Wondering what to do in New Orleans? Here are some of the highlights of what the city has to offer! If you’re more interested in the food, check out my post on where and what to eat in New Orleans.
Like I said in my Cajun chicken pasta post, I’ll be sharing some New Orleans recipes soon. But first I wanted to share a little about my trip!
My parents lived outside of New Orleans before they moved to Texas and because of that, I grew up eating po’ boys, pralines, beignets and King Cake. I even decorated my room with Mardi Gras masks, beads and parasols when I was little.
I’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans and after seeing the TV show Treme, I wanted to go even more. When Mr. Texanerin and I are on vacation, we usually prefer to visit small, picturesque towns and drive around the countryside. Like hilltop towns and rolling hills in Tuscany or sleepy fishing villages in Sweden. They usually seem to have more character than your typical big cities. But New Orleans? I can’t think of a more culturally rich city in the US and it’s so unlike any other city in the world. The music, food, architecture and people are so unique and so worth experiencing.
I’ve never been to a city with so much to do. I spent two weeks planning a detailed itinerary for our trip and we only got to a fraction of what I wanted to do. Normally we have 2-3 things on our must-see (and eat) list and spend the rest of the time just wandering around.
That definitely wasn’t the case here. New Orleans isn’t a huge city but there’s still so much area to cover! New Orleans has several neighborhoods that were on my list to visit but we only managed the French Quarter, Treme, and the Business District. But that’s okay because I know we’ll be back – and soon!
The first thing we like to do when visiting a new city is take a free walking tour. You tip the tour guide at the end and I think that motivates the guides to do an especially good job. We went to New Orleans the day after Christmas and with all the holiday madness distracting me from travel planning, we completely forgot to book some tours and they had sold out of everything I was interested in by the time I checked. I recommend Free Tours By Foot (TripAdvisor / website).
They have loads of interesting sounding tours and the one we wanted to start off with was the most obvious choice – French Quarter tour. The buildings are gorgeous there! It’s especially nice early in the morning before all the tourists get up.
We only came across one grocery store in central New Orleans and you can find it right across from the building above on Royal St. It’s called Rouses Market (map). In addition to all your regular grocery store goodies, they have King Cakes year-round should you want to give them a try outside of Mardi Gras season. They have smallish ones for only $4.99 or maybe $5.99, which you could easily bring back to your hotel for a late-night snack! I got a cream cheese filled one and enjoyed it.
There are a lot of street performers and musicians along that part of Royal St., which is only a block away from Jackson Square (pictured above and below). I would have loved a few more days in New Orleans just to hang out and watch them.
There was so much to take in walking around that we didn’t end up with much time for museums and such. But there was one I just couldn’t miss. Ever since the WWII museum (website / TripAdvisor) opened in 2000 (it used to be called the D-Day Museum), I’ve wanted to go. It took me 16 years but I finally got there! It’s extremely large and we only got through 3 exhibitions in 4 hours.
We would have needed two days to go through it properly. What’s cool is that you can come and go so you can go out for lunch (Pêche Seafood Grill is only two blocks away – more to come on that next week!) or to get some fresh air, come back and continue on through the museum. If you want tickets for the 4-D films, make sure to get there early. By 12:00 pm, they had already sold out of all showtimes for the day. They also offer a Second Day Pass at a huge discount in case you can’t finish everything in one day.
One thing you should also make time for is live music! There are loads of clubs and bands playing every night of the week but on Tuesday nights, two of the best and well-known brass bands play. We went and saw The Treme Brass Band (pictured below) at d.b.a ($5 entrance). The Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf Bar is also highly recommended.
Here’s a video I found of The Treme Brass Band playing at d.b.a to give you an idea of what they’re like.
If going to a club isn’t your thing (New Orleans is now smoke-free, by the way!) there’s so much music to be found on the street. There almost always seems to be a group or two playing in front of St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square and in lots of different locations throughout the city. We watched the group pictured below playing outside of the Walgreen’s on Royal St. and Iberville St. for about 45 minutes.
Not only was the music great, but there was a very gleeful dancing man that we couldn’t stop watching. He made our night. After that, we walked one street over to the corner of Bourbon St. and Canal St. In front of that Walgreen’s, there was another awesome brass band playing! By the way, Walgreen’s and CVS are absolutely everywhere downtown. You’ll never have to worry about forgotten toiletries! ;)
After that, we walked down Bourbon St. to Olde N’awlins Cookery (website / TripAdvisor). It’s totally family-friendly and we had one of our best meals here. We ate outside on the tiny balcony and had another brass band playing right underneath. A very cool experience!
One thing I’m really bummed out about not seeing in New Orleans is a Second Line. If you’re not familiar with them, here’s a video! And you can read about their really interesting history here.
After we finished a tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, we walked on over to nearby Treme. Like the picture below says, Treme is considered to be America’s oldest black neighborhood and the birthplace of Jazz. I wouldn’t recommend you go there and just wander aimlessly around like you do in the French Quarter. There are some beautiful houses like the red one below but what makes it so interesting is the history.
We only had time for a self-guided walking tour but there are lots of guided group tours of Treme which I would recommend doing. You’ll get more history doing a group tour and depending on where you go in Treme, you may have to walk under an overpass, which I can see some people not being wild about doing alone.
We stayed at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel (TripAdvisor) and couldn’t have been happier with it. The location was absolutely perfect. It’s not directly in the French Quarter, which I think would be too noisy for my taste, but across the street from it.
There’s a street car stop right out front, making it really easy to travel to the other neighborhoods. And it happens to be located within a 2-3 minute walk from loads of amazing breakfast places! More on them next week.
We had a room on the 39th floor which had a great view of the city and Mississippi. It was also perfect for watching the sunrise!
Please note that these pictures were taken after several nights and the bed was made by me. Your comforter will not be wrinkly nor will your bed look like a child made it. ;)
The bed was really cozy and we didn’t hear a thing from our room. Not from outside and not from our neighbors. After two exhausting weeks of traveling, it’s just what we needed. We didn’t have much interaction with the staff (it wasn’t needed because everything worked but the few we spoke to were really friendly and welcoming).
On our way out of New Orleans, we stopped at Cajun Pride Tours (website / Trip Advisor), about 30 minutes from downtown New Orleans, for a swamp tour. It was raining and only around 50 °F, which we were told is not so good for alligator viewing because they tend to slow down and not do much. We only saw one alligator but there were raccoons and birds of prey. We also learned a lot about the Cajun people and local history which in itself made the tour totally worth it.
I guess I should correct myself. We saw two alligators as Captain Nolan, our fun tour guide, who grew up in the swamp and like all tour guides at Cajun Pride, is a real Cajun, brought his pet alligator for us to meet. ;)
There are several plantations within minutes of each other in Vacherie, about 1 hour from New Orleans or 30 minutes from Cajun Pride Tours. Laura Plantation (website / TripAdvisor) was recommended for their excellent tour and Oak Valley Plantation (website / TripAdvisor), which is only 5 minutes away, has stunning oak-lined walkways, so we visited those two.
Oak Valley (pictured above and below) is considered by many to be the most iconic plantation in Louisiana. It’s seriously so gorgeous.
Wondering why I didn’t write much about the food? That’s coming in Monday’s post! There’s just too much goodness in New Orleans to cram it all into one post.
Thanks to the New Orleans Convention & Vistors Bureau and the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel for hosting us! The New Orleans CVB has a great Visitors Guide you can view online here or you can request a free print copy here. I honestly found it useful and thought you may, too!
46 comments on “New Orleans: What to See and Do” — Add one!
I have always wanted to go to New Orleans so badly, and this is making me want to go even more!!
Do it! You absolutely won’t regret it.
Totally bookmarking this! My friend Sarah and I have been thinking about taking a trip to NOLA so these recommendations and tips are super helpful!
I hope the two of you will make it there soon! :)
What a fun trip! Its been over 10 years since I’ve visited NO, but I want to get back again. Those trees in Oak Valley look amazing! I love it!
I hope you can go back soon! It’d be interesting to see how it’s changed.
This looks like such a fun trip! Thanks for sharing your fun photos!
It really was! :)
What a great recap of your trip. I grew up just north of New Orleans, in Slidell and went to college in New Orleans. It’s a wonderful city and I try to get back as often as I can. It looks like you guys had a wonderful trip!
I’m so jealous! I can’t imagine a more fun city to go to college in. :)
I’ve never been to NO, but am dying to go! Even more, after reading this post!
I hope you’ll get to go soon! It’s worth it, even just for the food. :)
What a great post! Your pictures are gorgeous. I live in Louisiana and have been to New Orleans many times but every time I go there are so many new things I want to try. I am bookmarking this post so I can remember your tips and recommendations especially the walking tour.
Thanks for your comment, Nicole! I’m so happy to read that my post was helpful even though you’ve been to New Orleans before. :) I hope you’ll enjoy the tour! We always learn so much on them.
It’s been such a long time since we’ve been to New Orleans. We’ve got to go again. We’ve been putting it off because I didn’t want to see the aftermath of Katrina. You’re pictures make me miss it so much!
You have to go again! Things are looking very good down there these days. :)
The food, the architecture, the music, the history! New Orleans has been on my must-visit list for years, and this just makes me want to hop a train (or whatever) and head down there – it’s beautiful.
I hope you’ll get around to it one day! It’s absolutely worth a visit.
Loved my time in NO, but it’s been about 15 years! Would love to go back. Enjoyed some of the best food EVER! Great post, Erin!
Thanks! And I totally agree with you on the food. SO good! :D
This week just started an extremely busy semester for me, I’ve packed on way too much work for myself. I wrote in my planner at the beginning of May: “NOLA?!” because I think that after I graduate and finish teaching my first 3 credit course that I deserve a vacation to anywhere I want to go! I have ALWYAS wanted to go to New Orleans and this post and your amazing photos have just confirmed that NOLA plan. I need to go erase the question mark. It looks like you had a lovely time!
Aww, yeah! Remove that question mark! It sounds like you totally deserve a break and May sounds great – before it gets really hot and humid! Good luck with the semester and I hope you get to take that trip. Thanks for your nice comment. :)
Very informative and helpful post. It’s been years since I visited and now I want to go back more than ever with the girls!!
What a fun idea! I hope you can make it happen. :)
Your Dad told me you were down here for a visit and you had my telephone number in the event of questions or difficulties. Under those circumstances, I’m glad I didn’t hear from you, but next time, allow time for at least a meet-up at Cafe duMonde or the Palace. Would love to see you again and meet hubby.
Hi, there! There will definitely be a next time. We have so many things left that we wanted to do! I’ll be sure to give you a call next time we’re there. Thanks for visiting and for your offer. :)
New Orleans is definitely on my travel bucket list! My sister and I were supposed to go down there together some years back, but the airline we bought our tickets from went under (boo) & we had to cancel the whole trip. I have been wanting to make it down there at some point ever since. :) Thanks for all the tips & suggestions!
Aww. Now that’s a sad story. What even happens in those circumstances? Did you get your money back> I hope you get down there soon! :)
What an awesome trip! I haven’t been to New Orleans, but you really got me interested … it looks like such an interesting place to visit. I love checking out architecture and local culture when I travel.
It truly was! Such an interesting city. I hope you get a chance to check it out one day!
Your trip looks awesome! New Orleans has always been on my bucket list, you’ve definitely inspired me to look further into visiting though!
Yay! So happy to hear that. If they ever have a blogging conference there, I’ll meet you there! :D
We still haven’t been to New Orleans but have been talking about it forever. Great post, it makes me all the more excited to plan a visit very soon!
You need to make it happen! You’ll love it. :)
Those trees covered in moss are BEAUTIFUL!!!! Like something you’d see in Harry Potter, haha :)
It’s really such a gorgeous area! I hope you get to see them yourself one day. :)
Gosh, it looks beautiful! I would love to get to New Orleans someday! Sounds like I better budget extra time though with all there is to do!
Yes! Definitely. There’s so much to see and do and I can almost guarantee you’d be kicking yourself later if you planned just a short weekend trip or something like that. ;)
Thanks so much for this post! I’m looking forward to more posts about your trip. I am going to New Orleans in a few months for work, but I’ll have time to go do other stuff, so this is helpful. The last time I was in New Orleans was before Katrina when I was a grad student–it’s going to be interesting to see how things have changed (and more fun because I’m not a student scraping by any longer!).
How fun! I’m so excited for you. And jealous. ;) I hope you’ll get lots of free-time during your work trip. And I’d be interested to see how things have changed, too!
I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans, and this post just solidified that want! Gorgeous photos and it sounds like an awesome trip!
Thanks so much! It really was. :) I hope you’ll get the chance to go!
Looks amazing! One day the guy and I will take a few months off to tour the US, and New Orleans is definitely a place I have to see. ^^
Oh, hey! It’s you. :D You definitely have to go to New Orleans on your US trip. Whenever Germans ask me about places to go in the US, I always tell them about New Orleans first. It’s so different and amazing! And once they experience New Orleans, they’ll stop with the whole, “American food is hot dogs and hamburgers” thing. ;)
I really enjoyed this post and look forward to the others about New Orleans. It is one of my favorite cities but I’ve only managed to get there three times and the last time was over 25 years ago. I still hope to get back there one of these days. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you! I’m so happy you enjoyed it. :) I hope you get back to New Orleans soon. I’m sure it’d be interesting to see how it’s changed over the last 25 years! I think Southwest Airlines sometimes has some really good deals to New Orleans should you live near an airport that they flight out of. :)