Things to do in New Orleans

Things to do in  New Orleans

Welcome to New Orleans

Rowdy yet refined, New Orleans is a city that unabashedly mixes all-hours fun with a deep respect for tradition and culture. Late night revelers spill into Bourbon Street, trombone players and tap dancers vie for attention on street corners and in famous clubs, and both old school cuisine and the chefs it inspired entice visitors into the city's varied restaurants. Tour the Garden District and the French Quarter; cruise down the Mississippi River on a steamboat; and watch live jazz all over town. A day trip to the countryside reveals New Orleans’ roots, with opportunities to tour historic plantations and ride airboats through the swamps.

Top 15 attractions in New Orleans

French Quarter

The French Quarter, with its vibrant atmosphere and unique blend of architectural styles, is easily New Orleans’ most famous and popular area to visit. It's also the city's oldest neighborhood, and its elegant streets are lined with an appealing mix of lively bars—especially along the legendary Bourbon Street—historic monuments, delicious restaurants, and inviting jazz clubs.More

Garden District

New Orleans' Garden District is the epitome of Southern charm. Plantation-style mansions, which are among the most impressive in the city, feature wrap-around porches, verandas, and manicured gardens where there’s always something blooming. Streets are separated by stretches of green parks, and the historic cable car line runs along St. Charles Avenue.More

St. Louis Cathedral

A prominent landmark on Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral (officially the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis King of France) stands tall and proud, beckoning French Quarter visitors to take a little time out from drinking and dancing to admire the oldest continuously used cathedral in the United States. The seat of the city's Roman Catholic Archdiocese, the cathedral was built in 1789 and rebuilt in 1850, and today, its all-white, Spanish Colonial façade with three black spires is one of the most instantly recognizable landmarks in the South. The inside is just as beautiful.More

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve

Named for a legendary 19th-century pirate, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve includes six sites scattered throughout Louisiana that offer outdoor activities, history lessons, swamp tours, and more. See them on an airboat tour of Barataria Preserve in Marrero—a 26,000-acre (10,521-hectare) wetland rich in wildlife.More

Mississippi River

A central character in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the mighty Mississippi River has long captured the American imagination. Originating in Minnesota and sweeping across 95 river miles (153 kilometers) south to New Orleans where it spits out into the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi is the largest river system in North America and has gained an almost mythical place in American history.More

Jackson Square

In the heart of the French Quarter lies Jackson Square, one of New Orleans’ most famous locations. A National Historic Landmark, it is home to St. Louis Cathedral and is often filled with locals and tourists who come to stroll the paths, catch the buskers and street performers in action, or just sit in the shade and watch the world go by.More

LaLaurie Mansion

LaLaurie Mansion is not your regular tourist attraction. Also known as LaLaurie House, this French Quarter spot has a gruesome past involving torture, murder, and acts of brutality. The house is a regular stop on ghost tours of New Orleans and attracts visitors who want to learn more about the property’s spine-chilling history.More

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. Built in 1833 and ripe with ghost stories and the graves of notable New Orleans residents, this Garden District graveyard serves as the final resting place for more than 7,000 people. The cemetery gets its name from the old city of Lafayette, now part of New Orleans.More

Oak Alley Plantation

Famed for the 300-year-old allée of live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss that flank its main entrance, Oak Alley Plantation has more to offer visitors than a quintessential view of a Southern plantation. Highlights include numerous exhibitions exploring the complexities of Southern and Louisiana history, 1,300 acres (526 hectares) of grounds, and the historic house itself—all within easy driving distance of New Orleans.More

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

This vintage apothecary in the French Quarter is a national historic landmark and the site of the first licensed pharmacist in the US. Shelves of potions, perfumes, surgical devices, and other questionable curiosities are on display behind the old-time soda fountain for a fascinating look into medical practices of the past. More

French Market

Located in the heart of New Orleans’ vibrant French Quarter, the French Market is a grand bazaar that serves as much as a cultural meeting place as it does a market space. In addition to hosting stall after stall of vendors hawking handmade goods and artisanal foods, the market doubles as a venue for a daily flea market and a twice-weekly farmers market. The French Market boasts the superlative as the oldest continuously operating open-air market in the United States, making it a part of living Louisiana history.More

Bourbon Street

The infamous Bourbon Street, also known as Rue Bourbon, conjures up images of endless partying, drinks of all shapes and sizes, bachelorette parties, and of course, Mardi Gras. Outside of Mardi Gras season, visitors flock to this playground of the South for its Creole restaurants, live music venues, souvenir shops, and well-known drinking establishments.More


A powerhouse of historical relevance, the stately Cabildo on Jackson Square served as the seat of New Orleans government during the Spanish Colonial period and was the signing site of Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Today, it’s home to a museum showcasing Louisiana’s early history through original artifacts, photos, and exhibits. More

New Orleans City Park

With picturesque stone bridges, botanical gardens, art and sculpture, theme parks, hundreds of centuries-old oak trees, and numerous waterways, City Park in New Orleans offers myriad reasons to spend a day outside. Join locals on the trails, visit the New Orleans Museum of Art, enjoy the 100-year-old carved wooden carousel, and much more.More

The Presbytère

Even if you can’t visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras, you can still learn all about the famous New Orleans tradition at The Presbytère. Part of the Louisiana State Museum, The Presbytère boasts an interactive exhibition that includes an impressive collection of Mardi Gras artifacts and memorabilia."Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana," documents the celebration’s extensive history, from its origins to present day traditions. Visitors also learn about Mardi Gras events in Louisiana’s rural areas.The Presbytère building has a unique history of its own. It gets its name from its location. It is built on the site of the residence, or presbytere, of the Capuchin monks. It was designed in 1791 to match the Cabildo on the other side of St. Louis Cathedral. The Presbytère was used as commercial space and even served as a courthouse from 1834 to 1911 before becoming part of the Louisiana State Museum.More

Trip ideas

Best Weekend Getaways from New Orleans

Best Weekend Getaways from New Orleans

Top activities in New Orleans

New Orleans Airboat Ride
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New Orleans Airboat Ride

Swamp Boat Ride and Oak Alley Plantation Tour from New Orleans
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New Orleans Food Walking Tour of the French Quarter with Small-Group Option
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Haunted Pub Crawl in New Orleans

Haunted Pub Crawl in New Orleans

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All about New Orleans

When to visit

New Orleans’ best weather makes its debut in February and lasts until May, coinciding with carnival season and the world-famous Mardi Gras celebrations. If you’re looking to skip the madness, and the inflated prices, opt to visit in winter when hotels are cheaper and you won’t melt from summer’s heat, or worry about fall’s possible hurricanes.

Getting around

New Orleans is a compact city, and many visitors find it easier to rely on a combination of public transportation, taxis, transfer services, and tours rather than renting a car. If you’re staying in the French Quarter or nearby, you’ll find most of the major attractions are within walking distance. The Garden District is easily visited by hopping on the St. Charles Streetcar, which connects with the Central Business District on the edge of the French Quarter.

Traveler tips

Get to know New Orleans through its po’boy sandwiches, which generally consist of beef or fish served in French bread. Try some of the city’s finest at Killer PoBoys, a small outpost in the back room of the Erin Rose pub in the French Quarter. Popular fillings include seared gulf shrimp, black beer beef, and—for the vegans—roasted sweet potatoes with black-eyed peas.

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A local’s pocket guide to New Orleans

Maggie Bennett

Maggie is both Viator's New Orleans account manager and a New Orleans enthusiast. Countless visits to the region, including three trips for Mardi Gras, make her a go-to gal for things to do there.

The first thing you should do in New Orleans is...

hit Bourbon Street to people-watch, grab a fried shrimp Po’ Boy sandwich or fried oysters, and enjoy a famous Hurricane cocktail.

A perfect Saturday in New Orleans...

includes venturing outside the city for a high-speed airboat and plantation combo tour, or heading to the Garden District for jazz brunch at Commander’s Palace. Save room for bananas Foster for dessert!

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

Mardi Gras, of course. The parades, parties, and elaborate costumes are not to be missed.

To discover the "real" New Orleans...

head to Frenchman Street to check out jazz clubs frequented by locals, or take a bike tour to easily explore neighborhoods outside the French Quarter.

For the best view of the city...

hop aboard the Steamboat Natchez to experience the New Orleans skyline from a unique vantage point. Alternatively, stay on dry land at the Pontchartrain Hotel’s Hot Tin rooftop bar.

One thing people get wrong...

thinking New Orleans is just a place to party. It’s packed with history, culture, and outdoor activities as well.

People Also Ask

What is New Orleans famous for?

New Orleans is famous for its food, festivals, nightlife, and architecture. It’s a great place to try Cajun and Creole dishes, listen to live jazz or drink the night away on Bourbon Street, or check out the architecture in the French Quarter and the Garden District. Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest are the best-known celebrations.

What should first time visitors do in New Orleans?

First-time visitors to New Orleans will want to check out the two prime touristy areas: the French Quarter and the Garden District, which are linked by the city’s St. Charles Streetcar, a destination unto itself. First-timers should also stop by the Café du Monde for its famous beignets and chicory coffee.

Is 3 days enough for New Orleans?

Three days is enough for New Orleans, though you could easily spend much longer in the city without getting bored. Still, three days will give you enough time to visit the French Quarter and the Garden District, check out one of the famous cemeteries, and take a cruise on the Mississippi.

What is the most famous part of New Orleans?

New Orleans' most famous area is the French Quarter. This is where many of the city’s main attractions and dining options are located, and it’s where you’ll find Bourbon Street, the main nightlife drag. The Garden District is also well known, offering gorgeous mansions just a short streetcar ride away.

What is there to do in New Orleans besides party?

New Orleans offers so much more than just partying. It’s a great place to sample local dishes such as crawfish etoufee, jambalaya, and beignets, or check out architecture in the French Quarter and Garden District. Other popular attractions include the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and the Mississippi River.

What do locals do in New Orleans?

New Orleans locals often avoid the touristy throngs of the French Quarter in favor of lower-key neighborhoods, such as the nearby Bywater/Marigny and Treme areas. The Warehouse Arts District is also a great place to dine and drink among locals, without straying far from the French Quarter.

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