New Orleans, Louisiana, is an old city with youthful energy steeped in history, soaked in culture, and dripping with charm.
City Park is a great place to catch a glimpse of wildlife in the heart of the city. Its 11 miles of lagoons are home to swans, ducks, and turtles as well as iconic southern Louisiana fauna like pelicans and alligators.
Before there were highways there was the Mississippi, the mighty river that runs the length of New Orleans on its way to the Gulf of Mexico and defines the culture and geography of the city. Walk the riverfront in the French Quarter, ride atop it on the Steamboat Natchez, or learn about its fauna at the Audubon Aquarium.
Named for New Orleans’ favorite pirate, Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve includes the 23,000-acre Barataria Preserve, a protected wetland just a short drive from the heart of New Orleans, with miles of walking trails through bayous, swamps, marshes, and forests home to alligators, nutria, hundreds of bird species, and more.
On the back side of iconic St. Louis Cathedral in the very heart of New Orleans is St. Anthony’s Garden, the richest archaeological excavation ever to take place in the city. Though the dig only began in 2008, it has already yielded fascinating insights, like the influence of Native Americans going back to the city’s founding.
Catholicism is a central part of New Orleans culture, but there’s another religion equally embedded in the soul of the city: voodoo. A combination of Catholic and animistic beliefs, voodoo is more than magic dolls, spells, and zombies, and a proper tour steeped in the real history of the tradition will illuminate this fascinating piece of New Orleans culture.
Best Day Trip
In New Orleans, with its rich 300-year-long history, it can be easy to forget that just a few miles away is a thick, swampy wilderness. A swamp tour from New Orleans is likely to feature wild fauna like alligators, nutria, and even swimming pigs, plus an introduction to the culture of the Cajuns.
Off the Beaten Path
Everyone who visits New Orleans spends time in the oldest part of the city, the French Quarter, but almost no one makes it to the city’s second oldest neighborhood, Algiers Point. Just a five-minute ferry ride across the Mississippi, Algiers Point is quiet and quaint with beautiful old homes, fun bars and cafes, and more to explore.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Most Iconic Place
In the heart of the French Quarter is Jackson Square, the main plaza of the old city. Jackson Square features the oldest cathedral in America but today it’s best known as a place to hear street musicians play New Orleans jazz standards, buy art and kitsch, or get a palm reading. Touristy? Yes. Worth a visit? Absolutely.
Is there any sight more quintessentially New Orleans than a group of people parading down the street, dancing and clapping behind a marching band? The Crescent City is famous for its “second lines”—the proper term for the people following the brass band—which can often be found parading somewhere in the city.
Neighborhood to Explore
In recent years the Bywater has become a mecca for young people and artists, with some of the most popular new restaurants and cafes in town. The neighborhood also hosts one of the city’s newest and most distinctive treasures—Music Box Village, a sound art installation and playable sculpture garden open to the public.