Things to do in New Orleans

10 Cool Things to Do in New Orleans

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N’awlins – say it with me tourists (or New Awlins if you want to sound authentic, according to Urban Dictionary)! This Louisianian city is the friendliest place on Earth. There is no denying it, NOLA is wild; be prepared to lose you life and your liver to this hot mess if following these tips on cool things to do in New Orleans. From the French Quarter to Bourbon, the Garden District and Marigny, each neighbourhood and street has something unique to offer from partying to jazz, art and culture.

Things to do in New Orleans I Bourbon Street Hand Grenades

Magical Mayhem!

Fun Things to Do In New Orleans
1. French Quarter Fancy

For me, one of the main thing to see in New Orleans is the French Quarter. This is where all the happnin’ stuff takes place but Bywater is where all the trendies have taken over.

We stuck to Royal Street for walking (as advised by our Airbnb host, Yvonne) and walked everywhere.

Our first stop was Dat Dog for a hotdog and a drink, service was shocking (barman was wired) but the views were great for people watching and the SUN (to British readers, that’s the bright orange thing in the sky that gives us glorious heat) was out (had to bin my tights!) Nothing else disappointed us after that.

2. Jazz in the French Quarter

We watched a jazz band play in Bamboula’s, sucked in by the music and promise of a $5 Hurricane (bartender opened two Heinekens – accent problems!). Lots of restaurants in New Orleans to be had but even more drinking holes to tackle…

Bamboula Jazz I Things to do in New Orelans

We bought sangria at the French Market and sipped it by the river whilst watching the boats. For more on what to eat in New Orleans check out this 48-hour guide.

3. Hand Grenades on Bourbon Street

What are those luminous green long cups everyone is drinking? Hand Grenades from Tropical Island! On Bourbon Street. Now! Bourbon Street. Ooft!

This place is carnage, bead necklaces everywhere, drunk couples fighting, folk (sorry, people) spilling out of bars, graffitied signs, groups singing, music blaring – it’s like Benidorm in one street. But fun! It also has the oldest pub in the world on it – Lafitte Blacksmith Shop Bar.

Lafette's Blacksmith Shop Bar I Things to do in New Orelans_

Bourbon Street

After meeting lots of lovely people (an artist who wanted his photo taken with us; ‘James’ who wanted us to buy him a drink, beat it James, a group of boys who were amazed that you could meet another ‘half’ who also wanted to travel for 18 months and many admirers of Craig’s tattoo sleeve (yes, that again!) we binned our Hand Grenades (seriously, who can finish them?!).

Then we made ourselves look respectable so we could get into Hotel Monteleone to see The Revolving Carousel Bar. We cheekily took a photo and skipped off to return when less busy.

Hotel Monteleone I Things to do in New Orelans

Revolving Carousel Bar

4. Cafe Du Monde Desires

The rest of the night went past in a blur (I’m not sure what caused that.) but we ended up at Cafe Du Monde for a hot chocolate and beignets. Craig opted for pizza from The Pizza Pirate on Royal Street then it was bedtime. Day one over, I could not keep my eyes open. I love this place. Foodies: check out this guide to cheap eats in New Orleans.

5. Jackson Square

In 1960, Jackson Square was declared a National Historic Landmark. This historic park can be found in the French Quarter with lots of artists, musicians and horse and carts!

Jackson Square I Things to do in New Orelans

6. Before I Die, New Orleans

Day two involved a lot of walking (and the development of blisters). We had breakfast at Who Dat (forgot how big portions are in America) and then set off to catch a riverboat. However, another tourist looking for the ‘Before I Die’ wall stopped us in our tracks.

This wall was erected for locals to write what they wanted to do before they died in chalk. Turns out the wall was dismantled but a local invited us into her house (!) to show us the memorial she had for the wall and let us write our wishes down, she promises that everyone’s desires come true so it looks as though we’ll be saying bye to Craig for his next adventure to space.

Before I Die New Orleans I Things to do in New Orelans

7. St Charles Streetcar New Orleans

& Garden District

We finally made it to the river (with a $3 snowball, pink lemonade – very nice) to find the ticket office closed – mechanical issues with the boat. Not to worry, still so much to do in NOLA.

We waited patiently in line for the dark green St Charles New Orleans streetcar (the wait was long, the weather was humid and Craig was starting to fade), which eventually took us (it’s really slow, avoid it if you want to be somewhere prompt and you need the correct change) to the affluent Garden District where we wandered in awe at the size of the houses.

Street Car I Things to do in New Orelans

Quicker walking!

Garden City I Things to do in New Orelans

8. Ain’t no Party Like a Po’boys Party

I had my first Po’ boy sandwich (thick bread roll) at Ignatius Eatery on Magazine Street (cool street with lots of hipster bars and vintage shops), Craig had gumbo (stew type meal) so a very NOLA style lunch. Our time in the Garden District concluded with a quick walk around Lafayette Cemetery and a slow ride back to the French Quarter.

After a rest back at the double shotgun, the gravity of Frenchman Street pulled us back in (the smell of Bourbon Street repelled us), we searched for a Po’ boy (for Craig) and were finally saved by NOLA Po Boys where Craig basically had a steak pie in a roll (minus the pastry).

Full of starch we headed towards Bar Tonique but decided it was a bit up market for us and opted for home (tiredness beat us again).

9. Banksy in New Orleans (or not!)

Our last hours of the two days in New Orleans were spent searching for the work of Banksy (the British graffiti artist) however ‘The Grey Ghost’ has covered up much of his work (saving this for another post – too much art and graffiti in NOLA to squeeze into a sentence). We have now located ‘The Girl with the Umbrella’ but time was against us, looks like we’ll have to return to find her. Disappointedly, could not tick of my list of things to do in New Orleans.

Live a Great Story I Things to do in New Orelans

10. New Orleans Tours

When I return to New Orleans (for a third time) I plan to head out of the city, put down that cocktail Gemma, and check out more of New Orleans tours. First port of call will be a swamp tour. Next up, a tour around New Orleans cotton plantations (see comments below for reader suggestions!) to learn more about the history behind the beauty of those homes.

New Orleans has a variety of tours from the normal walking / segway to the slightly creepy ghost tours and the downright strange jogging tours! That’s the fun in New Orleans, anything goes. Hell, you can even get married on Pirate’s Alley.

New Orleans Hotels

New Orleans is actually a pretty expensive city for accommodation. Downtown hotels in New Orleans start from around £60 to £350 per night. Hostels, like many North American cities, are not great for private room budget travellers starting around £35 going up to £95.

New Orleans hostel dorms are definitely the cheaper option, starting at £13 – £30 per person. We opted for an Airbnb apartment in Marigny. This was our second Airbnb adventure, our first shared apartment. Airbnb first timer? Use our money off coupon – you get money off, we get credit, thank you!

Marigny New Orleans, Where the Locals Live

Mandeville Street, Marigny was our home via Airbnb in New Orleans. We chose Airbnb for three reasons. Firstly, we loved our experience using it for our trip to London last summer, secondly, New Orleans is expensive for accommodation (our room was £83 for two nights which is cheap) and finally, I wanted to stay in the cool hipster area of Marigny and it didn’t disappoint.

The ‘double shotgun’ house had a separate bedroom for us; a bed covered by throws which Yvonne, our very friendly hostess, uses and a third bed in the kitchen for other renters. Yvonne has a dog called Poochini, she’s lovely and kind which is surprising because she was a rescue dog – Poochini was tied to a very short rope (too short too allow him to lie down) outside his owner’s house during Hurricane Katrina. Yvonne was given her by a friend who turned out the be the owner of a bar I had on my ‘list’ Jake and Snakes Christmas Club.

A reader has updated me that Marigny is now taken over by Airbnb, I do hope that Yvonne still lives there!

Double Shotgun I Things to do in New Orelans

Airbnb I Things to do in New Orelans

New Orleans Restaurants

The Big Easy is all about what you put in your mouth! Not going to lie we pretty much lived of beignets from Cafe Du Monde and Po’ Boys from Johnny’s Po-Boys as it suited our drinking schedule and budget. However, there are a variety of restaurants in New Orleans which serve the ‘must try’ meals of Louisiana. Put some South in your mouth!

New Orleans was the first time I tried Jambalaya – a Louisiana Creole rice dish, kind of like paella. Best tried at Mother’s Restaurant. Sandwich lovers, check out Muffuletta – a tower piece of bread, meat, veg heaven. Central Grocery Store will hook you up with that hot mess of a lunch. If you are a fish lover, you have come to the right city – BBQ shrimp (does what it says on the tin) or Gumbo Shop’s award-winning gumbo, a soupy/stewy fish dish. De-licious!

Hover over to pin to your New Orleans inspiration board!

I hope your liver is ready for the hot mess that is NOLA, Louisiana. 7 Things to Do In New Orleans for the youngster in all of us.

Jazz, Po’boys, hand grenades! With these New Orleans attractions, you can see why it is easy to fall hard for The Big Easy. Put it on your ‘before I die list’! I’ve been twice and I would go again, that’s a rarity!

Have you been to New Orleans?
Would you like to go?

Gemma and Craig are full-time workers with a life-long travel habit. Flirting with 30 and let loose on the world! Gemma writes, Craig looks good in the photos.

Comments 16

  1. Waouw NOLA sounds amazing, you seemed to have had a great time there! 🙂 Can’t wait to read the rest!

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  2. So cool guys! Looks like you’re having an amazing time right from the off! How cute is that pup! Poor thing, glad it has found a happy place.

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  3. Still can’t believe you’re off on your adventure now 🙂 Glad it’s going brilliantly so far, your Airbnb in New Orelans was gorgeous!

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      I was just talking about you the other day, doesn’t feel like that long ago we were trying to work out Triberr!

  4. PLEASE: The next time you are in New Orleans take detour, forty minutes away, on the River Road, just beyond a town called Wallace, it the
    Whitney Plantation. This is a remarkable place, and tells the story of the Slaves like it is, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
    Read up a little abut it on the Internet. It is a riveting experience. Allow a half day and do the Tour when you get there – there are about three tours every hour.

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      This is excellent advice, thank you Phyl. I will 100% be back in New Orleans. I feel Austin, Portland and NOLA are my soul cities! Whitney Plantation sounds like the first trip I’ll be making on my return.

      1. Please write about it when you do the visit – would love to hear your impressions. AS you have a following, it may influence others to do the tour. Thanks for replying,.

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  5. New Orleans seems to be super hot in the summer, especially in July. Are there any water activities to do in New Orleans to keep you cool?

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      Good question! There are definitely some lakes which you can swim in (there are many swamps you don’t want to swim in!) around the Louisiana area, would depend on your timeframe and transport options. I’ve been in July and March and did the same activities both times with no stress. It would be expensive but a hotel with a pool might be your best option if you think you’ll need to cool off.

  6. You must do a swamp your. When we went for my 30th bday we did a swamp tour which was excellent. Got to hold a small ‘gator and see some of the big ones fed. Forgot the name of the company. If I remember I’ll be sure to comment back. Love NOLA!

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  7. Small corrections (from a New Orleanian): It’s Garden District, not Garden City. Never ever say “Nawlins” to anyone. And Marigny is not where many locals live anymore, it’s been taken over, much like Bywater, by AirBnB. However — Glad you had fun, and come back as there are many more bars you need to visit, places to eat, music to hear!

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      Hahhah, really why should you not say ‘Nawlins’ to anyone? Thanks for the correction and I will definitely be heading back. Airbnb is a touchy one – great for customers, really crap for those who want to buy a house. Our housing market is terrible in the UK but that’s not down to Airbnb (although I am sure it is having some contribution now). I can also the highland fling! 😉 Having a ceilidh for our wedding party actually – lots of fun.

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