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Located in the state of Louisiana, on the Mississippi River is the beautiful city of New Orleans. Often called the ‘Big Easy’ and the ‘ Crescent City’, NOLA has so much to offer to the curious culture traveler. From heritage lanes, voodoo mysteries, to nightlife, vibrant music, culinary, and fusion of French, African and American cultures here are the top 50+ things to include on your New Orleans Bucket list.
Note: As travel, today remains uncertain, please keep your safety and the safety of others in mind at all times. Follow local guidelines, remember to wear a face mask, and wash your hands often. Check official websites before your trip for the latest updates on policies, closures, and status of local businesses.
Tips for first time visitors to New Orleans
Visiting the Crescent City for the first time? These epic things to do in New Orleans should be your starting point to curate an itinerary. If you are planning to visit for the famous Mardi Gras, ensure you plan ahead and make hotel reservations ahead of time!
How many days in New Orleans is enough? 3 day New Orleans Itinerary
Typically, 3 full days are enough to experience New Orleans. In three days, you can explore the city highlights (like the French Quarter) , try different cuisines, hang out in cafes or listen to live jazz. Add 2-3 special tours (like cemetery and food tours on one day) and on another day visit a museum and market.
- Day 1: Wander the French Quarter, take a walking tour or a food tour, chill at a bar/restaurant in the evening
- Day 2: Join a cemetery and Garden district tour, (in the evening) take a live jazz sightseeing cruise tour OR enjoy jazz at a restaurant in Bourbon Street
- Day 3: Visit Whitney Plantations (half day), hang out at the French Market (you can swap the 5-hour plantations tour for WWII museum, Museum of Arts/NOMA, or the Audubon Park)
- Where to stay in New Orleans? As a first time visitor to New Orleans, we recommend the following three neighborhoods to stay in.
- French Quarter area: This is at the heart of the city’s attractions, so you can pretty much walk around and check out all the places mentioned in this guide.
- Garden District: Close to many landmarks, and restaurants
- Or opt for accommodation in the city centre/ Business district
Wander the French Quarter
Wander the heart of New Orleans, and explore their heritage lanes in the French Quarter
Go on a guided walking tour
Embark on a guided walking tour, and learn about the French and Spanish Creole architecture and its history.
Enjoy vibrant nightlife at the Bourbon Street
Hit Bourbon Street in the heart of the French Quarter for a night of food, drinks and live music.
Shop or window shop at the Royal Street
Royal Street is the busiest in the French Quarter, and for a good reason. You can find tons of boutiques, and antique stores to snag a find, and take it back home!
Be there for the Mardi Gras
New Orleans is known for Mardi Gras, which means “Fat Tuesday”. It marks the start of Christian Lent season leading up to Easter. Celebrations of Mardi Gras can be traced to medieval Europe, and then to the French House of the Bourbons, and this event pulls tourists to NOLA every year!
With over 30 parades this is something you must add to your New Orleans Bucket list. This event is tentatively scheduled for February 16th in 2021.
Or atleast visit Mardi Gras World attraction
If you are NOT visiting New Orleans in February for the festival, head to the Mardi Gras World attraction instead. They organize seasonal events, and have history tours explaining the origins of Mardi Gras and exhibits from the past events.
It takes an hour to explore Mardi Gras World attraction. Grab your tickets for the Mardi Gras World Behind the Scene
Listen to music: New Orleans Jazz
New Orleans is world-renowned for its distinct music, but the little gems are out in the street playing live jazz. Stop by and listen to artists playing music.
Visit the National WWII Museum
Visit the National WWII Museum, aka the National D-Day Museum. This is a military history museum located in the downtown area in New Orleans. There is so much to read and explore at the museum, that you need to set aside 2-4 hours to fully take in all the information.
We highly recommend it. Click to book your tickets here!
Attend a Creole cuisine cooking class
Take a Cajun and Creole cooking class in New Orleans. In this 2.50 hour cooking class, you can learn to make 3-4 dishes (and their specialties – Gumbo, Jambalaya and Pralines) with a brew, and eat it too!
Plus know about their history, trivia and tall tales!
Go on a food tour
Don’t like to cook? Book a guided food tour in the city of culinary delights!
New Orleans is one of the top foodie destinations in the USA, so don’t lose a moment in tasting and trying out mouth-watering cuisine. You can opt for a food tour in the French Quarter or a drunk history tour!
Tour Whitney Plantations
From New Orleans, embark on a guided tour and learn about the lives of owners and slaves in Antebellum Louisiana. This is a New Orleans Bucket list item for history enthusiasts, and it should not be missed.
Whitney Plantation is the only plantation museum in Louisiana with a focus on slavery and has a history of 262-years. Learn more about this activity here
More Plantation Tour Options
Learn about the St. Louis Cemetery and Voodoo
One of the popular activities in New Orleans is to experience the legendary St. Louis Cemetery and see the historic voodoo tombs and the burial places. St. Louis Cemetery, located in the north of the French Quarter, is believed to be the final resting place of voodoo queen Marie Laveau.
Note that these places are to be explored with a tour guide due to recent incidents of vandalism.
We recommend taking a tour and learning about history. From the mystery of French Quarter’s oldest active City of the Dead to the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, this is a must-visit site. Click to book this tour!
Visit Lafayette Cemetery no 1 & 2
Another cemetery worth exploring is the Lafayette Cemetery, located in the Garden District. This was the city’s first planned cemetery, and over 8000 are buried here. The cemetery is known for the neoclassical architecture of its tombs and mausoleums.
Lafayette Cemetery no 2, located in the same vicinity is filled with tons of trees, and boulevards, and actually doesn’t look like a grave. You will find society and benevolent association tombs here.
Explore the Garden District and Magazine Street
Learn the history and architecture of the beautiful Garden District and Magazine Street in New Orleans. These lanes are one of the prettiest in the city, and they make for great Instagram pictures! Book this walking tour here
Visit the iconic St. Louis Cathedral
St. Louis Cathedral is one of the iconic landmarks of NOLA. It is the oldest continuously active Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States, dating back to 1727. Here you can clearly see the French influence.
At the St. Louis Cathedral you can opt for horse carriage rides or listen to music by admiring the beautiful landmark.
Wander the Jackson Square and photograph the St Louis Cathedral from there
Jackson Square is a historic park in the French Quarter, and it has played a pivotal role in shaping the city’s history. This square was known as the Place d’Armes (or Plaza de Armas in Spanish) and it was used as a public square. Many uprising and executions have also occurred here.
In 1815, after the Battle of New Orleans, the square was renamed “Jackson Square”. From the square, St Louis Cathedral is easily visible, and is perfect to take photos of both the landmarks in one frame.
Visit the NOMA
The New Orleans Museum of Art is the oldest museum in New Orleans. It is home to more than 40,000 objects including 5,000 years of art of Italian Renaissance to the modern era.
Stroll the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden are located in NOMA. From beautiful scriptures to unique and quirky ones (like a safety pin, Spider and Karma), this garden should not be missed on your trip to New Orleans. Entry to the gardens is free.
Visit the Audubon Zoo
Visit the Audubon Zoo, which is home to over 2000 animals. You can easily spend 2 to 4 hours here. Zoo tickets are $10 for Audubon members and $15 for non-members, when purchased online.
Enjoy a night of jazz in style
New Orleans and cruising in the evening is so mesmerizing. Imagine amazing music, food, night lights and city views. We always book night sightseeing tours, but you can do the same for breakfast or brunch (food and music in NOLA).
Stay at the Frenchmen Street
From bed and breakfast, vacation rentals to bars and live music, Frenchmen Street is a great place for accommodation during your visit to NOLA.
Order a ‘to go’ drink and wander NOLA
Just like coffee, order a ‘to go’ alcohol drink, and wander the city, capture colorful houses and streets in New Orleans.
Eat an entire po-boy (okay share)
Po’ boy is a traditional sandwich from Louisiana, and it is super filling. Order it for one of your meals!
Ride the Trolley: Canal Street
Streetcars or trolleys in New Orleans is an easy and affordable way to commute and explore the city. One-way ride on the streetcar costs $1.25, and an additional $0.25 to transfer from one line/car to another.
Take a helicopter tour
Want to soak in the city views from up above the sky? Yes, here is a way to do that – on a day time helicopter tour! Book this helicopter tour here
Book a quirky (historical) voodoo tour
New Orleans is full of quirky and historical nuances. From the French Quarter to Armstrong Park, hear about the stories of the dead with a historian.
Tours will take you to places like the infamous Lalaurie Mansion (as seen on ‘American Horror Story Coven’), May Bailey’s Brothel (as seen on Travel Channels ‘Ghost Adventures’), and many other sites such as the ‘Sultan’s Palace’ and more.
Must try foods in NOLA
New Orleans is known for its culinary. As mentioned there are food tours, cooking classes that you can enjoy. But you can also create your own little foodie list by adding these items – cannoli, muffaletta, King Cake and a messy French doughnut!
Order coffee and hangout at Cafe du Monde!
Café du Monde is the oldest coffee stand in New Orleans. Hang out there in the morning or midnight and order beignets and a café au lait.
Pig out at the Bourbon House
Clear some afternoon, and pig out at the Bourbon House. Tons of meals and dishes to choose from, especially oysters, seafood!
Go for a run through City Park
After all the food and drinks, a run is a must. Head to the City Park and enjoy a run or a walk. This park is a lovely oasis and a nature photographer’s delight.
Take a ferry across the Mississippi River
Travelers have enjoyed a ferry ride on the Mississippi River since 1827. Join them on a historic ferry ride and enjoy city views of New Orleans, its attractions and neighborhoods from the river!
Hug the tree of life at the Audubon Park
At Audubon Park, you will find the ‘The tree of Life’. This tree is loved by the locals, and it surprisingly spreads to the wall of the Audubon Zoo and you can see giraffes from here!
Enjoy a picnic in Louis Armstrong Park
Picnic at Armstrong Park or just visit for fun. This park is located just steps away from the French Quarter. The Congo Square, which was a historic meeting place for slaves in the 1800s, can be accessed from the park.
It is a lovely spot to relax, read a book or check out the sculptures, duck ponds and statues. This attraction is completely free to explore.
Visit the French Market and shop
The French Market is a historic site in NOLA. It has been in existence since 1791, and has undergone numerous changes including destructions, additions and has tons of stories to share. Pick up Pralines or shop for local produce!
Irish Channel for St Patty’s Day or all year round
Visit the Irish Channel for celebrating St Patty’s Day. Not in town for celebrations, stop by the Irish Channel for drinks and food in the historic neighborhood.
Take a tour of the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
Visit the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum for $5 USD. Learn about surgical instruments, medical inventions and tools, voodoo potions including exploring living quarters, and seasonal exhibits.
Enjoy time at the Storyland Amusement Park
Storyland Amusement Park (City Park) is filled with larger than life colorful storybook characters. Check out the structures or photograph them as memories to take back home!
Enjoy a night tour at the French Quarter
The French Quarter looks very different at night, under the stars and lights. Be sure to wander the street at night (and stop by bars and cafes when you are tired!)
Take time to attend festivals
Treat yourself with delicious coffee at the French Truck Coffee House
Or buy some stock to savour coffee and tea at home!
Enjoy the outdoors at City Park or Audubon Park
Enjoy a nice breeze, the beauty of trees, or yoga at the City Park or the Audubon Park.
Try the Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s
Stop by Pat O’Brien’s to try the famous Hurricane drink- a rum-based cocktail!
Treat yourself to a world class meal
The food scene in NOLA is world class (in case you didn’t notice the list of foods/dishes in this New Orleans Bucket list!). Dine your way through the city from legendary (expensive) establishments to trendy cafes. Start your picks from the James Beard award-winning restaurants!
Stop by the Preservation Hall
The Preservation Hall is a venue that is dedicated to jazz. Hang out and listen to live music. The hall is located in the French Quarter.
Harrah’s Casino New Orleans
Harrah’s Casino is a massive 115,000 square feet casino, located a block away from the Mississippi River.
Enjoy walking trails at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is a wonderful nature park in NOLA. It is named after French pirate Jean Lafitte and the mission of the park is to protect the natural and cultural resources of the Mississippi River Delta region. There are so many easy walking trails in the park. Set aside some time to visit the park, and enjoy its beauty.
Louisiana Children’s Museum
Perfect place to take your kids if you are visiting New Orleans!
Take a self guided tour of Old Ursuline Convent Museum
Old Ursuline Convent Museum was one of the convents in Louisiana that took care of young girls. It was founded by the nuns of the Ursuline Convent of Rouen. You can explore the convent quarters on your own, and learn about its history. Entry tickets are $6 to 8 USD.
Order sandwiches at the Central Grocery Co.
Central Grocery is a small grocery store, located in the French Quarter. It was founded in 1906 by Salvatore Lupo, a Sicilian immigrant. This place is quite a hit with the tourists for sandwiches!
Capture the city from Crescent Park
Head to Crescent Park, and enjoy the breeze, and the lovely riverfront green space. The park provides you with an alternate view of the city. Be sure to capture the beauty of NOLA from here, at sunrise or sunset!
Drive through the Crescent City Connection at night
The Crescent City Connection is the world’s fifth longest twin cantilever bridge. Enjoy a drive here at night as you soak in the lights from the city, especially the French Quarter.
We hope you enjoyed these amazing things to see in New Orleans bucket list. This city is amazing, so full of life and there will be tons of walking (wandering and eating involved), so wear comfortable shoes!
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