Top 10 Attractions in New Orleans
New Orleans’ reputation as a party town (perhaps the party town) precedes it. While there’s tons of fun to be had on Bourbon Street and the surrounding area once the sun goes down, New Orleans also offers a wealth of unmissable attractions to keep you busy once the sun comes up.
Street Scene in the French Quarter in Front of Saint Louis Cathedral.
Photo: Alex Demyan / NewOrleansOnline.com
The New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
Photo: Rebecca Ratliff / NewOrleansOnline.com
If you think National Park only means history or nature, think again. New Orleans has a national park for jazz. Even if you are not a fan of the genre (and that’s something you’re probably better off not admitting in these parts), there’s plenty to enjoy. Learn all about the music that built the city with an 11-stop self-guided tour of NOLA. Ranger-led tours are also available at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The New Orleans Jazz tour takes in a range of sites, including the Louis Armstrong Statue in Armstrong Park, Preservation Hall and J&M Recording Studio. Tour narrations are available by dialing 504-613-4062 or pick up a brochure from the Visitor Center at 916 N. Peters Street.
The Visitor Center is accessible.
Find out more here.
Parking: Leave the car behind!
Public Transportation: Riverfront line to Dumaine Station (1-minute walk)
Top Tip: Once your jazz appetite has been whetted, head over to the park’s other Visitor Center at the Old U.S. Mint (400 Esplanade Avenue) to find out about musical events around town or to attend a jazz concert or ranger performance (yes, you read that correctly – they’re really good) at the Mint’s new state-of-the-art performance venue. Don’t believe us? Check out the musical talent here.
Papier Mache Jesters at Mardi Gras World
Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World / NewOrleansOnline.com
If you are not in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, or if you prefer to avoid the crowds, you don’t have to miss out on the Mardi Gras vibe altogether. Visit Mardi Gras World in the Garden District to see all the hard work that goes into making the festivities go with a bang. This is where more than 80 percent of the floats that take part in the various parades during Carnival season are designed and built. Find out about Mardi Gras history and customs, see everything that goes into making the amazing floats and even try on an authentic Mardi Gras costume (don’t forget your camera). The tours take place every half hour and last for approximately one hour.
The site is wheelchair accessible.
Parking: Paid parking in Lot J in front of the building.
Public Transportation: Mardi Gras World offers a complimentary shuttle, with designated pick-ups downtown and in the French Quarter. Call Mardi Gras World at 504-507-9315 when you are at one of the designated spots and await pick up (not accessible).
Top Tip: Don’t miss the King Cake, an essential – and delicious – part of the Mardi Gras experience and hard to find out of season.
New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park.
From humble beginnings in 1911 when it had just nine works of art, the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) has become one of the top art museums in the south and now has holds almost 40,000 objects in its growing collection. The museum is also home to the renowned Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which has more than 60 sculptures set in a five-acre landscaped site where 200-year-old oak trees, reflecting lagoons and meandering footpaths both compete with and complement the art.
Both the museum and the sculpture garden are wheelchair accessible. Wheelchair access is via a ramp at the side of the museum near Café NOMA.
Accessible restrooms are located on the first floor near the Museum Shop. Courtesy wheelchairs are available at the Front Desk in the Coat Check room (photo ID required).
Find out more here.
Parking: Free parking is available in front of NOMA on Lelong Drive or behind the Besthoff Sculpture Garden.
Public Transportation: Canal line bearing CITYPARK to Lelong Drive (6-minute walk) or bus line #91 to Jackson-Esplanade (7-minute walk).
Top Tip: You can skip the museum but still enjoy the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. The garden, which is located next to the museum in City Park is open, free of charge, seven days a week.
Alligator at Audubon Zoo
If you want to get close, but not too close to some of Louisiana’s wildlife, take a trip to Audubon Zoo. Located in the historic Uptown district of New Orleans, the zoo has animals from near and far and also offers interactive animal encounters. Don’t miss the Louisiana Swamp and Jaguar Jungle, which showcase the relationship between people and nature. Make sure to catch some of the daily animal presentations and zoo keeper chats.
The zoo is wheelchair accessible. All of the exhibits are easily accessible by wheelchair. A limited number of wheelchairs are available for rent from the zoo information booth. A photo ID or paid deposit is required for all rentals.
Service animals are allowed into all areas except for Watoto Walk (contact yard) and Audubon Aviary. Animals exhibiting signs of ill health or aggressive or erratic behavior will not be allowed. In the event that a guest’s service animal is denied admittance, other assistance will be provided upon request.
Parking: Free on-site parking.
Public Transportation: Bus #11 and #32 to Audobon Zoo stop (5-minute walk).
Top Tip: Avoid the crowds and visit on weekday afternoons.
National WWII Museum - Road to Tokyo Exhibit.
Photo: Paul Broussard / NewOrleansOnline.com
The National WWII Museum is the official WWII museum of the United States and tells the story of the American experience in the war that swept Europe and the Pacific. The museum features interactive displays, oral histories and personal stories that make sure the horrors of the war will never be forgotten. One of the museum’s highlights is “Beyond All Boundaries,” a 4D movie produced and narrated by Tom Hanks and voiced by well-known actors.
The museum is fully accessible. A limited number of courtesy wheelchairs are available.
Elements of “Beyond All Boundaries” may aggravate certain medical conditions. These elements include loud noises, flashing lights, fog effects and sudden chair movements. Stationary seating is available.
Assisted Listening Devices are available for “Beyond All Boundaries.” Inquire at the Visitor Services desk in the Solomon Victory Theater.
Sign language interpretation services for the film are available. Email at least 48 hours before your visit.
Braille welcome guides are available for the museum.
Parking: Paid parking garage on Magazine Street, directly across from The American Sector Restaurant + Bar. There are several other paid parking lots in the neighborhood.
Public Transportation: Bus #10 and #11 to Magazine at Poeyfarre stop (1-minute walk).
Top Tip: Parental guidance is recommended for “Beyond All Boundaries,” as it contains images of a very graphic nature, including archival footage from the battlefields of WWII that may be too intense for children to handle.
Boardwalk trails like the Marsh Overlook Trail let people walk through the Lousiana wetlands at the Barataria Preserve.
National Park Service
For the chance to experience Louisiana's wild wetlands without going too far off the beaten track, the Barataria Preserve outside Marrero is the perfect option. Sitting on 23,000 acres, the preserve includes bayous, swamps, marshes, forests, alligators, nutrias (otherwise known as a river rat) and more than 200 species of birds. Visitors can (safely) see everything from a boardwalk that runs through the preserve. If you are feeling more adventurous, you can get even closer to some of Louisiana’s creatures and critters on the sanctuary’s dirt trails. Take a self-guided or cell phone tour to learn more about the reserve and its abundant wildlife.
Most of the ranger programs at the preserve are wheelchair accessible since most programs are given on boardwalk trails. Call the visitor center at 504-689-3690 ext. 10 for more details.
The visitor center film is closed-captioned.
The environmental education center and certain trails at the Barataria Preserve are wheelchair accessible. They are the Visitor Center Trail, Palmetto Trail, Bayou Coquille Trail and the first third of Marsh Overlook Trail. Find out more about the trails here. Service animals are welcome everywhere, however, the presence of wildlife may mean they may not be comfortable on preserve trails.
Parking: On-site parking.
Top Tip: Keep your eyes peeled for errant wildlife enjoying themselves on the trail (think snakes). Don’t get too close and don’t try to feed the alligators!
You can’t come to New Orleans without visiting City Park. Spanning 1,300 acres (dwarfing New York’s Central Park, which is “only” 843 acres), the park offers a plethora of activities to keep visitors busy from sunrise to sunset. There are two wheelchair-accessible playgrounds for kids age two to 12, a botanical garden, an 800-year oak, the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, walking paths, a big lake, more birds than you’ll know what to do with, and so much more for locals and visitors alike to enjoy.
Parking: Parking available opposite the Botanical Garden.
Public Transportation: City Park/Museum streetcar to Museum of Art stop and walk into the park.
Top Tip: Bring binoculars. This is a prime bird watching spot.
Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsetty Brown Foundation Butterflies in Flight exhibit at Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.
Audubon Nature Institute
If you are particularly squeamish, the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium may not be top of your must-see list in NOLA, but once you visit, you’ll never think of bugs in the same way again (in a good way, we promise). The Insectarium, North America’s largest museum devoted to insects, is especially perfect if you are visiting with kids. They’ll love being shrunk down to bug size, being part of the audience of a bug awards show and enjoy the thousands of butterflies fluttering around a beautiful Asian garden.
The museum is wheelchair accessible. A limited number of courtesy wheelchairs are available (photo ID required).
Service animals are welcome throughout.
Parking: There is plenty of paid parking available in the area as well as at metered parking.
Public Transportation: #5 and #55 to N. Peters at Canal stop (1-minute walk) or Canal Street streetcar line to Canal at S. Peters station (2-minute walk).
Top Tip: The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium is moving from the U.S. Custom House on Canal Street to Audubon Aquarium of the Americas on the river, creating a combined experience that reenvisions the guest experience and educational programming.
Mardi Gras Museum- The Presbytere- Louisiana State Museum.
Photo: Rebecca Ratliff / NewOrleansOnline.com
When you think about New Orleans, two events invariably come to mind: Mardi Gras and Hurricane Katrina. The Presbytère has two permanent exhibits that tell the story of these two opposing influences – one constructive and one devastating – and how they have shaped the city. “Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana,” features music, floats and costumes. “Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond” details the hurricane and the ongoing recovery of New Orleans through interactive exhibits and artifacts.
The Presbytère is wheelchair accessible.
Parking: Leave the car behind!
Public Transportation: Riverfront Streetcar to Dumaine Station (4-minute walk)
Top Tip: Receive a discount if you purchase tickets for two or more of the Louisiana State Museum sites.
Band Plays Aboard the Creole Queen
Photo: Riverview Photography / NewOrleansOnline.com
A must-do in New Orleans is to take a ride by day or night on the mighty Mississippi River and there’s no better way to do it than on the padwheeler Creole Queen. You might be forgiven for thinking that the Creole Queen has been plying the river since the Victorian era. In fact, the ship has only been in service since 1983 and with air conditioning and heating, music and facilities that travelers of a bygone era could only dream of, she gives modern visitors a taste of the past without giving up the comforts of the present.
The Creole Queen has a weight-restricted mechanical lift and is wheelchair accessible.
Parking: Paid parking at the Riverwalk Outlet Center (8-minute walk)
Public Transportation: Riverfront line to Poydras Station (1-minute walk)
Top Tip: Advance booking is recommended.