New Orleans, Sights of the City

15 Popular Attractions in New Orleans

New Orleans is one of the most unique cities in America that you just can’t find anywhere else. Known the world over for jazz music, Cajun cuisine and outrageous Mardi Gras celebrations, the city is a melting pot of cultures with diversity reflected in everything from music and food to language and architecture.

Much of the action for tourists is centered around the French Quarter, with the infamous Bourbon Street in the center of the neighborhood. Along the Mississippi River, which borders the French Quarter to the south, are horse-drawn carriages waiting to go on tours, Steamboat Natchez docked along the shore, and tourists lined up to buy bignets. In addition to the French Quarter, the city has many interesting places to explore, from the trendy neighborhood warehouse to the chic neighborhood garden.

New Orleans is a great walkable city with many attractions located in or near the French Quarter, but to explore the Garden District, you may want to take a historic street car. Buses are also a great way to get around, especially for attractions like the zoo, which is further away.

See also: Where to Stay in New Orleans.

1 French Quarter

French Quarter | Photo by Lana Law

The French Quarter of New Orleans is what most tourists come to see when they visit the city. Located along the bend in the Mississippi River, the main attraction here is the architecture, but it is also a great place for dining and entertainment. The old buildings, some dating back 300 years, show French influences, arcades, wrought-iron balconies, red-tile roofs and picturesque courtyards. Many of these buildings now contain hotels, restaurants, gift stores, galleries and an abundance of jazz venues with entertainment of varying quality.

The most famous street in the French Quarter is Bourbon Street , but it is not necessarily the highlight of the area. This street is relatively mild, but at night turns into a loud and noisy pedestrian area that may not always feel safe. King Street offers a great mix of history, fine dining and unique shopping opportunities, with some of the larger stores, galleries and hotels. One notable building on King Street is the Two Sisters Court (1832), now a restaurant known for its jazz brunch. To hear some quality musicians playing traditional jazz music, French Street is the place to go. Good restaurants can also be found here, and artists often visit the area.

Also not to be missed in the French Quarter, Jackson Square and also St. Louis Cathedral, located near the waterfront. Bookers, musicians, and artists have created around the square.

Map of New Orleans’ Old Quarter

2 Tuesdays in Oil Week

Tuesday in Oil Week

Mardi Gras is a signature event in New Orleans, with celebrations spanning a two-week period, culminating in a finale on Tuesday, the eve of the ash Wednesday. The festivities include almost daily parades and all sorts of entertainment and festivities that intensify as the event draws to a close. Spectators gather balconies and sidewalks to watch the parades and catch strings of beaded necklaces thrown from outrageously decorated floats. Bourbon Street is one of the main areas where people gather, but the entire French Quarter tends to be packed. The tradition was introduced to the city by French settlers and became especially popular by the late 19th century.

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Official website: http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/

3 National Museum of World War II

National World War II Museum Bogdan Migulski / photo modified

The National World War II Museum is an outstanding museum with interesting exhibits and documentary pieces that tell the story of World War II as it was in Europe and the Pacific. The museum is divided into three sections: one section on the war in the Pacific, another on the war in Europe, and a third building that houses World War II aircraft. The 4D theater shows “Beyond All Borders,” created and narrated by Tom Hanks, with chairs that rumble as tanks go on screen and create props that turn the film into a complete sensory experience. As visitors move from room to room through the exhibits, short black-and-white documentary-style videos give a real-life look at how the exhibited items were involved in the war. Oral histories add to the impact. Each visitor is assigned a profile of someone who was in the war, and oral updates are available at stations throughout the complex to follow the soldier’s wartime development. Also part of the complex is a dining door for the stage, which features entertainment from the 1940s, dinners and suppers.

Address: 945 Magazine Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

Official website: http://www.nationalww2museum.org/

4 Jackson Square

Jackson Square | Photo by Lana Law

Jackson Square is the main square in the heart of the French Quarter, originally known as Place d’Armes. In the center of the square, surrounded by trees and greenery, is an equestrian statue (1856) of General Andrew Jackson. Standing prominently at one end of the square is the iconic St. Louis Cathedral, with its white facades and cone-shaped spires. Also in the vicinity of the cathedral are the Presbytery and the Cabildo as Louisiana State Museums. The square in front of the cathedral, along the iron fence that surrounds the square, has long been walked by an artist, and there are stores and restaurants nearby, making it a popular destination for tourists.

The entire area is very attractively laid out along the banks of the Mississippi, with Riverboat Docks, a walking area known as the Moonwalk, and the Millhouse, as well as a variety of stores.

5 Preservation Hall.

Preservation Hall | Photo by Lana Law

Preservation Hall is a modest old building long established in New Orleans, famous for jazz music. The historic hall still features traditional jazz by local artists. The building is small, creating an intimate setting, and accommodations are limited. Opening hours and events are listed daily on the doors, so if you walk by, you can see what’s going on in the evening.

Address: 726 St. Peter Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

Official website: www.preservationhall.com/

6 St. Louis Cathedral

St. Louis Cathedral | Photo by Lana Law

On the north side of Jackson Square is St. Louis Cathedral, a tentative structure in New Orleans. It was built in 1794 on the site of two previous churches and is known for being the oldest cathedral in the United States in continuous use. Pope John Paul II visited the cathedral in 1987.

The church was built at the expense of Don Andrés Almonser de Roxas, a Frenchman who spent money from his fortune to rebuild New Orleans after the second great fire.

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Address: Jackson Square, New Orleans, Louisiana

Official website: http://www.stlouiscathedral.org/

7 City Park.

New Orleans City Park covers more than 1,300 acres and contains numerous attractions, including the New Orleans Botanical Gardens and the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture. Of particular interest to children and families are the Carousel Gardens amusement park, Storyland and the recently added City Splash water park, which is still under development. There are also tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course on site, as well as beautiful places to walk. The park claims to have one of the largest stands of mature live oaks in the world, nearly 800 years old.

8 Louisiana State Museum in Cabildo

Louisiana State Museum in Cabildo rpongsaj / photo modified

The Cabildo, to the left of St. Louis Cathedral, was built in 1795 as the residence of the Spanish governor. It is notable both for its historic building and its museum and its outstanding collection. The first city council met here in 1799, and the Louisiana Purchase was agreed upon here in 1803. It was once the Louisiana Supreme Court, but today the Cabildo is in the Louisiana State Museum and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum’s collections focus primarily on the history of New Orleans and Louisiana, especially the people of Louisiana and the many ethnic groups that make up the population today.

Address: 701 Charles Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

Official website: http://louisianastatemuseum.org/museums/the-cabildo/

9 Neighborhood Garden

Neighborhood Garden | Photo by Lana Law

The Garden District is a thriving residential neighborhood with beautiful mansions, mature trees, and lush gardens, and probably in some respects the stereotypical image many foreigners have of the deep south. The neighborhood can be easily explored on foot, and some companies offer tours, which can be a good way to learn about history and see the sights. First Street, Camp Street, and Attraction Street are good places to see large, elegant 19th-century homes with extensive grounds. Some famous celebrities have homes in this area. Most visitors come to enjoy the quiet surroundings and see the houses, but there are also boutiques and cafes in the area, although they are scattered and it can be harder than expected to find a place for lunch.

Southwest of the Garden District is Audubon Park, named in 1886. It was based on what was the site of the 1884 World Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition. The park features beautiful oak dunes, the Audubon Zoo, greenhouses , the Audubon Golf Club, many small lakes and many open green spaces.

Map of the New Orleans area.

10 Steamboat Natchez

Stimboat Natchez | Photo by: Lana Law

A Steamboat Natchez cruise is a great way to experience the Mississippi River and a unique way to see and learn about the city. Harbor cruises take about two hours and provide narrated sites with an optional lunch of Creole cuisine. The dinner cruise has a live jazz band, a buffet-style dinner and, of course, great views of New Orleans.

Special seasonal cruises are also available in season, and special cruises are offered for occasions such as Easter, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas and other holidays.

It’s a good idea, especially in high season, to pre-book a Steamboat Natchez cruise. This tour guarantees your spot on the boat as well as the lowest prices.

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Official website: http://www.steamboatnatchez.com/

11 Mardi Gras World

Mardi Gras World davest / photo modified

New Orleans is known around the world for its exquisite Mardi Gras celebrations, attracting people from all over the world who come to enjoy the festivities that consume the city during this time period. To see what goes on behind the scenes in this huge event, visitors can take a Mardi Gras World tour to see the working studios. Blaine Kern Studios is one of the top float manufacturers in the world and is very active in the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans every year. Visitors can see sculpted supports, huge floats, outrageous costumes and all sorts of figures.It’s a great way to get a good idea of the size, color and imagination that goes into floats and the parade. Tours are held regularly every day in workshops with artists and sculptors.

Address: 1380 Port of New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana

Official website: http://www.mardigrasworld.com/

12 New Orleans Museum of Art

New Orleans Museum of Art Alaskan Dude / photo modified

At the south end of City Park is the New Orleans Museum of Art, one of the best of its kind in the South. The museum has a great collection of French and American art, as well as African and Japanese works. Also, check the museum’s calendar for temporary exhibitions and various themes. On site, and one of the highlights is the Sidney and Wald Besthoff Outdoor Garden with more than 60 sculptures, as well as walkways, lagoons and mature live oaks.

Address: One Collins S. Diboll Circle, City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana

Official website: https://noma.org/

13 Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas | Photo copyright: Michael Law

Along the waterfront in downtown New Orleans, a short walk from the French Quarter, the aquarium focuses on species found in North, Central and South America. Beginning in the north, visitors can learn about the creatures that lurk beneath the surface of the nearby surrounding waters, with exhibits that highlight freshwater fish from the Mississippi River and marine life from the Gulf of Mexico. This includes everything from sharks and rays to sea turtles. The Great Maya Reef can be viewed from a 30-foot walkway tunnel and is designed to look like a sunken Mayan city, with fish swimming among the ruins. In the Amazon rainforest you can see colorful birds, exotic fish and even snakes of this region of South America. Sea otters and penguins are always popular, as are wildlife programs. Available as optional extras are hands-on experiences with African penguins and the opportunity to dive or snorkel in the Great Maya Reef.

Address: Canal 1, New Orleans, Louisiana

Official website: http://audubonnatureinstitute.org/aquarium/

14 Audubon Zoo.

The Audubon Zoo is a fun escape from the bustling city with lush vegetation and a good selection of pets and exotic animals. Located in Uptown New Orleans, the zoo is not far from the French Quarter, but is a good reason to see this part of town. Some of the zoo’s most popular residents are giraffes, jaguars, leopards, orangutans, elephants, rhinos, lemurs and alligators (including the rare white alligator) to name a few . During the summer months, the zoo offers a chance to cool off in the splash park known as the Cool Zoo.

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Address: 6500 Magazine Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

Official website: http://audubonnatureinstitute.org/zoo

15 Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve consists of six physically separate sites in southeast Louisiana. Two of these sites are in the New Orleans area and are noteworthy. The Baratari Reserve offers a chance to see some of Louisiana’s natural treasures. The preserve consists of natural forests, buoys, swamps, and marshes. Archaeological sites have been found to contain remnants of the ancient cultures of Troyville, Marksville and Chefunkt. For a more historical experience, Chalmette Battle Reports preserves the site of the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, which was America’s decisive victory over the British at the end of the War of 1812.

Official website: http://www.nps.gov/jela/index.htm

Where to stay in New Orleans for sightseeing

To experience the true charm of New Orleans, the best place to stay is in the famous French Quarter. Many of the hotels here are located in historic buildings and exude their own unique character. Here are some highly rated hotels in or near the French Quarter .

New Orleans

The French Quarter of New Orleans is a tourist magnet that attracts tourists from all over the world. Built along the bend of the Mississippi River, the French Quarter is also a major historic landmark in New Orleans, all thanks to its well-preserved colonial architecture. The old buildings, some dating back to the 17th century, show the French influence in architecture in the Americas, with arcades, wrought iron balconies, red tiled roofs and picturesque courtyards. Many of the buildings now house hotels, restaurants, gift stores and art galleries.

Official website: http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com

French Quarter

2. National WWII Museum

The National WWII Museum is an outstanding military history museum that tells the story of World War II in an interesting, interactive way with artifacts, weapons and historical documents. Founded in 2000, it was designated by the U.S. Congress as the official American museum of World War II, and is supported by the Smithsonian Institution.

The museum is divided into three sections, with the first section focusing on the war in the Pacific, the second on the war in the European theater, and the third section featuring wartime aircraft. The museum is located in the central business district of New Orleans on Andrew Higgins Drive.

National Museum of World War II

3. Preservation Hall

Preservation Hall is a gem on a city tour of New Orleans and one of the most atmospheric attractions in the city. In this unpretentious-looking building, behind shabby doors you can find a miracle that results in great music – jazz, the birthplace of New Orleans. If you are a fan of music, especially jazz, this is a must-see place.

Preservation Hall.

4. Jackson Square

Jackson Square is a historic park in the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans. In the center of the square, surrounded by trees and greenery, stands the equestrian statue of General Andrew Jackson, erected on a pedestal in 1856. The beautiful St. Louis Cathedral, with its white facade and cone-shaped spires, dominates the park. Also in close proximity to the cathedral are the Louisiana State Museums.

Jackson Square

5. Cabildo (Cabildo new orleans)

The Cabildo, which means council, is the City Hall of New Orleans. The town hall is located to the left of St. Louis Cathedral, in front of Jackson Square. It was built in 1795 as the residence of the Spanish governor. Notable as a historic building for the museum and its distinguished collection. The first city council met here in 1799, then it housed the Louisiana Supreme Court, but today the Cabildo is home to the Louisiana State Museum. The museum’s collection focuses mainly on the history of New Orleans and Louisiana. The Town Hall is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Cabildo

6. City Park.

New Orleans City Park encompasses over 1,300 hectares and contains many interesting tourist attractions, including the Botanical Gardens, the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Sculpture Garden. Of particular interest to children is the Carousel Park, the amusement garden, Storyland, and the water park. Also in the park are tennis courts and an 18-hole golf course. The highlight of the park is an oak grove in which some of the trees are more than 800 years old.

City Park

7. Steamboat Natchez

A Steamboat Natchez cruise, the paddle steamers that used to ply the Mississippi River in the 17th and 18th centuries, can be a great experience. A steamboat cruise is a great way to experience the Mississippi River and a unique opportunity to look at New Orleans from a different angle, and for photographers, a chance to shoot a panoramic view of the city. The river cruise takes two hours, during which a live jazz band will play the entire time and a buffet will be presented.

Natchez

8. Mardi Gras

New Orleans is world famous for its lavish celebrations – Mardi Gras, the carnival attracts people from all over the world who come here to enjoy the festivities. During your tour you can go behind the scenes of this celebration and see how the world-famous dolls are made. Step into the hangars of Blaine Kern Studios, which is one of the leading manufacturers of large dolls in the world and actively participates in the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans every year. Visitors will be able to see sculpted props, oversized puppets, extravagant costumes and all sorts of figures.

Mardi Gras

9. New Orleans Museum of Art

At the southern end of City Park is the building of the New Orleans Museum of Art, a museum one of the best of its kind in the South. The museum has an excellent collection of French and American art, as well as a pretty decent collection of African and Japanese art. The museum’s permanent collection features more than 40,000 objects, from the Italian Renaissance to the modern era.

The museum is known for its collection of European and American works, including works by Degas, Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, Pissarro, Rodin, Gauguin, Braque, Dufy, Miró, Jackson Pollock, Mary Cassatt and Georgia O’Keefe. The museum offers a comprehensive overview of French art, including several important works by the French Impressionist Edgar Degas, who lived with his mother’s family in New Orleans between 1871 and 1872.

10. Aquarium of the Americas

Along the downtown waterfront, a short walk from the French Quarter, is one of the largest oceanariums in North America, the Aquarium of the Americas. It focuses on the biological species found in North, Central and South America.

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