Things to do in New Orleans

Be sure not to miss the spectacular jazz, cajun-tastic cuisine, and bustling French Quarter in the Big Easy.

Our most recommended things to do in New Orleans

New Orleans: Evening Jazz Cruise on the Steamboat Natchez

1. New Orleans: Evening Jazz Cruise on the Steamboat Natchez

Journey back in time aboard the newly renovated Riverboat City of New Orleans. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the New Orleans atmosphere as the smooth jazz of the Dukes Trio fills your ears on this two-hour cruise on the mighty Mississippi, enjoying craft cocktails, and the sites. Depart from the heart of the French Quarter and experience breathtaking views of New Orleans as the city skyline slips away. Seating is available indoors and on the outdoor decks for the very best views of the Mississippi River and New Orleans. Make sure you check out all four decks as the top deck view is a sight to see.  Choose the dinner buffet option for a dinner menu including: Tossed salad, chicken and sausage gumbo, baked chicken with a mushroom ragout, Bayou seafood pasta, Creole vegetarian jambalaya, herb-garlic fingerling potatoes, pasta primavera, green beans, white chocolate bread pudding, Bananas Foster dessert, and garlic rolls. 

New Orleans: Day Jazz Cruise on the Steamboat Natchez

2. New Orleans: Day Jazz Cruise on the Steamboat Natchez

Savor the beauty and romance of New Orleans on a cruise aboard the Sternwheeler Steamboat Natchez, the only authentic steamboat in New Orleans. Cruise along the Mississippi River, listen to live jazz music, and enjoy an optional lunch of local fare. Your cruise from the heart of the French Quarter and takes you back to a time when life was as slow and graceful as the current on the Mississippi. Set out to see New Orleans from the Mississippi River, one of the world's most active ports. While on board, visit the museum-quality engine room to learn how steam powers this magnificent boat through the "Mighty Mississippi." Add an optional Creole lunch to your cruise, prepared fresh on board and served with your choice of coffee and iced tea. Savor the tastes of New Orleans before docking back where you started the tour. Sample Menu Lunch (subject to season and availability) • Southern fried fish• Red beans and rice• Jambalaya• Salad du jour

New Orleans: Mardi Gras World Behind-the-Scenes Tour

3. New Orleans: Mardi Gras World Behind-the-Scenes Tour

Discover Mardi Gras magic on a self-guided tour of Mardi Gras World, where artists and craftsmen have designed and built the oldest and biggest parade floats and attractions for each Mardi Gras season in New Orleans since 1947. Begin your tour by receiving your ticket in form of a bead necklace and watch a film which gives an overview of the history of Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the role Mardi Gras World plays in it to this day. Then, enjoy a slice of the traditional Mardi Gras cake, King Cake, before your self-guided tour leads you through the float den. Explore where Mardi Gras World artists work year-round to build spectacular, one-of-a-kind floats and props, with over 500 floats built and decorated each year. See how the various themed elements are created from scratch or are adapted from elements created for previous themes — from sculpting the elements, to finishing and painting them. There is even an electronic robot that can carve 3-D sculptures. Take photos with some of the finished pieces from various themes over the years, then tour the floats themselves. Get up closer to the floats than is possible during Mardi Gras parades, and find out how these amazing pieces come to life each year. See floats in various stages of completion as they prepare for the upcoming Mardi Gras as much as a whole year before. At the end of the tour, stay and take more pictures with any of the floats if you like. For your convenience, a complimentary shuttle service is provided from stops in Downtown; just call the number provided on your voucher for your nearest stop and to arrange pickup.

New Orleans: Creole Queen History Cruise with Optional Lunch

4. New Orleans: Creole Queen History Cruise with Optional Lunch

Sit back and enjoy the views or a drink at the bar while journeying down the Mississippi river. Learn about New Orleans' complex, but interesting story, focusing on the critical Battle of New Orleans. Join a cruise narrated by a local guide and embark on a journey into the past as you head downriver to the Chalmette Battlefield at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. As you travel to the battlefield, learn about the settlement of New Orleans, its river, and the historical landmarks that line the banks of the Mississippi River. As you cruise, treat yourself to a traditional lunch on board. (If relevant option selected.) Stop at the battlefield and hear about the legacy of the area on a 1-hour guided tour along the shore with a talk by National Park Rangers. After, return to the starting point where your tour will end. SAMPLE MENU LUNCH: • New Orleans Style Shrimp Pasta • 10” Roast Beef Po-Boy • Creole Jambalaya • Crawfish Bread • Caesar Salad • Red Beans & Rice • Fresh Baked Cookies • Zapps Potato Chips (Menu items are subject to change by season and availability)

New Orleans: Luxury Bus Tour

5. New Orleans: Luxury Bus Tour

Get an introduction to the sites of New Orleans on a 2.5-hour guided bus tour. Benefit from pickup at your hotel in the French Quarter and visit the Garden District, the 9th Ward, and more. Travel through the beautiful French Quarter, and make your way down lively Frenchmen Street, where live music pours from every venue. Arrive at the alternative Marigny district as you make your way towards the 9th Ward. Enter the Musicians' Village and continue to Tremé. Travel down Esplanade Avenue to City Park and Lake Pontchartrain, and then learn about Creole culture at Saint Roch Cemetery #1 and St. Louis Cemetery #3. See the oldest streetcar in the world on St. Charles Avenue as you move on to Tulane and Loyola universities. Enter the Garden District to look at some of the celebrity homes. Continue along Magazine Street to arrive at the Warehouse District and Arts District before getting dropped off at your hotel.

New Orleans: Oak Alley Plantation & Airboat Swamp Combo Tour

6. New Orleans: Oak Alley Plantation & Airboat Swamp Combo Tour

Discover Louisiana on a guided day trip from New Orleans to the historical Oak Alley Plantation, with entry tickets included, and a bayou airboat ride. Benefit from round-trip transportation from your New Orleans hotel. Start your experience with hotel pickup, and relax on the drive to Oak Alley Plantation. Enjoy a guided tour of the plantation home by guides in period dress while you hear and learn about the times of slavery.  Take in the house's Greek Revival architecture, the antique farm equipment exhibits, and walk around the grounds where 28 evenly spaced, huge oak trees grow. Browse the blacksmith shop and souvenir shop, or stop for a snack (at your own expense) in the restaurant. Continue onto Barataria Basin for an airboat tour of the bayou swamplands, where your local captain will guide you through the swamps, marshes, and lakes. Travel at high speeds for an exciting ride, then slow down to spot local wildlife on this exciting airboat experience. Look out for alligators, birds, and other animals. Every airboat tour is unique, so you never know what you’ll see. Even in winter — when alligators hibernate — you’ll have a good chance of spotting these reptiles.  Back on dry land, return to the bus for the drive back to New Orleans, where you’ll finish off your trip with a convenient drop-off back at your hotel.

New Orleans: Sunday Jazz Cruise Aboard a Steamboat

7. New Orleans: Sunday Jazz Cruise Aboard a Steamboat

Journey back in time aboard the Sternwheeler Steamboat Natchez, the only surviving authentic steamboat in New Orleans. Sit back, relax and soak up the New Orleans atmosphere as smooth jazz fills your ears. Set sail from the heart of the French Quarter with seating available indoors and on deck for the very best views of the river and city. The indoor areas are climate-controlled and the outdoor space allows for tours of all levels of the boat. Experience a charming afternoon on Steamboat Natchez. Choose to simply relax and take in the sights or enhance your cruise with brunch served on board. Sunday Brunch Menu Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, made with a traditional Louisiana roux and served with rice Natchez Tossed Salad, mixed greens, tomato, cucumbers, red onions and croutons with a sugar cane vinaigrette Shrimp and Grits, shrimp sautéed with onion, bell pepper, and garlic served alongside hot butter grits Grillades and Grits "Gree-yahds", a traditional Creole dish with braised beef and homemade brown gravy, over stone-ground "corn" cooked to a smooth texture Crescent City Eggs, baked egg casserole with spinach, red onion, tomatoes, mushrooms, andouille sausage, green onions and cheese Turkey Sausage Patties Pain Perdu Thick Cut Bread, slices soaked in sweet custard mix, cinnamon swirl, and whipped cream topping, the French cousin of America's "French Toast" O' Brien Potatoes, served with peppers and onions Creole Creamed Spinach, spinach with mozzarella, parmesan, and cream cheese Mini Croissants and Biscuits, served with jellies and preserves Fruit Salad Bananas Foster, a New Orleans original! Fresh sliced bananas sautéed in butter, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and rum. Served warm atop vanilla ice cream.  White Chocolate Bread Pudding, a soufflé of local Leidenheimer French bread in rich custard with a decadent white chocolate sauce Community Coffee and Iced Tea included *Menu items are subject to change

New Orleans: Evening Jazz Boat Cruise with Optional Dinner

8. New Orleans: Evening Jazz Boat Cruise with Optional Dinner

Step back into the glamour and romance of the riverboat era with a cruise on the Paddlewheeler Creole Queen boat. Tuck into a delicious dinner or simply sit back and relax with a cocktail in your hand, marveling at the views and enjoying the live jazz music. On this river cruise, experience the vibrant and lively jazz notes of the amazing Sullivan Dabney Jr. and the Muzik Jazz Band while enjoying a Creole-style dinner (if the option is selected). There will be some time to dance to the music after dinner in the gorgeous dining hall.  After dinner, enjoy a classic New Orleans cocktail on the promenade deck looking out over the Mississippi River as the city slips past. On the way back to dock where you began your tour, pass by Jackson Square and see the city lights under a starry sky.  SAMPLE DINNER MENU: • Cajun Caesar Salad • Chicken & Andouille Sausage Gumbo • Louisiana Creole Jambalaya • Cajun Baked Chicken • Roast Beef Debris • Garlic Mashed Potatoes • Cajun Seafood Pasta • Red Beans & Rice • Corn Mac Choux • Fresh Roasted Vegetables • Paddlewheeler White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce (best in New Orleans!) • French Bread Rolls & Cornbread (Menu items are subject to change by season and availability)

New Orleans: The National WWII Museum Ticket

9. New Orleans: The National WWII Museum Ticket

Designated by Congress as the official WWII museum of the United States, the National WWII Museum is located in downtown New Orleans, where 5 soaring pavilions house historical exhibits, on-site restoration work, a period dinner theater, and restaurants. Purchase your timed tickets in advance to secure your desired entry or movie time. Housed in 5 buildings, the museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. The Louisiana Memorial Pavilion features the “D-Day Invasion of Normandy” exhibit and an exhibit telling the story of the war experienced on the Home Front.  The "Campaigns of Courage" area features the “Road to Tokyo” exhibit, which retraces the grueling trail from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo. It also houses the “Road to Berlin” exhibit, recreating actual battle settings and villages as America campaigned to defeat the Axis powers. A two-hour guided tour of these two exhibits, led by an expert docent, is also available to book as an option. The U.S. Freedom Pavilion features actual WW2 airplanes restored to their wartime glory, including the B-17E Flying Fortress, as well as wartime tanks and trucks. Liberation Pavilion, which opens in 2022, will explore the closing months of the war and immediate postwar years, concluding with an explanation of links to our lives today.  In the Solomon Victory Theatre, you will be able to see, hear and feel the epic story of World War II in the exclusive 4D experience “Beyond All Boundaries”, narrated by Tom Hanks. This movie experience requires the purchase of the option which includes the 4-D film.

New Orleans: Walking Tour Inside St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

10. New Orleans: Walking Tour Inside St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

Uncover the history of one of America's oldest and most famous cemeteries that is not open to the general public on this walking tour of the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 cemetery. View interesting burial customs and stroll past facinating above ground tombs.  Check in and meet your guide at the Basin St. Station Visitor Center where you can find an array of exhibits about New Orleans, an interactive map of the Hurricane Katrina floodwaters, a café, restrooms, and a gift shop. Get your tour stickers and depart on time for your adventure into the macabre. Head to the the front gates of the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and listen as you guide takes you back in time with the story of the cemetery. Make your way through New Orleans' most famous tombs and hear about the city's unique burial customs. Get up close to the elaborate above-ground crypts and below-ground sites. Meander among the and find out about the storied pasts of those residing here, including Voodoo Queen Mariel Laveau, the former mayor Homer Plessy and other notable figures from the city's history.

Frequently asked questions about New Orleans

What top attractions are a must-see in New Orleans?

The must-see attractions in New Orleans are:

What are the best day trips and excursions from New Orleans?

The best day trips and excursions from New Orleans are:

Mississippi River

Insider tips: Planning a trip to New Orleans

There are so many reasons to visit New Orleans, this is one of the most unique cities in the world with cultural influences from African Americans, French, and Spanish throughout their world-class cuisine, music, traditions, and architecture. This is a destination full of energy any time of year but also the highly anticipated and attended Mardi Gras celebrations annually. Megan Indoe is a Brooklyn based travel enthusiast who shares her adventures with her husband and photographer Scott Herder across their travel channels on social media and their blog, Bobo & Chichi.

What should I do on my first trip to New Orleans?

There are so many wonderful things to do in New Orleans, but for any first time visitor you can’t miss strolling through the lush and beautiful mansion-lined streets in the Garden District and explore the French Quarter by day and by night head to all the jazz clubs on Frenchmen Street by night.

What are some hidden gems to see in New Orleans?

One of the best hidden gems is the Faubourg Marigny & Bywater area of NOLA. Be sure to explore this vibrant neighborhood on foot and enjoy the colorful, shotgun style homes. When you need a drink or a meal check out St. Roch Market and Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits for live music and drinks in the evenings.

How much time should I spend in New Orleans?

You need at least a weekend if not longer in New Orleans. But, not matter how much time you spend you’ll likely want to come back for more because like most destinations, you can’t possibly see everything in one visit.

What food is New Orleans known for? 

The beauty of New Orleans is that there’s no place in the world like it. There are influences from various cultures including Caribbean, French, Spanish, West African, and Native Americans to name a few. You’ll want to explore the Cajun and Creole dining scene here. Don’t miss trying powdered sugar covered beignets, Gumbo, po-boys, jambalaya, and local seafood like crawdads and shrimp to name a few of the local specialties.

What is the best way to get around New Orleans?

Much of New Orleans is walkable, but there are a few places that might be a little too far to reach by foot. Try taking a fide on the old fashioned street cars from the French Quarter to the Garden District for a unique experience or use a ride share app to get around when the walk is just a little too far.

What are the best months to visit New Orleans?

Avoid New Orleans in the month of June and perhaps through early fall, this is the rainiest time of year and hurricane season. The best time to visit would be February through May when it is much less humid and temperatures are more comfortable. Keep in mind if you’re hoping to visit during Mardi Gras, always around the Easter holiday, you’ll need to make your reservations well in advance.

What is neighborhood French Quarter known for?

The French Quarter is the most famous neighborhood in New Orleans famous for its gorgeous, historic buildings with gas lanterns. The neighborhood is famous for being home to the rowdy crowds on Bourbon Street, tons of shops, restaurants, bars, and hotels as the heartbeat of tourism in the city.

What are the best neighborhoods for food?

The French Quarter has plenty of incredible dining options including some of the city’s most well-known and historic dining establishments like Galatoire’s as well as where you can find the famous Cafe du Monde for their beignets 24/7. The Garden District is also full of great restaurants, be sure to hit up Commander’s Palace for their famous 25 cent martinis at lunch and if you’re looking for a great po’boy and dive spot, head to Parasol’s.

What are the best neighborhoods for shopping? 

One of the best spots for shopping in New Orleans, besides all the stores and shops in the French Quarter, can be found all along Magazine Street. You can find everything from vintage shops to home goods and quirky boutiques plus there are plenty of cafes and eateries to take a shopping break along the way.

What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit New Orleans?

If its your first time to New Orleans you should stay as close to the French Quarter as possible. Don’t worry about the noise, even the hotels that are near Bourbon Street somehow manage to remain quiet and have one of the best locations for exploring during your stay

What is the best family-friendly thing to do in New Orleans?

Take a half day tour or trip to a nearby swamp to get up close and personal to the famous Louisiana bayous and swamps while having wildlife encounters along the way.

What are the best annual events in New Orleans?

The most famous annual event are the Mardi Gras celebrations each year! Expect the two weeks celebrating Mardi Gras in New Orleans to be full of daily parades, floats, music, end loads of energy! Another great annual event to check out is Jazz Fest which celebrates the famous music scene here typically taking place at the end of April through early May.

Other Sightseeing Options in New Orleans

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What people are saying about New Orleans

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 17,248 reviews

Great tour, it was rainy the day we went but that made the experience a little extra spooky! This tour is more about history of cemeteries than the people in them, not that it’s a bad thing, the guide was very knowledgeable about the cemeteries and history of New Orleans, I learned a TON of cool stuff. I’ll never look at pizza the same.

Definitely so worth it, captain Matt was amazing and educated us on the bayou along with the canals, got us super close to the gators which was such a cool experience! The tour was definitely better than we expected!

The tour guide is so knowledgeable and keeps it fun and entertaining. This was one of the best tours/things we did while visiting New Orleans. I would recommend to everyone.

Lots of walking but you need it to walk off all the wonderful food you eat! History of New Orleans and food history as well

Michelle was an awesome guide. A local plus she owns the business.