New Orleans, Louisiana, is a city filled with culture, history, and unforgettable attractions. From the iconic streetcars to the famous beignets, there is no shortage of things to do in the Big Easy. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, there are plenty of New Orleans bucket list items to check off your list in this vibrant city.
This blog post’ll give you a comprehensive guide on the best New Orleans bucket list items, including attractions, activities, and must-see landmarks.
Psychic Reading in Jackson Square
For a unique and mystical experience, visit Jackson Square, where you’ll find a variety of psychics, tarot readers, and palm readers offering their services. Get your fortune told, receive insights into your future, and enjoy the unique ambiance of this historic area.
My family is big fans of Psychic Dr. Joy Spaulding, who has repeatedly nailed our lives.
Feast on World-Famous Beignets at Café Du Monde
No trip to New Orleans is complete without indulging in the world-famous beignets from Café Du Monde. These light and fluffy pastries, covered in powdered sugar, have been a local delicacy since 1862 and an absolute must-try!
Pro Tip: Pair your beignets with a good strong chicory coffee, a NOLA staple!
Fun Fact: Café Du Monde sells between 30K – 35K beignets per day.
Enjoy Jazz and Zydeco Live Music
New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz. Live music can be found on nearly every corner. For an authentic experience, visit Preservation Hall, a historic venue hosting nightly live jazz performances. You can also find zydeco, a genre of music unique to Louisiana, at venues like the Spotted Cat Music Club and Tipitina’s, which I’ve loved since seeing The Big Easy with Dennis Quaid.
If you have yet to hear the sounds of Trombone Shorty, Dr. John, or Louie Armstrong, listen before you visit New Orleans to get a feel of the city’s flavor. And who can forget Big Al Carson, a NOLA legend?
Catch a Drag Show
You’ll find some of New Orleans’s best entertainment in the form of drag shows. Often, the performers at a drag show either sing or lip-sync. Rest assured, the queen’s costumes and make-up are masterfully done, making it hard to tell the actual sex of the performers, which is just as they intend it.
From Golden Lantern to Oz, you’ll be entertained by some of the city’s most talented drag performers.
Play a High Dollar Slot Machine
Are you feeling lucky? Head to Harrah’s, a New Orleans casino, and try your hand at a high-dollar slot machine. It’s a thrilling experience that you won’t soon forget! With 2,100 slot machines and 90 table games, it’s easy to lose track of time and how much money you’ve spent. Heed caution.
Try a Famous Hurricane Drink
An iconic New Orleans adult libation to try is the Hurricane. This world-famous cocktail is made from rum (light, dark, and 151), lemon juice, passion fruit syrup, and lots of ice. Head to Pat O’Brien’s, the originator of the Hurricane, for a drink that’s as delicious as it is potent!
Fun Fact: The signature drink got its name from the glass shaped like a hurricane lamp it is served in.
Visit the Oldest Bar in NOLA
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, sitting at the quiet end of Bourbon Street and established in 1722, is the oldest bar in the country. It is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Enjoy a drink in this historic candlelit building, rumored to have been a safe house for pirates in the 18th century. It is said to be haunted by many ghosts.
Photograph Beautiful St. Louis Cathedral
Located in Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral is a stunning example of Louisiana’s Spanish colonial architecture. Stroll through the square, snap a few photos, and marvel at the beauty of this landmark used for dozens of films. It is the most recognizable building in New Orleans.
A statue of Andrew Jackson sits in the foreground of the St. Louis Cathedral. Self-guided free tours are open to the public when it is not holding a mass, wedding, or funeral.
Find the NOLA’s Best Po-Boy
A New Orleans po-boy is a sandwich like no other, filled with your choice of seafood (shrimp, oyster, crawfish), fried chicken, roast beef, or other delectable options. Visit famous po-boy spots like Johnny’s Po-Boys (my fave!), Adam’s Street Grocery, Guy’s Poboys, or Domilise’s to find the best one for you.
I love the billowy bread that sandwiches the ingredients. Many of these only accept cash.
Admire the Architecture
New Orleans is home to some of the world’s most beautiful and unique architecture. From the French Quarter’s ornate balconies to the St. Charles Avenue mansions, there’s no shortage of stunning buildings to admire.
Shop for Souvenirs
Bring a little piece of New Orleans home with you by picking up souvenirs and gifts at the French Market, a historic shopping district filled with vendors selling everything from spices to artwork. My kids always loved the decorative masks and scads of colorful beads.
Ride a Streetcar
Hop on a streetcar and ride through the city’s historic neighborhoods. The New Orleans Streetcar line is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world (1835) and offers breathtaking views of the city.
Sights you can reach via the streetcar are Garden City, the National WWII Museum (St. Charles Avenue line), cemeteries (Canal Street line), Aquarium of the Americas (Riverfront and Canal Street lines), and French Market (Riverfront line). A standard one-way fare will cost you $1.25, which you will need in exact change.
Note: Make sure to call it by its real name, a streetcar. The word trolley is frowned upon around the city.
Explore the NOLA Pharmacy Museum
Step back in time at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, which offers a fascinating look at the history of medical practices in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The museum features exhibits on everything from voodoo medicine to pharmaceutical advertisements.
Throw Down Hand Grenades
Want a truly unique New Orleans drinking experience? Head to the Tropical Isle on Bourbon Street, where you’ll find the infamous Hand Grenade drink. This sweet & sour concoction is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. It is served in a yard-long plastic cup shaped like a hand grenade.
“Then at night I’m in New Orleans drinkin’ hand grenades.” – Ludacris
Check Out City Park
With over 1,300 acres, New Orleans City Park is one of the country’s largest parks and features various attractions, including the New Orleans Museum of Art, Storyland, and the Botanical Gardens. There are dozens of things to do there, including renting bikes (even tandems!), kayaks, and the cutesy swan boats.
You can also ride the adorable carousel, go for a gondola ride, and play putt-putt.
Wander the Sydney and Wanda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
Located in City Park, the Sydney and Wanda Besthoff Sculpture Garden is a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city. The garden features over 90 sculptures by world-renowned artists and is a must-visit for art lovers. Admission is free.
NOLA Street Art and Murals
New Orleans is a haven for street artists, with colorful and vibrant murals adorning buildings and walls throughout the city. Take a walking tour of the city’s street art scene, where you’ll discover hidden gems and stunning works by local artists.
You can also check out the art galleries in the Warehouse District, which feature contemporary street art that’s sure to impress. My favorite mural in town is Satchmo (Louis Armstrong) by Brazilian street artist Kobra.
Try the Taste of New Orleans
Shrimp creole, jambalaya, and red beans & rice are known as the “taste of New Orleans.” I call them the trifecta. Order this plate, and you’ll have sampled the classics. I love it from the award-winning Gumbo Shop.
Attend the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
Known as Jazz Fest, this iconic music festival (10-day cultural feast) occurs every year in late April and early May. It features some of the biggest names in music. From jazz and blues to rock and funk, there’s something for everyone at Jazz Fest and a kickin’ good time that draws nearly half a million visitors annually.
Some big-name acts at the 2023 JazzFest included Lizzo, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Ed Sheeran, Steve Miller Band, Santana, and Kane Brown.
Eat a Lucky Dog
The Lucky Dog Food Stand is a New Orleans institution that has been serving delicious street food since 1948. Famous for its Lucky Dog (hot dog), this iconic stand can be found on the corner of Bourbon and Canal Streets in the heart of the French Quarter.
Earn Your Beads
No trip to New Orleans is complete without participating in Mardi Gras traditions like catching beads and enjoying parades. Even if you’re not there during Mardi Gras season, you can still earn your beads by participating in bead-throwing contests or purchasing them at specialty shops. (well, there are other ways, too, which we shall omit and keep this article rated G)
Stroll Down Bourbon Street
No visit to New Orleans would be complete without a stroll down Bourbon Street. This iconic thoroughfare is home to some of the city’s best bars and restaurants, as well as a lively nightlife scene. Whether you’re looking to listen to jazz at Preservation Hall, pop in a girlie bar, or simply soak up the colorful atmosphere, Bourbon Street is a must-visit destination.
See a Saints Game
New Orleans is a football-crazy city, and attending a Saints game at the Caesars Superdome is an experience like no other. The energy and excitement of the fans are contagious, and the atmosphere is electric. Don’t worry about the weather cooperating, as the football games are played in a dome, which opens weather permitting.
You’ll see all walks of life and a plethora of costumed game-goers in this party city proudly boasting the loudest stadium in the NFL, which holds around 75,000. The black and gold New Orleans Saints were Super Bowl champs in 2010 when they defeated the Colts.
Roam the Garden District
The Garden District is one of New Orleans’ most picturesque neighborhoods, featuring breathtaking architecture, lush gardens, and historic cemeteries. Take a walking tour to learn about the area’s history and see some of the most beautiful homes in the city.
Eat a Muffuletta
This iconic sandwich, invented in New Orleans, features a hearty roll stuffed with salami, ham, Swiss cheese, and olive salad. It’s a delicious and filling meal that’s perfect for lunch or dinner.
You can find muffulettas at local delis and restaurants throughout the city, but the Central Grocery in the French Quarter is the birthplace of this classic dish and is a must-visit destination for any foodie.
See the Voodoo Queen’s Final Resting Place
Visit St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the final resting place of Marie Laveau, the “Voodoo Queen” of New Orleans. Her tomb is a popular attraction for those interested in voodoo and the city’s unique spiritual traditions.
Peruse the Art Galleries
New Orleans has a diverse and dynamic art scene, with galleries scattered throughout the city. Head to the historic and picturesque French Quarter, where you can dive into the vibrant local art scene. Don’t miss the energetic galleries on Julia Street. Check out the colorful Saint Claude Arts District, which features an eclectic mix of galleries, art collectives, and performance spaces.
My favorite is the Rodrigue Studio, which sells the whimsical blue dog artwork.
Order Bananas Foster Prepared Table Side
The Court of Two Sisters has withstood the test of time and is still packing people in by the hundreds. Go here for a perfect bananas foster made table side by your waitstaff. Sit outside under the twinkling lights for the best ambiance.
Tour Mardi Gras World
Get an inside look at the world-famous Mardi Gras celebrations by visiting Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World. This attraction offers a behind-the-scenes look at the float-building process and a chance to see some of the most elaborate Mardi Gras costumes up close.
Tickets run $22 for adults, $14 for children, and tours last one hour (running every 30 minutes). Hours of operation are 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM.
Learn About the Pontalba Apartments
These iconic red-brick buildings in the heart of the French Quarter were built in the mid-1800s and remain some of the city’s most impressive architectural treasures. Be sure to stroll down Jackson Square, where you can admire these stunning Pontalba buildings and learn about their rich history.
You can also explore the apartments, which feature gorgeous wrought-iron balconies and intricate details that harken back to a bygone era.
Have Drinks in the Carousel Bar
The Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone is one of New Orleans’ most iconic bars. It features a rotating carousel that seats guests as they enjoy their drinks. Try the Pina Colada, made on the rocks with a sugar rim; it’s sensational!
Ride the Creole Queen Paddlewheeler
Take a trip back in time on the Creole Queen Paddlewheel, an authentic steamboat that cruises down the Mississippi River. During your voyage, you’ll enjoy live jazz music, delicious Creole cuisine, and stunning views of the river and the city skyline. There’s no better way to experience the charm and beauty of New Orleans.
New Orleans, A City That Delights
New Orleans is a city with something for everyone, whether you’re interested in food, music, history, or culture. With so many bucket list items, you’ll never run out of things to do in the Big Easy.
From the iconic beignets to the world-famous jazz, these bucket list items are just a few of the many reasons to visit New Orleans.
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