The 40 Best Things To Do In New Orleans


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Mar 29, 2023

The 40 Best Things To Do In New Orleans

Our ultimate guide to the Crescent City. Jenny is a freelance travel writer and

Our ultimate guide to the Crescent City.

Jenny is a freelance travel writer and photographer living in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She has worked in editorial for 20 years, and her words and images have appeared in more than 75 magazines, with frequent contributions to Conde Nast Traveler, Hemispheres, and Garden & Gun magazine. She is also represented in photography by the Where Y’Art Gallery of New Orleans.


New Orleans is like nowhere else on earth, with aromas of Tabasco and fried chicken, the spires of the St. Louis Cathedral stabbing a perfectly blue sky, and a trumpet note meeting a drumbeat.

The French Quarter and Lower Garden District's towering Creole townhouses are decorated in ornate Spanish balconies. The Marigny and Bywater blocks are prime for afternoon architecture strolls, with Caribbean-hued ornate cottages.

From late night Jazz sets to enduring authors, foggy winter mornings to poolside August afternoons, Jazz Fest to Mardi Gras, City Park to dreamy swamps—it's not one thing that makes us love New Orleans, but a true gumbo of history and culture, carved over three centuries.

New Orleans is a place where color meets spice, music meets mischief, and the sacred meets the profane. We have the ultimate guide for the Crescent City, a Southern city unlike any other.

"There are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better." – Bob Dylan

Camille Barnett

The Preservation Jazz Hall encompasses a Foundation that supports local musicians, a historic music venue, a collective of more than 50 Jazz artists, and a world-renowned touring band. Inside the petite music venue on St. Peter Street in the French Quarter, ensembles from the collective play sets each evening. Multiple shows per day run 360 nights per year. To sit on the weathered benches inside the centuries-old building, with its sepia walls and fading art pieces, to hear some of the best Jazz musicians living today harmonizing on trumpet, clarinet and keys … well, that is as New Orleans as anything gets., 726 St Peter, New Orleans, LA 70116

Deep in the Bywater, behind a huge fence, exists a remarkable feat. A non-profit called the Airlift Foundation built shacks from largely discarded materials. These structures take the place of traditional instruments, from loose floorboards acting as drumsticks to porch strings you can pluck. The Pitchbo House, for example, has sliding doors that simulate guitar and bass notes, and the upper floorboards create melodic string sounds. Local and national artists take to these unusual stages, hosting a monthly calendar of concerts. Purchase tickets in advance online. Past acts have included Solange Knowles, Animal Collective, and Wilco., 4557 N Rampart St, New Orleans, LA 70117

The Maple Leaf bar has live music seven nights a week, but Tuesdays are packed when notable brass bands the stage. Though the act rotates, you can always count on this dive-y, wonderful Uptown bar to deliver legendary tunes. There's a great back patio too, for when you need a little fresh air., 8316 Oak St, New Orleans, LA 70118

You enter an old-world, small wine shop, with crumbling walls and scattered wooden racks. There are European, New World, and Biodynamic labels to choose from, as well as charcuterie and cheese in the fridge. Once you’ve selected, they give you a bucket of ice for your vino and send you out back. In the big yard, Funk, Brass and Jazz bands strike up beneath palm trees strung in colorful fairy lights. Twenty years on, it's still one of the coolest hangouts in the whole city., 600 Poland Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117

"New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin." – Mark Twain

Arnaud's Restaurant

We are suckers for the shining white tiles, chandeliers, and loud fanfare of the main dining room at Arnaud's. However, there is something special about private dining here. Open since 1918, this massive, family-owned, historic restaurant has 17 private spaces, where groups can dig into conversation, flanked by gorgeous dishes, be it the famous Shrimp Louie with house remoulade or their turtle soup topped with sherry. The options are opulent. The Bacchus Room, for example, is encased in mirrors, hung on deep aubergine walls, and the Dauphine Room features antique fireplaces and a private balcony., 813 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA 70112

Chef Melissa Martin grew up on the bayou in Chauvin, Louisiana, and she shares a deep connection with the land and water there. Her restaurant, in a historic cottage Uptown, originally started as a pop-up dinner series. That sense of supper club remains, with coursed seatings offered from September until July. She's retained great partnerships with small farms and fishing boat captains, and the bounty arrives at rough-hewn, communal tables, where you and other guests pass platters of marinated crab claws, bowls of Cajun stew, fresh vegetables from the farmer's market, and great bottles of wine., 3824 Dryades St, New Orleans, LA 70115

If we had to sketch a perfect French Quarter dining scene, this would be the one. Traverse the low-lit carriage way to the tavern-styled dining room, which boasts a long and lively bar, mismatched wooden chairs, and charcoal walls decorated in antique prints. The courtyard is Sylvain's most romantic respite, bathed in candlelight and scrolls of jasmine along stone walls. Park it and partake in the restaurant's quirky, high-low pairing. For $90, you get an icy bottle of Champagne Canard Duchene and piping-hot, salty, basket of French frites., 625 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Pink walls and tropical wallpapers set the tone at this celebratory, Southeast Asian outpost in Uptown. The menu, by Chef Sophina Uong and partner William "Wildcat" Greenwell, marries Louisiana ingredients with Cantonese traditional dim sum in examples like the Crispy Popcorn Shrimp with a honey milk mayo and their Covey Rise Sugar Snaps with sesame sauce. A few times per week, the ‘Here Comes the Chuckwagon’ experience rolls through—quite literally. Waiters serve from traditional dim sum carts, painted brilliant blue, with die-cut detailing. If you want the prime-time seating—Sundays at 2pm—it's best to reserve weeks ahead., 4501 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA 70115

At this landmark diner, located in a stately, white, four-column house on the elegant Carrolton Avenue, the line cooks have been calling out shorthand orders since 1946. Revisit a malt-shop moment as you can request your milkshake regular, thick, or double-thick. Opt for their famous classic—The Orange Freeze. It's a frothy combo of fresh orange juice, simple syrup, and vanilla ice cream., 626 S Carrollton Ave, New Orleans, LA 70118

Careful. Sticking your hand in the paper bag too soon can burn your fingers. It's a weird game of hot-potato fishing these square, puffed, fried creations out, powdered sugar falling like sticky snow on your table. Yet, you want them hot and very fresh. Beignets don't travel, and, while Café Du Monde might be the most touristy place in town, it's with good reason. The locals line up here, too, although, you’re more apt to find them under the green-and-white awning after a night of drinking, rather than joining the long lines at breakfast., 800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116

The city has a thriving Southeast Asian population, and while you might have come for Cajun and Creole, you’d be remiss to not make time for pho, pad Thai, and even Burmese. The latter can be found at Laksa Nola inside the St. Roch Food Hall, where Burmese-born Owner Than Lin Regules doles out steaming ladles of coconut broth over chicken, eggs, and noodles. Le's Baguette Bahn Mi Café serves some of the best Vietnamese, in a small house Uptown. Lemongrass Pork Banh Mi sandwiches are done justice with cucumber, shredded daikon, cilantro, and spicy aioli. Or, adventure to New Orleans East, where the famous Dong Phuong Bakery is famous for heavenly pho, with deep, fragrant broth and tender slices of flank. The Thai food scene is equally explosive, particularly in the Marigny. Budsi Thai sells Bangkok's street foods at affordable prices. And, SukhoThai, is an upscale mainstay, with several locations and lovely renditions of Green Curry and caloric, creamy Massaman.

Nicholas Cage counts this tiny cornerstore in the middle of the French Quarter among his favorites, where you will find no frills but plenty of flavor. Make your way past the racks of chips and drink coolers. At the back counter, they create some of the city's best po-boys, from spicy sausage to roast-beef slathered with debris to a fried shrimp with crunchy pickles and cold mayo. Everything here is to-go, and the deft wrapping makes it easy to take your sandwich for a Royal Street stroll.

1201 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Mason Hereford and his team first opened Turkey & the Wolf, quickly earning a nod as Best Restaurant of the Year for their enormous, inventive sandwiches. It's still a great lunch option, but their newest venture, opened in 2023 on upper Magazine Street, is already a town hotspot. It celebrates—of all things—the 1980s, with wacky modular furniture, pink neon, cold Cosmos and Duran Duran on the stereo. The design at Hungry Eyes will make you nostalgic for the era of Saved by the Bell and Risky Business, but the menu is far more modern and curated. Shareable plates might include a house-cured pastrami and a Salt & Pepper Celery Root with crispy rice noodles., 4206 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115

Chef Ryan Prewitt has a long love affair with Louisiana's bivalves, as well as those from Florida, Texas, or Alabama. He's a proud participant in multiple sustainable fishing and seafood initiatives across the Gulf South, and he earned a Best Chef South James Beard Award in 2014. Peche is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and there has never been a better time to saddle up to the restaurant's impressive raw bar, which features a rotating, curated selection of options, like Brightside Oysters, Salty Birds, Little Honey, and Shiny Dimes., 800 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130

"Don't you just love those long afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn't just an hour–but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands–and who knows what to do with it?" - Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire)


Cure is widely regarded as the city's most influential drinking den, open since 2009, when it helped bring back the city's serious cocktail culture. Today, it remains one of the best choices for a craft beverage, both modern and classic, and co-owner Neal Bodenheimer just published his first coffee table book—Cure: New Orleans Drinks & How to Mix Them. It's been nominated for a James Beard Award for 2023., 4905 Freret St, New Orleans, LA 70115

Clairin is the national distillate of Haiti, and it might remind you of a rough and tumble rum, marked by notes of oil and earth or grassy tones with deep minerality. Clairin's flavors can be vastly different depending on where it's made on the island, and stateside it can be a little tough to find. Unless, you head to Cane & Table in the French Quarter. The beverage program highlights rare Caribbean spirits, and it is only equaled by the food menu by Chef Alfredo Nogueria. Great libations perfectly pair with crispy, deep-fried pork ribs with Caribbean slaw and sweet plantains with salsa macha and cold crema., 1113 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Nothing beats a hot day (or a hangover) quite like a Frozen Irish Coffee at Erin Rose. This dive bar serves hundreds on a busy weekend, from a repurposed Daiquiri machine. Your little black, logo’d to-go cup holds a secret, slushy recipe. It's partly rich coffee liqueur and heavy cream. The top is sprinkled with coffee grounds and the whole thing is heavily spiked with brandy. Is there whiskey in there too? Probably., 811 Conti St, New Orleans, LA 70112

R Bar is a dog-friendly dive bar in the Marigny, with a loyal following. It's easy to understand why, when you consider the free crawfish boils in-season, the flatscreens curbside for Saints games, and their awesome, Monday-night special. For more than a decade, stylists have manned the bar's antique barber chair each Monday, giving trims starting at 7pm. A haircut costs $15, and each comes with a free shot., 1431 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Napoleon House is no secret, listed in every city brochure and a stop on every passing carriage tour. Inside these mottled walls, however, lives history, both true and tall tale—from plans hatched in the attic to rescue Napoleon (never happened) to Tennessee Williams enjoying vinyl records here frequently (absolutely true). Belly up to the bar, chat with dapper barkeeps, and request their most popular call—the Pimm's Cup. It's an effervescent combination of Pimm's herbal liqueur, lemonade, soda, cucumbers, and lots of ice., 500 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Don't confuse this iconic Louisiana treat with a snowcone. Sno-balls were invented in New Orleans in the ‘30s, when Ernest Hanson created a machine for finely shaving ice. The texture of a sno-ball is not crunchy, but soft and fluffy, hit with artisan syrups that mingle the whole way through the snow-like confection. You can still visit Ernest's original outpost—Hansen's Sno-Bliz—on Tchoupitoulas Street, but there are dozens of huts, which open every spring and summer across town. We love Imperial Woodpecker on Magazine (an outstanding Pineapple-Cilantro flavor) and also Chance in Hell Snoballs. At this front porch operation in the Bywater, the owners get experimental, from Sour Cherry to Sazerac flavors.

"How did you fall in love with New Orleans? At once, madly. Sometimes I think it was predestined." - Andrei Codrescu

The Columns

Live Oaks stretch out crooked, battered limbs, marred by age and long-distant hurricanes. Through their veil of Spanish Moss, a white house, picturesque, in Italianate style, peeks out. The Columns hotel is that visual Nola posterchild, hoisting a glass to what's new and what's old with equal zeal. Architect Thomas Sully completed the house in 1883, as a private residence for well-to-do tobacco merchant. Today, it offers a handful of expansive suites, dressed in Victorian wallpapers, big wooden beds and deep porches. The lobby bar is dark and dreamy, a perfect counterpoint to the tropical foliage and sunshine of the front lawn café seating., 3811 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70115

The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans got a revamp a few years ago, right around the same time that The Four Seasons opened. Both hotel properties, only blocks from each other, feature all the trappings of a five-star-stay, with personal touches. The Ritz-Carlton has a private penthouse residence, with a 3,500-square foot private roof deck, an oversized marble soaking tub, and a dining table for 10. The Four Seasons features a glittering awarded lobby space called The Chandelier Bar, a pool overlooking the Mississippi River and two highly acclaimed, fine-dining restaurants. Even if you don't stay, both feature spas that are absolutely worth your time, whether it's a Biologique Recherche facial at Four Seasons or a Mississippi Mud Detox treatment Ritz-Carlton., 921 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70112, 2 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Wes Anderson fans rejoice, from the black and white floors to the grand staircase to the quirky check-in desk with its wall decorated of big brass keys, this is a film-set-worthy hotel. The rooms are spacious, with crisp linens, thick robes, and great views of the CBD. It's hard to stay upstairs, however, with so much happening below, from the private, French-blue breakfast room with Chinoiserie accents to the secret bookcase. It moves aside to let you access Bar Marilou—the property's French-inspired cocktail lounge, with red lacquer walls, colorful cocktails, and delectable small plates., 546 Carondelet St, New Orleans, LA 70130

The Hotel Saint Vincent meets guests with a grand brick façade, double-level deep porches, and scrolling, filigreed wrought iron. Fronted by a courtyard of palm trees and candy-striped umbrellas, the Lower Garden District building dates to 1861, when an Irish immigrant named Margaret Haughery opened it as The Saint Vincent's Infant Asylum. It was rehabbed and in 2021, debuted as a luxe, art-laden boutique property, where Art Deco bleeds into old-world charm. The 75 rooms feature cherry-red velvet headboards, soaking tubs, and Murano-glass chandeliers. Downstairs, guests enjoy three bar/restaurant concepts, a boutique gift shop, and a swoon-worthy, courtyard swimming pool., 1507 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130

"You don't need a guidebook to see New Orleans–just a good pair of shoes." – James Carville

Zack Smith Photography/

This petite, old-world shop in the French Quarter supplies all your etiquette needs, from kits to create wax seals to single sheets of gorgeous wrapping paper. You’ll find stationary by New Orleans artist and bon vivant, Alexa Pulitzer here too, with notecards and journals featuring her original NOLA-inspired drawings of Sazerac cocktails, partying and regal animals, as well celebratory Minotaur dressed in Victorian garb., 42 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116

"I love every decade of dress," laughs proprietor Leah Blake, who travels extensively to find one-of-a-kind vintage pieces, in a range of prices and sizes. Dresses, coats, hats, and clutch purses range from the early 1900s to the ‘80s to worthy reproductions. Pale pink walls, fainting couches, and several chandeliers make for a dreamy backdrop, and it's likely you’ll find that vintage cocktail ring, the fur stole, or the Gucci belt you never knew you needed, to boot., 2023 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Royal Street's blocks through the French Quarter have enough shopping, culture, cuisine, and art to fill an entire afternoon. At Maison Royale, Wellington & Co., and Keil's Antiques, you’ll find cases and cases of estate jewelry, from Memento Mori lockets to gold bracelets with inlaid enamel filigree. M.S. Rau and IDA Manheim are worth visiting, if just to ogle the massive chandeliers, four-poster beds, and marble fireplaces. Stopping by Frank Relle's photography gallery gives you a glimpse into dreamscapes of the bayou at midnight, and follow the crowds outside to find street performers plucking tunes on the sidewalks every few blocks.

Sure, you can find plenty of bespoke furnishings on Royal Street, but you’ll also find the city's highest price tags. Want old-world European furnishings and prices poised for haggling? Check out Dop Antiques off Jefferson Highway, about 20 minutes from downtown. This open airplane hangar is stocked full of marble sinks, dining tables, as well as gilded mirrors in every size and shape. Consign Consign and Merchant House are closer in, on Magazine, right next to each other. Both are great for Mid-Century furnishings and smaller items, like art, books, rugs, and jewelry. Their consignment pieces drop in price every 30 days.

On a sunny little corner in the Marigny neighborhood, Where Y’Art Gallery represents dozens of Louisiana and Gulf Coast artists, with mediums spanning sculpture, paintings, mixed media, and photography. You can visit their site online to purchase, but while in town, drop in to peruse the latest exhibits. Then, wander a few blocks to the Jam Factory. Where Y’Art helped create the experiential pop-up space, with 17 exhibits crafted for interacting with the artistic side of this wacky city. Don't forget your cellphone. There are prime Instagram opportunities here., 1901 Royal St. New Orleans, LA 70116

"New Orleans is unlike any city in America. Its cultural diversity is woven into the food, the music, the architecture–even the local superstitions. It's a sensory experience on all levels and there's a story lurking around every corner." – Ruta Sepetys

Courtesy of New Orleans Tourism

Yes, you can really hire a Brass Band and have your own, mini Second Line parade. Kinfolk is one option with turnkey booking. For $850, they supply a five-piece brass marching band for a 30-minute parade. For $200 more, you can get a Grand Marshall and for $1600, they will cover all necessary city permits and help you choose the perfect parading routes. Now, all you need is an umbrella or a white handkerchief, a cold cocktail and a feather boa.

The Southern Food & Beverage Museum is a non-profit education and culture center, dedicated to preserving and presenting the food culture of the South. The large space has thousands of pieces, from vintage advertisements to old cooking utensils, recipe books from a century past to bric-a-brac from long-gone restaurants. While every Southern state is included in the exhibits, the adjoining open kitchen hosts fantastic cooking courses two days a week, largely focused on Creole and Cajun recipes. Learn to whip up a gumbo or a jambalaya from some of the most talented chefs in the city. Kids courses are also available., 1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70113

You could spend an hour or a half day here, exploring five pavilions and a six-acre campus dedicated to the Second World War. The Arsenal of Democracy is one of the most interactive exhibits, showcasing life at home, through oral histories, videos, and memorabilia. The Road to Tokyo is thought provoking and emotional, retracing the days pre-and-post Pearl Harbor. One of the museums newer additions is Beyond All Boundaries—a 4-D film and sensory experience produced by Tom Hanks., 945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130

The Sazerac is America's first cocktail. It was designated as the official drink of New Orleans back in 2008. This museum, which opened about 4 years ago, celebrates all the ways in which distilling and drinking shaped the town, from the profits in rum and molasses, to pharmaceutical uses of bitters and booze. Exhibits are spread across 48,000 square feet, there's a bountiful, first-floor gift shop for aprons, bar tools, and cookbooks, and the 500-gallon still produces Sazerac rye whiskey, which you can also purchase on-site., 101 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Pick up the famous St. Charles Line to cruise slowly past stately, Gothic mansions and dapper Victorians, beneath live oak trees heavy with Spanish Moss. This line has been in operation for more than 150 years, and you’ll likely see a few remaining Mardi Gras beads dripping from the powerlines as you pass. With their gleaming, dark green or red exteriors, worn wooden benches, bright headlights, and clanging bells, streetcars are fun to ride. They are equally marvelous to enjoy ambling by, from a patio with a good novel. For the later moment, we suggest The Chloe. This revamped Victorian hotel's front porch provides shade and sightlines right out to the St. Charles line.

This 1.4, mile, 20-acre linear park spans from the French Quarter through to the Bywater, hugging the Mississippi River. Bike paths and pavilions, street art, rusty bridges, and native landscaping serve to make each moment unique. There are great vantages for stopping to watch the famous Creole Queen paddlewheeler or the Natchez Steamboat chug past., 2300 N Peters St, New Orleans, LA 70117

The Audubon Zoo got its start at the 1884 World Exposition, when exotic animals were brought to Audubon Park. The nationally acclaimed zoo today spans 58 acres, with a focus on global conservation, education and animal protection efforts, as part of the larger Audubon Nature Institute. There's a Jaguar Jungle and Monkey Hill, impressive architecture and even a water park. However, the most impressive section is the Louisiana Swamp, which winds you through acres of Cypress stumps and bayou huts, past flowering lilies and over cool foot bridges. This exhibit explores the connection of Cajun culture and ecology, and is also home to a duo of rare albino alligators., 6500 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70118

The Chloe's pool will remind you of Palm Springs, with its walk-up bar window and checkerboard tiles. A pass costs $30 on weekdays and includes a towel. The Country Club, in the Bywater, is a big yellow mansion with excellent brunch. Behind the house is a backyard pool, flanked by sun loungers and cafe tables. It's only $15 to swim here, but their topless optional policy can equal remarkable, rowdy parties on weekend afternoons. If you want to float rather than swim, there are multiple kayak and stand-up paddleboard operators servicing Bayou St. John, adjacent to City Park. This big city waterway sends you paddling right past turtles, egrets, and some of New Orleans’ most dramatic landmark homes.

City Park is home to some of the oldest Live Oak trees in the world. It's home to a fun Putt-Putt course, a sprawling sculpture garden, wildflower fields, the city botanical gardens, and multiple weekly markets for art and fresh produce. It's also home to the New Orleans Museum of Art, where globally touring exhibits arrive every few months., 1 Palm Drive New Orleans, LA 70124

You can't miss the Superdome when you drive into New Orleans, with its massive, curved roof gleaming in the sun. It has been home to Saints football since 1975, and inside on game days, expect high energy, as well as great food and drink options, luxe private boxes, and local art on the walls. Saints season is also all about the tailgates, and you’ll find them all over town, from parking lots to the neutral grounds., 1500 Sugar Bowl Dr, New Orleans, LA 70112

Old leather valises, cracked spectacles, rickety wooden wheelchairs, and etched apothecary jars might give you the heebie jeebies, but this museum menagerie of often-macabre artifacts is also deftly dedicated to showcasing the advances in pharmacy science that happened right here in New Orleans. Louis Joseph Dufilho Jr. became America's first licensed pharmacist, opening his shop on this site in 1823. He played a vital role in modern public health, and the museum does a great job of combining education with interesting tales of hauntings and early foibles in pseudoscience., 514 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130