New Orleans, Louisiana is one of my favorite travel destinations in the USA.
It’s a unique Southern city full of spark and a few surprises. I highly recommend putting New Orleans at the top of your travel bucket list.
Here are my top 15 New Orleans travel tips to make your trip to this Southern city a good one.
New Orleans is family friendly (yes, really!)
Despite New Orleans’ party hard reputation, yes, New Orleans is a family-friendly destination.
For example, New Orleans is home to the Audubon Nature Institute, which has a Zoo, Aquarium, and Insectarium.
If you want to visit all 3, they offer an excellent discount.
Families will also enjoy a ride on the Steamboat Natchez, as well as spending time at New Orleans’ parks.
You don’t need a rental car in NOLA
Honestly, a rental car is going to be a hassle in New Orleans.
First, many of the neighborhoods are tightly packed, so you won’t always be able to park directly at your destination.
For destinations like museums, you’ll more than likely have to pay for parking, which can add up, too.
Lastly, many of the destinations are within walking distance, or at least reachable via public transportation or an affordable ride share.
Walking is the best way to get around
New Orleans is a very walkable city, so you’re better off walking. However, you also have the option of taking the street car or bus or using ride share or taxi services.
Plus, public transportation and walking are far more eco-friendly than clogging the streets with another vehicle!
Even if you’re in New Orleans for some partying, pack at least one pair of comfortable shoes that are good for walking.
I can’t begin to tell you how many women I saw on my most recent trip that were hobbling along in stilettos – even during the day.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with throwing on your favorite pair of heels for dinner and drinks.
But if you’ll be wandering around the galleries, shops, or museums, be kind to your feet and put on a pair of sneakers or flats.
You can thank me later, when you realize you haven’t any blisters or sore feet, after a few days of shopping, museum hopping, and other fun activities.
Get out of the French Quarter
As much as I love the French Quarter, New Orleans has so much more to offer!
Do yourself a favor and challenge yourself to get out of the French Quarter to see as much of New Orleans as you can.
One way to get to know other neighborhoods in New Orleans is through walking tours. Check out my post on tours in New Orleans with a twist for tips on how you can see the Crescent City in new ways.
Don’t use AirBNB in New Orleans
Don’t stay in an AirBNB, VRBO, FlipKey, or any other trendy home rental. A lot of people think AirBNB helps travelers save money, but it truly doesn’t.
Plus, New Orleans residents despise these rental sites because they are driving up rent prices and pushing longtime residents out of their own neighborhoods.
For example, homes in Tremé were purchased at cheap prices after Hurricane Katrina and rebuilt as vacation rentals and hostels, instead of new homes for displaced residents.
Landlords are opting to rent their units or homes to vacation goers rather than locals because it’s ridiculously easy to make more money that way, too.
Before you know it, New Orleans authentic neighborhoods will lose their vibe which is a big draw for tourists to begin with.
So, stick to hotels in New Orleans, please!
If you need ideas on where to stay, check out my guide on the best places to stay in New Orleans, including which neighborhoods and a few hotels or bed & breakfast type properties in each.
Stay in the Central Business District or Warehouse District
You might want to base yourself in the French Quarter, despite its high price, or even a quaint bed & breakfast in the ritzy Garden District.
If you’re intent on exploring as much of New Orleans as you can, one of my top New Orleans travel tips is to stay in the more centralized Central Business District or Warehouse District instead.
The Central Business District and Warehouse District are both in between the Garden District on one side and the French Quarter on the other.
Both neighborhoods are a great jumping off point to see the rest of New Orleans:
- Tremé: Hop on the St. Rampart street car
- Bywater: Hop on the Riverfront street car, then bus it or walk
- Algiers Point: Take the ferry across the Mississippi River
Take a streetcar for further destinations
If there are any sights you want to see that aren’t within walking distance, check out the streetcars.
These beautiful trolleys can take you to beautiful parks, museums, and restaurants a bit further out from the French Quarter.
Plus, you’ll get to see more of where locals live and admire the beautiful architecture of this historic city.
And if you’re visiting during Halloween, Christmas, or Mardi Gras season, you’ll see some of the most impressive outdoor holiday decor EVER.
As of January 2023, a 1 day pass is $3 and 3 days is $8. More options are available, including discounted fares for children.
Visit the Big Easy’s gorgeous parks
New Orleans has several gorgeous parks. My personal favorites are City Park, Audubon Park, and Armstrong Park.
New Orleans City Park
City Park is a whopping 1300 acres, which is nearly 50% larger than New York City’s Central Park!
It is home to the New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans Botanical Garden, the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, a small amusement park for kids, the Louisiana Children’s Museum, several stadiums and golf courses, trails, and bike paths.
It’s an absolute gem and super easy to visit. Simply take the Canal Street street car to its last stop on the City Park/Museum line and you’re there!
New Orleans Audubon Park
Audubon Park is located in the neighborhood of Uptown. It includes 350 acres of space and includes the Audubon Zoo, playgrounds, a golf course, sports fields, trails, and more.
New Orleans Louis Armstrong Park
Located in the Tremé neighborhood, Louis Armstrong Park sits at 32 acres. It has an auditorium, a performing arts center, walkways, green space, bridges, and historical monuments.
It is the site of the first New Orleans Jazz Festival, which is honored today with a park within the park, the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park.
The National Park Service manages this 4-acre section of Armstrong park. It includes an informative visitor’s center and a small performance hall.
Armstrong Park also includes Congo Square, which was once a gathering spot in New Orleans for slaves before slavery was abolished.
At night, the park’s main entrance lights up in beautiful blue and can be see far into the French Quarter from St. Ann Street.
Tip the street performers in New Orleans
New Orleans is full of street performers, mainly in the French Quarter on Bourbon Street.
You’re bound to encounter a handful of super talented musicians, moving statues, tarot readers, psychics, or maybe a poet for hire.
As a rule of thumb, if they are captivating enough to make you stop and watch, you better tip them, so keep some single dollar bills on hand!
Watch a live performance
If you want more than just a song or 2 while wandering around Bourbon Street and the rest of the French Quarter, head to Frenchman Street.
On Frenchman Street, you’ll find tons of music venues and clubs showcasing local musicians every night, especially jazz music!
Check out all the public art
Most people know about New Orleans’ live music scene, but not many are aware that it’s also big on art and food.
Royal Street in the French Quarter has a ton of art galleries, as does Magazine Street in the Garden District. In between the two neighborhoods is the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
Up in City Park is the New Orleans Museum of Art and Besthoff Sculpture Garden.
If you’re lucky, you might also encounter street art or a public art installation, such as Candy Chang’s Before I Die wall or Prospect New Orleans, a citywide triennial public art program.
The next Prospect New Orleans art installation is scheduled to start in Fall 2024, but exact dates haven’t been announced as of December 2022.
Try all the food
New Orleans is also a foodie’s dream thanks to its unique history with French, Spanish, Creole, and Cajun roots. Trust me, you will NOT go hungry in New Orleans.
Learn more about New Orleans’ food scene in my post about food in New Orleans, LA.
Café du Monde isn’t the only place you can get good beignets
One of the most popular foods to try in New Orleans are beignets. They are like a cross between a donut and fried dough.
Served warm and smothered in powdered sugar, these treats have people lined up for blocks on Decatur Street at Café du Monde just to try it.
But beignets are not exclusive to Café du Monde! If the line has you feeling hopeless or hangry, try Cafe Fleur de Lis or Cafe Beignet, both nearby instead.
Or, if you really have your heard set on Café du Monde, try their Riverwalk location.
Or grab some at the airport on your way home. I may or may not have gotten a to-go bag on my last visit!!
Visit during Mardi Gras season
What many tourists don’t realize about Mardi Gras is that it’s a season, not a single day!
Mardi Gras season starts on January 6, also known as Epiphany or Three Kings Day, and runs until the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins.
So if you’ve ever wanted to experience Mardi Gras, but the crowds or prices around the actual day have turned you off, go earlier in the season!
You’ll still get to experience fun parades, have a slice of King Cake, and see the fun decorations – without the crowds or high hotel prices.
Is New Orleans safe?
You’ll probably hear a lot of people say that New Orleans is unsafe. One of my best travel tips for New Orleans is that is just not true!
Now, like any city or busy vacation destination, there is crime in New Orleans. But please do not let that deter you from visiting. Crime can happen anywhere!
That said, there are a few things you should to to keep yourself and your belongings safe.
TIP: These safety tips apply to any city or crowded vacation destination, not just New Orleans.
1. Don’t stash your phone or wallet in your back pocket
You would think this one was common sense, but I saw so many people in New Orleans doing this, especially with phones, and I bet a few of them were pickpocketed.
2. Choose your day bag carefully
If you carry a bag, bring one that zips shut and carry it in front of you. Crossbody or messenger bags are a great option for a safe travel bag.
3. Walk on well-lit main streets
At night, be sure to walk on well-lit main streets, even if it means you have to avoid a shortcut down a dark side street and therefore walk a bit further.
Some of the side streets in the French Quarter, for example, are not well lit. There are also, surprisingly, some quiet, uncrowded blocks, which could be a treasure trove for criminals.
4. Please drink responsibly!
Last, but not least, New Orleans has a party kid reputation, but that doesn’t mean you should let your good sense go to the side.
Excessive drinking impairs good judgment which can lead to all kinds of situations that could lead to trouble with the law, falling victim to tourist scams, or a stint in the hospital.
What are your New Orleans travel tips?
I hope you enjoy your trip to New Orleans. Let me know in the comments if any of my New Orleans travel tips helped make your trip a success!
As they say in New Orleans, Laissez les bon temps rouler! / Let the good times roll!
Up next, check out more of my favorite travel tips for New Orleans and beyond:
This post was originally published in October 2017. It was last updated January 22, 2023.