Welcome to my New Orleans City Guide! This city has captivated us with its historic charm, natural beauty, and chaos. From my very first visit back in 2002, I knew this would be a city close to my heart and one we would always return to.
New Orleans has wowed us with beautiful parks full of Live Oaks and vast swampland with unique wildlife. It’s fascinated us with its above-ground cemeteries, colorful shotgun-style homes, and stunning courtyards. It’s entertained us with jazz-filled clubs, magical parades, and fascinating street performers. And it’s tantalized our tastebuds with tasty cocktails, spicy Cajun and Creole-style food, and those wonderful pastries buried under a mound of powdered sugar, beignets, so good!
As you can tell I’m a big fan of New Orleans and hope my city guide helps you learn more about The Big Easy and what you can do. I’ll introduce you to The French Quarter, a place you may spend a good amount of time on your first visit, and three key areas within the Quarter and what to do in and around them. I’ll also point out a few other notable neighborhoods. This should get you started but know that there is much, much more to explore.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Check out my guide on photographing New Orleans here
The French Quarter, aka Vieux Carré
The French Quarter, otherwise known as Vieux Carré, has a history as old as New Orleans itself. Founded in 1718, New Orleans was built around the French Quarter and has the largest amount of extant historical buildings from the time under Spanish rule in the late 1800s to after achieving statehood in the early 19th century. The entire area is a National Historic Landmark and a major tourist destination.
My New Orleans City Guide focus’s on The French Quarter as this is the heart of New Orleans. This is where you’ll probably spend a lot of time during your first visit to the city, and rightfully so. You’re going to find so many obligatory New Orleans things to do in The Quarter from experiencing the calm and chaos of Bourbon Street to the beauty of Jackson Square and the serene and curious above-ground cemeteries of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
First up on my New Orleans City Guide is Bourbon Street. Spanning 13 city blocks, Bourbon Street is generally what one thinks of when they think of New Orleans and Mardi Gras. During the day, the street is relatively quiet. At night, however, the street transforms and is packed so full of people you’ll often have to squeeze through them. Many people scoff at adding Bourbon Street to your itinerary but I feel it’s one of those places you need to see at least once, it’s a quintessential New Orleans thing to do.
Use common sense while on Bourbon Street. Don’t drink too much, don’t wander alone into dark alleys, keep your personal belongings at a minimum and in your front pocket or in front of you. It’s a crowded street full of tourists and revelers and people will take advantage of you if you make yourself an easy target. Don’t be scared, just be smart.
What to do on Bourbon Street
Cafe Beignet | Website | 311 Bourbon Street
This is one of our most favorite places. We’ll be here multiple visits on a trip for their yummy breakfast and beignets (which I might like a little more than Cafe du Monde, shhh)
Tropical Aisle | Website | 721 Bourbon Street
If you’re looking for that obligatory novelty drink, this is your place. Get the famous Hand Grenade, or their fun Shark Attack and other themed drinks. These pack a punch, though, so be ready.
Pat O’Brien’s | Website | 600 blocks of Bourbon Street
This is my favorite place to get a Hurricane, mostly because it’s bright red fruit punch flavor as compared to others who make theirs more peach in tone with a peachy tropical flavor, meh. Also love to get their trio, a side serving of red beans & rice, jambalaya, and gumbo.
The World’s Famous Cats Meow | Website | 701 Bourbon Street
A fun bar to watch your drunk friends sing karaoke to
Marie Laveau House of Voodoo | Website | 739 Bourbon Street
Big Easy Daiquiris | Website | 216 and 501 Bourbon Street
Everyone’s gotta have a cheap, frozen daq to walk around with and get a brain freeze to.
Nearby Bourbon Street
Vieux Carré Pizza | Website | 733 St Louis Street
This place has the best late-night pizza slices
The Dungeon | Website | 738 Toulouse Street
A spooky club with a tiny little entrance you might miss if not paying attention
Café Fleur-de-lis | Website | 307 Chartres Street
A great spot for breakfast. Give the King Cake French Toast a try if it’s on the menu, delish.
Boutique du Vampire | Website | 709 1/2 St. Ann Street
NCIS New Orleans Set | 712-798 St Ann Street
The second place on my New Orleans City Guide is Jackson Square. A historic park the size of a city block, it offers a place to take a break and enjoy the scenery and is surrounded by a lot of interesting things to do, see, and eat. From the spooky Pirate’s Alley to delicious beignets, you can get a real taste of New Orleans in the square. Also, be sure to check out the local artists who set up shop around the square and in full force on the weekends. A great place to get some local art which makes great souvenirs! There’s a lot going on in this area and nearby but here are a few recommendations below.
This area is full of tourists and where I experienced one of the famous NOLA tourist scams where a stranger comes up to you and bets your money that they can guess where your shoes are from. You’ll never win this bet, and they will expect you to pay up. It’s best to just politely decline and walk away as soon as you recognize what’s happening. I’ve never been a victim of the scam as I’ve always just walked away but I did see them pull it off on people nearby. If they keep trying just tell them you’re local.
What to do in Jackson Square
St. Louis Cathedral | Website | 615 Pere Antoine Alley
You can walk inside and take a look at the interior of this cathedral, it’s pretty neat looking.
The Cabildo | Website | 701 Chartres Street
This is the building on the left of St. Louis Cathedral. It’s full of New Orleans history and if you go to the top floor, you get a great view down at Jackson Square.
The Presbytère | Website | 751 Chartres Street
This building is to the right of St. Louis Cathedral and filled with all kinds of Mardi Gras history and a wing dedicated to the history of hurricane Katrina.
Pirate Alley | between Chartres Street and Royal Street at Jackson Square.
Some say it’s haunted, and it’s definitely spooky at night. Worth a stroll down to experience the vibes.
Cafe du Monde | Website | 800 Decatur Street
One of the more popular locations but be prepared to wait in a long line and pay in cash.
The French Market | Website | 751 Chartres Street
Food and various goods can be found at stands set up in the French Market, a fun place to stroll through.
Louisiana Pizza Kitchen | Website | 95 French Market Pl.
Try the Jambalaya pizza, you’re welcome.
Nearby Jackson Square
Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 | Website | 321 N. Peters Street.
Fun, tropical tiki-themed drinks for those looking for something other than a Hand Grenade or Hurricane to sip on.
Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria | Website | 301 N Peters St.
This has become a go-to staple of ours, we always find ourselves here at least once each trip for some yummy Mexican.
Pharmacy Museum | Website | 514 Chartres Street
A small building dedicated to all kinds of old-fashioned medicines, elixirs, and other things one would have found back in the early 1900s and 1800s. There’s an upstairs and a gorgeous courtyard.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
The last location on my New Orleans City Guide is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, just a few blocks walk from Bourbon Street, and one of New Orleans’ oldest cemeteries. Due to the city being roughly 15-18 feet below sea level they’ve had issues burying their dead below ground as the flooding that would happen from heavy rainfall and hurricanes would disrupt the gravesites. Now the dead are mostly buried in mausoleum-type tombs that are above ground creating a unique cemetery setting making this a very New Orleans thing to do on your visit. I recommend St. Louis No. 1 due to its proximity to the Quarter and the that it is home to two very unique tombs.
The first is the believed final resting place of famous voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau. You’ll spot her tomb by the triple x’s drawn all over her tomb and the offerings of beads and other miscellaneous items left at the entrance. The other tomb is of actor Nicolas Cage. You’ll notice this one right away, too, as it’s a very modern-looking pyramid with a Latin saying that has kiss marks across part of the tomb. As you can imagine many New Orleanians aren’t thrilled with the addition of his tomb and some people have decided to make it into a strange, cult-like mystery with the kiss marks.
Since my last visit, the rules have changed. Unfortunately, due to excessive vandalism, you are no longer able to freely visit this cemetery unless you have family laid to rest here or are on an official tour. This saddens me because it’s such a relaxing time to explore and honor the deceased with curious respect while admiring the unique circumstances of cemeteries in New Orleans. So remember if this is on your agenda to research tours and the dates and times they are available so you don’t miss out. Also, as with any cemetery, proceed with respect for the dead. Do not vandalize, remove items, or cause damage to the tombs.
Nearby St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture | Website | 1010 Conti Street
Museum of Death | Website | 227 Dauphine St.
Nearby Notable Neighborhoods & Things To Do
My New Orleans City Guide wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t call out some other notable destinations & things to do while in town. You might find yourself wanting to get a little more into the culture and history of New Orleans, or just find a less tourist-filled scene. Either way, these destinations and
The Garden District / Uptown
Hop on the trolley at St. Charles Line and take it into the Garden District. Look at the beautiful homes, take a stroll through Audubon Park and hug a Live Oak tree. Stroll down Magazine Street for some boutique shopping. Take a tranquil stroll through Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Get some donuts at District Donuts and if you are hungry, stop by the famous Commander’s Palace for a bite to eat. Many people like to take self-guided tours through the Garden District.
Marigny / Bywater
An artsy area where locals are known to hang out to escape the chaotic tourist-filled French Quarter. Lots of jazz-filled clubs along Frenchmen Street, historic Creole homes, a chill vibe and so much more. Be sure to check out Dat Dog and Port of Call if you’re hungry. Keep an eye out for the Frenchmen Art Market (Art Garage). On the way to Frenchmen Street, keep an eye out for Second-line arts & Antiques such a cool space with lots of unique things to see. It’s one of my favorite antique shops in NOLA. Stop in The Maison and The Spotted Cat for a night of jazz and live music. There’s even a toilet-themed pub called The John… it’s not as gross as it sounds.
Central Business District
This is where New Orleans starts to feel like other major cities with its tall buildings and a downtown feel. Not to say there’s nothing worth visiting in the CBD, but you won’t find as much of the charm of New Orleans and the French Quarter here. You can visit Harrah’s Casino if your feeling lucky, check out an event at The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, get some shopping done at upscale and well-known brand retail spots. If you are looking for a place to stay, check into the ACE Hotel, and if you get hungry check out popular spots such as Domenica, Mother’s, and Drago’s.
Go on a swamp tour or hike
One thing you can do while in town is going on a swamp tour or hike. We’ve done both and they were so much fun, even more so than I anticipated. The boat tour was peaceful and we saw a lot of animals. We also visited Barataria Preserve, a place where you can literally walk through the swamp on a wooden bridge.
Learn more about Barataria Preserve near New Orleans where you can get up close to the swamp and alligators.
Know Before You Go
Parking: I don’t know why you would drive in New Orleans proper, most people cab/ uber/ pedicab everywhere. There are the occasional parking garage and street park, it really depends on the area.
Weather: It’s the South so dress appropriately. I suggest bringing layers in the Spring and Fall, in summer you’ll want to dress light. You won’t find me visiting during the summer months, I hate the heat!
Peek season: Mardi Gras will be one of the busier seasons, however, there are a lot of events and conventions held in town. Be sure to check if any are happening when you plan to visit as that can cause a spike in hotel prices and beyond.
Safety: Unfortunately due to being a major tourist hotspot, petty crime is going to happen as well as the occasional violent crime. Use common sense that you would use in any major city, especially a party city. Be aware of your surroundings, keep your belongings close in front pockets or purses to your front. Avoid walking down the dark alleys, especially alone at night. Be aware that there will be people trying to scam you with things like the sneaker scam (look it up). It’s best to politely say no thank you and keep moving along, or my favorite “I’m a local, man” and they get the point and move on.
This makes New Orleans sound like a scary place, but in the 9 times I’ve visited, I have never once been afraid for my safety.
Hope my New Orleans City Guide was helpful planning your trip. Do you feel I missed anything, or have any questions about New Orleans let me know in the comments. Happy planning!