Named after the Regent of France, Philip II, Duke of Orléans, New Orleans is a wonderful city to explore! It has great music, amazing cuisine, and the world-famous Mardi Gras festival. Plus, if you’re a history buff, there are tons of things to see and learn by taking a stroll in the French Quarter. 

New Orleans also has a vibrant nightlife, and as a tourist, there’s no better chance to meet the locals and get into the spirit of ”let the good times roll,” which is the city’s motto. New Orleanians tend to have a carefree approach to life and are proud of their culture and city. They’re also free spirits who love a good party and know how to appreciate quality music.

Still, if you’re new to the city, it can be a bit confusing as to what you should see/experience first. Our advice is to take it easy and try a little bit of everything. But, regardless of what you decide to do, you must visit at least one of these attractions:

1. The French Quarter

Besides its proximity to the Big Apple, New Orleans entices tourists to visit with its impressive architecture and entertainment possibilities. And many of these attractions are in the French Quarter, the city’s historic center and place for dining and entertainment. 

The French Quarter is set along a bend on the Mississippi River and has lots of old buildings (some even 300 years old) with French influences, such as picturesque courtyards, iron balconies, and arcades. Also, here you can find Jackson Square and one of the most iconic buildings in the area – St Louis Cathedral. The cathedral is the oldest continuously active church in the United States and looks like a storybook castle. 

Once you get tired of admiring beautiful buildings, it’s time to start thinking about livelier things, such as music (lots of jazz spots around), food (plenty of fine cuisine options), and fun! Bourbon Street, French Quarter’s most famous street, gets incredibly lively at night as people gather to celebrate another day passing by. 

2. Vue Orleans: See Crescent City from a New Perspective

Vue Orleans is one of the things to do in New Orleans because it gives you a unique perspective of the city – from above. After you reach the unbelievable height of 34 floors above the city, you have access to spectacular 360° indoor and outdoor observation decks where you can admire the surroundings. 

Besides the breathtaking view, you also get to try several multi-level interactive cultural experiences and learn about the people who set the foundations of this wonderful city. There are also stories about the people who contribute today with music, delicious food, and more.

3. Mardi Gras

If you ever wanted to experience the atmosphere of a true festival, go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Together with Venice and Brazil, The Big Easy hosts some of the most famous public festivities for this holiday.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the signature event for New Orleans and thousands of tourists from all over the world want to participate. The celebrations last for two weeks and end the day before Ash Wednesday.

If you’re lucky enough to be in New Orleans for the Carnaval, you’ll witness colorful parades (almost daily) with uniquely decorated floats and entertainers who know how to get the crowds going. Of course, there are lots of mouthwatering foods and places where you can listen to live music (mostly jazz). 

As a side note, New York City also has a similar Carnaval, but it doesn’t compare in any shape or form with the one in New Orleans.

4. Preservation Hall

You don’t have to be a jazz fan to understand the importance of Preservation Hall, a building that dates back to the 1950s. The building has tremendous historical importance for the city and the jazz musical genre because it hosted some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.

The building started as a small art gallery, but the owner, a jazz fan, invited singers and bands to use the space for rehearsal sessions. All these were happening during a time when rock n’ roll and bebop were taking the world by storm, which left jazz a bit in the shadows.

As times changed, jazz aficionados felt drawn toward the small art gallery. That building is still standing today and still features traditional jazz by local artists. If you want to take a step back into history and share the same space that some of the greatest names of jazz have, make sure to pay a visit and get a ticket to one of the concerts.

5. The Garden District

This is the one area in New Orleans where you can get close to what Hollywood movies portray as the Deep South. The Garden District is a rich residential area where visitors can admire beautifully manicured gardens and gorgeous mansions that are usually unavailable for the common folks. 

Attractions on Your First Visit to New Orleans
Statue of a woman in front of a Garden District home with columns. Photo by Mary Hammel on

You can take a stroll and allow yourself to get lost in this little green paradise, or you can book a guided tour and learn a bit about the history of the area. Plus, if you pay attention, you may even spot a celebrity’s house (Beyonce & Jay-Z have a house around here!). 

If you’re only interested in architecture and gorgeous gardens and don’t feel like walking there, you can take the St. Charles streetcar

6. St Louis Cemetery

Another thing that sets New Orleans aside from other areas is the above-ground cemeteries. Veritable cities of the dead, the cemeteries here consist of mausoleums and above-ground tombs where those who passed into the great beyond rest their earthly remains. 

St. Louis Cemetery is one of the most famous due to the unique architecture of the tombs and the landscapes that are specific to the area. The cemetery (like many others in the city) is open to the public, and tourists can take a guided tour to learn more about the mixed cultural heritage of New Orleans. 

For instance, in St Louis, you can find the resting place of Homer Plessy, the civil rights activist, and Marie Laveau, the famous Voodoo queen. Plus, Nicholas Cage seems to have a pre-prepared pyramid tomb waiting for him. 

In Summary

Great architecture, laid-back people, good music, delicious food, and unique locations are but a few of the attractions that make New Orleans a must-have on the list of every traveler! Overall, The Big Easy has a lot to offer, and we’re sure it will be one of those locations that remain close to your heart once you visit them.