New Orleans

Super useful & totally free New Orleans travel guides, written by locals who love New Orleans

View of the signage at The New Orleans Mississippi riverfront with tourists in the background
The New Orleans Mississippi riverfront near Jackson Square

Why We Love New Orleans: There’s nowhere else in the United States quite like New Orleans, which was founded by the French in 1718. Known as a quirky and open-minded haven in the deep south, New Orleans is famous for its Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler spirit. Translated as “let the good times roll,” locals and visitors alike embrace the fun-loving, easy-going verve of the Big Easy. It is famous for its Cajun-Creole cuisine (jambalaya, anyone?), funky music, and celebratory attitude (especially during Mardi Gras). You’d be hard-pressed to find a city where the food is more delicious or the people are more alive.

Best of New Orleans

Things to Do

The author Meg and her dog Milo, kayaking at City Park
The author, Meg, with her dog, Milo, in a kayak at City Park

Lovers of history, art, literature, food, and rollicking nights will find no shortage of things to do in New Orleans:

  • The National World War II Museum – A world-class museum about World War II with a theater, 4D movie, and restaurant
  • New Orleans City Park – Diverse green space with boat and bike rentals, an amusement park, botanical gardens, and putt-putt
  • The Sazerac House – Immersive cocktail museum with free tours and samples
  • Frenchman Street – Bustling avenue chock full of swanky live jazz halls
  • St. Louis Cathedral – Famous, towering 18th-century Cathedral in Jackson Square in the French Quarter

✨ See the full list of best things to do in New Orleans.

🗺️ Where to Stay

If you’re a first-time visitor to New Orleans, we have several recommendations for where you might choose to stay:

  • The French Quarter – The heart and soul of New Orleans. Full of Creole architecture, tourist attractions, and nightlife.
  • The Central Business District – A business area that’s adjacent to the French Quarter and full of wonderful (and quieter) hotels. Easy walk to the French Quarter.
  • The Warehouse District – A funky, repurposed industrial area. It’s further from the French Quarter (walking distance from the intrepid) but has some of the best eateries and museums in town.

👉 Read the complete guide to where to stay in New Orleans.

View of the street band performing with their musical instruments in the French Quarter area of New Orleans
A street band playing in the French Quarter area of New Orleans

🛎️ Best Hotels

View of the interior in the lobby of Ace Hotel in the Warehouse District
The lobby of the Ace Hotel in the Warehouse District

Hotels in New Orleans range from extreme luxury to quirky, historic sites. Check out a few of these options:

  • The Hotel Monteleone – A historic upscale hotel in the heart of the French Quarter, famous for its (slowly rotating) Carousel Bar
  • The Windsor Court Hotel – Elegant luxury hotel with a world-class restaurant, full spa, and museum-quality art.
  • Hotel Peter and Paul – A quirky but sophisticated boutique hotel inside a historic school and convent.

🍽️ Restaurants

The author's friends enjoying the chargrilled oysters from Neyow’s in Mid-City
My friends Jeff and Lauren enjoying our chargrilled oysters at Neyow’s in Mid-City

New Orleans is a foodie’s paradise. Whether you’re looking for New Orleans classics or newer, innovative dishes, make sure you check these restaurants out:

  • Neyow’s – Black-owned Creole restaurant (also serving Cajun food and soul food) that’s a neighborhood staple in Mid-City
  • Johnny Sanchez – Mexican food with a modern twist by famous chefs Aaron Sanchez and John Besh
  • Cochon/Cochon Butcher – Cochon is a rustic, upscale Cajun and southern restaurant, with an unbelievable sandwich shop (Cochon Butcher) attached
  • Dat Dog – Fun, funky hot dogs with a Louisiana twist. Enjoy crocodile sausage topped with crawfish etouffee.
  • Atchafalaya – Upscale New Orleans food with innovative dishes and frequent live music.

🍽️ Read the full list of best restaurants in New Orleans.

🚗 Day Trips

View of the huge tree at Beach Boulevard in coastal Mississippi
Beach Boulevard runs through coastal Mississippi
  • The Mississippi Gulf Coast – About an hour east of New Orleans lies miles of beaches and adorable coastal Mississippi towns like Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian
  • The Bayous and Swamps – Just outside the city is where you’ll find the best swamp tours, like Honey Island Swamp Tour just north of the city
  • Avery Island – The site of the Tabasco Hot Sauce factory, the expansive Jungle Gardens, and chock full of Cajun culture and influence
  • Jean Lafitte National Park -The Barataria Preserve just outside the city is a wonderful spot for outdoors enthusiasts (just don’t expect any hills!) and naturalists
  • Baton Rouge – The state capital is about 90 minutes from New Orleans and will scintillate fans of museums or the LSU Tigers

🚗 See the full list of day trips from New Orleans.

🏘️ Neighborhoods

View of the signage in front of the public library in New Orleans on a sunny day
The public library in Uptown New Orleans
  • The French Quarter – This is the area that’s usually depicted in movies and TV shows about New Orleans. It’s the bustling heart and soul.
  • The Central Business District – The tamer, quieter, neighborhood is just a short walk away from the French Quarter. It has some of the best hotel options.
  • The Warehouse District – A longer walk (or a short ride) from the Quarter but has some of the best restaurants and museums in town.
  • Uptown – Contains the scenic Garden District and its opulent mansions, as well as fine dining and cute Bed and Breakfast options.
  • Bayou St. John – A mostly-residential neighborhood close to the City Park and the Fairgrounds (where events like Jazz Fest take place)

🍸 Bars

The author Meg O'Connor posing inside the bar Vessel with tall stained glass windows in the background
The bar Vessel in Mid-City, located in an old church
  • Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop – A dimly-lit 18th-century blacksmith shop that was likely owned by the pirate Jean Lafitte’s brother. 
  • Pat O’Briens – The French Quarter bar that invented the Hurricane cocktail. Sprawling property with indoor and outdoor areas and famous for its dueling piano acts.
  • Vessel – Bar and restaurant in an old church. LGBT friendly.
  • Good Friends Bar – Two-story LGBT bar in the French Quarter with a Victorian-themed upper story and a balcony.
  • The Spotted Cat – Cozy jazz venue for a standing-room crowd on Frenchman Street

🎸 Best Live Music Venues

Arlo Guthrie performing on the stage of Tipitina’s music venue
Arlo Guthrie playing at Tipitina’s
  • Tipitina’s – What began as a neighborhood juke joint has grown into a local favorite for concerts, often with well-known acts.
  • Snug Harbor – A jazz bistro on Frenchman street that requires tickets but will serve you food and beverages while you enjoy your jazz.
  • Preservation Hall – An intimate French Quarter jazz club with shows 350 days out of the year. Seating can be on the floor and there is no air conditioning.
  • Fritzel’s European Jazz Club – Located right on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, Fritzel’s has nightly live jazz music.
  • Kermit’s Mother-in-Law Lounge – Founded by Kermit Ruffins of Rebirth Brass Band (who plays himself in the HBO show Treme).

👻 Best Spooky Attractions

View of the spooky and overgrown fort entrance outside New Orleans
The entrance to a spooky, overgrown fort outside New Orleans
  • Krewe of Boo! – The Krewe of BOO parade in the French Quarter is a Mardi-Gras-like parade around Halloween with fun, macabre floats
  • Mortuary Haunted House – Housed in the city’s old mortuary, the Mortuary Haunted House is a scary Halloween haunted house
  • Voodoo Museum – The Voodoo Museum in the French Quarter is small but fascinating. This is a good attraction to skip if a mummified cat will freak you out.
  • Cemetery Tours – Some of the most famous cemeteries in New Orleans include St. Louis #1 (where you can see the tomb of Marie Laveau, a voodoo priestess) and Uptown’s Lafayette #1
  • Ghost Tours – Ghost tours leave out of the French Quarter and will give you both the heebie-jeebies and a dose of New Orleans history

🎭 Best Festivals

View of people during the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans
(photo: GTS Productions / Shutterstock)
  • Mardi Gras – The period between January 6th (King’s Day/the Epiphany) until the day before Lent. Throughout that season, parades roll most weekends and amplify in the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras Day
  • Jazz Fest – Annual festival celebrating music, art, culture, and heritage of New Orleans, which often headlines world-famous musicians.
  • Essence Fest – Progressive music festival with famous acts and conversations about race, gender, and art.
  • French Quarter Fest – Sprawling festival featuring local food, music, art, and French Quarter culture
  • Voodoo Fest – A funky Halloween-weekend festival with over 85 bands and the local flair for everything spooky.

New Orleans Travel Advice

🗓️ Best Time to Visit

Due to New Orleans’s subtropical climate, you may be surprised when the best and worst times to visit are:

  • 🌼 Spring –  Beautiful, warm weather (just bring your raincoat!) and plenty of festivals to keep the whole family smiling.
  • ❄️ Winter – Seek out Mardi Gras if it’s on your bucket list; otherwise, enjoy the special holiday dinners and events, low crowds, and cool weather.
  • 🍂 Fall – The early fall can be nearly as hot and humid as summer and hurricane season run through November, but the late fall offers cooler weather and Halloween fun.
  • 🌞 Summer – Hot, humid, and full of hurricanes! There are some good summer festivals you may want to catch, but otherwise, head for higher latitudes.

👉 Read the complete guide on the best time to visit New Orleans

🚌 Getting In & Around

While the Deep South isn’t known for its public transit, New Orleans has a few options:

  • 🚶‍♀️ Walking – The New Orleans Central Business District has a WalkScore of 96, so make sure you lace up those running shoes.
  • 🚗 Driving – The roads in New Orleans are bumpy and narrow, and parking in some places can be tricky.
  • 🚇 Public Transit – Almost all the city’s top attractions can be reached by either a bus or streetcar, and the streetcar is an attraction in its own right.
  • 📲 Ride Share – Uber and Lyft are both active in the city, though they may be difficult or impossible to utilize near parade routes during Mardi Gras.
  • 🚴‍♀️ Biking – Most New Orleans neighborhoods have Blue Bikes (a bike share company), and there are other bike rentals available in town. Watch out for the heat!

👉 Tips & Things to Know

  • 🌞 Take the heat and humidity seriously – During the summer and early fall, the heat index can be in the 100s and the humidity makes it hard to cool off. Carry water with you and take breaks to cool off.
  • 🌀 Don’t play with hurricanes – It’s probably best to avoid hurricane season, but if you do visit during June-November, be sure to book refundable reservations. If a hurricane is on its way, you shouldn’t be.
  • 🌧️ Bring a raincoat and boots – It rains in New Orleans–a lot. This happens all year but particularly from June through September. If there’s bad lightning, seek shelter.
  • 🌎 Venture out of the French Quarter if you can – While the French Quarter is the heart and soul of New Orleans, try to sneak in a visit to City Park (Bayou St. John), Audubon Zoo, or Park (Uptown), or the amazing restaurants in the Warehouse District
  • 🍹 Get your cocktail to go – In New Orleans, you can request a go-cup for your drink or cocktail and drink it on your walk. Your bartender will give you a plastic cup–don’t bring bottles out of the bar.

🧳 What to Pack

  • 🌞 Sunscreen – The sun can be brutal in New Orleans–I’ve even been burnt in February.
  • 👒 A hat – A great way to stay cool and protect your cheeks from the sun is with a cap or a floppy, brimmed hat.
  • 🥾 Rain Boots – Not only does it pour rain in New Orleans, but streets like Bourbon Street can get gross fast.
  • 🧊 A cooling towel – Especially in the summer or early fall, a cooling towel on your neck might make or break your day.
  • 👗 Your weirdest article of clothing – Trust me: it’s almost impossible to stick out in this city. Got something you wore one Halloween? Bring it. Just in case.

🤓 Facts & Info

  • Census Population (2020) – 383,997 (city), 1,261,726 (metro area)
  • Time Zone – Central Time (UTC -6 / UTC -5 during daylight savings)
  • Area Codes – 504
  • Airports – Louis Armstrong International Airport (MSY)
  • Nickname – The Big Easy, The Crescent City
  • Demonynm – New Orleanian
  • StateLouisiana
  • CountryUnited States of America

💵 Costs & Budgeting

  • 3 Star Hotel Room – $150-$350/night
  • 1 Bedroom Apartment Rental – $150-$300/night
  • Rental Car – $50/day
  • Public Transit Ticket – ~$3/1 day ($2 to airport from center)
  • Ride Share from Downtown to Airport – $38
  • Take Out Meal for Two – $25-$40
  • Sit Down Dinner for Two – $30-$60
  • Draft Beer – $5-$8

FAQs About Visiting New Orleans

Is New Orleans safe for tourists?

New Orleans has some low-crime neighborhoods and some high-crime neighborhoods. Tourists should remain aware of their surroundings and educate themselves about risk levels in the areas they’ll be in. The New Orleans Police Department crime map is a great tool. The New Orleans French Quarter (the main tourist area) is known for petty crimes like pickpocketing.

Are 3 days enough for New Orleans?

Three days are enough to see most of the attractions in the French Quarter. If you are staying in the Quarter or a short walk away, three days will be plenty to enjoy yourself. To venture outside the Quarter, you will want to extend your trip. You also may choose to extend your trip if you plan to go on day trips or thoroughly explore museums.

What should I do my first time in New Orleans?

For your first time in New Orleans, you should start by exploring the French Quarter. It is the heart of the tourist area. Some highlights of the Quarter for a first-time visitor include Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, the Steamboat Natchez, and Bourbon Street. Walking tours that leave from the Quarter are also a great option.

What is the best month to visit New Orleans?

The best months to visit New Orleans are October, January, March, and April. Of these, April is probably the biggest crowd-pleaser in terms of months to visit New Orleans. The weather is warm but not yet hot, there are lots of festivals, and it is outside of hurricane season.

What is the cheapest month to visit New Orleans?

January is the cheapest month to visit New Orleans. The flights and hotel prices tend to be less expensive than in other months.

Meet Our New Orleans Travel Expert

Meg O’Connor

Meg O’Connor is a travel writer, adventurer, and marine scientist. For years, Meg traveled the world on Navy vessels as a civilian scientist, making port stops in Bahrain, Oman, Japan, Crete, and Spain. These days, her travel is usually on solid ground. She lives on Lake Pontrchartrain outside New Orleans, Louisiana.

👉 Read Meg’s Articles

📰 Louisiana Travel Guides

Louisiana is a rich and dynamic city and there’s so much to learn and explore. Make sure you check out our other travel guides and make the most of your trip.

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