There are some places in the world so thrilling and picturesque you can’t help but let them in your heart from the very first moment you see them. The southern city of New Orleans is one of those places. Known for its vibrant culture, warm personalities, soul food, jazzy tunes, and fun things to do, NOLA is one of the best cities to vacation at. Though made famous for the Mardi Gras festival held in February and March, New Orleans offers activities and events year-round. So if you are looking for adventure, wait no more and book a trip to see what NOLA has in store for you!
Wondering how to get there? Check out Wanderu’s comprehensive list of buses traveling to New Orleans from all major cities in the U.S.
To make your NOLA experience even more enjoyable, we have pieced together a list of exciting New Orleans activities that will put you at the heart of the city and make you fall in love with The Big Easy.
Read on and learn about most fun things to do in New Orleans – we hope you’re hungry because some of these will fill you up!
1. Take a stroll around the ever-so-charming New Orleans French Quarter
Arguably one of the most bustling neighborhoods, not only in NOLA but in the entire South, is the French Quarter. The French Quarter hosts countless fun things to do and places to check out like parades, dance parties, and cocktail bars, but the highlight of the area is certainly the tunes you’ll catch. At the historic Jackson Square, there is frequently played live music with street performers taking over the plaza to play blues, jazz, R&B and more almost daily. Also at Jackson Square, right in front of the Mississippi River, you can find historical buildings like the St. Louis Cathedral and take a horse-drawn carriage around the Quater.
2. Visit the Hermann-Grima House
If you are interested in learning the history of one of the most culturally rich cities in the United States, you will need to make a stop at one or two museums in New Orleans. If you’re already in the French Quarter, our suggestion is that you pay a visit to the Hermann-Grima House, a restored home of the 1800s that serves as one of city’s top-notch museums. The house is not only a staple of southern architecture, it’s also an open window to life in Louisiana in the 19th century. Visitors can observe original portraits of the Hermans (a wealthy Creole family that lived in the building in the mid-1800s), handmade mahogany furniture, and a fully functional outdoor kitchen. The building is meticulously preserved and every season of the year, it features different decor like Creole mourning clothes in October and festive ornaments in December.
3. Explore the classic beauty of the Garden District
This is one the NOLA’s most traditional and iconic neighborhoods. The Garden District, famous for its antique mansions and lush gardens, is a popular destination in the city for its natural beauty and old-fashioned charm. Built in 1832, the district was originally home to the wealthy American residents of New Orleans, who chose to settle down away from the French Quarter, where most Europeans lived at the time. The Garden District and its Victorian-style structures have since become home to many Hollywood actors and have been featured in various films, increasing the area’s popularity.
4. Explore the famous Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
If you are a fan of all things creepy, you will find that this is one of the most fun things to do in New Orleans. While you are in the Garden District, visit the historical and charmingly spooky Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, a graveyard built in the 19th century. The cemetery is particularly popular among those who enjoy eerie novels and gruesome tales since visitors can stroll around dozens of above-the-ground tombs, crypts and sanctuaries built for the affluent residents of NOLA in 1800s, many of whom died from the yellow fever.
5. Check out the New Orleans City Park, NOLA’s version of Central Park.
The City Park is located on the northern part of the city, between the neighborhoods of Fillmore and Lakeview, and it’s packed with fun New Orleans activities. Containing several paths for jogging, lakes, bridges, picnic areas, playgrounds, and breathtaking views of NOLA’s most pristine green areas, the 1,300-acre City Park is a popular place among locals and visitors. The park is also home to the New Orleans Museum of Art (located on the southern side), Tad Gormley Stadium (on the southwestern side) and a golf course, North Course at City Park (on the northern side of the park).
6. Walk around the Arts District (a.k.a. the Warehouse District)
Plenty of New Orleans activities circle around the arts, which is why it’s a great idea to dedicate some time to explore the revitalized New Orleans Arts District, previously known as the Warehouse District. This part of the city houses the Contemporary Arts Center, dozens of art galleries, museums, restaurants and outdoors plazas perfect for pop- up performances. The neighborhood, just south of the French Quarter, was originally established in the 19th century as an industrial area with large buildings dedicated to storing coffee, grain and produce.
7. Explore New Orleans nightlife and enjoy the city’s jazz scene.
This is certainly a must on your fun things to do in NOLA list. It’s not a coincidence this Louisiana city is considered one of the most exciting party hubs in the United States. Yes, there are countless fun things to do in New Orleans during the day, but as the sun goes down, you could even say the fun flows up. If you’re down for a night of pure southern- style partying, you will have several options to choose from. Grab a bite or a fancy dinner at one the iconic classic restaurants on Bourbon Street (the popular Galatoire’s and its duck gumbo are always a good idea) or spend a while at the Harrah’s Casino on Canal Street. Then head to Frenchmen Street to catch the most authentic tunes (live, of course). You can pick from the best NOLA music clubs like the House of Blues, The Apple Barrel, Bacchanal Wine, Balcony Music Club, and many others.
8. Fuel up with some of New Orleans’ most famous eats
Anyone from New Orleans knows how vital food is to the culture of this vibrant city. Food takes on a new role- different from its traditional, just-for-nourishment purpose – it becomes the soul and spirit of the hub. New Orleans activities are certainly a blast, but the food, many would argue food is the heart of this city. So while you’re here, taste the culture of the Crescent City. You can’t leave without having a plate of good ol’ fried chicken (Willie Mae’s Scotch House has a fantastic one), a soul-warming bowl of gumbo (we recommend Gumbo Shop or the Royal House Oyster Bar, both in the French Quarter) and a traditional Po-Boy, the iconic Louisiana sub (the family-owned and operated Domilise’s serves juicy, crispy, deliciously tender Po-Boys stuffed with generous amounts of fried seafood).
9. Stop by for pastries at the celebrated Cafe Du Monde.
You guessed it, Cafe Du Monde made the cut on our list of things to indulge on in NOLA. This quaint shop has been filling the lives of NOLA residents and visitors with coffee and French pastries for the past 150 years or so. What a wonderful deed, huh? The coffee shop is a New Orleans institution not only because it has been around since 1862, but because it serves some of the best beignets in the country. Beignets are square French-style doughnuts covered with powdered sugar (sweet, gooey greatness in your mouth!). Nowadays, the Cafe has several locations around town but the original and most iconic one is in the French Market on Decatur Street. This particular one is opened 24/7 and only closes on Christmas Day.
10. Cool down during happy hour (you’ll probably need it) and take advantage of the 25-cent cocktails
Temperatures can get quite high in NOLA, and what better way to cool down than sipping a cocktail and relaxing after a morning of fun New Orleans activities? Various restaurants in the French Quarter offer good deals on drinks, but the best one is at Antoine’s Restaurant on Dauphine Street. During lunch on weekdays, Antoine’s Restaurant offers $0.25 cocktails with the purchase of a meal and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m, as well as $2 beers and $4 cocktails. Also, another good option is Cafe Adelaide, where from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. you can get $3 beers, $4 wine glasses and $5 cocktails.
As you can see, there’s an endless amount of fun New Orleans activities to fill your days and nights while you vacation in the city. While in town, you will not only eat and drink like a king or dance and sing with some of the country’s most talented musicians, but you will also learn about the culture and history of one of the most diverse and charming cities in North America. So what are you waiting for!? Come to the Big Easy, grab a freezie or frozen daiquiri, wander around, and enjoy all fun things to do in New Orleans!