From Creole mansions to crumbling cemeteries, Mardi Gras parades to jazz clubs, swamps to steamboats, New Orleans oozes a Southern charm all its own. Here’s how to make the most of a first visit to the Big Easy.
Cruise the Mighty Mississippi
New Orleans has deep roots as a port city, so join river traffic with a ride aboard the vintage Steamboat Natchez paddle wheeler—one of the last of its kind. Upgrade your experience by booking a brunch or dinner jazz cruise for a taste of Creole cuisine on the water.
Stroll the Garden District
A short streetcar ride away from the bustle of the French Quarter, the leafy Garden District is a calm refuge of antebellum mansions and tree-lined avenues. Explore the history and architecture of this upscale neighborhood on a walking tour, including a stop at legendary Lafayette Cemetery No. 1—one of the oldest graveyards in New Orleans.
Explore the Swamps
Trade the sounds of clanging streetcars and jazz clubs for frogs and crickets with a day trip to the Louisiana swamps. It doesn't take long to reach the heart of Cajun country, where you can glide through the bayous on an airboat while spotting alligators, snakes, turtles, and other swamp critters.
Indulge in Creole Cooking
Eating is a favorite New Orleans pastime, so taste local flavor with a food tour of the French Quarter. Savor authentic Creole specialties such as seafood gumbo, muffulettas, beignets, and pralines, or learn recipes you can try at home with a hands-on cooking class.
Go Ghost Hunting
A past scarred by wars, plagues, shocking crimes, and natural disasters has earned New Orleans a reputation as one of the most haunted cities in the US. Visit sites known for paranormal activity and hear legends of voodoo, vampires, and witches on a haunted-history tour. Book one that begins after dark for the eeriest effect.
Step Back in Time at a Plantation
A handful of historic plantations are within easy reach of New Orleans, with the best-preserved along the River Road that runs parallel to the Mississippi. Learn about life in antebellum Louisiana and the impact of the slave trade during a tour of sugar cane plantations such as Oak Alley, Laura, Destrehan, and Whitney.