I’ve had the opportunity to visit New Orleans multiple times and it is always a delight! New Orleans is a unique city with a lively jazz scene, amazing food, and “Big Easy” culture. It is sure to make a great getaway for anyone! Here are some of my favorite spots to check out!
- French Quarter
- Preservation Hall Jazz Club & Jazz scene
- Cemetery and Ghost tours
- New Orleans Parades
- Beignets & Food highlights
- Other fun places to explore
Top Sites to Visit:
French Quarter – time spent: at least one day, we generally visit multiple times during a trip
The French Quarter is the picturesque New Orleans that you’re picturing when you think New Orleans. There are a couple ways to get here – there are a variety of parking lots around the quarter for different rates if you are driving in. Just google it ahead of time and check the different rates. If you are staying near a cable car stop, you can take the cable car down. Don’t rely on this if you need to get there at a specific time as it can run behind, but it is certainly a fun way to ride into the area.
Jackson Square is the center of the quarter. On the corner is the world renowned Cafe du Monde – home to amazing beignets and Cafe Au Lait. You’ll recognize it by the line! But don’t be scared off, the line will move quickly. The cafe is aso open 24 hours, so if you’re out late, stop by for a late night snack! I believe they are cash only, so be ready for that.
From Jackson Square, you can proceed to explore the French Quarter. Take in the homes with iron balconies, colorful shutters, and gas lanterns. There are tons of fun shops throughout the Quarter to explore as well. Some fun ones are Goorin Bros. hat shop, Maskarade (mask shop), and Gallery Burguieres (cute animal art!). Throughout the Quarter there are always musicians and performers, so be sure to stop and listen!
Nightlife in the Quarter
The French Quarter is a lively scene at night. You’ve likely heard of Bourbon Street, full of bright lights, bars, night clubs, and plenty of people throwing beads. Especially during Spring Break, the streets will be filled with people (many college students) and the party goes all night long. If this is your scene, be sure to get a famous Hand Grenade from Tropical Isle – a strong alcoholic drink that comes in a fun glass.
Off Bourbon street there are plenty of other bars and nightlife that are a little less crazy than Bourbon Street, but you may also want to check out Frenchman street or Preservation Hall Jazz Club.
Preservation Hall & Jazz Scene
Preservation Hall is a Jazz Hall that has been open since 1961 and has shows nightly at 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10. The show actually starts 15 minutes after the hour and is 45 minutes long. You’ll be treated to an amazing quintessential jazz show. Getting tickets can be a bit tricky, but here are some tips: if you’re planning ahead (likely will need to be at least a month) and willing to pay $35-50 per ticket, there are a limited number of “Big Shot” tickets available for each show. You book these ahead of time and won’t have to wait in line. You’ll also get to sit down as opposed to stand and have a better view. If there aren’t any of these available or you want to pay less, general admission tickets are $15-20. You’ll need to stand in line at least 30 minutes before the show, but more likely 45-50 minutes before the show. If you try for any show other than the 6pm show, you can always hang around an extra hour to be at the front of the line for the next show since they are every hour (except 7pm). Conveniently, the line for Preservation Hall is right next to Pat O’Briens, so you can always have someone from your group go get Hurricane drinks for the group, which makes waiting in line much more fun! The show is definitely worth the wait.
In addition to Preservation Hall, there is a lot of great jazz on Frenchmen St. You can go in with a plan of bars to hit, or just walk along the street and stop wherever sounds good! This site calls out a lot of the top bars along Frenchmen with live music.
Cemetery and Ghost Tours
New Orleans is a city at or below sea level, meaning their cemeteries are quite non-traditional. The graves are all above ground and there are several companies throughout the city that will take you on a tour through one of them. These are very interesting and will teach you some about an interesting facet of New Orleans culture as well as some interesting stories of famous New Orleans families.
Another fun tour is a nighttime ghost tour. Think campfire ghost story telling paired with a walking tour of the French Quarter. I love ghost tours and this one was no exception. We went with Haunted History Tours. They had great stories and stops throughout the Quarter. You can buy tickets online or in person in the French Quarter.
New Orleans Parades
New Orleans is famous for its parades. You should definitely see if there is one happening when you’re in town! We saw one of the St. Patrick’s Day parades and they threw out the ingredients of an Irish Stew! Carrots, potatoes, cabbage and even onion! We used the the WDSU Parade Tracker app to track where along the route the parade was to catch it. Use a site like this one to find events happening. The New Orleans site linked here has a date filter and you can even filter it down to just parades if you like.
Beignets & Food Highlights
Here are some of our favorites for food throughout the city!
- Best Beignets: Cafe du Monde and Cafe Beignet
- The Gumbo Shop – I’ve come here on more than one of my New Orleans trips. It was recommended to me by a local
- Napoleon House – try the Muffaletta and Pimm’s Cup!
- Muriel’s Jackson Square – I ate here during a work trip and it is pricier, but the food was amazing
- Court is Two Sisters Jazz brunch – Sip on mimosas in an ivy-walled courtyard while listening to live jazz and enjoying a brunch buffet
- Pat O’Briens for a Hurricane drink!
Other fun stops:
- World War II Museum – this is one of the top museums in the United States! Especially if you enjoy history, make a stop!
- Magazine Street – home to fun shops, cafes and restaurants
- City Park – enjoy a walk through the City Park and enjoy nature along with different art and sculptures.
- Mardis Gras World – this is where they keep the Mardis Gras floats when not in use. Learn more about Mardis Gras and how these floats are made!