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Best things to do in New Orleans

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Where in the world: USA  /  Louisiana  /  New Orleans
Things to do in New Orleans include guided visits to the atmospheric French Quarter, where you can mingle with the locals, taste the delicacies of the Creole cuisine, and experience the artsy character of the neighborhood. Open to the wee hours of the morning, nightclubs on Frenchmen Street envelop you in the sounds of the city's rich musical background. History buffs can learn about the dramatic days of World War II at The National WWII Museum, while those interested in the golden years of New Orleans should head to Garden District.

New Orleans is best known for its Nightlife, Historic Walking Areas, and Military Museums.

Top 15 things to do in New Orleans

1. The National WWII Museum

Learn more about the planning and execution of D-Day at The National WWII Museum, where you can view American soldiers' private letters, weapons, and photographs. Pay homage to the men and women who served during World War II and experienced the Allied victory in 1945. You'll find a blend of education and entertainment, with interactive exhibits and 4-D experiences where you can discover the key events of the war through special effects, CGI animation, and first-hand accounts. The museum's restaurant is noted for its 17-piece band that plays classic jazz.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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2. French Quarter

The oldest and most visited neighborhood of New Orleans, French Quarter is packed with family-owned restaurants with heralded regional cuisine, clubs, museums and galleries, hotels, antiques shops, and old-fashioned bars. Originally laid out in the 18th century, this compact neighborhood--13 city blocks long and six blocks wide--stretches along the Mississippi River. You can spend your entire vacation in New Orleans without ever leaving this quaint, artsy quarter. Parking is difficult and expensive, so consider leaving your car behind and walking or cycling through the neighborhood's pedestrian-friendly streets. Ignore street hawkers (especially on and near Bourbon Street), take care walking at night, and avoid dark or deserted alleys.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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3. Garden District

Noted for its well-preserved antebellum private mansions and meticulously manicured gardens, Garden District serves as a reminder of the city's golden years of prosperity. You can take a guided walking tour of this photogenic neighborhood, where residents take great pride in their well-cared-for properties. Some mansions even open their doors for special-event tours, allowing visitors a quick peek at their English-style gardens. Originally laid out in the 1820s, the neighborhood first attracted "new money" residents looking to outshine one another by building and continuously expanding their Greek Revival houses. Visit the neighborhood's lower district where you can explore trendy boutiques, bars, and restaurants.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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4. St. Louis Cathedral

Experience the majestic 18th-century architecture and stately appearance of St. Louis Cathedral. Located in the historical Jackson Square facing the Mississippi River, the cathedral serves as one of the French Quarter’s anchoring landmarks and is the oldest continuously active cathedral in the United States. Walk through the cathedral’s main hall to admire the high, painted ceilings and arched windows before taking a seat in one of the pew’s to enjoy a few moments of silence. Check the cathedral’s schedule online if you are interested in attending a service.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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5. Ghost & Vampire Tours

Glimpse the supernatural side of New Orleans on a lamp-lit promenade through a maze of haunted sites, including former brothels and homes of voodoo practitioners. Under cover of night, your amusing guide will lead you around the dark corridors and haunted houses of the French Quarter, while keeping you entertained with gruesome stories of vampires, witchcraft, voodoo rituals, and unsolved mysteries straight out of police reports. You'll get to visit the city's most infamous locations, such as St Germaine House, LaLaurie House, and the mausoleum of Marie Laveau, the city's most respected voodoo priestess, before warming your chilled blood with a nightcap at a local bar. The duration of these vampire/ghost tours is 2 hours or less.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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6. New Orleans City Park

Founded in 1853 and spanning 526 hectares (1,300 acres) New Orleans City Park is one of the largest and oldest urban parks in America. Stroll through this green space to discover the botanical garden, sculpture garden, and golf courses. Check out the antique wooden carousel in the park's amusement area, which is more than 100 years old and one of the few of its kind left in the country. The park also is home to the city's soccer stadium and the New Orleans Museum of Art, considered one of the finest art museums in the South. Rent a boat to explore the park's 18 km (11 mi) of lagoons, lakes, and bayous. Bikes are also available for rent.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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7. Jackson Square

Be a part of New Orleans's rich history and cultural heritage with a visit to Jackson Square. One of the city's most iconic landmarks in the heart of the French Quarter, the park serves as the main hub for cultural and leisure activities. Stroll past the manicured lawns and 18th-century architecture, admiring the eccentric mix of street artwork and handmade crafts on display by local artists. Before or afterward, stop for a beignet (French-style doughnuts) at Cafe Du Monde, sitting outside to enjoy local musicians and street performers in the park. If members of your group want to split up, you can meet back at the statue of Andrew Jackson in the center of the park.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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8. Audubon Zoo

Home to more than 2,000 animals, Audubon Zoo is named after famed artist and naturalist John James Audubon. The zoo created a name for itself by providing a home for a white tiger and two blue-eyed alligators. During Hurricane Katrina, zoo staff took refuge in the reptile house, which is designed to withstand storms. Despite financial setbacks after the storm, the zoo reopened and added a swamp exhibit with a themed Hurricane Katrina house and a collection of local species.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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9. Happiness Bayou Tours

Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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10. New Orleans Museum of Art

The city park provides a fitting backdrop for New Orleans Museum of Art, which features art from around the world. With particularly impressive collections of French and American art, photography, glass, and African and Japanese art, the museum now features nearly 40,000 works of art. Opened in 1911, it is the city's oldest institution for fine arts. You'll find works by Picasso, Renoir, Monet, and Jackson Pollock on display inside, and 2 hectares (five acres) of sculpture gardens on the museum's grounds. The sculpture garden showcases over 60 sculptures by artists from around the world and includes mature pine, magnolia, and oak trees.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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11. Louisiana Music Factory

Louisiana Music Factory is an independent record and CD store located on Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana. Its specialty is local music, and is well-known among music aficionados around the world. Its rich inventory of New Orleans and Louisiana music include CDs and vinyl of traditional jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, zydeco and Cajun music, many of which are on local independent labels and hard to find outside the Louisiana region.

The store also holds weekly in-store performances throughout the year. Many performances showcase local artists, especially during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival period.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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12. Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium

Sixteen attractions--including live insect galleries, interactive exhibits, and films all about bugs--make Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium the largest museum of insects in the United States. Opened in 2008 as part of the larger Audubon Nature Institute, the insectarium received the Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement in a Science Center in 2009. Hang out among hundreds of butterflies in the butterfly garden, or watch Formosan termites eat away at a wooden replica of the New Orleans skyline. In the historic U.S. Customs House, the Hall of Fame gallery shows off the world's biggest, fastest, and most impressive bugs. Check out the Bug Appetit show, where chefs cook up interesting concoctions featuring insects. If you're feeling adventurous, you can sample the delicacies.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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13. Audubon Aquarium

Audubon Aquarium has four major habitats. The freshwater Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico habitats house local species while the others showcase exotic fish and water species from around the world. You'll discover smaller exhibits inside these major habitats, such as the hands-on Paraket Pointe, where guests are encouraged to handle the birds. The penguin exhibit is the attraction's most popular spot, and many visitor gather to watch the penguins play. Consider booking a Backstage Penguin Pass to get a tour behind the scenes and an opportunity to pet the penguins. Another immersive experience is the Maya Dive Experience, which allows you to dive into the Mayan reef exhibit to explore the life there firsthand.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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14. Backstreet Cultural Museum

Learn about New Orleans' African American heritage at Backstreet Cultural Museum, where you can browse collections of photos, colorful suits, and more. The museum prides itself especially on the displays of Mardi Gras Indians, jazz funerals, and second lines parades. Time your visit according to special events and witness dynamic musical and dance performances. The museum's founder, Sylvester Francis, used a Super 8 mm camera to document Mardi Gras celebrations, and then started displaying the photos in 1988.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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15. Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World

Set alongside the Mississippi River, Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World creates floats for the world-famous festival and its accompanying parades. Blaine Kern Studios (the company that sponsors the tours) serves as a major supplier for many Mardi Gras festivities and builds the set pieces from scratch. You can tour the warehouse to discover the methods, techniques, and processes used in their production, plus you'll get a glimpse industry's history. Bring a camera--the tour allows up-close photos of the floats as well as an opportunity to take pictures in a classic Mardi Gras costume. A shuttle pick-up from downtown New Orleans is included in the price of the ticket.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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