New Orleans is an over-the-top experience for the senses, a city filled with vibrantly colored streets, soul-filled rhythm and blues, and memorable flavors. The coastal Louisiana enclave is the culinary heart of creole and cajun food, and beyond delicacies from gumbo to shrimp and grits, it’s the city that brought us the muffuletta, beignets, and char-broiled oysters.

Nicknamed “The Big Easy,” it’s a town of jazz kings and queens, iconic architecture, the New Orleans Saints, and perhaps the most spirited street in America — Bourbon Street. It’s also one of the only cities in America where you can legally drink on the street, which only adds to the lively nature of NOLA nightlife.

Comedian and actor Hannibal Burress famously said of the Big Easy that “for $300 you can have your own parade on a day’s notice,” and if that doesn’t beautifully encapsulate the glory of New Orleans in one sentence, we don’t know what does. Not surprisingly, the motto of New Orleans is “Laissez les bon temps rouler,” or “Let the good times roll.”

Louisiana is divided into parishes rather than counties like the other states, and greater New Orleans spans eight parishes. New Orleans is one of the top 10 cities in the United States for the number of annual visitors. And it’s important to remember that category five Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005, flooding 80 percent of the city, which is still rebuilding from the devastation.

For legendary New Orleans jazz — the city is known as the birthplace of jazz, and legendary musician, Louis Armstrong was born in the city — the best restaurants in New Orleans, and every other must-try activity, including tours of the bayou and ghost tours of the city’s most haunted streets, consult this guide. We’ve mapped out exactly what to do in New Orleans to experience this renowned city of celebration and resilience.


Best Hotels and Resorts

Courtesy of Maison de la Luz

Maison de la Luz

A favorite of luxury travelers, Maison de la Luz is a gorgeously decorated hotel known for its idyllic guest house. The hotel has 67 suites, including over-the-top rooms like the Grand Studio suite, which can be joined with a one-bedroom suite to accommodate larger groups. If you’re looking to book a room in one of the best hotels in New Orleans, this is definitely a must-stay.

Hotel Peter and Paul

Once a church, rectory, schoolhouse, and convent, Hotel Peter and Paul has refurbished the former religious institution into a memorable boutique hotel.The schoolhouse has 59 rooms and the reception area; the convent has seven rooms and the Sundae Best Ice Cream shop; and the rectory features a brick-lined courtyard, on-site restaurant, and the last five rooms.

The Roosevelt New Orleans

Home to the Sazerac Restaurant, an outdoor pool, a rooftop bar, Waldorf Astoria spa, and polished guest rooms and suites, the historic Roosevelt New Orleans offers an opulent experience.

The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans

Set in the heart of the French Quarter on famed Canal Street, guests can listen to live jazz at the Davenport Lounge, marvel at the authentic Beaux Arts architecture of the 1908 building, indulge in the spa’s VooDoo ritual, and dine at on-site M Bistro.

Melrose Mansion

This luxury boutique offers 14 rooms and suites, each with unique design, in the historic Faubourg Marigny neighborhood within walking distance to attractions like the French Market, Cafe du Monde, and Jackson Square.


Best Things to Do

French Market

French Market is a popular open-air market and food hall in New Orleans. The space has permanent food stalls serving local étouffée, char-broiled oysters, crawfish, and more. Culinary demonstrations and cultural events are held there as well.

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New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours

New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours offers a range of excursions, including a tour of Manchac Swamp, an extended bayou tour along Shell Bank, and an introduction to the scenic Honey Island Swamp. The discovery experiences are educational, ecological, and cultural.

Preservation Hall

TK

Honorable Mention: Frenchmen Street is one of the best streets for live music in New Orleans, and the Blue Nile is one of the best spots. Catch jazz, funk, blues, and brass bands at Blue Nile, and you’ll immediately be swept up in the Frenchmen Street atmosphere.

New Orleans Ghost Adventures Tour

Much of New Orleans folklore is rooted in the city being more than a little bit haunted. As such, ghost tours are quite popular in the French Quarter. Summon spirits from the beyond with a New Orleans Ghost Adventures Tour. They offer a selection of tours, including voodoo and cemetery tours, haunted pub crawls, and ghost tours of the Garden District.

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National WWII Museum

The museum’s exhibits cover “the war that changed the world” through exhibits that focus on world leaders, events, and the war’s courageous men and women. Stay on the Museum’s campus at the Higgins Hotel and Conference Center, an art-deco-style property offering first-class accommodations.

Read More: 25 Best Things to Do in New Orleans, From Streetcar Rides to Bar Crawls

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Best Shopping

Shops at the Colonnade

Next to French Market, the open-air food hall, you’ll find great shopping at the Shops at the Colonnade. After lunch at the market, dip into the Shops at the Colonnade to find souvenir vendors and local boutiques.

Piety & Desire Chocolate

Be sure to visit Piety & Desire Chocolate for a box of gorgeous chocolats to take home as a souvenir. (or enjoy while you’re in NOLA)

Louisiana Music Factory

Stop in at Louisiana Music Factory where you’ll find an inspiring number of records (across every genre, but with an emphasis on soul) as well as CDs, sheet music, posters, books, tee shirts, and hats.

St. James Cheese Company

A local favorite in New Orleans, St. James Cheese Company has an extensive, high-end array of fromage. Visit St. James at either their uptown or Warehouse District venues for a few artisanal goods—and grab a sandwich to go while you’re there.

Billy Reid

Billy Reid is a prominent Southern clothing designer, so why not duck into the branch on Magazine Street and outfit yourself like a Southern lady or gentleman? Their style has an air of Southern class with a modernized, street-style finish.


Best Restaurants

New Orleans is a food lover’s paradise with many must-try dishes and delicacies. The official cocktail of New Orleans is the Sazerac which was created in a French Quarter bar. Those visiting should try Creole and Cajun food. Some iconic dishes from New Orleans include gumbo, shrimp and grits, muffuletta, beignets, char-broiled oysters, and po’ boys.

Commander’s Palace

World-class chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme have graced the kitchen of this landmark restaurant. In existence since 1893, Commander’s Palace features “haute Creole cuisine” and a “dirt to plate within 100 miles” policy that contributes to its legendary status as one of the city’s great dining establishments.

Herd Dat Kitchen

This Black-owned eatery is a no-frills spot with (limited) outdoor seating. Though, we recommend ordering for pickup or through an app to enjoy on a night in. First-time visitors at Herd Dat Kitchen should try the Superdome: blackened fish topped with mashed potatoes garnished generously with lobster cream sauce, corn, and crispy onion rings.

Susmita Baral / Travel + Leisure



Elizabeth Street Cafe

This neighborhood Vietnamese cafe and French bakery TK.

Loretta’s Authentic Praline

Cafe du Monde and Cafe Beignet get a lot of recognition (rightfully so!) for their beignets but Loretta’s Authentic Praline elevates the offerings. The praline beignets are decadent and the Rampart Street location offers savory varieties like crab meat beignets and breakfast versions.

Susmita Baral/Travel + Leisure



Toup’s Meatery

With signature Meatery Boards and his meat-focused entrées that range from lamb to venison, chef Isaac Toup manages to blend fine dining with the casualness of charcuterie and wine. As Toups approaches its 10-year anniversary, Toup continues to branch out, releasing two new hot sauce flavors to go along with his 2018 cookbook Chasing the Gator.

Courtesy of Toup’s Meatery




Best Time to Visit

New Orleans is a great city to visit in the winter and spring, whereas the heat, high humidity, and threat of hurricanes make the summer and fall less enticing. June through August can be rainy. Hurricane season is from June through November.

Some visitors plan a trip around Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday), which typically falls in February. (If you want to experience Mardi Gras, be sure to book well ahead of time and be ready for hotel rates to be higher than at other times of the year. Also, many popular sightseeing attractions are closed during Mardi Gras.) Others stay away from the crowds and high price tags associated with the festivities of the biggest event of the year.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and New Orleans Wine & Food Experience are popular events that attract visitors.

Read More: Best Time to Visit New Orleans for Great Weather and Fewer Crowds

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Neighborhoods to Know

French Quarter: Between the Central Business District and the Marigny, the French Quarter is where you’ll find some of the best restaurants and nightlife in New Orleans. One of New Orleans’ most historic neighborhoods, the Quarter is where you’ll find the delightful French Market and, of course, lavish homes with the quintessential decorative facades.

Marigny: From gorgeous historic buildings to under-the-radar jazz clubs and inviting local shops, the Marigny is a lovely place to spend time when visiting New Orleans. Adjacent to the French Quarter, it’s an easy walk to find the artistic heart of New Orleans. Come for the preserved architecture, and stay for the Frenchmen Palace Market.

Garden District: South of the French Quarter and Marigny area and slightly farther inland, you’ll find NOLA’s Garden District, home to Commander’s Palace and lush, oak tree-lined streets. In this neighborhood, which dates back to the 19th century, you’ll find opulent mansions that exude Southern charm and old-world design.

Bywater: Boho-chic New Orleans neighborhood, Bywater, sits on the Mississippi River, bordering the Marigny. It’s slightly quieter than the Marigny and significantly quieter than the French Quarter but packs an arts and culture punch. You’ll find NOLA’s best galleries and vintage shopping in Bywater.

Central Business District: Also thought of as New Orleans’ downtown, the Central Business District (CBD) is centrally located, roughly equidistant to the Marigny and the Garden District. New Orleans’ business district is bustling seven days of the week and is home to some of the city’s most renowned restaurants and high-end hotels.

Treme: Bordering the French Quarter, this area was founded in the 18th century, and is known for African American history, authentic Creole food, parades, jazz funerals, and the Backstreet Cultural Museum.


How to Get Around

The New Orleans Transit Authority operates four streetcar lines: the St. Charles line, the Canal Street line, the Riverfront line, and the Rampart line. Plan ahead using the map and have your exact fare ready as they do not give change. ($1.25 one way) They also offer a Jazzy Pass which can be purchased online.

Taking a streetcar is part of the fun as well as convenient transportation. The historic vehicles are part of New Orleans’ history.

Buses: There are 40 different RTA bus routes that run across the city of New Orleans. A one-way ticket costs $1.25, and a $3 all-day Jazzy Pass gets you unlimited rides for 24 hours.

Ferries: RTA Ferries transport travelers to Algiers for $2 per ride and are commonly referred to as “water taxis.”


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