The “Big Easy”. The Crescent City. NOLA. Whatever you call it, New Orleans in Louisiana is simply iconic. It’s one of the oldest cities in the USA, famed for its colourful culture and atmosphere of music, nightlife, southern cuisine, and the annual Mardis Gras extravaganza. With all kinds of attractions from showstopping art galleries to intriguing museums and vibrant neighbourhoods, you’re sure to have a ball on your New Orleans travel experience. But if you’re wondering what to do in New Orleans, we’ve got you covered. From the French Quarter to the Mississippi to a haunted Voodoo House, here are 7 of the best things to do in New Orleans.
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Explore the French Quarter
The best place to start your New Orleans travel experience is the French Quarter, also known as Vieux Carré. As the heart and soul of the city, there are plenty of things to see and do in this area. Established by French colonists in 1718, it’s the oldest neighbourhood in New Orleans and a National Historic Landmark. You’ll still find French street names and French-inspired architecture including charming cobblestone streets, baroque ironwork and hanging plants, and lush courtyards and fountains.
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Some of the best attractions in the French Quarter include iconic City Park, Jackson Square, St Louis Cathedral, the Historic New Orleans Collection, the Cabildo, and Faulkner House Books. You’ll also find dozens of amazing restaurants and the street performers will keep you entertained. And don’t miss seeing the views of the Mississippi from the edge of the French Quarter. There’s also the infamous Bourbon Street – the party centre of New Orleans. Wander down this street and you’ll find lively bars, fortune tellers, and lots of late-night action.
If you’re visiting NOLA at Christmas time, be sure to head to Jackson Square on December 22nd. Hundreds of people fill the square with candles and joyful voices for the annual Caroling in Jackson Square concert and it’s a truly special event.
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Wander around City Park
City Park is the centrepiece of the French Quarter, with 1,300 acres of manicured green space and attractions. You’ll find leafy walking paths, towering oaks, and native birds, and don’t miss the Couturie Forest. It’s a nature trail with eight distinct ecosystems that takes you to Laborde Mountain, the highest point in New Orleans.
You can do it all in City Park from golf courses and museums to cafes and high-end restaurants in City Park. Have some fun at Storyland and the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park or rent a kayak or swan boat on the Big Lake. Or explore the five-acre Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden located next to the fantastic New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA). You’ll discover 90 sculptures set among reflecting pools, bridges, oaks and magnolias. There’s also St. Anthony’s Garden with statues and memorials, and the Old Ursuline Convent, the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley.
And if City Park is the star of the French Quarter – St. Louis Cathedral is the crown jewel. Built in the early 1700s, the cathedral is the oldest one in North America. Religious services, cultural events, and concerts are all held here, and even if you’re not attending an event, you’ve still got to take a look inside this beautiful building.
When you travel to New Orleans with Trafalgar, you’ll get to explore City Park with a Local Specialist, hearing all kinds of local stories and legends. You’ll also explore one of the famous above-ground cemeteries in the park. Spooky!
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Stroll down Frenchman Street
If you’re looking for an alternative to Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, you’ll love Frenchmen Street. This flour-block stretch of galleries, bars, restaurants and nightclubs is one of the most popular spots for locals. You’ll find all kinds of live music from reggae to jazz to rock, plus all sorts of delicious food from pizza to pub grub to Egyptian cuisine.
You’ll love The Spotted Cat for old-school jazz – think clarinet solos, brassy quarters, and booming voices – and a local swing crew shows off their moves on the dance floor. Locals also love Three Muses and d.b.a for their amazing musicians and great atmospheres.
If you’re not into the nightlife, it’s still worth exploring Frenchman Street during the day. Palace Market is a shopping oasis for local artisans selling homemade art and jewellery and it’s open daily.
Visit the National WWII Museum
As the USA’s official museum about World War II, the renowned National WWII Museum is an unmissable stop for any New Orleans travel experience. You’ll find an extensive collection of thought-provoking exhibits, movie galleries, and original artefacts that tell the stories of tragedy and liberation from the most significant event of the 20th century.
You can see real planes, boats and jeeps, and watch WWII-era musical performances in the theatre. Read personal accounts and stories, and experience an immersive submarine exhibit. Some of the best exhibits include the D-Day Invasion, the Campaigns of Courage, the Home Front, and the Holocaust galleries. You also can’t miss the “Beyond All Boundaries” 4-D movie, narrated by Tom Hanks.
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Explore Studio Be
This massive warehouse facility is a spectacular display of public art. The creator, Branan “BMike” Odums, worked with more than 40 artists to create colourful exhibits and massive murals exploring black American history, activism and resistance. Studio Be stretches 35,000 square feet over four buildings and five stories and it’s the largest public art exhibition in the American South. You’re sure to be amazed.
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Take a cruise on the Steamboat Natchez
The Mississippi, or “Big Muddy”, is an icon of New Orleans, and what better way to see it than with a cruise on the Steamboat Natchez. It’s the only traditional steamboat in New Orleans, and you’ve got plenty of options for your tour, whether you want a dinner jazz cruise, a Sunday brunch cruise, or a harbour cruise.
When you travel to New Orleans with Trafalgar, you’ll have the chance to take a jazz dinner cruise on the Steamboat Natchez. You’ll enjoy a delicious dinner and drinks while taking in the views of downtown NOLA and listening to some smooth jazz. It’s the perfect way to spend an evening in the Big Easy!
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Discover Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo
This vibrant city is renowned for its voodoo culture… And there’s no better place to experience it than Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. This museum and shop on Bourbon Street is the former home of the second Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau II, the daughter of the first Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. Born in 1827 in New Orleans, Marie Laveau was known for performing her famous rituals in the swamps. She died in 1895 and legend says she drowned in Lake Pontchartrain while performing one of her rituals.
Today you can explore the Voodoo Queen’s former home where she lived with her children. You’ll find many Voodoo-related artefacts, books and spiritual items, plus you can get spiritual readings and Tarot card readings. Some people also believe Marie Laveau’s ghost is haunting the building.
What are your favourite things to do on a New Orleans travel experience? Let us know in the comments below!