Explore New Orleans

New Orleans for the Busy Traveler

The city's top attractions in a nutshell

Not enough time to see and do it all? Not to worry. We've mapped out the city’s top attractions and highlighted their high points for you. Now get going...time’s a wasting.


Jackson Square

Flanked by the nation’s oldest Catholic cathedral and first apartment complex, Jackson Square is as central to Crescent City life today as when it was first laid out in 1721. The bronze statue at its center depicts Gen. Andrew Jackson tipping his hat toward the residence of Baroness Micaëla Pontalba (his alleged lover), who erected the twin brick buildings surrounding the square (look for her initials in the balconies' intricate ironwork). To the left of St. Louis Cathedral is the Presbytère, a former rectory that’s now a museum; to its right is the Cabildo, where the signing of the Louisiana Purchase took place. Between the two is Pirate's Alley, where William Faulkner wrote his first novel, just steps from where Tennessee Williams penned “A Streetcar Named Desire” and Le Petit Theatre, the oldest active community playhouse in the U.S.

Jackson Square New Orleans
"Streetcar" fans and Brando wannbes gather in Jackson Square each March for the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival's annual "Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest." (©Shawn Fink)


The Presbytère

This branch of the Louisiana State Museum is home to two permanent exhibits that reflect equally important aspects of local life: “Living With Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond" and "Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana." Here are a few highlights from each.

Hurricanes: It’s hard to miss Fats Domino’s flood-ravaged Steinway, but the artifact that really brings the 2005 disaster flooding back is survivor Tommie Elton Mabry’s daily diary written on sheetrock. Stick around for the moving video montage at the exhibit’s end.

Mardi Gras: Catch the 1949 Zulu coconut handed out by Louis Armstrong, the eagle-topped staff or Rex 1886 and Helen Clark Warren’s jaw-dropping costume designs.

Tommie Elton Mabry (©Lousiana State Museum/Shawn Fink)
Hurricane Katrina survivor Tommie Elton Mabry stands next to his storm diary at the Presbytère. (©Louisiana State Museums/Shawn Fink)


National WWII Museum

Counted among the top museums in the country by TripAdvisor, the National WWII Museum has grown so popular—and so big—it now has it's own hotel. With its numerous exhibits and hundreds of thousands of artifacts, you could spend your entire stay exploring the sprawling campus. But a brief visit can be just as impactful. Start with a screening of the 4D film "Beyond All Boundaries," which provides an informative, heart-wrenching overview of the global conflict. The hands-on USS Tang Experience re-creates the legendary submarine’s final voyage, while the high-flying U.S. Freedom Pavilion’s elevated catwalks afford up-close aerial views of vintage warcraft.

National WWII Museum in New Orleans
The National WWII Museum’s soaring U.S. Freedom Pavilion. (©National WWII Museum)


The Garden District/Uptown

Many visitors leave New Orleans having never stepped foot outside of the French Quarter. The Garden District is less than a mile away, but in spirit it’s a world apart. The St. Charles Avenue streetcar runs the full length of the oak-canopied boulevard, providing the perfect perch for taking in the area’s stunning mansions and gorgeous grounds. Points of interest include Gallier Hall, the former city hall; the Effiel Society lounge, constructed from pieces of the Paris landmark; the Columns Hotel, which starred with Brooke Shields in “Pretty Baby”; and the Milton H. Latter Memorial Library, housed in the former home of silent screen actress Marguerite Clark.

St. Charles Streetcar in New Orleans
The St. Charles streetcar cuts a scenic swath through the Garden District and Uptown neighborhoods. (©neworleansonline.com)


Audubon Zoo

With 2,000 animals spread over 58 acres, an onsite water park, a four-story ropes course and other family-friendly attractions, one could easily devote a full day taking in all the Audubon Zoo has to offer (there are even overnight excursions). To make the most of your time, grab a map at the entrance and plot out your adventure before setting off. Sure, the orangutans, gorillas and rhinos are huge draws, but there are smaller charms to seek out as well. Keep an eye peeled for poetic passages (by Langston Hughes, D.H. Lawrence and others) that pepper the park, the circa-1930 Odenheimer Fountain surrounded by giant oak trees and Monkey Hill, where small fries (and their big-kid counterparts) have romped and rolled for decades.

Aububon Zoo in New Orleans
Feeding the giraffes—and fueling childhood memories—at the Audubon Zoo. (©Audubon Nature Institute)


New Orleans City Park

“I wouldn’t mind spending an entire day here,” wrote one City Park reviewer, and, indeed, you could—if not two or three. From gondola glides beneath the world’s largest collection of mature live oak trees to golf, tennis and horseback riding, the nation’s seventh-most visited urban park has much to enjoy. Snap a selfie under the “Dueling Oak,” where affaires d’honneur were played out during the 1800s, before taking a spin on the century-old wooden carousel. The open-air, circa-1907 Peristyle (the site of numerous weddings) is just across from the Enrique Alferez Sculpture Garden, which spotlights the WPA-era artist who created many of the works scattered throughout City Park’s 1,300 acres.

New Orleans City Park. (©David Lancaster)
Established in 1854, New Orleans City Park is one of the oldest urban parks in the U.S. (©David Lancaster)


Mississippi Riverfront

Given its below-sea-level positioning, many visitors leave New Orleans without ever setting sight on the mighty Mississippi. Start at the Port of New Orleans, where a little-known set of swings beneath the Crescent City Connection bridges provides sweeping views. The 11th floor lobby of the nearby Westin Canal Place helps put the “Crescent City” moniker into perspective with a wide panorama of the curvy river. Stroll the French Quarter’s Woldenberg Park, which dovetails into  Crescent Park, where repurposed wharf warehouses serve as industrial-chic gathering spaces and offer dramatic vistas. 

Crescent Park in New Orleans
Running from the French Quarter to Bywater, Crescent Park offers unparalleled river—and city—views. (©Shawn Fink)


New Orleans Museum of Art

There’s an art to combating the summer's (and spring and fall's) heat and humidity, and there’s no better place to practice it than the New Orleans Museum of Art. With 40,000 permanent objects displayed among 46 galleries on three floors, you could spend hours on end soaking up 5,000 years of culture (and some much-welcome air conditioning). Don’t have a full day to devote? Don’t sweat it. Docents lead free, hour-long tours of the facility every Sunday at 2 pm. Afterward duck into the in-house Café NOMA or take it outside to the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which offers free cell-phone tours of 11 acres of cool art in the open.

New Orleans Museum of Art
The city’s oldest fine arts museum ranks among the best in the nation. (©NOMA)


Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

With its Great Maya Reef scuba and snorkel adventures, Amazon rainforest and free-flying parakeets, it’s hard to know just where to dive in at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. Break away from the pack by starting at the 400,000-gallon Gulf of Mexico exhibit, the aquarium’s largest. After scoping out the sharks, stingrays and jellyfish, head upstairs where you’ll find a blue-eyed white alligator, sea otters, a stingray touch pool (inquire about feeding tickets) and the wildly popular penguins playground. Splurge on a Backstage Penguin Pass, which provides guests with one-on-one access and a one-of-a-kind penguin painting. You’ll not only take home a web-footed original but lasting memories as well.

Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans
One of the in-house artists at the Audubon Aquarium. (©VH PhotoGraphix 2013)


The Bywater

Once considered a visitor no-go zone, in recent years the burgeoning Bywater has positioned itself as one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the nation. Long a draw for artists, that tradition continues with Brandan Odum's Studio BE, the perennially popular Dr. Bob’s Studio and the burgeoning St. Claude Avenue arts district. Check out the vinyl selection at Euclid Records, before heading next door to the aptly named Pizza Delicious. Grab a slice and take it to nearby Crescent Park, which offers sweeping views of the river and area architecture. Make Bacchanal your end goal; select a bottle of wine and a table in the courtyard, where live music is performed.

Studio BE in New Orleans
Studio BE, home to Brandan Odums’ massive, graffiti-style works, is indicitive of Bywater’s artistic bent. (©Shawn Fink)


St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

With more than 30 “cities of the dead” within the city of New Orleans, one could spend a lifetime exploring them all. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, just outside of the French Quarter, is the city’s oldest and home to the many of its most notable residents. Look for the aboveground tombs of Benjamin Latrobe, “the father of American architecture,” civil rights pioneer Homer Plessy, the city’s first black mayor Ernest “Dutch” Morial and (still-living) actor Nicolas Cage. Most sought-out is the XXX-marked grave of voodoo legend Marie Laveau. Painted pink by vandals in 2013, the tomb has since been restored, and visitor access limited to tour groups only. Sign up with Save Our Cemeteries, which promotes preservation.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans. (©Shawn FInk)
The Italian Benevolent Society tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, featured in the 1969 counterculture classic "Easy Rider." (©Shawn FInk)


Magazine Street

Six miles of prime retailing makes Magazine Street a must-do for visitors and serious shoppers. With dozens of clothing boutiques, art galleries, antiques stores and home décor shops between Felicity and State, “the street of dreams” can run even the most ardent shopper ragged. Thankfully Magazine is also home to great restaurants and cafés. Jewelry lovers will swoon over the designs at Mignon Faget; guys will want to indulge in a hot-towel shave at Aidan Gill for Men. Save valuable shopping time by scoping out merchants beforehand at magazinestreet.com.

Magazine Street New Orleans
Art and conmmerce combine on Magazine Street. (©Shawn Fink)


The Riverbend

Named for its placement along a curve in the Mississippi, the Riverbend neighborhood, easily accessible via the St. Charles streetcar line, is a popular stamping ground for students of nearby Tulane and Loyola universities. Maple Street is packed with cool cafés and chic boutiques, as is Oak, where the tiny Maple Leaf Bar overflows during the Rebirth Brass Band’s legendary Tuesday-night blowouts. Art lovers will fall for the monthly plein-air market at Palmer Park, while foodies are wooed by the area’s many great eateries, such as Brightsen’s, Boucherie and Carrollton Market. Camellia Grill, where bow-tied waiters have been slinging burgers since the 1940s, is a must-do. 

Camellia Grill New Orleans
A Riverbend rite of passage, Camilla Grill is known for its giant omelets, chili-cheese fries, chocolate pecan pie and entertaining staff. (©Shawn Fink)


The Historic New Orleans Collection

With its numerous properties, hundreds of holdings and various exhibits exploring the city’s 300-year backstory, the Historic New Orleans Collection is a must-visit for lovers of local lore. Its free French Quarter and Louisiana History galleries serve as the perfect primers. Divided among different time periods, each area offers insight into New Orleans’ evolution through a wide range of artifacts and ephemera, from hand-hewn cypress logs and early Mardi Gras memorabilia to the first Jazzfest poster and a shovel used at the Superdome’s groundbreaking. Friendly, knowledgeable docents are on hand to provide details and answer questions, while a free smartphone tour helps you explore on your own.

Historic New Orleans Collection
A circa-1860 depiction of a plantation burial, one of many rare items on view in the Historic New Orleans Collection's Louisiana History Galleries. (©HNOC)


The Irish Channel

Though its name may suggest otherwise, the Irish Channel neighborhood has been home to a melting pot of cultures since the early 19th century. Bordered by Magazine, Tchoupitoulas, Jackson and Delachaise streets, the area is largely devoted to shipping facilities and simple shotgun houses that reflect its working-class origins, though you’ll see a variety of architectural influences (such as the Egyptian Revival former courthouse at 2219 Rousseau St.). Highlights include retail-packed Magazine Street, NOLA Brewing Company and Parasol’s, the epicenter of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Two massive churches, St. Alphonsus and St. Mary’s Assumption, erected out of one-upmanship between the Irish and Germans, anchor the neighborhood and are popular pilgrimage destinations.

Father Seelos shrine in New Orleans
Part of St. Mary’s Assumption, the National Shrine of Father Seelos brings pilgrims from around the globe to the Irish Channel. (©Shawn Fink)


Bayou St. John

Established in 1708, the Bayou St. John neighborhood, adjacent to Mid-City, was named for its main waterway, which has been central to local life since Native American days. The “Old Portage” marker on Moss Street notes the bayou’s importance as an early passage between Lake Pontchartrain and the river. The circa-1784 Old Spanish Custom House is the area’s oldest residence, while the 1799 Pitot House was home to the city’s first mayor and welcomes visitors. Other highlights include St. John Court, a tucked-away cul-de-sac dating to 1917; the po’boy haven Parkway Bakery; and Kayak-iti-Yat’s floating tours; and the annual Bayou Boogaloo music fest.

Pitot House New Orleans (©Shawn Fink)
The Pitot House was also once home to artist Edgar Degas’ great-grandmother. (©Shawn Fink)


Audubon Park

Designed by landscape architect John Charles Olmstead (whose famed father is credited with creating Central and Golden Gate parks), picturesque Audubon Park has anchored Uptown since the 1880s. Bordered by the Mississippi River and St. Charles Avenue, and easily accessible by streetcar, the 350-acre urban retreat is popular among students at neighboring Tulane and Loyola universities as well as fitness enthusiasts, with its 1.8 miles of walking/jogging/biking paths and tennis/golf/horse-riding facilities. Named for naturalist John James Audubon, who spent time in the city while working on his illustrated opus “Birds of America,” the park also attracts bird watchers with one of the region’s most active rookeries. 

Audubon Park New Orleans (©Audubon Nature Institute)
“Jean Pierre,” by sculptor Jane DeDecker, located at the Audubon Park entrance in front of Loyola University. (©Audubon Nature Institute)


Lake Pontchartrain

Clocking in at 630 square miles, massive Lake Pontchartrain isn’t really a lake at all but a brackish estuary connected to the Gulf of Mexico. For generations the lake has served as a popular retreat for families as well as fishing and boating fans. Along with numerous green space and recreational areas, the lakeshore is also home to the nation’s second-oldest yacht club, the art deco-influenced Lakefront Airport (where Amelia Earhart stopped en route to her final flight) and seafood-centric restaurants overlooking the Orleans Marina.

Lake Pontchartrain New Orleans (©Alex Demyan/NewOrleansOnline.com)
Sailing into the sunset on Lake Pontchartrain. (©Alex Demyan/NewOrleansOnline.com)


Rampart Street

Named for the wall (or rempart) that originally bordered the French Quarter, Rampart Street runs from Esplanade Avenue through the Central Business District. South Rampart is home to the burgeoning South Market District and the Eagle Saloon, where early jazz greats performed. North Rampart counts such landmarks as the Saenger Theatre, the circa-1872 New Orleans Athletic Club (which has its own bar, naturally), Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel and Armstrong Park, where jazz is said to have first taken root. The Rampart streetcar line makes navigating the busy stretch a breeze.

Rampart streetcar New Orleans
The Rampart streetcar line runs from Elysian Fields to Union Passenger Terminal. (©Shawn Fink)


Faubourg Tremé

With its vibrant second-line parades, colorful Mardi Gras Indians and roof-raising brass bands, Tremé, bordered by Esplanade and N. Rampart and St. Louis and N. Broad, is a hot bed of local culture. The nation’s oldest African-American neighborhood is home to Armstrong Park, where jazz is said to have originated, the Mahalia Jackson and Carver theaters and the circa-1841 St. Augustine Catholic Church, where a lively jazz Mass is held each Sunday. In addition to the popular Backstreet Cultural Museum, the area also counts Le Musée de f.p.c and the Degas House, along with Dooky Chase Restaurant, which houses it’s own impressive art collection and has fed everyone from Duke Ellington to President Barack Obama.

St. Augustine Church New Orleans (©Shawn Fink)
St. Augustine, the nation’s second-oldest African-American Catholic church. (©Shawn Fink)


Bourbon Street

Despite what most visitors might think, Bourbon Street wasn’t named for the spirit poured in its many barrooms, but for the French royal, the Duke of Bourbon. Until the early 1900s, the street was one of the city’s most desirable addresses; today it’s the center of local nightlife. But you’ll find something happening along the 13-block stretch 24/7. Bustling with bars (Laffite’s Blacksmith Shop is one of the nation’s oldest), lower Bourbon also boasts a number of notable eateries, such as Galatoire’s, while upper Bourbon is more residential. Near the halfway point at St. Ann Street is a grouping of gay clubs—aka “the Pink Triangle”—the epicenter of the annual Southern Decadence festivities over Labor Day weekend.

Bourbon Street New Orleans
Where’s the party? You are guaranteed to stumble upon a good time on Bourbon Street. (©Zack Smith/NOCVB)


The Warehouse District

Once devoted to crumbling 19th-century warehouses, the aptly named Warehouse District is now known as “the SoHo of the South,” thanks to its many museums and art galleries. The Contemporary Arts Center, Ogden Museum of Southern Art and National WWII Museum are all within a three-block radius of each other, while Julia Street offers dozens of great galleries, monthly art strolls and annual events, such as White Linen Night and Art for Arts’ Sake. The area also counts a number of notable restaurants, including Emeril’s and Pêche, the Morial Convention Center, the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk and the Port of New Orleans, through which more than a million cruise passengers pass each year.

Piazza d'Italia New Orleans
A remnant of the 1984 World’s Fair, the Piazza d’Italia (337 Poydras St.) is a hidden Warehouse District gem. (©Warehouse District Association)


Esplanade Avenue

Bordering the French Quarter and Marigny neighborhoods and running from the river to Bayou St. John, Esplanade Avenue served as a major portage route during the early 1800s. It later became known as Millionaire’s Row, due to the magnificent mansions that line the five-mile stretch, such as the Degas House, where the French Impressionist once resided. The home is now open for tours, as is the Old U.S. Mint near the riverfront. Just past the Degas House you’ll find charming Alcee Fortier Park and a cluster of casual eateries. Further down is St. Louis Cemetery No. 3, the final resting place of such New Orleans notables as early architect James Gallier Jr. and legendary Storyville photographer E.J. Bellocq.

Melrose Mansion New Orleans
Esplanade Avenue’s Melrose Mansion, originally a single-family home, is now a boutique hotel. (©Melrose Mansion)


Canal Street

From the late-19th to the mid-20th century, Canal Street was a Southern shopping and entertainment mecca, lined with showy theaters and grand department stores, a number of which have since been converted into even grander hotels, such as the Ritz-Carlton. Today it’s the tony Shops at Canal Place that draws crowds with Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co. and other high-end retailers. Site of Vitascope Hall, the nation’s first movie theater, Canal also counts the Saenger, Joy and Loews State theaters, in addition to Harrah’s Casino and the Audubon Butterfly Garden & Insectarium. Streetcars marked “Cemeteries” travel the full length of the street, from the river to City Park Avenue, passing the city’s growing biomedical district along the way. 

Canal Street New Orleans
Canal, clocking in at 170 feet, ranks as the widest street in the U.S. (©Alex Demyan/Neworleansonline.com)



With access to Bayou St. John, City Park and long stretches of both Canal Street and Carrollton Avenue, New Orleans’ Mid-City neighborhood, once referred to as “backatown,” really is in the middle of it all. Built around the New Basin Canal (now Interstate 10), Mid-City rose from swampland to become an industrial center, before morphing into today’s thriving city center. Culture vultures flock to the New Orleans Museum of Art and historic Pitot House, while outdoor enthusiasts gravitate to the park and adjacent bayou. Mid-City restaurants run the gamut, from fine-dining venues, such as Ralph’s on the Park, to casual eateries like Blue Oak BBQ. The Canal streetcar line links the area to downtown, as does the Lafitte Greenway, a 2.6-mile bike and pedestrian trail.

Pitot House New Orleans
Home to both James Pitot, the city’s first “American” mayor, and the great-grandmother of artist Edgar Degas, the circa-1799 Pitot House on Bayou St. John is now open for tours. (Paul Broussard/NewOrleans.com