“If there was no New Orleans, America would just be a bunch of free people dying of boredom.”
Whether you call it the Crescent City, the Big Easy, NOLA, or New Orleans, once you visit you may never want to leave. Unfortunately, some visitors think that the whole city revolves around Bourbon Street and the ubiquitous daiquiri shops and “huge ass beer” stands.
The truth is that New Orleans locals rarely even set foot on Bourbon Street. They spend their time dining on decadent Creole cuisine in old-school eateries, sipping on Sazeracs in upscale hotel bars, and listening to jazz in tiny music venues you might walk right past if you didn’t know which door to look for.
After being a NOLA resident for four years and returning for dozens of visits over the years, I’ve had a chance to experience the best that the city has to offer. And I’ve compiled all of my favorite things to do in the city ranging from the most worthwhile tourist activities to the best secret hidden gems to help you plan your trip.
So if you’re wondering what to do in New Orleans, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn about my favorite sights, sounds, drinks, and food in New Orleans!
- Our Favorite Hotels in New Orleans
- 65 Things To Do In New Orleans (Besides Bourbon Street)
- Sightseeing in New Orleans
- 1. Watch Street Performers at Jackson Square
- 2. Ride the Streetcar Along St. Charles Avenue
- 3. Take a Steamboat Cruise on the Mississippi
- 4. Freak Yourself Out on a Ghost Tour
- 5. Or a Voodoo Tour
- 6. Visit Famous Gravestones on a Cemetery Tour
- 7. Visit Mardi Gras World
- 8. Check out the Aquarium
- 9. Take a Walking Tour of the Garden District
- 10. Stroll through Audubon Park
- 11. Get Funky at the Jazz Museum
- 12. Pay Your Respects at the World War II Museum
- 13. Visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum
- 14. Get Spooked at the Pharmacy Museum
- 15. Attempt a Daring Escape
- 16. Get Cultured at the New Orleans Museum of Art
- 17. Root for The Saints
- 18. Throw Yourself a Parade
- 19. Go to a Festival
- 20. View Some Street Art at Studio BE
- 21. Scream at the Haunted Mortuary
- 22. Ride a Fan Boat in the Bayou
- 23. Take a Swamp Tour
- 24. Visit the Beautiful Plantations
- 25. Stroll Through the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park: Barataria Preserve
- 26. Visit the Chalmette Battlefield
- Eating in New Orleans
- 27. Binge on Beignets at Cafe Du Monde
- 28. Eat all the Po-Boys
- 29. Try Red Beans and Rice
- 30. Dine on Crawfish
- 31. Chow Down on Some Gumbo
- 32. Enjoy a True Southern Breakfast of Shrimp and Grits
- 33. Sample Some Jambalaya
- 34. Enjoy a Sunday Jazz Brunch at The Columns Hotel
- 35. Eat in the Back of a Pickup Truck at Jacques Imo’s Cafe
- 36. Splurge on the Prefix Lunch at Antoine’s
- 37. Eat Oysters at Pascal’s Manale
- 38. Eat More Oysters During Happy Hour at Luke
- 39. Eat Fried Chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House
- 40. Get Some Thin Fried Catfish at Middendorf’s
- 41. Sample Some Pralines
- 42. Cool off with a Snowball for Dessert
- Drinking in New Orleans
- 43. Sip a Sazerac, the Official Drink of New Orleans
- 44. Treat Yourself to a $0.25 Martini Lunch at Commander’s Palace
- 45. Have a Beer at Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
- 46. Sip on a Hurricane at Pat O’ Briens
- 47. Take a Spin at the Carousel Bar
- 48. Do Some Laundry at Igor’s Lounge
- 49. Sample Beer at the Breweries (Urban South, NOLA)
- 50. Drive through a Daiquiri Shop
- 51. Party at “The Boot”
- 52. Find Snake & Jake’s Xmas Club Lounge
- 53. Take the 24-Hour Challenge at Ms. Mae’s
- 54. Dance at The Saint
- Music in New Orleans
- Shopping in New Orleans
- Sightseeing in New Orleans
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Our Favorite Hotels in New Orleans
If you want to be right in the heart of the action, check out the Bourbon Orleans Hotel. It’s conveniently situated just a half block off of Bourbon Street and 2 blocks from Jackson Square. The real selling point is the peaceful courtyard pool hidden away from the madness of the French Quarter.
2. Ace Hotel
The Ace Hotel is New Orleans newest hot spot! Bringing the same shabby-chic hipster style that launched the brand in Portland, their New Orleans hotel features an amazing rooftop bar, an award-winning restaurant (Josephine Estelle), a Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and an oyster bar.
Looking for a cool hotel room that won’t break the bank? It’s hard to beat The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery. Located in the Warehouse District, it’s the perfect place to explore both the French Quarter and the Garden District.
65 Things To Do In New Orleans (Besides Bourbon Street)
Sightseeing in New Orleans
1. Watch Street Performers at Jackson Square
Jackson Square is the heart and soul of the French Quarter. Here you’ll find artists and street performers vying for your attention. You can listen to a brass band, buy unique art, or have your palm read – all under the stunning backdrop of the historic St. Louis Cathedral. It’s the perfect place to start your New Orleans vacation (and also a great starting point for a walking tour of the French Quarter).
2. Ride the Streetcar Along St. Charles Avenue
Be sure to take the New Orleans streetcar along the picturesque St. Charles Avenue, through the Garden District, and into Uptown New Orleans. There is something hypnotic about watching the giant Spanish Oak trees pass by while listening to the methodical click-clacking of the streetcar. This is one of the New Orleans highlights you simply can’t miss.
A single ride costs $1.25, but you’ll need exact change so stock up on quarters. And don’t even think about calling it a “trolley”, those are in San Francisco.
65 Things to do in New Orleans eBook
3. Take a Steamboat Cruise on the Mississippi
“When I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was, to be a steamboatman.” – Mark Twain
Sailing on a steamboat along the mighty Mississippi River is on many people’s bucket lists after reading stories of the old south and the westward expansion of America. You’re in luck because the Steamboat Natchez is still plying the waters in New Orleans and they offer daily departures.
If you opt for a daytime cruise, you’ll be treated to stories about the history of New Orleans. Or you can choose the evening cruise which features a live jazz band on board!
Book your cruise here: steamboat cruise on the Mississippi. It’s one of the best things to do in New Orleans.
4. Freak Yourself Out on a Ghost Tour
First founded some 300 years ago, in 1718, New Orleans has had more than its fair share of death and intrigue. Whether it’s shanghaied sailors, mysterious vampires, or gory unsolved murders, New Orleans has a long and sordid history. One of the best ways to get to know the history of the French Quarter is on a spooky (and delightfully corny) ghost tour!
5. Or a Voodoo Tour
Voodoo has long been an integral part of the religious tapestry of New Orleans. It’s a mix of Catholic, African, and Haitian beliefs that were practiced by a portion of the slave populations in New Orleans and the surrounding countryside during the 18th century.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Voodoo in New Orleans, there is a free walking tour. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end of the tour. Unfortunately, it doesn’t visit the famous grave of Marie Laveau in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, so if you want to include that stop, you should sign up for a voodoo & cemetery tour.
6. Visit Famous Gravestones on a Cemetery Tour
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest in New Orleans and is just a block away from the French Quarter. It houses several famous historical figures, including the voodoo queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau. Unfortunately, the cemetery closed its doors to the public in 2015 to prevent vandalism. So in order to visit, you’ll need to sign up for a cemetery tour. It’s more interesting to have a local guide recounting the tales of the cemetery inhabitants anyway.
You’ll be regaled with stories about how bodies used to be buried below ground and flooding would cause the dead bodies to reemerge and float down the street.
St Louis Cemetery No. 2 is still open to the public and is just three blocks from St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. It contains several famous musicians and historical figures. And if you have a car, you’ll want to check out the Metairie Cemetery – it houses the most ornate tombs and funerary statues, including the famous “weeping angel” statue at the Hyams family tomb.
7. Visit Mardi Gras World
Even if you won’t be in New Orleans for Fat Tuesday, you can still catch a glimpse of the magic of Mardi Gras at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World. It’s a massive warehouse where artists work year-round to create and assemble the giant-themed parade floats and costumes for the crews.
You’ll be treated to an interesting tour of the different construction projects that are currently in process. The best part is at the end when you’re free to wander around the warehouse, watching the artists hard at work and taking pictures to your heart’s content. Plus you’ll get a free slice of king cake… Laissez les bon temps rouler!
8. Check out the Aquarium
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, located at the edge of the French Quarter, houses over 10,000 animals. The highlight is a walk through a 30-foot-long underwater tunnel. You’ll see sharks, piranhas, sea turtles, anacondas, and, if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the albino alligator!
Tip: If you’re planning to visit multiple Audubon attractions (i.e. Aquarium, Zoo, and Butterfly Garden), you should book a combo ticket in advance to save money.
9. Take a Walking Tour of the Garden District
While most walking tours stick to the French Quarter, a great alternative is to tour the Garden District on foot. It’s much more peaceful and every bit as interesting. You’ll walk among the stately houses of celebrities like Anne Rice, Archie Manning, and John Goodman. You can also stroll through Lafayette Cemetery which is a hauntingly beautiful old cemetery on Washington Avenue across the street from Commander’s Palace.
It’s easy to take yourself on a self-guided walking tour of the Garden District with a little online research or you can book a guided tour here. Either way, it’s a nice off-the-beaten-path New Orleans alternative to the usual booze-filled French Quarter trip.
10. Stroll through Audubon Park
Audubon Park is a 350-acre park located in Uptown New Orleans, just across St. Charles Avenue from the prestigious Tulane University. If you’re riding the streetcar along St. Charles, it’s a great place to hop off and stretch your legs. The Audubon Zoo is also located in Audubon Park and is the perfect place to spend an afternoon if you have kids with you.
Tip: If you want to visit the Aquarium and the Zoo, you should book a combo ticket to save yourself about $15.
One of the best-kept secrets in New Orleans is the “New Orleans Pass“. It provides free access to over 25 tours and attractions around New Orleans. It’s an awesome bargain if you want to do a lot of sightseeing. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Audubon Aquarium
- Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium
- Audubon Zoo
- Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World
- Cajun Pride Swamp Tour
- Garden District Tour
- Haunted History Walking Tour
- National WWII Museum
- New Orleans Museum of Art
- Oak Alley Plantation
- Creole Queen Riverboat Cruise
- St. Louis #1 Cemetery Tour
11. Get Funky at the Jazz Museum
Where better to learn about the history of jazz than in its birthplace, New Orleans. The exhibits are a bit of a hodgepodge of jazz memorabilia, including Louis Armstrong’s first cornet. And as an added bonus, the New Orleans Jazz Museum is housed in the historic Old US Mint which is located at the southern end of Frenchman Street where jazz still reigns supreme.
12. Pay Your Respects at the World War II Museum
Oddly enough, America’s official World War II Museum is not located in Washington DC, but in the Central Business District of New Orleans. It’s a huge museum and if you’re a history buff, you can easily spend an entire day exploring the exhibits.
13. Visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum
The Backstreet Cultural Museum, located in the Treme neighborhood, is dedicated to documenting the African American culture and traditions of New Orleans. Those traditions include the Mardi Gras Indians, jazz funerals, and social aid and pleasure clubs. It houses a large collection of costumes worn by the Mardi Gras Indians, the Baby Dolls, and the Northside Skull and Bones Gang.
Don’t know what any of that means? Well, then go to the museum and learn all about a captivating part of New Orleans culture!
14. Get Spooked at the Pharmacy Museum
The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum was an actual working pharmacy way back in 1823 when it was opened by America’s first licensed pharmacist, Louis J. Dufilho, Jr. These days, it contains an odd assortment of medical instruments and paraphernalia. But the real highlight is the daily tour at 1 pm which is included in the $5.00 admission price.
This location also has a somewhat checkered history and is purportedly haunted by the spirits of dead patients who were experimented on by the pharmacy’s second owner – the evil Dr. Joseph Dupas. If you decide to take a Ghost Tour of the French Quarter, you’ll probably hear all about it.
15. Attempt a Daring Escape
If your group is looking for a fun New Orleans activity that will test their mental prowess, then check out The Escape Game. You’ll be “locked” in a room full of elaborate puzzles that you’ll need to solve in under an hour in order to escape.
You can pick from room themes like “The Heist”, “Mysterious Market”, and “Prison Break”. And your group will need to work as a team to solve the various clues located throughout the room. It’s the perfect team-building exercise for your family or co-workers. It allows everyone to participate, no matter their experience level.
Escape Rooms are equally entertaining for both kids and adults, so if you’re catering to both, then this might be the perfect thing to do in New Orleans. And if you’d rather play at home, The Escape Game also offers virtual escape rooms so you don’t even have to change out of your PJs!
16. Get Cultured at the New Orleans Museum of Art
The New Orleans Museum of Art is often overlooked by tourists visiting the Big Easy, but it’s worth a visit if you have time. It contains an impressive collection of over 40,000 pieces of fine art ranging from the Italian Renaissance period to today. You’ll find it in the southeastern corner of City Park, which is also worth a stroll around after you visit the museum.
17. Root for The Saints
The city of New Orleans has had a long, tumultuous relationship with its resident NFL team. For years, the team’s performance was so terrible that they became known as “The Ain’ts”. Some embarrassed fans even started wearing brown paper bags over their heads while attending games to hide their shame.
But in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the people of New Orleans began to rally around The Saints. And they went on to win their first (and only) NFL championship in 2010. Fanaticism for The Saints continues and if you’re in New Orleans when they are playing at the Superdome, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see them play. Geaux Saints!
18. Throw Yourself a Parade
It is surprisingly simple to throw yourself a (totally legal) parade in New Orleans. All you’ll need to do is pick a route, book yourself a marching band, apply for a parade permit with the city of New Orleans (which will include a police escort), and invite some friends to join you. That’s it!
You’re almost certain to encounter some type of parade during your time in New Orleans whether it is for a funeral, a wedding, or just because…
19. Go to a Festival
The most obvious festivals in New Orleans are Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. But don’t despair, the city hosts over 130 festivals throughout the year. That’s one every three days. So depending on what time of the year you’re visiting The Crescent City, your trip may coincide with French Quarter Festival (April), Satchmo SummerFest (April), Bayou Boogaloo (May), Oyster Festival (June), Southern Decadence (August/September), or Voodoo Festival (October).
20. View Some Street Art at Studio BE
Brandan “Bmike” Odums gained notoriety in 2013 when he began painting giant murals of civil rights leaders on the walls of the Florida Avenue public housing complex in the 9th Ward. The building had previously been abandoned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
His latest project is Studio BE, a massive 35,000-square-foot warehouse in the Bywater where he continues to create oversized works of street art. It’s a temporary exhibit with a limited lifespan so make sure you check it out before it’s gone!
21. Scream at the Haunted Mortuary
You may have been to a haunted house before, but have you been to a haunted house that is actually in a 100-year-old mortuary? The Haunted Mortuary served as the PJ McMahon and Sons Undertaking Company from the 1830s until 1985. During that time, over 20,000 funerals have been performed on this property and it is believed that some of the dead never left the property. If you’re in the mood for a good scare or a good laugh, stop by and see for yourself.
22. Ride a Fan Boat in the Bayou
If you want to see the more cajun side of New Orleans, sign up for a fan boat tour of the Bayou. These boats have flat bottoms and no underwater propeller which allows them to glide over the tall grasses of Louisiana’s swamps and waterways. You’ll encounter plenty of wildlife and probably a few interesting locals as well. A fan boat tour is one of the most fun things you can do around New Orleans.
23. Take a Swamp Tour
Similar to the fan boat tour is a traditional swamp tour; one of our favorite New Orleans activities. These also take place in the bayou outside of New Orleans.
Cajun Pride is one of the better swamp tour operators. You can either have them pick you up in the French Quarter or drive yourself out to Slidell which is about 20 minutes from New Orleans. You’ll get a chance to view gators up close and personal.
24. Visit the Beautiful Plantations
There are several plantations near New Orleans but the most beautiful one is, without a doubt, Oak Alley. It derives its name from the alleyway of ancient oak trees leading up to the front entrance. You can tour the giant houses as well as the well-manicured grounds.
Keep in mind that most of these properties owned slaves and have separate slave quarters so some choose to opt-out of this activity. You’ll find displays and information boards about this dark and violent side of these beautiful old Southern plantations. It’s a valuable history lesson and can be a real eye-opening experience.
If you have a car, it’s easy to drive yourself out to Oak Alley or, if you don’t have your own set of wheels, you can book a tour that includes pick up and drop off in the French Quarter.
25. Stroll Through the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park: Barataria Preserve
If you want to visit the swamps around New Orleans but prefer to do it by foot rather than by boat, you can drive out to the Barataria Preserve. There, you’ll find 23,000 acres of bayous, swamps, marshes, and forests that can be accessed via footpaths and raised boardwalks. You’ll get to see birds, turtles, snakes, and even a few alligators.
26. Visit the Chalmette Battlefield
One of the most important battles in the US was fought just outside of the city of New Orleans at the Chalmette Battlefield. It was here that Andrew Jackson – heavily outnumbered – defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans and brought an end to the War of 1812. If you’re a history buff, then a visit to the Chalmette Battlefield will be one of the most interesting things you can do in New Orleans.
Eating in New Orleans
27. Binge on Beignets at Cafe Du Monde
While visiting New Orleans, you must stop at the Cafe Du Monde for a plate of their famous Beignets and a cup of chicory coffee. It can be a bit confusing when you first walk up because it’s always packed!
Take note that the lines are for to-go orders and the bathroom, but the entire restaurant is open seating so if you see an open table, grab it. A uniformed waiter will stop by shortly to take your order.
Beignets are deep-fried doughnuts. They are covered in a thick layer of powdered sugar and served warm. Cafe Du Monde is open 24-hours a day, 7 days a week so there is really no wrong time to eat beignets.
On your way out the door, be sure to buy a tin of chicory coffee to brew at home. Or if you’re short on space in your luggage, you can buy it on Amazon.
28. Eat all the Po-Boys
A “Po-Boy” pretty much refers to anything edible stuffed inside a french baguette, but the most common varieties are fried oysters, fried shrimp, and roast beef. If you go with roast beef, make sure you get it covered in “debris” – those bits of charred skin and meat that fall off the beef and soak in the rendered fat at the bottom of the pan. It’s heaven in a heart attack.
The Best Po-Boys New Orleans:
- The “All That Jazz” Po-boy from Verti Marte
- The Ferdi Special from Mother’s
- The Slow Roasted Duck Po-Boy at Crabby Jack’s
- The Fried Shrimp Po-Boy at Parkway Bakery & Tavern
- The Fried Oyster Po-Boy from Domilise
- The Buffalo Shrimp and Blue Cheese from Avery’s on Tulane
If you head to one of these hot spots around the lunch hour, you should expect a 20-30 minute wait. It’s not uncommon to find the line stretching around the block at Mothers and Parkway Tavern. If you don’t feel like waiting, you can check out the less popular Guy’s Po Boys, Killer PoBoys, and Parasol’s for even more amazing sandwiches!
Tip: Order your Po-boy “dressed” if you want lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise.
29. Try Red Beans and Rice
Red Beans and rice is typically served as a Monday lunch special. Try Mother’s or Joey K’s – they are both New Orleans institutions and crowd favorites for their Monday lunch special. You can also find this dish served at pretty much any restaurant around town.
30. Dine on Crawfish
“Pinch the tail and suck the head!” is the local mantra for eating crawfish (and don’t you dare call them “Crayfish”). Crawfish season runs from December to June and is always eagerly anticipated in The Big Easy.
For the most authentic experience, befriend a local and get yourself invited to a backyard crawfish boil. These are parties that typically last all day and involve coolers full of beer and huge pots of hot boiled crawfish that are dumped onto a long picnic table for guests to fight over.
If you can’t manage to wrangle a local invitation, just head to Frankie & Johnny’s – a dimly lit bistro tucked just off of Tchopitoulus Street and a real hidden gem in New Orleans. They have been serving fried seafood since 1942. It’s the perfect place to tuck into a big plate of steaming hot crawfish!
31. Chow Down on Some Gumbo
Gumbo is the state of Louisiana’s official cuisine so you owe it to yourself to have a bowl. It’s a thick stew made from a dark-roux and some combination of celery, bell peppers, onions, okra, shellfish, chicken, and/or sausage. Spoon it over a bowl of white rice and dig in!
For an exceptional bowl of Gumbo, try Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in the Treme neighborhood.
32. Enjoy a True Southern Breakfast of Shrimp and Grits
Shrimp and Grits are popular across all of the south from South Carolina to Georgia to Louisiana. And while it’s traditionally a breakfast dish, these days you’ll find it on just as many dinner menus. Most brunch joints will offer up a version of shrimp and grits but the best one might just be at Surrey’s Cafe and Juice Bar on Magazine Street.
33. Sample Some Jambalaya
Jambalaya is a rice dish of Spanish and French influence that is found all over Louisiana. Traditional jambalaya always includes some type of sausage in the mixture, along with a variety of meat, seafood, and vegetables.
Our favorite spot for jambalaya is a little hole-in-the-wall bar on Decatur Street called Coop’s Place. The bar is not much to look at but the rabbit and smoked pork sausage jambalaya are delicious and the beer is ice cold (usually). Make sure you order your jambalaya “supreme” which means they add shrimp, crawfish, and tasso ham.
34. Enjoy a Sunday Jazz Brunch at The Columns Hotel
There are a number of “jazz brunches” to choose from on any given Sunday in New Orleans. Court of Two Sisters is a popular option, as is cruising along the Mississippi on the Steamboat Natchez.
But the best Sunday brunch is at the Columns Hotel on St. Charles Avenue. Here, you can sit on the colonnaded front porch while dining on shrimp and grits and watching the streetcar roll down the street.
35. Eat in the Back of a Pickup Truck at Jacques Imo’s Cafe
Serving up legendary Creole cuisine, including crab meat-stuffed shrimp, deep-fried grits, and paneed rabbit, Jacques Imo’s is a long-standing uptown New Orleans favorite for dinner. However, unlike some of the French Quarter’s stuffy, old-school dining affairs, Jacque Imo’s Cafe is characterized by its unpretentious patrons and rowdy atmosphere.
For a truly unique experience, make sure you reserve the best table in the house well in advance. It’s in the back of the pickup truck parked on the curb out front. And for a truly unique dish, order the shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake – it’s a specialty at Jacque Imo’s!
36. Splurge on the Prefix Lunch at Antoine’s
Antoine’s is an old-school New Orleans institution complete with white table clothes and jacketed waiters. Many would even argue it’s one of the best restaurants in NOLA.
But you don’t have to break the bank to experience some of the finest of fine dining in the Big Easy. Antoine’s offers a decadent 3-course set lunch served up for an affordable price tag that always matches the current year. So in 2021, it is just $20.21+ tax. It’s one of the best deals in New Orleans!
37. Eat Oysters at Pascal’s Manale
Raw oysters are another must-try cuisine while in the Big Easy. The best place in the city is Pascale’s Manale’s where you’ll stand at the raw bar while an experienced shucker serves you up as many as you can handle, all while entertaining you with stories. Stop by on weekdays between 3 pm – 6 pm for half-off raw oysters, beer, and cocktails!
Pascal’s Manale is also known for its “barbecue shrimp” which they have been serving since 1913. The shrimp aren’t actually barbecued, but they are cooked in a delicious pepper butter sauce that has made them one of the more famous dishes in the city.
38. Eat More Oysters During Happy Hour at Luke
Luke is one of the many restaurants in New Orleans by famed chef, John Besh. His restaurants are some of the best in the city, but keep in mind that you may need to drop some dough. However, the popular Luke Restaurant has an amazing happy hour from 3-6 pm that features $0.50 oysters and 1/2 price drinks – don’t miss it!
39. Eat Fried Chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House
It’s not often that a hole-in-the-wall fried chicken joint wins a James Beard award, but that’s exactly what happened at Willie Mae’s Scotch House. In fact, both the Food Network and the Travel Channel have hailed the New Orleans restaurant as “America’s Best Fried Chicken”. This will likely be the most delicious fried chicken you have ever eaten!
40. Get Some Thin Fried Catfish at Middendorf’s
Southern Living Magazine once declared that the thin fried catfish from Middendorf’s was “possibly the best-fried fish in the world.” That’s high praise coming from a magazine that probably reviews more fried food than any other publication in the US. Head on out to the remote town of Akers, Louisiana to try it for yourself – it’s a worthy day trip from New Orleans.
41. Sample Some Pralines
No trip to New Orleans would be complete without eating at least one pecan praline. They are a classic southern treat and you’ll find them in every tourist shop in the French Quarter. But don’t settle for some plastic-wrapped, day-old praline. You need to head straight to the source!
Where to get the best pralines in New Orleans will forever be up for debate, but you certainly won’t be disappointed with any of these spots: Loretta’s Authentic Pralines (1100 N. Peters St.), Southern Candy Makers (334 Decatur St.), and Leah’s Pralines (714 Saint Louis St.).
42. Cool off with a Snowball for Dessert
The three best words to describe summers in New Orleans are “hot, hot, hot!”. And the best way to beat that Southern heat is with an ice-cold, sugary sweet snowball topped with condensed milk.
Tip: Don’t call them “snowcones”. Those are made with crushed ice rather than shaved ice and are not nearly as tasty.
Drinking in New Orleans
43. Sip a Sazerac, the Official Drink of New Orleans
In 2008, the Louisiana legislature passed a bill that named the Sazerac as the official beverage of the city of New Orleans. The entire nation could learn a thing or two about priorities from Louisiana’s legislature.
You can get a great sazerac at most upscale cocktail bars around the city but you should make sure to not miss the one served at The Sazerac Bar in The Roosevelt Hotel. And if you wind up having one sazerac too many, the Roosevelt Hotel is also one of the best places to stay in New Orleans!
44. Treat Yourself to a $0.25 Martini Lunch at Commander’s Palace
A lot of people think the “three-martini lunch” is part of a bygone era, but in New Orleans, it’s still alive and well. In fact, you can complete your boozy trifecta for less than a dollar at the swanky Commander’s Palace (1403 Washington Ave.). Order one of the delicious lunch entrees and you can choose from three different martinis that will only set you back $0.25 each!
Note: There is a limit of 3 martinis per person… after all, it is lunchtime.
45. Have a Beer at Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
We’re cheating on this one because Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is, in fact, on Bourbon Street. But it’s situated at the far eastern, much quieter end of the French Quarter. Built in the early 1700s, this ancient building is supposedly the oldest structure housing a bar in the United States.
It was never owned by the famous pirate Jean Lafitte and also never used as a blacksmith shop. But it is a friendly laidback bar that is the perfect spot to enjoy a mid-afternoon beer.
On your way out of the bar, make sure you grab a plastic cup of their infamous ‘Purple Drank’ to take with you!
46. Sip on a Hurricane at Pat O’ Briens
You may think that Pat O’ Brien’s is on Bourbon Street, but it’s not. The main entrance is actually located a half block off of Bourbon on St. Peters Street. Step through the entrance and you’ll find yourself in a large outdoor courtyard full of tourists enjoying their signature drink – the Hurricane. The sickly sweet rum cocktail actually gets its name from the tall tulip glass in which it is served – they are modeled after Hurricane lamps!
You’ll have to pay for the glass with your drink and can choose to keep it or return it to the front for your money back.
47. Take a Spin at the Carousel Bar
The Carousel Bar & Lounge in the Hotel Monteleone is exactly what it sounds like – a rotating merry-go-round bar with all the trappings of a circus carousel! It’s a favorite stop for tourists and locals alike. And as kitschy as it sounds, it’s actually a posh bar with an extensive menu of perfectly crafted cocktails. This is also a pretty damn good place to try a Sazerac.
48. Do Some Laundry at Igor’s Lounge
Right on St. Charles Avenue, Igor’s Lounge is a combination bar, pool hall, and laundromat that is open 24-hours a day. Whether you’re looking to wash a load of clothes or enjoy a late-night beer and burger, Igor’s is always a good choice for a great time!
49. Sample Beer at the Breweries (Urban South, NOLA)
New Orleans has long been the stronghold of Dixie and Abita beer, but recently several new breweries have moved in on their territory. The two best options are Urban South and NOLA Brewing, both located on Tchoupitoulas Street. Both offer lively bars and delicious craft beer.
50. Drive through a Daiquiri Shop
Sure, you may have sipped a daiquiri while meandering down Bourbon Street. But, have you ever picked one up at a drive-through window and driven away with it in your cup holder?
Amazingly, New Orleans has a caveat in their open container law that states: “Open alcoholic beverage container” shall not mean any bottle, can, or other receptacles that contain any amount of frozen alcoholic beverage unless the lid is removed or a straw protrudes through the lid.”
So as long as you don’t insert your straw before you get to your destination, you’re clearly on the right side of the law.
51. Party at “The Boot”
The Boot Bar and Grill sits just a few feet off of the campus of Tulane University. It has been repeatedly named one of the best college bars in America by various publications including USA Today, Business Insider, and The Daily Meal. Often, it is the last stop for Tulane undergraduates on their way home from other bars on weekend nights. It gets packed after midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. It is either a load of fun or horrifyingly disgusting depending on your level of drunkenness when you arrive.
52. Find Snake & Jake’s Xmas Club Lounge
The name alone is enough to catch your attention, right?
Snake & Jake’s Xmas Club Lounge may be the greatest dive bar in New Orleans, if not in America. It’s a tiny, unassuming shack in a quiet neighborhood in Uptown New Orleans. There is very little to identify it other than an old Christmas wreath hanging over the door.
Step inside and you’ll be greeted with a low ceiling, some musty old couches, and some of the most interesting characters in New Orleans. Don’t expect to find much action here before one am. Snake & Jakes really hits its stride after the other bars in the area have closed for the night.
53. Take the 24-Hour Challenge at Ms. Mae’s
Ms. Mae’s, or simply “The Club” as it is more affectionately known, is at the intersection of Napoleon Avenue and Magazine Street. It is known for serving up NOLA’s cheapest drinks and always being open. If you’re feeling brave and you have time on your hands, you can attempt the 24-hour challenge – which simply consists of drinking one drink an hour for 24 hours straight.
54. Dance at The Saint
The Saint is another world-class dive bar located just off of Magazine Street. From the outside, there is little more than a sign over a nondescript door. But if you go inside at around 2 am on the weekend, you’ll find a DJ spinning hip-hop tracks and a wall-to-wall crowd packed into this tiny bar.
Music in New Orleans
55. Listen to Jazz at Preservation Hall
Walk down St. Peters Street on any evening and you’ll likely encounter the line for Preservation Hall. With shows starting at 5 pm, 6 pm, 8 pm, 9 pm, and 10 pm almost every night of the year, this iconic music venue has been promoting Jazz in the Crescent City for over 50 years.
The cost to enter is usually $20 (cash only), the venue is tiny, and the music is acoustic. If you have time and don’t mind standing in line, this is the best place to see jazz music in New Orleans.
56. Take a Walk Down Frenchman Street
Frenchman Street is just a few blocks away from Bourbon Street but it seems like an entirely different world. The daiquiri stands and “huge ass beer” signs are replaced by jazz clubs and spontaneous street performances. If you’re in the mood for live music, then you’ll almost certainly find something to your liking here.
The most iconic of the tiny music venues lining Frenchman Street is The Spotted Cat (or simply “The Cat”), but most people simply wander down the street and pop into whatever club catches their ear. Or simply dance in the street when the bar is packed.
57. See Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf
Rebirth Brass Band has been playing Tuesday Nights at the Maple Leaf Bar (8316 Oak St.) for over 22 years. It used to be $5 to get in, but now it’s $20 due to their rising popularity. But it’s worth every penny. If you’re in the Big Easy on a Tuesday, don’t miss this show!
58. Groove with the Soul Rebels at Le Bon Temps
If you’re not in the Big Easy on a Tuesday, don’t fret! You can see the second-best weekly show in town – the Soul Rebels at Le Bon Temps (4801 Magazine St.) every Thursday Night. Can’t make it on Thursday? Then stop by on Friday for free oysters starting at 7 pm until they’re gone.
59. Go Dancing at Tipitina’s
Tipitina’s opened in 1977 and has been hosting live music and cajun dancing ever since. It’s one of the best-known music clubs in New Orleans and is a favorite venue of many local musicians, including The Radiators, The Neville Brothers, Galactic, Professor Longhair, and Dr. John.
60. Jam out at The Howlin’ Wolf
You’ll also find a top-notch music venue at The Howlin’ Wolf in the Warehouse District, named after the legendary Chicago Blues singer and guitarist Chester “Howlin’ Wolf” Burnett. Make sure you check out their schedule while you’re in town.
61. Spend an Afternoon at The Gazebo Cafe
One of our favorite places to hear live music on a sunny afternoon in the French Quarter is at The Gazebo Cafe. It’s about halfway between Cafe Du Monde and the French Market. There you’ll find an open-air patio, reasonably priced drinks, and live music all day long. Make sure you stop by for a beer or two while you’re in the French Quarter.
Shopping in New Orleans
62. Go Shopping on Magazine Street
Nestled in the beautiful Garden District, Magazine Street is full of boutique shops, quaint cafes, and delicious restaurants. Wander along the street and pop into whichever store catches your eye! If you want to find the perfect piece of New Orleans artwork to take home with you, then try Zèle NOLA, a permanent indoor art market featuring work from over 100 local artisans.
63. Browse the French Market
The French Market is a covered flea market that is on the southeast corner of the French Quarter. You’ll find an endless array of cheap New Orleans trinkets and some outdoor eateries. It is pretty touristy but prices are reasonable so it’s a good spot to pick up a couple of quick souvenirs for friends back home.
64. Look Around Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo
Even if you decided to pass on the Voodoo Tour, you can still get your witchcraft fix while in New Orleans. Stop by Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo and browse through the extensive collection of voodoo-related knickknacks. Whether it’s voodoo dolls, talismans, charms, mojo, or gris-gris you’re after, you’ve come to the right place!
65. Shop ’til you Drop on Saturday
On the first Saturday of the month, the posh art galleries on Julia Street open their doors to the public from 6 pm – 9 pm (with many providing free wine or champagne). Or head to the Freret Market in the hip Freret neighborhood from 11 am – 4 pm.
On the second Saturday of the month, stop by the Piety Street Market in the Bywater (10 am – 4 pm) or the St. Claude Arts District in the Marigny/Bywater for their “Second Saturday ArtWalk” (6 pm – 9 pm).
And Finally… Go to Bourbon Street!
Okay, if you have made it through the whole list, then you can go wild on Bourbon Street! Grab a Hand Grenade at Tropical Isle, sing some karaoke at the Cat’s Meow, and make sure you don’t urinate in public! See you down there!
There you have it – the 65 best things to do in New Orleans! What’s your favorite thing to do in New Orleans? Let us know in the comments.
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