Eighteen million tourists can’t be wrong—New Orleans is a prime destination. Whether you count yourself in their number or are lucky enough to live here full time, you’ll find more ways to stay entertained than there are hours in the day. Here are 25 essential things to do in New Orleans, whether you’re in town for a weekend or a lifetime.Read More
The 25 best things to do in New Orleans right now
25 places you have to see
There’s never a bad time to go to Audubon Zoo, a beautifully landscaped, 58-acre zoo that has been around since the 1884 World Exposition. But thanks to the Audubon Institute’s Community Connect program, entry is free for Orleans Parish residents on the third Wednesday of every month. Don’t forget to say hi to the sea lions, scale Monkey Hill, and make a splash at the Cool Zoo.
Longue Vue House & Gardens
Hidden in a lush area off Metairie Road, this classical revival home was built in 1939 and features eight acres of meticulously landscaped gardens. The historic home was designed by architects Platt & Platt and Ellen Biddle Shipman.
Barataria Preserve Visitor Center
The Barataria Preserve is just 30 minutes outside of New Orleans, but it feels like the secret, cypress-shaded heart of Cajun country. Wooden walkways criss-cross the swamps and give hikers a front-row view of birds, snakes, turtles, squirrels, and yes, the occasional alligator. Don’t forget the mosquito repellant.
New Canal Lighthouse
Sea gulls? Check. Salty water? Check. Lighthouse? You bet! The New Canal Lighthouse is the site of a museum that reveals a little-known part of New Orleans’ maritime history. It also offers beautiful Lake Pontchartrain views. Take the tour, stroll down the lakefront, and grab lunch at a nearby seafood restaurant.
New Orleans Botanical Garden
Open since the 1930s, this beautifully cultivated, 10-acre collection of gardens boasts some of the oldest live oak trees in the world, and admission is free for Louisiana residents on Wednesdays. Step inside the Conservatory of the Two Sisters if you want to get out of the sun while taking in the sights of prehistoric plants and a rain forest exhibit.
Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
Ever since opening in 2003, this serene assembly of sculptures scattered throughout an oak-shaded, lagoon-filled garden has been a crown jewel of City Park. Plus, its six-acre expansion opened, making now a great time to revisit this favorite spot.
Louisiana Children's Museum
The Louisiana Children’s Museum recently moved from its old Julia Street warehouse to a lagoon-filled, 8.5-acre campus in City Park. Designed by Seattle-based sustainable architecture firm Mithūn, the museum includes a literacy center, parent-teacher resource center, museum store, and Acorn, a restaurant operated by Dickie Brennan & Company. Its lush grounds include decks, bridges, gardens, and a floating classroom. Landscape architects planted indigenous trees and shrubs throughout the campus.
If you’re looking for a taste of New Orleans history, check out this Creole Colonial country house, which also serves as the home of the Louisiana Landmarks Society. The Society has maintained this 19th-century home and its antique furnishings.
Le Musée de F.P.C.
This historic home museum showcases the culture and history of free people of color in New Orleans from pre-Civil War to post-Civil Rights.
The National WWII Museum
Founded in January 2000, this contemporary museum has a 1940s-themed diner and gorgeous pavilions. In addition to its fantastic exhibits, it has a one-of-a kind 4D “Beyond All Boundaries” feature.
Built in 1831, this historic Federal-style mansion with its courtyard garden is one of the earliest examples of American architecture in the French Quarter.
Louis Armstrong Park (Congo Square)
This shady, lagoon-filled park sits at the edge of Treme, on the cusp of the French Quarter. Beyond its open spaces, it holds the historic Congo Square site, which is one of the quintessential birth places of African-American music in New Orleans. You'll also find several sculptures dedicated to native musicians. Grab a frozen drink at Tonique, a craft cocktail bar just on the other side of Rampart, and take a stroll.
St. Augustine Catholic Church
Treme’s St. Augustine Church is the oldest African-American Catholic parish in the nation. The church was designed by J.N.B. de Pouilly, who is known for renovating the St. Louis Cathedral in 1849. The church also houses the Tomb of the Unknown Slave, a monument that honors enslaved people of African descent who died in New Orleans and were buried in unmarked graves.
Backstreet Cultural Museum
This hidden gem, located in Treme, holds the city's largest collection of Mardi Gras Indian costumes, as well as artifacts related to jazz funerals and social aid and pleasure clubs.
The Historic New Orleans Collection
The Historic New Orleans Collection, a museum, research center, and publisher, doubled its square footage this past spring with the opening of its new exhibition center. Don’t miss the virtual reality binoculars or the video installation on the third floor. The museum features rotating exhibitions, as well as a huge collection of photos and other materials exploring the city's history, art, music, culture, and decorative arts.
New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
The weird (and slightly horrifying) museum is housed in a circa 1823 apothecary in the French Quarter. You'll find all manner of strange objects here, including leeches, Voodoo potions, and opium-soaked tampons. The museum also has a lovely courtyard that doubles as a wedding venue.
One of New Orleans's best secret spots is this pedestrian street that runs between St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo. You’ll also find Faulkner House Books, which housed William Faulkner as he wrote a novel.
St. Louis Cathedral
This iconic cathedral, which sits right across from Jackson square, ranks among the oldest in the United States. The church was built in 1789, after the original structure at the site was destroyed in the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788. It’s an absolutely beautiful place to sit quietly and reflect, regardless of your religious beliefs.
Designed in 1791, the building was used by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Its two permanent exhibits (“Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time” and “Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond”) tell the stories of Louisiana’s greatest celebrations and losses.
Originally owned by the neighboring Ursuline Convent and known for famous residents Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard and author Frances Parkinson Keyes, this Victorian home is now a museum with one of the most beautiful gardens in the city.
New Orleans Jazz Museum
This building, which served as a branch mint of the United States Mint from 1838 to 1861 and from 1879 to 1909, is now the New Orleans Jazz Museum. It hosts interactive exhibits, educational programming, research facilities, and music festivals and concerts.
Algiers Ferry Terminal
The Algiers Ferry is the most scenic way to get across the Mississippi River, where the charming hamlet of Old Algiers awaits. Explore its historic architecture, bars, coffee shops, and boutiques, or stroll down the levee’s Jazz Walk of Fame.
The Country Club
It’s hard to miss the Italianate raised center-hall cottage at Louisa and Royal streets in Bywater. Yellow and fern-hung, with a deep front porch, the circa-1884 building’s evolution has paralleled the neighborhood’s own. Over the last four decades, it’s shifted from private residence to under-the-radar gay bar to trendy day club. In 2017, owners completed extensive renovations to the building’s interior, and in 2018, they followed suit by renovating the cabana bar--completing its transformation into a hot tourist destination. It’s still a great place to eat, drink, and be merry—admission to the saltwater pool is $15 daily.
Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits
The neighborhood secret may be out, but there’s still no better time than now to enjoy Old World wines, cheese, and live music in an oak- and tiki-torch filled backyard. There’s also an upstairs bar with air conditioning. Go on a weeknight to avoid the inevitable lines.
House of Dance and Feathers
Located in the Lower Ninth Ward, this museum holds an extensive collection of Mardi Gras Indian books, costumes, and artifacts native to New Orleans.