15 things that you must experience in New Orleans

In this post, I will be discussing 15 things that you must experience in New Orleans, Louisiana.

As a city that had been on my bucket list for quite some time, I unsurprisingly fell in love with New Orleans as soon as I arrived. Full of colour, charming architecture and a massive art scene, I couldn’t help but wish I’d booked more than five days to explore the city.

I recommend spending at least five days in the city. However, you could easily spend a week or more due to the number of activities, tours, and excursions on offer. Here are 15 things that you must experience in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Read more: My top 5 travel experiences of 2017

#1 Admire the French quarter

With its charming architecture, art shops and lively bars, exploring the French quarter is something that you must experience in New Orleans. Spend an afternoon wandering around admiring the stunning buildings, browsing in boutiques and checking out some amazing art galleries.

#2 Discover the cities amazing nightlife

New Orleans is a party city that has a bustling nightlife. With live music playing in many bars almost every night, the atmosphere is truly amazing and is an experience I would definitely recommend while in the city. Be sure to check out the nightlife on Bourbon Street and Frenchman Street, where some of the best live music can be found.

Checking out the bars and watching the live bands is something that you must experience in New Orleans. Also, make sure you try a hurricane!

#3 Learn the history behind one of the cities many plantations

Another thing that you must experience in New Orleans is a trip to one (or more) of the cities many plantations.

I recommend going on a tour of Whitney plantation, where your guide will educate you on the history of the plantation. Unlike others in the area, Whitney teaches visitors what life was like for the slaves and not the owners. You will discover the terrible conditions that the slaves were forced to work and live in.

Visiting Whitney plantation was an eye-opening experience for me, but other nearby plantations include Oak Alley, Ormond plantation and several others. I would recommend doing some research on which plantation/s you wish to visit as you can realistically only visit one or two on a day trip out of New Orleans.

Plantation tours can be booked through Graylines online, at the kiosk on the riverside or through Viator. The tours start from approximately $65 USD and include coach transport to and from the plantation from the city, entrance into the plantation and the guided tour.

must experience in New Orleans

#4 Visit a swamp

If you’re interested in wildlife and animals, be sure to book onto a tour of a swamp. For $48 USD I booked onto this tour of Honey Island swamp which included pick up and drop off from my hostel in the New Orleans. On this tour, you will get to see some amazing wildlife and animals such as birds, wild boars and alligators.

#5 Join a spooky tour

Known as one of the most haunted cities in the USA, New Orleans is bursting with stories about ghosts, vampires and voodoo queens. As a result, there are many tours that you can join to discover the spooky history behind the city.

You can go on tours dedicated solely to voodoo, vampires, ghosts and witchcraft. However, if you are limited on time in the city or if you are looking for a mix of stories combined into one tour, the ultimate 5-in-1 haunted tour of New Orleans is perfect for you.

must experience in New Orleans

#6 Visit Gallier House

Located on Royal Street in the French quarter, Gallier house is a national historic landmark. The building was designed by father and son James and James Jr. Gallier in 1857. James Jr. Gallier then moved into the house in 1860 with his wife, children and the four family slaves.

The tour of Gallier house is intriguing and offers visitors an interesting insight into family life during that era. To book your tickets online in advance, click here.

#7 Stroll around the garden district

The garden district is home to some of the most lavish homes in the city and is definitely worth a little wander. Book onto a walking tour of the garden district to admire some beautiful homes and architecture or combine it with a tour of Lafayette Cemetery.

#8 Tour a cemetery

Due to the fact that the city of New Orleans is below sea level, the dead are buried above ground. To prevent the coffins rising up out of the ground, burial plots in the cities cemetery’s are shallow and the dead are now buried in vaults, tombs and crypts. Perhaps the most popular cemetery to visit is St Louis Cemetery No.1, home to the final resting place of famous voodoo queen Marie Laveau.

Cemetery tours can be booked online with Viator or Get Your Guide. You can also book upon arrival in the city at tourist kiosks or storefronts.

must experience in New Orleans

#9 See the home of Mardi Gra

Once a year, thousands of tourists and party-goers flock to the city of New Orleans to enjoy Mardi Gra – a major carnival and celebration that commences before the fasting period of Lent.

If you’re interested in seeing the work that happens behind the scenes, head to Mardi Gra world. Here you can take a tour, see the team at work and learn about the preparation and work that goes into the parades each year.

Tip: There is a free shuttle bus that you can board from French quarter or downtown. The shuttle bus will also take you back into the centre when you are finished on your tour. Click here for further information on the Mardi Gra World shuttle bus. 

must experience in New Orleans

#10 Relax at city park

If you need to wind down after a night of drinking or a morning of sightseeing, head to city park. Grab a book, a picnic and spend an afternoon relaxing. We all need to recharge every once in a while and this is the perfect place to do so!

#11 Visit the Louisiana State Museum

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina spread devastation across the city of New Orleans. As one of America’s deadliest hurricanes, the disaster is understandably still a strong memory in the minds of the locals. Although upsetting, visiting the Louisiana state museum will educate you on the mortifying and life-changing events that thousands of people endured during this time. Visiting this museum is something you must experience in New Orleans.

#12 Jackson Square

Home to St. Louis Cathedral and the Louisiana state museum, exploring the area of Jackson Square is something that you must experience in New Orleans. The square is extremely charming, with artists, musicians and psychics adorning each side of the gates that house the park. You simply can not visit New Orleans without exploring Jackson square.

must experience in New Orleans

#13 Museum of death

A unique (and a little creepy) way to spend a few hours would be to visit the museum of death. Located on Dauphine street in the French Quater, the museum shares freaky stories, artwork, newspaper clippings and police records of some of the worlds most notorious murderers. They also showcase a skull collection, crime scene photographs and more that is definitely not suitable for the faint-hearted.

Tip: The museum aims to educate visitors on death and take away peoples fear of dying. However, it is not advisable to visit if you are squeamish or visiting the city with young children. The museum opens daily (except on Tuesday) from 10am – 6pm and entrance cost $15 USD. 

#14 Shop at the French market

The French market located just a short walk away from Jackson Square is popular with both tourists and locals. Vendors at the market sell a range of products from souvenirs and clothing, to food and handmade art. The French market is a great place to pick up some gifts or grab a bite to eat.

#15 Check out some art

Finally, if like me you are a massive art lover, New Orleans is a great city to explore. The city boasts a thriving art and design district, several art galleries and a number of art stores hidden away in the French Quarter. You could literally spend days upon days admiring some incredible art which will leave you feeling extremely inspired. If you only have time to check out one galley, make it the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. 

must experience in New Orleans

Have you been to New Orleans? What was your favourite thing about the city? Have I missed anything off the list that you believe visitors of the city must experience in New Orleans? Let me know in the comments below!

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