Pictured is the famed, allegedly haunted Cornstalk Hotel near Bourbon Street in New Orleans

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20 EPIC Things to Do in New Orleans

Ahhh, New Orleans (New OR-Lins). A city that will charm you with its architecture and distinctive, warm southern hospitality. It will fascinate you with its sweeping history, entice you with its rich and delectable food, and enchant you with every soulful note emanating from each brass instrument. It may even lure you in to learn more about the spiritual, supernatural or macabre side of the city.

Whether you are headed to The Big Easy for a rip roaring Bachelorette, a fun couples getaway or a family friendly vacation. The question begs, what are some of the best things to do in New Orleans?

One of the best things to do in New Orleans is grab some famed Beignets! Pictured are some delicious Beignets from Cafe Beignet
Delicious Beignets from Cafe Beignet

1. Eat and Drink Your Way Through New Orleans

As many have said before, but it bares repeating, New Orleans is not the city to come to with dietary restrictions. You’d be hard pressed to find food that isn’t fried, sugary or both. All of that to say, get ready for some magnificent mouth watering goodness. If you have a flair for gastronomy or spirits (referring to alcohol, but you can find apparitions here too) you, my friend, will be in your element. The birthplace of Creole cuisine, there will be an abundance of creole cooking to try.

Some local delicacies to check out:

Beignets (French donuts) & a Cafe au Lait

New Orleans BBQ Shrimp Po’ Boy Sandwiches

Charbroiled Oysters

Banana’s Foster

Crawfish étouffée

Jambalaya Gumbo

Muffaletta (Sandwich)

Sazerac Cocktail (circa 1830)

Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler

French for “let the good times roll” – New Orleans motto


As proclaimed by locals; indulging in ‘the sauce’ is very much a long standing part of New Orleans culture. If you enjoy a well crafted cocktail, you will be able to find one pretty much anywhere in the city. Pictured is one of the best drinks I had, a ‘Daquiri’ at the Palace Cafe.

In the 1940’s during WWII, the bar (and one time Speakeasy) Pat O’Briens invented a drink called the Hurricane. During this time, whiskey was scarce, but Rum was in ample supply. Thus, this sweet drink comprised of rum, various fruit juices including passion fruit, was born. I tried one and while it is quite sweet, I didn’t find it sickeningly sweet as some do.

Today you can still find Hurricanes and dueling pianos at Pat O’ Briens. While New Orleans is known for their Hurricane drink and a slew of other southern centric creations, the Sazerac has become its official cocktail. You can reserve a complimentary self- guided tour of The Sazerac House, where they also offer various tastings at different price points.

Indulging in the "sauce" is part of New Orleans culture. Pictured is a delicious Daiquiri at the Palace Cafe
The most delicious Daiquiri at The Palace Cafe

2. Steamboat on the Mississippi River

In the 19th century, steam power changed everything. Steamboat Natchez is a nod towards yesteryear and is reminiscent of the glamour, luxury and entertainment of the paddle boat era. Steamboat Natchez is the last remaining truly steam powered boat on the Mississippi River. We happened to be passengers aboard her on the evening cruise on the 4th of July, so we got the bonus of a spectacular fireworks show. This was definitely a highlight of our visit to Nola.

You can purchase general admission tickets or ones that include dinner. I recommend purchasing tickets in advance, as many were turned away the day of due to tickets being sold out. Similarly, many who decided they wanted to have dinner on the boat while already there were turned away as dinner tickets were sold out. I suggest having dinner on the boat as part of the whole experience. The menu appears to be set year ’round, which you can view on the website to ensure it meets your dietary needs.

General tickets are $50 per person.

For the evening cruise with dinner and the Dixieland band, it’s $87 per adult.

Go when the Dixieland band is playing!

You can buy your tickets here: Steamboat Natchez Evening Jazz Cruise with Dinner option

History, Museums and Culture

This city is rich in stories to be told, from its sordid past to its iconic Jazz scene. You can tour the last remaining original structure from a typical 1850’s house, you can immerse yourself in understanding Voodoo or learn more about WWII in the incredibly interactive museum.

The Storefront of Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo. A very interesting Gift Shop centered around Voodoo in the French Quarter
Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo – a Store, not a Museum BUT very cool stuff to check out. Worth a visit!

3. Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo

Although not technically a museum, Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo is worth a pit stop. There was a short line when we visited that moved fast. Here you can find spells, potions, and a plethora of other Voodoo paraphernalia. It is a very fascinating shoppe that gives you a window into the Voodoo world. Fair warning about the staff: the positive? Quirky and on brand. Unfortunately, they are unhelpful and rather apathetic and grouchy. Don’t let that stop you though, this is definitely an interesting shop to check out!

Photography is not allowed in the store. There is no charge for entry to go in and look around.

4. New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

This was closed for the month of our visit, much to our dismay, but is a must see. We went to walk by the storefront and it honestly looks very cool. I’ll definitely be visiting the next time I’m in town.

$5 Admission – Tuesday through Saturday, 10am -5pm

There is no place on earth even remotely like New Orleans. Don’t even try to compare it to anywhere else.

Anthony Bourdain

5. Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World

If you have a passing curiosity about Mardi Gras, Carnival, how the Mardi Gras floats are conspired and created, this will be a great item to add to your itinerary. Your journey begins with a film about Mardi Gras while you enjoy a sampling of New Orlean’s famed King’s Cake. King’s Cake is kind of a fusion of coffee cake and a cinnamon roll filled with cream cheeses, usually iced in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and yellow. There is a photo booth in the lobby, which is a great keepsake to take home.

General Admission, Adults – $22.00

Children Ages 2 -12 – $14.00

Military/Students/Seniors – $17.00

Tours are currently self guided and you can purchase tickets upon arrival. Mardi Gras World also offers a complimentary shuttle that picks up on Canal street to take you to the Museum.

Artwork at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World in New Orleans

6. The National WWII Museum

To truly see all the exhibits and content this museum has to offer, it’s recommended to set aside an entire day to explore this site. Conservatively, you’ll need at least four or five hours to even breeze through it. I suggest buying your tickets in advance, and reserving your movie time first thing in the morning before you begin the museum. This museum is incredible – both in the execution of its exhibits and the immense educational value. It isn’t your run of the mill museum experience, either. It’s immersive and engaging; many of its presentations are elaborate and experiential. I would return again on my next visit, as we didn’t get to everything!

Adult General Admission + Movie: $36.50/per person

Reserve your tickets online, in advance!

7. New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum

This was actually one of my favorite attractions during our recent visit to New Orleans. The mission of the museum is “to preserve the legacy of New Orleans Voodoo history and culture while educating and entertaining visitors.” It’s a small museum, but there is quite a bit to read, look at and learn. I found it to be very fascinating as it dispels misconceptions about Voodoo. It’s not everyday that you get to see Voodoo dolls and gris-gris amulets up close.

Adult Admission -$10 per person

Senior, Military & Students – $8 per person

Open 7 days per week, 10am – 6pm

A display of Voodoo dolls at the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum in The French Quarter of New Orleans. Visiting this Museum is one of the best things to do in New Orleans if you like to learn!
Voodoo Dolls at the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum – a really cool thing to do in New Orleans

8. Enjoy a Day Down By The Bayou

As many have attested, going on a swamp tour is a quintessential part of your southern Louisiana experience. I do agree, this is worth carving out time for. There are many different ways and time frames that you can see the Bayou, and many tour companies that will happily take you. Prior to this, the only other time we saw Crocodiles up close and personal was along the mangroves in Belize.

This is the boat that Honey Island Swamp Tours took us on. Picture of the boat on the Swamp.
Our Boat for the Honey Island Swamp Tours

There are private and small to large group tours available depending on the experience you’re looking for. A tour by Airboat is a popular option, depending on your group size. Most seem to accommodate smaller size groups, while there are a few airboats that can facilitate a larger crowd.

Per one of our Innkeepers recommendations, we decided to go with the Honey Island Swamp Tours, which takes you just under an hour outside of New Orleans to Slidell, Louisiana. We liked that this tour will send a car to pick you up and drop you off from your hotel or bed & breakfast.

Please note, they do not pickup from Airbnb’s, but will direct you to a nearby hotel for pickup. This was a really fun experience, as we got to see what life is like on the Bayou. We learned a lot about the natural habitat, and saw lots of Alligators and Cajun country in all its glory. If you’re lucky enough to get Roy as your Captain, you’re in great hands.

If you book directly, it’s $52 cash, per adult.

You can reserve your tickets in advance and pay with a card here: Honey Island Swamp Tours

New Orleans Neighborhoods

9. The French Quarter

Founded in 1718, this is where you will find all the old world architecture, restaurants dating back over a century, Bourbon street, Steamboats, and all the charm and mysteries of this very historic neighborhood. The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, The 1850 House and countless places to eat and drink are all located in The French Quarter. This is also where many “haunted hotels” and tours of the paranormal sort are found, such as The Omni Hotel on Royal, Hotel Monteleone, Andrew Jackson Hotel and many others.

If you want to be in the thick of it all and don’t mind all the hustle, bustle and noise, you can be walking distance from countless attractions and restaurants. Some travelers prefer the convenience of this, while others feel staying in the French Quarter is noisy and touristy.

Charming, pink, two story, classic southern manor in the Garden District of New Orleans.
The charming Southern Manors of the Garden District in New Orleans

10. The Garden District

Beautiful to walk through, there are many majestic and manicured homes throughout the district where you can fantasize about your southern manor dreams coming true. The streets are lined with centuries old Live Oak trees, with beads strewn throughout the branches. The neighborhood is home to at least 19 Bed & Breakfasts and Magazine Street, a popular destination for food and shopping.

The famed Live Oak Trees that line the street of the Garden District of New Orleans. A picture of a Live Oak Tree with countless Mardi Gras beads strewn throughout.
Mardi Gras Beads strewn throughout the trees in the Garden District of New Orleans

11. Marigny/Bywater

We stayed a couple nights at a Bed & Breakfast in this district. It was close enough to the French Quarter to provide accessibility, but also a nice enough distance away to come back to a serene, quiet and residential environment in the evening. There are also places to eat in the neighboring vicinity that are more “locals” spots.

12. Lakeview

We stayed several nights at a Bed & Breakfast in the Lakeview neighborhood, just walking distance from Lake Pontchartrain. The nice part about staying in this neighborhood is that it is mostly residential, so when you visit a restaurant, you will get an experience from a locals POV. There are some fantastic restaurants within walking distance, praised by the local community, and are in fact quite delicious. When in Lakeview, Two Tony’s Restaurant is a must-visit, with exceptional food and service in a homey relaxed atmosphere. Other favorites are Blue Crab, Russell’s Marina Grill (the food is incredible, the service atrocious, so be forewarned) and Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar.

13. MidCity

There are a few reputable Bed & Breakfasts to choose from if you’re interested in staying, at least in part, in Mid City. Here you will find a laid back atmosphere and lots of amazing places to eat, favored by locals. If you do one thing in Mid-City, let it be visiting Parkway Bakery – some of the best Poor Boy sandwiches & fries you’ll ever feast upon!

Our Spread from Parkway Bakery in Mid City of New Orleans. Deep Fried Pickles, French Fries, a giant Shrimp Poor Boy Sandwich.
Parkway Bakery in Mid City – Delicious Po’ Boy Sandwiches

Other highly recommended restaurants in the area: The Ruby Slipper Cafe & Mandina’s Restaurant. There is also a Cafe Du Monde here that is usually sans line.

14. Arts/ Warehouse District

Here you will find Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, along with Emeril’s namesake restaurant. We trekked over to the Warehouse District to also visit Cochon Butcher, which is haled for its exceptional Muffaletta. The service is excellent and Creme Beer delicious.

Eating on the Patio of Cochon Butcher in the Warehouse District of New Orleans. Pictured their speciality, the famed Muffaletta sandwich and a delicious "creme beer."
Cochon Butcher – Known for their exceptional Muffaletta Sandwiches

15. Take a ride on The St. Charles Street Car

Looking for something to do that’s cheap, interesting, historical, involves sitting and beautiful views? Walk down and take a ride on the St. Charles Street Car, dating back to 1835. It’s a great way to see the neighborhoods and won’t break the bank. It’s $3 dollars for a two day pass. We rode it ….for quite some time. Basically got a tour of the city in it. It was charming and a great way to take a rest and get some views in.

16. Treme

Dating back to 1783, this neighborhood is full of African American history. There are many interesting cottages and shotgun homes, delicious creole food, bed & breakfasts, guesthouses for lodging, and Louis Armstrong Park.

Louis Armstrong believed that music brought people joy and happiness, and therefore music should be free for all to enjoy. Based on his philosophy, shows in the park are always free! A gem in the area is Tremé’s Petit Jazz Museum. St. Louis Cemetery #1 is where Marie Laveau’s tomb is located, which was closed at the time of visit due to Covid.

17. Bourbon Street

Famous (infamous?) Bourbon Street. It’s not only known worldwide for being lined with watering holes to indulge all your boozy pleasures, but also a place where you can get all your alcohol in… to go cups! Counter intuitive to typical bar hopping, you can drink walking down the street in New Orleans. That’s right, it’s completely legal, there is no open container law in NOLA.

Bourbon street is fun to walk around in during the day, and also where you can find Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. But, be informed that it can be very crowded, rowdy and, well, quite drunken in the evenings. So it really depends what kind of trip you’re on and what kind of scene you’re looking for. Bourbon Street is also home to Galatoire’s and Red Fish Grill restaurants (which came highly recommended) and the historic Old Absinthe House.

While we were on a haunted city evening walking tour, we popped into Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shoppe (the structure was built between 1722 – 1732) , which, you guessed it, is allegedly haunted. We tried their well known, “purple drink,” the Voodoo Daiquiri, it was fun and tasty and came in a to-go cup. This is actually a cool spot to check out, when on Bourbon Street.

Watching an amazing jazz ensemble play right on the sidewalk on Frenchman Street.
An amazing jazz ensemble playing right on the sidewalk on Frenchman Street

18. Frenchman Street

If you want to enjoy cocktails and jazz in a bit more refined setting, visit Frenchmen street – Bourbon’s street’s more sophisticated older sister. We watched an incredible brass band play in the street. We also walked up and down the street and peered into different bars. If a band captivated our attention, we sipped our drinks and listened on the sidewalk for a time. For a laid back experience, great music and cheap drinks, check out Favela Chic (they also serve pizza by the slice until late, if you get the munchies!) and Bamboulas.

Paranormal, Supernatural, Haunted New Orleans

As mentioned in many books and proclaimed with great theater by many tour guides; New Orleans has a dark side. As depicted in the book Wicked New Orleans by Troy Taylor; Nola, since its inception, was birthed in crime, sin and vice. If you are interested in paranormal activity, ghost stories, urban legend and supernatural history, there are countless tours and sites that can be visited to indulge these curiosities.

19. Haunted Tours in The French Quarter

When it comes to taking a Haunted Walking Tour through the French Quarter, you won’t find a shortage of options. There are many companies that offer this experience. BUT. Not all are created equal. And like with all things that involve a Tour Guide, your experience is very much shaped by who is conducting your tour. There are variations of the haunted walking tours available depending on if you have kid in tow and want a more family friendly rendition of the tour.

If you take the tour we took, you’re in for a treat!

New Orleans Ghost, True Crime, Voodoo and Vampire Walking Tour

(Adults Only)

If for any reason a walking tour is not a good option for you, there is also the popular Haunted Carriage Tour. This is a much smaller group than the walking tour. This is also a nice way to relax and see a tour of the French Quarter by horse drawn carriage. It didn’t feel as spooky as the walking tour, but was definitely entertaining!

New Orleans Small Group Haunted History Carriage Tour

The front of mad Madame Lalaurie's mansion in New Orleans, considered the most haunted house in North America.
Both tours visit mad Madame Lalaurie’s former mansion, considered the most haunted house in North America

20. Join a Haunted Cemetery Tour

Perhaps a best kept secret, even N’Orleans natives didn’t know this existed. Yes, not only can you tour a New Orleans cemetery, but you can do it at night (late at night for that matter). With a RIP-roaring (har, har see what I did there?) group of other adventurers with a penchant for the morbid or unusual. If you get really lucky, you’ll get the tour guide we had. Because he made the entire tour one of the most hilarious, entertaining, spooky and just plain fun things we’ve ever done.

Giant, imposing, ornate above ground family tombs in New Orleans
The cemeteries are closed to the public at night unless you are on a guided tour

Also, booze is welcome. You can come to the bus with your own drinks in hand. If, heaven forbid, you were to run out, half way through the tour there is a pit stop to obtain more. In addition to touring cemeteries, the activity is surprisingly extremely educational as well.

You can book the exact tour we took:

Cemetery and Ghost BYOB Bus Tour in New Orleans

For those already frightened, they offer this tour at 5:00pm. If you’re ready to dip your toe in, it’s offered and 8:00pm. For the extreme thrill seekers, it’s also offered at 11:00pm. This is the one we did and I highly recommend it for maximum fright. This is really not something to miss while in Nola.

Fair warning, it’s not for the faint of heart, if you scare easily!

The Masonic Temple Cemetery after dark. We visited late at night on our Haunted Cemetery Tour, one of the Best Things to Do in New Orleans
The Masonic Temple Cemetery after dark, during our Haunted Cemetery Tour

New Orleans is truly a city unlike any other in North America. Have you done any of these activities while in the Big Easy? Which ones are you most interested in for your trip?

Travel Tips & Resources to Help You Plan an Epic Trip!

Going – I’ve subscribed to Going (formerly, beloved, Scott’s Cheap Flights) for awhile now and it’s an amazing resource for finding… did you guess cheap flights? Yes, you can set your preferences from airports to flight class and get destination deals right to your inbox. It’s fab! I use the Premium paid version, but they have a FREE version too. So what are you waiting for?! Let’s get Going!

Booking.com – the majority, if not almost all of my stays are booked on Booking.com. It’s a reliable site to book and manage your reservations. It’s a great way to find boutique stays and unique accommodations at the best rates! You can also easily communicate with your accommodation through the app.

Expedia – If I am looking for a flight to a specific destination for specific dates, I find myself booking many flights on Expedia. It’s user friendly and straight forward. I often find the most cost effective rates, while earning points for every flight I book (in tandem with the points I receive from the credit cards I pay with).

Viator – most of the activities, tours and excursions I book for my trips are booked through Viator. Whether you’re seeking a guide for the day, a group tour, a cooking class, Viator has you covered!

Get Your Guide – this is another great marketplace to find tours, excursions and activities to book for your upcoming trip.

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