New Orleans is a beautiful city with a rich history, but most of what you hear about the Louisiana city is Bourbon Street, where many come to drink, party or check out Mardi Gras. While those things are plenty of fun, I’m here to tell you that the incredible NOLA has a lot more to offer than just easy booze and plenty of debauchery. I’m not suggesting you don’t do those things — all I’m saying is that you should definitely see what else New Orleans has to offer.
My best tip for traveling to New Orleans is to make sure that you pack plenty of walking shoes, since there are a lot of places to just get lost and wander (more on that later) and walking tours that you will want to check out. Of course, you probably already know that New Orleans is known for great Creole food, so THAT is a must to check out as well. But you might be surprised to hear that the city has different cuisines to offer (like Mexican!) and incredible music (jazz, DUH!). So start planning your trip to New Orleans ASAP with these 7 things you should definitely put on your itinerary.
1. Spend an afternoon walking around the French Quarter.
Yes, it’s the home of Bourbon Street and you’ll likely be spending some quality time drinking there — but first, I would recommend spending your time walking around the historic French Quarter. It’s a beautiful area known all around the world for incredible architecture, good food, and awesome music. There’s tons of shops to check out and, of course, desserts to devour. And yes, you can’t leave until you’ve stopped by the Café du Monde for beignets and a cafecito.
2. Eat at Johnny Sánchez for great Mexican cuisine in NOLA.
I’ve been a huge fan of Aarón Sánchez for years, so when I went to New Orleans I knew that I absolutely HAD to check out his newest restaurant concept, Johnny Sánchez. Originally a collaboration with John Besh, a king of New Orleans cuisine who has since stepped down due to sexual assault allegations that arose during the #MeToo movement in 2017, the restaurant “embodies the warmth of traditional Mexican cooking, and the fun and genuine hospitality that defines New Orleans.” The food was absolutely scrumptious and, if you’re in the mood for Mexican, I can’t recommend a better place to check out.
3. Head to Frenchmen Street for great jazz.
If you’re in New Orleans, then you probably like jazz just a little bit, amirite? You don’t have to be a huge fan of the music in order to enjoy it in one of its most famed cities. And where can you get it in NOLA? Look no further than Frenchmen Street, which is lined with tons of restaurants and bars all playing live music. You pretty much can’t go wrong with any of them, but do check things out beforehand to make sure they’re playing the kind of jazz you might like… and remember most places have a cover charge.
4. Check out the National WWII Museum (yes, really).
Look, I totally know what you’re going to say: A WWII museum? In New Orleans? SERIOUSLY? Yes, seriously! It’s actually one of the best museums I have ever been to and the history of WWII is both sad and fascinating. There’s a lot too see and learn, which honestly shocked me when my husband (a WWII buff) suggested going there. The National WWII Museum is an absolute treasure, and has a lot to offer for anyone who heads there. So, take a break from partying and sightseeing and maybe learn a little something.
5. Take a cemetery tour and learn a bit of NOLA’s dark history.
Cemeteries in New Orleans are known for being unique and beautiful, and you can learn a lot by taking a tour in a cemetery. The two main ones you will want to visit is the famed Lafeyette Cemetery No. 1, which is located in the historic Garden District and would be a great time to check out this area as well, and the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which is just outside of the French Quarter. The best one to try is the “Tombs by Twilight,” which allows you to tour Lafayette Cemetery at dusk for a truly unique experience.
6. Do some sightseeing on the Steamboat Natchez.
A classic steamboat ride in New Orleans is a really special treat, especially if you go aboard the New Orleans Steamboat Company’s Steamboat Natchez, which travels on the mighty Mississippi River for a daytime or dinner jazz cruise that runs year round. It’s a centuries-old tradition that you’ll want to take a part of. Plus, eating Creole food while riding on a steamboat will make you feel as if you belong in NOLA forever and ever. Oh, and the romance factor? Top notch!
7. Discover beauty at the New Orleans Museum of Art.
I always love to see a city’s art museum, because it says a lot about how much that particular city appreciates art and culture. The New Orleans Museum of Art definitely does not disappoint. If it’s a particularly nice day, I highly recommend checking out the sculpture garden but you can also spend a good chunk of the day wandering through the collections and the special exhibits inside. You will easily be enraptured for a while, so it’s probably best not to make too many plans the day you go.