New Orleans is a vibrant city full of history, culture – and food!. We recently spent a long weekend there taking in the Southern charm (and a couple of hurricanes.) Here are my favorite things to do in New Orleans!
Top 16 Things To Do In New Orleans
1. Visit the art galleries on Royal St
There are so many streets in New Orleans and they all have their own vibe. We loved checking out the cool art galleries on Royal Street in the French Quarter. My favorite was Sutton Galleries. I fell in love with the work of one of their featured artists, Isabelle Dupuy. I have always been a fan of the impasto style of painting, which thickly layers paint on the canvas so it gains dimension, and she does it like nothing I have ever seen. The photos do not do her justice!
2. Eat a beignet at Cafe du Monde
It’s actually illegal to visit New Orleans and not stop by Cafe du Monde for some beignets. So we were good tourists and made it there on day 1. The menu is small and to the point, beignets and some beverages – that’s it. True, they are delicious and I think you should try them, but I just don’t get the hype! They reminded me of a really good elephant ear or funnel cake from a fair. Word of warning – wear light colored clothes or be prepared to be covered in powdered sugar! It’s no joke.
3. Eat breakfast at Ruby Slipper Cafe
We had a great breakfast at the Canal Street location which was right around the corner from our hotel. It has a diner vibe and offers a traditional breakfast with some New Orleans flair. It’s usually crowded, so be prepared to wait if you go at a peak time.
4. Visit Katie’s for a Po Boy
We stopped by my namesake restaurant because we heard they had great Po Boys. They did not disappoint! We also had some amazing blue cheese/bacon/scallion fries that were perfectly crispy and delicious. If you can, sit out on one of the sidewalk tables. This area experienced terrible flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There is a plaque by the front door marking the water line after the storm. I was shocked at how high the water level was.
5. Take A Ghost Tour*
New Orleans is a city with a haunted past. We decided to check it all out with Ghost City Tours. We took the nighttime Killers and Thrillers tour through the French Quarter. While this adults only tour wasn’t scary it did offer a bit of New Orleans history as well as tales of murders and and voodoo in the city. Ghost City Tours offers other tours including an all ages tour and even a haunted bar crawl!
6. Walk through Bourbon St. (extra credit for doing this sober!)
So, Bourbon Street is kind of a dump. If you are under the age of 25 and enjoy being able to carry your drink from bar to bar, you will love it. Otherwise, take a stroll for some interesting people watching – and smells – then move on.
7. Take a ride on a street car
The street cars in New Orleans are a great way to access different parts of the city. We took one out to the Garden District from the French Quarter.
8. Tour a cemetery
We strolled through Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in the Garden District and I think it was one of my favorite things that we did in New Orleans. Since the water table is so low here, they can’t bury bodies underground in the traditional way. So, instead they use above ground mausoleums, and they are fascinating. Each tomb held numerous bodies at one time. We learned that they end up being naturally cremated in the New Orleans heat which makes room for more bodies (interesting and a tad creepy, huh?).
9. Take walking tour through the Garden District
The Garden District is a great place to spend a morning or afternoon. After you tour the cemetery you can take a walk around to look at all of the mansions in the area. It’s easily accessible from the street cars.
10. Stroll through the antique shops along Magazine street
Magazine Street is located in the Garden District. This street is home to lots of antique shops as well as some galleries and gift shops. It’s a highly walkable area with lots to look at.
11. Drink a Hurricane at Pat O’Brian’s
This famous cocktail is synonymous with New Orleans and Pat O’Brian’s claims to be the originator. They came up with the drink in the 1940’s when they experienced a shortage of traditional liquors like whisky and bourbon but had an influx of rum. They are easy going down but surprisingly strong! Consider yourself warned.
12. Check out the live music on Frenchmen St
We were told that Frenchmen Street is “Bourbon Street for older people…with live music”. While I don’t consider myself old, I was looking for something a little more my style than Bourbon St. Frechmen Street fit the bill! You will find great live music in all the bars and even on the street without the urine/vomit smell that permeates Bourbon St. We ended up at a place called Vaso where we stumbled on to an incredible live performance by the Jason Neville Band. We were mesmerized and ended up staying for their whole show. They had such a unique way of mixing up different styles of music. I just loved them. If you find yourself in New Orleans see where they are playing and go check them out! (yes, I realize the video quality is terrible…iPhones and dark clubs don’t mix well)
13. Take a music tour
We took the Music of New Orleans: Listen and Learn tour with French Quarter Phantom’s Ghost Tours. This is a guided walking tour accompanied by music from a portable speaker. We were expecting live music so it was slightly underwhelming, but it was still interesting. Check Groupon for deals if you decide to check it out!
14. Eat dinner in the courtyard of Orleans Wine Bar
This small restaurant has a charming courtyard in the back that’s a great place to stop for dinner or drinks. The food was great and the atmosphere is wonderful. If you like goat cheese, get the warm goat cheese salad – it’s to die for!
15. Stop by Golden Chips for the french fries
Golden Chips on Toulouse St. serves Belgian style fries in a cone with a choice of dipping sauces. They were delicious and make up part of a balanced lunch when paired with a couple of hurricanes!
16. Visit Jackson Square
This is a pretty little square with the coolest palm trees across the street from Cafe du Monde. Here you can also find the famous St. Louis Cathedral and 2 Louisiana State Museums, Presbytere and Cabildo. That’s all well and good, but I really liked the palm trees!
17. Bonus: What Not To Do!
So, I debated including this because I hate dogging something that someone else might like. But I decided to include it so I can save you from wasting your money. We took a ride on the Steamboat Natchez and it was the most boring 2 hours of the whole trip. It rained which I am sure didn’t help, but there just wasn’t much to look at! They serve an optional lunch which looked awful in my opinion. I think we paid about $30 each for the ride without lunch. Unless you like crappy food with no views, skip this one.
There you have it. My top 16 things to do in New Orleans (and one thing to skip!) We packed all of this into a 3 night trip so this is a great destination for those looking for an easy weekend trip. What’s your favorite thing to do in New Orleans?
For more New Orleans activity ideas check out City Discovery for some great tours!
*My husband and I enjoyed this tour as guests of Ghost City Tours, but as always all opinions are my own. Thanks to Ghost City Tours for hosting us!
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