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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.

*Editor’s Note: While there are no travel restrictions to the city, New Orleans is currently undergoing a Phased Reopening Plan. See here for more details on what’s open.

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

Plan to visit New Orleans during the highly-anticipated return of festivals scheduled tentatively for the fall. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, French Quarter Fest and Beignet Fest have all announced dates in September and October 2021 – so now’s the time to start planning your trip to NOLA.

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 or your server at a restaurant, 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. Extravagant 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

The Irish Channel is filled with fun activities and hangouts year-round. Best known for its bar and 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
Tipitina’s

L - Live Music

New Orleans is rich with live music, much of which you can stumble upon just by walking through the French Quarter. Plan to see live music at one of the outdoor venues here. Or you can get yourself pumped up for your trip by checking out our Offline Playlist, featuring some of NOLA’s most iconic musicians. (Editor's Note: Indoor live music, including capacity, may be restricted under the Phased Reopening Plan. See here for the latest.)

M - Mardi Gras Indians

Mardi Gras Indian culture is easily one of New Orleans’ most unique and fascinating customs. The Backstreet Cultural Museum is the perfect place to learn more about this deeply rooted tradition.    

N - Natchez

A ride on Steamboat Natchez will take you down the Mississippi and back for some of the best sights of the city. Food and music are often included with your ticket, so sit back, relax and set sail in New Orleans.

Sorena Briley
Steamboat Natchez

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 or praline-filled beignets from Loretta’s

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 okra 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 a budget. From the Riverfront to City Park and all along St. Charles Avenue, 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 - Super Krewes

Learn all about the Super Krewes of Mardi Gras with a tour of Mardi Gras World. The museum houses floats from years past where you can get an up-close view all while learning the history behind the ultimate New Orleans celebration.

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 sculpture gardens and City Putt, 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.