Traveling to New Orleans? Don’t Miss These 6 Spots!
Make the most out of your next trip to New Orleans by visiting all of the best spots in the city.
If you have never been to New Orleans before, the city can be a little bit overwhelming. It is full of life, sound, and activity, and there is always something to do or see while you’re there. It’s wonderful being right in the middle of so much vibrant excitement, but you may find yourself having trouble figuring out what you’d like to do with your time there. Fear not! This list is here to provide you with the six spots you absolutely cannot miss when on vacation in New Orleans.
Jackson Square faces the Mississippi River, both just a couple of examples of the many locations within walking distance of each other in the heart of New Orleans. The square was named for Andrew Jackson, who is widely regarded as a hero of the Battle of New Orleans; there is a large statue of him on the back of a rearing horse in the center of the square. On any given day, you are sure to see open-air artists painting and creating in the square, and you will run into all manner of people, including locals and tourists alike.
Try catching one of the horse and carriage rides that begin and end at Jackson Square. This is one of the novelties of New Orleans that can help carry you back in time, even if just for a moment. If you are visiting the city during any particular holiday, it can be beneficial to do some research ahead of time and find out what public events might be taking place in the Square. For example, around the holidays, a large carolling event goes on that is free to the public.
Jackson Square is accessible daily from 8:00am. In the winter, it closes at 6:00pm, and in the summer, it closes at 7:00pm.
Bourbon Street is yet another widely-known area in New Orleans, and it absolutely should be one of the first stops on your list of must-see places in the city. Dating back to the late 18th century, the thirteen blocks that comprise this street are packed full of history and excitement both. In more modern times, Bourbon Street has become recognized for its major contributions to New Orleans nightlife. If you’re looking for a place to have fun after the sun goes down during your travels, look no further!
While on Bourbon Street, stop by and have a meal at Galatoire’s Restaurant, one of the oldest restaurants in New Orleans. You can try some excellent local cuisine here, and join locals and tourists alike for a tasty weeknight dinner. Pop in one of the many bars that line the street, and don’t forget to try a taste of absinthe, which is widely served throughout several of them. And last but certainly not least, pick one of the venues on the street to enjoy some quality, live, local jazz music just about any night of the week.
To get to Bourbon Street, consider hopping on a streetcar and riding it to the Canal Street stop. This is just a couple blocks’ walk to Bourbon Street, and it gives you a chance to ride one of the famous New Orleans streetcars as well!
The French Quarter is really where the heart of New Orleans culture lies. It has existed for over two centuries, and every year marks another page in the thrilling story of this exciting part of the city. There is so much history to be explored in this area alone that anyone with an interest in the subject could be lost here for days. Stop by the Visitor Center or just dive right in and start exploring with the many self-guided and group-style tours available throughout the Quarter.
The French Quarter is definitely where you want to be to enjoy all the sightseeing and tourism the city has to offer. Here, you can learn about the history of the city and the Quarter itself, discover how the city has changed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and even take a ghost tour to learn something about the darker history associated with the city. Get lost in the appeal of slow and easy New Orleans culture with one of the romantic tours of the old colonial-era parts of town. Whatever you’re in the mood for, the French Quarter can provide.
If you’d like to see as many of the sights in the area as possible in a short amount of time, you can consider hopping on a sightseeing tour bus. These double decker buses offer narration and a hop-on hop-off option that allows you to spend as much or as little time as you like at each location.
Extravagant beauty is what the Garden District is all about. Imagine the resplendent homes of old Southern plantation owners, draped with lush landscaping and perfectly manicured yards. This is what the Garden District still is today. The cotton and sugar barons of the past had these elaborate homes built for themselves and for their families, and they made sure to provide plenty of yard space so that they could have beautiful gardens to go along with their grand homes. Tourists frequently travel the streets of the Garden District just to take photos and enjoy the splendor of the beautiful old buildings and grounds that are there.
To tour the Garden District, you can take a walk or join a tour. It can be very relaxing, if the weather is right, to tour the area on foot—and this is the way I recommend doing it. However, do bear in mind that these homes are owned and lived in by real people who do not want strangers looking in their windows! Try to set aside some time to visit the Lafayette Cemetery #1, which is a very well-known cemetery that has been used in many film settings.
Visit the intersection of Washington Avenue and Prytania Street to find a few places to eat and shop. This can be a welcome find in the middle of a stroll through a largely residential neighborhood!
St. Louis Cathedral
Even if you don’t realize it, you have probably seen a picture of the St. Louis Cathedral on postcards, in television and movies, and on any number of other items depicting the scenery of New Orleans. This landmark is one of the most notable in the city, and its three spires have been overlooking Jackson Square since 1727, although much of it had to be rebuilt after a large fire in 1788. Today, the cathedral still functions as a Catholic church, but it is also the home of a great deal of historical information about the city of New Orleans.
For a one-dollar donation to the upkeep of this iconic landmark, you can pick up a self-guided tour brochure and take a walking tour around the Cathedral and its grounds. You can also visit the convent that is on site; it is open for guided tours every day except Sunday. I recommend doing both tours if possible, just to learn more about the history of this incredible building and what it means to the city of New Orleans. If you are the religious type, it is also possible to schedule a wedding, healing ceremony, baptism, or other religious events in the cathedral. Please always be respectful of people who are at the cathedral for worship.
The St. Louis Cathedral is open daily from 8:30am to 4:00pm.
You can attend mass every day at the Cathedral at 12:05pm.
If you love shopping, then you absolutely can’t miss the French Market! The French Market is a large, open-air shopping experience that has been a part of New Orleans culture and heritage for over two centuries. It features several different sections, including a cuisine market, a butchers’ market, a vegetable market, a bazaar market, and more. You can find just about anything you might want to purchase at the French Market, and you’ll probably also find a friendly face to sell it to you!
The French Market is also home to Café Du Monde, one of the most popular small cafes in New Orleans, and the home of the best beignets in the city. You can visit this café 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—so any time you’re in the area looking for some shopping, stop in for a snack! Café Du Monde is certainly not the only place worth visiting in the French Market, and you could easily spend an entire day perusing the shops within. Check out the Dutch Alley Artist’s Co-op in the French Market to view art and sculptures created by 25 local artists. Visit Southern Candymakers for pecan pralines and other local sweet treats, and make sure to browse through the collection in Rendezvous Linen and Lace, a store specializing in items sewn from forty-year-old pieces of lace.
The French Market is open 7 days a week.
The retail stores in the market are open from 10:00am to 6:00pm.
The Flea Market is open from 9:00am to 6:00pm.
The cafes and eateries keep their own hours, so call ahead of time to check on them.
The next time you find yourself with a chance to visit New Orleans, you will be armed and ready with all the information you need to see the best sites you can see while you’re there. If you’ve got a trip planned, make sure you set aside time to visit every location on this list. After all, these are the must-see places in New Orleans!
Lead image: flickr photo by Loco Steve https://flickr.com/photos/locosteve/5194718055 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
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