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Bucket List, USA

New Orleans Bucket List – things to do in the Big Easy!

New Orleans Bucket List – things to do in the Big Easy

Colourful masks in New Orleans

New Orleans’ boisterous attitudes and tropical temperatures feel more like the Caribbean with the easy going, laid back feel and party atmosphere.  It is vibrant and colourful, energized and always ready for a party with music 24/7 – welcome to New Orleans, welcome to The Big Easy.

New Orleans is a great city to get out and walk.  Visit the historic French Quarter, the buildings today influenced by years of Spanish rule or take a street car out to the elegant mansions in the Garden district; listen to the beat of jazz, brass and R&B from unexpected places with spontaneous musical performances serenading tourists as they go about town; or enjoy the sumptuous flavours and smooth cocktails in the myriad of cafes, jazz bars and restaurants with a dose of Southern hospitality.  There is something for taste in New Orleans.

New Orleans Bucket List – things to do in the Big Easy

Parades and festivals all year long!  Mardi Gras, St Patricks and the Jazz festival to name a few – visit New Orleans Online for a full listing of festivals, or download their official NOLA tourism app.  See a parade – New Orleans has no trouble putting a party – a walk down Bourbon street and you will find revellers throwing strings of beads from the balconies over head.  Otherwise, pick up some beads and one of the vibrant masks dotted all over town and a Hurricane to go, and get into the party mode. (For more colourful St Patrick’s Day photos, see: St Patrick’s Day Parades, new Orleans)

Fun and festivities in New Orleans

French Quarter – street performers, random musicians and a thriving night life will keep you entertained day and night!  Look around at the amazing architecture that sits atop shop after shop of gaudy tourist shops, restaurants and tourist information booths.  The old school panache still shines through with historic bars and wrought iron clad balconies that offer a perfect vantage point for people watching.  Go a little out of the quarter to Frenchmen Street for a more authentic experience.

Bourbon Street!  It is crazy, it’s gaudy, and it has to be seen to be believed!  A walk down Bourbon Street is sensory overload, especially on a jam packed weekend, with party goers of all ages letting loose, car bombs and hurricanes in plastic cups and scantily clad women at the burlesque clubs trying to separate men from their money!  It is also a street of contrast…beyond the bawdy reputation that Bourbon Street lives up to, there is a historic, folk lore side, dating back to when New Orleans was founded by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville in 1718.  Check out Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop – opened as a front to the Lafitte brothers “privateer efforts” back in the day!

New Orleans

City Tours – there are so many ways to get an in depth look at the history that surrounds New Orleans and makes it what it is today.  Did you know, like Australia, New Orleans was founded with convicts?  To populate their new colony, the French sent their “undesirables” to New Orleans – and some say it is that background that makes it the party loving city it is today!  So, take a bus tour, sign up for a walking tour or get on a city cruiser and bike tour around the city and get the insider scoop on what it is that makes New Orleans New Orleans!  It is a fascinating place with so much going on and hidden treasures throughout the city!  Take a tour and discover New Orleans’ secrets, districts and points of historical interest.

Take the Charles Street street car and visit the Garden District.  Amazing mansions will take you back in time as you marvel at the grandeur and gardens.  Your tour guide can point out some of New Orleans’ more famous residents and homes, including Sandra Bullock and the former resident of Anne Rice.

Free walking tours, New Orleans

Graveyards and Ghosts – you may think it creepy, but a grave yard tour in New Orleans is quite fascinating and a major tourist attraction.  Learn stories behind famous phrases like “waking up the dead” and “night watchman” as you walk through the unique, ornate final resting place of New Orleans with tombs dating back to the late 1700s.  It’s a good idea to do a tour – even during the day, the cemetery is not the safest place to go solo.  You’ll also want to hear about how the cemetery works…it is not as straight forward as you think!  Think you have seen the popular Lafayette Cemetery before – you probably have.  It is extremely popular as a Hollywood film site with the latest just signing up!  Superstitions, black magic and voodoo also abound in town with plenty of people happy to give you your latest readings.

Cemetery tours in New Orleans

River Boat Cruise – Little screams New Orleans more than a riverboat cruise on the mighty Mississippi.  Historically, paddlewheel steamboats brought visitors to town and the bustling riverfront.  Fish and food markets were set up to take advantage of what was the only way to get to New Orleans.  Enjoy Dixieland jazz and lunch or dinner cruises as you enjoy a scenic view of the city.

Swamp Tours – A trip to New Orleans is not complete without a trip out to the Bayous of Louisiana.  Get up close and personal with alligators, wild boar, snakes and bird life.  The swamps are bio diverse wetlands, offering a unique ecosystem with timeless beauty. 

wildlife tours in the Bayous of Louisiana

Music Scene – Welcome to the home of Jazz…get out of the touristy French Quarter and visit Frenchman Street for a more authentic flavour.  Another point of interest – Preservation Hall – dedicated to the protect and honour New Orleans Jazz.  Originally built in 1750 as a private residence, this musical venue was founded in 1961 and is still going strong.

Jazz at the Market Cafe, New Orleans

Museums for all interests!  With over 45 to choose from, you can immerse yourself into the history, culture and art that personifies New Orleans.  The WW 2 museum has been described as a theme park with some serious historical square footage and is expanding to include 6 campuses, real life exhibits and I have heard, veterans from WW2 are there to answer some of your questions (NYTimes: National World War 2 Museum Expanding).

Aquarium – found on the banks of the Mississippi, the Audubon Aquarium is home to 15,000 sea life creatures, representing nearly 600 species, including rare and endangered species.  Visitors can get up close and personal in the state of the art facilities and explore views traditionally only seen by divers.

Culinary delights – New Orleans is known for it’s food and Louisiana cuisine.  African, Spanish, French, Italian and Caribbean influences are evident throughout.  For a crash course in traditional New Orleans Foods, hit the streets and eat up!  This needs to come with a warning –  with so much to choose from, you will be coming home having eaten your weight in delicious!  Don’t forget brunch – New Orleans’ brunches are touted as spectacular.  Check out Court of Two Sisters for a Jazz brunch or NOLAs (reservations are a good idea!).  Beyond brunch, a few must tries: Crawfish Etouffee and fresh boiled crawfish, Po-Boys, Alligator and the melt in your mouth Beignets from Cafe du Monde.  Wash this down with a myriad of drinks….and if you don’t want to finish your cocktails in the restaurant, get it to go!  Open alcohol is welcome on the streets of New Orleans!

New Orleans cuisine

Plantation Tours – Found between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, visit some of the historic plantations and experience “The South” as it was before the Civil War.  The stunning antebellum architecture and plantation homes will introduce you to a rich history, allowing you to live the experience as you walk the halls of these prestigious homes.  Feel like you have stepped back in history as you hear the stories of the Civil War and life on the plantation!  Nottoway and Oak Alley come highly recommended.  Take the experience to the next level and spend the night in the mansion, away from the hustle and bustle of New Orleans by booking in for a night.  You may find you don’t want to leave! (Related Link: Stepping into Old World Charm at the Nottoway Plantation)

Plantation tours in Louisiana

Tips:

  • Traveling solo – take a shuttle from the airport.  $20US pp will drop you off at your downtown hotel.  More than one person – take a cab.  Approximately $35US will get your group where you need to go.
  • Spending a night at a plantation – rent a car from down town for overnighting in the Plantations.  Check to see who has hotel pickups to get you on your way.

Related Links:

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About Anita Mac

The bucket list just keeps growing! The more I cross off - the more exciting new destinations and activities I find! I have been fortunate enough to travel a considerable distance over the years. My love of many things, including travel, cycling, kayaking and photography fit together like hand and glove. I have to keep asking myself....where to next? I am happy to share my travels and photography through my blogs: http://traveldestinationbucketlist.com and http://anitamacphotos.wordpress.com Hope you enjoy them as much as I do! On to the next adventure!

Discussion

59 thoughts on “New Orleans Bucket List – things to do in the Big Easy!

  1. So much life and energy! That’s truly living :)

    Posted by andy1076 | March 20, 2013, 3:12 pm
  2. That looks like quite an interesting St. Paddy’s Day parade!! This is such a great list – I hope to get to New Orleans some day soon!

    Posted by Lisa | March 20, 2013, 3:44 pm
  3. Living in Memphis I’ve been to New Orleans many times. Often went in college to experience Bourbon, but as I’ve gotten older I appreciate the art scene and going along with my wife to the more upscale places in the Quarter. Of course the food is amazing.

    Posted by tripsbylance | March 20, 2013, 4:14 pm
    • I would have loved to have more time to experience the art scene. I looked in a couple galleries and was very impressed. I’d also like to go back for a little more of the music scene – I know there is so much more to it than the little I saw!

      Posted by Anita Mac | March 20, 2013, 10:57 pm
  4. What a fantastic city – it’s top of my US travel list and even more excited to get out there now!

    Posted by Lucy Dodsworth | March 20, 2013, 4:56 pm
  5. I love those old graveyards in NoLa! I used to have a friend who lived on Bourbon St., and it was always so fun to visit.

    Posted by Margaret | March 20, 2013, 5:09 pm
  6. Great post and suggestions. I love the Big Easy! I took a people and cultures of the Caribbean class and we talked about NOLA as the northernmost Caribbean class, so I definitely agree that it has that Caribbean flare! Great post!

    Posted by ashleypaige4 | March 20, 2013, 6:10 pm
  7. It really did have a Caribbean vibe! Loved the atmosphere. But then again, what’s not to love about the easy going, laid back attitude! I was on holidays and soaked it up!

    Posted by Anita Mac | March 20, 2013, 11:00 pm
  8. It would be fun to explore the Acadian/Cajun connection, given how the French “claimed” large chunks of North America through the 16th- and 17th-centuries. Nevertheless, your post has given me something to chew on, as I’ve never been to New Orleans. And now, I want me a gator burger …

    Posted by fotoeins | March 21, 2013, 2:33 am
    • On a recent trip to NYC I heard a little about some of the French Canadian/New Orleans connections…it certainly inspired me to travel to NOLA. I will have to go back again another time to learn more about the history – I just barely skimmed the surface. It was all so fascinating! So much great atmosphere in town – loved it! If you head over for that gator burger….don’t forget to invite me! LOL

      Posted by Anita Mac | March 21, 2013, 2:41 pm
  9. These are all great suggestions. New Orleans is one of my favorite cities. Laissez les bons temps rouler! :)

    Posted by Robin | March 21, 2013, 8:10 am
  10. Take a City Segway Tour of the French Quarter!!

    Posted by Debra Loveless | March 21, 2013, 12:41 pm
  11. This is great! Im printing this off and bring it with me in 3.5 weeks! Cannot wait!! :)

    Posted by Michell | March 21, 2013, 12:54 pm
  12. Get a great sample of music, food, and art during the annual French Quarter Festival! This year it’s the weekend of April 12th.

    Posted by Jim | March 21, 2013, 1:40 pm
  13. Good suggestions – I enjoyed the walking tour of the French Quarter and learned a lot about the city!

    Posted by megtraveling | March 21, 2013, 2:44 pm
    • There really is a story at every corner, isn’t there! Glad to hear you enjoyed the walking tour. I think I could go do another city tour and learn something new again…I can’t say it enough – the history and stories out of New Orleans are fascinating!

      Posted by Anita Mac | March 21, 2013, 2:47 pm
  14. What a fun town. This is great! You share a wealth of information here. I haven’t been in New Orleans since Katrina hit. But I remember going there and eating, eating, eating, eating and — eating . . . PEACE

    Posted by Wambui Bahati | March 23, 2013, 9:02 am
    • Oh…the eating! Such amazing food. Thank goodness for all that walking otherwise I would have been rolled out of town!
      I had not visited New Orleans before Katrina. The city tour that I did pointed out a few Katrina places and how the storm impacted the people. It was so sad yet fascinating at the same time. Interesting to hear the perspective of the people who lived through the storm and how it impacted their lives. It is worth a post Katrina visit.

      Posted by Anita Mac | March 23, 2013, 10:04 am
  15. One day I am going to get to New Orleans. Everyone tells me what a fun city it is. Now I know what to do…a great guide!

    Posted by jenny@atasteoftravel | March 23, 2013, 10:20 am
  16. I always wanted to visit this city, now because of your post and beautiful photos, I will have all the information I need to have a good time.

    Welcome! Thank you for subscribing to follow my blog. I hope you are encouraged, inspired and enjoy the photos I take of life’s events as seen through the lens of my camera.
    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

    Posted by fgassette | March 23, 2013, 7:10 pm
    • Glad I have given you the tips you need for New Orleans! It is so crazy and vibrant…you are sure to have a great time! Can’t wait to see the pictures you bring back…other than the masks I brought home, pictures and memories are my favourite souvenirs!

      Posted by Anita Mac | March 30, 2013, 12:32 pm
  17. Did you try the gator burger? :)

    Posted by Bashar A. | March 24, 2013, 4:09 pm
    • Sadly – I didn’t!!! It was on my list of things to try, but the food was so good and so big everywhere, that I just couldn’t cram them in! I am sure to be back in New Orleans – will be making the gator burgers a priority!

      Posted by Anita Mac | March 30, 2013, 12:33 pm
  18. Great article – I love that ghost tours get a shout out! I love them, and they’re a staple of mine for a fun, night time activity (esp for female solo travellers). I have to ask – did you try the gator burger? Thoughts?

    Posted by Vanessa | March 25, 2013, 4:24 pm
    • A good ghost tour is always worth the night out! Should you find yourself in New Orleans on a ghost tour – the tip on the street is take one that includes cocktails! Guess the ghosts are a social bunch down there! :)
      No go on the gator burger this time – definitely for sure next visit! So much food, so little room!

      Posted by Anita Mac | March 30, 2013, 12:35 pm
  19. HI Anita
    2nd time to your site today! And i am loving it. First was the dog sledding. Got my heart there. :)
    New Orleans is on top of our list. and your photos make it worth going!

    Posted by Michelle | March 30, 2013, 12:22 pm
    • Glad you are enjoying Michelle! The dog sledding and New Orleans are just 2 of the amazing things I have done so far this year! You will have to check out the Montreal Bucket List series – the night in the ice hotel and the IglooFest dance party – some special winter experiences not to be missed!!!! Lots of fun.

      Posted by Anita Mac | March 30, 2013, 12:37 pm
      • Oh my gosh, you are really living a good life!! :)
        I admire people like you who can travel for a living. I will read thru all your posts slowly and enjoy. Happy Easter!

        Posted by Michelle | March 30, 2013, 2:36 pm
  20. I would love to go there one day, looks like an awesome place,
    great photos

    Posted by Freya | March 31, 2013, 9:14 am
  21. I haven’t been to NOLA after a brief stop on my honeymoon. This city is definitely a must-revisit for me. The sooner, the better!!

    Posted by Pola (JettingAround) (@jettingaround) | April 7, 2013, 10:27 am
  22. Haha those green ladies are a hoot!

    Posted by crookedflight | April 29, 2013, 4:40 pm
  23. It looks absolutely amazing. New Orleans is at the top of my bucket list!

    Posted by girlseule | May 13, 2013, 10:12 pm
  24. Very good information. Lucky me I discovered your blog by accident
    (stumbleupon). I’ve saved it for later!

    Posted by Misspellt Ebay | May 14, 2013, 1:04 pm

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