There is no denying it, New Orleans, Louisiana is wild! From the French Quarter to Bourbon Street, the Garden District and Marigny, each area has something unusual to offer. So whether you are a first-time visitor or repeat offender, let’s take a look at the unique things to do in New Orleans.
- Unusual Things to do in New Orleans
- Unique Activities in New Orleans
- 1. Stay in a Shotgun
- 2. Street Car to Garden District
- 3. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
- 4. Magazine Street
- 5. Day Jazz Cruise on the Steamboat Natchez
- 6. Who Dat Coffee Cafe
- 7. Snack on Snowballs
- 8. Snap Street Art
- 9. Tiled Neighbourhoods
- 10. Dine at Dat Dogs
- Things to You Can Only do in New Orleans
- 11. Bob Your Head at Bamboulas
- 12. Eat Po’ Boys
- 13. Johnny’s Po-Boys
- 14. Munch Muffuletta at Central Grocery Deli
- 15. Devour Cafe Du Monde
- 16. Eat Seafood
- 17. Drink Hand Grenades
- 18. Lafitte Blacksmith Shop Bar
- 19. Have a Hurricane
- 20. Party on Bourbon Street
- 21. Flash For Beads
- 22. The Revolving Carousel Bar
- Practical Information
Unusual Things to do in New Orleans
Get Your Bearings
The five main areas you are most likely to spend time in during your trip to New Orleans (pronounced New Or-Leens/Or-Lins) are the Central Business District, famous French Quarter, Marigny (Frenchmen Street), the gritty but pretty, Bywater and upmarket Garden District,
While some of these New Orleans activities are not unique in NOLA they are definitely unique to New Orleans.
Where else in the world can you eat Po’ boys and drink hand grenades on the street while a jazz player strikes up out of nowhere?
I (Gemma) have split this guide into two sections, unique things to do in New Orleans and unique to New Orleans things to do so if this is your first time visiting, you won’t miss out on all the things that make NOLA special.
Unique Activities in New Orleans
1. Stay in a Shotgun
Shotgun! Double shotgun! Marigny is the neighbourhood lined with colourful wooden shotgun houses and front porches just crying out for a rocking chair.
I actually stayed in Marigny the second time I visited New Orleans. We lived in a blue double shotgun on Mandeville Street with a local called Yvonne and her Hurricane Katrina rescue dog, Poochini.
Marigny is less touristy but is becoming overrun by Airbnb rentals a reader tells me.
If you are going to rent an Airbnb apartment in New Orleans, rent a private room instead of a full apartment. This ensures it is the locals getting paid and not just real estate buyers.
Some areas of Marigny are a bit sketchy, listen to the advice from your host on what routes to walk. We stuck to Royal Street, as advised, with no issues.
2. Street Car to Garden District
Take the painfully slow St Charles New Orleans streetcar to the upmarket Garden District and explore the gloriously big historic houses with their patios and balconies.
3. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
One of my Mum’s top things to do on a trip is to visit a graveyard.
I’ve never really understood it until seeing the Lafayette Cemetery.
Here, you can pay respect to the deceased buried in large tombs and standalone mausoleum buildings dating back to 1833.
- 1427 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130,
4. Magazine Street
Following the shape of the Mississippi River, the six miles of Magazine Street starts in the French Quarter and serves up a variety of locally-owned shops, bars and restaurants.
I had my first Po’ boy sandwich and Craig had gumbo, which is a stew type meal while exploring Magazine Street’s vintage shops.
5. Day Jazz Cruise on the Steamboat Natchez
While jazz or steamboat rides are pretty typical things to be celebrated in New Orleans, a fusion of the two is quite unusual.
All aboard the Steamboat Natchez for a throwback adventure over the lower Mississippi River.
Learn about the history of the waters and listen to a jazz session during this two-hour tour. Creole lunch is an additional option.
6. Who Dat Coffee Cafe
Great coffee, Bloody Marys and Mimosas. The food ain’t too shabby either.
‘Who Dat’ is a typical New Orleans Saints football team meaning who’s that?
- 2401 Burgundy St, New Orleans, LA 70117
7. Snack on Snowballs
Cool down with shaved ice covered in sweet flavours like pink lemonade.
Make it ‘stuffed’ by adding soft-serve ice cream to your order.
8. Snap Street Art
While the majority of original Banksy murals in New Orleans are gone, you can see his Rain Girl/Umbrella Girl under plexiglass at the corner of Kerlerec Street And N Rampart Street.
It’s reported that Banksy has done around 11-17 pieces in New Orleans but for some reason, they’ve been painted over or trashed.
Luckily, there are great finds still to be discovered around Bywater, Marigny, and St. Roch including Live A Great Story which I also saw in Austin, Texas.
9. Tiled Neighbourhoods
Look down and document the areas of the city be capturing the names embedded in pretty tiles on the ground.
10. Dine at Dat Dogs
From hot dog stand to multiple restaurants in New Orleans, Dat Dogs has come far since its opening in 2011.
Warm rolls filled with meat ‘dogs’ of your choice and then toppings are served in plastic diner baskets with award-winning fries as a side. Vegan options are available too.
We dined at Dat Dogs balcony with the welcomed sun on our faces.
- 601 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Things to You Can Only do in New Orleans
11. Bob Your Head at Bamboulas
There are a number of notable jazz joints on Frenchmen Street so you can’t really take a wrong turn.
We enjoyed live music in the afternoon at Bamboulas where a six-piece band belted out tunes.
- 516 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 7011
12. Eat Po’ Boys
Put some south in your mouth!
A po’ boy is a traditional sandwich native to Lousiana created to feed the streetcar strikers in 1929, the ‘poor boys’.
The bread is usually a French baguette-like roll. Fillings include meat, fried seafood, crawfish, etc.
You can pick up a po’ boys at lots of eateries in New Orleans at any time of the day. They are great for soaking up the alcohol later in the evening.
Warning, they are a two-hand job.
13. Johnny’s Po-Boys
Family-run Johnny’s Bo-Boys is now in its third generation of family members serving the NOLA sandwich.
Voted the best po’ boys in the city, this cafe is compact and full of chit chat. The red and white checkered table mats continue the vintage diner feel, especially for outsiders like us anyway.
- 511 St Louis St, New Orleans, LA 70130
14. Munch Muffuletta at Central Grocery Deli
Johnny’s Po-Boys also serves Muffuletta but the famous spot to try the Italian stuffed sandwich is at Central Grocery Deli.
The Muffuletta was invited here and they proudly call themselves the Muffuletta Head Quarters.
Sicilian bread, introduced by the Italian immigrants in the city, is sliced open and olive salad, soppressata salami, mortadella sausage, capicola pork and provolone cheese is added.
It’s cut into quarters because the circular roll is the size of a human head.
- 923 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
15. Devour Cafe Du Monde
All hail the Cafe Du Monde beignet!
Are the lines long? Yes! Is it worth waiting for? Absolutely.
Since 1862, Cafe Du Monde has been serving bags of sweet clouds of happiness dusted with fine powdery sugar.
Hands down! They are one of the best treats in the world. See what I did there?
Craig and I spent three days in New Orleans during my second trip to the city and I ate beignets three times over those three days. No shame.
Cafe Du Monde is open 24 hours so you can avoid the lines by buying later in the evening.
- 800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
16. Eat Seafood
Seafood plays a massive part in the New Orleans culinary scene utilised in different ways by the mix of cultures (Cajun, Creole, French, Italian, Croatian to a name a few) embedded into the city fabric.
Stuffed into Po’ Boys, stewed as part of gumbo or simmered in Jambalaya, there is no shortage of options on menus. Foodies: check out this guide to cheap eats in New Orleans.
17. Drink Hand Grenades
Don’t even ask what is in them. I don’t want to know.
Hand Grenades are lethal melon tasting potions served in carnival-style cups.
You can purchase your weapon at Tropical Isle on Bourbon Street.
Drink in or take out, the decision is yours.
- 610 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130
18. Lafitte Blacksmith Shop Bar
Welcome to the oldest bar in the United States, apparently. You’ll know you are at Lafitte’s by the crowds of punters drinking outside the premises.
Named after the French pirate, Jean Lafitte, inside is pretty dark and mostly lit by candlelight so you can enjoy the hideout vibes.
Try the purple daiquiri Voodoos.
19. Have a Hurricane
You can get the curved-glass Hurricane cocktail in many of the New Orleans establishments but for the original, head to Pat O’Briens.
Although I normally avoid Irish bars abroad, I do recommend hanging out at Pat O’Brien’s courtyard with a Hurricane. There’s a novelty flaming fountain which makes for great Boomerang videos.
I love the slogan, having fun since 1933.
20. Party on Bourbon Street
This place is carnage, bead necklaces everywhere, drunk couples fighting, people spilling out of bars, graffitied signs, groups singing, music blaring – it’s like Benidorm in one street. But fun! There’s more on Bourbon Street in this New Orleans in 48-hour guide.
21. Flash For Beads
Jokes, you don’t have to show your bra for beads. There are Mardi Gras beads everywhere.
22. The Revolving Carousel Bar
Join the masses and enjoy a drink at Hotel Monteleone Revolving Carousel Bar.
It does actually move and looks like it should be at the fair. Arrive early to get a seat.
- 214 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Getting to New Orleans
The best way to get from Louis Armstrong Airport to downtown is by taxi or Uber which costs around $40.
The airport shuttle bus is cheaper but makes more stops, therefore, the journey is longer.
Getting Around New Orleans
Cabs and Uber are affordable in New Orleans.
Regional Transit Authority and Jefferson Transit are responsible for buses and streetcars in the city. You can download the RTA for realtime routes and services.
New Orleans Hotels
New Orleans is an expensive city for accommodation. Hitting around the $300 per night mark for affordable options.
Notable hotels include:
- Bourbon Orleans Hotel: French Quarter location, beautiful building, swimming pool.
- Maison Dupuy Hotel: Great location, heated saltwater pool, relaxing lounge.
New Orleans Hostels
Hostels are a cheaper option.
- HI Hostel New Orleans: Renovated, modern and comfortable in a great location.
- Aubergine NOLA Hostel: Clean, social and nightly parties.
Airbnb in New Orleans
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!
There’s not quite anywhere like New Orleans. Everything about this city is special. The sounds, friendliness, the characters, the native cocktails list as long as Magazine Street, the mash-up for cultures and that impact on food. I hope you’ve picked up new ideas for you New Orleans itinerary. Tell me what unique attractions or events I’ve missed out in the comments below.