16 Fun Things To Do In New Orleans

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New Orleans is a vibrant city full of history, culture, music, and food. Located on the Mississippi River, the “Big Easy” brings together French, African, and American culture in a melting pot of fun and charm.

Here are 16 fun things to do in New Orleans...plus one thing you should absolutely skip!

Fun Things To Do in New Orleans

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16 Fun Things To Do In New Orleans

It can be overwhelming trying to decide what to do in New Orleans. The good news is that many of these activities are close together geographically, so you can fit a lot in even if you’re just there for a couple of days.

Don’t leave any of these activities out of your New Orleans itinerary.

1. Visit the art galleries on Royal Street

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!

 Isabelle Dupuy at Sutton Galleries
Photo courtesy of Sutton Galleries

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 one. The menu is small and to the point, beignets and some beverages — that’s it.

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.

Things To Do in New Orleans | Beignets at Cafe Du Monde
You can’t visit New Orleans without trying a beignet at Cafe du Monde.

Best Credit Card for Dining: Earn 4 points per $1 spent on dining + an annual $120 dining credit (at select locations) on the American Express Gold Card 

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.

New Orleans Itinerary | Katie's Restaurant
Stop by Katie’s Restaurant for some great food and a crazy reminder of the water levels during Hurricane Katrina.

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 offered a bit of New Orleans history and tales of murders and voodoo in the city.

6. Walk down 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 Streetcar

The streetcars 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.

New Orleans itinerary
When you’re visiting New Orleans, be sure to take a ride on the streetcar.

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?).

New Orleans Itinerary | Lafayette Cemetery | Garden District | New Orleans, LA (USA)
A stop at a New Orleans cemetery is a must.

9. Take a 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 streetcars.

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.

Where To Stay In New Orleans: Ritz Carlton New Orleans Review

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. This drink came to be in the 1940s when there was a shortage of traditional liquors like whiskey and bourbon but an influx of rum. Hurricanes are easy going down but surprisingly strong! Consider yourself warned.

If you are interested in learning more, check out a cocktail history walking tour.

Fun Things To Do in New Orleans | Pat O'Brian's Hurricane
You should try a Hurricane while you’re in NOLA.

12. Check out the Live Music on Frenchmen Street

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. Frenchmen Street fit the bill! You’ll 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!

 Orleans Wine Bar | Garden District | New Orleans

If you are a foodie, check out one of New Orleans’ food tours!

15. Stop by Golden Chips for the French Fries

Golden Chips on Toulouse Street serves Belgian style fries in a cone with a choice of dipping sauces. They were delicious and they 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!

Things To Do in New Orleans | Jackson Square
Jackson Square should be on your New Orleans itinerary.

17. Bonus:  What Not To Do In New Orleans

You want to know what was NOT one of my favorite things to do in New Orleans?  The Steamboat Natchez.

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.

Final Thoughts

New Orleans can be quite a fun city. There is so much to do — art, music, food, history, culture! We packed all of this into a 3-night trip so this is a great destination if you’re looking for an easy weekend trip.

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*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!


Favorite Things To Do in New Orleans: New Orelans is a vibrant city! I'll show you my top 16 favorite things to do including where to eat. I'll also tell you about one thing I don't recommend. Top 16 Things To Do In New Orleans, LA (USA) | NOLA

This Post Has 29 Comments

  1. Trinity

    I am from New Orleans, and I must say I’ve never heard of Katie’s for po-boys! Personally, I’d recommend Parkway Bakery—- the local favorite! And Maspereaux’s for an excellent showcase of local foods. I really love your list, though!

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll have to try that place the next time I’m in town.

  2. Stringtown

    Don’t miss Mardi Gras World! This tour of the Mardi Gras Floats and the artisans that create and re-create them gives one a basic understanding of what Mardi Gras is all about. The tour ends with a piece of King Cake…..you may just get lucky and get the baby;)

    1. Katie @ ZenLifeandTravel

      That sounds like a lot of fun! Thanks for the suggestion.

    2. Cassandra

      This post was recommended for me on Pinterest as my husband and I are going to NOLA for our ten year anniversary and neither of us have been. I’ve added your notes to our list—I’m no longer looking at Steamboat Natchez reservations you’ll be happy to know! Lol. Thank you for your efforts to compile this!!

      1. Katie @ ZenLifeandTravel

        Hi Cassandra,

        Haha- I appreciate that!! Have a great anniversary trip – NOLA is a fun place!

  3. Chris

    The National WW II Museum – plan to spend at least one full day! Also, the Hop On Hop Off bus made travel in the city very easy!

    1. Katie @ ZenLifeandTravel

      Great suggestions! Thanks for sharing, Chris.

  4. Miranda

    I’ve had so many people tell me New Orleans is a must visit city.. maybe I’ll get to go next year 🙂 This list was perfect for me; especially any mention of foods to eat in a new city haha!

  5. Clare

    I loved New Orleans when I visited and did a lot of the same things as you. I went to Café du monde 5 or 6 times, I loved the beignet’s!! Also spent a lot of time in Spotted Cat, was a great bar and the music was amazing. I did quite a few free walking tours. The ghost one was great and I also really enjoyed the cemetery one too.

    1. Katie @ ZenLifeandTravel

      We went to the Spotted Cat too! They had some great music.

  6. Sandy N Vyjay

    So much to see and experience, Indeed the promise of great times. I would love the art gallery and would also love to take the ghost tour, it sounds so intriguing.

  7. Audrey

    This hit home for me because New Orleans is my favorite! I love the culture and history of the city! And I must say Cafe du Monde is amazing and definitely a must do! Love this!!

  8. Lara Dunning

    I haven’t been to New Orleans and these all look like great suggestions. Top of my list would be visiting restaurants and the cemetery tour.

  9. Paula Morgan

    I am not sure I would love beignets but I too would have to try one. Sounds like Frenchmen Street would be right up my alley too. I am a bit past carrying my drinks from bar to bar lol

    1. Katie @ ZenLifeandTravel

      Yep, I am past the carrying drinks from bar to bar phase too! Although I did bring a hurricane with me on the music tour! : )

  10. Jade Mortimer

    such a lot to do in such little time! i love the idea of taking a street car – i’ve never been in one before!

  11. Punita Malhotra

    The music tours and the ghost tours are definitely going to be on our list when we visit New Orleans. And all the other recommendations that you have made sound great too.

  12. Danik

    I am really starting to think that this post and other posts I have read on New Orleans, it turns out that the city is becoming a foodie capital in that area. The street cars looks so European and old fashioned, I would love to take a ride on one.

  13. Beth Jarrett

    I’d love to go to New Orleans and see Bourbon St! And wow, that water line from Hurricane Katrina is crazy!

  14. Maureen

    You clearly did not take the Steamboat Natchez cruise with Gina Darden. My daughters and I had a blast with her as our hostess. We even hung out with her after the cruise ended!

    1. Katie @ ZenLifeandTravel

      I’m so glad you had a better experience than I did!

  15. Rachelle

    I loved my first trip to NOLA. It was the day after NOLA hosted the Super Bowl a few years ago and I remember making a point to get my picture taken in front of the Super Dome. I’ve done about half of the things on your list and totally agree with them! Although my friends and I took the steamboat cruise, it sounds like we might have had more ideal conditions than you did. We took it at night with dinner and it was so beautiful to sit out and see the lights all up and down the river. I hope you give it another chance!

    1. Katie @ ZenLifeandTravel

      I could see how it might be better for a dinner cruise.

  16. Stacey Billingsley

    I have been wanting to go to New Orleans for a long time. We drove by once! I hope we can arrange a trip soon. I will keep your list in mind!

  17. Jason

    I enjoy dogging things that suck, and the Steamboat Natchez definitely sucked. For $30 you can buy a whole bunch of Hurricanes instead and have a much better time.

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