New Orleans might bring to mind the famous festivities of the city, but there’s much more to it than just its Mardi Gras & partying. Visitors to this city in Louisiana can enjoy the architecture, the food, the people, the public spaces, & so many quirky things about this city that’s also called the Big Easy. Here are the top ten things to do in New Orleans.
1. Experience the French Quarter
New Orleans’ French Quarter is an integral part of a trip to New Orleans. Often referred to as the crown jewel of the city, this neighborhood is loud & lively and fun to be at. There are bars & boutiques, souvenir shops, & jazz clubs all over the place. There are street performers to watch & architecture to be photographed. One of the most popular streets here is Bourbon Street or the Rue Bourbon. Make sure to not miss it if it’s your first visit to the city!
You should also spend some time in the Quarter’s Jackson Square. This square that gets its name from the statue of President Andrew Jackson, is a popular public park offering lots to see & do. There are rows of artists lining the streets; you can even get a portrait of yours made here. This is also where US’s oldest continuously used cathedral, St. Louis Cathedral, is located.
Not only is the French Quarter one of the most happening parts of New Orleans, but also a historical area. Also called Vieux Carre, this is the city’s oldest neighborhood. As such, it’s also a National Historic Landmark.
2. Tour the Garden District
Another popular neighborhood in the city of New Orleans you don’t want to miss is situated just around 3 miles southwest of the famous French Quarter. This is the Garden District, where you also MUST GO to see some more architecture that the city is known for.
At the Garden District are some beautiful affluent homes that came up between 1830 & 1900. Placed in tree-lined streets these picturesque mansions don inviting verandahs, large windows, and balconies.
You might see some celebrity-owned homes & mansions that have been used in some of the movies shot here. Some of the streets you should stroll through are First Street & Camp Street.
3. Explore City Park
To see more of the greenery of New Orleans, the place to explore is its City Park. Spread over an area of 1,300 acres, this park boasts of botanical gardens, big old oaks covered in Spanish moss, a number of walking paths, stone bridges, & sculptures.
Here you can picnic, golf, walk around, even get on a 100-year old wooden carousel. To see New Orleans’ highest point, head to Laborde Mountain, which rises up to 43 ft. above sea level. It stands within Couturie Forest, another green area that’s a great place to walk in the midst of nature. And to get onto some water while at the park, you could rent a Swan Boat at Big Lake.
City Park’s Storyland, Carousel Gardens, & Louisiana Children’s Museum are some places kids are going to enjoy.
4. Go for a stroll on the Riverwalk
Taking a walk on New Orleans’ Riverwalk is another way to take in the ‘Big Easy.’ Situated beside the Mississippi, just outside the French Quarter, this urban trail is 1.3 miles long, and wheelchair & stroller accessible, too.
The French Quarter RiverWalk is also known as the Moonwalk for it came into being in 1976 when Maurice Moon Landrieu was mayor of the city.
The Riverwalk offers views of the city, the Mississippi River, the paddleboats that ply the river, and the barges & cruise ships at the port. Also visible here is Crescent City Connection that used to be called The Greater New Orleans Bridge. Along with these sights, the Riverwalk also has some public performers & jazz musicians providing you with some entertainment.
5. See the city from the river
Talking of the Mississippi, another must-do here is to get onto the water and see New Orleans from the River. For this, you could book yourself a river cruise on the Mississippi.
There are some well-known vessels that offer harbor cruises with lunch, Sunday brunch, & dinner packages. They usually have Jazz dinners & holiday packages, too. Steamboat Natchez & Paddlewheeler Creole Queen are some of the cruises you might want to consider. You could even take the Algiers Ferry to Algiers Point in order to see New Orleans from the Mississippi River.
6. Tour some cemeteries
New Orleans’s cemeteries are big attractions. Visitors to the Crescent City go to see them because they’re different from other cemeteries. These are not just architecturally appealing but also taller as the tombs are placed over the ground.
Given the high water tables here, and the area being prone to rising water levels, caskets have to be placed above the ground, in these parts.
There are a large number of cemeteries in New Orleans. While some of them are well preserved, some have met with ruin, both kinds making great destinations for cemetery tours. You can go to some on your own while others require you to visit on a guided tour. Some of these cemeteries are also in the itineraries of ghost tours offered in the city of New Orleans.
7. New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
If you’re interested in or are curious about New Orleans’ Voodoo culture, you might want to visit the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum in the French Quarter. This unique museum is dedicated to preserving the voodoo legacy of the land with the help of some exhibits, talks, & tours.
You can tour this rather small museum on your own, and take a look at objects used by voodoo practitioners, voodoo paintings, & sculptures. Or you can sign up for a tour that also takes you to cemeteries, and Congo Square where rituals were held in the old days. You could also be taken to Marie Laveau’s House to see where the voodoo queen lived and where they say her energy still resides.
8. Enter Mardi Gras World
Mardi Gras — as we all know — is the largest & most famous of parties that happen on New Orleans’ streets. However, if you’re not able to visit the city during late winter, you can make yourself feel better by visiting Mardi Gras World.
Visiting here will not be equal to being a part of the carnival’s vibes, but you get to go behind-the-scenes of the much-talked-about event. These 90-minute walking tours will show you some people at work, preparing for the festival. This is the place to see floats for the parade being constructed at a 300,000 square foot warehouse-like building.
9. Revisit the war that changed the world at National WWII Museum
Of the often-visited museums in the city is the National World War II Museum on Magazine Street. Built in the year 2000, this museum tries to focus on the US experience of the war, hoping to give visitors a perspective of the US’s role and what the Second World War meant for the country.
However, it does go beyond that and looks at a whole lot of other aspects of the war. The National WWII Museum showcases a lot of exhibits & memorabilia from the war, you’ll see aircraft that was used around then, boats, and other vehicles, too. There are interactive exhibits & narrative exhibits at this museum. While you’re there, try not to miss musical performances from the World War era, as well as a 4D movie that’s a big hit with the visitors to the museum.
10. Look at the treasures at the Cabildo
The Cabildo is an imposing structure sporting features of Spanish & French architecture, and standing on Jackson Square. Today, this building houses the Louisiana State Museum, which takes visitors through the history of the state from its purchase by the United States to its early years as a state, and its people.
However, the Cabildo is also a National Historic Landmark. This site was once the seat of the Spanish Government in New Orleans. In fact, it gets its name Cabildo, from the ‘city council,’ that sat here. That is not all. This was also where the formalities of Louisiana becoming a state of the union were finalized.