Best places to visit in New Orleans: top attractions you don't want to miss

Discover the beating heart of New Orleans with this guide to the best places to visit in the city, from iconic steamboats to historic markets.

With its famed French Quarter and jazz heritage, New Orleans has a colorful atmosphere that's a treat to explore. Get ahead of your trip by penciling some of the best sights in NOLA into your itinerary. Pick from New Orleans landmarks like Jackson Square and Esplanade Avenue to scenic green spaces like the Garden District and Audubon Park.

Culture vultures will adore the city's rich pickings, too, from the treasure-filled New Orleans Museum of Art to the musical heritage of Preservation Hall. So, whether you're looking for exciting things to do in the city or chasing creativity at its art museums, you’ll be spoiled for great places to visit in New Orleans.

Best places in New Orleans for history

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1. The French Quarter

Ever wondered why New Orleans folklore is centered on the city being haunted? Whether you're a skeptic or believer, discover the history with cemetery tours, haunted pub crawls, and stories about voodoo.

Highlights:

Does visiting cemeteries and allegedly haunted locations alone sound creepy? Join the French Quarter ghost tour to visit spooky sites like St. Germaine House. Plus, a guide enhances the experience with haunted tales and interesting facts.

Address and opening hours:

316 Chartres St., New Orleans, LA 70130. Tour times and dates vary.

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2. The National WWII Museum

With interactive exhibits and memorabilia, National WWII Museum is a must-visit. Discover the Higgins boats used in the D-Day landings that were designed and tested in New Orleans.

Highlights:

While away the hours as you witness the history of New Orleans and explore wartime artifacts. A National WWII Museum ticket allows you to enjoy the narrations of the history and experience the Expressions of America Outdoor shows.

Address and opening hours:

945 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70130. Open 9:00 AM-5:00 PM daily.

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3. Jackson Square

Jackson Square is the epicenter of New Orleans, home to fortune tellers, artists, and street performers. Once known as Place d'Armes, it was renamed to honor the seventh US president Andrew Jackson in 1815 and a statue in his likeness sits at the center.

Highlights:

Jackson Square is a great spot to hang out and catch a breath on a French Quarter walking and storytelling tour. Get the inside scoop on the heritage, architecture, and recommended places for shopping from your guide.

Address and opening hours:

New Orleans, LA 70116, USA. Tour times and dates vary.

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4. Esplanade Avenue

Esplanade Avenue is among New Orleans' most scenic streets. It's lined with historic, centuries-old mansions, each with its own fascinating stories. Highlights include the former residence of Edgar Degas, Musson House.

Highlights:

Get an insider scoop on this richly historic street with the New Orleans sightseeing tour. You'll venture back over centuries of architectural history, taking in famous sites from Dueling Oaks to Anne Rice's residence.

Address and opening hours:

Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans, LA, USA. Tour times and dates vary.

The best places in New Orleans for art and music

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5. New Orleans Museum of Art

Are you an art enthusiast? Visiting the New Orleans Museum of Art allows you to enjoy French and American collections. Check out the temporary exhibitions available on the calendar.

Highlights:

You'll love strolling the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. The 60 sculptures are sights to behold, nestled among the live oak trees, walking paths, and lagoons.

Address and opening hours:

1 Collins Diboll Cir, New Orleans, LA 70124, USA. Open 10:00 AM-5:00 PM Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Mondays.

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6. Preservation Hall

The Preservation Hall features traditional jazz from local artists providing a quaint and intimate atmosphere for listening to jazz. The historic music hall aims to protect and preserve the spirit of traditional New Orleans jazz.

Highlights:

Get a front-row seat to the city's best music performances in the packed venue, discover new jazz artists and old favorites, and take in the storied surroundings. Don’t expect mod cons like air con — this place is as authentically traditional as they come.

Address and opening hours:

726 St Peter, New Orleans, LA 70116, US. Open 5:00 PM-9:30 PM daily.

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7. Mardi Gras World

Heard of the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans? Imagine experiencing behind-the-scenes activities in the festivities that usually consume the city. Mardi Gras World takes you through the festivities at the preparation stage.

Highlights:

Take a Mardi Gras World behind-the-scenes tour for a sneak peek at how this huge festival is staged. Watch out for the sculpted props, outrageous costumes, and huge floats at the workshops as sculptors and artists prepare for the event.

Address and opening hours:

1380 Port of New Orleans Pl, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA. Open 9:00 AM-5:30 PM daily.

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8. Mississippi River

The Mississippi is integral to New Orleans' identity and history. The best way to view its impact on this great city is aboard a traditional Steamboat Natchez cruise. You'll journey through time on a paddle-wheel boat and delight in the spectacular views of the city to a soundtrack of live jazz.

Highlights:

Enjoy the sparkle of the urban shoreline and cozy up with family and friends with an evening jazz cruise on the Steamboat Natchez. The cruise on the paddle steamer comes with a live band and Creole-inspired dinner.

Address and opening hours:

400 Toulouse St., New Orleans, LA 70130, USA. Open 8:00 AM-7:00 PM daily.

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9. Bourbon Street

It's no secret that the French Quarter has the best architectural landmarks in NOLA, with old buildings featuring unique French design influences. Bourbon Street is the most photogenic, with colorful shopfronts, flowery terraces, and cozy courtyards exuding 1800s elegance.

Highlights:

Take a walking tour along the French Quarter, taste fine cuisine, and enjoy unique shopping opportunities. Experience art through music or catch a glimpse of impressive artwork as you walk along the ancient arcades and picturesque courtyards.

Address and opening hours:

316 Chartres St., New Orleans, LA 70130. Tour times vary.

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10. Blue Nile

Tucked away on Frenchmen Street, the Blue Nile is a highly celebrated music venue bedecked all in blue. Want to party the night away and experience live music? The Blue Nile provides the best in blues, jazz, and funk.

Highlights:

Catch your favorite jazz performances from local bands and hear tales of blues legends. Dance the night away as you interact with the locals and enjoy street food.

Address and opening hours:

532 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA. Open Tuesday-Sunday, but the hours vary. Always closed on Mondays.

Best places in New Orleans for families

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11. City Park

Visiting New Orleans in the summer? City Park is among the best places to visit with your kids, with a botanical garden covering 1,300 acres and fun activities. Your kids will love the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park with fun activities like the Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and the Red Baron Mini Plane.

Highlights:

Your kids will enjoy rides on the miniature train that circles the park on narrow gauge tracks. As they have fun, you can play golf on the 18-hole course. Alternatively, book the Scenic City Bike Tour for a guided tour that passes through City Park.

Address and opening hours:

1 Palm Dr. New Orleans, LA 70124. Open 6:00 AM-6:00 PM daily.

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12. Garden District

Looking for a lovely place to bond with nature? Garden District is a wonderful outdoor space in New Orleans with mature trees, lush gardens, and lovely mansions.

Highlights:

While you can explore the Garden District on foot, it won't be as fun as taking a guided tour. A Garden District walking tour gives you insights into the history of the 19th-century mansions.

Address and opening hours:

St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130-5968. Open daily.

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13. Audubon Park and Zoo

Take a trip to Audubon Park, southwest of the Garden District, to marvel at the selection of exotic wild animals at Audubon Zoo. This tree-lined park specializes in African and American ecosystems, with plenty of hands-on activities for family-friendly fun.

Highlights:

Get on the small tram, Swamp Train, that runs through the zoo for a chance to explore the Louisiana Swamp Exhibit. Watch the sea lions and the rare white alligator in the reptile encounter areas. Your kids can take the train ride or play in the green spaces.

Address and opening hours:

6500 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70118, US. Open 10:00 AM-5:00 PM daily.

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14. Audubon Aquarium

Discover the creatures that inhabit the surrounding waters at the Audubon Aquarium. The Aquarium is located along the waterfront in downtown New Orleans, and you can stop by on your walking tour of the French Quarter.

Highlights:

Your kids can explore the freshwater fish of the Mississippi River and marine life found in North, Central, and South America. Don't forget to take them to view the Great Maya Reef from the 30-foot-long walk-through tunnel.

Address and opening hours:

1 Canal Street, New Orleans. Opening times vary.

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15. Crescent Park

Do you love green spaces? Go for a picnic at Crescent Park, a new establishment covering 20 acres along the Mississippi River.

Highlights:

The park's highlight is Piety Street Bridge, which allows access to the waterfront. The arch spans the railroad track, and you can take beautiful photos of the river's curve.

Address and opening hours:

Crescent Park Trail, 2300 N Peters St, New Orleans. Open 6:00 AM-7:30 PM daily.

Best places in New Orleans for food and culture

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16. French Market

From gumbo to grits, food tours in New Orleans are the best way to experience the culture. Indulge in the famous Creole cuisine and handmade candies from its historic heart, the French Market. Explore the famous restaurants to taste the local Cajun cuisine as you learn about the people's heritage.

Highlights:

Bring your appetite on a culinary food tour and explore New Orleans' awesome food scene with an expert guide. Learn about the city’s culinary history through the eyes of a local and taste your way around its Cajun highlights.

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17. Frenchmen Street

If you fancy a great experience away from the touristy areas, head to Frenchmen Street. It stretches a few blocks giving you an exciting experience of the culture of New Orleans.

Highlights:

Have a fun-packed afternoon listening to live music or visiting bars, restaurants, art galleries, and nightclubs — it’s one of the best places to visit in New Orleans at night. Explore the art galleries and enjoy cocktails as you watch live music, or go for a guided pub crawl to really soak up the party atmosphere

Address and opening hours:

Along Frenchmen Street, New Orleans. Open 9:00 AM-4:00 PM Monday-Saturday.

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18. St. Louis Cathedral

St. Louis Cathedral is a Neo-Gothic centerpiece of the French Quarter and a recognizable landmark. While the cathedral holds daily religious services, it also hosts numerous cultural events.

Highlights:

Get off the hop-on hop-off bus tour of New Orleans to take a peek inside the stunning cathedral. Be sure to stop by the Ursuline Convent or stroll through the adjacent St. Anthony's Garden, two more of the most beautiful places to see in NOLA.

Address and opening hours:

615 Pere Antoine Alley, New Orleans. Opening hours depend on services and events.

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19. Cabildo

Enjoy a combination of culture and history at Cabildo, originally constructed in 1799. The structure is near Jackson Square and once served as a city hall. The three-floor museum displays the history of New Orleans and the surrounding states.

Highlights:

Check out the colonial-era paintings and other exhibitions in the museum showcasing the culture of the inhabitants. Take time to admire the artifacts and the Spanish-style architecture of the building.

Address and opening hours:

701 Chartres St, New Orleans. Open 9:00 AM-3:30 PM Tuesday-Sunday. Closed Mondays.

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20. Café du Monde

Are you a foodie? Then Café du Monde is a must-visit joint. The coffee house is near the French market, just off Jackson Square.

Highlights:

Enjoy drinks and the original beignet, a deep-fried sweet dessert covered in powdered sugar. Taste other delicacies like the café au lait and a range of desserts.

Address and opening hours:

800 Decatur St, New Orleans. Open 7:15 AM-11 PM daily.

FAQs

How many days should I spend in New Orleans?

Consider spending four to five days in New Orleans to get enough time to visit the city's main highlights. A week is ideal if you don't want to feel rushed while exploring the area. For a short vacation, a three-day visit to the city can quench your curiosity about New Orleans.

What is the best time of year to visit New Orleans?

New Orleans is a festival and event city. To participate in the top events, visit during the spring months. May and April have great weather and lots of events for a fun-filled vacation. Want to visit during the off-season? Plan your vacation in the summer months: June to October is ideal.

How do I get around New Orleans?

The streetcar system is a charming way to explore the city. Other neighborhoods are accessible by taxi or pedicab. Alternatively, hop on a bus to your preferred region. If you're exploring a small area, rent a bike and cycle to top attractions.

What are the best neighborhoods to visit in New Orleans?

The French Quarter is the city's famous and oldest neighborhood. Most visitors make a beeline to the area to explore the gorgeous architecture, fabulous antiques, and local boutiques. Garden District is also a great neighborhood for strolling and ogling architecture. See the plantation-era mansions and architectural masterpieces from the 19th century.

What are the best places to go shopping in New Orleans?

Make sure you visit Famous Magazine Street for your shopping. The street has a collection of boutiques, restaurants, and shops with home goods. The French Market is an open-air shopping center for clothes, paintings, and specialty items.