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Things to do in New Orleans (because there’s more to the city than Mardi Gras)

Think New Orleans is just about Mardi Gras?  Think again.  Here are my suggestions of things to do in this vibrant city.

New Orleans.  The American city that stole my heart.

Yes, New Orleans is known for Mardi Gras.  But there’s so much more to the city than that.

NOLA, as it’s affectionately called, has both verve and personality.  There’s colourful architecture, flavourful food, and soulful music that seems to emanate from every fold and crevice of the city.

And then… There’s the Southern hospitality (and accents) which can’t help but make you smile.  There’s the rich history, which is absolutely captivating. And, of course, there’s the beauty and tenacity of the city’s people, who have survived the worst (Hurricane Katrina), and yet have still managed to turn lemons into lemonade.

Y’all, I have SO many things to say about New Orleans, but so little time and space.

Liebling and I travelled there last month on assignment for the tourism board and let me tell you– they kept us busy with loads of activities.

However, to keep things organized and (semi) succinct, in this post I’m only going to share my top picks for things to do in New Orleans besides going to Mardi Gras.  Stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll chronicle where and what to eat in this amazing city!

Why you should visit New Orleans, Lousiana

Hold up. Did you read my intro?  The city is gorgeous and exciting and vibrant and tasty (OMG I ATE SO MUCH FOOD WHILE I WAS THERE). The historical center is also pretty compact, making New Orleans the perfect long weekend trip.

Moreover, there are loads of things to do and see in New Orleans– what I liked the best was that there was something for every age level and interest.

Because I know what you’re thinking:  New Orleans is a party city strictly for youngins.

Don’t get me wrong, though.  New Orleanians know how to throw down.  But as someone who a) doesn’t drink alcohol and b) likes to go to bed early (#GrandmaTings)  I was pleasantly surprised by the range of interesting activities that didn’t involve partying ’til the wee hours of the morn.

It’s not only for frat boys looking to blow off steam; the city is so much more than Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras.

So without any ado, here are my recommendations for things to do in New Orleans.

What to see and do in New Orleans, Lousiana

Walk around the French Quarter and Frenchmen Street.  Let’s start with one of the easiest and cheapest things to do in New Orleans, shall we? New Orleans’ French Quarter and Frenchmen Street are visually stunning architecturally, not least because of their comely colonial architecture. Once under French and Spanish rule, the blend of architectural styles, with a dash of American Victorian thrown in, makes the whole area a sight for sore eyes (and ridiculously Instagram-mable).

And if all the visual stimulation weren’t enough, there’s enough happening in the streets to keep you entertained sonically.  From buskers to “second lines” (outdoor parades replete with marching bands and spontaneous energy like nothing you’ve seen), the wide array of free entertainment available will quite literally have you dancing in the street.

Do an organized tour (by foot or by segway). If you want a deeper understanding of the city’s architecture, history, and vibe, I have two organized tours for you.  The New Orleans Segway Experience Tour was a bit daunting at first, but it was fun to see New Orleans’ most popular sights whilst perched atop a motorized vehicle.

The Faubourg Marigny Walking Tour took us past old Creole mansions and through the Creole suburb known as The Marigny, all while explaining legacy of the Haitian refugees and Free People of Colour that once populated the area.

Go on a food tour and stuff yourself with local cuisine. Po’ Boy sandwiches.  Beignets.  Crawfish etoufee. There’s so much great food in New Orleans that a long weekend isn’t enough to try them all. Trying to scope out the best places to eat in such a short amount of time can be also be, well, trying… If not completely intimidating.

This is why I heartily recommend doing a food tour to “get your bearings”; it rates high on my list of things to do in New Orleans (or any city I’m visiting, really). I generally enjoy doing food tours because a) someone has already picked where we’re going to eat (I am soooo indecisive!) and b) I get to sample loads of different foods, many of which I wouldn’t have normally tried.

We did the Dr. Gumbo Food History Tour, which not only offers a delicious journey through New Orleans, but also has a lot of information about Louisiana’s rich culinary history. A quick FYI, though: there are up to 7 stops on this tour– and the portions are pretty sizable– so come hungry.

Do a cemetery tour. The Dead Sexy St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 & Storyville Walking Tour took us through the city’s oldest above-ground cemetery, one of the most attractive and well-known burial grounds in the U.S. The tour also explained how the practice of voodoo came to the city and took us to view the final resting place of Marie Laveau, the so-called Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.

See a jazz show (or three).  Jazz music is a way of life in New Orleans, so not seeing a jazz show while there is a major disservice.  We attended a performance at the Jazz Playhouse by Michael Watson & The Alchemy and it was exquisite.

Visit Mardi Gras World.  You can’t come to the home of Mardi Gras and not visit Mardi Gras World! Here you can learn the story of how and why this epic parade started in New Orleans.  However, my favourite part by far was getting to snoop around in the warehouse where they construct all the floats.

Party on Bourbon Street and Frenchmen Street.  No trip to NOLA is complete without at least a stroll along Bourbon and Frenchmen Streets after dark! It’s the ultimate sensory experience and not one to be missed.  If partying ain’t really your thing, go for the people watching– I promise it won’t disappoint!

Where to stay in New Orleans

A short stay in New Orleans likely means you’ll want to be in the thick of the action.  We stayed at the Royal Sonesta, a luxury property located smack on Bourbon Street. While I had my reservations about staying right on “the party street” (I figured it would be noisy), it wasn’t an issue at all.  

 

The Royal Sonesta was not only spacious and well-appointed, but went all out with their Christmas decorations.  You know I love a great backdrop, so I couldn’t resist getting my picture with one of the trees!  

 

Working with a lower budget? Search for accommodation outside of the French Quarter as it will be far cheaper.  However, if possible, try to refrain from using Airbnb: while it’s completely legal outside of the French Quarter, it contributes to a long-term housing shortage which is pricing residents out of the area.

After all, tourism is great (and necessary to the livelihood of the city), but not when it has negative effects on the locals who make the destination awesome in the first place!  Please read this article for more insight on the effect of Airbnb on the New Orleans rental market.

New Orleans is the perfect weekend getaway

There’s no doubt about it: NOLA’s got it going on.  More importantly, as evidenced above, it has something for everyone. I repeat: it has something for everyone! There are so many things to do in New Orleans no matter the age, taste, or interest.  So if you were hesitating about putting it on your travel list: don’t.  New Orleans is a place to visit again and again.

Are you a foodie? Stayed tuned for my next post in this series, where I’ll show you all the things I ate in New Orleans!

Have you ever been to NOLA?  Would you like to go?  And do you have any additional recommendations for what to do or see?

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This content was created in partnership with Visit New Orleans, but all opinions expressed are my own.

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Same day taj mahal tour by train
    January 25, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Great, its really amazing place and that building is looking so amazing. Great photos you shared of that beautiful place.

  • Reply
    Stephanie (@Vaycarious)
    January 25, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    I went to New Orleans for Jazz Fest the first time and got hooked. It’ll turn anybody into a foodie. The beignets at Cafe DuMond are an experience in themselves! And I’d recommend a fancy brunch at Brennan’s and some time checking out the art galleries on Magazine Street. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

    • Reply
      Oneika
      January 25, 2018 at 7:15 pm

      Ooh, merci for all these recs! Now I have yet another few reasons to go back!

  • Reply
    Deb Carson
    January 25, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    Great post! I’m going back in July. Do you mind if I tag this article in my blog post? I started my blog mainly to keep track of my travels and to use it as an outlet to feed my travel bug. Can’t wait to see the next post about what you ate while in NOLA.

    • Reply
      Oneika
      January 25, 2018 at 7:14 pm

      Thanks so much! Yes, please feel free to tag!! And I ate WAY too much lol.

  • Reply
    Nina | Lemons and Luggage
    January 25, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    Didn’t know you don’t drink alcohol, awesome!

    • Reply
      Oneika
      January 25, 2018 at 7:14 pm

      Yup, never been my thing!

  • Reply
    Mona
    January 25, 2018 at 8:45 pm

    I fell so much in love with New Orleans, I moved there. Thanks so much for mentioning about Airbnb its a problem in many cities. Landlords have stopped renting apartments to tenants and only doing Airbnb. There are very interesting walking tours offered also. New Orleans is a walking city, it has a very good public transportation system that’s reasonable. I enjoy eating at The Palm Court owned by a woman whose husband owned a jazz record label. Love peering into the Courtyards as I walk to where I have to go. Had a Dominos delivery at 2am.

  • Reply
    Nadeen
    January 25, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    One of my favorite cities. You captured it well. What’s interesting is I have never had a desire to go during Mardi Gras or the Essence Festival but I have been at least 5 times including for New Years twice.

  • Reply
    Theresa Mack
    January 26, 2018 at 1:22 am

    Sooo happy you did this piece on my fave city!! And you stayed at one of my fave hotels too! The Richelieu is another great hotel walking distance from Frenchnan St and the French Market. Check out The Rock ‘n Bowl fir a bowling experience like no other!!

  • Reply
    Victoria @TheBritishBerliner
    January 26, 2018 at 9:20 am

    ‘Love the piece.

    I haven’t been to this part of America yet, but I would certainly want to! I’ve seen enough of the French Quarter on “American Horror Story” and “The Originals” to want to see the locations myself. Am I weird to be interested, only ‘cos of the historical horror aspect rather than the music?

    Ah well, I’m into Puritan Salem too. Eek!

  • Reply
    My Shirdi Trip
    February 2, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Found your post interesting to read. This article is really effective too. Good Luck for the upcoming update. – shirdi flight package, best shirdi tour package from chennai

  • Reply
    Kristin L
    February 5, 2018 at 3:24 am

    It looks a wee bit colder there than when we went! We were there in August, and I was wearing as little clothing as possible and sweating from more orifices than I knew I possessed 😉

  • Reply
    marry
    February 5, 2018 at 7:51 am

    One of my favorite cities. You captured it well. I have been at least 5 times including for New Years twice.

  • Reply
    Unravelling Nigeria
    February 5, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    Heard so much and watched so much about N’awlins that I can’t wait to experience it for myself.

    http://www.unravellingnigeria.com

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