Best Things to Do in New Orleans

10Best things to see and do in New Orleans

New Orleans can be all things to all people. Some visitors can't wait to stroll down Bourbon Street and slurp a signature Hurricane from Pat O'Brien's, while a walk through the sprawling live oaks of Audubon Park and a neighborhood walking tour can do the trick for others.  The city offers such a range of activities that New Orleans really can please everybody – there is so much to do that even a week's trip isn't enough time.

Music is at the heart of New Orleans' beating soul and you'll soon see that it's everywhere, from street buskers on Royal Street to the full array of entertainment that happens every night of the week along Frenchmen Street.

The most under-recognized aspect of the city is its nature. The city has amazing parks in Audubon Park and City Park, with golf courses, kayaking, paddle boats, miniature golf and other activities for the whole family to enjoy. There really is nothing more soothing than a picnic lunch at Audubon Park, sharing your grassy area with a flock of exotic birds from Bird Island. Crescent Park in Bywater is another place to stroll along the river and catch city skyline views.

Shopping, eating, exploring the outdoors and downright enjoying yourself is what The Big Easy is all about. Leave your stress at the airport, and check out the list below for a start on what to see during your visit. 


New Orleans Streetcars
Photo courtesy of Beth D'Addono

The New Orleans Streetcar is the preeminent mode of transportation in the Crescent City. Traveling through the middle of major streets such as St. Charles, N. Rampart, Canal and Carrollton, the streetcar is an affordable method of transportation that allows you to soak in the sights as you move closer to your end destination. $1.25 gets you aboard, and if lucky, you'll have a streetcar operator that will act as an informal tour guide, pointing out important landmarks. The streetcar itself is of historical significance to the city. It is the oldest continually operating street railway system in the entire world, moving city-goers around since the 19th century.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Streetcars are a living breathing part of New Orleans culture.

Beth's expert tip: Take the Canal Street line out of the Quarter to experience Chickie Wah Wah, a local favorite for live music.

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Magazine Street
Photo courtesy of Paul Broussard

Magazine Street, which runs from Canal Street to Audubon Park, is a six-mile long shopper's paradise. With dozens of funky boutiques, galleries, and restaurants to choose from, Magazine Street is a terrific place to connect with local owner/operators and sample some famous New Orleans hospitality. Although shopping is a big part of the street vibe, there's also day spas, book stores, hotels, coffee shops and lots of special events that unfold along the street throughout the year. But wandering also is a great reminder that this street runs through multiple neighborhoods, so grocery stores, postal emporiums and hardware stores are also part of the sights.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Magazine Street is accessible by streetcar and home to great shopping and dining.

Beth's expert tip: Take the streetcar to Magazine Street, get off at Washington and walk seven short blocks towards the river and you're there.

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Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Photo courtesy of Aububon Aquarium

Located on the banks of the Mississippi River in the French Quarter, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas offers visitors a chance to pet stingrays, feed exotic birds, and ogle sharks in their 40,000 gallon Gulf of Mexico exhibit, which simulates ocean life under an oil rig. The colors of a Caribbean reef are featured in a walk-through tunnel, while penguins and Southern sea otters always entertain. Home to more than 3,600 animals from more than 250 species and consistently rated one of the best in the U.S. If you're walking along the river, check out the aviary at the pack of the aquarium which you can see, and hear, from outside.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This is one of the easy-to-access attractions for families staying in the French Quarter.

Beth's expert tip: Save 20 percent per ticket if you purchase online.

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Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World
Photo courtesy of New Orleans and Company

Unless you are specifically coming to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras World can give you a firsthand experience of the famous Big Easy holiday. Blain Kern's attraction affords you a behind-the-scenes look at the warehouses where the parade floats are conceived and constructed. Take a guided tour for true inside info into the technology and artistry behind floats like the King Kong and Bacchasaurus. Mardi Gras World hosts conventions, birthday parties, concerts and occasionally weddings. If your group is large enough, you can enroll in their Mardi Gras mask-making classes. This place is selfie heaven so have fun.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Mardi Gras IS New Orleans, and unless you're here during Carnival, this is the best way to get a taste.

Beth's expert tip: A free shuttle is provided with tour ticket purchase, with pick-ups at convenient downtown locations.

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Audubon Zoo
Photo courtesy of Audubon Zoo

Audubon Zoo, located in Uptown New Orleans is a great place for a family visit. Home to more than 2,000 animals, the zoo is open year-round, from Thursday through Monday. Learning the eating habits of a Komodo Dragon under the Louisiana sun can get hot, so the Zoo features Cool Zoo, a small-scale water park complete with an alligator water slide. The zoo is located across the street from Audubon Park, and adjacent to The Fly, a great place to lay out in full view of the Mississippi River. Ask about Monkey Hill, a mound for climbing popular with local tykes.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Always fun to wander, the zoo offers a slice of different wildlife than you'll see on Bourbon Street.

Beth's expert tip: If you are visiting the Zoo in the summer months with children, don't miss the Cool Zoo splash attractions and 750 foot-long Lazy River ride.

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Historic Bywater
Photo courtesy of Beth D'Addono

New Orleans has always been about joy, art and music, but JAMNOLA delivers a boffo curated experience that combines all three. Located in converted warehouse space on the edge of the Bywater, this 5,500 square foot funky art playground opened in the pandemic summer, when joy was at a premium. Take a self-guided tour through JAM and you'll walk through a series of experiences, rooms that mine the New Orleans cultural map and tell stories through the eyes of local artists. Floor-to-ceiling installations of Mardi Gras beads seem like a glitzier extension of the yellow brick road leading to Oz. There are paintings, sculptures, fun with interactive virtual reality. The place is selfie-heaven, from carnival float-sized busts of iconic music makers to life-sized crawfish pots to jump into, to costumes to try on, this kid-friendly journey through eye-popping color, music and texture is a blast. There are 12 rooms to explore, it takes about an hour and it costs $29 for adults, $20 for kids. And it's super fun.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: JAMNOLA is a great multi-gen experience for families with kids.

Beth's expert tip: The gift shop is a great spot to find local art, postcards and treats.

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Frenchmen Street
Photo courtesy of New Orleans CVB

Frenchmen Street in the Marigny is one of the most popular places to hear live music in town. On any night of the week, within a three-block stretch, you can second line down the street with a brass band, catch a reggae groove at Cafe Negril and swing dance at the Spotted Cat. Grunge out at Check Point Charlie's, a rock and roll dive that attracts all types. When there is a cover it's generally in the $5-$10 range, but if your wallet is thin, just hang with the crowds in the street, where music pours out of doorways shaking with that New Orleans beat. Just remember to tip the musicians.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Once only known to locals, Frenchmen Street is now a destination for all visitors interested in music.

Beth's expert tip: Outdoor live music is featured behind the Royal Frenchmen Hotel.

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French Quarter
Photo courtesy of Jeff Anding

The French Quarter is the beating heart of New Orleans. From its Old World spirit to its infinitely varied architecture and faded elegance, the Quarter is truly a place like no other. In a world of Disney-esque attractions, the French Quarter is unfailingly authentic; it's not an interpreted historic attraction, it is 120 blocks of the real deal. In New Orleans, there are more than 35,000 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, more than any other city in America. From the sounds of jazz wafting on the sultry air down Bourbon Street to the fleeting pleasure of lush courtyards glimpsed through wrought iron gates; from the magnolia and jasmine-scented air to the bold flavors of some of the world's finest restaurants - the French Quarter offers unforgettable and endless experiences to the traveler with an open heart and a healthy appetite for the fantastic.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Quarter is the number one destination for all visitors to New Orleans.

Beth's expert tip: The best way to see the Quarter is on foot, the neighborhood measures one-mile square, so it's easy to do a walkabout.

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City Park

Are your batteries in need of a recharge after an action-packed New Orleans night? Head over to City Park, accessible by streetcar, a green space that is 50 percent larger than New York's Central Park. Walk, run or bike through the endless paths covered by the shade of ancient live oak trees. Let the kids play tag on the playscape while you enjoy a picnic lunch by the lagoon. Golf, tennis, horseback riding and bike/kayak rentals appeal to the outdoor enthusiast. For the kids, Storyland (a fairy tale theme park) and Carousel Gardens Amusement Park (featuring a miniature train that carries children through the park) will keep them entertained for hours. Pay a visit to the New Orleans Museum of Art, situated at the park's entrance, or stroll the free outdoor sculpture gardens behind the museum, true hidden gems.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: City Park is the city's most accessible green space, a place for runners, bikers and anybody in need of some Mother Nature.

Beth's expert tip: Spend $12-$30 to rent a bike, swan boat or kayak and explore the bayous and lake in City Park.

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Vue Orleans
Photo courtesy of Vue Orleans

For starters, Vue Orleans is so worth the price of admission. What used to be a revolving restaurant at the top of what is now the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans is now a 360° observation deck and interactive experience overlooking the Mississippi River. Enter on the down river side of the Four Seasons Hotel, around the corner from the hotel entrance - just look up to see Vue Orleans signage leading the way. Vue Orleans adds up to a real wow, lassoing technology to offer a 360 degree view of the city's 300-plus years of history as well as a breathtaking vistas of the city and river in every direction. Bringing together hundreds of local historians, artists, musicians, Mardi Gras Indians, chefs, actors and filmmakers, Vue Orleans is a digital collaboration that introduces guests to the stories that add up to the gumbo that is New Orleans. Vue Elevators rise 34 floors in less than 60 seconds, with more techno-tales along for the ride. You'll "meet" the likes of voodoo queen Marie Laveau, see Preservation Hall Jazz band in action and have the chance to costume up, digitally at least. There are short films about civil rights and Katrina and a fab animated short about how the river informs just about everything, narrated by Irma Thomas. There is a virtual kitchen with back stories about the city's iconic dishes, insight from musicians and culture bearers and the chance to wander the panoramic viewing area, the cherry on top of this cultural sundae that adds up to a fun day for visitors and locals alike.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This new attraction is a terrific way to learn about New Orleans in every direction.

Beth's expert tip: Pay attention in the elevator to the top floor - magic happens!

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Meet Beth D'Addono

Beth D'Addono is a food and travel writer obsessed with flavor, exploring cultures, street music and the city of New Orleans.

Beth writes about New Orleans and other destinations for outlets...  More About Beth