New Orleans in summer: best things to do and see

New Orleans is amazing in summertime, with fun festivals, cruises, and more. Don't miss out, enjoy these 10 things to do in NOLA in summer.

With long sunny days and warm weather, New Orleans bursts with barbecues and outdoor jazz throughout the summer season. Stay on top of the best of these activities with our guide to the best summer things to do in the city. Whether you're exploring the Bayous with zipline adventures or indulging in the art and culture scene, we've selected something for everyone.

While the city explodes with excitement, New Orleans' parks offer tranquil spaces to stop and soak in the sun. Explore the swamps and shady spots before hitting NOLA’s food scene this summer. When the sun begins to set, there's no better end to the day than a cruise or boat tour. Sit back and watch the city kick start its nightlife or head into the French Quarter for a spooky ghost tour.

Here are 10 of the best things to do in NOLA this summer.

Best outdoor activities

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1. Experience New Orleans culture at the French Quarter

The French Quarter is always abuzz with live music. This is, after all, where jazz was born. Working musicians still perform here, so your French Quarter Storytelling tour will have its own soundtrack. Discover the roots of voodoo and learn how history's most fascinating personalities shaped this city. You might even meet a few ghosts in Jackson Square's séance room.

Highlights:

See the street performers at Jackson Square and enjoy the Mardi Gras from an entirely fresh perspective. Listen to live music while your personal guide teaches you about gumbo.

Address and opening hours:

400 Dumaine St, New Orleans, LA 70116, United States. Starting times vary.

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2. Travel back in time on the urban culture and history tour

Explore New Orleans through an urban culture and history tour. See the Antebellum Slave Quarters, explore the ancient Treme, and visit key regions.

Highlights:

Discover New Orleans' past through its museums and learn about historical figures at key locations.

Address and opening hours:

414 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States. Starting times vary.

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3. Snap the most Instagram-worthy pictures on a hipster walking tour

Do you have an inner hipster longing to come out? On this private IG highlights tour, your personal guide will introduce you to the lushest spots in the French Quarter.

Highlights:

Learn how to take and edit a spectacular photograph and try NOLA's critically-acclaimed Creole fusion cooking. Upload your pictures and impress your Instagram followers.

Address and opening hours:

2231 St Claude Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117, USA. Starting times vary.

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4. Meet the ghosts of New Orleans on the cemetery bus tour

Explore the eerier parts of the city on a Cemetery Bus Tour that gives you exclusive access to spooky areas after dark. Your guide will bring the experience to life with stories to set the tone. You'll learn to operate a real EMF reader and watch your equipment pick up ghosts among the graveyards.

Highlights:

Learn about New Orleans's Voodoo history as you walk through the cemetery, then soothe your frazzled nerves with a drink.

Address and opening hours:

620 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA. Starting times vary.

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5. Meet the stars, dead and alive

Kick off your trip at Lafayette Cemetery, where the famous Mayfair Witches and other famous inhabitants were buried. Then, discover New Orleans' living celebrities by exploring their mansions in the Garden District. Visit Elms Mansion—one of the Antebellum period's most beautifully-preserved properties.

Highlights:

Board an authentic New Orleans street car and explore The Garden District's brightest stars before enjoying a summery beverage in the garden of the Elms.

Address and opening hours:

750 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA. Starting times vary.

Best water-based activities

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6. All aboard the Creole Queen!

Much of New Orleans' history straddles the Mississippi, so there's no better way to explore its past than on a luxurious cruise through Jean Lafitte National Historical Park. Enjoy Southern-style cuisine and fascinating tales about the Battle of 1812.

Highlights:

Visit the city’s most iconic landmarks and find out about river lore. Head to the Chalmette Battlefield while National Park Rangers teach you about the city’s legacy.

Address and opening hours:

Marrero, LA 70072, United States. Starting times vary.

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7. Explore the swamps at dizzying speeds

The swamps outside New Orleans offer some of the most festive summer activities on any tourist calendar. Enjoy a high-speed airboat ride through the marshlands and search for alligators. This is perfect terrain for twitching, so don't forget the binoculars.

Highlights:

Get to know Cajun lifestyles in their own wetlands while your guide provides fascinating commentary. You might even catch sightings of wild boars and alligators.

Address and opening hours:

9706 Barataria Blvd, Marrero, LA 70072, USA. Starting times vary.

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8. Get your blood pumping on a swamp zipline tour

What better way to experience New Orleans in summer than taking a zipline across the wetlands? Try out five ziplines at Lake Pontchartrain and explore Frenier, a historic town nestled into the Maurepas swamp. Keep your eyes on the water. You might be lucky enough to see an alligator in its natural habitat.

Highlights:

Try out half a mile of ziplines over suspension bridges while you spot local wildlife from the canopy.

Address and opening hours:

301 Peavine Rd, Laplace, LA 70068, United States. Starting times vary.

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9. All aboard for a bayou adventure

The wetlands of Louisiana are prime terrain for critters of every description, so zoom through the marshes on an airboat while you get acquainted with the local wildlife. A marsh experience isn't complete without a tour of Jean Lafitte, so you'll bob through the fishing village while your pilot points out alligators and turtles.

Highlights:

Explore the 20,000-acre swamp of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and snap pictures while your guide feeds the alligators.

Address and opening hours:

400 Toulouse St, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States. Starting times vary.

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10. Enjoy an evening jazz cruise

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the music and scenery as the Steamboat Natchez takes you on an evening jazz cruise along the Mississippi River as the sun sets. Your captain will provide narration, and there are climate-controlled areas where you can keep cool onboard.

Highlights:

The tour option offers a Southern-style buffet dinner that guests can enjoy as they drift along the Mississippi listening to the Dukes of Dixieland.

Address and opening hours:

400 Toulouse St, New Orleans, LA 70130, United States. Meeting points and starting times vary.

FAQs

Where can I go swimming or relax by the water in New Orleans?

Grand Isle Beach and Fontainebleau State Park are the coolest spots for swimmers. The city might not be famous for its beaches, but many of them offer white sand and impressive vistas.

Are there any great summer festivals in New Orleans?

Every March, New Orleans comes alive with the arrival of Mardi Gras—a unique way to celebrate the city's culture. The French Quarter Festival happens in April when artists gather from all over the village.

What are the must-visit outdoor attractions in New Orleans?

The Oak Alley Plantation is a wooded zone right on the banks of the bayou. It's one of New Orleans' most important historic sites, and you can meet the swamp critters while you're there.

What are some great day trips to take from New Orleans in the summer?

Food is a core part of New Orleans culture, and you can experience it on a cocktail and brunch tour. The city has several award-winning restaurants with their own unique take on Creole flavors. Alternatively, a Whitney Plantation tour will give you a window into Antebellum times.

What are some fun activities with kids in New Orleans in summer?

A high-speed passenger airboat ride or zipline experience will appeal to children and teens. Your youngest family members will also love hunting for alligators on a Bayou Tour in Jean Lafitte National Park.