20 fun and unique things to do in New Orleans

Want to let your hair down in New Orleans? From fun food tours to exciting haunted houses, here are 20 of the most fun things to do in NOLA.

Whether you've only got two days in New Orleans or you've booked an extended stay, the city is packed with cool activities to suit all ages. You can hit the live venues to soak up the jazz vibes or simply savor the best food in the city on a rambling cuisine tour. Whether you’re traveling to New Orleans with kids, on a romantic trip, or solo, there are tons of fun things to do.

From the allure of the French Quarter to the leafy Garden District, every corner of the city unlocks hidden secrets and fun excursions. You can even explore the wilder side of the state with nature cruises and swamp tours. So, whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, this list of fun things to do in New Orleans will ensure an exciting and unforgettable experience at every turn.

Fun things to do in New Orleans as a couple

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1. Stroll through the French Quarter

If romance is in the air, what better place to foster it than the French Quarter? Also known as the Vieux Carré, this is the oldest and most iconic neighborhood in New Orleans, featuring historic architecture and lively streets. Wander along the cobblestone streets, marvel at the colorful Creole townhouses, and discover hidden courtyards.

Highlights:

There is no shortage of tours to experience in the French Quarter, each providing a detailed guide through this historic region.

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2. Discover the Ogden Museum of Southern Art

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art is dedicated to showcasing the diverse range of art from the American South, celebrating the region's rich cultural heritage. Browse the museum's extensive collection, which features works by prominent Southern artists such as Walter Anderson, Benny Andrews, and Clementine Hunter.

Highlights:

Learn more about the rich body of art to come out of the American South.

Address and opening hours:

925 Camp St, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States. Open 10:00 AM-5:00 PM, Friday-Sunday.

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3. Discover the haunted history of New Orleans

New Orleans is known for its haunted history, and taking a haunted history tour is a thrilling way to uncover the city's ghostly past.

Highlights:

Join a nighttime tour and explore the eerie tales of haunted mansions, ghostly encounters, and chilling cemeteries. Learn about the city's most famous spirits, such as the vengeful Madame LaLaurie and the ghostly pirate Jean Lafitte.

Address and opening hours:

The meeting points and start times of popular guided tours vary. The duration is typically 2 hours.

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4. Take a streetcar ride along St. Charles Avenue

The historic St. Charles Avenue streetcar line is the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the world, offering a charming and convenient way to explore the city. Hop on the iconic green streetcar and travel along the beautiful oak-lined avenue, passing through the Garden District and Uptown New Orleans.

Highlights:

See the city from the comfort of a streetcar with a guided streetcar tour to ensure you don’t miss a thing.

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5. Venture into the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

The Aquarium of the Americas is a world-class facility that showcases a diverse range of aquatic life from the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River, and beyond. Discover fascinating exhibits featuring exotic sea creatures, playful penguins, and majestic sharks.

Highlights:

See the wonders of the deep on your tour in Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, including a 400,000-gallon tank with reefs, sharks, and a walk-through tunnel.

Address and opening hours:

1 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States. Open 10:00 AM with varied closing times, Tuesday-Sunday.

Fun things to do in New Orleans with kids

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6. See the animals at Audubon Zoo

Audubon Zoo houses animals from around the world, perfect for entertaining your little ones. Explore the zoo's themed habitats, such as the award-winning Louisiana Swamp exhibit, the African Savanna, and the Asian Domain.

Highlights:

See a huge variety of animals up close, either as a day trip or part of an Audubon Zoo tour.

Address and opening hours:

6500 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70118, United States. Open 10:00 AM-5:00 PM, Monday-Sunday.

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7. Shop on Magazine Street

Magazine Street is a six-mile-long stretch of shops, galleries, and eateries, making it perfect for shopping enthusiasts. Browse charming boutiques, antique shops, and art galleries that showcase local artists.

Highlights:

Explore the many shops and restaurants as part of a sightseeing tour to ensure you don't miss a thing.

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8. Experience Mardi Gras World

Mardi Gras World offers a behind-the-scenes look at the Mardi Gras and its magnificent parade floats. Tour the massive warehouse where artists and craftsmen create intricate floats for the annual Mardi Gras parade.

Highlights:

Take a behind-the-scenes tour at Mardi Gras World and you’ll walk through a massive warehouse where the floats are built.

Address and opening hours:

1380 Port of New Orleans Pl, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States. Open 9:00 AM-5:30 PM, Monday-Sunday.

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9. Revel at one of the city’s festivals

New Orleans loves to celebrate, hosting a wide array of annual festivals showcasing music, food, and culture. The city's most famous event, Mardi Gras, offers dazzling parades and a festive atmosphere. Other popular festivals include the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, French Quarter Festival, and Essence Festival, which feature world-class music, food, and entertainment.

Highlights:

Take part in the celebrations that New Orleans is best known for.

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10. Join a Second Line Parade

A Second Line Parade is a quintessential New Orleans tradition featuring lively brass bands, dancing, and colorful attire. Your children can participate. Experience the infectious energy of a Second Line Parade, where you can join the procession and dance through the streets to the beat of the music.

Highlights:

Be part of an experience that is unique to this part of the world.

Fun things to do in New Orleans on your own

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11. Attend a jazz show

New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, and attending a live jazz show is an absolute must for any visitor to the city. Undoubtedly one of the more unique things to do when in New Orleans. Enjoy world-class jazz performances at renowned venues like Preservation Hall, Snug Harbor, and The Spotted Cat.

Highlights:

Experience one of the things New Orleans is best known for in a unique setting, such as on a jazz cruise aboard the Steamboat Natchez.

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12. Visit the National WWII Museum

The National WWII Museum is a world-class institution dedicated to telling the story of the American experience during World War II. Explore immersive exhibits featuring personal stories, artifacts, and multimedia presentations. Don't miss the interactive submarine experience, the captivating 4D film "Beyond All Boundaries," and the soaring US Freedom Pavilion, which houses a remarkable collection of vintage warplanes.

Highlights:

Experience a slice of history from one of the most turbulent times in recent memory as part of a WWII Museum ticket or guided tour.

Address and opening hours:

945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States. Open 9:00 AM-5:00 PM, Monday-Sunday.

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13. Bike the Lafitte Greenway

The Lafitte Greenway is a 2.6-mile-long linear park and biking trail that connects the French Quarter to City Park. Rent a bike and pedal through this beautifully landscaped green space, passing historic neighborhoods, playgrounds, and community gardens.

Highlights:

See this and other parts of the city as part of a city bike tour.

Address and opening hours:

New Orleans, LA 70119, USA.

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14. Immerse yourself in art at NOMA

The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) is the city's oldest fine arts institution, featuring an extensive collection of art from around the world. See works by European masters, American artists, and contemporary creatives. Don't miss the adjacent Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, a beautiful outdoor space featuring over 90 sculptures amid lush landscaping.

Highlights:

Enjoy fantastic art from all around the world as part of a wider New Orleans Museum of Art tour.

Address and opening hours:

945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States. Open 10:00 AM-5:00 PM, Tuesday-Sunday.

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15. Tour the bayous and swamps

A swamp tour is a thrilling way to explore the unique ecosystems of Louisiana's bayous and swamps. Choose between a high-speed airboat tour or a leisurely pontoon cruise and venture into the heart of the swamps, where you'll encounter alligators, egrets, turtles, and other fascinating creatures. Learn about the area's ecology and history from knowledgeable guides, and don't forget your camera to capture stunning photos.

Highlights:

With a swamp tour, you can spot flora and fauna that is unique to this part of the world.

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16. Visit the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park

The New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park is dedicated to preserving and promoting the city's rich jazz heritage, offering a unique cultural experience for visitors. Explore the park's visitor center, where you can learn about the history of jazz in New Orleans through exhibits, films, and live performances. Attend ranger-led programs and concerts, which showcase the talents of local jazz musicians and provide an intimate glimpse into the city's vibrant music scene.

Highlights:

Take in the rich heritage of the region at your own pace.

Address and opening hours:

419 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States. Open 9:00 AM-4:30 PM, every day except Monday and Sunday.

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17. Have some spiritual fun at the Old Ursuline Convent

The Old Ursuline Convent Museum is the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley and an important part of New Orleans' religious history. The convent houses a museum showcasing artifacts, artwork, and historical documents from the city's early Catholic history. Admire the serene gardens and the stunning St. Mary's Chapel.

Highlights:

Experience the spiritual side of New Orleans' history with a knowledgeable tour guide.

Address and opening hours:

1100 Chartres St #2505, New Orleans, LA 70116, United States. Open 10:00 AM-2:00 PM, Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

Fun things to do in New Orleans if you like food and drink

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18. Enjoy beignets at Café du Monde

What could be more fun for food lovers than trying one of NOLA’s signature treats? Café du Monde is a legendary New Orleans institution famous for its irresistible beignets and chicory coffee since 1862. Enjoy them on a donut and beignet walking tour.

Highlights:

Try delicious local cuisine in a venue with a long-established history, either as a single visit or as part of a food tour.

Address and opening hours:

800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116, United States. Open 7:15 AM-11:00 PM, Monday-Sunday. Stays open until 12:00 AM on Fridays and Saturdays.

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19. Savor New Orleans' culinary delights

New Orleans is a food lover's paradise, known for its rich culinary traditions and mouthwatering dishes that blend Creole, Cajun, and Southern flavors. Sample iconic dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, po'boys, and crawfish étouffée at local institutions, such as Commander's Palace, Galatoire's, and Dooky Chase's. Try chargrilled oysters at Acme Oyster House or Drago's and indulge in a classic muffuletta sandwich from Central Grocery.

Highlights:

Make your taste buds feel alive with a variety of food-related things to do throughout the city.

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20. Relax at the Moon Walk Riverside Promenade

The Moon Walk Riverside Promenade is a scenic walkway along the Mississippi River, offering a peaceful escape from the bustle of the city. Sit on a bench and watch the steamboats pass by, or enjoy a picnic in the green space at nearby Woldenberg Park.

Highlights:

Enjoy a picnic against the picturesque backdrop of the Mississippi River.

Address and opening hours:

1 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States.

FAQs

What is the best time to visit New Orleans?

The best time to visit New Orleans is during the spring and fall seasons when the weather is mild, and the city's festivals are in full swing. During these times, you can enjoy various outdoor activities and events.

What are some fun things to do in New Orleans at night?

Some fun things to do in New Orleans at night include experiencing the vibrant live music scene on Frenchmen Street, enjoying a ghost tour in the French Quarter, or taking a moonlit steamboat cruise on the Mississippi River.

Are there any fun day trips from New Orleans that I should consider?

Fun day trips from New Orleans can include visiting the charming city of Baton Rouge, exploring the historic plantations along the Great River Road, or experiencing the natural beauty of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.

What are some popular festivals or events in New Orleans?

Popular festivals in New Orleans include the world-renowned Mardi Gras, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and the French Quarter Festival, which celebrate the city's music, food, and cultural heritage.

What are some family-friendly fun activities to do in New Orleans?

Family-friendly activities in New Orleans include exploring the Audubon Zoo and Aquarium, taking a ride on the historic streetcars, visiting the Louisiana Children's Museum, or enjoying the rides at the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park.

What are some fun outdoor activities to do in New Orleans?

Outdoor activities in New Orleans range from biking the Lafitte Greenway, taking a swamp tour in the surrounding bayous, strolling along the Moon Walk Riverside Promenade, or picnicking in the expansive City Park.