September 14, 2014 3 min read
As one of the country’s most famous tourist destinations, New Orleans is truly a city that never sleeps. With so many things to do and places to see in New Orleans, this famous river city can be especially overwhelming for first-time visitors, so it helps to plan ahead and map out a few must-see destinations.
Any trip to New Orleans should start out in the French Quarter, which is home to one of the world’s most famous thoroughfares — Bourbon Street. The epicenter of Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street is lined with world-famous bars, restaurants, nightclubs, and shops. You don’t have to go indoors to enjoy the street entertainers and colorful local characters that inhabit the district. Visit one of the famed jazz clubs where you can find live entertainment, such as the House of Blues, the Bourbon Street Blues Company, Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub, or Preservation Hall.
No trip to New Orleans is complete without a visit to Mardi Gras World, where you can watch floats being built from the ground up. You can try on authentic Mardi Gras outfits and pose for the camera, then tell the folks back home that you were the Mardi Gras King or Queen. You’ll have the pictures to prove it!
As you make your way down to the waterfront, stop by one of the city’s most beautiful landmarks, Jackson Square. Lined by architectural marvels such as St. Louis Cathedral and The Cabildo, this lovely landscaped park is overlooked by a magnificent monument to Battle of New Orleans hero and former U.S. president Andrew Jackson. Jackson Square is also a mecca for local artists, so take the time to browse through their offerings along the way — you might discover a future Rembrandt or Picasso.
Facing Jackson Square you’ll find The Cabildo, which was built when New Orleans was under Spanish rule in the 1790s. Since then, The Cabildo has been everything from a city hall to a prison. Today, it’s an impressive museum that features fascinating artifacts from Louisiana’s history.
Even with all those tempting indoor attractions on Bourbon Street, New Orleans is essentially a river town; so to get a true sense of the city’s rich, historic tapestry, you’ll want to trek down to the magnificent Riverwalk. While you’re there, be sure to take a river cruise on the Steamboat Natchez — there are tours available throughout the day and evening. The Riverwalk is also lined with shops, restaurants, and nightclubs, but there’s no better way to spend your time than right here on the waterfront.
When it’s time to clear your head and get away from the tourist scene, head on over to Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. No pristine city park here — this is where you can watch alligators basking on bayou banks, and hike up the same trail where the soldiers fought at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. A phenomenon of natural beauty, the park is open year-round, and features a number of trails, scenic landmarks, and cultural centers.
Once you’ve visited the must-see destinations on your list, you can let New Orleans surprise you with its many best-kept secrets. You’ll discover your own favorite local attractions — and you’ll find yourself falling in love with this fascinating city on the banks of the Mississippi.
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