Things to see and do in New Orleans (other than going to Mardi Gras)
New Orleans has a unique vibe that comes from its French origins. The music, especially jazz, and the festive ambiance that permeates downtown, make it a must-see destination for travellers.
If you think Mardi Gras is great, you should also check out the city’s Cajun food, African-American heritage, and voodoo culture.
Here are some highlights of Louisiana’s most famous city.
Stroll along the historic streets of the French Quarter
Probably the best-known area of New Orleans, the French Quarter or Vieux Carré (Old Square) is a mix of Spanish and French architecture.
There are many monuments and buildings worth checking out, such as the St. Louis Cathedral, as well as the Cabildo and the Presbytère (both part of the Louisiana State Museum).
Be sure to stop at Jackson Square, an oasis of lush greenery in the heart of the quarter. A guided tour of the French Quarter will cover the main attractions, plus give you a peek at the gardens and courtyards!
Adult admission: US$30
Listen to jazz at a club
It’s impossible to visit New Orleans without spending at least one night listening to jazz.
There are tons of restaurants, bars, and concert halls that feature live shows.
You can also let your ear be your guide and wander into wherever sounds good!
Take in Bourbon Street
Calm during the daytime, Bourbon Street lights up at night and becomes a pedestrian street. With bars and restaurants one after the other, the music never stops, the alcohol flows freely, and the atmosphere is always festive.
It’s the perfect opportunity to dress up in your most colourful and eccentric outfit.
But be sure to pay attention at the end of the night—people get drunker as the night unfolds and some may get aggressive or out of control.
Sample Cajun food
Louisianan cuisine is varied and delicious. At many restaurants, you’ll find dishes featuring crayfish, shrimp, oysters, or fish.
You can also try alligator or turtle! The famous po-boy sandwich is great for a quick bite or try some jambalaya or gumbo in one of the city’s many restaurants.
A food tour or a cooking class is another great option.
Adult admission: guided tours start at US$69 / culinary demonstrations start at US$30
Take a guided tour of Tremé
Tremé is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. It’s not a good idea to go there at night, but during the day, a guided tour lets you safely learn about the culture, history, and architecture of the area.
Louis Armstrong Park and the surrounding streets make for a fascinating stroll.
Adult admission: US$22
Take a ride on a historic streetcar
Four streetcar lines crisscross the city. Go west of the French Quarter to get on board.
You can take the historic St. Charles Streetcar, with its wooden seats, to the Garden District or the incredible Audubon Park.
Adult ticket: US$1.25
Explore the streets of the Garden District
Easily accessed by streetcar, this residential neighbourhood is worth the detour to take in the majestic colonial-style houses and the enormous oak, magnolia, and frangipani trees.
There are several historic houses you can spot along the way. Take a guided tour of the neighbourhood to learn more about its history.
Wrap things up with a stroll down commercial Magazine Street, full of antique stores, restaurants, and artists’ studios.
Adult admission: US$20
Eat a beignet (or a few!) at Café Du Monde
No self-respecting foodie can visit New Orleans without eating beignets at Café Du Monde!
Depending on the season, the size of the crowd can be daunting, but it’s so legendary that it’s worth the wait. Be sure to have the chicory coffee with your beignets.
Visit the Mardi Gras Museum
Mardi Gras is New Orleans’s signature event. If you can’t attend the festivities, at least visit the Mardi Gras Museum. This one-of-a-kind museum will let you experience Mardi Gras year-round. You’ll see costumes, colourful floats, and even get a taste of traditional Mardi Gras cake.
Adult admission: US$22
Discover Faubourg Marigny
Bordering the French Quarter, Faubourg Marigny (and Frenchmen Street) is calmer than its neighbour, but just as charming with its Creole houses.
It’s a great area to dig into Cajun specialties or sip a cocktail. Many music clubs (like the Three Muses) present excellent folk, country, and jazz musicians.
Visit the voodoo museum
New Orleans is steeped in voodoo religion and culture. You can learn about voodoo history and traditions at this small museum.
Artifacts from renowned New Orleans voodoo priestess Marie Laveau such as talismans, dolls, and offerings make this a truly unique experience.
Adult admission: US$7
Check out all the buskers
In the French Quarter, there are so many buskers, you can’t get away from them! From jugglers and painters near Jackson Square to jazz groups on the corner and improv tap dancers, there’s always a great show to take in.
Eat delicious pralines
Many companies, like Aunt Sally’s, make pralines, a very tasty specialty.
A confectionery made of cream, sugar, and pecans, pralines are delicious any time of day and make great souvenirs.
Visit a cemetery
There are several interesting cemeteries in New Orleans.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest, but you have to take a guided tour to see it. You can also take a guided tour of Lafayette Cemetery.
Adult admission: starting at US$15
Enjoy the fresh air at City Park
This enormous park has something for everyone. Strollers will revel in the shade of Spanish moss–covered oaks. Kids will love all the games, while flower and plant lovers are sure to enjoy the botanic garden.
The amazing Sculpture Garden adjacent to NOMA (New Orleans Museum of Art) is free and definitely worth the trip.
Adult admission to the museum: US$12
Visit art galleries and markets
Many areas in the city are dedicated to art and artists.
You can find a wide selection of vintage pieces and original works by local artists—not to mention the many art galleries, exhibitions, and art performances to choose from. The Art Garage is a perfect example of the eclectic mix of art in New Orleans.
Stroll through Audubon Park and the zoo
Audubon Park is located west of the Garden District. It’s great for sports enthusiasts who enjoy golf, tennis, or swimming. You can also just go for a walk along the paths and stroll among the lakes and tall oak trees.
Another park attraction is the Audubon Zoo—don’t miss the Louisiana Swamp and the Jaguar Jungle.
Adult admission to the zoo: starting at US$22.95
Visit haunted historic sites
The colonial history of New Orleans looms large. The legacy of slavery and voodoo culture have shaped the city’s character. Take a special guided tour and discover the ghosts of the city’s past.
Adult admission: US$19
Attend a gospel mass
You can attend a gospel mass in Tremé at St. Augustine Catholic Church, the oldest African-American Catholic church in the country. The congregation is used to having visitors and will welcome you with open arms.
The powerful gospel singing is sure to conjure up strong emotions. Just remember—this is a church, not a tourist attraction. Be sure to show respect for the church and its parishioners.
Mass is on Sunday at 10 a.m.
Take a boat tour on the bayou
Louisiana is home to fascinating flora and fauna—an airboat tour on the bayou is an absolute must! Departing from New Orleans, many companies offer excursions. It’s a wonderful way to experience the unique landscape and spot alligators and turtles in their natural habitat.
Adult admission: starting at US$55
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