31 BEST Things to do in New Orleans [December 2019]

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A city brimming with history, art, and music, New Orleans should be on the bucket list for every traveler!

Come and experience the laid-back magic of the bayou and try out delicious creole cuisine during your next vacation to the cultural heart of Louisiana.

When you travel to a place as diverse as New Orleans, planning a vacation can feel a little overwhelming with so many options. That’s why we’ve made it easy for you and put together this list of some of the top attractions and activities in and around the city to guarantee that your vacation is one you’ll never forget!

Table of Contents

Our Favorite Places to Stay in New Orleans!

New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods, each with a distinct character. Here are a few of the top picks in some of the most popular neighborhoods for where to stay when traveling to New Orleans!

Sonder-Carondelet

The best option in the Arts-Warehouse District

Sonder-Carondelet

Sonder-Carondelet is our pick for the best option in the Arts-Warehouse District

  • Great local food!
  • Pleasant walking neighborhood

The Arts-Warehouse district is close to downtown and is known for its local venues, galleries, and amazing dining!

At the Sonder-Carondelet you’ll have your own apartment space furnished with a kitchen, living space, and bedroom.

 

Drury Inn & Suites New Orleans

The best option in downtown New Orleans

Drury Inn & Suites New Orleans

Drury Inn & Suites New Orleans is our pick for the best option in downtown New Orleans

  • Heart of downtown!
  • Close to top attractions

Relax at Drury Inn at the outdoor swimming pool, enjoy a complimentary breakfast and afternoon snacks, and work out at the fitness center!

Drury Inn is close to great dining options and other popular tourist attractions of the city.

 

Lafitte Guest House

The best option in the French Quarter of New Orleans

Lafitte Guest House

Lafitte Guest House is our pick for the best option in the French Quarter of New Orleans

  • Charming historic neighborhood
  • Dining, jazz, and more!

Located among the charming classic buildings of the French Quarter, the Lafitte Guest House lets you enjoy New Orleans in style!

Take in the view on the shared terrace and go out to explore the local attractions nearby during your stay.

 

The 31 Best Things to do in New Orleans

 

#1 – Take an Evening Ride on the Steamboat Natchez

Take an Evening Ride on the Steamboat Natchez

A relaxing way to enjoy New Orleans city scenery

  • Perfect city skyline
  • Enjoy the Mississippi River!
  • Fun evening entertainment

Relax to the groove of local jazz music and enjoy a delicious dinner on the Steamboat Natchez while gliding down the Mississippi!

This is a great way to soak up the ambiance of New Orleans and get some awesome photos to boot!

 

Need more specifics? Find out where to stay in New Orleans based on what you want to do there!

#2 – Local Nightlife in Marigny

A fun party neighborhood of New Orleans

  • The best local dives!
  • All night clubs!
  • Walk along Frenchman Street

If you’re hoping to get in on the party scene of New Orleans, the neighborhood of Marigny is the place to go!

Close to the French Quarter, Marigny is easy to access and full of fun local clubs where you can groove all night long.

 

#3 – Step Back in Time at Destrehan Plantation

Step Back in Time at Destrehan Plantation

An important look into Louisiana history

  • French Colonial Plantation
  • Beautiful gardens!
  • Unique historic perspective

The closest plantation to New Orleans and the oldest documented plantation home in the region, Destrehan Plantation is one of the top historic attractions of the area!

Come enjoy the peaceful gardens and view the artifacts on display for a one-of-a-kind tour of history.

 

Let’s make this simple. These are the best hotels in New Orleans!

#4 – Snap a Photo in Jackson Square

Snap a Photo in Jackson Square

One of the best free things to do in New Orleans (Photo Credit – gonola.com)

  • Top tourist attraction!
  • The best of the French Quarter
  • Postcard-worthy photographs!

When exploring the French Quarter, make sure to get some photos in Jackson Square, one of the most famous sites in the city of New Orleans!

With the historic St. Louis Cathedral and the fun modern street performers, it combines the best of New Orleans in one place.

 

#5 – Get Spooked on a Cemetery Tour

Get Spooked on a Cemetery Tour

  • Creepy history!
  • National Register of Historic Places
  • Famous grave sites

The St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery of New Orleans is a special place and one you can only enter with an Archdiocese-approved guide!

See the grave of Marie Laveau and other prominent historic figures of New Orleans during a walking tour that might make your hairs stand on end!

Haven’t found what you’re looking for? Try our hotel guide for Downtown New Orleans!

#6 – Walk around the Garden District

 Walk around the Garden District

One of the most photogenic neighborhoods of New Orleans

  • Famous and beautiful neighborhood
  • Great place to walk
  • Learn local history!

One of the most highly acclaimed neighborhoods of New Orleans, the Garden District is a place every traveler should come visit.

The majestic 19th-century mansions display all signature features of southern wealth and make for great photo opportunities during your vacation!

Have some time in New Orleans? These are our favorite day trips from New Orleans!

#7 – Enjoy the Outdoors in City Park

Enjoy the Outdoors in City Park

Great thing to do in New Orleans with kids (Photo Credit – neworleans.com)

  • 1,300 acres!
  • Dates back to 1854
  • Ride the 1906 carousel!

A great family activity, the New Orleans City Park is the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors and see some historic sites!

Walk, jog, pack a picnic, and take a photo next to the Dueling Oaks were disputes were once settled with swords!

 

#8 – Visit the Whitney Plantation

Visit the Whitney Plantation

  • Amazing historic learning experience
  • Opened 2014!
  • First-person slave accounts

Whitney Plantation made history when it was opened to the public as the only plantation museum in Louisiana to focus on slavery.

Come and tour the impressive property and have your eyes opened to this difficult yet significant period in southern history!

Like good weather? These are the best times to visit New Orleans!

#9 – Delve into the Music World at the Jazz Museum

Delve into the Music World at the Jazz Museum

Great way to learn about New Orleans culture (Photo Credit – Viator)

  • Musical history of the city
  • Regularly updated collections!
  • Louis Armstrong’s first cornet!

From fun music memorabilia to chronological displays of the history of jazz, the Jazz Museum of New Orleans is a must-visit for every music fan!

Learn about the important role jazz plays in the culture of New Orleans and listen to some of the famous jazz music for yourself.

 

#10 – Ride around on a Segway

Ride around on a Segway

  • Fun way to sightsee!
  • Beautiful colonial architecture
  • No experience required!

Cruise around New Orleans with a local guide on a Segway tour to enjoy all the top sites of the city without working up a sweat!

You’ll have numerous photo opportunities and get the chance to hear the backstories to some of the most famous landmarks of the city.

 

#11 – Shop till you Drop on Magazine Street

One of the best shopping areas in New Orleans

  • Support local businesses!
  • Great Mardi Gras gear
  • Fun international cuisine

Explore more of New Orleans beyond the French Quarter by checking out one of the best shopping areas in the city!

From fun Mardi Gras shops to a range of international cuisine including award-winning Israeli food, you’ll want your credit card and an empty stomach when coming to Magazine Street.

 

#12 – Look Behind the Scenes of Mari Gras

Look Behind the Scenes of Mari Gras

An authentic New Orleans experience

  • Famous New Orleans celebration!
  • See magic in the making
  • Meet local artists

Mardi Gras is the annual city-wide celebration New Orleans is so famous for.

Even if you miss the event itself, you can take a look at the inner workings of creating the floats and parade equipment by visiting one of the largest Mardi Gras warehouses in the city where local artists bring the festival to life!

 

#13 – Watch a Football Game

A ‘cool’ thing to do in New Orleans in winter

  • Support the New Orleans Saints!
  • See the fun costumes
  • Great for sports fans!

If you’re visiting New Orleans in the fall and winter, check out the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to see if there are any games!

Even if you’re not a huge sports fan, you can still enjoy the local cuisine and eccentric costumes fans show up in to support the team.

 

#14 – Take a Carriage Ride through the French Quarter

Take a Carriage Ride through the French Quarter

A great romantic activity in New Orleans

  • Unique way to sightsee!
  • Beautiful historic neighborhood
  • Learn from a local guide

What better way to explore the elegant French Quarter of New Orleans than a relaxing carriage ride?

The leisurely pace will allow you to take in all the sights, and your local guide can give you a new perspective on the history of the area!

 

#15 – Learn about Hurricane Katrina

Learn about Hurricane Katrina

  • Significant city history
  • Hear first-hand accounts!
  • Unique New Orleans experience

The devastating Hurricane Katrina remains of the most important events in the history of New Orleans.

Go deeper and learn about the destruction from the locals on a unique tour focusing on how the city was affected and eventually repaired after the hurricane!

 

#16 – Ride around on the Streetcars

  • Fun way to sightsee!
  • Operating since 1835
  • Unique New Orleans experience

You don’t need to be a part of a guided tour to see the best of New Orleans.

Hop on one of the historic street cars for an authentic and classic “Big Easy” experience to see the major neighborhoods and get some great photos!

 

#17 – See Street Art in Bywater

A very cool thing to do in New Orleans

  • Cool bohemian vibe
  • Amazing street art!
  • Great spot for photos

The large street murals that characterize the neighborhood of Bywater have made the area popular both among locals and tourists.

Explore the hip local shops, grab a coffee, and stroll around to enjoy the ambiance!

 

#18 – Explore the National WWII Museum

Explore the National WWII Museum

One of the best museums of New Orleans

  • Highly praised exhibits!
  • Personal accounts
  • 4 different buildings!

This enormous museum is one of the crowning features of New Orleans, and an incredible place to learn about history!

You’ll have the chance to see fighter airplanes used in WWII, learn about personal accounts, and try hands-on activities!

 

#19 – Listen to Street Music

One of the best cheap things to do in New Orleans

  • Great local experience!
  • Classic New Orleans character
  • Year-round performers

There’s no need to open your wallet in order to enjoy the famous jazz music of New Orleans!

From street performers to organized events like Jazz in the Park and Wednesday at the Square, jazz is always literally in the air.

 

#20 – Ride on an Airboat

Ride on an Airboat

An exciting way to see the natural scenery of Louisiana

  • Perfect family activity!
  • See local wildlife!
  • Explore the marshlands of New Orleans

Riding in a high-speed airboat is a fun and exciting way to take a break from the city and have the chance to see some of the natural areas around New Orleans!

You’ll be cruising at up to 35 mph in a comfortable boat around the marshlands where you might spot alligators, ospreys, and raccoons!

 

#21 – Walk around Louis Armstrong Park

Things to do in New Orleans this weekend

  • Free public admission!
  • Great historic spots
  • Honor the famous musician

Right next to the French Quarter, Louis Armstrong Park is one of the top green spaces in New Orleans.

Take a photo next to the statue of the great musician or pack a picnic lunch for a pleasant day outdoors!

 

#22 – Dine, Shop, and Explore in the French Quarter

Dine, Shop, and Explore in the French Quarter

  • Oldest neighborhood of New Orleans!
  • Great historic sites
  • Characteristic photo opportunities!

The French Quarter of New Orleans is packed with history and fun tourist attractions, including some of the best restaurants in the city!

On a tour with a local guide, you can learn more about all of the important features of the neighborhood, as enjoy looking around small boutiques and trying classic cuisine!

 

#23 – Hands-on Art and Music Box Village

  • Great family activity!
  • Artist-made “musical houses”
  • Learn about the local art scene!

One of the best kid-friendly activities in New Orleans, Music Box Village is a fun and interactive way to learn about the music so integral to the city’s culture.

From performances to hand-on activities, people of all ages can enjoy the attractions of the Music Box Village!

 

#24 – Take a Cooking Class

Take a Cooking Class

The perfect experience for foodies in New Orleans

  • Learn the flavors of New Orleans!
  • Amazing local meal
  • Bring home recipes!

If you fall in love with Cajun and creole cuisine, you can take a cooking class so you can prepare your favorite recipes back at home!

Learn from a local professional about how to make some of the signature dishes of New Orleans, and of course, enjoy a meal after the classroom experience!

 

#25 – Watch a Show at Preservation Hall

One of the best fun things to do in New Orleans

  • Shows every night!
  • Perfect way to see local jazz
  • Historic setting

Preservation Hall was built in 1961 and lives up to its name in how it helps preserve the jazz culture of the city!

With multiple shows every night, you can take your pick and buy tickets at the door for a memorable evening in New Orleans!

 

#26 – Venture into the Bayou

Venture into the Bayou

A great outdoor activity in New Orleans

  • Natural side of New Orleans
  • Spot alligators!
  • Discover local culture

The beautiful bayou area surrounding New Orleans is full of interesting wildlife and nature.

Go out and explore the area for yourself on a special bayou tour in a traditional swamp boat to let you get up close to some of the native species!

 

#27 – Learn about New Orleans on a Walking Tour

Learn about New Orleans on a Walking Tour

One of the best things to do in downtown New Orleans

  • Cool history facts!
  • Great historic buildings
  • Perfect way to get photos!

Discover why New Orleans is called ‘the Big Easy’ on a walking tour to guide you through the history and development of the city!

Your local guide will have interesting backstories and fun history facts about the various points of interest along the way.

 

#28 – Rock ‘n’ Bowl

A fun family activity in New Orleans

  • Music and bowling combined!
  • Great entertainment option
  • Hit the dance floor!

Music can be found almost anywhere in New Orleans, including a bowling alley!

You can take a turn on the dance floor between games and enjoy the live music which varies from rock to swing to Zydeco depending on the day of the week.

 

#29 – Enchant Yourself with Local Folklore

Enchant Yourself with Local Folklore

Discover the legends of New Orleans history

  • Voodoo, magic, and more!
  • The mystic side of New Orleans
  • Learn about local culture

Besides jazz, New Orleans has a reputation for its legends and superstitions from the mystic Voodoo Queen to swamp monsters!

Learn about these stories and more on a fun, maybe creepy, tour of the city to give you a new perspective on the history, architecture, and local customs.

 

#30 – Buy a Souvenir at Palace Market

One of the more unique things to do in New Orleans

  • Local art!
  • Fun night market
  • Meet the artisans

If you’re hoping to pick up a unique New Orleans souvenir, the Palace Market is the place to go!

The regional artists have jewelry, crafts, paintings, perfect for gifts for friends and family back home, or something special to remember your trip by.

 

#31 – See More on a Bus Tour

See More on a Bus Tour

A great all-around tour option in New Orleans

  • Comfortable way to sightsee!
  • Lots of attractions in little time
  • French Quarter, Garden District, and more!

Don’t have much time in New Orleans? Don’t worry! A bus tour is the perfect way to make it to all the top attractions of the city in a short amount of time.

Guides can give you suggestions about the best restaurants and lesser-known attractions for you to better plan your time in the city!

Conclusion

Plan your next vacation to “The Big Easy,” and discover what New Orleans style is all about! From endless laid-back jazz to fun family activities, New Orleans is packed with adventures for the trip of a lifetime.

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About the Author Aaron Hovanesian

Born in Los Angeles, Aaron Hovanesian is one of the original staff writers for Hotel Jules. Having backpacked the world as a young man, Aaron now prefers to travel the world in luxury, proudly staying in the world's most amazing hotels and properties. When Aaron is not traveling he lives in Western Colorado he can be found brewing his own beer (probably an IPA) or spending time with his two amazing golden retrievers.