New Orleans: A City Overflowing with Good Times

Toe-tapping jazz, fragrant gumbo, the beauty of the bayous and bustling activity in the shopping districts – New Orleans has good times for everyone to enjoy.

New Orleans began in 1718 as a small French settlement named La Nouvelle-Orléans. Over the next 300 years, the settlement grew into one of the most populous cities in America and gained a rich repertoire of architecture, culture, music, and cuisine.

New Orleans, or NOLA as it is also called, covers almost 350 sq. miles of land between the banks of Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. 340,000 people call New Orleans home and thousands more visit the city every year. The majority of these visitors spend their time in four neighborhoods which encompass the best of New Orleans and offer a variety of memorable experiences for singles, couples, and families with kids. The most visited of these four neighborhoods is The French Quarter.

1. The French Quarter

The French Quarter is the heart of New Orleans. It beats with the music of skilled musicians, provides a stage for many street performers and is home to some of the city’s finest clubs, museums, art galleries and restaurants.

Here are a few of the best-loved points of interest in the French Quarter of New Orleans:

Jackson Square – A tall bronze statue of Andrew Jackson on a rearing horse gives Jackson Square its name and memorializes New Orleans’ history. Shops and restaurants, including Chef Scott Boswell’s Stanley Restaurant, surround the Square and form the backdrop for street artists who gather every day to capture scenes from the city.

St. Louis Cathedral – The triple steeples of the St. Louis Cathedral overshadow Jackson Square. St. Louis is the oldest Catholic Cathedral in continual use within the United States.

The staff at the Cathedral welcome visitors to tour the historic building and its adjacent cemetery, as well as to visit the museum at the nearby Ursuline Convent.

Touring Information:

St. Louis Cathedral
Hours: Every day 8:30 am – 4:00 pm.
Cost: Free. Informative brochure available for a $1 donation

Ursuline Convent
Hours: Monday – Friday from 10am – 4pm; Saturdays from 9am – 3pm
Cost: Free

French Market – Just a few steps away from Jackson Square, the open-air French Market offers an extensive flea market, specialty boutiques, and unforgettable food.

The Cafe Du Monde has been serving their famous beignets and coffee to French Market shoppers since 1862. They are open 24 hours a day 7 days a week – unless a hurricane is passing too close for comfort.

Bourbon Street – Bourbon Street has been brimming with life since 1798. During the day, New Orleans residents and tourists walk the street to enjoy fine French cuisine at Galatoire’s Restaurant or have a Cajun or Creole meal at the well-loved Royal Sonesta Hotel.

As evening falls, Bourbon Street fills with lights, music, and laughter as its jazz clubs, bars and nightclubs come to life. For the last 200 years, the Old Absinthe House Cocktail Bar has been serving up some of the best drinks and pub food on Bourbon Street and is one of the fun things for couples to do in New Orleans.

Royal Street – Located just a block away from Bourbon Street, Royal Street has outstanding antique shops, boutiques, fine jewelry stores and art galleries, as well as hotels and restaurants.

Many antique collectors consider Royal Street to be one of the United State’s best street for antiquing and often make their way to M.S. Rau Antiques or the French Antique Shop, among others.

Cabildo – In 1762, Spain acquired Louisiana from the French and built the Cabildo to be their seat of government in 1799. Three years later, Spain returned Louisiana to France, who then immediately sold it to the newly formed United States.

The Cabildo served as the center of New Orleans government and the Louisiana State Supreme Court until 1908 when it became a museum. The Cabildo Museum houses permanent exhibitions about the history of New Orleans, aviation and Hurricane Katrina, along with temporary exhibits which include art and jazz.

Cabildo Touring Information:

Hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 10 am – 4:30 pm
Cost: $6 for adults and $5 for seniors, students, and active military. Children 12 and under are admitted free.

2. The Garden District

In 1806, Barthelemy Lafon designed the Garden District to be a neighborhood of elegant family homes and parks with ponds, fountains, and canals. This district continues to be well-loved for its historic homes and their gardens, as well as for its shopping opportunities and the Lafayette Cemetery.

Historic Homes – The best way to see the stately homes in the Garden District is to take a walking tour.

Most tours will take you to see multiple homes, including the Longue Vue House and Gardens which still has all its original furnishings, the Davis/Seebold Residence now known as the Women’s Opera Guild Home and Colonel Short’s Villa, which is famous for its iron fence that resembles corn stalks.

Magazine StreetMagazine Street stretches from the Garden District all the way to a neighborhood called Uptown. It offers six miles worth of antique and craft shops, boutiques, jewelry stores, art galleries and restaurants.

New Orleans is famous for its parades throughout the year and both the Mardi Gras and the St. Patrick’s Day parade go through Magazine Street.

Lafayette Cemetery

Residents and visitors alike agree that Lafayette Cemetery is one of the best free things to do in New Orleans.

Most of the graves in Lafayette Cemetery are above ground. Mausoleums of different sizes and architecture cover the graves and tell stories of personal lives intertwined with New Orleans’ rich history.

3. Faubourg Marigny

Centuries ago Faubourg Marigny was a prosperous plantation owned by Bernard Marigny. As the young city of New Orleans expanded, Bernard divided his land and sold it to Creole families and business owners. Today Faubourg Marigny maintains distinct Creole and European traits and provides great music, food, and shopping opportunities.

Frenchmen StreetFrenchmen Street lies along the edge of Faubourg Marigny and is famous for music – everything from traditional jazz to modern day funk. Street musicians serenade passersby during the day and every night of the week clubs throw open their doors to provide fun things for singles and couples to do in New Orleans. Maison and the Spotted Cat are two clubs that are popular for their music and food.

Frenchmen StreetFrenchmen Street lies along the edge of Faubourg Marigny and is famous for music – everything from traditional jazz to modern day funk. Street musicians serenade passersby during the day and every night of the week clubs throw open their doors to provide fun things for singles and couples to do in New Orleans. Maison and the Spotted Cat are two clubs that are popular for their music and food.

Local photographers, sculptors, jewelers and other artists gather every evening at the Palace Market on Frenchmen Street. They share their skills with anyone who passes through and offers a wide variety of handmade souvenirs.

St. Roch Market – The St. Roch Market began as a fresh produce market and then redefined itself as a Southern food hall that will delight any foodie. The 13 specialty vendors in the market provide some of the best places to eat in New Orleans.

They serve everything from coffee and cocktails to traditional Cajun dishes and seafood. One exceptional seafood option is the Elysian Oyster Bar with its oyster happy hour every day from 9 pm until closing.

4. Central Business District

As its name suggests, the Central Business District encompasses most of New Orleans’ commerce and financial institutions, but it has a lot to offer tourists as well in the way of history and shopping.

Gallier Hall – James Gallier Sr. designed Gallier Hall with its double row of stately pillars and marble accents in 1845. The building served as New Orleans’ City Hall until the mid-1950s. In 2014, the city began restoring Gallier Hall inside and out in preparation for their tricentennial celebrations.

Gallier Hall continues to house a valuable collection of paintings and decorative objects, many of which were gifts from foreign countries. The Hall is currently used for special city functions and can be rented for special events. The Buzz NOLA Bike Tours are a great way to visit Gallier Hall and other points of interest in the Central Business District.

National World War 2 Museum – Dedicated to helping people connect with history and honor the men and women who gave their lives to purchase our freedom, the National World War 2 Museum offers interactive exhibits, multimedia experiences and first-person oral histories that will captivate people of all ages.

The museum also offers some of the best things to do in New Orleans with kids, including special summer camp activities and family pajama parties for younger children, as well as Victory Corps activities for middle and high school age children.

National World War 2 Museum Touring Information:

Hours: Every day from 9 am – 5 pm
Cost: $28 for adults, $24 for seniors, and $18 for students and active military. World War 2 veterans and children under 5 years old are admitted free.

Canal Place – Thanks to its top-of-the-line retailers and exceptional designers, Canal Place wins the title of New Orleans’ premier shopping destination. In this shopping complex, you will find Jack Sutton’s fine jewelry, New Orleans’ Knots that specialize in men’s ties, fine crafts from the Louisiana Craft Guild and various renown restaurants, including Morton’s Steakhouse.

Best Outdoor Activities in New Orleans

New Orleans is an extensive city with a wide array of historical and cultural sites, shopping opportunities, and fine dining, but it also has outstanding natural beauty.

  1. Explore bayous – Bayou is a Cajun French word referring to an extremely slow-moving stream or river. There are various bayous along the Mississippi River providing homes for alligators, turtles, herons and other wildlife. Every day boat tours leave from various parts of New Orleans to explore the beauty of these bayous.
  2. Ride a steamboat – Since the early 1800s, steamboats have been plowing their way up and down the Mississippi River. First of all, they carried passengers and daily staples between Northern and Southern United States. Today steamboats allow us to experience the Mississippi River and what it was like to travel long ago. Some of the best steamboat tours include live music and dining.
  3. Go hiking – 60-acre Couturie Forest offers excellent opportunities to hike and bird watch right inside of New Orleans. The forest also includes New Orleans highest point which is 43 feet above sea level and jokingly called “Laborde Mountain” by New Orleans residents.
  4. Visit City Park – One of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors in New Orleans is to visit City Park. Besides providing walking tracks, a golf course and fishing holes, this 1,300 acres park also offer daily train rides, an art and sculpture garden and a unique antique wooden carousel in the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park.
    Carousel Park Touring Information:

    Open seasonally: May 29th to August 5th: Tuesday through Thursday 11 am to 5 pm; Friday and Saturday 11 am to 8 pm; Sundays 11 am to 6 pm.
    August 6th to November 4th: Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 6 pm
    Cost: $4 each ride or unlimited rides for $18.
    Season passes are also available for families.

New Orleans is a wonderful travel destination at anytime, but this year it is an extra special destination because NOLA is celebrating her Tricentennial Anniversary. This is your opportunity to participate in special music concerts, parades, firework shows and many other events, as they remember the people and stories that have contributed to making New Orleans a city overflowing with good times.

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