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While New Orleans is renowned for its nightlife and partying scene, it offers a whole lot more than that. There are few better places to experience America’s history than in the cobblestone streets of the French Quarter. Of course, the city is also the birthplace of jazz and still remains one of the top cities for music lovers. Then there’s the food, the magnificent mansions and a wealth of budget-friendly things to do. While you’re here, you won’t want to miss some of these top-rated attractions.
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The French Quarter is not only filled with history, but it offers the chance to experience nightlife like a local. Just one of the options is not a place you’ll find on a tourist map. Jimani Lounge fits the cliche of a hidden gem, located on the corner of Chartres and Iberville, but it’s a can’t-miss if you want an authentic slice of the party scene. A hole in the wall kind of place, look forward to cold beer, outstanding music, sports on TV and a grill for bar food. 21st Amendment La Louisiane pays tribute to the Prohibition era, while Bar Tonique centers on cocktails and casual glam. But truly, your options are endless here. When you need to recharge, stay at one of the nearby boutique hotels.
New Orleans is where jazz was birthed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with Louis Armstrong, considered the best jazz trumpeter to every play, born here in 1901. He sang on street corners here before honing his craft on the Mississippi River aboard a paddle steamer. There have been many greats, from Fats Domino and some more recent icons like Harry Connick, Jr and Wynton Marsalis too. You’ll be able to find outstanding tunes where ever you go, from attending Mardi Gras and jazz festivals to clubs, bars and street corners. No matter when you’re here, this is one popular attraction that’s an absolute not-to-be-missed.
While many cities provide horse-drawn carriage rides to tourists, there’s something about New Orleans that makes it a must here. These were the original rideshare, the way most residents and visitors got around the unpaved streets back in the day, and you’ll find many lined up on the Decatur side of Jackson Square. Enjoy a relaxing tour of the city and guaranteed colorful commentary. There are a variety of options, like Good Old Day Buggies, which will take you on an excursion “like the good old days,” for sightseeing but you can also choose to take a haunted tour, sample the nightlife and more.
The Steamboat Natchez is the last authentic steamboat on the Mississippi River. It offers a variety of cruises, including daytime and dinner jazz cruises every day all year-round. It’s one of the best ways to spend an evening enjoying live jazz with Creole cuisine and local beverages. You can even check out the steam engine room too. Entertainment on the Harbor Jazz Cruise includes a jazz trio or jazz pianist as well as professional live recounting of the sights along the river and its history. There’s also a great Sunday brunch cruise.
Audobon Aquarium of the Americas is an outstanding aquarium that features over 10,000 aquatic animals from across the Americas. Located in the French Quarter on the banks of the Mississippi River, visitors can touch stingrays, feed exotic birds and stare into the eyes of sharks in the 40,000-gallon Gulf of Mexico exhibit, which reveals what ocean life is like beneath an oil rig. The walk-through tunnel features a colorful Caribbean reef, while the playful sea otters and adorable penguins are always a hit. There’s also an in-house IMAX theater presenting Run by the Aquarium of the Americas, this 3-D theater shows educational films that explore nature.
Café Du Monde is a world-renowned open-air eatery that’s especially famous for its beignets, a must-try while in New Orleans. They were brought from the Acadians (Cajuns) from Nova Scotia back in the 18th century. Kind of like a doughnut, they’re delectable pieces of dough with no hole in the middle, typically covered with powdered sugar. Here they’ve got an especially thick coating and are so good there are always people waiting in line to grab a seat to enjoy them in this outdoor café.
While visiting a cemetery probably doesn’t seem like something you’d want to do while vacationing, New Orleans is a place where you’ll definitely want to make it happen. The tours offer a fascinating look at the city, including its oldest, the St. Louis Cemetery which dates back to 1789 and houses especially elaborate tombs and vaults. It includes famous figures like voodoo queen Marie Laveau as well as the plots actor Nicholas Cage has purchased in advance. Guided tours are available so you’ll get more of the history about who’s been laid here and the cemetery itself.
The St. Louis Cathedral is an iconic landmark in the French Quarter often depicted in tourism ads, on postcards and more as the city’s symbol. It was built in 1720 as a Catholic Parish along the Mississippi River in 1720 and is North America’s oldest. Self-guided tours are available daily with the building open to the public. The cathedral also hosts religious sermons and frequent cultural events and concerts as well – check the calendar, you might want to plan a trip around one.
Many people come to Louisiana to experience the swamps and to see crocodiles. One of the best ways to do that is to book a bayou swamp tour where you can see the animals in their natural habitat, along with the picturesque scenery. Multiple outfitters are available to take you into the bayou by boat where you’ll learn about the bayou and its role in the state’s history while safely watching for the crocs.