To-die-for Cajun and Creole cuisine, one-of-a-kind architecture, and authentic Jazz music, have thousands of first-time visitors heading for this historic city on the Mississippi River. From the French Quarter to the Garden District to Bourbon Street, New Orleans has so many fun things to do. Get ready to explore 13 amazing ways to have fun in NOLA during your first visit.
1. Take a City Segway Tour
On your first morning, jump on a Segway to get the lay of the land, learn a bit of history, and have a ton of fun. The experts at City Segway Tours will take great care of you. If you’ve never ridden a Segway, you will watch a safety video, learn the basic skills, and go on several test rides around the shop before you head out. You will learn how to find the right balance – similar to being on a stand-up paddleboard.
On the tour, your knowledgeable guide will stop at various attractions for you to learn about some of the wonderful places in The French Quarter and point out fun places to experience on your own.
2. Ride on a Street Car
In New Orleans, trolleys are called Streetcars. Tennessee William’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, A Streetcar named Desire made this mode of transportation famous. Riding on them is so much fun, and it’s an affordable experience while in The Crescent City.
Currently, there are five streetcar routes. For travelers, the most common routes are Canal Street for Garden District/Cemeteries and Riverfront for Jackson Square /French Market/ Frenchman Street.
Depending on how much you plan to ride, consider purchasing a Jazzy Pass which are available in 1, 3 or 5 days.
3. Experience Jackson Square
Facing the Mississippi River in the French Quarter, Jackson Square is an historic park welcoming 2 million visitors every year. Beautiful landscaping, rich history, and stunning architecture are just three of the many wonderful reasons travelers decide to experience this National Historic Landmark. You will find an open-air artist colony, outstanding restaurants, and tons of shops surrounding this lively city park, with the gorgeous St. Louis Cathedral as a stunning backdrop.
4. Nosh on Beignets at Café du Monde
No trip to New Orleans is complete without a visit to Café du Monde. Across the street from Jackson Square, Café du Monde has been a fixture of New Orleans since 1862. This famous open-aired coffee shop has stayed true to its beginnings by hardly changing the menu since Civil War days.
Timeless favorites are beignets and café du lait. French-style beignets are square doughnuts generously covered in powdered sugar. Café du lait is half roasted coffee with chicory (endive root) and half hot milk. Chicory adds a rich, dark flavor but not intense acidity making for a smoother flavor.
Many travelers want to dine here, so expect a line. However, it tends to move quickly. It can be a sticky experience, powdered sugar tends to find its way everywhere – tables, chairs, and floors. It’s part of the experience. But, stop at the ATM first because Cafe’ du Monde only accepts cash.
5. Go on a Cemetery Tour
Hop on a streetcar to the Garden District and experience Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 – the closest cemetery to the French Quarter. Ornate and historic, New Orleans’ cemeteries are places where visitors can learn about the city’s history and traditions. Go on a walking tour, nightly bus tour, or ghost tour.
6. Stroll Through Garden District
Under ancient oak trees, the homes of the rich and famous are often found in the charming Garden District. Given this name by travel writers, because of the large gardens surrounding the Victorian homes, this neighborhood is considered one of the best-preserved collections of historic mansions in the Southern USA. On Magazine Street, dining and shopping will easily fill your afternoon. Close by is Audubon Park and Zoo, if you want to add these to your itinerary.
7. New Orleans School of Cooking
Inevitably, after a return home from a trip, someone asks, “what did you eat?” When in NOLA, take it a step further and learn how to cook classic Cajun dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, and pralines at New Orleans School of Cooking. In a 19th century molasses warehouse, learn the fundamentals of selected Cajun recipes, hear a bit of history and local anecdotes surrounding the origins of Cajun food. Hearty samples are given for each dish made. If there are leftovers, you can have a second serving.
8. Mardi Gras World
For those fascinated by the city’s biggest party of the year, get a behind-the-scenes tour at Mardi Gras World. You will learn the history and traditions of this festive celebration by starting off with a slice of King Cake, a traditional cake eaten during Mardi Gras.
An informative guide takes you on a tour of the year-round studio where artists and architects are building floats. Artists sculpt ideas from layers of Styrofoam, add a layer of papier-mâché, and then paint their creations.
There are 750 props housed in the studio and you are welcome to take photographs. Need a ride there, then take their free shuttle at select stops throughout the city. This attraction is located on the banks of the Mississippi River, so don’t miss the opportunity to watch the boats go by.
9. World War II Museum
If you enjoy the many freedoms available in New Orleans, a must-do is the National World War II Museum. Here you learn of the sacrifices everyday men and women made for you and so much of the world to enjoy the liberties we so often take for granted. WW II may have ended decades ago, but its lessons and victories must not be forgotten. While many museums do a great job telling the multi-layered and nuanced stories of World War II, none do it better than The National World War II Museum.
10. Listen to a Jazz Band
Frankly, listening to jazz music in New Orleans is very easy to do. Walking throughout the French Quarter, the sounds of jazz float out of cafes, restaurants, and bars as you pass by. Take it a step further and grab a seat to enjoy a jazz band at many of the venues, including the well-known Preservation Hall. Heck, you are in the birthplace of jazz, you gotta experience the beautiful blend of ragtime and blues rhythms of this city.
11. Experience Bourbon Street
Known for endless revelry, add this famous street to your itinerary, if even just for a walk down it. Also, you can walk with an alcoholic beverage in hand in this city. Depending on what time of day you venture on Bourbon Street, many bars and restaurants’ doors are flung open with throbbing music enticing you into their doors.
12. Try Frenchman Street
If Bourbon Street isn’t your style, then head over to Frenchman Street – the locals version of Bourbon Street. It’s a smaller stretch of city blocks and fewer crowds, but it’s still a lively restaurant and club scene.
13. Have a Cocktail at Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone
Opened back in 1949, the famous Carousel Bar is a longtime favorite hotspot inside Hotel Monteleone. Everyone wants to sit in one of the 25 seats surrounding the revolving bar, which makes one complete rotation every 15 minutes. A line forms long before their 11:00 AM opening to snag one of the coveted, hand-painted, and circus-themed bar stools.
In my opinion – The Big Easy equals Big Fun!