Destination Guide: New Orleans

Destination Guide: New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana, was first settled by French colonists more than 300 years ago. Since then, this city near the Gulf of Mexico has maintained its incredible heritage while modernizing at the same time. When you plan your trip to New Orleans, be prepared to step back in time, discover amazing food, and be immersed in a culture unlike any other.

The Basics About a New Orleans Vacation

More than Mardi Gras, New Orleans is a culturally rich city with incredible French heritage. Packed with great restaurants, beautiful museums, and jazz music, this city at the mouth of the Mississippi River has something for everyone. The only reason it is not on our top travel destinations for 2023 list is because this city is truly timeless.

When to go Visit the Big Easy

New Orleans is renown for Fat Tuesday parties the day before Lent begins. The city gets crowded during February (and sometimes into early March). Unless you plan to join in the festivities, book your trip outside of these popular times when prices typically spike. There is always plenty going on here.

Remember, you will be in the deep south where summers are hot and humid. Winter in NOLA is more temperate, but the area has been known to freeze on occasion. Check the weather and go prepared.

Airport Options in Southern Louisiana

Your New Orleans vacation planning will likely involve buying airline tickets. Travelers are often surprised to find out how many airports there are in New Orleans. Although multiple regional airports exist, most travelers will be best served by the bigger hubs.

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is the most popular option. Located in the heart of New Orleans, it's close to just about everywhere you want to go.

Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, about an hour and a half’s drive from New Orleans, can be utilized for those intent on exploring the capitol before or after a visit to the Big Easy.

Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport is a two-hour drive to the east. It may be a better option for travelers who want to visit coastal cities on their trip.

Things to do in New Orleans

We all know about Mardi Gras, but what else does New Orleans offer? Are there things to do in New Orleans with kids? What about those who want to get a little adventurous? This city is packed with opportunities for everyone.

The French Quarter – Pressed against the Mississippi River, the French Quarter is the cultural hub for the area. Concerts, festivals, and more take place here. If you go for Mardi Gras, you'll spend most of your time in this area.

Mardi Gras World – For those who want to learn what goes on with the festival but avoid the raucous party, Mardi Gras World is where it's at. Get a sneak peek behind the scenes at all the planning that goes into the festivities.

Tipitina’s – A trip to NOLA isn't complete without live music. The world-famous venue has been around for over a hundred and twenty years and still offers some of the best live music in the area.

Jazz Fest – For over a week in late April and early May, some of the biggest bands from around the world gather at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. There are 13 stages with (almost) non-stop music.

Jazz Museum – If you love the music but don't care for the crowds, then the New Orleans Jazz Museum is for you. The museum pays tribute to Jazz’s history, research, and furthering.

Swamp Tours – New Orleans wouldn't be what it is without the swamps and bayous. Adventurous visitors can book tours to discover these rich ecosystems.

Ghost Tours – Ghosts and voodoo are intertwined in the history of NOLA. There are a wide variety of hysterical to terrifying tours that visit the city’s haunted locales.

How to Get Around New Orleans

While many New Orleans things to do are near the heart of the city along the river, sometimes you want to explore an area that is not as easy to get to. Options for getting around include:

Streetcars – Known for their streetcars, every visitor should ride one at least once!

Biking – Do you need a car in New Orleans? Nope! Since the city is relatively flat, biking is a breeze.

Taxis, Rideshares, and Buses – Taxis, rideshares, and the New Orleans public transportation bus system can get you to further areas of the city that aren't easy to walk to or through.

Where and What to Eat in NOLA

When looking for the best places to eat in New Orleans, it's hard to narrow it down to just a handful of great restaurants. Instead, look for those who serve up New Orleans' famous food.

When looking for the best places to eat in New Orleans, it's hard to narrow it down to just a handful of great restaurants. Instead, look for those who serve up New Orleans' famous food.

Gumbo – French and African roots combine to form this southern staple.

Po-Boys - The best po-boys are piled high with lettuce, tomato, and pickles and stuffed with roast beef, shrimp, or oysters. 

Étouffée – From the French word "to smother," étouffée is usually shrimp or crawdads smothered in sauce.

Beignets– Essentially a deep-fried donut covered in powdered sugar. Stop at the renowned Café Du Monde for beignets and coffee.

Whether you are hitting a major festivity or visiting in the off-season, this city has plenty to offer. The best area to stay in New Orleans hinges on what you want to do. The safest places to stay in New Orleans will be highly rated and well-staffed, so do your research. For more tips on traveling well and safely, brush up on how to be an expert traveler before you go.

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