17 Unforgettable and Unique Things to Do in New Orleans

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New Orleans is a city that is renowned for its cultural and historical significance. It is a place where you can find some of the most unique and unforgettable experiences in the world.

The aura of mystery and magic is everywhere in the city, from its vibrant music scene to its culinary delights, fascinating history, and vibrant arts culture.

Whether you’re a local or a first-time visitor, there is always something new and exciting to discover in this unique city.

Fun Things to Do in New Orleans

In this article, we’ll dive into some of the most unique things to do in New Orleans. So, get ready to embrace the magic and immerse yourself in the distinct charm of this one-of-a-kind place.

New Orleans, known for its vibrant culture, rich history, and unique atmosphere, offers many exciting and distinctive activities.

Here are some unique things to do in New Orleans:

1. Watch the street performers at Jackson Square

Jackson Square is a must-see destination in New Orleans, known for its lively atmosphere and street performers.

The square is surrounded by historic buildings, including the iconic St. Louis Cathedral, making it a popular spot to take photos and absorb the scenery!

The street performers at Jackson Square come from all walks of life and showcase a range of talents, from playing jazz music to creating intricate paintings and sculptures.

Many of these artists also sell their works of art, making it an excellent opportunity to purchase a unique and authentic piece of New Orleans culture.

The energy of the street performers and the vibrant art for sale contribute to the city’s lively and eclectic cultural scene, making Jackson Square a truly unforgettable experience.

Local jazz band performs in the streets for money in New Orleans

2. Listen to live jazz music

Experience the unique sound of New Orleans jazz music firsthand! There are plenty of live venues like The Spotted Cat and Snug Harbor, where you can listen to some of the best jazz musicians from around the world.

Let’s first start with the history of jazz music in New Orleans. Jazz music has its roots in the African American culture of New Orleans in the late 19th century and was heavily influenced by blues, ragtime, and marching band music.

Jazz music became an integral part of the city’s identity, and New Orleans has produced some of the most legendary jazz musicians of all time, including Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and Wynton Marsalis.

Now, let’s take a tour of some of the best neighborhoods in New Orleans to listen to jazz music.

  • French Quarter: Some of the must-visit spots include Preservation Hall, where you can hear traditional New Orleans jazz music, The Spotted Cat Music Club, which offers live jazz music daily, and Fritzel’s European Jazz Club, which is known for its authentic European-style jazz music.
  • Marigny: This neighborhood located just east of the French Quarter, boasts of several jazz clubs where you can listen to all types of jazz music from traditional to modern. Some of the most popular spots in Marigny include Snug Harbor, which offers jazz music daily, and Three Muses, which features live music every night.
Shrimp creole and gumbo at the Gumbo Shop does not disappoint. Request to dine out in the courtyard for a unique experience!

3. Indulge in Creole and Cajun cuisine

Don’t miss out on exploring the city’s incredible culinary scene!

Creole cuisine is a blend of French, African, Spanish, and Native American influences, focusing on fresh seafood, meat, and vegetables.

One of the most iconic Creole dishes is gumbo, a hearty stew made with okra, shrimp, sausage, and a variety of other ingredients. Other popular Creole dishes include jambalaya, red beans and rice, and catfish po’boys.

Sample the delectable flavors of New Orleans by trying traditional Creole and Cajun dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, po’boys, beignets, and crawfish étouffée.

On the other hand, Cajun cuisine is a rustic and hearty style of cooking that originated with French Canadian immigrants who settled in Louisiana.

Cajun dishes are often spicy, featuring ingredients like andouille sausage, crawfish, and rice. One of the most famous Cajun dishes is crawfish étouffée, a rich and creamy dish made with a roux-based sauce and served over rice.

These unique culinary traditions are rooted in the history and culture of the region, and offer a fascinating glimpse into the blending of different cultural traditions that has made New Orleans such a vibrant and diverse city.

  • Gumbo Shop: One of the best places to experience the unique flavors of Creole and Cajun cuisine in New Orleans is at the Gumbo Shop, a family-owned establishment that has been serving up classic dishes like gumbo and jambalaya since 1948. The restaurant’s cozy interior and friendly atmosphere make it a great place to relax and enjoy a traditional New Orleans meal.
  • Original Pierre Maspero’s: Another iconic eatery is Original Pierre Maspero’s, located in the heart of the French Quarter. This historic restaurant has been serving up classic Creole and Cajun dishes for over 200 years, and is renowned for its seafood gumbo and red beans and rice. The atmosphere is lively and casual, with outdoor seating available for those who want to soak up the vibrant energy of the Quarter.

4. Take a haunted history tour

Explore the city’s spooky side with a guided tour through haunted locations like the French Quarter, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, and the LaLaurie Mansion.

As a tour guide, I am thrilled to present to you a comprehensive list of haunted tours available in the mystical city of New Orleans.

  • French Quarter Ghost Tour: This tour explores the most haunted areas of the French Quarter and shares stories about voodoo, ghosts, and vampires. Walkthrough famous landmarks such as the LaLaurie Mansion, where Madame Delphine LaLaurie tortured her slaves, and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, where the voodoo queen Marie Laveau is buried.
  • Ghost City Tours: This company offers multiple ghost walking tours that focus on different aspects of New Orleans’ creepy history. From their “Dead of Night Ghost Hunt” to their “True Crime Tour,” these tours are led by knowledgeable and experienced guides passionate about the city’s supernatural past.
  • Haunted Pub Crawl: For a unique twist on a ghost tour, the Haunted Pub Crawl takes you on a journey to some of the city’s most haunted bars and pubs. Along the way, guides share chilling stories about famous ghost sightings while enjoying local drinks and mingling with other ghost enthusiasts.
A band of marching jazz musicians form a Second Line parade as they lead a party crowd down Bourbon Street

5. Join a second line parade

Experience the lively tradition of a Second Line Parade, where you can dance, celebrate, and enjoy the music of a brass band as you march through the streets of New Orleans.

This unique cultural event is an exciting way to immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant traditions, music, and culture.

Second Line Parades have a deep historical and cultural significance in New Orleans. These parades originated in the African American communities as a way to celebrate the life of a loved one who had passed away. Over time, the tradition evolved into a public celebration that anyone can participate in.

The name “Second Line” comes from the two parts of a parade, the main section with the brass band, and the second line of people who follow and dance along.

There are two types of Second Line Parades in New Orleans. The first is the “Jazz Funeral,” a somber event to honor and celebrate the deceased’s life. The second is the “Social Aid and Pleasure Club Parade,” which is more of a joyful event that celebrates life and community.

The best time to witness a Second Line Parade is during the peak of parade season in late fall through early spring. However, they can occur at any time throughout the year.

6. Go on a Swamp Boat Adventure

Visit the fascinating swamps of Louisiana and have an exciting boat ride with an experienced tour guide. Get up close to all, turtles, otters and birds while learning about the history and ecology of this unique environment.

One of the most exhilarating ways to navigate the Louisiana swamps is aboard an airboat—a flat-bottomed vessel propelled by a powerful fan-like motor.

Experience the rush as the airboat zooms through the water, creating an adrenaline-fueled adventure. Skilled captains expertly navigate the winding waterways, providing an informative and thrilling ride.

Many swamp tour companies offer airboat rides through the narrow canals and channels of the swamps, allowing you to get up close and personal with wildlife like alligators and turtles.

7. Visit the Whitney Plantation

The Whitney Plantation is a historic site located in Wallace, Louisiana. It aims to provide a comprehensive and honest portrayal of slavery in America.

You can explore the grounds and buildings, including original slave cabins, a church, a freedmen’s school, and the “Wall of Honor” memorial that bears the names of more than 350 enslaved people who lived on the plantation.

The Whitney Plantation offers self-guided tours where you’re given audio headphones to learn more about the history of the property. This is a very humbling and emotional experience so it’s nice that you can move at your own pace throughout the tour.

Why should you be prepared to cry on this tour? Because throughout the tour, you will learn the names of the children that lived on the Whitney Plantation. You will hear about their personal stories and experiences.

Don’t leave New Orleans without a stop at Cafe du Monde for some beignets and coffee!

8. Try a beignet

No visit to New Orleans is complete without trying an iconic beignet! Enjoy this delicious sweet treat sprinkled with powdered sugar in the city’s most renowned beignet shops.

Beignets are deep-fried dough balls that are typically sprinkled with powdered sugar. They’re crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and they melt in your mouth with every bite. A perfect beignet has just the right amount of sweetness and crunch and pairs perfectly with a cup of hot coffee.

When I tried beignets in New Orleans, I was blown away by how delicious they were. I visited Café du Monde, one of the most famous beignet spots in the city. The café has been in operation since 1862, and it has a classic New Orleans atmosphere that’s hard to find anywhere else. I sat outside in the café’s covered patio, surrounded by other visitors and locals enjoying their beignets and coffee.

The beignets themselves were incredible. They were hot and fresh, straight out of the fryer, and they were covered in a generous amount of powdered sugar. The texture was perfect – crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, just as I had hoped.

Be prepared. The Purple Drank at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar will literally turn your tongue purple!

9. Have a drink at one of the oldest pubs

Nestled in the heart of the French Quarter, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar is a unique and historic establishment that is a must-visit spot for anyone traveling to New Orleans.

This bar, which was a former blacksmith shop, dates back to the early 1700s and is believed to have been a popular haunt for the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte and his crew.

Today, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar retains its historical charm, with its old-world stone walls, flickering candlelight, and the rustic fireplace adding to the bar’s unique ambience.

Guests can sit back and enjoy their drinks while listening to live music performances that range from blues to jazz. The bar serves classic New Orleans cocktails, including the signature “Purple Drank,” and a wine and beer selection.

The National WWII Museum, the D-Day Museum, is a famous military museum located in New Orleans.

10. Visit the WWII Museum

The National WWII Museum holds great historical significance as it focuses on the global impact and human stories of World War II.

Through its exhibits, artifacts, and interactive displays, the museum provides a comprehensive understanding of the war’s causes, events, and consequences, honoring the bravery and sacrifices of those who fought for freedom.

As one of the most comprehensive and engaging museums dedicated to World War II, it offers a captivating and immersive experience that brings the stories and sacrifices of that era to life.

11. Ride the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar

Hop on the iconic St. Charles Avenue Streetcar, the world’s oldest continuously operating streetcar line.

The streetcar system in New Orleans began in the 19th century, with the first horse-drawn streetcar line opening in 1835.

Over time, the system expanded and evolved, transitioning to steam-powered and, eventually, electric-powered streetcars.

Enjoy the scenic ride as you pass through beautiful neighborhoods, historic mansions, and picturesque parks!

There are always big crowds celebrating Mardi Gras!

12. Experience Mardi Gras

If you’re looking for a vibrant and unforgettable cultural experience, look no further than Mardi Gras – the world-famous festival in New Orleans each year.

Mardi Gras has a rich history and cultural significance, making it one of the most unique events in the world. The festival’s roots can be traced back to medieval Europe, where people would indulge in feasting and revelry before the Christian season of Lent.

In the 18th century, French settlers brought the tradition of Mardi Gras to Louisiana, where it was embraced and evolved into the colorful and exuberant celebration we know today.

One of the most iconic elements of Mardi Gras is the vibrant costumes and floats. The festival is characterized by elaborate parades featuring a variety of themed floats and performers adorned in colorful masks and costumes.

The king cake tradition involves a pastry cake filled with cinnamon and sugar, decorated with colorful icing and secret trinkets buried inside. The person who finds the baby trinket within their slice of king cake is said to have good luck for the rest of the year.

Of course, one of the most famous symbols of Mardi Gras are the beads, which are thrown from floats and caught by revelers in the crowd. Many people collect and trade these beads as a souvenir of their Mardi Gras experience.

Take note that the hurricane cocktails are huge!

13. Have a drink at Pat O’Brien’s

Established in 1933, Pat O’Brien’s is an iconic bar and restaurant that has become an institution in the city’s French Quarter.

The establishment’s history goes back to when Pat O’Brien, a former speakeasy owner, decided to create a bar that catered to the needs of local firefighters.

Eventually, the bar grew to become a hotspot for locals and visitors alike and has maintained its relevance to this day.

The ambiance at Pat O’Brien’s is simply magical. From the moment you step in, you are transported into a world of authentic New Orleans charm, with vibrant music, cozy seating, and quintessential decor.

One of the main attractions is the iconic fountain, decorated with flamingos, that patrons have grown to love and associate with the establishment.

The outdoor seating at Pat O’Brien’s is another significant feature that contributes to the vibe of the location.

Beautiful landscaping and twinkling lights provide the perfect atmosphere for a cozy and lively evening with friends and loved ones.

But what sets Pat O’Brien’s apart is its signature Hurricane cocktail. This popular drink was invented in the 1940s and features a unique blend of rum, passion fruit juice, and lime. The drink is served in a large glass and garnished with an orange and a cherry.

Explore the sights and sounds of Bourbon Street!

14. Explore the famous Bourbon Street

Bourbon Street has a rich history dating back to the early 18th century when New Orleans was established as a French colony. It was named after the French Bourbon dynasty, particularly King Louis XIV’s ruling House of Bourbon.

It stretches for about 13 blocks, running parallel to the Mississippi River. Bourbon Street is renowned for its vibrant and lively atmosphere.

Bourbon Street is primarily known for its bustling nightlife and entertainment scene. The street comes alive in the evening, with numerous bars, clubs, and live music venues lining its sidewalks.

We took pictures of terraces, street performers and signs all over the place on Bourbon Street. Plus we stopped in numerous shops! I couldn’t name them all but you’ll certainly find a mix of hot sauces, coffee mugs, shot glasses, and all kinds of voodoo.

A mortar and pestle sign that reads La Pharmacie Francaise

14. Discover the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

Step back in time at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, which showcases the city’s history of medicine and pharmacy. Explore the exhibits and learn about the intriguing remedies and practices of the past.

The museum is housed in a beautiful 19th-century building that was once the site of America’s first licensed pharmacy.

This historic building served as the home and workplace of Dr. Louis J. Dufilho Jr., the first licensed pharmacist in the United States and opened his doors to the public in 1823.

As the gateway to the Americas, New Orleans became an important center for medicine and pharmacy, serving as a hub for trade, innovation, and discovery.

The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum showcases the city’s role in the development of pharmacy and medicine, highlighting the evolution of the craft over time.

The museum has fascinating artifacts, exhibits, and educational displays. From antique pill rollers and mortars and pestles to rare botanicals and tinctures, the museum’s interior takes visitors on a journey through the history of pharmacy.

One of the most interesting exhibits in the museum is the recreated apothecary shop, which provides an authentic glimpse into the past. On display are original products and remedies once used to treat various ailments, ranging from headaches to chronic diseases.

15. Go on a self-guided tour of the Garden District

The Garden District is a picturesque neighborhood, known for its stunning mansions and beautiful oak-lined streets. The district is a contrast to the colorful chaos of the French Quarter, offering visitors a chance to relax and appreciate the city’s graceful architecture and lush landscaping.

The area was developed in the 19th century, when a number of wealthy Americans began building homes outside of the original French settlement. The Garden District was originally known as “Lafayette City,” and became an important center for business and commerce.

Today, the Garden District is home to some of the country’s most beautiful and impressive 19th-century homes.

Packets of Aunt Sally’s original Creole pralines on display

16. Browse the goodies at the French Market

This bustling market, nestled in the heart of the enchanting French Quarter, is a culinary delight and a haven for shoppers seeking unique treasures and local finds. Let’s dive into the distinctive shops that make this market a must-visit destination for travelers of all ages.

Aunt Sally’s Pralines is steeped in tradition, crafting pralines using recipes passed down through generations. These sweet, creamy confections made from sugar, pecans, and other secret ingredients have become synonymous with the flavors of New Orleans.

From the moment you take your first bite, you’ll understand why these pralines are a must-try delicacy in the city.

One of the many historic cemeteries in New Orleans

17. See the cemeteries

New Orleans is renowned for its distinctive and historic cemeteries, which reflect the city’s unique above-ground burial practices due to its high water table.

Exploring these cemeteries provides a fascinating insight into the rich history and unique burial traditions of New Orleans.

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest and most famous cemetery in New Orleans. It is the final resting place of notable figures like Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen, and Homer Plessy, involved in the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case. Visiting this cemetery requires a guided tour.

You can also see Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, located in the Garden District, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is another historic cemetery that offers a captivating glimpse into New Orleans’ past. It has striking above-ground tombs and has been featured in several films and TV shows.

When is the best time to visit New Orleans?

New Orleans is a year-round destination, and has something to offer at any time of the year. However, the best time to visit New Orleans depends on what you’re looking for – whether it’s vibrant street festivals, cultural attractions, or unique culinary experiences.

If you’re interested in experiencing Mardi Gras, which takes place in late January to early March, that is the best time to visit. However, the city’s mild climate means Mardi Gras festivities are possible throughout the year.

If you want to experience a quieter atmosphere and less crowded streets, plan your trip for spring or fall – temperatures remain comfortable at these times of year and there are fewer crowds.

Finally, winter can be a great time to visit New Orleans, with temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to low 70s. The city’s streets are less crowded at this time of year, and many holiday festivities can be enjoyed in December and early January.

Final Thoughts

Remember, New Orleans has a vibrant culture and countless unique experiences. Don’t hesitate to explore the local music scene, art galleries, historic neighborhoods, and various festivals throughout the year to immerse yourself in the city’s spirit.

From haunted history tours and second line parades to Creole cuisine, live jazz music, and exploring the bayou, New Orleans is full of unique and unforgettable experiences.

So why not take advantage of all it has to offer? No matter what you do during your trip, you will soon remember these amazing activities!

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