Top things to do in New Orleans

Published March 12, 2014

| National Geographic

Top things to do in New Orleans

Top things to do in New Orleans

This city has more to offer year-round than you might think.

Jackson Square

The French Quarter’s heart and soul is a must-see, boasting a statue of Andrew Jackson at its center and a ragtag collection of artists and fortune-tellers fringing its perimeter. It’s flanked by the filligreed Pontalba apartments, site of the Streetcar-Named-Desire-inspired “Stella!” shouting contest held during the annual Tennessee Williams Festival. At the Square’s crown are three 18th-century architectural glories: the Cabildo, a former city hall where the Louisiana Purchase was signed; St. Louis Cathedral; and the Presbytère. The onetime courthouse is now the flagship of the Louisiana State Museum, showcasing Living With Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond, a fascinating exhibit on the infamous storm.

Ogden Museum of Southern Art

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art and its collections of paintings, photography, and ceramics from below the Mason-Dixon Line is located in the city’s Warehouse District. The art neighborhood is a brisk stroll or short cab ride from the Quarter. Go late on a Thursday for the chance to enjoy Ogden After Hours, when local musicians play while patrons dance, drink, and mingle in the galleries. It’s the best regularly scheduled cocktail party in town. Afterward consider nearby Cochon or a Mano for dinner. The two highly regarded restaurants are walking distance from the museum.

City Park

Stretching from Bayou St. John to Lake Pontchartrain, the 1,300-acre New Orleans City Park is one of Orleans Parish’s two green jewels. (The other is Audubon Park in Uptown.) The entire city united to restore the park after Hurricane Katrina shredded its landscaping, downing many of its 600-year-old live oaks. The cleanup is transcendent, with new walking and biking paths, a great lawn for concerts, and a revival of beloved attractions, such as Story Land and Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, that have entertained children since 1906.

Po-Boys

Many a visitor’s love affair with New Orleans begins after a bite of these crusty hero sandwiches made from fresh French bread slathered with mayonnaise and crammed with fried Gulf oysters or shrimp. Locals have their favorite shop, and hours are spent debating the relative merits of the po-boys at the Parkway Bakery & Tavernversus those at Domilise’s or of the Vietnamese version—called a bánh mì—at Pho Tau Bay on the Westbank. Can’t decide? Show up in November for New Orleans’s annual Oak Street Po-Boy Festival. Started in 2007, the festival now draws 30 sandwich-makers and more than 40,000 celebrants in the city’s Carrollton neighborhood.

Drinks

New Orleans gave the world libations such as the Sazerac, the Obituary Cocktail, and the Ramos gin fizz. It’s only good manners to return the generosity by patronizing any of the city’s myriad drinking establishments. But don’t drink alone. Go where the locals go, to places like Cure, an upscale cocktail bar set on reviving the mixologist’s art; French 75, part of Arnaud’s Restaurant in the Quarter, where famed concoctionist Chris Hannah stirs and shakes; or the Carousel to sip your “sazzie” (see Sazerac) at the Hotel Monteleone’s famed revolving bar.

Discover more of the best things to do in New Orleans.

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