New Orleans, LA, USA

New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) has been on my bucket for years and I'm so glad that I was finally able to visit NOLA this past week. I booked this trip to celebrate my boyfriend's birthday and at the end of the trip, he told me that NOLA is now one of his favorite cities so that says a lot. Whether you're a first-timer like us or a NOLA expert, here is my roundtrip of the best things to do in New Orleans.

The French Quarter, New Orleans

A lot of people associate New Orleans with Mardi Gras, vampires, witches, voodoo, hauntings and hurricane Katrina, but New Orleans is so much more than that. There's so much rich history, culture and AMAZING food. You get the best of everything so I can see why a lot of people fall in love with this beautiful city.

#1 Eat beignets

Beignets are deep-fried fried pastry covered with lots of powdered sugar. You can find beignets all over New Orleans but the two most popular places for beignets are:

Café Du Monde

Café Beignet

There are some shops and restaurants that offer filled beignets as well, which are similar to malasadas. 

Beignets from Café Beignet

#2 Shop and eat at the French Market

The French Market is worth checking out for souvenirs, knickknacks and great food. You can find all of the most popular foods at the French Market: fried alligator, oysters, shrimp or crawfish boil, praline cookies, gumbo, po' boys, etc.

#3 Listen to live jazz

You don't have to look far because you'll find live jazz all over the French Quarter. Lots of bands put on performances in the middle of the street.

#4 Ride the streetcar

If you get tired of walking for a bit, take a ride on the streetcar which takes you all over the city. It's  great way to get to/from the French Quarter if you're staying outside of the French Quarter/Downtown area.

#5 Try the seafood

If you love seafood, then New Orleans is the perfect place for you to indulge on all the seafood you can handle. We ate sooooo much seafood during our trip. Shrimp, crawfish, oysters, etc. - you name it! 

I recommend looking for happy hours so you can fresh oysters for as low at .75 cent a piece. 

My three top places for seafood are:

1. Get the crawfish boil for $24/box at Three Legged Dog

2. Fresh oysters, shrimp or crawfish boil at J's Seafood Dock at the French Market

3. Happy Hour $7 for 6 fresh oysters at Trenasse

Fresh oysters and shrimp boil from J's Seafood Dock

#6 Ride a horse-drawn carriage

Along Jackson square, there is a line of horse-draw carriages that you can ride. They offer tours around the French Quarter as well. It's a great way to see the French Quarter if you don't want to walk.

#7 Check out the New Orleans filming locations

If you're a fan of NCIS New Orleans, American Horror Story - Coven or The Originals then you'll love being able to see the locations and buildings in person of where some of the filming took place. There are a lot of other tv shows and movies that have been filmed in New Orleans but the three shows that I listed are my favorite tv shows based in New Orleans.

House featured in American Horror Story - Coven

#8 Walk around the Garden District

Did you know that Beyoncé owns a house in the Garden District of New Orleans? I didn't know that either until recently but they have a house that they own. They don't stay there that often though according to the locals but they indeed do own a house.

The Garden District is one of the nicer areas of New Orleans and the homes are much different from the other homes you see throughout the city. Most of the homes have front yards and gardens hence the name "Garden District."

#9 Enjoy the street performers at Jackson Square

We were pulled in by a street magician because he really knew how to draw in a crowd. You will find lots of street performers as well as psychic, tarot, palm readings, etc.

#10 Check out the museums

New Orleans is filled with so much history so if you're a history buff or interested in the history of New Orleans, there are so many different museums to check out such as:

The National WWII Museum

Mardi Gras World

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

New Orleans Jazz Museum

Museum of Death

and there's so much more...

#11 Visit the plantations

Louisiana played a huge role in the slave trade. Some of the oldest plantations are located in Louisiana which have been opened to the public to learn more about the history of slaves in the U.S. You will definitely get some chills visiting the plantations. The most popular plantations in New Orleans are the Laura Plantation, Oak Alley Plantation, and Whitney Plantation.  

#12 Visit a voodoo shop

There is a huge misconception that voodoo is dark magic or evil. It is actually a religion from Africa. We learned a lot about voodoo and there are voodoo priests and priestesses working at the voodoo shops that are more than happy to help you learn about the religion of voodoo. Our tour guide recommended Voodoo Authentica because it is known for its Cultural Center & Collection and not just some tourist trap. You can find authentic voodoo dolls here and get a psychic reading done. I definitely regret not getting a psychic reading done when I was there so I'm definitely getting one next time.

#13 Do a swamp tour and visit the bayou

If you could only pick one thing out of this list to do in New Orleans, I highly recommend this one. The bayou is about 30-40 minutes south of the French Quarter and it looks like you're transported to a different world. It looks so different from the city and there's so much history about the swamp/bayou. 80%+ of New Orleans used to be covered in swamp. You can learn about the swamp's history, see alligators and even hold one if you'd like.

Alligators in the swamp

#14 Take a haunted history walking tour of the French Quarter

One of my favorite things we did in New Orleans was take a walking tour of the French Quarter where we learned about New Orlean's dark history and all of the haunted places throughout the French Quarter. It was great finally be able to dee the places in person from the stories I've read and things I've watched in movies and tv shows.

#15 Visit a cemetery or take a ghost tour

New Orleans has over 43 cemeteries and each of the cemeteries have a unique story along with unique tombstones, mausoleums, graves, etc. Cemeteries are a huge part of New Orleans. And if you're into ghost stories, definitely take a ghost tour.

Metairie Cemetery

Use Groupons:

For most of the tours and activities listed above, we booked Groupon deals for them. I highly recommend using Groupon to save money on the tours.

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I hope you enjoyed my list of 15 best things to do in New Orleans. There's so many more things to do in the area that I didn't include but these are my top recommendations. Comment below what your favorite things to do in New Orleans.