What are the best things to do in New Orleans?
1. Get down in the Treme. Visit the country’s oldest African American neighbourhood, which dates from 1794. Check out the Backstreet Cultural Museum, which tells the story of jazz funerals, second line parades, and the Mardi Gras Indians, with their colourful costumes and fascinating culture.
2. Hail a vintage streetcar named Desire. Tennessee Williams’ famous play was inspired by the city’s fleet of streetcars that still operate. Hop on the green St Charles Line to glide past impressive old homes in the Garden District or take the Cemeteries Line to visit the ‘cities of the dead’ with their extraordinary tombs.
3. Knock back a Sazerac or two. America’s oldest cocktail was supposedly invented in New Orleans, so you owe it to yourself to try one, preferably in the rarefied climes of the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone. The bar revolves gently, which could leave you feeling a little dizzy after one too many Sazeracs.
4. Call in at Preservation Hall. This venerable institution is perhaps the best place in the city to watch traditional live jazz of an evening, and the house band are legendary. It’s open nightly for multiple shows and with additional early shows on Saturdays and Sundays for all ages. Arrive a good 30 minutes before showtime as it’s strictly first come, first served here.
5. Swing by the New Orleans Museum of Art to take in the city’s premier collection of 40,000 pieces, spanning 5,000 years. Check out the Faberge Gallery and Native American art before taking a stroll around the adjoining Besthoff Sculpture Garden, with pieces by Henry Moore and George Segal among others.
6. No trip to New Orleans would be complete without a visit to the bayou, the swamplands that make up a hefty chunk of the surrounding landscape. Various companies offer boat tours that allow you to spot alligators and other local wildlife, including by kayak and pedal barge.
7. Far more than the carnival weekend itself, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is an entire season starting in early January, when the streets come alive with music, arts and costumed revellers. Prepare yourself for king cake, bead-tossing and parades, as events build towards a climax on Fat Tuesday. Whether it's new traditions like Krewe of Chewbacchus (with its Star Wars-inspired tomfoolery) or centuries-old stalwarts Zulu and Rex, there’s always plenty to gawp at.
8. Take in the best views in town at Vue Orleans, a 360-degree observation deck and immersive museum perched 34 storeys above the Mississippi. You can get a unique overview of the city’s 15 neighbourhoods and 60 points of interest, from history-rich urban architecture to the wetlands and waterways beyond.
Which holiday type in New Orleans is right for me?
There are plenty of good value hotels in New Orleans’ central areas. Located in the fashionable Warehouse district the Cambria New Orleans is one of the city’s top rated hotels on TripAdvisor. See why with its local Creole cuisine and modern in-room technology. NOPSI New Orleans is set in an architecturally unique elegant industrial building in the heart of the Central Business District. Expect upmarket, contemporary dining in its restaurant Public Service. The Magnolia New Orleans is a good value, boutique, 4-star hotel a few blocks from the French Quarter featuring rooms with cool design touches and hardwood floors. The Wyndham New Orleans is a budget-friendly French Quarter hotel offering elegantly furnished rooms and handy amenities. The Hotel Monteleone is another viable French Quarter option. Just four blocks from Jackson Square, this hotel has a famous revolving bar and a heated rooftop pool.