It’s often referred to as the ‘Big Easy’ and sat along the banks of the Mississippi River, Louisiana. It is of course, New Orleans.
Nola (New Orleans Louisiana) is a bustling city famous for its jazz music and creole cuisine, meaning this place truly is an assault on the senses (in a good way).
And let me tell you – There are so many reasons to visit New Orleans.
That’s right – New Orleans is one of my favourite cities in the United States. It has round-the-clock nightlife, traditional and cultured dishes, and fantastic architecture.
This guide is going to cover all the reasons to visit New Orleans in 2024. These are based on my own personal experiences so hopefully, I can convince you to visit, as I believe this incredible city has so much to offer.
Ready? Let’s get right into it.
Reasons to Visit Orleans
#1 Reason to Visit New Orleans: Mardi Gras
In my opinion, the holiday of Mardi Gras is one of the best reasons to visit New Orleans!
Although originally traced back to mediaeval Europe, this unique carnival now takes place all over the world. New Orleans offers some of the most colourful and exciting celebrations on Earth, and it’s the most famous Mardi Gras in the United States.
The celebrations begin on January 6, the Twelfth Night, and generally last for around two weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday (which is the day before Ash Wednesday).
During this time, the streets are alive with live music and parades. Expect extravagant costumes, impressive floats, and dance troupes. Not to mention, there’s the ‘signature throws’!
Everything from beads and doubloons to shoes and sunglasses are thrown into the crowd so I’d recommend having a bag ready to snatch up some goodies.
I completely fell in love with the vibrant atmosphere here and it’s certainly an experience I’ll never forget. If you can, I highly recommend timing your visit with this famous event.
#2 Reason to Visit New Orleans: Live Music and Nightlife
Often referred to as the birthplace of Jazz, New Orleans boasts a vibrant music scene. The history of which dates back to 1819 when slaves used to congregate in Congo Square, where they would sing, dance, and play music.
During my visit, I found there to be endless ways to enjoy the New Orleans music scene. From lively street performances to famous jazz clubs, there are plenty of opportunities for you to take in some live music.
I loved Frenchman Street, and had it recommended to me as the locals version of Bourbon Street. The Spotted Cat Music Club is one of the most popular bars, and I’d certainly recommend paying it a visit. It’s not far from the popular French Quarter, and offers a weekly events calendar so take a look before your trip.
Bourbon Street is still, however, a top destination for party animals, where you can take in the full experience of soulful voices, instruments, and you guessed it, plenty of alcohol. It’s well worth a visit whatever scene you’re into.
If you’re in New Orleans on a Wednesday, don’t miss out on spending time at Lafayette Square. Here, you can enjoy a free concert series!
#3 Reason to Visit New Orleans: The Amazing Food & Drinks
I’m a huge food lover so naturally, I had a whale of a time trying all the local cuisine in New Orleans. This awesome city is famous for its Creole and Cajun food, with popular dishes including beignets, gumbo, jambalaya, and po’ boys.
Although New Orleans is home to endless food stalls and street vendors, I do have some favourite restaurants that I’d recommend you visit.
Tujague’s is one of my top picks. It’s been around for over 160 years (making it the city’s second-oldest restaurant) and is known for its traditional dishes.
During your stay, you have to try a snowball too! Often referred to as a snow cone, it’s made from fluffy shaved ice, flavoured syrups, and a variety of toppings.
Of course, there are some traditional drinks on offer too. I went for ‘The Sazerac’, which is New Orleans’ original cocktail, dating back to the 1830s.
The best way to enjoy the food in town is to join a Food Walking Tour of the French Quarter, which is an awesome way to eat delicious treats while discovering New Orleans.
Check it out here below!
#4 Reason to Visit New Orleans: The Culture and History
Everyone always asks the question Is New Orleans Worth Visiting? Well, I can safely say yes, and a big reason for this is the city’s interesting culture and history.
Since its founding in the 1700s, New Orleans has been ruled by both the French and Spanish before the United States bought the city in 1803.
As well as these European influences, the forced settlement of slaves from the West Indies and Africa brought about new and very different cultures. All of this has led to the city’s melting pot of culture, making New Orleans incredibly diverse.
Evidence of the city’s history can be seen in the French Quarter. This area was one of my favourite spots in New Orleans and is the city’s oldest neighbourhood dating back to when it was founded.
As I wandered around, I got a glimpse into the European influence found here, through the neighbourhoods’ intriguing architecture and iconic landmarks. Of course, there are plenty of other areas where you can explore New Orleans’s history too!
This is the Best Tour in New Orleans
#5 Reason to Visit New Orleans: Getting Around is Easy
The city’s public transport system is one of the best things about New Orleans. As such, you won’t need a car to explore the city which I always find to be a huge bonus.
First of all, I found New Orleans to be a very walkable city. This is especially the case in the more touristy areas, where you can wander between attractions easily and absorb the atmosphere. You may even find some hidden gems this way like I did.
For a faster alternative, I’d recommend the streetcar system. New Orleans is home to the world’s oldest continually operating streetcar line, which dates back to 1835. Despite its age, the system is incredibly up-to-date and the streetcars are very easy to use.
As well as great bus and ferry routes, New Orleans is very bike-friendly. So why not hire an e-bike with FreeWheelin Bike Tours?
For the best experience, I recommend getting a Jazzy Pass. These can be used on streetcars, ferries, and RTA buses. All you need to do is place the pass into the fare machine anytime you board a mode of transport.
#6 Reason to Visit New Orleans: Festivals
The city’s festivals are one of the best reasons to visit New Orleans. Throughout the city, there’s a multitude of festivals hosted in this city, ranging from music and arts to the iconic French Quarter Festival.
There’s always something exciting happening in New Orleans but there are a few festivals I’d recommend above the rest.
Firstly, there’s Jazz Fest, an iconic festival that celebrates the city’s musical heritage. During this seven-day event, you’ll experience a variety of different genres ranging from jazz and blues to R&B and rock.
The festival is made up of local, national, and international artists, and you’ll get to enjoy some fantastic live performances, along with some great food stalls. It’s held at the Fair Grounds Racecourse.
Next up is the French Quarter Festival which lasts for four days. Here, you’ll experience the very best of the New Orleans music scene and local cuisine, as you wander around the city’s oldest neighbourhood.
Don’t forget about the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience either! Located in City Park, this three-day festival is known for its fantastic mix of performers (past artists include the Foo Fighters and Kendrick Lamar), as well as its interactive art installations and incredible atmosphere.
#7 Reason to Visit New Orleans: Unique Neighbourhoods and Architecture
One of my favourite things about New Orleans is simply the number of unique neighbourhoods there are to explore. Each one offers its own quirky characteristics and vibe, so my advice would be to visit as many as possible.
From the French Quarter’s lively atmosphere to Marigny’s bohemian vibe, there’s an area for everyone in this city.
The French Quarter is certainly one of my favourites thanks to its historical architecture, ranging from charming Creole townhouses to walled courtyards.
The Garden District is another must-visit, known for its grand mansions, famous universities, and the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar. There’s also a great boutique shopping scene in this area if you’re interested!
Another favourite neighbourhood of mine is Marigny. I absolutely loved the colourful houses, local art galleries and markets, and the area’s live music scene. Not to mention there are some great foodie spots.
Some of my other top picks include Treme which is the city’s oldest African-American neighbourhood, the Arts/Warehouse District (known for its galleries and museums), and Downtown (the Central Business District).
#8 Reason to Visit New Orleans: Outdoor activities
Although New Orleans is a bustling city, thanks to its location, there are plenty of awesome outdoor activities on offer. Surrounded by swamps, and home to the Mississippi River, along with plenty of urban parks, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
City Park and Audubon Park
City Park is one of the most popular urban parks in New Orleans. At an impressive 1300 acres, it’s the largest outdoor attraction in the ‘Big Easy’. I loved wandering along the walking trails here as well as the themed gardens.
Audubon Park is another highlight for sure, as it’s home to ancient oak trees, a lagoon, picnic areas, playgrounds, and more.
Thanks to the city’s location, you can easily explore the Mississippi River, the second-longest river in North America.
Why not take a steamboat trip down the river? Steamboat Natchez is a popular option which offers both jazz and historical cruises.
You’ll also want to wander along the Riverwalk and take in the views.
Surrounding New Orleans you’ll find seemingly endless Cypress swamps. These offer the perfect opportunity to spot alligators, with Wild Native Tours offering some fantastic kayaking tours here.
If you’d prefer something more leisurely, boat trips are available too. For the adventure lovers out there, head to Zip NOLA where you can go ziplining over these swamps.
The charming neighbourhood of Bayou Saint John offers some great outdoor activities. You can rent kayaks and paddleboards for a relaxing time along the river, which offers a unique perspective of the city.
The Lafitte Greenway is a popular option with walkers and cyclists. It runs from Mid-City to the French Quarter and there are some great eateries along this 2.6-mile (4 km) linear park.
#9 Reason to Visit New Orleans: The Location
Another reason to visit New Orleans is simply where it’s located. This amazing city is very easy to get to thanks to its location in Louisiana.
For starters, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport has been newly renovated and is located around 14 miles (22.5 km) outside of the city centre. It currently hosts 16 airlines, which serve over 50 direct routes.
The majority of these direct routes come from other cities in the United States, although there are direct flights from Mexico (Cancun), Honduras (San Pedro Sula) and Canada (Montreal and Toronto).
However, direct flights also run from London which I was extremely happy about! These depart from Heathrow Airport (LHR). There are five flights a week and these operate with British Airways.
New Orleans is also a fantastic road trip destination, thanks to its proximity to the states of Alabama and Mississippi. Not to mention, Houston (Texas) is within driving distance.
For those who are planning to road trip to Louisiana, popular spots nearby include the cities of Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and Avery Island. The port city of Mobile in Alabama is also only around a 2-hour drive away.
#9 Reason to Visit New Orleans: The People & Southern Hospitality
One of the best reasons to visit New Orleans is simply the people!
The locals in New Orleans are so friendly and are known for their Southern hospitality. Everyone is incredibly warm and welcoming, and many friendly locals are always happy to help you, whether that be giving you some local insight or helping with directions.
Not only that, but the people of New Orleans love to share their traditions and love for their city. A great way to appreciate this first-hand is by heading out on a walking tour with a local, as you’ll get a unique insight and appreciation of the area.
Of course, I always recommend anyone to be cautious, no matter where you’re travelling in the world. However, even in the poorest of neighbourhoods, I felt incredibly safe in New Orleans.
That can’t be said for many cities in the United States which gives you an idea of just how amazing this place is.
Reasons to Visit New Orleans – FAQ
How to Get to New Orleans?
New Orleans is easily accessible by air through Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. For those driving, it’s connected via major highways like I-10.
Amtrak provides rail services, and bus options like Greyhound offer routes to the city. Once in New Orleans, public transit, taxis, and rideshares are convenient for getting around.
How to Get Around New Orleans?
Getting around New Orleans is easy and convenient, offering various options like taxis and rideshare services.
Additionally, New Orleans is a very walkable city, especially in the more touristic areas. Walking not only allows you to fully absorb the unique atmosphere of the city but also gives you the freedom to explore hidden gems.
For visitors looking to explore the city at their own pace, the Hop-On Hop-Off bus tours are an excellent choice. These buses offer a flexible and informative way to see New Orleans’ main attractions.
You can hop off at any of the designated stops to explore areas like the French Quarter, Garden District, and along Magazine Street, then hop back on when you’re ready to continue, super convenient.
What is the Best Time to Visit New Orleans, Louisiana?
The ideal time to visit New Orleans is between February and May, when the weather is comfortably cool and the city celebrates various festivals, including Mardi Gras.
The fall months, particularly October and November, also offer pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds, making it a great time for a visit.
Best Tours in New Orleans
Where to Stay in New Orleans
Here’s a list of great places to stay in New Orleans to make your trip unforgettable:
Luxury: Virgin Hotels New Orleans
Virgin Hotels is undoubtedly one of the best places to stay in New Orleans, with its array of dining options, modern suites, and fantastic amenities such as the rooftop pool and bar.
Thanks to its location, you’ll be just a short walk from the city’s French Quarter and other popular tourist attractions.
Mid-Range: The Jung Hotel and Residences
The Jung Hotel and Residences, only a 20-minute walk to Bourbon Street, offers modern rooms with city views and free WiFi.
Rooms have flat-screen TVs, private bathrooms, and some include seating areas. The Canal at LaSalle streetcar stop provides easy access to the French Quarter, and it’s close to St Louis Cathedral, which is super convenient.
Budget: India House Hostel
India House Hostel is located in New Orleans’ Mid-City district along the Canal St. Streetcar Line, and features an outdoor pool and deck.
It’s 1.9 miles from the Fair Grounds and 3.1 miles from City Park. The hostel offers male, female, and mixed dorms with shared bathrooms, and some private rooms with private bathrooms!
There are tons of reasons to visit New Orleans in 2024, with this article only just scratching the surface. Whether you’re looking to enjoy jazz music, try some local dishes, or watch some of the festivals, you won’t run out of things to do!
Hopefully, this New Orleans Travel Guide has given you an idea of what this city has to offer. I absolutely loved my time here and I can’t wait to return one day in the future.