The Big Easy is easy on fun: from steamboat rides on the Mississippi to guzzling Hand Grenades on Bourbon Street to elegant Southern mansions, New Orleans has it all. Whether you only have a weekend or a full week, make sure you hit these top tourist attractions in New Orleans! For Americans, New Orleans is an easy long weekend getaway, perfect for girl’s trips, or an awesome spot to hit up on your own.
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1. Eat a Bowl of Gumbo
You can’t go to New Orleans and not eat a bowl (or several) of gumbo. On the first night, I went to the Gumbo Shop in the heart of the French Quarter and fell in love with their gumbo. I was only in town for a few days, but you better believe I went back, possibly more than once. I tried the seafood gumbo (delivious), chicken andoullie gumbo (also delicious), and the Shrimp Creole (still delicious). The trend was…everything is delicious. Eat there.
2. Take a Steamboat Ride
Take a boat ride on the Natchez steamboat down the Mississippi. Bonus points if you go for the brunch and jazz cruise. I opted for the brunch buffet and promptly stuffed myself with everything from cheesy grits to bread pudding…make sure you schedule some nap time after your ride. Also maybe hire someone to roll you out of there—yes, there’s that much food. And no, I have no willpower…
Food plus boat combines for one of the top tourist attractions in New Orleans.
3. Explore the French Quarter
This is probably one of the most obvious top tourist attractions in New Orleans. My suggestion? Spend some quality time wandering around the streets, taking in the unique architecture, and checking out the shops. If you’re so inclined, there are some delicious food tours and really cool voodoo tours around the French Quarter. I ended up taking myself on a little mini photo tour of the area, and trust me, it was downright gorgeous.
Pro tip: It’s best to avoid Bourbon Street in the morning before the cleaning trucks spray the street. It smells like a combination of beer, puke, and general disgustingness. Save that for later in the day, you’ll thank me.
Really, just go to town snapping photos in the French Quarter–the houses are some of my faves around the world! For some other awesome colorful houses, check out Havana, Cuba and Burano, Italy. Yes, I know I have an obsession…
Yet another pretty house for your viewing pleasure…
4. Chill at Jackson Brewery
For some low key afternoon drinks, head to Jackson brewery and sip on some local brews. There’s an upper deck with river views. For the steamy NOLA days, hang out inside and make friends with the bartender. The bar brings in a ton of local beers from around Louisiana, so you can up your beer knowledge.
5. Bar Crawl down Bourbon Street
Unless you live in a hole, you probably know that Bourbon Street is one of the top tourist attractions in New Orleans. Head here once the sun goes down, and grab some signature New Orleans drinks. Can’t miss beverages are the Hand Grenade, Purple Drank, and Hurricanes. If you’re feeling social, join a bar crawl down Bourbon.
6. Listen to Jazz on Frenchman street
If you want a more authentic (read: less crazy) New Orleans experience than Bourbon Street, head over to Frenchmen Street. There’s amazing live jazz most nights; check out my favorite –the Spotted Cat!
7. Visit the Frenchmen Art Market
While you’re in the neighborhood, swing by the Frenchmen Art Market. I happened upon the market by surprise, but has such an awesome atmosphere. Twinkling white lights run overhead, music plays in the background, and the market features authentic art from local and regional artists. It’s a nice spot to take a break as you’re hopping from one jazz club to the next down.
8. Tour an Above-Ground Cemetery
Stroll through the city’s famous above-ground tombs. Yes, it’s a bit creepy to go on a casual walk through a cemetery, but they tombs are embellished with incredibly ornate designs. You can walk wander through on your own, or take a guided tour of the cemetery, where you can learn about some of the city’s most infamous residents!
9. Eat at Café du Monde
Indulge in fresh beignets and café au lait to start your morning. For those that don’t know (I didn’t), beignets are deep fried pastries dipped in powdered sugar. I would highly recommend not wearing a dark shirt, because you will look like a powdered sugar covered disaster by the time you’re done. Arrive early, because the line will quickly be out the door! This is definitely one of the top tourist attractions in New Orleans.
10. Take a Streetcar
Hop on a streetcar, and take an epic ride to another part of the city. It’s nice to give your legs a rest, as you get a new view of the city. I headed over to the Garden District to explore for the afternoon.
11. Wander through the Garden District
The Garden District is home to jaw-dropping Southern mansions. You can take a guided walking tour, but it’s also very easy to walk around gaping at the mansions on your own. In any case, the houses have some beautiful historic architecture.
12. Watch the Street Musicians & Performers
Check out the quirky and eclectic street musicians and performers throughout New Orleans. My favorite was definitely the silver man that danced on a crate…sounds a bit odd, but he was very captivating! There are also a ton of drummers, singers, and a whole host of other characters. For me, this was one of my highlights and definitely on the list of top tourist attractions in New Orleans.
13. Visit Jackson Square
One of the iconic sites of New Orleans, Jackson Square is home to the St. Louis Cathedral. Fun fact: St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest Catholic Cathedral in continual use in the United States! It’s prominent positions overlooking Jackson Park makes it an iconic New Orleans site. If you’re craving some greenery or just want to check out some Big Easy history, definitely swing by the square during your visit.
14. Relax in Armstrong Park
Located just across the street from the French Quarter, Armstrong Park honors the great jazz legend Louis Armstrong. Keep an eye out for the iconic arched entrance. Inside the park, there’s plenty of space to relax and unwind. Bring a book, and chill for a bit—especially after a long night out!
Hotel Deals: My top choice is probably Expedia – I’ve found some insanely cheap (beautiful) hotels. If you’re looking to avoid hotels, definitely check out VRBO! I would opt for a rental in the middle of the French Quarter. Personally, I ended up with an adorable little loft, conveniently located restaurants, Bourbon Street, and Frenchmen Street. I was able to walk everywhere at night without having to worry about a cab!
Cheap flights to New Orleans: I’d recommend searching through eDreams.net. They scan tons of different travel discount sites and feature special flight deals. You can typically find decent flights into New Orleans, and then it’s just an easy cab ride into the French Quarter.
So, I hope you found this guide to the top tourist attractions in New Orleans helpful; it was seriously one of the most delicious and architecturally unique cities I’ve ever visited. If you haven’t been, it should definitely be on your bucket list!
Tell me—have you visited New Orleans, Louisiana and loved it as much as me? What are your top tourist attractions in New Orleans? Let me know in the comments!