Top Things to Do in Downtown New Orleans

Updated on November 4, 2016
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Shelby was born in New Orleans and has lived in the area most of her life. She loves the food and culture it offers.

New Orleans: it's a city unique to itself when compared to the rest of the United States. With its French and Spanish history, New Orleans is a mix of culture and cuisine, party and parades that is not to be found anywhere else in the U.S. Whether you're looking for history, architecture, or a party, New Orleans is a place you should visit at least once.

St. Louis Cathedral

The St. Louis Cathedral is located in the heart of the French Quarter in Jackson Square. It's an impressive sight, both inside and out. Services are open to the public, and the cathedral is open daily to view: just be sure you're not interrupting a special event.

Jackson Square

Jackson Square is located in the French Quarter right in front of the St. Louis Cathedral. Lining the front of the square are horse and buggy tours of the city. Art vendors line the side streets and offer paintings of the square, city, or portraits. Street performers are common on the corners of the square and range in talents from dancing to painting themselves gold and just standing still. The square itself offers ample benches to sit and enjoy the area. Jackson Square is named after Andrew Jackson and the famous Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. There is a large statue of Jackson in the middle of the square.

French Quarter

The French Quarter offers a variety of architecture to view as you walk through the streets. There are unique shops offering pralines, coffee, beignet mix, creole seasonings and more lining the streets. Costume shops are popular in this area as well as authentic Cajun and creole restaurants.

Café Du Monde

If you've worked up an appetite from walking around the French Quarter, stop in at Café Du Monde for some beignets and coffee. The original Café Du Monde is located in the French Quarter (although there is one in the Riverwalk as well). Beignets are a popular dessert in New Orleans; it is fried dough with powered sugar sprinkled on top. Be prepared to wait as it is an extremely popular place to get beignets.

Bourbon Street

Wildly popular among visitors and locals, Bourbon Street is the party place to be any time of the day. With a huge strip of bars that are always open, you can visit Bourbon Street at 11 AM on a Wednesday and still have a good time, or visit on a Saturday night. There are always people walking around and drinking. Be sure to check out some of the signature drinks here like the Hand Grenade at Tropical Isle. The exact recipe is a secret, and it's the only place that serves the drink. Hang out at one bar and listen to a band, or grab your drink and walk down the street. And if you're here for ANY holiday, you're sure to find a large crowd ready to party with you.

New Orleans

French Quarter, New Orleans LA:
French Quarter, New Orleans, LA, USA

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St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans, LA:
St. Louis Cathedral, 615 Pere Antoine Alley, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA

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Jackson Square, New Orleans, LA:
Jackson Square, 700 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA

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Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans, LA:
800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA

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Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA:
Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA, USA

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Catch a Parade

New Orleans is famous for Mardi Gras, but that's not the only time you can find parades winding through the city. Sure, it might be the only time that there are several parades a day for weeks, but New Orleans will use almost any holiday to throw a parade. Visit during Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day, or Halloween, just to name a few holidays. New Orleans even has parades for holidays you probably don't know about, like the Celebration of the Americas in October.

New Orleans Saints Parade
New Orleans Saints Parade | Source

Take a Paddlewheel Ride Down the Mississippi River

Transport yourself back in time by taking a paddlewheel ride down the Mississippi River. The Creole Queen and The Natchez both offer several different types of tours. Take a dinner cruise or a trip to Jean Lafitte National Historic Park. Enjoy the cruise by sitting on the deck and taking in the river, or stay cool inside and order a drink. Tickets for either can be purchased right on the river by the paddlewheels.

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