When you think of New Orleans, parties, late nights, adult beverages and Mardi Gras are probably the first things that come to mind. However, there is way more to see and do in the “Big Easy” than that. Whether you’re traveling with your family, sweetheart or best pals or you’re just coming to town alone, there are some attractions you can’t miss. This is your official New Orleans travel guide.
Cheer on a Local Team
You may not realize it, but New Orleans is a big sports town, playing host to both pro and collegiate teams. Depending on when you visit, you may want to catch the New Orleans Saints take to the field on a football Sunday, or you can head to the Smoothie King Center to watch the NBA’s Pelicans shoot some hoops. If you visit New Orleans during the springtime, you may want to take yourself out to a Baby Cakes minor league ball game. No matter what time of year you’re in town, you catch the Tulane Green Wave play more than a dozen men’s and women’s sports, including football, baseball, basketball, tennis and beach volleyball.
Tour the French Quarter
You can’t come to town without seeing the city’s most historic — and some say beautiful — neighborhood. The French Quarter dates back to 1718, and its streets are lined with a mix of old and new, including restaurants that have been around for more than a century. Historic mansions, family-friendly attractions, cathedrals, museums and even an aquarium are all located within the community. It would take days for you to see it all. The French Quarter is also home to some of the city’s most famous eateries, including restaurants that first opened their doors in 1840 and have been serving beloved New Orleans, Cajun and Creole cuisine ever since. Don’t forget to shop while you’re here. You’ll find a unique blend of new upscale brands, antique shops, boutiques and specialty stores within the neighborhood.
Spend a Day in the Park
Enjoy the great outdoors by spending a morning, afternoon or an entire day at one of the city’s gorgeous parks and green spaces. Each one offers something unique, whether it’s a beautiful view of the Mississippi River or a botanical garden. The 1,300-acre New Orleans City Park is a favorite with locals and tourists alike, dating back to 1854. Today, it’s home to a storybook-themed playground, family-friendly amusement park, golf course, botanical garden and fishing lake. The historic New Orleans Museum of Art is also located in the park.
Attend a Festival
New Orleans loves a good celebration, but not all of them are as wild and crazy as Mardi Gras. Throughout the year, the city hosts dozens of festivals, many of which have taken place here for decades. Celebrate literature and drama with the annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival that happens every spring. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is the place for live music and loads of fun. Celebrate food, friendships and even more live music at the annual French Quarter Festival that started in 1984.
See Wild Animals
When it comes to things to do in New Orleans for families and animal enthusiasts, the Audubon Zoo tops the list. The 58-acre zoo is often considered one of the best of its kind in the country, and it dates back to the 1884 World Exposition. From the 1920s-era sea lion pool to the rare white tiger, view more than 2,000 animals, many of them in their natural habitats. There is even a baby animal nursery. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget. Nestled along the banks of the Mississippi River, you’ll find another hot spot for spotting wildlife: Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. It’s home to more than 15,000 sea creatures. Pet a shark, see a seahorse glide through the grass in their tank and view the rare white alligator. There is even a rainforest exhibit with exotic frogs, snakes and birds.
Remember at the National World War II Museum
If you’ve ever wondered what life was like during World War II, for both soldiers and civilians, you can learn all about it at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. It opened its doors in 2000, and people have flocked to the museum from all across the country ever since. There’s a 4D movie, along with artifacts, exhibits and oral testimonies. Plan to spend a few hours here learning about one of the most notable events in world history.
Take a Swamp Tour
No matter how much time you spend in the heart of the city, it’s hard to forget that New Orleans was built in the Bayou. That means there is swampland aplenty to explore. Several local companies offer swamp tours, and you must add one to your bucket list. Explore the swampy waters via kayaks, airboats, flatboats and other vehicles that take you up close and personal with wildlife, including alligators and crocodiles. You’ll also learn about the ecology and history of the area from experienced guides.