New Orleans Travel Guide
New Orleans is an over-the-top experience for the senses, a city filled with vibrantly colored streets, soul-filled rhythm and blues, and memorable flavors. The coastal Louisiana enclave is the culinary heart of creole and cajun food, and beyond delicacies from gumbo to shrimp and grits, it's the city that brought us the muffuletta, beignets, and char-broiled oysters.
New Orleans, nicknamed "The Big Easy," is a town of jazz kings and queens, iconic architecture, the New Orleans Saints, and perhaps the most spirited street in America—Bourbon Street. It's also one of the only cities in America where you can legally drink on the street, which only adds to the lively nature of NOLA nightlife. Comedian and actor Hannibal Burress famously said of the Big Easy that "for $300 you can have your own parade on a day's notice," and if that doesn't beautifully encapsulate the glory of New Orleans in one sentence, we don't know what does.
For legendary New Orleans jazz, the best restaurants in New Orleans, and every other must-try activity, including tours of the bayou and ghost tours of the city's most haunted streets, consult this guide. We've mapped out exactly what to do in New Orleans to experience this renowned city of celebration and resilience.
Central Standard Time. (Daylight Savings Time is observed seasonally)
Best Time to Go
New Orleans is a great city to visit in the winter and spring, whereas the heat, high humidity, and threat of hurricanes make the summer and fall less enticing. June through August can be rainy. Some visitors plan a trip around Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday), which typically falls in February. Others stay away from the crowds and high price tags associated with the festivities of the biggest event of the year.
Things to Know
If you want to experience Mardi Gras, be sure to book well ahead of time and be ready for hotel rates to be higher than at other times of the year. Also, many popular sightseeing attractions are closed during Mardi Gras.
New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz, and legendary musician, Louis Armstrong was born in the city.
Category five Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005, flooding 80 percent of the city.
New Orleans is one of the top ten cities in the United States for the number of annual visitors.
Louisiana is divided into parishes rather than counties like the other states, and greater New Orleans spans eight parishes.
The motto of New Orleans is "Laissez les bon temps rouler," or "Let the good times roll."
The official cocktail of New Orleans is the Sazerac which was created in a French Quarter bar.
Mardi Gras traditions include King Cake, with a tiny plastic baby figurine inside. The guest who gets the piece of cake with the baby, according to custom, must throw the following year's Mardi Gras party.
The colors of Mardi Gras have special meaning: Green for faith, purple for justice, and gold for power.
How to Get Around
The New Orleans Transit Authority operates four streetcar lines: the St. Charles line, the Canal Street line, the Riverfront line, and the Rampart line. Plan ahead using the map and have your exact fare ready as they do not give change. ($1.25 one way) They also offer a Jazzy Pass which can be purchased online.
Taking a streetcar is part of the fun as well as convenient transportation. The historic vehicles are part of New Orleans history.
Buses: There are 40 different RTA bus routes that run across the city of New Orleans. A one-way ticket costs $1.25, and a $3 all-day Jazzy Pass gets you unlimited rides for 24 hours.
Ferries: RTA Ferries transport travelers to Algiers for $2 per ride and are commonly referred to as "water taxis."
Things to Do
Neighborhoods to Know
French Quarter: Between the Central Business District and the Marigny, the French Quarter is where you'll find some of the best restaurants and nightlife in New Orleans. One of New Orleans' most historic neighborhoods, the Quarter is where you'll find the delightful French Market and, of course, lavish homes with the quintessential decorative facades.
Marigny: From gorgeous historic buildings to under-the-radar jazz clubs and inviting local shops, the Marigny is a lovely place to spend time when visiting New Orleans. Adjacent to the French Quarter, it's an easy walk to find the artistic heart of New Orleans. Come for the preserved architecture, stay for the Frenchmen Palace Market.
Garden District: South of the French Quarter and Marigny area and slightly farther inland, you'll find NOLA's Garden District, home to Commander's Palace and lush, oak tree-lined streets. In this neighborhood, which dates back to the 19th century, you'll find opulent mansions that exude Southern charm and old-world design.
Bywater: Boho-chic New Orleans neighborhood, Bywater, sits on the Mississippi River, bordering the Marigny. It's slightly quieter than the Marigny and significantly quieter than the French Quarter, but packs an arts and culture punch. You'll find NOLA's best galleries and vintage shopping in Bywater.
Central Business District: Also thought of as New Orleans' downtown, the Central Business District (CBD) is centrally located, roughly equidistant to the Marigny and the Garden District. New Orleans' business district is bustling seven days of the week and is home to some of the city's most renowned restaurants and high-end hotels.
Treme: Bordering the French Quarter, this area was founded in the 18th century, and is known for African American history, authentic creole food, parades, jazz funerals, and the Backstreet Cultural Museum.
The climate is humid subtropical with mild winters and hot, humid summers. Hurricane season is from June through November.
The following are average Fahrenheit lows and highs by month.
January 47 - 62
February 51 - 66
March 57 - 72
April 64 - 79
May 71 - 86
June 76 - 90
July 78 - 92
August 79 - 92
September 76 - 88
October 66 - 80
November 56 - 71
December 50 - 64