What to Do in New Orleans

Our travel editor marches to the beat of the Big Easy.

The creole city of New Orleans has long been celebrated for its good eats, great music and year-round party atmosphere. In fact, their Imperial French and Spanish counterparts saw NOLA’s inhabitants as fiesta folk as far back as the 1700s. But thanks to those historic settlers and the city’s centuries-old position as a rich port, New Orleans is much more than a non-stop party destination. Add to the mix the recent city-wide resurgence ripe with new hotels and hip restaurants coupled with that famous Southern hospitality and you’ve got an awesome destination for any type of romance-related getaway from a bachelorette bash to your honeymoon.

new orleans marching band
Photo Credit: Richard Nowitz

Travel Tip: Get a dash of Creole culture with a city visit before setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. Many large brand companies, including NCL and Carnival offer itineraries from New Orleans.

A Look Back

First settled in 1718 by the French, then traded to the Spanish in 1762 and 1763 before reverting to French rule once again in the early 1800s, New Orleans sings of European influences and history. It’s the site of the country’s first Catholic cathedral — Saint Louis in the French Quarter — and is home to both the U.S.A’s first all-girls school and a Catholic school founded by the Ursuline nuns in 1727.

st louis cathedral
Photo Credit: Richard Nowitz

Wheeling Around

Hands down, the best way to explore the city is on a bike tour. The three-hour Creole & Crescent ride with Free Wheelin’ Bike Tours provides an awesome overview to nearly every historic NOLA neighborhood from the French Quarter to the Marigny and Treme. There are plenty of stops under the shade of old-growth oak trees draped with Spanish moss (so named after the beards of the colonist Spaniards) to snap pictures of historic homes, including one where French painter Edgar Degas spent some of his youth, and the city’s most infamous brothel.

new orleans balconies
Photo Credit: Richard Nowitz 

A repose at the sprawling City Park is an opportunity to savor chicory coffee and beignets (fried dough smothered in powdered sugar).

Photo Credit: Jenna Mahoney

cafe du monde
Photo Credit: Pat Garin

Travel Tip: The easiest — and cheapest — way to get from one point of the city to another is via streetcar. The mahogany-seated transport cars, which have been functioning continuously for more than 150 years, cost just $1.25 a ride.

new orleans street car
Photo Credit: Jeff Anding

Next: Explore the music and food scene in NOLA ►