Celebrated annually as a top vacation destination, New Orleans and its 17 wards offer guests a memorable medley of cultural pursuits, immense events and savory restaurants. NOLA’s multicultural heritage—shaped largely by French, African and American cultures—can be seen in everything from the French and Spanish Creole architecture to festivities such as Mardi Gras to foods like Italian muffuletta sandwiches.
The French Quarter, arguably the best known ward, is where you’ll find New Orleans staples: Bourbon Street nightlife, Café du Monde’s beignets and Jackson Square performers. But don’t miss the unique experiences awaiting you in the Big Easy’s other neighborhoods, such as the Saints football games at the 3rd ward’s Mercedes-Benz Superdome and tours of Longue Vue House and Gardens in the 17th ward.
REASONS TO GO:
- Algiers: Take a ferry to Algiers, the 15th ward and the only one located on the West Bank of the Mississippi River. The area boasts charming homes from the late 19th century, as well as the Jazz Walk of Fame at Historic Algiers Point.
- Audubon Nature Institute: Consisting of the Audubon Park, the Audubon Zoo, the Aquarium of the Americas, and the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, this famous institution cares for more than 15,000 animals. The complex also shows educational movies at the Entergy Giant Screen Theater.
- Louisiana African American Heritage Trail: New Orleans is home to six stops on this important, statewide trail celebrating African American culture. Start at the New Orleans African American Museum before heading to the French Market to sample crawfish or touring St. Augustine Church, the oldest African American Catholic parish in the U.S.
- Live Music: You don’t have to purchase concert tickets to enjoy live music in NOLA. You’ll find talented artists busking throughout the French Quarter, in Jackson Square and along popular streets like Royal Street. Keep your ears tuned for unique styles like Delta blues, Americana and swing jazz.
- Street Food: New Orleans has a rich food culture and a history of street food vendors that stretches back to the 19th century. Today, the city offers an abundance of food trucks specializing in everything from Cajun and Creole dishes to empanadas to waffles, and you can easily find your next mobile meal through the New Orleans Food Trucks app.
- Lake Pontchartrain: Forming NOLA’s northern border, this large lake is surrounded by public parks offering fishing piers, nature trails, picnic spots and swimming access. Pay the toll and take in the view from the 23-mile-long Causeway, the world’s longest bridge over water.
WHEN TO GO:
The peak season runs February to May, when temperatures are mild (60s to 80s °F) and the event schedule includes some of the year’s grandest events, such as Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. Be prepared to book a hotel months in advance if you plan to visit during this time.
For equally mild temperatures but fewer event crowds and more hotel savings, take it easy in NOLA during the off season, October through January. You’ll still find plenty of foodie festivals at this time of year, celebrating everything from po-boys and gumbo to beer and bourbon. Plus, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome hosts the annual Sugar Bowl in January.
Canal Street is perhaps the most important thoroughfare in the city, as it divides Uptown from Downtown. All streets change names across Canal Street: some have a completely different name, while most only exchange “North” and “South.”