Top 10 Fun Things to Do When Visiting New Orleans

By Susan Guillory · July 24, 2023 · 6 minute read

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Top 10 Fun Things to Do When Visiting New Orleans

Considering a trip to the Crescent City? Many say visiting New Orleans is like traveling to another country. There’s so much to explore in terms of culture, food, music, and fun.

Let’s look at things to do in New Orleans, as well as the best time to visit.

Best Times to Go to New Orleans

New Orleans is temperate year-round, with winter rarely dipping below the 60s during the day, and summers topping out in the 90s. That means even the winter offers a great opportunity to explore the many fun things to do in New Orleans without freezing on your vacation.

If you’re looking for action, consider going during Mardi Gras season. Mardi Gras is a different date every year, but usually falls in February or March, and the celebrations start weeks before. You’ll find both parades and events for tourists in the French Quarter, as well as smaller family-friendly parades outside the tourist area.

Here are just a few of the events hosted each year in NOLA (New Orleans + LA, for Louisiana):

•  March: New Orleans Book Festival

•  April: French Quarter Festival

•  April/May: Jazz Fest

•  June: Creole Tomato Festival

•  June/July: Essence Festival

•  October: Oktoberfest

•  November: Bayou Bacchanal

•  December: Christmas Eve Bonfires on the Levee

Learn how to find travel deals before your trip.

Bad Times to Go to New Orleans

While New Orleans parties all year round, beware the humidity. From May to September, the city can be muggy — which isn’t ideal if you’re planning many outdoor activities.

Hate crowds? You may prefer not to visit during major events like Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest. Prices tend to be higher during these peak seasons, too.

One tip for family travel is to go off-season: You may find more deals from September to April. Hot tip: Halloween brings many costumed revelers, but doesn’t get too crazy.

10 Fun Must-Dos in New Orleans

This roundup of the best things to do is based on this writer’s 20 years of visiting the Big Easy.

1. The French Quarter

If you haven’t been to the French Quarter, have you really been to New Orleans? This historic district, founded in 1718, is a great place to walk, explore, dine, and enjoy local music and culture. Many find the Quarter reminiscent of France, with its quaint buildings adorned with elaborate wrought iron railings. In fact, New Orleans is sometimes known as the Paris of the South.

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2. Cafe du Monde

While you’re in the French Quarter, stop at the iconic Cafe du Monde, famous since 1862 for its beignets, fried squares of dough covered in powdered sugar. Just don’t wear white, because getting the sugar all over you is half of the fun! Adults can partake of its equally renowned chicory coffee, while kids enjoy chocolate milk. Open 24/7.

3. Music on Frenchmen Street

If you’re looking for fun things to do in New Orleans for couples, an evening on Frenchmen Street is a must. This neighborhood on the edge of the French Quarter is home to jazz clubs like The Spotted Cat and Snug Harbor. You’ll also find great options for drinks and dinner.

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4. The French Market

The historic French Market has been around since 1791, and now houses restaurants, shops offering local flavors and gifts, and open-air markets. It’s also home to many annual events, like the Creole Tomato Festival. 10am-6pm daily.

5. Music at Preservation Hall

One of the top things to do in New Orleans for jazz lovers is to hear music at Preservation Hall. The Hall, which has been the backdrop to some of the biggest names in jazz, offers music 350 days a year. Arrive early; the space is small, and seating is limited. Tickets from $25 standing, $40 seated.

6. Mardi Gras World

Curious about what goes into building the world-famous Mardi Gras floats of New Orleans? Mardi Gras World provides a behind-the-scenes look at how these floats are made. You can see actual artists busy at work on float features for next year’s parades. Tours every 30 mins 9:30am-4pm. Adults $22. Kids $14.

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7. Mulate’s Cajun Restaurant

If you want a taste of local cuisine and the chance to attend a fais-do-do (Cajun dance party), Mulate’s Cajun Restaurant is the place to go. The restaurant features Creole and Cajun classics like grilled oysters, jambalaya, and gumbo. Most nights, a zydeco band plays, and locals and visitors alike get the chance to cut a rug on the spacious dance floor.

8. Steamboat Natchez

See New Orleans from a different perspective by taking a trip on the Steamboat Natchez. You can take a daytime or dinner jazz cruise on this last authentic steamboat on the Mississippi River. Tickets from $39.

9. New Orleans Museum of Art

Art lovers will enjoy a few hours in the New Orleans Museum of Art, where you’ll find permanent and rotating exhibits of modern and historic art, as well as a beautiful sculpture garden. Tue–Sun 10am–5pm; Wed 12pm–7pm. Adults $15; kids and teens free.

10. New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum

New Orleans is known for its darker side. If that appeals, you won’t want to miss a trip to the Voodoo Museum. Here you’ll discover the secrets, rituals, and traditions of voodoo practitioners, past and present. There is also an optional walking tour that includes Congo Square and Marie Laveau’s house. 11am-7pm daily.

The Takeaway

With so much to see, do, and eat in New Orleans, the challenge will be fitting it all in during your vacation! Music is a big part of city culture, so don’t miss a live performance at Preservation Hall or one of the many jazz clubs on Frenchmen Street. If you’re feeling daring, check out the Voodoo Museum. Or just relax with beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde and watch the crowds go by.

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What is the most popular thing to do in New Orleans?

The historic French Quarter is by far the most popular area of the city for visitors. There, you can find museums, music events, and restaurants offering Creole and Cajun cuisine.

What are popular events in New Orleans?

Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest are two of the largest annual events held in New Orleans, drawing thousands of visitors from around the globe.

How many days should I spend in New Orleans?

While you could easily spend five to seven days in the Crescent City, plan for at least three to four to see as much as possible.

Photo credit: iStock/Kruck20

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