The Big Easy. Crescent City. NOLA. Birthplace of Jazz. No matter what you call this Louisiana city on the Mississippi, New Orleans never loses its allure. After all, New Orleans is one of the most beloved cities in the U.S. and home to the infamous Bourbon Street and historic French Quarter. But there’s more than meets the eye in this town of above-ground cemeteries and voodoo priestesses.
Hop on a streetcar for a fun way to view the town. World-class museums offer a close-up inspection of Southern art, local religion and World War II from a NOLA perspective. City Park is renowned for its regal centuries-old oak trees and a beautiful place for whiling away an hour or two.
The Crown Jewel of New Orleans
When you enter Bourbon Street, you’ve stepped into 13 blocks of pure New Orleans culture. Grab a bite of authentic Cajun food at a local restaurant or check out Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, said to be “the oldest bar in the U.S.” and the supposed stomping grounds of the ghost of pirate Jean Lafitte (the bar serves great drinks, too). With an abundance of shopping and interesting architecture, there’s plenty to do until night falls and the streets come alive because this is the site of Mardi Gras.
Cool French Quarter
The French Quarter is home to Bourbon Street but it’s also the oldest neighborhood in NOLA, with late 18th-century architecture, historic homes and the Hex Old World Witchery Shop (get a deck of Tarot cards or some roots or herbs). Step back to the days of swashbucklers and pirates when you meander Pirates Alley, filled with 600 feet of quirky shops and heart-pumping legends. Royal Street is another must-see with its French vibe and Southern hospitality.
Louisiana Water Fun
There are some fantastic boat tours to experience, like the NOLA Gondola in City Park or an airboat adventure through an area swamp. Looking for a way to chill? Float down the Bogue Chitto River or rent a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard for a cool way to explore NOLA’s waterways (if it’s warm enough). Go to extremes and seek a thrill when you try your hand at flyboarding; whether you ride high above the water depends on your balance. Anglers have a lot to choose from — freshwater, saltwater, brackish or deep-sea fishing may entice. For a romantic evening, watch the sunset on Lake Pontchartrain. Take a daytime riverboat jazz cruise on the Mississippi aboard the City of New Orleans stern-wheeler paddleboat.
A City for Strolling
Jackson Square is one of New Orleans’ most recognizable attractions. Take a stroll along slate flagstone pavers as you watch artists plying their craft or find a shady bench and people-watch. City Park, founded in 1853, is one of the oldest parks in the country. Home to 600-year-old oak trees draped in Spanish moss and stone bridges that cross rippling streams, this is a relaxing respite from the city’s hustle and bustle.
Since 1902, golfing has been a major pastime for New Orleanians. There’s a course for every level of play, so golfers can enjoy the iconic courses or tee off at an old-school course with natural surroundings. NOLA is home to the annual Zurich Classic stop on the PGA tour.
An Eclectic Delight
St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continuous use in the country and among the tallest and most imposing structures in the French Quarter. Admire beautiful stained-glass windows shining colorful light on the rococo-style gilded altar. Hear a quiet whisper on a rainy day? That’s just Pere Dagobert, a monk rumored to haunt the church.
NOLA Art Scene
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art is home to the largest and most extensive collection of Southern art, including visual arts, music, literature and culinary history. New Orleans cemeteries are renowned for their resourcefulness and history. Walk the local graveyards for a peek into the haunting French-inspired beauty of these Cities of the Dead. And delight in a Jazz Funeral, an authentic New Orleans tradition of “cutting the body loose.” Held in April and May, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival brings top musicians to the Big Easy.
Larger Than Life: The Carnival
This is the festival Louisiana is known for. For the week that is Mardi Gras, the fun never ends. Enjoy parades, parties, both on and off Bourbon Street, delectable Cajun and Creole eats including King Cake, lavish costumes with glittery, feathery masks and beads — catch plenty of beads. Visit the Mardi Gras Museum for the real low-down on the history of this festival, plus a look at antique masks, party favors and costumes. Mardi Gras World offers a behind-the-scenes story of the parade with mask-making, papier-mache props, and float-building demonstrations.
History and Mystery
Tempt military buffs with a foray into the National WWII Museum, a Smithsonian Institution affiliate, with interactive displays and historical exhibits. Learn how Americans responded to the war effort, how people coped with shortages during the war, and what life was like on the home front. Explore the Backstreet Culture Museum with exhibits, artifacts and films supporting NOLA’s African American culture. What’s a trip to New Orleans without a little voodoo? At the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum, you can explore the culture and history that makes New Orleans synonymous with Voodoo. Learn secrets about rituals and folklore, and the lasting legacies of the Voodoo queens.