If you’ve dreamed of visiting New Orleans, then you probably have an idea of what you’ll find there. This is one of the most unique cities in the world, and there is no end to the variety of amazing, startling, and beautiful places to visit in New Orleans. It’s famous for its Cajun cuisine, jazz music, great architecture, and a unique and lively culture.
But New Orleans can be a little intimidating too. Its very uniqueness can make it seem difficult to navigate or understand on even a surface level. But if you’re ready for the challenge, this list of the best things to do, see, and eat will help guide you during your trip.
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The Best Places to Stay in New Orleans
If you choose the right place to stay in New Orleans, you’ll be close to all the action and get a taste of what this city’s heart is really like. And you don’t need to spend a lot of money to do that, which is why this includes accommodation options at every price point.
Best Hostel in New Orleans: Auberge Nola Hostel
If you want to be close to all the most interesting neighborhoods in New Orleans, then this hostel is a great choice. It’s within walking distance of Bourbon Street and is between the Garden District and one block from transportation. The staff are friendly and welcoming, and the hostel holds regular events and parties for guests. This combination of qualities is what makes this hostel one of the best places to stay in New Orleans on a tight budget.View on HostelWorld
For more awesome hostels options, head over to our Best Hostels in New Orleans guide!
Best Airbnb in New Orleans: Townhome in the Heart of NOLA
Smack dab in the middle of the French Quarter; you can find this hidden gem apartment with a pool and many other amenities. It’s in an authentic historic Lousiana building giving you the feeling you expect to get when visiting this timeless city. Conveniently, you can walk to everything here, and trust us when staying in New Orleans you need to stay in a walkable place to activate your feet and get exploring. With all the fantastic cafes, you don’t need a kitchen, but this place has a kitchenette for you to whip something up real quick for those late nights.View on Airbnb
Best Budget Hotel in New Orleans: WG Creole House 1850
When you’re deciding where to stay in New Orleans on a budget, you can’t go past this charming accommodation option. It offers comfortable rooms, luggage storage, and express check out and check in. It’s also conveniently located close to the most interesting neighborhoods in New Orleans and offers rooms that would suit couples, families, or even people traveling alone!View on Booking.com View on HotelsCombined
Best Luxury Hotel in New Orleans: NOPSI Hotel
The NOPSI Hotel is one of the best places to stay in New Orleans for several reasons. Firstly, it’s within walking distance of the French Quarter and all its charms and food options. Secondly, the hotel offers elegant rooms with all the conveniences you could want. And finally, there’s a bar and outdoor pool on site as well as staff who are friendly will help make your stay as pleasant as possible. That’s why, when you’re deciding where to stay in New Orleans and don’t mind spending some money, this hotel should be at the top of your list.View on Booking.com View on HotelsCombined
Need a place quick? Here’s the best neighbourhood in New Orleans:
- Enjoy the sights and sounds of New Orleans in central Jackson Square.
- Wander along Chartres Street, a street famous for its historic sites, bustling bars, and its many souvenir shops.
- Visit the stunning St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in North America.
These are the BEST Places to Visit in New Orleans!
#1 – The French Quarter
A great place to see in New Orleans if you love architecture
• Most people visit the French Quarter for the architecture, but it’s also the best place to visit in New Orleans for dining and entertainment.
• You could spend hours wandering this area, hunting for period details and taking photos.
Why it’s so awesome: The French Quarter is why most people travel to New Orleans. The buildings and the architecture date back up to 300 years and hold a charm that you won’t find anywhere else in America. But there’s more to do in this New Orleans must-see than staring at buildings. It’s also one of the best areas in the city to eat and shop!
What to do there: This area is curled on a bend in the Mississippi River and you’ll see countless period details as you wander through it. Many of the buildings now hold hotels, galleries, jazz spots, and souvenir shops, so make sure you do more than just take pictures! There are several famous streets in the area including Bourbon Street, Royal Street, and Frenchman Street. So, make sure you take your time and see it all.
#2 – Jackson Square
• This is the main square in the center of the French Quarter and contains lots of the most interesting landmarks in New Orleans.
• Make sure you check out the cathedral as well as the statue of General Andrew Jackson.
Why it’s so awesome: Once called the Place d’Armes, this square is located in the heart of the French Quarter and is a surprising natural area filled with trees. It contains the statue of General Andrew Jackson as well as the St. Louis Cathedral, with its cone spiral and stunning white façade. There are also a couple of museums as well as shops and restaurants in the area, which is why it’s often crowded with tourists.
What to do there: You could spend all day exploring this area. Make sure you visit the cathedral and the museums before heading to some of the shops and restaurants in the area. In front of the cathedral, along the iron fence, is a prime hang out space for artists, so it’s usually worth spending some time there to see what’s going on as well.
#3 – The National WWII Museum
A fascinating educational place to visit in New Orleans
• One of the best museums in the country for WWII exhibits and memorabilia.
• The interactive and varied exhibits make this museum a New Orleans must do.
Why it’s so awesome: This museum focuses on WWII from the point of view of Europe and the Pacific and it’s divided into sections to explore those different histories. There’s also a section that houses several WWII aircraft, so don’t miss it if you want to learn more about these seemingly fragile looking museums. The museum is impressively interactive and varied and includes a 4D film produced and narrated by Tom Hanks.
What to do there: Take the time to explore this museum, because you won’t regret. As you wander around, check out the documentary style film segments that will teach you more about the objects on display. Make sure you check out the 4D film, which has chairs that rumble when tanks appear on the screen and stage props that make the experience extremely sensory. Also, make sure that you make a stop at the Stage Door Canteen, where you’ll be treated to entertainment from the 1940s.
#4 – Preservation Hall
A great place to visit in New Orleans at night
• One of the best places to visit in New Orleans for jazz music!
• Don’t be fooled by the rugged outside of this building, it may look abandoned, but it’s a jazz institution in New Orleans.
Why it’s so awesome: You can’t visit New Orleans and not immerse yourself in the jazz culture and this is a great place to stare. The Preservation Hall is one of the most famous hotspots in New Orleans for great jazz music, so if you’re looking for a great night out then look no further.
What to do there: This is a small, intimate hall and seating is limited. This means that you must arrive early if you want to get a seat. On the door of the hall, you’ll find a list of the opening times and any special events. So, your best option is to pass by one day and see what’s on that night. And then show up early to make sure you don’t miss out!
#5 – The City Park
Awesome place to visit in New Orleans with kids!
• A huge park that includes a variety of the most famous places in New Orleans for tourists.
• This is a great place to take the kids as well, as it contains amusement and water parks.
Why it’s so awesome: The city park covers more than 1,300 acres and is a surprisingly huge, natural area in the middle of the city. It’s also packed with things to do, and you could literally spend your whole trip there, exploring everything that it has to offer. The park is a great place to get some exercise too as it includes an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, and walking trails.
What to do there: Whatever you enjoy doing, you’ll find something fun at this park. If you travel to New Orleans with the kids, then take them along to the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, Storyland, or the City Splash Water Park. If you’re looking for more adult activities, then head over to the amazing Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden or to the Botanical Garden. And if you’re just looking for a place to work off all that Cajun food, then play a game of tennis, go for a round of golf, or just wander through the area and explore.
#6 – The Cabildo
• Located close to the Cathedral, this is both a historical building as well as an intriguing museum.
• If you want to learn more about the cultural mix that exists in New Orleans, this is the place to do it.
Why it’s so awesome: The Cabildo was built in 1795 as the Spanish Governor’s Residence but over the year it’s also been the Louisiana Supreme Court. In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase was agreed to in this building and it was the location of the first town council meeting in 1799. Today, the building contains the Louisiana State Museum and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
What to do there: If you want to understand New Orleans, then you need to visit this museum. The collection explores the city’s history as well as the history of Louisiana as a whole with a particular focus on the many ethnic groups that make up the population. So, if you’re looking to explore New Orleans on a deeper level, this is your chance to do it.
#7 – The Garden District
One of the nicer places in New Orleans to sightsee!
• If your dreams of New Orleans include stately white mansions with columns, this is the area you’ve been dreaming about.
• You can explore this area on foot or take a guided tour.
Why it’s so awesome: The Garden District is a residential area that contains incredible mansions, beautiful gardens, and trees that have stood for longer than you might imagine. There are several streets in this area that still retain this old, wealthy charm that has been made famous in books and movies, so make sure you put aside enough time to see them all.
What to do there: You can wander on foot or take a guided tour to ensure that you see all the best spots. The best streets to explore are First Street, Prytania Street, and Camp Street, but make sure you don’t wander onto private property when you do so. There are also some good shops and cafes in the area, but they can be difficult to find, so make sure you’re fueled up before you arrive just in case!
Quick Note – Staying Safe in New Orleans
New Orleans, unfortunately, has a lot of problems with crime. Its violent crime rate is three times the national average and the city is usually included in lists of the world’s most crime-filled cities. But this doesn’t mean you should avoid New Orleans. If you’re careful, aware, and stay out of certain areas, you will increase your chances of having a safe and pleasant trip.
New Orleans has a high risk of natural disasters, so make sure that you pay attention to weather and government warnings while you’re in the city. On the ground level, don’t wander around late at night, particularly in the local cemeteries, and try to stay in groups wherever possible. Public transport is fairly safe but avoid driving in New Orleans as bad traffic and vehicle break-ins are common. And finally, be careful when you’re in popular tourist streets as petty crime and scammers are fairly common. Keep your belongings close at all times and walk away if anyone tries to sell you something. Most of all, follow your instincts. If they say that something’s wrong, then listen and get out of the situation as quickly as you can.
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#8 – New Orleans Museum of Art
A great place to visit in New Orleans if you are alone/traveling solo
• This museum is conveniently located in the south end of City Park.
• This is one of the best museums in the city, which is why it must be on your New Orleans itinerary.
Why it’s so awesome: This is one of the best museums of art in the south and contains an amazing collection of American, French, Japanese, and African art. There are also frequent special exhibitions at this venue that are often worth seeing. And the outside of the museum is just as amazing as the inside because of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden complete with walking paths and lagoons.
What to do there: Put aside the time to explore this museum to get a deeper understanding of the combination of cultures in New Orleans. This city really is a melting pot, and that’s stunningly reflected in the artwork that’s produced. And afterwards, make sure you explore the more than 60 sculptures that are displayed in the museum’s sculpture garden.
#9 – The Steamboat Natchez
• The best way to explore the River and learn about the city at the same time.
• The harbor cruises take 2 hours and include an optional lunch and you can also book in for a dinner cruise and see the city lights from this unique point of view.
Why it’s so awesome: Steamboats and the Mississippi River just seem to go together, so you mustn’t miss out on this iconic New Orleans must do. The Steamboat Natchez is a paddle steamer that offers harbor cruises as well as dinner cruises year-round and it’s one of the most popular attractions in New Orleans.
What to do there: You should be able to take a harbor cruise fairly easily. They take two hours and include narration about the sites that the boat is passing. If you travel to New Orleans in high season, you will have to book ahead of time to ensure that you get a good seat at the lowest price. But if you want a more personal experience, try a dinner cruise. They include a jazz band and buffet-style dinner that suits the dreamy lights of the city perfectly. The dinner cruises are more popular, so make sure you book in early to get your seat. And if you’re in New Orleans at special times of the year, check out the special events cruises. These are extremely popular, so book before you arrive!
#10 – New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
Quite the quirky place in New Orleans!
• The perfect place to visit if you want to experience more of the mystery of New Orleans.
• Voodoo has long been a big part of the culture of New Orleans, and it’s also a fascinating look at a very different belief system.
Why it’s so awesome: Founded in 1972 by artist Charles Massicot Gandolfo, this museum seeks to teach visitors a little bit about the history of the occult in New Orleans. It focuses primarily on Louisiana Voodoo, which combines practices from Africa and Europe in a way that’s unique to this part of the US. Voodoo was originally brought to the city in the 1700ss by the slaves and includes influences from several different cultures.
What to do there: This is a small museum that packs a punch. Wandering around, you’ll see antique voodoo dolls, talismans, taxidermy and the kneeling bench that belonged to famous voodoo priestess Maria Laveau. There’s also a tour that goes from the museum to the St. Louis Cemetery. This may sound like a strange idea, but the cemetery contains Maria’s final resting place, which is why it’s one of the most popular and unusual things to do in New Orleans. You can also buy souvenirs from the museum or get your voodoo fortune told! Check out their tours online.
#11 – The French Market
A great place in New Orleans if you love to shop!
• The undisputed best market in New Orleans.
• This market has a 200-year history and the best collection of souvenirs in the city.
Why it’s so awesome: When a market has been going for more than 200 years, you know it’s worth visiting. Located over 6 blocks of the French quarter, the market has expanded in recent years to include some cafes and eateries.
What to do there: If you’re looking for great souvenirs, check this market first for the best price. And when you’re tired of shopping, stop by one of the eateries for a coffee and some people watching before you plunge back into the crowds.
#12 – Mardi Gras World
• If you aren’t in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, this is the next best thing!
• Take the guided tour through the studios to get the most in-depth view of the work that goes into this famous festival.
Why it’s so awesome: If you can, then you absolutely must travel to New Orleans during Mardi Gras. But if you’re in the city at the wrong time of year, or just want to go deeper, Mardi Gras World is the answer. This studio is one of the leading creators of floats in the world and is heavily involved in creating floats for Mardi Gras. So, if you want to explore the color, imagination, and vibe of the celebration, a tour through the studios is the answer.
What to do there: Guided tours through the studios are offered regularly and will allow you to watch the artists at work and to enjoy the creativity and imagination that goes into the floats. You’ll see the props, some really amazing costumes, and huge floats close up and get a sense for how much work actually went into them.
#13 – Barataria Preserve
A very cool place in New Orleans to go for a day
• If you want to see the area as it was a few hundred years ago, this is the best place to visit in New Orleans.
• This preserve will allow you to see and explore some of the area’s natural treasures.
Why it’s so awesome: The city of New Orleans is a fairly recent addition to the landscape and if you want to see what it looked like before, then you should spend some time at the Barataria Preserve. These wetlands offer 23,000 acres of bayous, marshes, forests and swamps along with wildlife including alligators, birds, wildflowers and plants.
What to do there: Admission to the preserve is free and there are lots of options when you decide to explore this area. Grab a map from the visitor’s center and explore on your own or take a cell phone tour. Just remember that the animals are wild and can move faster than you might think, so keep your distance. Also, the preserve holds events, exhibits and programs throughout the year, so if you’re looking for New Orleans vacation ideas, this is a good place to start.
#14 – Lafayette Cemetery
One of the more unique places to visit in New Orleans!
• Exploring this ‘city of the dead’ is a New Orleans must do.
• Make sure you take a tour through this area if you visit at night because of the danger of petty crime.
Why it’s so awesome: This cemetery is the size of a city block and around 7000 people are buried there. It was named for the old city of Lafayette and is on the National Register of Historic Places. New Orleans has a long tradition of creating beautiful cemeteries, with lovely monuments and above ground burials. And this example is a tree-filled area that seems to be more about life than death.
What to do there: You can explore this cemetery during the day by yourself but make sure that you take a tour if you’re going at night. Also, if you’re a fan of the TV show The Originals, keep an eye out for familiar scenes. This cemetery was used as the home of the witches and all the cemetery scenes were shot in this area.
#15 – Freret Market
• A market that was opened after Hurricane Katrina to aid in the revitalization of New Orleans.
• You’ll find some amazing finger foods in this area, so make sure you’re hungry!
Why it’s so awesome: This market exists for a good cause and it’s also an amazing place to wander and explore the heart of New Orleans. You’ll get the chance to see local artists exhibiting their work and munch on some delicious finger foods. In fact, this is one of the best places to eat in New Orleans, so don’t miss out!
What to do there: This market is open on the first Saturday of every month except July and August, so make sure you show up and see what’s on. Wander the stalls, look for great souvenirs, and try the finger foods. There are also some of the best local musicians performing at this market, so take the time to enjoy them.
#16 – Gabrielle
A must-see for foodies!
• This restaurant was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina but has recently reopened, to everyone’s joy.
• This is a favorite amongst locals and tourists and is one of the best places to eat in New Orleans.
Why it’s so awesome: This restaurant was a city favorite amongst locals and tourists before the Hurricane. It was completely destroyed by the natural disaster but has recently reopened with some old favorites on the menu as well as some entirely new and delicious dishes. The chefs are inspired by Creole and Cajun traditions, which makes the food incredibly unique.
What to do there: This is a pricey restaurant, but the food is worth the high prices. Try the slow-roasted duck with crimini mushrooms. It was one of the most popular menu options before the restaurant was destroyed and once it was brought back, the locals rejoiced.
#17 – Zimmer’s Seafood
• New Orleans really knows how to do seafood, and this family-run restaurant is one of the best examples of that expertise.
• You can eat-in at this restaurant or take your meal to one of the local parks.
Why it’s so awesome: This restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside, but it sells seafood that brings in all the locals. It’s located on Anthony Avenue and offers fresh and delicious seafood, New Orleans style.
What to do there: You can get food to eat-in or takeaway. If you want to eat-in, you’ll be treated to great Lakefront views while you sit and eat your meal. You can also take the food to one of the local parks and have a picnic. Try the boiled crawfish or one of their fried oyster, fried shrimp, and fried soft-shell po-boys if crab you’re brave.
#18 – Studio Be
Possibly one of the most important places to visit in New Orleans
• A massive public art facility in the Bywater district.
• More than 40 artists came together to create this display, which explores activism and African American History.
Why it’s so awesome: The creator of this venue, Brandan Odums, brought more than 40 artists together to create the large murals and exhibits in this warehouse-like building. Many of the displays use spray paint and graffiti techniques and explore aspects of resistance and African American history that you probably haven’t thought about before.
What to do there: When you’re visiting New Orleans, you must take the time to see this display. It attracts visitors from all over the world and is a powerful and sobering reminder of history and of the problems of the present. You will need to pay for admission and the exhibits are open from Wednesday to Saturday, 2-8pm. There are also several other galleries in the area, so you can explore the city’s art scene while you’re there.
Get insured for your trip to New Orleans!
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Final Thoughts on the Coolest Places to Visit in New Orleans
New Orleans is one of the most unique and popular cities in the world amongst travelers and for a lot of people, visiting there is a dream trip. And the city doesn’t disappoint either, with a melting pot of cultures, musical trends, and a history that will have you enthralled. There’s no end to the places to visit in New Orleans no matter what you’re interested in, so be prepared to have a busy time in the city. With this easy guide, you’ll be able to find the experiences and sights that will help you make the most from your trip, so make sure you take it along with you!
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Need More Inspiration?
- New Orleans Travel Guide – Budgets, Tips, Itineraries + More
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Writer and Editor, Ana Pereira is a California native, inspired by Earth exploration and introspection. Recently, she spent several months exploring Africa and South Asia. She spends most of her “down-time” out in the wilderness, climbing, hiking, and beyond, and is feverishly passionate about travel and health.