Top attractions in New Orleans
Top 10 things to do in New Orleans
A slow-brewed Gumbo of cultures with a seemingly immortal music scene, New Orleans still drips with the Southern charm chronicled by Tennessee Williams and other famous sons. Here are the best things to see and do in one of the US' most characteristic cities!
1. S.S. Natchez
There's no better way to cruise the Mississippi than by steamboat! The original Natchez was destroyed in a fire, but the current S.S. Natchez offers dinner and live Jazz tours of Old Man River.
2. French Quarter
Boasting many of the city's most elegant buildings and monuments, from the 1850 House to Jackson Square, if you miss the French Quarter then you've missed New Orleans!
3. Lake Pontchartrain
Having once suffered from careless overdevelopment, the Lake Pontchartrain are now a great place to swim and picnic, particularly by the Mardi Gras fountain.
4. Garden District
New Orlean's rich and famous still gravitate towards this district's 19th-century mansions. Book a Garden District tour to see the best bits, but it's also a great area just to wander and ponder!
5. Bourbon Street
Though it's now known primarily for its bars and clubs, by day, Bourbon Street remains one of the best places to tour New Orleans' colonial past.
6. The Cabildo
The governing-offices-turned-courthouse called Cabildo at Jackson Square is where the Louisiana Purchase was signed. Its blend of Spanish and French colonial architecture is now a museum.
7. Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium
The Audubon Institute runs a zoo and aquarium too, but as family attractions go, this is one of the best in the US. There's even a creepy-crawly snack bar – Bug Appétit!
8. Mardi Gras World
Discover what goes into making Mardi Gras' most breathtaking carnival floats at the giant Mardi Gras World warehouse. It's open 7 days a week, closing only for major holidays. Oh, and Mardi Gras!
9. Louisiana State Museum
Louisiana may have a short history but it's one that warrants 9 state museum buildings! The Cabildo is one, but their flagship is just across Jackson Square at The Presbytère.
10. The Old US Mint
Here's another branch of the Louisiana State Museum worth visiting. No longer used to mint coins, the Old US Mint is now a huge Jazz museum, exhibiting old recordings, photos, and live music!
Planning Your Visit
When to go?
The height of summer (June-August) can get intolerably hot, but it's worth checking what events are happening the rest of the year before settling on dates. The famous Mardi Gras carnival takes place the day before Ash Wednesday (in February or March). If you want to sample some traditional street food though, arrive for November's Oak Street Po-Boy Festival to try the best Po-Boy sandwiches in town!
How long to stay?
For sightseeing, four days should be enough time to cover the French Quarter and Garden District, however, New Orleans is a city full of life and culture that penetrates deep beneath its surface. Book a few extra days if you can, keep your itinerary loose, and be prepared to get drawn into a few pleasant surprises!
How to get around?
Walking is by far the best way to see New Orleans, but when it's raining you can easily hail one of the city's many reasonably priced taxis. (Bear in mind though, that most cabs are more expensive and harder to come by on special event days.) There is also a well-connected bus network, but why not opt for the streetcars for which the city is famous? The St. Charles Avenue route, between downtown and Uptown, is a National Historic Landmark!
Good to know
- American Dollar ($)
- Time Zone
- UTC (-06:00)
- Country Code
- Best time to visit
- Spring, fall and winter tend to be more pleasant times to visit the city, not only to avoid the heat, but also to experience Mardi Gras, or one of the city's famous festivals. Check event calendars while planning your trip!
Other Sightseeing Options in New Orleans
Want to discover all there is to do in New Orleans? Click here for a full list.
What people are saying about New Orleans
Cruise was the perfect length and a really enjoyable run down and back from the city. Boarding was fast and efficient with Gina, the director, taking time to talk with our family and make us feel like special guests. The food for the brunch was surprisingly good - it could have easily been phoned in, but offered a great sampling of local cuisine. It was a great time - thanks a lot!
Be sure to purchase tickets online for early in morning to allow plenty of time. 3-D movie was fantastic! See that first if you can reserve. It fills up fast. We stayed 7 hours and felt rushed toward the end because we so enjoyed everything. I think you can an extra day cheaply. If we had time we would have done that. The personal stories are so fascinating!
Sean Bird was an excellent tour guide and his driver was very knowledgeable as well. He made learning about the various areas of New Orleans interesting! Thank you Sean Bird
Charles, our narrator, was very knowledgable with a great delivery. We learned so much about the Battle of New Orleans as well as Hurricane Katrina.
Shane was a great tour guide and extremely patient with all of the questions that the guests were asking