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Places to Visit in New Orleans for 1st Timers

Book A Guided Walking Tour

This post lists our picks for the 10 top New Orleans Attractions that first-time visitors should plan to see.

There are many more points of interest in the Big Easy, but these activities and sights are a great place to start.

New Orleans Walking Tours


1. Explore the French Quarter

Perhaps the most popular destination for both tourists and locals alike, the French Quarter offers an authentic NOLA experience, day or night.

This neighborhood is filled with historic sites, fantastic restaurants, a lively bar scene, and lots of street musicians.

Check out our list of 25 essential sights in the French Quarter

We offer a guided tour of the French Quarter and our ghostfood, and cocktail tours take place in the Frech Quarter as well.

When visiting the area, be sure to check out the French Market, detailed just below.

2. Explore the French Market

The French Market is six blocks of restaurants, candy shops, and a flea market.

Our post on visiting the French Market has suggestions for the best places to shop, eat, and drink in and around the market.

The French Market is a stop on our guided tour of the French Quarter as well as our audio tour and our self-guided tour, so let us show you around!

3. Visit Jackson Square

Right by the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral and steps away from the Mississippi River, this historic New Orleans landmark is a must-see.

There is so much to see and do around Jackson Square that we created a self-guided tour that will lead you to the best sights.

Across the street from Jackson Square is the famous Cafe du Monde. Here you can try some of the best beignets in town.

Jackson Square is covered on our daily, pay-what-you-like tours of the French Quarter.

For more information, see our complete post on Jackson Square.

4. Tour the New Orleans Cemeteries

New Orleans is one of the few places in the world whose cemeteries are a major tourist attraction.  

The two most popular cemeteries are St. Louis Cemetery #1 and Lafayette Cemetery #1.

You can join us on our guided tour of St. Louis Cemetery #1 or take our GPS-enabled audio tour anytime the cemetery is open.  Why not do both?

For more information and background, check out our guide to New Orleans cemeteries.

5. Dare to Visit the Historic Voodoo Museum

The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum is possibly the most interesting, small museum in the country.

Here you will find all the mysteries, secrets, history, and folklore of rituals, zombies, gris-gris, Voodoo Queens, and more

Learn how to visit this unique museum from our detailed post here

If learning about Voodoo history and culture in New Orleans, be sure to take our Voodoo Tour.

Alternatively, you can also learn more just by visiting some of the best Voodoo Shops in NOLA!

6. Ride the St. Charles Line Streetcar

The absolute best way to see the sites is to take a ride on the St. Charles Streetcar, the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the world.

Traveling between the Garden District and the French Quarter, this streetcar line features old-fashioned brass fittings, wooden benches, and exposed ceiling light bulbs.

You will feel like you are taking a 'ride' back in time!

There are two other streetcar lines you can ride to get around the city.

Streetcars are a great way to travel around NOLA as they have stops at many of the popular attractions you are likely to visit. 

Our Guide to New Orleans Streetcars has information on the streetcar lines, where to board, ticket options, and destinations along each of the lines.

7. Take a Ride on the Steamboat Natchez

The Steamboat Natchez is the last authentic steamboat on the Mississippi River.

Offering dinner jazz and daytime jazz cruises daily, the Natchez is one of the best ways to spend a night out in NOLA.

The steamboat offers steam engine room visitation, calliope, live jazz, and optional Creole food and local beverages.

Read more about New Orleans riverboat tours, paddleboat tours, and cruises available here.

8. Explore Bourbon Street

No trip to New Orleans is complete without a visit to Bourbon Street.

Located in the heart of the French Quarter, this street extends 13 blocks from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue.

There are quite a few French Quarter festivals that happen during the year, most famously the annual Mardi Gras celebration.

Bourbon Street is known for its drinking scene and local open container laws in the French Quarter allow patrons to drink alcoholic beverages in the street!

New Orleans itself is known for its creative cocktails. Find out more from our New Orleans Cocktails and Drinking Guide.

You might like to join us on our pay-what-you-wish French Quarter cocktail tours!

Let us take you to the bars with the best versions of the city's most popular cocktails.

9. Go to the Audubon Zoo

The Audubon Zoo is a perfect place to become acquainted with some of the local wildlife, just check put the award-winning Louisiana Swamp exhibit!

In addition to the widely known animals, the zoo is home to some unique animals such as their white tiger and albino alligators. 

For those traveling with children, there are feedings, petting zoos, and animal presentations. 

Our family-friendly guide to New Orleans for more ideas for things to do with kids.

To see some amazing aquatic life, be sure to visit the Audubon Aquarium.

You might want to combine a visit with a ride on the Algiers Ferry (read just below).

10. Board the Algiers Ferry

For one of the most stunning views of the New Orleans skyline, take the $2 ferry from the French Quarter on Canal Street, next to the Audubon Aquarium.

The ferry will travel along the river's natural crescent to Algiers Point, over on the West Bank.

It is an interesting neighborhood so if you decide to see more of it, take along our self-guided tour.

Last but not least, you should check out our pay-what-you-like walking tours of New Orleans!


About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo,, and more.
Updated: September 22nd, 2022
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