What to explore in new orleans

“New Orleans is the one exception to the ‘avoid the tourist traps’ advice,” said a friend who spent over a decade in Louisiana’s largest city. “Eat a beignet from Cafe Du Monde. Walk Bourbon Street.” After spending six days in New Orleans over my seven-year-old daughter’s Spring Break, I agree. But there’s so much more to the city- an award-winning food scene, adventure sports, community bookstores, public art.

Before the United States of America existed, there was New Orleans. Founded in 1718, the city changed hands from the French to the Spanish before joining the U.S.A. and their influence reigns. From the French Quarter to parks on traffic islands, the city is a melting pot of cultures, including Creole and Cajun.

Barely making a dent in our “to explore” list, here’s what we enjoyed the most in New Orleans.


  • Artisanal popsicles from Big O’s Original Popsicle Doorbell, a no-frills popsicle shop that accepts payment via Venmo, Cash App, or Paypal.
  • Banana chaat at Plume Algiers, a top-rated Indian restaurant run by a woman from D.C.
  • BBQ pork sandwich from Cochon Butcher, a restaurant that sells all types of meat and makes their own hot sauce worth buying.
  • Beignets from Cafe Du Monde, an 1862 cafe that sets the standard for the famous pastry. The location inside City Park, a public park larger than NYC’s Central Park, is less busy.
  • Blue crab hummus from Saba, a popular Israeli restaurant that serves Mediterranean food with a New Orleans twist.
  • Buffalo tofu lettuce wraps at Sneaky Pickle & Brine Bar, a popular restaurant with a vegetarian-forward menu.
  • Buttermilk drops from Buttermilk Drop Bakery, a Black-owned soul food cafe with an owner who starred in the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild.
  • Crab cake benedict from Atchafalaya, an award-winning restaurant with innovative spins on tradition Louisiana food.
  • Croque madame at Compère Lapin, a restaurant with a popular brunch from Top Chef’s Nina Compton.
  • Fried bologna sandwich from Turkey and the Wolf, a sandwich shop with a consistent line out its door.
  • Muffins from Willa Jean, a popular southern restaurant in a large space.
  • Muffuletta breadstick from Ayu Bakehouse, a popular woman-owned bakery with a wide range of pastrie.s
  • Piccante pizza at Sofia, an Italian restaurant with wood-fired pizza and pasta in the Warehouse District.
  • Snowballs (snow cones) from Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls, a woman-owned stand that serves over 40 flavors of the popular New Orleans treat since the 1930s.


  • Chai tea latte at Petite Clouet Café, a corner cafe with indoor and outdoor seating in the Bywater neighborhood.
  • “Everything Is Awesome” kids drink of blue steamed milk and Lucky Charm marshmallows from Mammoth Coffee Company, a specialty roaster in a design-forward space.
  • “Feast of Avalon” cocktail with Pineau des Charentes, Ardbeg 10 Year, pomegranate, Bengal spice tea syrup, and lemon at Jewel of the South, rated one of the best bars in the country.
  • Pimm’s Cup at Napolean House, a popular restaurant inside an 18th century mansion offered to Napolean as his house in the “New World” if an attempted rescue plan from exile was successful.
  • Vanilla latte from French Truck Coffee, a local coffee shop with locations throughout the city.


  • Find art at Dr. Bob’s Folk Art, an art gallery, studio, and shop from a man who’s famous for “Be kind or leave” signs.
  • Grab lunch at St Roch Market, a food hall inside an 1875 market.
  • Learn about the American experience in World War II at the National World War II Museum, a large museum with World War II planes, tanks, and visually engaging exhibits about the war, its effects on the country, and the impact on Americans, including communities of color. (It’s not kid-friendly so we our seven-year-old daughter went on a date with her mom instead.)
  • Listen to live music on the streets of the French Quarter. If drinking is not your thing, find the small art galleries and bookstores like Faulkner House Books throughout the area.
  • Picnic at Clouet Gardens, an urban park with public art, benches, and a Free Little Library.
  • Read books at Baldwin and Company, a Black-owned cafe and bookstore on a mission to help all read. Another Black-owned bookstore worth visiting is Community Book Center.
  • Ride the streetcar to different neighborhoods. Make sure to buy a digital pass or have exact change before boarding.
  • Take your kids to Storyland, an enclosed storybook-themed playground in City Park. Storyland costs $6 to enter and there’s an amusement park next door.
  • Visit Studio Be, an art gallery of muralist BMike‘s work about the Black experience in the United States. His work inside and out, along with several other artists’ pieces, is a must for all Americans.
  • Wander the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, an 11-acre garden with sculptures inside City Park. More sculptures can be found inside the nearby New Orleans Botanical Garden.
  • Zip line at Zip NOLA, the world’s first fully aquatic swamp zip line.


  • Alligators on a boat tour with Cajun Pride Swamp Tours, a tour agency that offers 1.5-hour trips to see and feed alligators.
  • General Laundry Building, an abandoned 1930s Art Deco laundry facility in Tremé, the country’s first Black neighborhood.
  • Grand homes with history throughout the Garden District, a neighborhood with trees that shade the streets.
  • Historic shotgun houses in Bywater, a neighborhood where the Society of Saint Anne marching krewe starts before heading to the French Quarter every Mardi Gras.
  • Murals along Saint Claude Avenue like BMike‘s mural honoring Black woman, who make up a third of New Orleans workforce.
  • Painted electrical boxes throughout the city.
  • Plaza Tower, the country’s tallest abandoned building that closed in 2002 due to black mold.
  • Skyline view of the city from Crescent Park with a unique walkway over railroad tracks.
  • “Survive the Drought, I Wish You Well” mural by BMike and the Young Artist Movement at 636 Baronne Street.

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