Photograph by Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo
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St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans is the oldest cathedral in the United States.

Photograph by Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Everything to Know About New Orleans

Here's how to plan the best possible trip to the Big Easy.

When to Go

With its subtropical climate, New Orleans, Louisiana, is great to visit all year round, but the city is especially alive in the late winter leading up to Mardi Gras. The city slows down during the hot and steamy summer months but the party doesn’t stop, if you can brave the humidity.

Celebrate

People in New Orleans pride themselves on the ability to turn anything (even a funeral!) into a party, and thus the revelry in the Big Easy never really stops, but Carnival—the weeks of parades, parties, and general revelry leading up to Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday—is an especially good time to join the party.

What to Eat

One could fill an encyclopedia with the culinary delights on offer in this famously delicious city, but no visit to New Orleans is complete without partaking of a few classics: the city’s two most famous sandwiches, the muffuletta and the po’boy; creole gumbo; red beans and rice; a bowl of thick, steaming crawfish étouffé; and, of course, a deep-fried doughy beignet caked in powdered sugar.

Souvenir to Take Home

New Orleans is a haven for artists, whose work can be bought at local shops and galleries throughout the city, and in some key hubs, like Jackson Square in the French Quarter, on the street from the artists themselves. StayLocal.org is a good resource for finding shops that support local art and artisans.

Sustainable Travel Tip

With most of the city roughly at (or a little below) sea level, the streets of New Orleans are relatively flat for miles and miles, making it the perfect town for exploring by bicycle. If you get tired you can always keep it green by catching a ride on the streetcar, but after a few days eating and drinking in New Orleans you might find you yearn for a little exercise.

Instagram-Worthy View

Perhaps the most iconic photo op in New Orleans is St. Louis Cathedral, the historic church overlooking Jackson Square and the oldest cathedral in America. But if you really want to impress your Instagram followers, wait until dark and go to the garden behind the cathedral, on Royal Street, where a brightly lit statue projects a huge shadow of a man with both arms raised onto the cathedral, known to locals as Touchdown Jesus.