A First-Timer’s Guide to New Orleans

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New Orleans is a city that appears on many travel bucket lists. “The Big Easy,” as the city is often called, has a reputation for music, food, and fun that draws visitors from all over the world each year.

Jackson Square New Orleans

If you’re planning your first visit to New Orleans USA any time soon, here are some things to consider as a first-timer.

Things to see and do in New Orleans

New Orleans has quite a few must-do things – and not all of them involve drinking on Bourbon Street. In fact, here are four things you should do on your first visit to NOLA that don’t involve Bourbon Street at all:

Explore the French Quarter

New Orleans French Quarter

Chances are you’ve heard of New Orleans’ French Quarter before. This is where the first French colonists settled in the early 1700s, making it the oldest part of New Orleans – and it’s also the most famous with its bars and ornate balconies. Make sure to check out the old French Market, as well as Jackson Square and the iconic St. Louis Cathedral right near the Mississippi River. The French Quarter is also the ideal spot for a spooky ghost, vampire, or voodoo-themed walking tour in the evening.

Stroll through the Garden District

There’s no arguing that the French Quarter is at the heart of tourism in New Orleans, but don’t be afraid of venturing out to see some of the city’s other vibrant neighborhoods, too. If you only visit one other part of NOLA, make it the Garden District to see its historic mansions and tree-lined streets. This actually used to be called the “American District,” because it’s where all the Americans who came down after the Revolutionary War settled in New Orleans. Many celebrities now have homes in this part of the city.

Listen to live music

It wouldn’t be a proper trip to New Orleans without hearing some of the city’s famous jazz music. And while you can find live music in the French Quarter and in other parts of the city, the place the locals will tell you to go is Frenchmen Street in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. Lined with bars and music venues, all you hear here is music all night long.

Visit Mardi Gras World

Mardi Gras World

Not visiting New Orleans during its famous Mardi Gras celebration? Don’t worry! You can actually get a great feel for Mardi Gras by taking a tour of Mardi Gras World, a warehouse facility near NOLA’s cruise port. This is where many of the famous Mardi Gras floats are conceptualized and built each year, and it’s also where tons of the unique props are stored. Take the free tour included with admission to learn all about Mardi Gras, and then take some time to wander around the warehouse to see all the floats and props.

Things to eat in New Orleans

Just like no visit to New Orleans Louisiana would be complete without jazz music, it also wouldn’t be complete without trying some of the city’s most famous dishes. Food here represents the city’s unique blend of cultures, from Creole to Cajun to French.

Things to add to your must-eat list include:

  • Gulf oysters – Try them either raw or charbroiled.
  • Beignets – These powdered sugar-covered fried dough squares go perfect with a cup of coffee. The most famous place for them in the city is Cafe du Monde.
  • A po’boy – Try one with shrimp or maybe softshell crab.
  • A Muffuletta sandwich – This delicious combo of cold cuts, cheese, and olive salad was invented at Central Grocery, an old-school Italian deli in the French Quarter.
  • Red beans and rice – Because of course.
  • Gumbo – This stew-like dish is a Creole classic.

There are plenty of other things to do in New Orleans, too. You can take the St. Charles Streetcar Uptown, ride a steamboat on the Mississippi, take a carriage tour of the French Quarter, or even book a discounted flights to visit historical plantations along the Mississippi River Road.

New Orleans balcony

In short, make sure you allow plenty of time for your first visit to New Orleans so you don’t miss out on everything this incredible city has to offer!

About the Author: Matthew Greenspan

Matthew is a travel expert, writer, editor and digital marketer. He lives for seeing new places, learning new cultures and surfing new waves. He is based out of Toronto but travels the globe in search of the best travel stories and biggest waves.

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