When guests travel into town for your wedding, and the town is New Orleans, you know they’re arriving with expectations of seeing more than just your wedding ballroom. Choose a date (or two) in your wedding weekend for a group visit to NOLA – or set those independent people on your guest list free to explore the region on their own, using your recommendations of fun things to do as a starting point.
It’s fully impossibly to narrow down the fun things to do in New Orleans to just 10, so here are just
a few spotlight ideas that can please a wide range of guests, and you’ll find links to the New Orleans tourism website and their Facebook page at the end of this feature.
1. French Quarter (Vieux Carré)
The French Quarter, also known as Vieux Carré – or the “Quarter” to locals, stands on some of the highest ground in New Orleans and is the city’s cultural hub. New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood is so colorful and exuberant that celebrities are often spotted here, sometimes live here, and this area has inspired great writers and artists like Mark Twain, Lafcadio Hern and John Jam
es Audubon. French Quarter architecture is a mix of Spanish, French, Creole and American styles, with walled courtyards, perfect for French Quarter parties, not able as a gift of the Spanish influence.
A little FYI to share with your friends and family: those cast iron balconies were added to many masonry
buildings after 1850, when Baroness Pontalba included them on her fashionable row houses near Jackson Square. These lacy galleries make the Quarter a great place for people-watching. Your group can get an inside look at Vieux Carre’s architectural gems by going on home tours offered
throughout the year. Gallier House, designed and built by James Gallier-one of the most esteemed architects in New Orleans History, is one of the best examples of the fusion between culture and architecture in the city. Gallier House is decorated in “Summer Dress” each season, and visitors are
fascinated by this 19th century, Creole custom which helps keep the house cool during the warm
summer months. The Vieux Carre offers visitors countless experiences, and around the bend of every corner you may find an eclectic shopping destination, amazing restaurant, or fun museum. Browse the treasure trove at the French Market, shade yourself in Jackson Square and take it the great eats at cafes and restaurants in the area.
2.Celebrity Chefs Restaurants
The foodies in your group will certainly want to stop in at Emeril’s, and there are many, many top chefs and culinary gods who have restaurants here in New Orleans.From jumbo to beignets, po’ boys and
light fare, there’s nothing like the tastes of New Orleans, which is why this city is consistently nam
ed one of the top culinary spots in the world.
3. Festivals New Orleans
Known for its festivals, from jazz festivals to culinary, art, cultural, and film festivals, so check the NOLA tourism calendars of top festivals that your group can wander through and enjoy as an activity that each person can tailor to their own preferences.
Check out these top festivals that the New Orleans tourism website lists:
February: Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, Mardi Gras | March: Soul Fest, St. Patrick’s Day, Tennessee, Williams Festival, Foodfest, Congo Square New World Rhythms Festival April: Freret Street Festival, French Quarter Festival, Jazz & Heritage Festival May: Bayou Boogaloo, N.O. Wine & Food Experience, Greek Fest June: Oyster Festival, Cajun Zydeco Festival, Creole Tomato Festival, July: Essence Festival, Bastille Day, Running of the Bulls, Tales of the Cocktail August: COOLinary New Orleans, Satchmo SummerFest, Whitney White Linen Night ,Red Dress Run, Dirty Linen Night, French Film Festival September: Southern Decadence, Oktoberfest October: Ponderosa Stomp, New Orleans Film Festival, Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival, Louisiana Seafood Festival, Voodoo Music Experience, Halloween in New Orleans November: Mirliton Festival, Fringe Festival, Oak Street Po-Boy Festival, Words and Music, Treme Creole Gumbo Festival December: Christmas New Orleans Style, New Year’s Eve
4. Garden Tours
While most people think of bourbon Street as the quintessential New Orleans must-see, know that the
city is famous for its lush gardens.
Spend the day wandering or taking a tour of the Garden District, or discovering great works of art showcased below stately oak trees in the Sydney and Walda Best off Sculpture Garden in City Park. Some of the most beautiful gardens are located within 15 minutes from downtown New Orleans, making them the perfect second-stop in a day filled with beauty and city- excitement.
5. Haunted History Tours
Take a walking tour on French Quarter Haunts and the paranormal. See the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau (the 2nd most visited tomb in the country) in New Orleans oldest burial ground, St. Louis
cemetery #1, and visit haunted mansions, theaters and buildings, and bring your cameras. Tourists
report capturing paranormal activity such as orbs and unexplained phenomena.
6. Historic Home and Plantation Tours
Architecture and history buffs in your group will love touring historic New Orleans homes. Visit some
of the nation’s oldest, still-standing examples of original French, Spanish and American architecture, and walk the plantations where some of New Orleans’ most important residents once dwelled. And as you go on a tour, you’ll discover and help preserve the unique character of New Orleans’ neighborhoods.
Some of the top plantations and historic homes on various tours, or visited on their own, include The
1850 House, the Beauregard-Keyes House (FYI: Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant (P.G.T.)
Beauregard was a New Orleans native who ordered the first shots of the Civil War fired on Fort Sumter,
South Carolina in April 1861,) Bocage Plantation, Degas House (the only home and studio open to the
public anywhere in the World, of the French Impress ionist, Edgar Degas), Gallier House, Nottoway Plantation and Oak Alley Plantation (pictured) , among others.
7. Frenchmen Street Jazz Clubs
Some find Bourbon Street to be a bit too packed with rowdy tourists, and prefer a spot where they can take in a great jazz performance and drinks. The city’s music scene has shifted to Frenchmen Street in
the Faubourg Marigny.
Clubs like DBA, Snug Harbor, and The Blue Nile draw renowned jazz bands and
solo performers, while restaurants such as The Three Muses and the Marigny Brasserie cater to the late
-night crowds. You’ll encounter locals here, and you know that when the locals go there, it has to be
good. You won’t find blaring neon lights; only plain wooden signs to designate a dozen music clubs in the greatest concentration of live music venues outside the French Quarter. Inside the clubs or outside on the street, you’ll hear some of the best live music produced anywhere in the city.
And…best of all…on Frenchmen Street the drinks are cheap and admission to most of these clubs is free!
A number of late-night eateries are open along the street and in the adjacent Faubourg Marigny neighborhood for when you get the “midnight munchies.” For those who venture here at night, you’ll be
happy to know that Frenchmen Street is one of the few areas of New Orleans where taxicabs cruise continuously during peak activity hours and you’re never more than a few minutes from the next one to
8. New Orleans Sporting Events
Take in a New Orleans Saints game, or get group tickets to minor-league or arena football games to add
a sporty element to your group’s itinerary. Many people have ‘bucket lists’ of visiting pro sports
stadiums in every city, and you could make some guests’ dream come true with this plan on your
9.Grab a muffaletta at Central Grocery
This iconic sandwich is a must-do for any fun visit to New Orleans, and you may find yourself trying it at
the famous Central Grocery, then comparing it in other spots around town, adding a fun ‘judging’ element to your group’s visit when you all vote on the winner and post your results on your social media
10. Cemetery Tours
Cemetery tours are a major tourist attraction in New Orleans, and you’ll find plenty of cemetery tours to take your group on. With a spooky history, and unique, ornate tombs (some dating back to the late 1700s,) walking tours of the famous New Orleans resting places are a big draw and likely on your guests’ wishlist. Most organized tours will take you through St. Louis Cemetery #1, (again, home to Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau’s grave and a stop on many different tours,) and Lafayette Cemetery – a popular location for movies shot in New Orleans, and situated directly across from Commander’s Place in the Garden District.
Story by: Sharon Naylor | Images Provided by Sharon Naylor