Is New Orleans worth visiting?
Spoiler alert: yes – it is!

Famous for its culture and lively celebrations, New Orleans attracts tourists all year round. The city’s culinary excellence, stunning architecture, and spirited history make it a dream destination for travelers across the globe. Honestly, there’s just something for everyone in New Orleans. 

But the city, fondly known as the Big Easy, is a city of paradoxes. It lures travelers with the promise of unforgettable experiences. But, like any major tourist destination, New Orleans comes with its own set of unique challenges. 

As a New Orleans local for over a decade, and as a person who has traveled to over 40 countries all across the globe, I can honestly say that there is no other place on earth like NOLA. I truly believe that everyone should visit, at least once.

With that said, there are also things tourists should know before visiting. In this post, we’ll delve deep into the heart of New Orleans. Let’s explore what makes it irresistibly charming and what practical considerations visitors should keep in mind. 

Is New Orleans worth visiting? Let’s find out!

Is New Orleans Worth Visiting?

Absolutely! And I promise that’s not just my local bias talking – but we’re here to be thorough, so, allow me to give you some insider tips that’ll help you determine if New Orleans is the right destination for YOU.  Who knows, it might even end up being your new favorite city in the whole USA (trust me, it’s topped the charts for plenty of my most well-traveled friends and acquaintances).

The Seductive Charm of New Orleans

History and Architecture

At the core of New Orleans’ appeal for many is its intriguing history. The city is a tapestry of French, Spanish, African, and Native American influences, to name a few. Each of these is vividly reflected in its stunning architecture and unique neighborhoods. 

The French Quarter, with its wrought-iron balconies and colorful buildings, allows you to step back through the centuries. Meanwhile, the Garden District’s stunning homes display a different side of the city’s architectural history. Many of these were built in Italianate style, with requisite cupolas and columns.

It’s truly something special to walk down streets with Oak trees older than 300 years. Not every city can boast greenery like this! Additionally, if you venture slightly outside the city you’ll have the opportunity to explore some of the best plantations near New Orleans.

The big house at Oak Valley Plantation. The plantations near New Orleans are a great reason why New Orleans is worth visiting.
Oak Alley Plantation near New Orleans.

Food and Drink

Food is another cornerstone of New Orleans’ appeal. This culinary scene leaves foodies from across the globe hungry for more. Expect to find dishes with a fusion of Creole, Cajun, and Southern inspiration. Classic dishes such as jambalaya, gumbo, and muffuletta aren’t just hearty meals packed with Louisiana flavors, but they’re also a huge part of the city’s identity. 

For oyster and seafood lovers, you’re in the right place. Situated right on the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans is home to some of the freshest seafood in the US.

Trust me. The food alone makes New Orleans worth visiting.

And you can’t leave town without trying a Sazerac cocktail, a New Orleans original dating back to the 1800s. A mix of rye whiskey or cognac, absinthe, bitters, and sugar, this iconic taste is sure to conjure up the Big Easy, even when you mix one up back at home.

Culture and Festivals

On top of it all, the cultural excitement of NOLA is unrivaled. From the lively Bourbon Street to the iconic jazz clubs scattered around the city, music is the heartbeat of New Orleans. It’s not uncommon to walk down the street and stumble upon someone playing live music right there on the sidewalk – you could always toss a couple of bucks their way if the melody leaves you feeling particularly moved!

Of course, we can’t forget Mardi Gras, which we enjoy as a family, and the famous New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. These events embody the city’s love for festivity and its deep musical roots. Both are truly one-of-a-kind experiences, you’d have to witness to even believe your eyes! 

My son in his tie-dye Marti Gras attire.
My son on my shoulders during New Orleans Marti Gras.

More Irresistible Reasons to Visit New Orleans

Fascinating Neighborhoods 

New Orleans is a city where every corner has a story to tell. Venturing beyond the French Quarter, you can explore the artsy Faubourg Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods, known for their soulful and eclectic vibes. 

Or wander down the famous Frenchmen Street, a hub for live music and night markets. For a taste of local art, the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Contemporary Arts Center offer fascinating exhibits.

The twins out exploring in New Orleans.

Family Fun

New Orleans may be known for its party atmosphere and vibrant nightlife, but it’s also a wonderful destination for families. Many of the restaurants, and even breweries, are family-friendly. The Audubon Nature Institute has a zoo, aquarium, and insectarium (do note the zoo is not in walking distance from the others). Plus, the Louisiana Children’s Museum is another wholesome attraction, with interactive exhibits that educate and entertain.

Of course, we can’t forget City Park – where the Louisiana Children’s Museum is located. It has 5 playgrounds, an amusement park, mini golf, a train ride, Cafe du Monde, and so much more! My own little ones absolutely love it here.

The twins in matching outfits posing on a New Orleans street. If you're wondering is New Orleans worth visiting for families – it is!
My husband and I on a trip to New Orleans.

The City’s Eerie Past

If you’ve got an affinity for the supernatural, New Orleans’ haunted tours are for you. A thrilling way to explore the city’s unquestionably eerie past, you’ll be guided through all the spooky points of interest by a local expert.

For example, NOLA’s own St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the resting place of the infamous Voodoo Queen Marie Lavea. It’s a must-visit for anyone who’s intrigued by folklore and legends.

There are even some haunted hotels in New Orleans – like the famous Andrew Jackson Hotel.

An Adventurer’s Playground

Adventure seekers simply can’t resist New Orleans. Swamp tours offer close and personal experience with Louisiana’s unique wetlands and wildlife. Get your thrill on with alligator encounters or speedy airboat adventures. Or just take it easy on a pontoon with a local expert to learn all about the region’s ecological importance.

Trying my hand at touching an alligator during my air boat swamp tour- one of the many reasons people visit New Orleans

A Foodie and Party Paradise

The French Quarter is famous for its culinary scene, but real foodies know that the magic extends far beyond. Tourists flock to Uptown and the Bywater for its range of unreal dining experiences. You’ll find everything from chic bistros to traditional po’ boy sandwich shops – just make sure to get yours “dressed”- with mayo, lettuce, and tomatoes. 

Plus, popular cooking classes are available for those who want to take a piece of the city’s cuisine back home.

Many will actually visit just for the nightlife! Bourbon Street’s vibrant scene features bars, live music, and a variety of adult-themed clubs. P.S. The rumors of open-container laws are true! So grab a blended drink from one of the many stands lining the avenue and stroll on to your next adventure. 

Wine connoisseurs come in droves for the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience. This annual event features a variety of wines and, of course, decadent local cuisine.

Then there are seasonal events like the Creole Tomato Festival and the New Orleans Oyster Festival. Wildly popular, these events celebrate Louisiana’s rich agricultural heritage, offering families and foodies alike a taste of local culture.

In short, New Orleans specializes in catering to a variety of interests and ages. Visitors can explore historic neighborhoods, and enjoy world-class cuisine. They can engage in family-friendly activities, or indulge in the music and nightlife. New Orleans presents a unique variety of experiences that make it a destination worth visiting for everyone – even if it’s just a quick NOLA staycation!

Plate of chargrilled oysters- a popular dish to get when visiting New Orleans

The Challenges of Visiting New Orleans

Crowds and Safety

Like any popular destination, New Orleans also has its fair share of disadvantages. For example, the city often contends with large crowds, especially during major events like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. 

You may well find yourself navigating through crowds of people, which can be overwhelming for some. This surge in tourism also tends to result in longer wait times at restaurants, bars, and attractions. Be sure to make advance reservations if you’re planning to visit during these peak periods.

Safety is another important consideration when visiting New Orleans. While the city is known for its lively street life, this can also attract petty crime. Visitors should be wary of pickpockets and scams, especially in crowded areas. It’s essential to remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times. Avoid carrying valuables in easily accessible pockets or bags, and stick to well-lit, populated areas, particularly at night.

While areas like the French Quarter and other tourist spots are generally safe, it’s wise to avoid venturing into unfamiliar neighborhoods, especially after dark. In other words, use your common sense.

Infrastructure Shortcomings

New Orleans is located below sea level. Therefore the city experiences occasional street flooding. Plus wonky sidewalks can be a bit bothersome while trying to get around town.

Climate and Weather

On top of these issues, the subtropical climate of New Orleans brings its own set of difficulties. The city experiences high humidity and heat, especially in the summer months.  This can prove taxing if you’re not accustomed to such conditions. 

Staying hydrated and planning indoor activities during the hottest parts of the day can help to mitigate such discomfort. Or plan your trip during the cooler part of the year, between February and May.

Also, note that June-November is hurricane season, with the peak being late July through September (although there are still plenty of exciting things to do in NOLA in July!).

My son approaching a peacock at the zoo in New Orleans in July.

Public Transport

Another thing to watch out for is the public transportation system. It gets the job done, but it’s not always super reliable or widespread. You might find some areas you want to check out aren’t easy to reach by streetcar or bus.

Luckily, taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber are solid alternatives.

Despite these little hiccups, New Orleans keeps drawing folks from all over. Knowing about these quirks in advance lets you get ready. They don’t have to put a damper on your time in this awesome city.

The boys on one of NOLA's charming streetcars.
The boys on a NOLA train car. If you're wondering is New Orleans worth visiting, the public transit system is another great reason why it is.

Expert Tips:  Before you go to New Orleans, there are things that you should know!

1. It’s a great city for walking

New Orleans is a small, easily walkable city, making it perfect for getting around on foot. Better yet, this is a terrific way to experience the city’s charm. 

In the French Quarter, you can meander through narrow streets lined with historic buildings, enjoying the lively street music and local art.Contrast this with the Garden District’s grand mansions and serene gardens. Hop onto Magazine Street to find some chic shops and cozy cafés. 

On foot, you can pick up on the little details and connect with locals in ways that just aren’t possible from inside a vehicle. Discover hidden eateries and quaint bookstores, or simply stop and smell the roses – It’s a journey through the city’s history, culture, and community spirit!

Me posing in a red dress in the French Quarter, New Orleans.

2. Enjoy the festivities in moderation

While New Orleans is famous for its party atmosphere, it’s a good idea to enjoy the festivities in moderation. Overindulging in alcohol can impact your safety, especially in crowded areas.

If you allow yourself to slip over the limit, you become more vulnerable to petty crimes like pickpocketing. It also becomes easier to lose track of your friends, personal items, or sense of direction in an unfamiliar city.

3. Staying hydrated and sun protected is important

Because of the humid and hot climate, it’s crucial to stay hydrated. Carry water with you and use sunscreen—this is also a great excuse to break out your favorite hat!

If you’re in town during the warmer summer months, aim to plan indoor activities for the hottest part of the day.

Me and my son in our hats during a sunny day at Jazz Fest in New Orleans.
Crawfish Monica herself and I working the New Orleans JazzFest booth.

4. The weather can be unpredictable

The humid subtropical climate of New Orleans can bring sudden rain showers.

 It’s a good idea to check the forecast before heading out. Consider packing a rain jacket for your trip and bring it along if the forecast looks iffy. 

June typically sees the most rainfall in the area, but July, August, and January can also be quite wet.

5. You can’t beat the exquisite culinary scene

New Orleans is famous for its local cuisine. Don’t miss trying local specialties like gumbo, jambalaya, and po’boys. Stop at Dooky Chase on Orleans Avenue for the city’s best gumbo, and Neyows on Monday for the top jambalaya. 

Café du Monde, with multiple locations throughout the city (including the airport), is the place to go for beignets, Louisiana’s answer to the humble donut. Insider tip – never wear black when eating beignets! 

Arepas at one of the Colombian restaurants – only one example of the variety of delicious restaurants in New Orleans.
A donut from District in New Orleans.

6. You CAN find vegan-friendly options

New Orleans’ food scene caters well to vegans, too. Many restaurants offer plant-based versions of local dishes, and there are several dedicated vegan eateries throughout the city. So don’t let your food preferences keep you away! 

‘Sweet Soulfood’ on North Broad Street is a local favorite for its decadent vegan version of Jambalaya. And if you don’t want to miss out on beignets, you’re in luck! ‘Meals From the Heart Cafe’, on North Peter Street, has a sinfully delicious vegan version you’re going to love.

7. Take the time for a swamp tour

A swamp tour is a quintessential Louisiana experience that offers a glimpse into a distinctive ecosystem. With environmental changes impacting these areas, take the chance to see the lush wetland and native alligators while it’s still accessible.

Consider a kayak tour through the Manchac Swamp. Early morning and evening paddles are particularly magical.

The family on a pedal boat at New Orleans City Park. The variety of exciting activities available is another reason why the answer to "is New Orleans worth visiting?" is yes!

8. There’s more to the music scene than Bourbon Street

Known as the birthplace of jazz, the city offers an exciting music scene. But don’t limit yourself to Bourbon Street. New Orleans’ music scene is a motley blend beyond jazz. You can find genres like brass bands, funk, blues, R&B, and hip-hop, that reflect its complex cultural history. 

One of the city’s best non-jazz venues is Tipitina’s in Uptown. An iconic club since 1977, it’s known for a mixture of local music, particularly funk and R&B. Albums of several famous musicians have been recorded there, including the Neville Brothers and Jane’s Addiction.

Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

9. Remember to respect the local culture and traditions

This includes being mindful during cemetery tours and respectful towards performers and artists. It’s also important to understand and recognize the significance of voodoo culture and history. Much more than a party game for tourists, it’s deeply rooted in the city’s heritage.

It’s also important to grasp the significance of events like Mardi Gras in New Orleans. These celebrations are steeped in cultural traditions that reflect the city’s rich history and diverse heritage. By taking the time to understand and appreciate the deeper cultural aspects of these events and practices, you can truly immerse yourself in the unique spirit of New Orleans.

The boys enjoying blue snow cones during a sunny day in New Orleans.
My mom and aunt posing in front of Jackson Square- a famous spot to visit in New Orleans.

Conclusion: Weighing the Pros and Cons – Is New Orleans worth visiting?

So, is New Orleans worth visiting? Absolutely! The city is home to an eclectic blend of history, cuisine, music, and architecture that’s hard to find elsewhere. Just be prepared to embrace both its lively ambiance and navigate its urban challenges. 

Understand the importance of having some plans in place when you visit. Decide where you’re going and be aware of your surroundings. Lean into the complexities of this charmingly complicated city and its rituals, and you’ll have the time of your life.

Ultimately, a trip to New Orleans is more than a vacation. It’s an experience infused with history, culture, and resilience that can make your own life a little richer. The city’s spirit, despite its challenges, continues to charm and captivate visitors from all over the world.

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