For many people, a trip to New Orleans means indulgent foods, lively nightlife, and maybe one too many drinks. That statement is certainly accurate of my first visit to New Orleans, an architecture studio class trip that was prompted by my favorite college professor… Gary Carlough sure loved mint juleps very much. (Gary passed away a few years away, and I’m reminded of him whenever I enjoy a mint julep.) On a more recent trip to NOLA, there was no shortage of delicious food (even as a vegan), but I also did plenty of explorating on foot in my trusty Bhava boots.
I previously shared the vegan eats that I enjoyed, but left this Things To Do in New Orleans blog post half written and sitting in my drafts folder for a very long time. Time to dust away the virtual cobwebs and get this one across the finish line because I love the photos from this trip!
Things to Do in New Orleans (In Between Your Meals!)
In any conversation about visiting New Orleans, the French Quarter and Bourbon Street will come up at some point. The French Quarter is the historic heart of NOLA, a beautiful part of the city that I recommend touring, but don’t make the mistake not venturing beyond this area. Famous for its rowdy bar scene, Bourbon Street is a street in the French Quarter that visitors flock to when they want to par-tay and play booze roulette. Sure, take a stroll down Bourbon Street if its you’re a first timer, but think of it as the Times Square of New Orleans, meant to be ingested in small doses. You’re much better off going to Frenchmen Street if you’re looking for a cocktail paired with live jazz.
But what about daytime attractions that don’t involve food and drinks? Family-friendly activities? Places that are less crowded and noisy? Here are five leisurely things to do in New Orleans that offer an escape from the city’s energy, while you digest your brunch and think about where you’d like to dine next. ;)
Aububon Park is a 350-acre city park in New Orleans with graceful oak trees and relaxing sunny lawns. It’s easily accessible and a nice change of pace from the crowded downtown streets. I recommend strolling through the park after lunch or packing a picnic to snack on while taking in the scenery.
The Garden District is one of the most charming neighborhoods in New Orleans, and you might recognize some of the homes that line the streets. The mansion below is Buckner Mansion, the setting for American Horror Story: Coven. After wandering through the neighborhood and marveling at all the architectural details, duck into the historic Lafayette Cemetery or visit Commander’s Palace for a meal.
Longue Vue House & Gardens
From these photos with gorgeous dappled light, it’s hard to believe that I visited in January, just a few days after a cold spell had hit New Orleans. Longue Vue House & Gardens was one of the most stunning properties I’ve visited. Built in 1939-1942, this masterpiece was home to Edgar and Edith Stern, and I highly recommend a house tour if you’re interested in exploring the details of each room. No photos are allowed in the house, but you’ll have no shortage of photo-ops in the picturesque gardens.
New Orleans Museum of Art
Located within City Park, the New Orleans Museum of Art is the oldest fine arts museum in the city. As a former New Yorker, I’m used to having to brave crowds and dodge tourists in museums. Visiting the NOMA felt like a breath of fresh air, and the museum is just the right size for an afternoon activity. Museum admission is $15, and the open air sculpture garden is free to the public.
New Orleans Botanical Gardens
Also located in City Park, the Botanical Gardens is a classical garden with over 2,000 plants from around the world. Many plants had been damaged by cold and frost from the week before, but there was still plenty of greenery, sculptures, and water elements to admire. I’d love to return in the spring or summer when everything is a lush shade of green and colorful flowers are in bloom.