The Big Easy is a magical place to visit for many reasons, not just for easy access to the cruise port. The local cuisine blends just the right spices to delight your taste buds, and there are numerous museums, gardens, and attractions to fill the hours before your ship departs from the port.
If you’re traveling to a day or two ahead of schedule, you may be wondering what to do in New Orleans while you wait for your cruise to start. Here’s also a guide on what to know about your New Orleans cruise terminal.
This guide will present you with 30 things of the best things to do in New Orleans, including restaurants, where to shop for souvenirs, what museums to visit, and what attractions are some of the best in the city.
Many of the restaurants below are within walking distance from the cruise port, and most are found in the French Quarter which is immediately north of the port.
Literally just down the road from the cruise port is Mike Anderson’s Seafood, a great place to eat your favorite fish, seafood, and lobster, cooked with your favorite Louisiana spices. Founded and owned by a former NFL star, both seafood and football enthusiasts will enjoy eating here. And it’s close location to the port makes it a great place to eat if you’re pressed for time.
Dino’s Bar & Grill probably doesn’t look like much, and they don’t offer the super spicy Cajun cooking that New Orleans is known for. But they still have plenty of burgers, sandwiches, and salads that are just as delicious. This can be a great place to visit to give your stomach a break from all the super heavy BBQ and spicy foods.
While there are dozens of Starbucks restaurants scattered all over New Orleans, if you want coffee that carries a little Louisiana flavor, be sure to stop into Caf Du Monde, a French-inspired caf local to New Orleans.
Now with many locations in New Orleans and surrounding cities, you can get a taste of Caf Du Monde wherever you go in Louisiana. There’s even one located on the Riverwalk, just a short walk from the cruise port.
Located in the Warehouse District and serving some of the best BBQ since 1998, Ugly Dog Saloon even has Spicy Alligator Chili as a part of their menu, along with St. Louis Style Ribs, and other BBQ favorites you can only find in New Orleans. You might want to make sure you have plenty of antacids afterwards.
They have two locations: one in New Orleans (less than a mile from the cruise port), and one in Metairie, which is a few miles slightly west.
Two Chicks Caf was started by two women who are best friends and share a passion for both food and New Orleans, with the help of their handyman husbands. Everything in the restaurant, furniture and food alike, was crafted by hand. There you can enjoy smoothies, fresh-squeezed orange juice, artisan sandwiches, and more. Everything here is sure to delight your taste buds without weighing too heavily on your stomach.
Chef Link, the owner and founder of Cochon, serves traditional Cajun dishes that he himself grew up within the south. You can purchase meat from the butcher shop to make your own sandwiches, or come into the restaurant for an experience you won’t forget.
If you’re a big fan of Chef Emeril Lagasse, then visiting his flagship restaurant is probably on your bucket list. When you come to New Orleans, be prepared to scratch that off your list while also enjoying some deliciously spicy Cajun food.
If you plan to visit, be sure to put it in your travel budget, as eating at Emeril’s is going to cost at least $30 per person. But it will be worth it.
If you have a taste for swamp food, along with traditional homestyle Cajun dishes with a modern twist, then Galliano Restaurant is the spot for you. Enjoy a taste of alligator and crawfish, or some wild boar sausage from the flatlands of Louisiana. Serving only local beers, you’ll eat and drink foods that you can’t get anywhere but in New Orleans. But they are only open for dinner, starting at 5:30 pm, so don’t try to go there for lunch.
This bar also has an arcade room, filled with nostalgia from the 80s and 90s. They serve some of the best burgers and sandwiches around, and have weekly special events you should take advantage of. Karaoke night, Steak Night, Ladies Night, and Sunday Funday, to name a few.
The prices at Mulate’s can be a little high, but don’t think that this is any sort of fine dining. You are going to get messy and heated as you enjoy their gumbo, etouffee, and jambalaya, all featuring blends of spices that you’ll only get in New Orleans.
New Orleans, Louisiana is rich with culture, music, history, and fun, and is one of the best cities to ship out from if you’re going on a cruise.
But before you leave for the Caribbean or Mexico, we think that you should take advantage of some of the attractions and sightseeing options below to make your visit as amazing as possible.
Did you miss actual Mardi Gras? Stopover at Mardi Gras World where it’s Mardi Gras every day! They have parades and floats all year long, you get to try on costumes, and even eat some King Cake. And you don’t have to worry about finding transportation as they’ll come pick you up for free, all you have to do is give them a call.
If you only have a short time to spend in New Orleans, or are just getting in from your cruise, this is a great place to stop for some New Orleans magic as it is right next door to the terminal.
History and military buffs will love the World War II Museum on Magazine street. Learn about New Orleans’ part of WWII history through exhibits, movies, and lectures.
In 1999, a New Orleans businessman named Roger H. Ogden started a small art museum, displaying only 600 works from his private collection. He wanted to share them with the world and help to broaden people’s knowledge and understanding of both the visual arts and Southern culture.
Since then the collection has grown to over 4,000 works, all donated by various collectors and artists in the United States.
Watch the wonders of nature at its best by visiting the Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, brought to you by the Audubon Nature Institute. Hundreds of butterflies and other insects wait to show themselves off for you.
For lovers of animals of the aquatic variety, the Audubon Institute brings the Aquarium of the Americas. Watch sharks and stingrays in their 400,000-gallon exhibit, walk through tunnels where you’ll meet penguins and sea otters. So much to see and marvel at, you won’t want to leave.
If you enjoy putting puzzles together or trying to solve problems, you’ll love taking a crack at one of the rooms in Escape My Room, New Orleans’ award-winning escape room adventure. You’ll need between 2-6 people in order to participate.
This historical park has much to offer visitors, including access to 17 miles of swamps to watch the alligators, the Chalmette Battlefield where the Battle of New Orleans was fought, the French Quarter Visitor Center, and more.
As both the oldest and liveliest neighborhood in all of New Orleans, it’s a must-visit when you come into town for your cruise.
If you went to any of the restaurants on the list above, you may have found yourself in the French Quarter by default, as many of them are located there. After you’ve finished eating go for a walk down Royal St and a large variety of shops, live concerts, and dancing.
Learn about the history of medicine and pharmaceuticals in this museum that resembles a mid-19th-century apothecary shop. Admission is cheap and comes with a guided tour (only Tuesday through Friday).
They do occasionally close for private events, so before you go it’s a good idea to give them a call to verify when they’ll be open.
When you enter the 1850 house, you will truly feel as though you have traveled in time back to the 1850s. The rooms are set up just as people lived back then, so you get to truly experience the lifestyle they had.
The 1850 House
Take a leisurely stroll through this small park that has been a perfect venue for shooting movies, having weddings, or formal photography sessions. It’s situated right in the heart of the French Quarter and is one of New Orleans’ most recognized landmarks.
If investigating hauntings, cemeteries, and conversing with ghosts is something that delights you, you should book a Haunted History tour. With about ten tour choices available starting at about $25 for adults, you have plenty of chances to have some contact with the supernatural.
Go on a self-guided free tour through the Garden District, roughly 2-3 miles southwest of the cruise terminal. This neighborhood is filled with gorgeous mansions and a very peaceful atmosphere.
New Orleans Garden District
Over on Prytania Street, you’ll find a variety of shops and cafes to visit. There are also a few hotels, part of the Garden District Hotel Collection, that have cruise packages for guests.
Backstreet Cultural Museum protects and educates others on the African American history in New Orleans. Their goal is to show the world that African American traditions in New Orleans is just as important to the country’s history as others.
Go on a tour of the New Orleans Swamps and bayou and get up close and personal with alligators. Book a Bayou Swamp Tour for an adventure like no other.
After you book a tour, they’ll tell you where to meet and will drive you to where the tour takes place.
The Newcomb Art Museum is a part of Tulane University and is housed in the Woldenberg Art Center on campus. At the moment it is closed, slated to reopen on August 21.
You’ll find there displays of innovated art and design that inspire generations of creatives and artists, from students to visitors alike. Those who love to view different types of art will enjoy visiting this museum.
Go to Frenchmen Street to experience live music, thriving nightlife, bars, restaurants, and various art galleries.
Just taking a walk down the street is free, and it gives you a chance to experience New Orleans culture away from the crowds of downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter. Drinks and food may even be cheaper on Frenchmen Street since it isn’t as touristy as other areas.
The oldest fine art museum in New Orleans, it has been displaying works for well over a hundred years. Starting with only 9 pieces, it now displays more than 40,000 works of photography, sculptures, glasswork, and more.
For animal lovers, there are three amazing attractions found within the Audubon Nature Institute. The first of which is the Audubon Zoo. There you’ll see unique exhibits, some of which are from local wildlife, as well as highly endangered species of animals like Amur leopards and whooping cranes.
Reopening on August 31st in City Park is a museum that fosters imagination, creativity, and learning for children of all ages. Bring your kids here to have fun and learn through the power of play.
Photo: Copyright Cruise Hive
What Can You Do for Free in New Orleans?
If you’re visiting on the budget, there are plenty of ways to experience the Big Easy without spending a dime. Crescent Park, for instance, is a great place to take photos of the city skyline or to bring a picnic lunch. If you go to Le Bon Temps Roule on Fridays, you’ll be served free oysters and be able to listen to live music for free.
Visit any time between November and March and admission into the Fairgrounds Race Course & Slots is free (minus Stakes Day, Starlight Racing & Specialty Programming, and Louisiana Derby Day). You can also take a self-guided Jazz History Walking tour at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park for free.
Is New Orleans Expensive to Visit?
It can be, if all you do is eat at the priciest restaurants, stay in expensive hotels, and visit all of the expensive attractions. If you have the money to do all of that and still be okay financially then by all means, have fun!
But having fun in New Orleans doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Sure, you still have to pay for a hotel room and pay for food, but if you plan your trip just right you should be able to visit on a budget and still have a memorable experience.
Possibly the most expensive time to visit is in the Spring during Mardi Gras celebrations. If you’re trying to avoid spending too much money, that would be the time to stay away. Hotels will usually hike up their prices during this time as well, so finding a cheap hotel room will be difficult.
When is the Best Time to Go to New Orleans?
The best time to visit the Big Easy all depends on what your preferences are. For example, if you love celebrations, don’t mind a lot of crowds, and prefer milder weather, the best time to go is between the tail end of February and any time in May.
The summer or fall may get you cheaper hotel rates, but know that these times can be hot and humid, and may risk delays due to fog or hurricanes.
December and January will be much less crowded, so if you prefer a little peace and quiet that may be a good time for you to visit.
Worth Reading: Big Easy Guide on New Orleans Cruise Parking
Before heading off to New Orleans, we highly recommend you know what the weather might be like so that you can pack the proper clothing. After all, you don’t want to bring summer clothing if it’s going to be really cold, but you also don’t want to be packing heavy sweaters if it’s going to be warm.
For the most part, the climate in New Orleans is pretty moderate, though summer can sometimes get pretty hot with the highs averaging in the low 90s during June, July, and August. 100-degree temps are not a normal occurrence, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it getting too warm.
Even so, even 90 degrees can be dangerous if you don’t prepare accordingly. Wear lightweight clothing, bring your sunblock, and wear a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face. Also, with being so close to the sea, the summer and fall bring on the threat of hurricanes or fog, which can delay embarking.
Also Read: Ideal Hotels Near Port of New Orleans
Winters are very mild in New Orleans as well, with most low temps being around the 40s. Very rarely does the temperature drop below freezing, and if it does it only lasts for a few days. If you’ll be cruising around this time, you’ll need to bring some sweaters and jacket, but you shouldn’t need anything too heavy.
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