From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
The Big Easy, they call it — and also sometimes Crescent City, or, of course, NOLA. But no matter which name you use, New Orleans is unlike anywhere else in the country, or even on earth. It’s an open-hearted city that’s beloved by natives, transplants and visitors alike.
Along with its delicious Creole food and soul-feeding jazz and brass legacy, New Orleans is home to so much more history, festivity and culture. Its unique and eclectic architecture bring building buffs the world over, and its surprisingly large film industry has earned it another, lesser-known nickname: “Hollywood South.”
In this article, we plan to walk you through some of the very best New Orleans has to offer, including many places to explore and things to see that might not be on your existing NOLA docket. With so much to get into, we don’t have much time to spare — so let’s get going, shall we?
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
While you may initially think of jazz, dancing and drink when you think of New Orleans, there’s so much more to this town than the town itself. Here are some of the best state and national parks and wildlife preserves in the New Orleans, LA area.
Encompassing a sprawling 23,000 acre section of what’s technically within the city limits of New Orleans, Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge is the preserved home of local critters including the American alligator, white-tailed deer, great blue herons and more. Enjoy the sights on foot on its hiking trails or hit the water for some fishing.
Tucked on the west bank of the Mississippi River, Bayou Segnette State Park is just 20 minutes from downtown New Orleans, yet preserves not one, but two types of wetlands: swamp and marsh. (Yes, there are differences!) The park also offers a boat launch, wave pool, and other amenities to help you enjoy a long afternoon in the Louisiana sunshine.
Located on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, directly across from New Orleans itself, Fontainebleau State Park is one of the best-known in the entire state of Louisiana — and a great spot for RV campers and those looking for a quick day trip alike. This area was once home to a sugar plantation owned and operated by Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville, who founded the nearby town of the same name.
A breakwater beach that offers miles of hiking and scenic seascapes for days, Grand Isle State Park is a common destination for New Orleans residents looking for a serene getaway. Take to the waters for fishing and swimming or simply bask on the beach — there’s no way to get it wrong!
Located along one of the penultimate bends of the Mississippi river, just a few miles before it drains into the Gulf of Mexico, Saint Bernard State Park offers a unique opportunity to visitors: it’s one of the least-visited parks in the entire state, making it a great getaway for solitude and silence even though it’s less than 20 miles outside of New Orleans itself!
Whether or not you make your way out to one of the many wilderness areas surrounding the New Orleans metro, there are plenty of opportunities to see the landscape for yourself, on your own two feet. Here are some of the best hiking trails in New Orleans, LA.
City Park was founded all the way back in 1854 and has served as a respite amidst the hustle-bustle of New Orleans ever since. The New Orleans City Park South Loop trail runs a little more than four miles all told and is just about flat — making it a great place for a stroll, run, or bike ride any time of year.
Running just short of seven miles out and back, the Bayou Sauvage Ridge Trail is a great way to get familiar with the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, and is popular amongst runners as well as hikers and wildlife watchers. Dogs are welcome on the trail, too, though they must be kept leashed at all times.
Another City Park option, Couturie Forest is a loop of just over a mile’s length, and thus perfect for a quick stroll before or after work. The namesake forest it runs through consists of more than 60 acres and is home to a wide variety of wildlife it’s hard to find elsewhere, making this a popular spot for birdwatchers especially.
Looking for something a little bit longer? The Mississippi River Trail technically runs 25 miles altogether, but it’s easy to turn that gargantuan hike into shorter, more approachable day trips. Running along the famous Mississippi River levees, the most popular segment of the trail starts in Audubon Park — and keep in mind that the trail is also known as the New Orleans Levee Top Trail, The Levee Bike Path and the Mississippi Levee Trail.
Speaking of Audubon Park! Audubon Park Loop is a great way to get familiar with this popular New Orleans-area greenspace, and given that it runs less than two miles all told and sees under 50 feet of elevation change, it’s a great option for those new to fitness or just looking for an easy way to get some fresh air and exercise. Its ancient live oaks bring visitors from across the state and beyond, and it’s also home to unique plant and bird life.
All the exploring you’ve got to do in NOLA is sure to work up an appetite! Fortunately, there are plenty of places to get your grub on. Here are some of the best restaurants in New Orleans, whether you’re looking for Italian, Asian, or something else altogether.
If you’re looking for an authentic taste of Creole soul — which we assume you are, because of course — you have to add Jacques-Imo’s to your NOLA to-do list. Well known for its colorful cuisine served in an even more colorful atmosphere, you’ll definitely want to reserve your table ahead of time.
Serving up Sicilian and Northern Italian eats in the heart of the trendy New Orleans Warehouse District, Marcello’s Restaurant and Wine Bar is easily one of the best places to eat — and drink — in the entire city. Although you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, the lasagna is particularly prized amongst locals.
When it comes to Mexican restaurants, sometimes what you really want is just straightforward and delicious — which is exactly what Tacos & Beer is serving up. As the name suggests, this joint is known for, well, tacos and beer… and it offers them late into the night, making it a great option for a post-Bourbon-Street repast.
If you think plant-based food has to be flavorless and unfun, think again. Seed offers a wide range of vegetarian and vegan eats that will leave you feeling satisfied and not at all missing the meat and dairy. From naan pizza to tofu nuggets and everything in between, the options are indulgent, delicious, and leave you with a totally clear conscience.
Not sure if you’re in the mood for sushi or Pad Thai? Hoshun is an Asian fusion restaurant offering all that and more on historic St. Charles Avenue. Open daily until 2 a.m., you can get your pho fix pretty much whenever the urge strikes, and the restaurant is also easy to access by streetcar.
Once you’ve explored the great outdoors and had a good meal or three, you’ve really only started scratching the surface of the top things to do in New Orleans. Here are some of our very favorite options, whether you’re exploring with your family, looking for things for couples to do or enjoying your time solo.
New Orleans may not initially seem like the most family-friendly place in the world — but that’s an outsider’s perspective. Here are some of the coolest things to do with kids of all ages.
The famed French Quarter is known for its nightlife — and we’ll certainly get back to that in just a second. But there’s also plenty to do in this section of New Orleans during the day, even with kids along. The French Market spans six blocks of the neighborhood and has been a trading post since Native American times, making it the literal oldest market of its kind in the U.S. From souvenirs to sandwiches, there’s something for everyone!
With over 30,000 square feet of interactive exhibits designed to help get kids actively engaged with the world around them, the Louisiana Children’s Museum is an excellent place to spend a rainy (or way-too-hot) New Orleans afternoon with the family.
Chances are you already know that New Orleans’s nightlife is a force to be reckoned with. But if you’re looking for specific places to party, here are some options.
Yes, Bourbon Street is world-renowned — but if you ask a local, they’ll send you directly to Frenchmen Street, the slightly quieter cousin of Bourbon located at the other end of the Quarter. Packed full of great bars offering live music on a nightly basis, there’s no way to go wrong by tottering down Frenchmen Street.
Tucked into the Hotel Monteleone, the Carousel Bar literally spins — and is also the birthplace of the vieux carré, a heavy-handed cocktail that’ll set you spinning just as the bar does.
Sure, we technically could have covered this during the “restaurants” part of the post… but there’s something about enjoying a hot cup of coffee and powdered-sugar-covered beignet in the wee hours that’s a uniquely NOLA experience. Open 24/7, Café du Monde is an absolute must-visit whether you’re a local or just passing through, and makes a great last stop before heading home after a long night.
You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to enjoy all New Orleans has to offer! Here are some cheap options to keep you occupied in NOLA.
The New Orleans Museum of Art, otherwise known as NOMA, is a wonderful place to get in touch with the long history of art in the American south and beyond; the museum’s collections include ancient stonework from West Africa, Jain art from India and so much more. Tickets start at a reasonable $15 for adults, with many discounts available — and the Sculpture Garden is even cheaper, with tickets starting at just $5.
Seeing a jazz show doesn’t tend to be something people think about when they think “cheap activities,” but in New Orleans, that’s just how they roll. Preservation Hall has been hosting 350+ nights of live performances almost every year since its 1961 inception, and tickets tend to range between $15 and $20.
It’s true: there are plenty of things to get into in New Orleans absolutely free of charge. Here are some options.
NOLA is well-known for its unique festival atmosphere, and we’re not just talking about Mardis Gras. For example, Lafayette Square which is just a 10-minute walk from the French Quarter, offers a free, live 12-week concert series every year, featuring a variety of different bands including renowned local brass and blues acts. There are also a variety of parades held throughout the year, from the Fourth of July to St. Patty’s Day. They’re always free and festive — just be sure to line up early!
In need of some R&R? We so get it. Here are the best places to get some pampering — read, day spas and salons — in New Orleans.
With several locations across the larger New Orleans area, Earthsavers is a well-known institution in town for wellness services like massage and facials, and also beautifying treatments like waxing. They also offer a special teen facial, so if you’ve got young beauty lovers in your midst, they’ll be served well.
Spas are about more than just the services themselves — they’re about a tranquil and transformative atmosphere that makes you feel better just by walking in. That’s exactly what you’ll find at Woodhouse Day Spa, which is known for its hot stone treatments as well as skin care, waxing, manicures and pedicures and more.
Staying in shape isn’t just about how you look — it’s about how you feel! Here are the best gym and yoga studios in New Orleans.
Offering several convenient locations throughout NOLA, Downtown Fitness Center is the go-to for New Orleans fitness buffs. Offering all the basic amenities in a motivating and professional atmosphere, the only thing standing between you and your goals here — is you!
Spin classes are just a totally different way of getting a workout, and if you’ve yet to experience the magic, we recommend you head to Tour Cycle Studio to get your sweat on. Upbeat and fun, a spin class here is more like a night out dancing… which is to say, a super-fun way to stay in shape.
Offering heated vinyasa flow both uptown and downtown, Free to Be Power Yoga is beloved by yogis throughout New Orleans, and offers a range of classes fit for a variety of needs and activity levels. Teacher training is also available if you’re a serious yogi looking to up your game!
Obviously, there’s no shortage of things to do in New Orleans itself — but if you’re looking a nearby day trip, you’ve got plenty to pick from on that front, too. Here are some of the best places for a quick getaway, be it for a whole weekend or just an afternoon.
Visit the castle-like Old State Capitol building or Magnolia Mound Plantation — or just enjoy a new cityscape to explore for a day. Baton Rogue is also home to LSU Tiger Stadium, making it a great getaway for sports fans looking to get an up-close and personal view on the action.
The second-largest city in its state, Gulfport, Mississippi may require traveling over state lines — but its laid-back, beachy approach to life is well worth the time and effort. There are a variety of boat trips to take that call Gulfport their, well, port, as well as some fun to get into onshore, such as the Gulf Islands Waterpark, The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies and more.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in New Orleans that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in New Orleans? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.