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 French Quarter, New Orleans USA
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The best things to do in New Orleans right now

Go beyond Bourbon Street and discover music, culture and more local-approved things to do in New Orleans

Written by
Gerrish Lopez

New Orleans is a top destination for big annual events like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, for its renowned restaurants and bar scene and—for better or worse—Bourbon Street. Beyond the Quarter and its non-stop party scene, however, you can still find plenty of fun things to do in New Orleans, from world-class museums and amazing architecture to eye-opening history and outdoor attractions. Shop local businesses and unique art, dine at trendy new spots and beloved dives, take in the majesty of the mighty Mississippi, catch some incredible live music and so much more. The best things to do in New Orleans will give you a taste of all the city has to offer, setting the stage for many return visits.

This guide was updated by New Orleans-based writer Gerrish Lopez. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines

Best things to do in New Orleans

  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • French Quarter

While Bourbon Street can be avoided (unless it’s your first visit to New Orleans - you have to experience it), the French Quarter is always a must-do, any time of year. As the city’s oldest neighborhood, the Vieux Carre is packed with gorgeous architecture, loads of history, a wealth of food and music, and a cast of characters including long-time residents, chatty tour guides, and talented street performers. Don’t skip out on historic attractions like the Historic New Orleans Collection, and be sure to take in the views of the Mississippi from the edge of the Quarter.

Frenchmen Street
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Frenchmen Street

Marigny, the neighborhood adjacent to the French Quarter, is one of the city’s top spots for music. Here you’ll find a string of live music venues like Spotted Cat and dba offering jazz, blues, reggae and rock. There’s often a brass band performing on a corner. Restaurants offering pub grub, pizza and more will fuel you up for an energetic, music-filled stroll around the neighborhood.

Magazine Street
Photograph: Chris Granger

4. Magazine Street

This six-mile stretch has it all: shopping, dining, art galleries, unique architecture, an award-winning zoo and friendly local business owners. Get your steps in as you shop local boutiques, then reward yourself with a meal at one of the many restaurants along Magazine Street that offer sidewalk dining or patios overlooking the hustle and bustle of the street.

  • Sports and fitness
  • Exercise classes
  • Navarre

City Park is a beautifully landscaped, 1,300-acre green space filled with moss-drenched oaks, peaceful walking paths, and native birds. Head to the Big Lake and rent a swan boat, visit the Botanical Gardens, have a picnic or embrace your inner child at Storyland and the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park. Don’t miss the Couturie Forest, a diverse nature trail with New Orleans’ highest point: Laborde Mountain, at a whopping 27 feet above sea level.

  • Art
  • Navarre

The city's preeminent art museum sits within City Park, at the edge of the Big Lake. NOMA houses more than 40,000 pieces featuring pieces from the Italian Renaissance to modern works. Browse works from Monet, Degas, Rodin and O’Keefe as well as glass, ceramics, pre-Columbian art, and an extensive photography collection. Save time for the adjacent Sydney and Walda Bestoff Sculpture Garden, a beautifully landscaped showcase of the Museum’s sculpture collection.

  • Restaurants
  • Coffee shops
  • Vieux Carre
  • price 1 of 4

This French Quarter fixture since 1862 serves the the best cafe au lait alongside hot, fresh beignets at all hours. Take a peek in the window to see the magic happen, then dive in to your order of three. If you make it out without powdered sugar on your shirt, you're doing it wrong.

Lafitte Greenway
Photograph: New Orleans Recreation Department

8. Lafitte Greenway

Stretching from City Park to the edge of the French Quarter, this 2.6-mile linear park is a green oasis in the middle of the city. The bike and pedestrian path takes you past playgrounds, native landscaping, art, and sports fields, and is in close proximity to breweries, coffee shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. Stop by the Crescent City Farmers market on the Greenway on Thursday afternoons, or check out one of the many outdoor fitness classes offered throughout the week.

Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience
Photograph: Frank Aymami Photography

9. Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience

Explore a different side of the South at New Orleans' newest museum. The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience (MSJE) tells the unique story of Jews in thirteen Southern states from Colonial times to the present. Learn how Jews in the South were influenced by the culture of their new communities, and how they shared their own culture with these communities (which were primarily Christian) through heritage and traditions.

Algiers Ferry
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Algiers Ferry

At the foot of Canal Street, hop aboard the Algiers Ferry to feel the power of the Mississippi firsthand. The short ride on this commuter ferry will give you an amazing view of the city and a few minutes to be one with the river. On the other side, spend some time wandering the petite neighborhood of Algiers Point: cute homes, oak-lined streets, and a few cafes and bars.

Studio Be
Photograph: Traveling Newlyweds / Courtesy of New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau

11. Studio Be

This huge warehouse in Bywater welcomes visitors with a massive, colorful mural on its front. Studio Be houses the work of BMike—local artist Brandon Odums. He is known for his large-scale murals depicting Black culture in the city, and his studio showcases his floor-to-ceiling portraits of Black leaders and icons.

Crescent Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Crescent Park

While in Bywater, stroll the mile-and-a-half Crescent Park along the river. Climb the “rusty rainbow” (a huge steel arch that takes you over railroad tracks) and catch a breeze, have a picnic, watch roller skaters at the Mandeville Wharf, or just chill and watch as huge ships pass by.

Photograph: Shutterstock

13. Bacchanal

At the far end of Crescent Park sits Bacchanal. While it’s no longer a locals’ secret, this wine shop/hangout retains its unique local charm and funky hideaway feel. The lush back patio is the perfect spot to enjoy a bottle of wine and a cheese plate. Live music makes a visit here even more special.

Photograph: Shutterstock

14. Tipitina's

In a city full of iconic music venues, Tipitina’s stands out. The Uptown joint on Napoleon Avenue was founded in 1977 and is still going strong. For a good dose of New Orleans funk (the venue is now owned by the band Galactic, who continue the tradition of hosting local funk and rock bands as well as mid-sized national acts), check out the lineup at this local institution.

New Orleans Jazz Museum
Photograph: Shutterstock

15. New Orleans Jazz Museum

It's only logical for New Orleans to be home to a jazz museum, for this is the city where the musical genre was born. This comprehensive repository of artifacts from the very beginning of the 20th century lets you see and hear the history of jazz. The museum also presents concerts throughout the year and hosts educational programs for kids (and adults, too) aspiring to play jazz like the city's legends, from Louis Armstrong to Al Hirt, Louis Prima and more.

Photograph: Courtesy JAMNOLA


Experience joy, art, and music at this interactive installation in the Marigny. The 5,500-square-foot warehouse space has been converted into a selfie-haven with bright, colorful rooms designed by local artists to celebrate local art, music and culture. Jump into a pot with a giant crawfish, snap a pic with an oversized bust of local musicians, and become part of the art in virtual reality booths. It’s sensory overload, New Orleans style.

Sazerac House
Photograph: Shutterstock

17. Sazerac House

In this city with a lengthy history and culture surrounding cocktails, the Sazerac cocktail might be the most famous drink to come out of New Orleans. It sits on nearly every bar menu, has been designated the city’s official cocktail, and even has its own museum. Visit the Sazerac House—located at the site where the first cocktail was served—to learn the history of the drink through immersive exhibits and chats with virtual bartenders in an impressive setting.

Arts Market New Orleans
Photograph: Courtesy Arts Market New Orleans/Lazy Eye Photography

18. Arts Market New Orleans

Looking for a unique gift or souvenir? The twice-monthly Arts Market New Orleans features dozens of local artists selling everything from painting and ceramics to jewelry, home decor, photography and more, including plenty of NOLA-themed items. The market, featuring live music and food vendors, is held in City Park on the second Saturday of every month and Uptown in Harmony Park on the last Saturday of each month.

  • Attractions
  • Black Pearl

Spend an afternoon at one of the top zoos in the country. The Audubon Zoo has world-class exhibits featuring animals from Asia, Africa, and South America. You’ll also see seals, reptiles, and a glimpse of the Louisiana swamp. Located behind Audubon Park, the zoo has majestic oak trees (keep an eye out for resident peacocks). In the summer, the Cool Zoo water park offers a respite from the heat.

Local breweries
Photograph: Shutterstock

20. Local breweries

In addition to longtime favorites like NOLA Brewing and Faubourg Brewing (formerly Dixie Brewing), New Orleans has welcomed a slew of new breweries and beer gardens over the past few years. Enjoy a pint or two outside at breweries like Second Line and Zony Mash, or head to Wrong Iron or Tchoup Yard and find a spot in their sprawling outdoor patios. All offer live music on occasion, so be sure to check out their event calendars.

Photograph: Scott Gold

22. Streetcars

New Orleans’ streetcar system has been rolling since 1835. While you can no longer ride the Desire Line, made famous by Tennessee Williams, the existing lines offer a great way to see the city. The newer red streetcars run out to Mid-City, while the older, original green cars take you down historic St. Charles Avenue, past beautiful houses in the famed Garden District and Audubon Park.

  • Attractions
  • McDonogh

Blaine Kern has been building Mardi Gras floats for the various krewes that roll in Carnival parades in the weeks leading up to and on Mardi Gras Day (Fat Tuesday). He's known as "Mr. Mardi Gras" for a good reason, as his designs have delighted the city for over 50 years. Mardi Gras World is near the Convention Center and offers tours that give you a firsthand look at the heart of Mardi Gras parade experience, regardless of the time of year.

  • Things to do
  • Audubon

The 350-acre Audubon Park Uptown stretches between St. Charles Avenue and Magazine Street. The two-plus-mile paved loop is a favorite of bikers and joggers. Walk under the shade of massive oak trees, watch ducks and swans paddle around, or pick a spot to have a picnic or play some frisbee. The park is adjacent to the fabulous Audubon Zoo and The Fly—a stretch of park along the riverfront behind the zoo (take a walk back here and you may hear the monkeys or see a giraffe peeking out from its enclosure).

Vue Orleans
Photograph: Courtesy Vue Orleans

25. Vue Orleans

For a fabulous, interactive overview of what makes New Orleans so unique, head to the top of the Four Seasons Hotel. Vue Orleans features spectacular 360° indoor and outdoor observation decks overlooking the Mississippi, plus an interactive experience that celebrates the culture, history and music of the Crescent City. State-of-the-art technology brings the city's stories to life in a whole new way.

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