New Orleans has a lot of options for fun things to do. Whether you’re a jazz fan, history buff, foodie, parade geek, or any combination of these, you’ll find something to love in the Big Easy. Below are some of my favorite things to see and do in New Orleans, plus where to eat and stay.
Note: My most recent stay was hosted by New Orleans & Company; all opinions are my own.
Things To Do In New Orleans
1. Destination Kitchen Food Tours
When you visit a food-centric city like New Orleans, a food tour is a must. A tour with Destination Kitchen Food Tours is perfect if you’re looking for a small, locally led food tour with lots of stops at unique places in the French Quarter.
Our tour leader, Stacey, led us on a 3-hour walking food crawl, where we sampled everything from gumbo to boudin to pralines. An expert on the city, she welcomed questions and gave us plenty of insider tips. Along with food, you’ll learn so much about the traditions, culture, and history of the city. My favorite stops are the Market Cafe for a po’boy sandwich and the gumbo and chargrilled oysters at New Orleans Creole Cookery.
2. National World War II Museum
Make time to visit this museum. The National World War II Museum is one of the premier war museums in the world. Located in the Central Business District, the museum covers the war from all angles with exhibits, interactive displays, and personal histories.
We started off with lunch in The American Sector Restaurant and Bar, located within the museum. The campus has five different buildings — there is so much to see that you can easily spend all day here. Keep in mind that there can be a lot of walking.
Pro Tip: Make sure you purchase the tickets that include the film Beyond All Boundaries. This 50-minute 4D film is incredible.
3. Festivals And Parades
New Orleans loves to celebrate and has festivals and parades seemingly every week. Go watch a parade while you’re in town. See the bands, and maybe spot the Elvis Krewe, like we did!
4. Frenchmen Street
My niece told me to hit Frenchmen Street, known for its hip night scene. It’s the place where locals go to unwind, and we loved the vibe of Frenchman. We had started on Bourbon Street and quickly found that was not our “jam,” so we grabbed an Uber to Frenchmen and had one heck of a good time! Cool bars line the street, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to hear fantastic music at any one.
The Spotted Cat was completely packed, so we headed across the street and were soon belting out lyrics with the rest of the crowd while the band played on.
Pro Tip: Make sure you check out the Frenchmen Art Market, an evening maker’s market with all kinds of handmade treasures. I found the perfect pair of earrings.
5. Garden District Walking Tour
Two Chicks Walking Tours offers a great walking tour through the Garden District. You’ll see magnificent homes and learn about the history of the area on this 2-hour tour.
Editor’s Note: As our own Michelle Snell wrote, New Orleans is rich with walking tours. We recommend taking them even if you’ve been again and again.
6. New Orleans Jazz Museum
Located near the French Quarter and Frenchman Street, get an in-depth look at the history of jazz in the city that invented the music. The New Orleans Jazz Museum is a showcase of everything you want to know about jazz.
7. St. Louis Cathedral
You’ve certainly seen pictures of the historic St. Louis Cathedral, the anchor of Jackson Square and the oldest cathedral in the United States. This historic beauty, built on the banks of the Mississippi, has been the site of worship for hundreds of years. The scene outside the church around Jackson Square is lively with artists, vendors, and performers entertaining the crowds. It’s great for people-watching.
8. The Presbytere
We ventured into this museum after touring the St. Louis Cathedral next door. The first-floor exhibits tell the tale of Hurricane Katrina. The interviews with residents and how they survived the aftermath are incredibly moving and beyond heartbreaking. This is an exhibit that you must see.
Upstairs, you’ll delve into Mardi Gras. You’ll see incredible, ornate costumes and parade floats and learn about the krewes that keep Mardi Gras running. It’s a fascinating look at New Orleans’s most well-known tradition.
9. Vue Orleans
Check out New Orleans from a different perspective: high atop the observation deck at The Vue Orleans. On the 33rd and 34th floors of the Four Seasons, you can take in a 360-degree of the city while immersing yourself in interactive exhibits about the history and culture of NOLA.
Best Restaurants In New Orleans
This visually stunning restaurant on the first floor of The Pontchartrain Hotel has a Parisian feel. Stop in for a special occasion dinner and choose from an array of pasta dishes, fresh fish, veal, chicken, small plate shareables, and gumbo. Jack Rose also hosts Saturday and Sunday brunch with traditional Southern favorites, like shrimp and grits and chicken and waffles.
The Reveillion dinner at Arnaud’s is over-the-top special and fun! This legendary restaurant has been a New Orleans mainstay since 1918 and seems it hasn’t missed a beat. Featuring authentic Creole cuisine in a fine-dining atmosphere, you’ll experience first-class service and excellent food.
The wild mushroom risotto and stuffed gulf fish featuring crabmeat, crawfish, shrimp, lemon butter, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are both incredible. What’s most incredible is the time you’ll have here being pampered by the staff in this truly lovely, one-of-a-kind restaurant. It lives up to the hype.
The Peacock Room is at the top of my list for the best cocktail bar ever. Come for lunch, dinner, and cocktails. This stunning cocktail bar with French-inspired decor and an eclectic menu is just plain cool. It’s also where we had the best bread pudding of our entire trip!
Try a couple of inventive drinks. We loved the Wrong Place/Wrong Time and the Flock To Me. We were lucky enough to be there on Thursday night to catch live jazz by the fabulous Da Lovebirds with Robin Barnes.
The smell of meat wafts through this eatery known for meat and traditional Cajun fare. Chef Isaac Toups hails from the small town of Rayne, Louisiana, and his Cajun roots run deep. The James Beard Award semi-finalist cooks modern, Cajun-inspired specialties, like couvillion, a stew featuring Louisiana gulf fish, crab, and rice.
The cured meats served here are uber-popular. At Toups’, order the meatery plate for house-made meat and condiments. Our dinner was top-notch from start to finish.
Located across the street from Kimpton Hotel Fontenot, Mother’s has been serving homecooked food to locals and tourists for almost a century. We stopped in one morning at breakfast to find a line out the door.
This is where to go if you’re craving simple, hearty, New Orleans favorites, like po’ boys, shrimp creole, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and crawfish etouffee. Plus, breakfast is served all day.
Cafe Du Monde
You have to try beignets in New Orleans. This tasty treat is similar to a donut but lighter, and I think better. With a cup of coffee, it’s hard to beat.
Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter is the place for beignets in New Orleans, which explains why you’ll find a long line any time, day or night. Brave the line because they’re worth it.
Commander’s Palace, part of the Brennan family of restaurants, is the iconic fine-dining restaurant known for launching the careers of chefs Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme. Commander’s is the place to go for Sunday brunch, as it features live jazz music and plenty of boozy brunch cocktails.
Pro Tip: You’ll want to dress up to dine here. The restaurant does have a dress code that includes no shorts or flip-flops.
Best Hotels In New Orleans
The Pontchartrain Hotel
A historic hotel in the Garden District where playwright Tennessee Williams once lived, The Pontchartrain Hotel is a charming, old-school luxury property that exceeded our expectations.
Antique furniture is featured throughout the space. Rooms are plush, with comfy beds, separate sitting areas, dramatic curtains, lush velvets, and comfy robes. With multiple bars and restaurants on site, you’ll have everything you need here. As stated, Jack Rose is an exquisite fine-dining restaurant. The intimate Bayou Bar is a lively spot for drinks and live music. And the most fun at The Pontchartrain Hotel may be at the Hot Tin Bar. This legendary space features an outside deck with incredible views of downtown New Orleans and the Mississippi River.
Kimpton Hotel Fontenot
Our stay at Kimpton Hotel Fontenot was perfect. It is a chic, sophisticated hotel in the Central Business District. You’ll be well taken care of here during your New Orleans stay.
Located about a mile from the French Quarter, the Kimpton Hotel Fontenot is an easy walk to Canal Street and beyond. Even if you’re not staying here, make sure you have a drink in the Peacock Room, the award-winning cocktail bar on the main floor of the hotel. It’s especially festive on Thursday nights when live jazz is in full swing.
Pro Tip: Order the bread pudding in the Peacock Room. With hot, buttery rum sauce, it’s absolutely to die for!
The Roosevelt Hotel
If you’re looking for a high-end hotel stay in New Orleans, head to the Roosevelt Hotel. This Waldorf Astoria hotel, once home to Louisiana governor Huey Long, will wow you from the moment you enter. Enjoy the rooftop pool, the legendary Sazarac Bar, and the fantastic location, only a block from the French Quarter. If you’re here for the holidays, you’ll enjoy the magnificent decorations throughout the property.
Staying in New Orleans for more than a weekend (or just want to jam-pack your trip)? Consider: