21 Best Things to Do in New Orleans' French Quarter — From Famous Cafes to Ghost Tours

Heading to New Orleans? Here are some of the best things to do in the famous French Quarter.

It's Mardi Gras season in New Orleans, and the place to enjoy the true flavor of Carnival is the city's historic French Quarter, where festivities begin annually on January 6 and continue through Fat Tuesday, which falls on March 1 this year. Yes, Mardi Gras is more than just one day. Parades and celebrations are already under way, so if you want to get a taste of the season, it's time to plan your trip to the French Quarter of New Orleans. Of course, this neighborhood has plenty to offer all year round, so whether you're visiting for the festivities or planning a future trip, we've got you covered.

Scenic typical balcony at historic building in the French Quarter of New Orleans
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First, a quick French lesson: Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, the last day of feasting before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, traditionally a time of fasting and sacrifice. The French Quarter is also called Vieux Carré, meaning Old Square, recognizing the area as the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans.

Here are 21 of the best things to do in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

See a parade.

Experience a parade or two put on by one of the local Krewes, organizations that host balls or parades during the Mardi Gras season. Get into the spirit with a costume, wear the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold, and get ready to catch some beads.

Try king cake.

If you visit during the Mardi Gras season, buy a king cake at one of the local bakeries, and if you get the piece with the baby, tradition says you host the next party.

Visit The Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes & Culture.

Visit the Mardi Gras Museum to see costumes, exhibits, and a themed show. The museum is open all year, so you can get a taste of the festivities whenever you visit.

Cruise the Mississippi.

Board the Steamboat Natchez or The City of New Orleans river boat and cruise on the Mississippi for sightseeing, dining, and traditional jazz entertainment.

Learn about local history.

Learn more about New Orleans at the Louisiana State Museum that includes the Cabildo, The Presbytère, the New Orleans Jazz Museum, and the 1850 House.

Try a classic New Orleans cocktail.

Sip a Sazerac, the official cocktail of New Orleans, at the circus-style Carousel Bar in Hotel Monteleone, the city's only revolving bar. You can learn everything there is to know about the cocktail and more at Sazerac House, a museum, bar, and distillery.

Stroll through Jackson Square.

Spend some time at Jackson Square, a National Historic Landmark with a statue of Andrew Jackson, an open-air artist colony, and historic St. Louis Cathedral.

Spot sea life at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.

Visit the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, located on the Mississippi River, featuring exhibits on the underwater world of the Caribbean, Amazon, Gulf of Mexico, and the Mississippi.

Shop around the French Market.

Shop, dine, or enjoy an event at the historic French Market. You'll find art galleries, restaurants, cafés, candy shops, souvenirs, and more.

Window shop on Royal Street.

If you love antiques or just browsing, don't miss Royal Street, one of the oldest streets in New Orleans and home to a number of antique shops and art galleries. You'll also find interesting shops on Decatur, Magazine, and Chartres Streets.

Find local goods at Palace Market.

For more shopping, visit Palace Market on Frenchmen Street, where more than 80 painters, illustrators, jewelers, and sculptors offer their unique creations in an open-air setting.

Historic Café Du Monde in the French quarter of New Orleans Louisiana
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Eat beignets at the famous Café du Monde.

Stop — at least once or twice — at Café du Monde, dating to 1862, where you'll find coffee, hot chocolate, and their famous beignets, square French-style donuts. The café is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Try a favorite local sandwich.

Another New Orleans specialty is the "muffuletta" (or "muffaletta"), a sandwich on a sesame roll with Italian salami, ham, cheese, and olive salad that includes celery, cauliflower, carrots, peppers, pepperoncini, onions, capers, garlic, and spices. Its Sicilian background combines with Cajun tastes to create the popular sandwich, said to have been invented in the French Quarter in 1906 by Salvatore Lupo of Central Grocery, now called "Home of the Original Muffuletta."

Walk down iconic Bourbon Street.

Stroll down Bourbon Street, named for the French royal family, not the cocktail spirit. You'll hear music from street performers and clubs, see historic buildings with ornate wrought iron balconies, and encounter happy revelers carrying their drinks in plastic to-go cups — legal in New Orleans.

Traffic and pedestrians on Bourbon Street in the day. The historic street is the heart of the French Quarter.
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Enjoy the nightlife on Frenchmen Street.

Spend an evening in Frenchmen Street, home of restaurants, jazz clubs, and lively nightlife.

Take a ghost tour.

For an eerie nighttime activity, take one of the many ghost tours offered in New Orleans, focusing on haunted locations and the city's vampire, witch, and voodoo legends.

Learn about Louisiana Voodoo.

If you're intrigued after your tour, you'll want to visit Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo for talismans, charms, a spiritual reading, or to learn more about New Orleans Voodoo.

Stop for a drink at a quirky cafe.

Want to continue the theme? Stop in for a bite at the New Orleans Vampire Café for luxurious all-day dining and cocktails.

Visit the nearby National World War II Museum.

Just outside of the French Quarter in the Warehouse District, the National World War II Museum takes visitors through fascinating stories with exhibits, artifacts, multimedia experiences, and first-person oral histories.

View of the entrance to the Louis Armstrong Park at dusk, located in the Tremé neighborhood, near the French Quarter.
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Wander through Louis Armstrong Park.

Also bordering the French Quarter, Louis Armstrong Park commemorates the New Orleans trumpeter and singer nicknamed "Satchmo," one of the most influential figures in jazz. The 31-acre park includes the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts.

Hang out by the river.

Traveling with your furry friend? They'll be welcome at Crescent Park, a 20-acre urban park along the riverfront with bike paths and a dog run. Also along the Mississippi, Woldenberg Riverfront Park offers 16 acres of green space from the river to the French Quarter with a jogging path, sculptures, and 90-foot linear water feature.

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