- Year-round party city
- Unique French-influenced Creole culture
- The birthplace of jazz music
Metro population: 1.3 million (#46 in the U.S.)
When To Visit: Year-round
Climate: Mostly sunny with some rain year round. Warm winter and spring with a hot summer and fall.
The party never stops in New Orleans – from the balconies of wild Bourbon Street to the live jazz shows on Frenchmen Street. Easily the most unique city in the country, New Orleans has preserved much of its historic French culture and is the main population center for Louisiana Creoles, a unique ethnic group with hearty cuisine and bluesy “swamp pop” music.
Photo: Bourbon Street
Where To Go in New Orleans
Jackson Square: This historic park in the center of the French Quarter overlooks beautiful St. Louis Cathedral and is an excellent spot to relax and people watch. Free. 700 Decatur Street. (504) 658-3200
Woldenberg Park: This long green stretch has a great boardwalk on which you can stroll next to the Mississippi River. Free. 1 Canal Street.
St. Charles Streetcar: By law, this streetcar must be preserved as the way it was in 1923 and it will certainly make you feel like you went back in time as you pass stunning historic homes and businesses. It’s a 40-minute ride each way – catch it in the French Quarter at the corner of St. Charles & Poydras. $2.50 round trip fare. 701 Poydras Street. (504) 248-3900
Bourbon Street: Whether you’re down to day drink or not, take a walk down this road lined with bustling bars, the city’s iconic balconies, and tons of tourists walking around with drinks in hand. It’s quite a sight to see! Free. 800 Bourbon Street.
Greater New Orleans
Magazine Street: This long block in the heart of the city’s Garden District hosts adorable shops, tasty eats, and a more peaceful side of New Orleans. 4041 Magazine Street, Garden District.
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1: New Orleans is famous for its unusual above ground cemeteries, which were necessary due to the city lying beneath sea level. There’s fascinating tombs and crypts and peaceful greenery to explore in this one. Free. Open 7-2:30 daily (7-noon on Sundays). 1416 Washington Avenue, Garden District. (504) 658-3781
City Park: Often ignored by tourists due to its lack of proximity to the French Quarter, this huge 1,300 acre green area has super old trees, bridges, waterways and statues. It’s an amazing place to take a walk! Free. 1 Palm Drive, Lakeview. (504) 482-4888
Swamp Tour: If you haven’t spent a lot of time in the Deep South, it’s great to get out of the city and experience the bayous that have shaped the culture of the region. There’s many companies that do swamp tours, but James & James is one of the cheapest and most proximate (transportation is provided). You’ll probably get to see some alligators and certainly lots of nature. $40. (504) 458-1494
New Orleans Cheap Eats
New Orleans restaurants and fast casual eateries popular with locals where you can get a full meal for under $15 (often under $10). I always highlight some vegan or vegetarian options – cutting down on the amount of meat you eat is by far the #1 way you can reduce your environmental impact and contribute less to animal cruelty.
Mother’s: This wildly popular New Orleans cuisine eatery has been serving the city’s iconic po boy sandwiches since 1938. Expect a line unless you go during off hours. 401 Poydras Street, Central Business District. (504) 523-9656
Dat Dog: This super colorful fast food joint serves up Louisiana twists on burgers, hot dogs, and sausages. There’s some delicious vegetarian and vegan hot dogs. 2 for 1 beers during their 4-7pm happy hour! 3336 Magazine Street, Touro. (504) 324-2226
Three Muses: If you need a break from Cajun food, check out this classy yet affordable gastropub with live jazz music and modern American cuisine influenced by the Asian continent. 523 Frenchmen Street, Marigny. (504) 252-4801
Willie Mae’s Scotch House: You’ll find a simple menu and low prices at this popular soul food restaurant with huge portions of mouthwatering dishes and sides. 2401 Saint Anne Street, Tremé. (504) 822-9503
Cafe du Monde: You can’t leave New Orleans without stopping at this iconic beignet shop to try New Orleans’ most famous sweet pastry. 800 Decatur Street, French Quarter. (504) 525-4544
New Orleans Nightlife
New Orleans bars, lounges, and clubs that are popular with locals and meet one or more of these criteria: A) Unique, unlike anyplace you’ll find in another city B) Fun and lively, sure to be a good time C) Beautiful decor or view
The majority of New Orleans’ bars lie on either the tourist-infested yet infectiously fun Bourbon Street in the French Quarter or the local-frequented live jazz hosting Frenchmen Street.
Carousel Bar: You have to check out this super elegant old-school hotel bar that’s named for its bar that revolves like a carousel. The decor is to die for and you’re sure to find a cocktail you’ve never tried before. 214 Royal Street. (504) 523-3341
Golden Lantern: An old-school gay bar frequented by gay and straight locals due to its fun vibe and cheap drinks. Open 24 hours! 1239 Royal Street. (504) 529-2860
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar: Located in a stunning historic building, this is by some measures the oldest bar in America, open since the 1700s. They serve some of New Orleans’ famous frozen drinks and delicious hurricanes. 941 Bourbon Street. (504) 593-9761
Cafe Lafitte in Exile: Once you go to the aforementioned oldest bar in America, you might as well also go to this oldest gay bar in the country! In the center of the fun of Bourbon Street, this two-level bar has a relaxed and upbeat downstairs and a more classy upstairs with views of the French Quarter. Open 24 hours! 901 Bourbon Street. (504) 522-8397
Bar Tonique: A small bar with one of the best mixes of New Orlean’s iconic Ramos Gin Fizz drink in town. It’s a very relaxed and fun vibe. 820 North Rampart Street. (504) 324-6045
The Dungeon: Step into a dark, creepy but quite fun black light environment at this unique hard rock and heavy metal dive bar with a small dancefloor. 738 Toulouse Street.
The Spotted Cat: A longtime favorite among locals, this classic bar hosts frequent live jazz and blues. It is free or a $5 cover depending when you go. Bring cash to tip the performers and don’t miss the giant piano in the bathroom 😉 623 Frenchmen Street. (504) 943-3887
Cafe Negril: This good-sized live jazz joint has cheap drinks and excellent drunk food – they’re especially known for their quite good tacos. 606 Frenchmen Street. (504) 944-4744
Three Muses: A slightly more upscale side of Frenchmen Street can be found at this gastropub with an excellent food and drink menu, appealing art, and of course live jazz. 536 Frenchmen Street. (504) 252-4801
d.b.a. New Orleans: Some of the most lively jazz performances in the city take place at this bar with a gigantic drink menu and a big stage for performers. 618 Frenchmen Street. (504) 942-3731
Central Business District
The Sazerac Bar: This NoLa institution in the Roosevelt Hotel has stunning art deco decor and offers you the chance to try its namesake whiskey cocktail – the world’s first mixed drink. It’s a great place to sit, chat, and relax. 130 Roosevelt Way, Central Business District. (504) 648-1200
Nearby Side Trip from New Orleans
Bay St. Louis: An hour drive over the Mississippi border takes you to the much quieter Gulf Coast region of that state. The town of Bay St. Louis has a historic downtown and relaxing beaches.