relaxed atmosphere, great food, and friendly people. There are so many things to do in New Orleans, too! Unlike other cities I've visited, there is something for everyone.
Whether you are planning a honeymoon, wedding festivities, or a weekend getaway, visiting New Orleans will be an experience you'll never forget. In fact, there is so much to do and see that you may never want to leave.
Spend your days strolling the French Quarter browsing art galleries and boutique shops. Or try your luck at the gambling tables of the riverboat casinos. While away your nights tasting exotic flavors, drinking fruity concoctions, and celebrating life like a local. You can't go wrong with any of the fun things to do in New Orleans!
Hopefully by now you're itching to learn more about what to do in New Orleans. Good thing because I've made it super easy for you in my New Orleans travel guide. Here are my best suggestions for finding fun things to do in New Orleans that should please just about anyone.
These thoughts are purely my own, not sponsored or paid. I've loved this city since I was a young girl, and I want others to love it, too. I hope you enjoy visiting New Orleans as much as I do!
Disclaimer: Some of the links included in this post are affiliate links. By purchasing products using these links you can support a Cajun in Cali at NO cost to you. Getting the goods you want while showing support is the best of both worlds!
Where to Stay While Visiting New Orleans
There's plenty to see and do near the historic French Quarter. And many people choose to stay in The Quarter when visiting New Orleans because it's so close to the action. But it's important to know where to stay in the French Quarter. My one piece of advice for first time NOLA visitors: read my other post before you book your stay!
New Orleans can be very walkable IF you plan your visit well. I usually stay close to Canal Street so that I can either quickly walk or catch the streetcar to get to my desired destination.
From Canal Street, you can easily access the historic trolley system to visit Uptown or hop in a quick cab to the Warehouse District or Frenchmen. The French Quarter is also only steps away. Many of the larger hotel chains (think W, Omni, Waldorf Astoria) offer luxurious digs on or near Canal Street. But there are some more affordable lodgings, as well (think Sheraton and Marriot).
If you want a little more NOLA-flavor you might consider the Royal Sonesta, the French Market Inn, Hotel St. Marie, or Hotel Monteleone. Or better yet, break tradition and stay on Frenchmen Street at The Frenchmen Hotel.
Getting Around While Visiting New Orleans
Flying into NOLA is a breeze thanks to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. The Airport is in Kenner, approximately 16 miles from the center of the city.
Thankfully, getting to the French Quarter from the airport is a cinch thanks to the handy guide on the airport's website. Be sure to ask your hotel about shuttle services (fixed rates apply). If you're coming with a group consider sharing the rates for even more savings.
Are you planning a short trip? Do yourself a favor and opt to go car-free, especially if you are staying in or around the French Quarter. Street parking is limited, and hotels can charge $25+ per day to park.
If you're planning to hang around the city center, there's no need to rent a car thanks to the many taxis and other transport options (streetcar, bus, UBER, horse-drawn carriage, rickshaw).
But, if you're planning a few excursions while visiting New Orleans, consider a rental car. I trust Hotwire for all my car rental needs. I always get a great deal from major car rental chains!
What to See While Visiting New Orleans
Obviously, this post highlights the French Quarter. And why not? The Quarter is full of impressive art galleries, titillating bars, incredible restaurants, one-of-a-kind shopping, and fun people-watching.
To get a taste of all The Quarter serves up, check out the list of handy (printable) maps at FrenchQuarter.com. For a more detailed shopping guide, turn to the folks at GoNOLA. Some personal favorites are UAL, Fleurty Girl, and Sweet Pea & Tulip.
You'll want to spend some time exploring the nooks and crannies of the historic French Market. Search the shops and the open-air market in search of the perfect souvenir.
If it's a unique trinket you seek, check out Sterling Silvia, a local mom & pop jewelry store. Thirsty yet? If so, pop into El Gato Negro for lunch and a fantastic pineapple cilantro margarita.
If strolling the streets isn't your thing, consider one of the many great museums like the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in the Central Business District (CBD). Or maybe you should hop on the Canal Streetcar (City Park Line) and head to City Park. There you will find several great options to while away your day, including the fabulous New Orleans Museum of Art and (outdoor) Sculpture Garden.
Tip: Be sure to stop by Parkway Bakery and Tavern on your way to City Park for the BEST po-boy in town!
Looking for more of a cultural experience while visiting New Orleans? Lucky for you NOLA is full of unique tours and cultural opportunities. If you're looking for a fun tour to take, consider one of the many French Quarter tours available from ViaTor:
My personal favorites include St Louis Cemetery #1 and a few of the Mississippi River plantation trips: Destrehan, Oak Alley, and Evergreen. The history of the city and the area is palpable when you're walking those hallowed grounds.
TIP: Don't worry about transportation for the plantation tours. Most reputable companies pick up at local hotels or designated shuttle spots.
Where to Eat While Visiting New Orleans
One thing requires no storytelling: New Orleans stands out in the culinary world. Whether you're dining at a celebrity chef's spot or the local bodega, you can find something amazing to eat on just about any corner of the city.
Start your mornings off right with a traditional NOLA breakfast: Café au lait and beignets at Cafe Du Monde. Or, if it's brunch you seek, why not check out Stanley (is worth the wait, I promise) or Mr. B's (cutest little jazz brunch on Sundays).
For a traditional French Quarter experience, consider Royal Oyster House for reasonably priced regional fare. And do yourself a favor; request a balcony table upstairs for some prime-time people watching.
Another favorite of mine is Dick and Jenny's in Uptown. The eatery serves home-style cuisine with a modern twist in a charming Creole cottage. I promise it will not disappoint. The cornbread alone is worth the trek.
Or maybe you want to step out in style? If so, suit up and head over to Arnaud's. This New Orleans standard has options for private dining for larger parties, but be sure and phone ahead to plan your lavish supper. Cocktail attire isn't required but why not?
New Orleans has its fair share of really fantastic restaurants and world-class chefs, too. If it's a Michelin-star experience you seek, consider Herbsaint, Commander's Palace or Cochon.
TIP: For my complete list of places to eat and drink in NOLA grab your copy of The ESSENTIAL New Orleans Checklist!
Where to Have Fun While Visiting New Orleans
Iconic Bourbon Street is a must for first-time visitors. There is plenty to see, drink, and do on this famous party street. Be sure to check out the Cat's Meow for some karaoke fun. Also, head to the courtyard at Pat O'brien's for an upscale cocktail in an authentic NOLA-style courtyard. Free jazz is included.
As the sun begins to set, don't miss Jackson Square for picture-perfect street shots and cool street vendors selling one-of-kind art. If you are lucky, you will find your fortune waiting for you at one of the many fortune tellers tables. Afterward, sneak down Pirate's Alley for a cocktail at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop.
If you're looking for something a little different, then book it to Frenchmen Street. Catch a quick cab to the corner of Decatur & Frenchmen, then trek north up Frenchmen Street for some fabulous jazz cafes, live music pubs, and throwback fun at the Blue Nile's 90's dance party (Thursday nights only).
Be sure to stop by d.b.a for a killer beer list and some sweet tunes. I love The Spotted Cat Nightclub and Cafe Negril, two top-notch jazz clubs known for supporting local talent.
Another MUST is the Frenchmen Art Market! Browse and buy local wares from some of the best artists NOLA has to offer. Some of my most favorite pieces of jewelry have come from the market. The market is every Thursday (7pm-1am) and every Sunday (6pm-12am) next to The Spotted Cat Nightclub.
Go Uptown for more Local Flavor
For a more locals-only experience, hop on the St Charles Avenue Streetcar and head toward Uptown and the Garden District. The streetcars are quintessential NOLA, very picturesque and authentic.
Many locals still use the streetcars as day-to-day transportation. Seeing the oak-lined streets and the magnificent mansions from the streetcar is truly like stepping back in time.
While you're there spend some time exploring the residential streets in search of your favorite Queen Anne Victorian home. If you find yourself outside Superior Grill (streetcar stop #21) you may as well stop in for a lively lunch. This superior (pun intended) spot is super fun and convenient. It serves as a great pit-stop for Mardi Gras, too.
Tip: Take one of Superior's potent frozen margaritas TO GO. It's perfectly legal to bring a cocktail on your stroll in New Orleans.
Looking for an oyster bar to belly up to? Check out Cooter Brown's at the end of St Charles (streetcar stop #43). This place is exactly what you imagine a local oyster bar to be like, complete with plate lunch and blue-collar patrons.
Oak Street is an up-and-coming arts district in Uptown that offers up some unique eats, some fine coffee shops and boutique shops. The highlight of the area is Jacques-Imo's. This institution has been serving "real Nawlins food" with style for many years.
TIP: The Oak Street Po-Boy Festival is not to be missed if you are visiting New Orleans in late November.
Explore the Historic Garden District
Magazine Street is one of the cultural hearts of the city and a personal favorite of mine. Known for eclectic shops, unusual characters and lively pubs, this is a MUST see for those who have the time. For those of you (like me) who love to shop local when you travel, be sure to get your comprehensive Shopper's Guide.
To get to Magazine Street, ride along on the St Charles Ave Streetcar until you get to Foucher (streetcar stop 21, margaritas!). Walk about 7 blocks south, zig-zagging your way through this residential neighborhood. Homes here are full of local charm and character. You might even meet a local or two!
Looking for something unique to remind you of your trip to New Orleans? Head over to the corner of Peniston and Magazine Street. There you will find an unassuming little white house which happens to be the Mignon Faget flagship store.
Her unique jewelry designs are, in my opinion, the best combination of culture and design. She is my absolute favorite Louisiana jeweler. It is fun to look even if you don't buy, but I am willing to bet that someone falls in love.
Spend the day zigzagging down Magazine Street while making your way back East toward Canal Street. There are plenty of shops to explore, a few coffee shops, and several great pubs and restaurants.
If you're ready for a good meal (which you really should be, even if you are not hungry) then check out Ignatius Eatery. The Creole Red Beans and Rice with a side of Alligator Sausage might just be the best thing you have ever eaten. Seriously.
Need a beverage to wash it all down? Head over to The Bulldog, a local institution. With TONS of beers on tap, you are sure to find something to write home about, or at least Tweet about. Be sure to have an Abita beer for me! Now that you're stuffed, call a cab or an Uber for a quick ride back to your sleeping quarters for a nice long nap.
Well, What Are You Waiting For?
Visiting New Orleans is an experience you'll never forget. My mission is to convince you to go so you can tell everyone that you've been to the best US city! For more information on where you should (and shouldn't) stay, check out Where to Stay in New Orleans.
Been to NOLA before? I want to hear about your experience and your thoughts. What did you think of my people, my food and my culture? Be sure to comment below to get the convo started.
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