Top Attractions for First Time Visitors

With limited time in New Orleans, you’ll want to prioritize the attractions and neighborhoods that best capture the city’s spirit. Here are six categories of top sights for NOLA newbies.

French Quarter

No first trip to New Orleans is complete without exploring the historic French Quarter. This vibrant neighborhood is the birthplace of the city, with origins dating back to the early 1700s. Today, the French Quarter is known for its colorful architecture, wrought-iron balconies, and lively Bourbon Street. Stroll along the cobblestone streets and pop into souvenir shops, restaurants, and jazz clubs. Stop by Jackson Square to see street performers and the stunning St. Louis Cathedral. And don’t miss out on classic NOLA treats like beignets at Cafe Du Monde, muffulettas at Central Grocery, and Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s. The French Quarter truly captures the festive spirit of New Orleans.

Garden District

For a more genteel side of New Orleans, head uptown to the Garden District. This posh neighborhood boasts incredible 19th-century architecture, including magnificent antebellum mansions and historic churches. Magazine Street runs through the Garden District and offers boutique shopping, art galleries, and dining. Ride the historic St. Charles Avenue streetcar to experience the area like a local. The massive, moss-covered oak trees provide plenty of Southern charm. Some top Garden District attractions include the stately homes along St. Charles Avenue, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, Commander’s Palace restaurant, and the former home of author Anne Rice. It’s a lovely area to explore on foot or bike.

City Park

At 1,300 acres, City Park is the largest and most visited park in New Orleans. Families especially love this green space, which contains amusements like a carousel, theme park rides, and a miniature railroad. Kids go crazy for Storyland, a fascinating sculpture garden based on favorite storybook characters. City Park also houses the top-rated New Orleans Botanical Garden and the New Orleans Museum of Art. Sports lovers can lace up their running shoes on miles of trails or rent a paddle boat for the bayous and ponds. With so much to see and do, you’ll want to dedicate at least half a day to exploring City Park.

National WWII Museum

History buffs should put the National WWII Museum high on their list. Named one of the top museums in the nation, it provides an immersive look at the war years through thought-provoking exhibits, artifacts, oral histories, and multimedia experiences across a six-acre campus. From the D-Day beaches to the Home Front, the museum provides incredible insight into all facets of WWII. Visitors especially rave about the interactive Final Mission: USS Tang Submarine Experience. Expect to spend at least 3-4 hours taking it all in.

Swamp Tours

For an adventure beyond the city, join one of the popular swamp and bayou tours by airboat or pontoon boat. These outings transport you into the Louisiana wetlands to learn about the region’s ecology and wildlife. You’re almost guaranteed to see alligators in their natural habitat, as well as other creatures like wild boars, snakes, turtles, and birds. Many tours also highlight Cajun heritage. Top options include tours by Cajun Pride Swamp Tours or Pearl River Eco-Tours.

Mardi Gras World

Can’t make it to Mardi Gras? Then visit Mardi Gras World, a working warehouse where artists create the spectacular floats for the iconic celebrations. Guided tours take you behind-the-scenes of float-making and into the studio where you’ll see costumes and props. Some tours even let you indulge in a festive King Cake. Mardi Gras World operates year-round, so you can get into the Carnival spirit even if you’re visiting in the off-season. It’s a neat look at the magic and mayhem that brings Mardi Gras to life.

How to Get Around New Orleans

With so many sights to see, you’ll need to utilize New Orleans public transportation, taxis/rideshares, or charter buses to maximize your time in the city. Here’s an overview of how to get around NOLA:

Public Transportation

The Regional Transit Authority operates public buses, streetcars, and ferries in New Orleans and the surrounding areas. The historic St. Charles streetcar is a fun way to travel between the French Quarter and Garden District. Other handy lines are the Canal streetcar along the river and the Riverfront streetcar in the downtown area. While navigation can be tricky for visitors, public transit does provide an authentic local experience.

Taxis and Rideshares

If you prefer door-to-door service, taxis and rideshares like Uber are plentiful in New Orleans. This is often the quickest and most convenient way to get around. Apps make ride-hailing a breeze. Keep in mind Uber and Lyft drivers in New Orleans do not pick up riders who try to flag them down on the street. You must reserve a ride through the app. Taxis are readily available at hotels, major attractions, the airport, and around the French Quarter and Marigny. Fares are standardized based on zones, and taxis accept cash or credit cards.

Charter Buses

For group transportation or custom tours, many visitors rely on charter bus rentals. Charter buses take the stress out of getting large groups around New Orleans. You’ll have one central mode of transport between your accommodations, sightseeing destinations, special events, and nightlife. No need to coordinate separate cars and Uber rides. Charter buses provide door-to-door service catered to your group’s schedule and needs. Many come equipped with luxury amenities like leather seats, WiFi, audio/visual equipment, and restrooms for long days on the road. Plus, professional team handle navigation and parking.

Ready to Get Started?

We hope this first timer’s guide gets you excited about planning your dream trip to New Orleans. With so much culture, history, music, and cuisine, the Big Easy offers endless opportunities to dive into everything that makes this destination truly unique. Use this list of top attractions and transportation tips as a starting point for crafting your perfect NOLA itinerary. Reach out to New Orleans Party Buses at 504-264-9422 if you need help arranging transportation for your group. It’s almost time to laissez les bons temps rouler (let the good times roll) in New Orleans! Bon voyage!