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The 20 Best Things to Do in New Orleans for First Time Visitors

New Orleans

New Orleans is a major city in Louisiana that is located by the Mississippi River. It is famous for its culture, music, and cuisine. It is also known for its diversity as it is described as a melting pot of American, African, and French cultures. When you visit this intriguing city for the first time, you may have difficulty choosing which attractions and activities to visit during your stay as you will probably want to make the most of your time in New Orleans. Here are 20 of the best things to do in New Orleans for first-time visitors.

20. The Louisiana Children’s Museum

Often, people think that New Orleans is not the best place to visit with children due to the adult nature of many of the attractions. However, that is not the case as there are some great things for children to enjoy in this city. One of the top family attractions in New Orleans is the Louisiana Children’s Museum. This is a two-story venue that covers a wide range of topics, including architecture and body mechanics. The hands-on exhibitions include many interactive elements so that the children can learn through fun and play. This means it is an educational and fun attraction for all the family. This venue also hosts events for children throughout the year, so check what is on before visiting.

19. Mardi Gras World

New Orleans is famous for its Mardi Gras festival. Even if you are not in town while the festival is taking place, it doesn’t mean that you have to completely miss out on the Mardi Gras experience. A visit to Mardi Gras World will allow you to see some of the flamboyant floats and costumes that are featured in the exciting and colorful event. Many people think that this is a museum, but that is not the case. It is a warehouse workshop where work on the costumes and floats is ongoing. This means you have the chance to witness some of the processes used to create the floats and costumes used in the celebration. It is the second-best thing to being at the Mardi Gras.

18. New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

Although there are many museums in New Orleans that you can visit during your stay, one of the most unusual is the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. You will find this museum in the French Quarter. The focus of this museum is the heritage of medicine and pharmaceuticals, and the building that houses the collection is on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum celebrates Louis J. Dufilho Jr. and displays a wide range of antiques from the instrumental era of healthcare. The highlight of the museum is the mid-19th-century apothecary shop, which is a replica of an apothecary shop of this time and displays everything that a shop from that era would have on display.

17. Backstreet Cultural Museum

New Orleans has a unique and interesting identity, and one of the top attractions to get a true feel of the culture and history of this city is the Backstreet Cultural Museum. Sylvester Francis, a photographer, and history buff, established this museum. It features an eclectic mix of photographs, films, memorabilia, costumes, films and other artifacts that relate to the African American culture. An interesting fact is that this museum briefly featured in an episode of the HBO television series ‘Treme’.

16. Ride the River on Steamboat Natchez

If you are looking for a more unusual activity to enjoy during your staying in New Orleans, then a boat ride along the Mississippi River on the Steamboat Natchez might fit the bill. Launched in 1975, this is a traditional and elegant sternwheel steamboat. It is the only steamboat in New Orleans. Visitors can enjoy a tour of the Mississippi River and view New Orleans from a different perspective. There are several different tour options, although most include live jazz music. It is possible to book a tour that includes dinner on-board the steamboat.

15. Longue Vue House and Gardens

A pleasant attraction to visit is the Longue Vue House and Gardens. It is a perfect example of Southern elegance and history. The main feature is the four-story house, which dates back to the mid-20th-century. This has 20 rooms and a basement that displays both American and English antiques. Visitors can tour the house on their own or as part of a guided tour. There is also a Discovery Garden, which covers eight acres, and a museum.

14. Chalmette Battlefield & Jean Lafitte National Park

Just six miles east of New Orleans is Chalmette Battlefield, which was the site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. It is worth a visit as this event is significant to the history of New Orleans, not least because the battle should never have taken place. At the site, there is also Jean Lafitte National Park, which is a great place to get away from the busy vibe of New Orleans and relax in beautiful surroundings. The park includes swamps and bayous, so it is a great place for spotting wildlife, such as alligators. At various points throughout the year, this venue hosts cultural events, so it is worth checking their calendar to see if there is anything on during your stay.

13. Audubon Nature Institute

Audubon Nature Institute is a great day out for all the family. This is a massive venue that houses several attractions in one destination. These include a zoo, an aquarium, an insectarium, a butterfly garden, and the Entergy Giant Screen Theater. There is something for people of all ages at this attraction, and there are many interactive experiences to enjoy. This attraction is both fun and educational for visitors.

12. Studio Be

Although New Orleans is best known for its music scene, the art scene is also big in this city. One of the best places to visit to see modern art is Studio Be. This is a large warehouse facility in the Bywater district that is currently used as a place to display public art. The main artist is Brendan ‘BMike’ Odums, although 40 other artists have also contributed to the large murals and exhibits on display. Most of the art features spray paint and graffiti, and it is displayed over a whopping 35,000 square feet.

11. New Orleans Museum of Art

Located within City Park, the New Orleans Museum of Art is one of the best attractions for art lovers. It is most noted for its collection of 19th century and early 20th-century French paintings. This includes pieces by Edgar Degas. It also has an extensive art of the Americas collection. To the exterior of this attraction is the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which has a diverse range of interesting sculptures to admire.

10. City Park

Time Out says that City Park covers 1,300 acres and it is filled with both natural and man-made attractions. It is home to the New Orleans Art Museum, a golf course, 26 lighted tennis courts, a 1906 carousel, and beautifully landscaped gardens. There are also events hosted at this venue throughout the year, including live outdoor concerts. Therefore, you will always find something to do at this park no matter what time of year you visit.

9. St. Louis Cathedral

St. Louis Cathedral is the centerpiece of the French Quarter, and it is one of the most recognizable landmarks in New Orleans. It is a great place to visit for those who are interested in architecture, as the cathedral is stunning inside and out. It is the third cathedral built on this spot as the first two were destroyed. In addition to the religious services held at the cathedral, it is also used as a venue for various events.

8. The Cabildo

Constructed in 1799, The Cabildo was originally the seat of the Spanish government. Later, the Louisiana Purchase took place at this landmark. Therefore, it has played a significant role in the history of New Orleans. Now, it is a three-story museum that is part of the Louisiana State Museum. It is one of the best places to learn about the history of Louisiana.

7. Tour the Garden District

A fantastic free activity to enjoy is a trip to the Garden District, says US News. This is best enjoyed with a walking tour so that you can view some of the most spectacular homes in New Orleans. It is a historic residential neighborhood with stunning architecture and preserved properties. It is popular amongst those who find Bourbon Street too lively as it has a peaceful atmosphere.

6. Visit the Swamps

When visiting New Orleans, you will find that most of the attractions revolve around the urban areas of the city. However, it is important not to miss out on some of the natural beauty of New Orleans. If you take a tour of the swamps, you will see parts of Bayou County that were important to the development of the city in terms of transportation and communication. A swamp tour allows you to see the city from an unusual perspective along with the natural beauty that is often missed by tourists.

5. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

One of the more unusual attractions in this city, but fascinating nonetheless, is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Located on the edge of The French Quarter, this is a world-famous cemetery because it is above the ground. This is because New Orleans is often saturated in water, so people are buried in coffins above the ground. It is the resting place of Marie Laveau, a famous voodoo queen. It is possible to get a guided tour of this cemetery along with other cemeteries in the city.

4. Jackson Square

Jackson Square is the place to visit for some street entertainment and to absorb yourself into the culture of New Orleans. You will see musicians, street performers, fortune tellers, and artists dotted around the square. You can also hire a horse and buggy to take a tour of The French Quarter and see its most famous landmarks.

3. The National World War II Museum

Located in the Warehouse District, The National World War II Museum was founded on the 56th anniversary of D-Day in 2000. The museum is home to everything from boats and restored aircraft to artifacts including documents and uniforms. One of the highlights of a visit to this museum is the 4D theater experience that is narrated by Tom Hanks. This is an attraction that has features that will appeal to people with a variety of interests and people of all ages.

2. Frenchman Street

A great place to get the true experience of the nightlife in New Orleans is Frenchman Street, which is less touristy than Bourbon Street in The French Quarter. This is a four-block stretch of art galleries, night clubs, bars, live music venues, and restaurants. Depending on how long you staying in the city, you can visit this part of New Orleans several times during your stay and enjoy something different every time you visit.

1. The French Quarter

According to Time Out, the most important thing to do on your first-time visit to New Orleans is to visit The French Quarter. This is the oldest and most famous neighborhood in New Orleans. Also known as Vieux Carre, The French Quarter is on the banks of the Mississippi River and it has a 300-year history. It is where you will find many of the bars, nightclubs, shops, galleries, and music venues. It is recommended that you visit Preservation Hall, which is the most famous jazz club, and dine at Antoine’s. It is one of the best places to spend your evenings in New Orleans, and also one of the best places in terms of dining out options.

Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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