12 Things that Should Be on Your New Orleans Bucket List

New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the U.S. I also think it’s one of those cities that has to be experienced more than once because each time can provide a completely different experience.

I’ve partnered with Hotels.com to share those special elements that make New Orleans such a special destination and what should be on your New Orleans Trip List.

Whether you come for a girl’s weekend getaway or bring the family, it’s easy to find terrific accommodations in New Orleans and the surrounding areas.

1. EAT BEIGNETS

New orleans bucket list

What is a beignet? Well in the simplest terms, it’s fried dough topped with powdered sugar. But it’s just so much more. It’s heaven from a deep fryer and the best place in New Orleans to have one is Cafe Du Monde. There are 7 locations in NOLA proper, but the most famed one is in the French Market.

Whenever I fly into NOLA, I make it a point to stop by the Cafe Du Monde location in the airport on my way out.

2. PO-BOY FESTIVAL

The Oak Street Po-boy Festival is an annual event where visitors have over 60 variations of the po-boy sandwich to try. This is a true foodie’s dream come true.

new orleans bucket list

3. AIRBOAT TOUR IN THE BAYOU

For visitors looking to explore a bit outside of the city, an airboat tour in the swamp is a fun activity to add to your New Orleans bucket list. There are numerous tour operators offering bayou tours to experience the cypress trees and spot alligators.

new orleans bucket list

4. TOUR THE SAINT LOUIS CEMETERY

This is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, established in 1789. Here visitors tour the cemetery and learn about figures in the history of NOLA.

A highlight for many is seeing the gravesite of the famed Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau.

5. HORSE CARRIAGE TOUR THROUGH FRENCH QUARTER

This is a classic way to see the city and learn more about the history of NOLA. This is a fun option for those that may not be able to handle a strenuous walking tour.

There are lots of variations of this tour depending on what most interests you. I enjoyed the one that told ghost stories.

6. STEAMBOAT CRUISE ON MISSISSIPPI RIVER

new orleans bucket list
Photo Credit: Natchez.com

Nothing says NOLA like a classic steamboat cruise on the Mississippi. It’s a unique way to see views of the city and a nice break from the crowds of the city.

Some options offer jazz and a traditional Creole style meal onboard. I remember doing this as a kid and I thought it was a neat experience. It may be the nostalgia but riding the river boat at list once should be on your New Orleans bucket list.

7. ESSENCE FESTIVAL

new orleans bucket list
Photo Credit: Essence Festival

If you love R&B music, this is one of those music festivals that you must attend at least once in your life.

Essence Festival is held in early July and has become the largest celebration of African American culture and music. It was showcased in the hit movie, “Girl’s Trip”.

With artists on the line up like Bruno Mars and Janet Jackson along with dozens of other artists, it is a festival worth planning to attend. There are also empowerment seminars and other cultural events planned over the 5 days of the event.

8. CHARGRILLED OYSTERS

You may think you don’t like oysters but I promise having chargrilled oysters from Drago’s Seafood Restaurant just might change your mind.

There are other restaurants like Acme Oyster House that some will say are just as good but my all-time favorites are from Drago’s. Buttery, garlicky with parmesan cheese….mmmmmmm so good.

This is a foodie right of passage.

9. ZULU BALL

Zulu Ball is the annual coronation and ginormous party hosted by the legendary Zulu Crewe, the first African American Krewe formed post-slavery in New Orleans. They have been apart of Mardi Gras celebrations as far back as 1901 but officially known as the Zulu in 1909.

It’s a reason to get all fancy in your best formal wear and party with 10,000+ people from all over.

It’s very similar to a Dinner en Blanc experience where attendees provide their own table decor and food. There is always live entertainment well into the night.

When I attended in 2018, the headliner was Monica and Jeffrey Osborne.

10. DRINK A HURRICANE

This is the famous NOLA alcoholic drink that you have to try at least once in your life. It’s rum-based but if it’s made right you won’t taste anything but sweet delicious goodness.

Pat O’Briens on Bourbon Street is famous for its Hurrican drinks but it’s pretty much a staple at most New Orleans bars and restaurants.

11. CRAWFISH BOIL

If you aren’t familiar with what a crawfish boil is let me introduce you.

It’s a literal vat of crawfish, potatoes, corn, shrimp, crab legs, and sausage swimming in old bay and creole seasonings.

If you like seafood then it’s amazing. If you are lucky enough to get an invite from a local for a crawfish boil, say yes without hesitation!

12. MARDI GRAS

new orleans bucket list

Mardi Gras is only one of THE biggest parties in the world. It’s a celebration much like Carnival that celebrates all weekend leading up to Fat Tuesday with parades and parties.

While New Orleans Mardi Gras is the most well known, there are lots of smaller Mardi Gras celebrations in surrounding parishes.

It’s worth it once in your life to be in NOLA during Mardi Gras time and check it off of your New Orleans bucket list.

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