It’s impossible to feel anything but good while wandering through New Orleans. You can stand practically anywhere in the city and hear the sounds of upbeat music drifting through the streets. At any time of the day, you might have a jazz band spontaneously burst into tune beside you. Within 5 minutes, it’s likely that you’ll be surrounded by a hundred people dancing along to the beat.
New Orleans is one of those destinations that everybody raves about. The atmosphere is so contagious that you’ll definitely want to stay longer. Here are 9 bucket list things to do in New Orleans!
1. EXPLORE THE FRENCH QUARTER
The French Quarter is the tourist center of New Orleans. As you might imagine from the name, this area has a huge influence from the time that it was a French colony. Strangely, most of the remaining historic buildings in the French Quarter are actually from when the city was under Spanish rule in the late 1700s.
Most tourists will start by walking along Bourbon Street, which is a party hotspot that seems to be pumping all day and night. Bourbon Street is fairly touristy, so we preferred the much quieter Royal Street which had the same charm without the crowds.
2. VISIT JACKSON SQUARE
Jackson Square is the centerpiece of New Orleans. This national historic landmark was the site of the Louisiana purchase in 1803, when most of the state was acquired by the United States. These days, it’s a lively spot lined with absolutely gorgeous architecture.
The main feature of Jackson Square is St. Louis Cathedral, which is the oldest cathedral in the United States. We didn’t go inside, but I was very impressed with the exterior (which I thought looked somewhat Disney-like) and I ended up taking many photos of it.
In front of the cathedral is a notable statue of Andrew Jackson (the namesake of the square), an American war hero who served as the seventh president of the United States and who founded the Democratic party.Where to stay: Hotel Provincial
3. GO TO A JAZZ/BLUES/PIANO BAR
New Orleans is all about the music. It is the birthplace of jazz, so you’ll hear those upbeat tunes emanating from all sorts of venues in and around the French Quarter. Blues and Piano are also both popular music styles in New Orleans.
You don’t need to be overly picky with which venue you enter to see live music, as there are literally thousands to choose from. We visited 21st Amendment Bar and Balcony Music Club to watch jazz/blues bands. I also heard that Pat O’Brien’s is a great Piano Bar.
4. EXPLORE THE GARDEN DISTRICT
The Garden District is where we stayed in New Orleans. It was a good choice of location – this area is much quieter and less intense than the French Quarter.
The best thing to do in the Garden District is to take a look at all the old mansions. These 1800s homes are known to be some of the best preserved residential buildings in the south, and have been used in many movies. You might recognise 2707 Coliseum St which was featured as the childhood home in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.Where to stay: Creole Gardens Guesthouse and Inn
Commander’s Palace (pictured above) is an iconic blue restaurant that sits opposite Lafayette Cemetery, and is known for its Creole cuisines and Louisiana charm.
We did the Garden District on our own, but this walking tour would cover all the important things to see and give you a great narrative of the area’s history.
5. VISIT A CEMETERY
Louisiana cemeteries are truly fascinating. As the water table sits just 6 feet beneath the surface, below-ground burials are not possible in many parts of Louisiana. This has resulted in large, above-ground tombs filling many of the state’s cemeteries.
6. EAT A PO’BOY
A Po’Boy is a Louisiana sandwich made with french bread (like a baguette) and overflowing with fillings of roast beef or fried seafood.
We found a vegan cafe called Seed which served meat-free Po’Boys. Our sandwiches were filled with grilled eggplant and seitan, and were 100% delicious. I also heard that Killer Po’Boys does a great Louisiana sandwich (they have both meat and veggie options).Where to stay: Melrose Mansion New Orleans
7. CONSUME BEIGNETS
Beignets are squares of fried dough covered in powdered sugar, and Cafe du Monde is the most famous place to try them. The line to this cafe was insane when we walked by mid-afternoon, so maybe try visiting first thing in the morning if you don’t want to line up for hours. If that doesn’t work, then you could also attempt to get some at New Orleans Famous Beignets or Cafe Beignet.
8. VISIT FRENCHMEN STREET
The south end of Frenchmen Street is kind of like Bourbon Street as it has loads of bars, restaurants, and live music, but it’s much calmer and not nearly as touristy.
Our favourite hangout was Dat Dog, which was a diner with veggie hot dogs and a bar upstairs from which you could sit on the balcony and watch the world go by. We even managed to be sitting here when a street band struck up a tune right outside the restaurant. It was a true New Orleans experience.
We also spent some time listening to a blues band in 30/90. There are honestly loads of music clubs around this area, so I’d suggest planning to bar hop for an entire evening on Frenchmen Street.Where to stay: Best Western Plus French Quarter
9. DO A VOODOO TOUR
VooDoo is deeply ingrained in the city of New Orleans. This superstitious religion is associated with magic and curses. If you’re keen to learn all about the history of VooDoo in New Orleans, you should definitely take a VooDoo tour.