Named after the 18th-century French Duke of Orleans, a regent of King Louis XV, New Orleans is one of America’s most cuisine-centric and culturally vibrant cities. The largest city in Louisiana, New Orleans is where you need to be for some distinct Southern vibes.
New Orleans’ subtropical climate means you can always expect warm and comfortable weather. It’s a superb winter destination. Summer is the wettest season, so you’re advised to pack accordingly when visiting that time of year. No matter what time of year you go, visiting New Orleans will not disappoint. Choose an IHG hotel in the French quarter district and you will have many nearby attractions to explore.
Historically and culturally a mix of Spanish and French influences, now called Spanish and French Creole, New Orleans boasts a wealth of gorgeous European-style architecture, offers world-class Cajun and Creole food, and is the birthplace of Mardi Gras, one of the world’s most famous carnivals. Below, we’ll zoom in on some of New Orleans’ greatest highlights.
The French Quarter
Without question, the focal point of tourism in New Orleans is the world-famous French Quarter. Situated on some of the highest ground in the city, overlooking the Mississippi River, this historic neighborhood is the star attraction in New Orleans. This is where you’ll find notorious Bourbon Street but also gorgeous Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, the French Market, and the best cafés and eateries.
If you can’t make it to the actual Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, there’s a solid alternative. Mardi Gras World is arguably the “most New Orleans” museum in the city, the place where many of the parade’s huge floats are made. There are behind-the-scenes tours of the facilities every day. A visit to Mardi Gras World offers you the unique chance to see how these iconic floats are created and you can even dress up in extravagant Mardi Gras costumes!
Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, New Orleans is a fantastic place to go for a historic river cruise. Steamboat Natchez is the only remaining authentic steamboat in New Orleans. The ultimate New Orleans experience, a trip with Steamboat Natchez includes live jazz music on deck, wonderful city views, and mouth-watering Creole food.
Huge plantations once dotted the Louisiana countryside, the main residences of well-off farmers. Many of them are wonderfully preserved and now offer a fascinating insight in those times gone by, including the stain on American history that is slavery. Several beautiful plantation houses are within easy driving distance from New Orleans, among them Houmas House Plantation and Madewood Plantation.
Lastly, the best way to explore New Orleans is getting around by streetcar. A trip on one of the New Orleans streetcars, the world’s oldest still-operating streetcars, is a superb experience everyone visiting the city should have. There are three different lines — the Riverfront, Canal Street, and St. Charles Street lines — all of which begin downtown but take you to different parts of the city.
When visiting New Orleans for the first time, these five highlights are where you should start. If you have more time available, there’s always plenty more to do and see in this bustling historic city.