What to Do in New Orleans: An Essential Guide for First-Timers
If you’ve never been to the Big Easy, the possibilities can seem overwhelming. There are hundreds of attractions to enjoy in this festive, energetic city. This is a town known for fun and debauchery, so how many things can be crammed into one trip?
We’ve put together a first-timer’s guide to Crescent City of all of the must-see places that aren’t to be overlooked.
Follow this list on how to revel in the best that NOLA has to offer.
The French Quarter is a vital part of the city that should not be missed. The neighborhood is home to many museums, art galleries, and dozens of bars and restaurants. The French Quarter is the oldest and most noted neighborhood in New Orleans, so stop here first.
The French Quarter is famous for stunning architecture, rowdy nightlife, free-flowing cocktails, Cajun eateries, jazz bars, and street performers. The French Quarter is definitely the gem of the city and a fundamental part of any first-timer’s trip to New Orleans.
The French Quarter is typecast by Bourbon Street, the neon light-lined street where all-night partying and club hopping takes place. Bourbon Street is a big part of the French Quarter for this reason.
The most anticipated event of the year takes place on Bourbon Street, the massive festival of Mardi Gras. The residents of New Orleans have basically proclaimed this event to be a city-wide holiday. Mardi Gras is a huge draw to the city, but NOLA has a reputation for being a fun-loving city all year round.
Any time of the year, Bourbon Street is the exciting hub of live music, partying, and some of the best festivals in the city. Jazz music can be heard in basically every part of the city, in bars, in parks, and on street corners.
Preservation Hall is a must for a New Orleans jazz experience. This historic venue is dedicated to preserving jazz music by showcasing the most gifted local musicians and keeping traditional jazz music alive. Bourbon Street is a true taste of the city’s jazz music, nightlife, and party atmosphere.
The French Quarter is more than just Bourbon Street — it’s an entire historic neighborhood of landmarks and famous locations. The beautiful Jackson Square is a 2.5-acre picturesque spot for strolling around. Street performers and local artists often gather here to showcase their talents.
Jackson Square is in the heart of the French Quarter and is surrounded by famous streets like Chartres, St. Peter, and Decatur. The park overlooks the Mississippi River and the beauty of the area attracts about two million people a year.
St. Louis Cathedral is the highly-recognized centerpiece of the square. Brochures for self-guided tours are sold for $1 for an in-depth look into the stately cathedral. In front, you’ll find a large statue dedicated to the square’s namesake, President Andrew Jackson.
City Park is a massive tourist attraction in New Orleans, but this urban park retreat is worth your time. Get active inside this 1300-acre park with enough recreation activities to spend an entire day.
There is something for everyone — stroll the botanical garden and see 12 acres of flowering gardens or the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park with rides for visitors of all ages. There are several rambling walking and biking trails and huge oak trees that provide shade for picnicking.
One of the coolest parts of the park is the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Besthoff Sculpture Garden. The fine arts museum has a huge collection of works including the fresh air sculpture garden.
City Park is worth checking out for a day in nature and the artistic gems found throughout the park’s interior.
Faubourg Marigny and Bywater
Faubourg Marigny and Bywater are two side-by-side neighborhoods on the edge of the Mississippi River in the lower ninth ward. The neighborhood is known for Cajun eateries, jazz bars, colorful street art, and a funky vibe.
Street performers, brass bands, and local artists add to the artsy, colorful aura of Faubourg Marigny and Bywater. Plenty of eclectic art galleries, live music venues, and trendy bars are found here.
There is also a foodie scene that ranges from casual, delicious fare to upscale, award-winning restaurants. Bywater American Bistro is a lively restaurant with a healthy dose of southern hospitality serving brunch, craft libations, and more. Mimi’s In The Marigny serves Spanish tapas and classic cocktails in a laid-back atmosphere with pool tables and a balcony with a view of Royal Street.
Check out the vibrant Frenchmen Street in Faubourg Marigny and Bywater for what some call a more authentic NOLA vibe. Instead of Bourbon Street, the lesser-known Frenchmen Street is said to be where travelers in search of live music should head to.
Frenchmen Street is most noted for food and fun and there are several places to check out including The Spotted Cat and Three Muses.
Nearby Frenchmen Street lies an urban oasis, Washington Square Park. The park is a peaceful area shaded by oak trees and surrounded by the sounds of live music from nearby Frenchmen Street. The park holds many festivals, concerts, and art markets throughout the year.
Less than three miles from the French Quarter is a much quieter and more relaxed neighborhood. With its signature oak tree-lined streets, the Garden District is home to grand Victorian mansions surrounded by lush greenery.
The best way to get to the Garden District and to navigate the neighborhood is using the NOLA streetcar system. Several streets in the Garden District are worth strolling, one of which being St. Charles Avenue. This is an iconic 5-mile stretch through the Garden District filled with 19th- and 20th-century mansions, bars, restaurants, and leftover hanging beads from the Carnival route.
When in the Garden District, one of the most famous restaurants in the city is worth a visit. Commander’s Palace is one of the oldest and easily recognized restaurants in the Big Easy. This is an upscale, highly-rated restaurant that has made itself a landmark in the Garden District.
Read more at Domio.