The Best Things To Do In New Orleans

Written By: Kristen Cook

As a melting pot of delicious food, jazz music and vibrant ambiance, New Orleans is one city that will mesmerize you from the moment you arrive. The location on the Gulf Coast means that some months are better for visiting for others — summer months tend to be very hot and humid. It’s not unusual to find days that are over 100 degrees at 100 percent humidity! The peak travel times for New Orleans range from October through April — with it substantially more popular during iconic celebration times like Mardi Gras and Easter holidays.

New Orleans is always high energy and you’ll see it everywhere you go — from the brassy tunes and jazz music coming out of area clubs throughout all hours of the day to smells of Cajun food wafting through the air, this city is definitely one that engages all the senses. The famous French Quarter is one of the most popular neighborhoods in the country — from the lively atmosphere on Bourbon Street to the numerous restaurants and shops, this areas is definitely one that you will want to visit during any length of stay. History and culture just oozes out of the New Orleans streets and you’ll find it everywhere you go thanks to the architecture and ambiance of surrounding districts and neighborhoods. When you really want to explore the history of New Orleans, stroll through the Garden District, which features mansions dating back over a century and oak trees that are even older than that!

For those who love history, take some time to explore The National World War II Museum, as well as the Chalmette Battlefield. While it might seem spooky to some, walking through the any number of the cemeteries will interest those who want to take a step back in time and see some of the notable figures in New Orleans history. Whether you’re on a budget or not, there are also many free things to do throughout the city and take you away from tourist areas — such as Frenchman Street, which offers an authentic New Orleans vibe without the buzz of Bourbon Street.


Bourbon Street

In the heart of the French Quarter of New Orleans, lies Bourbon Street, and it is time to get the party started! Spread over 13 blocks, the street is famous for its pubs, clubs and restaurants, but don’t forget to also take in the history! If you’re in New Orleans and you’re looking for a bit of fun, make a night of it in Bourbon Street!


French Quarter

The heart and soul of New Orleans lies in the French Quarter, the most famous district of the city. Take in the Mississippi River and head along to Rampart Street. Stroll the streets and immerse yourself in the art galleries, restaurants, bars and museums; this eclectic mix of venues merge to provide the perfect display of the city’s culture and vibe! So, take some time, explore, sit for a while, and watch the city unfold before your eyes.


Oak Alley Plantation

Only an hour from New Orleans, a visit to the Oak Valley Plantation will transport you back to the pre-Civil War South. Explore the gardens at a leisurely pace and absorb the history. If only these 250-year-old magnificent oak trees that line the walkway could talk! Visit the “Big House” and admire the magnificent architecture of a past era; there really is so much history to be found here!


Garden District

Take some time to stroll around the Garden District and your mind will wander back to movies like “Gone with the Wind”! Just like the movies, the streets are lined with magnificent plantation style mansions, with towering magnolia trees. Absorb the “Southern Charm” of the homes, walk by the historic Lafayette cemetery No 1, and take in the many boutique shops of the area.


French Market

The culture of New Orleans is perfectly encapsulated in that of the French Market, at the heart of the city and bordered by the Mississippi River. Start with the food – see, smell and eat the fantastic food for sale; try the spicy boiled crawfish and take in the music that drifts endlessly through the market. Not just food is for sale here though, you can also find the perfect memento to remember your travels at one of the “flea market” stalls!


Honey Island Swamp

Escape the rush of modern day life for a while, and step into the primitive Honey Island Swamp. Take a guided tour by boat and travel deep into the shallow backwaters of this wild but beautiful swamp. Keep a look out for wildlife such as birds, alligators, boars, and turtles as you glide through the cypress trees – heavy with moss – and imagine yourself in a bygone era.


Steamboat Natchez

There’s nothing like the Steamboat Natchez cruise to truly transport yourself back to the “Old South”. As you glide along the mighty Mississippi River on this two-hour cruise, you will take in the skyline of New Orleans, and learn about the history of this Harbour City. Take a night-cruise for a spectacular dinner with a touch of jazz, and get a dose of Dixieland!


Laura Plantation

Don’t miss this fantastic opportunity to visit Laura Plantation; step into a bygone era based on the life of four generations of Creole women – some free and some enslaved. This tour brings it all to life; see the house, explore the museum, visit an 1840’s slave cabin, and walk the grounds to immerse yourself in the stories and myths of the Old South.


Whitney Plantation

At the Whitney Plantation you will learn about the history of slavery in the United States. As you tour the dozen buildings on the plantation – which was established in the 1700’s – you will contrast the splendour of the rich and destitution of the slaves. The museum, the artwork, the buildings, combined with slave narratives, will leave you with a unique perspective of this part of the country’s history.


Frenchmen Street

If you’re serious about live music and you enjoy a drink while you listen, then hard partying Frenchmen Street is just for you! These three blocks pack in more than 20 bars and live music venues to wet your whistle; for the music lover, seek out Louis Armstrong’s first trumpet! If you’ve come to party, Frenchman Street is heaven and you won’t have to walk far for the perfect pub crawl!


Old U.S. Mint

Take a break from the hustle of New Orleans and relax at the Old U.S. Mint. This beautiful building was hard at work minting coins up until 1909, so explore the museum and discover its rich history. However, the Mint is now home to The New Orleans Jazz Museum, so once you’re done with the history, stay and celebrate jazz in the city where it was born! Sit back, relax, and listen to the great music New Orleans has produced over the years!


New Orleans City Park

Unwind for a while and absorb the natural beauty of the New Orleans City Park. Set over 1300 acres, you can walk or bike ride along the endless pathways, bridges and waterways. Hire a boat and glide along the waterways admiring the century old oak trees, or spread a blanket and have a picnic! It’s a great place to slow down for the day!


Destrehan Plantation

Just 25 miles from the centre of New Orleans, Destrehan Plantation will take you back to the late 1700’s and then bring to life the history from the French and Spanish Colonial periods to after the Civil War. The displays and stories provide a fascinating insight into the lives of the plantation owners and the slaves. A visit to the oldest documented plantation home in the lower Mississippi Valley is a must!


Mississippi River

Integral to the trade and life of New Orleans, the Mississippi River is an iconic part of North America. As you stroll along the banks, you cannot but think of the great literature of the past – Huckleberry Finn – or as you watch the tugboats and tankers glide along its waters, appreciate the role this river has in the commerce of the country. Take the time to watch this river at work and appreciate the history that bought it here.


Louis Armstrong Park

On the edge of the French Quarter lies Louis Armstrong Park. This 32-acre park is dedicated to its famous son, and it brings the history of jazz to life! Visit the Congo Square, where slaves came together on Sundays (a single day off) to celebrate music. Admire the statues and take in the beauty of these magnificent gardens; this is the perfect way to take a break in New Orleans!


Lafayette Cemetery

Lafayette Cemetery has a fascinating history and is well worth a visit. Its sounds macabre, but the elevation of New Orleans is so low, that the impact of the seasonal rains made the burying of bodies a logistical nightmare. The answer was raised cemeteries, and Lafayette Cemetery is the oldest example. A guided tour will ensure you get a real appreciation of the history and myths of this cemetery!


Audubon Nature Institute

If you’re curious about the animal kingdom, then the Audubon Nature Institute is the ideal one-stop-shop for you. The complex is a collection of museums and parks; you can tour the Zoo, the Aquarium, a centre of excellence that focusses on endangered species, and even the world of insects! The zoo also has a special treat; the Louisiana Swamp exhibit that showcases alligators, bobcats, foxes, bears and turtles – this visit could take days!


Audubon Park

Go where the locals of New Orleans go to relax; Audubon Park. This expansive park spreads from St Charles Avenue to the great Mississippi River, and for open air entertainment it has it all. Go for a bike ride or just meander, have a picnic or a game of golf; the diversity of the options is terrific. For an extra special day, visit the Audubon Zoo, or the rookery, Bird Island.

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