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Jackson Square
Jackson Square
Jackson Square

Ultimate New Orleans Bucket List

New Orleans quintessentials for first-timers from A to Z

With so much to experience, explore and course, EAT, we’ve compiled a massive list of New Orleans musts for first-time visitors to the Crescent City from A-Z.

Paul Broussard
Dancing - Rockin Dopsie & The Zydeco Twisters - Sheraton New Orleans Fais Do Do Stage - New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2015

A - Attend a Festival

No matter the time of year or what you’re most interested in, in New Orleans there’s a fest for that! From mega-festivals like Jazz Fest and ESSENCE to smaller neighborhood festivals like Gentilly Fest and Bayou Bacchanal, there’s always something to attend in the Crescent City. 

B - Beignets

If you didn’t try a beignet did you even go to New Orleans? While Cafe Du Monde is easily the most famous, beignets can found all over the city. Check out a few of our favorites here

C - Crawfish Boil

Seafood like no other! There’s nothing more New Orleans than a crawfish boil. Host your own or grab a few pounds from local favorites, either way, you can’t go wrong. Our Guide to Crawfish will help you along the way. 

D -  Dine Around

With numerous James Beard award-winning restaurants and chefs, a wide range of globally-inspired cuisines, and homegrown Cajun and Creole classics, the food scene in New Orleans is top-notch. Dine your way through the city from legendary establishments to trendy bistros. Be sure to make reservations at these local hotspots.

Justen Williams
New Orleans BBQ Shrimp - Morrow’s

E - Engage with Locals

Hospitality in New Orleans is unmatched. Whether it’s the front desk worker at your hotel, street performers in the French Quarter, or just a friendly face at a festival, New Orleanians are always eager to strike up a conversation.

F - French Quarter

Equally as historic as it is iconic, the French Quarter is a must on any first-timers New Orleans bucket list. Beyond the world-famous Bourbon Street, the French Quarter is filled with history and charm that can’t be duplicated. Make sure to stop by the French Market for uniquely NOLA finds and to meet the artisans behind the handmade crafts. 

G - Garden District

If interested in historic architecture, the Garden District is the neighborhood for you. Antebellum mansions and old cemeteries exude history. Wander the area on your own or sign up for a Garden District tour. Restaurants and shops can be found throughout the neighborhood as well.

Zack Smith
New Orleans Garden District

H - Hurricane from Pat O'Brien's

A first-time visit to New Orleans calls for a stop at Pat O’Brien’s, home of the famous Hurricane. This signature rum-based cocktail is both sweet and satisfying. 

I - Irish Channel

While it is the home of the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, the Irish Channel is filled with fun activities and hangouts year-round. Best known for its brewery scene and local bites, any first-visit can be made better with time spent in this historic neighborhood. 

J - Jackson Square

One of New Orleans’ most recognized attractions, Jackson Square is a picturesque backdrop that perfectly captures the magic of the French Quarter. Experience it during the day or in the evening, both are stunning. 

K - King Cake

Nothing says carnival in New Orleans quite like King Cake. This seasonal sweet rolls out each year on January 6, and ends promptly the day after Mardi Gras. Within the roughly month-long timespan, bakeries, grocery stores and restaurants across the city are bustling with patrons getting their fill. Visiting outside of Mardi Gras season? No worries - a number of sweet shops take King Cake orders year-round. 

Justen Williams

L - Live Music

Jazz, blues, bounce, brass bands, soca, salsa or second line. There’s no shortage of live music in New Orleans. A visit along Frenchmen Street is always a safe bet for live music and entertainment. If you’re looking for more, check out GoNOLA’s monthly roundup of live music across the Crescent City for local favorites and off-the-beaten-path suggestions and finds. Or you can get yourself pumped up for your trip by checking out our Offline Playlist, featuring some of NOLA’s most iconic musicians. 

M - Mardi Gras Indians

Mardi Gras Indian culture is easily one of New Orleans’ most unique and fascinating customs. The Backstreet Cultural Museum or a NOMGI Sip & Sew Class are the perfect activities to learn more about this deeply rooted tradition.    

N - Nightlife in NOLA

What’s a trip to New Orleans without at least one night out? From dive bars to dance clubs, and craft cocktail lounges to laid back breweries there’s something for everyone to experience NOLA’s nightlife

Zack Smith
D.B.A. on Frenchmen Street

O - Outdoor Activities

Alfresco dining, rooftop bar hopping, biking, fishing, or simply a day spent at the park, plan at least one outdoor activity during your trip to NOLA.

P - Pralines

Sweet, satisfying and oh so New Orleans. Pralines are sugary treats that adored here in the Crescent City. Opt for traditional, or find some of the twisted takes like praline bacon from Elizabeth’s, praline-filled beignets from Loretta’s, or a Miso Praline Bacon & Sunny Side Up Egg from District Donuts. The options are limitless. 

Q - Queen of Creole Cuisine

The iconic Mrs. Leah Chase will forever be known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine. Over seven decades she fueled a movement at her historic Treme-based restaurant, Dooky Chase’s. Her legacy lives on in the gumbo, famous fried chicken, and okara that can only be found at this historic restaurant. 

R - Ride the Streetcar

As cliche as it may seem, a ride aboard one of New Orleans’ historic streetcars is the perfect way to sit back, relax and explore the city on the budget. From the Riverfront to the Garden District and all along Canal Street, the streetcar takes you throughout New Orleans. Explore all of the fun attractions, activities and eats to-do along the various streetcar routes using our streetcar itinerary

Cheryl Gerber, NOTMC
St. Charles Avenue Streetcar

S - Second Lines

A truly special and unique part of New Orleans’ culture, second lines are weekly, citywide celebrations filled with music, movement and more. Follow the route, the beat and fun of a second line during your next visit. Check out this year’s schedule of parades HERE.  

T - Tours

With so much to explore and unlock, a great way to navigate NOLA is with a guided tour of the city. No matter what you’re most interested in there’s probably a tour made especially for it. Cuisine, architecture, heritage + history, swamps and even cocktails! The choice is yours. 

U - Unique Shopping

Just as unique as the city, shopping in New Orleans is sure to be filled with one-of-a-kind finds and fun. Magazine Street is known for its darling boutiques and antique shops, Canal Place is perfect for high-end luxury items, and the historic Bayou Road is home to a number of eclectic Black-Owned businesses and shops.

V - Voodoo

Forget what you THINK you know about Voodoo. New Orleans has you covered on the true history, customs and culture that go into this  sacred practice. 

Rebecca Todd
National World War II Museum

W - World War II Museum

The National World War II Museum has been ranked as a top museum in the world consecutively for several years. Historic artifacts, musical shows, 4D movies and interactive experiences will keep you entertained for hours.  

X - Xplorit Virtual Tours

If you’re still planning your bucket-list, first time trip to New Orleans make sure to take advantage of our many trip planning tools including Xplorit virtual tours. This is a great resource for checking out a few of New Orleans’ most famous landmarks, restaurants, hotels and attractions before you actually experience them. 

Y - Yoga in the Sculpture Garden

Yoga might not be unique to New Orleans, but doing down dogs in City Park’s Besthoff Sculpture Garden certainly is. Yoga in the park is just one of the many offerings, attractions and activities that you can get lost in. From the New Orleans Museum of Art to the free sculpture gardens, City Putt and the newly added Louisiana Children’s Museum, there’s plenty to experience at City Park

Z- Zoo

The perfect outing for families, couples, or just a group of animal-lovers is a trip to the Audubon Zoo. Lions to lemurs, and elephants to anteaters all call Audubon home.