The home of jazz and blues, Cajun cooking, spectacular colours, lively streets and the ever-famous Mardi Gras parade. New Orleans is a city like no other - one that is guaranteed to offer up a good time.
Wherever you go, New Orleans has something to delight the senses. With so many exciting things to do in New Orleans, we’re here to offer up the best insider New Orleans travel tips. From the best New Orleans sightseeing spots to the best places to stay in New Orleans and the food that you absolutely have to try. Our New Orleans travel guide has it all!
About New Orleans
Nicknamed the Big Easy, New Orleans is renowned for its music, food, history and melting-pot of cultures. With its French, Spanish, Haitian and Cuban influences, New Orleans can be seen as both America’s most European city and most Caribbean city. The city is proud of its heritage and holds onto its traditional Creole cuisine, century-old architecture and its annual celebrations and festivals.
Famous festivals like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest bring in tourists by the millions, with several other smaller festivals and gatherings held throughout the year. The city takes almost any occasion for an excuse for a parade, a party, and live music, and you’ll find a touch of Mardi Gras in every event year round.
It’s the largest city in Louisiana, offering a completely different experience to other southern cities in America. From its daily celebration of food to the vibrant mix of jazz clubs and non-stop party streets - one wouldn’t think they were in the middle of the conservative south.
While the city was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and is still finding its way in rebuilding the city, most visitors wouldn’t even notice the effects of the tragedy. New enterprises have moved in to revitalize the old neighbourhoods, while continuing the diversity that has been a feature of the city’s population since its inception.
Best places to visit in New Orleans
The different areas of New Orleans are as diverse as its population - offering a different experience depending on which area you are in. The main New Orleans neighborhoods are as below:
French Quarter - this is the most popular area for tourists to explore. Here you will find loads of restaurants, music clubs, museums, shops and bars. It’s where the party’s at.
Central Business District - located next to the French Quarter, the CBD also features many New Orleans attractions. It’s the financial district and features a mix of skyscrapers and high-rise hotels. The Art District, Superdome, art galleries and museums are among the highlights of the area.
Downriver - a quirky area featuring the leading authentic music district, Marigny’s Frenchmen Street, and the hip, bohemian Marigny and Bywater neighbourhoods.
Uptown & Middle - famous for beautiful historic architecture including the Garden District and some of the best local restaurants and shops.
Lakeside - the area around Lake Pontchartrain featuring mostly newer parts of the city that tourists don’t really know about.
Algiers - the part of New Orleans across the Mississippi river, featuring the historic old Algiers Point neighbourhood.
Best area to stay in New Orleans
When planning a New Orleans trip you are going to have to decide where to stay. Luckily there is a vast mix of accommodation available throughout the city - catering for all budgets. You do however, need to be aware that hotel rates increase and book out fast around festival times. So plan ahead and expect to pay more.
The French Quarter tends to be the hub and focal point for most people who travel to New Orleans. With its stumbling distance from Bourbon Street and home to some of the greatest nightclubs in the city, you can expect this area to be loud, lively, and non-stop action. Great if you’re there to party, but not so much if you require a good night’s sleep! Saying this though, there are a few elegant and quieter hotels in the lower Quarter that offer a great experience.
Faubourg Marigny is another great neighbourhood to stay in, with its youthful, hipster vibe. It’s got some great music venues and is walking distance from the French Quarter. The Garden District is also a stunning area to stay in, with most accommodation here being B&Bs and inns in beautiful historic homes. Things to do in New Orleans
From wandering through the French Quarter and partying up a storm on Bourbon Street to exploring the historic museums and diving into the rich cultural heritage of the city. There are plenty of things to do in New Orleans.
Famously an adult city, New Orleans surprisingly has a lot of family-friendly activities. Younger kids will have a ball at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and the Audubon Insectarium while the older kids may appreciate the museums across the city.
Art and culture permeates throughout the city streets, with a flurry of art galleries and museums to explore. And it would be a shame to visit the city and not experience live music (particularly jazz).
Then of course there’s the food (which we get into more further down). Dive into the culinary explosion of New Orleans with a food tour or cooking class.
New Orleans attractions
Some of the city’s biggest attractions include
New Orleans area plantations
New Orleans cemeteries - the most popular being St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
The French Quarter, with Bourbon Street being the most famous street in the area
Mardi Gras - the city’s signature event
National WWII Museum
St Louis Cathedral
New Orleans Museum of Art
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve
Best time to visit New Orleans
The best time to visit New Orleans is from February to May when the weather is mild and the celebrations are in full swing.
If attending the joyous Mardi Gras parade is your main goal, then you’ll want to head to New Orleans in the spring. The main parade always takes place on the day before Ash Wednesday (called Shrove Tuesday), which is a Christian holiday. The most popular time to visit New Orleans is the extended weekend before Mardi Gras when you can catch parades and all of the festive celebrations throughout the whole city. For jazz lovers, the best time to visit New Orleans is around the Jazz Fest which is usually held towards the end of April.
The summer months of June to August can be stiflingly hot and humid - often chasing tourists away. Autumn offers a reprieve from the heat and hotel rates are still low - however this is the height of hurricane season so keep an eye on the weather. Winter (December - January) marks a sweet spot in New Orleans tourism. The weather has cooled down and the celebrations are yet to start - offering a much quieter experience and lower hotel rates.
The locals joke that New Orleans has four seasons: Summer, Hurricane, Christmas, and Mardi Gras. Take your pick on which one you want to experience!
Food in New Orleans
Calling New Orleans a foodie’s heaven is still an understatement. With the city’s obsession with celebrating good food, there’s no doubt that you will find something delicious to eat at every meal. The main thing you need to do is decide which foods are higher up on your list to try - as trust us, you won’t be able to get through all of the ‘must-eats’ while you’re there.
Traditional New Orlean foods include:
Red beans and rice (only eaten on Mondays)
The New Orleans muffaletta
New Orleans king cakes
New Orleans travel tips
With so much to see and do in New Orleans, it's understandable to get overwhelmed. We’ve put together a few New Orleans travel tips to help ease your planning process and to make the most of your time in this exciting and vibrant city.
Try not to get too caught up in all the touristy areas. While you should include the ‘must visit’ spots in the French Quarter and so on, don’t spend all of your time there. As soon as you start to explore the other neighbourhoods and areas of New Orleans you’ll quickly realise how much more the city has to offer.
Bourbon Street is best visited during the day as the night crowd can get quite wild. Rather head to Frenchmen Street for much better nighttime entertainment.
While you can drink in public areas, as soon as you head out onto the street you must consume alcoholic beverages from a plastic cup - no glass allowed.
Downtown is fairly small and it’s possible to walk or bike around the French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods without too much effort. Don’t forget your walking shoes!
Public transport includes bus lines and the historic streetcar lines. The streetcars are notorious for being unreliable in terms of keeping to its schedule but they are fun to ride on. Just don’t be in a rush!
Avoid eating in all of the tourist trap restaurants, go deeper in and look for the great local hotspots.
Join us on our women-only tour of
New Orleans where we’ll spend five days exploring the Big Easy. The New Orleans trip includes stepping back in time on a plantation tour, a swamp tour, a French Quarter culinary history & tasting tour, a Louisiana cooking class and a haunted history tour! Five days of food, culture, history and lots of fun.