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26 Things to Do in New Orleans in 2016

A second line parade in Central City. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

If you haven’t had time to make those New Year’s resolutions, consider this your New Orleans bucket list for 2016. The Crescent City is full of colorful traditions and impressive festivals you won’t find anywhere else in the world. From theater and music to culture and history, there are certain things in NOLA you simply must experience.

A second line parade. (Photo courtesy New Orleans Tourism and Marketing)

26 Things to do in New Orleans for 2016

Join a Second Line Parade

On any given day, you might run into a second line parade in New Orleans. When you hear the music comin’, drop what you’re doing and get behind ‘em. It’s the only time crashing a party is not only acceptable but also highly encouraged.

Eat Red Beans and Rice on Monday

What began as a customary meal for the Creoles on washday (Monday) turned into the most iconic and delicious food tradition. Offered in many restaurants around the city with a side of smoked sausage and cornbread, this emblematic dish is sure to cure your Monday blues.

Take on a Fitness Challenge

Start the year on a strong note and break a sweat at these great classes that won’t break the bank (plus a few more fitness options). Perfect for making extra room for po-boys. Balance, ya heard?

Zulu parades on Mardi Gras Day. (Photo via New Orleans Tourism & Marketing)

Experience Mardi Gras Day

Everywhere else it’s just Tuesday, but in New Orleans, it’s the biggest celebration of the year. Gather with revelers from all over the world on Tuesday, Feb. 9, and view the massive parades, costumes, walking krewes, and more. Bonus points if you catch a Zulu Coconut.

Hit Up an Oyster Happy Hour

Of course, we love our cocktail happy hours just the same, but there’s something about 25-cent oysters that make us say, “Awww, shucks!” Find some of our favorite spots here.

Swing to Rebirth Brass Band at Maple Street Bar

Every Tuesday night, the musical institution Rebirth Brass Band brings the party to Maple Leaf on Oak Street delivering a performance that stays with you for a lifetime. A true New Orleans cultural experience worth using those extra vacation days. POTUS agrees.

Consume Your Weight in Crawfish

How high can you stack your pile of tails and heads? Whether you dine in or take out, here’s where you can enjoy crawfish season around New Orleans. Race your friends for the big ones, and steal them while they aren’t looking.

Bayou St. John is a picturesque spot to kayak, paddleboard, or catch a sunset. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Kayak on Bayou St. John

Mid-City is considered New Orleans playground as it’s home to City Park, New Orleans Museum of Art, and Bayou St. John Historic & Scenic Waterway. Adventurers can rent a kayak or paddleboard and glide along the picturesque bayou admiring the surrounding homes, scenery, and wildlife. You can also take a SUP yoga class — a great way to work up an appetite for an impromptu picnic.

Take in the Sights at City Park

Home to the world’s largest stand of live oak trees, the oldest dating back more than 800 years, this 1,300-acre space holds an endless amount of trails and gardens perfect for soaking up NOLA’s outdoor sights. From the peaceful Botanical Garden to the ever-entertaining City Putt mini golf, City Park has something for everyone. Oh yeah, there are beignets, too.

Attend a Free Concert

New Orleans is classic for hosting free concerts throughout the week and for the most part of the year (music is kind of a big deal here). Start with Wednesdays at the Square and end at Tipitina’s Free Summer Fridays. These concerts draw a great crowd, and you won’t even have to break into your snowball fund.

Get Jiggy with It

Need help getting your groove back? Or just want a good sweat sesh while learning new moves? Some of the best dance classes and workshops can be found right here in New Orleans. From the Jitterbug to the Tango, learn how to jazz up your night, NOLA-style.

Have a Wicked Good Time at the Saenger Theatre

By popular demand, Wicked is flying back to New Orleans May 25 – June 19 at the historic Saenger Theatre. Other top picks in their lineup include Cabaret, The Book of Mormon, and Blue Man Group.

Run in the Crescent City Classic

Held on Saturday, March 26, the 38th annual Allstate Sugar Bowl Crescent City Classic 10K begins in Downtown New Orleans in front of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, runs through the French Quarter, and ends in beautiful City Park. Up to the challenge? Register here.

Cool Zoo. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Make a Splash at Audubon’s Cool Zoo

Beat the heat with a trip around Audubon Zoo’s lazy river, Gator Run, lounge on the sandy beaches, plunge down the water slide, and show your strength on the ropes course. Perfect spot for the dog days of summer. Or March, when the Cool Zoo opens for the season.

Go to the French Quarter Festival

Four days, 300 hours of entertainment, 400 musical performances, 23 stages. This bash (check out our insider’s guide) celebrates all aspects of New Orleans in the heart of the Vieux Carre April 7 – 10.

Spend Your Day at the WWII Museum

Step back in time with the Greatest Generation to relive and pay tribute to the war that changed the world. Fascinating new exhibits display personal stories and commemorative mementos that offer an invaluable experience.

Have Some Pride

The official New Orleans Pride Festival returns to the city June 17-19 for the biggest event of the summer. Taking place throughout the historic French Quarter, the festivities will bring together both straight and homosexual communities.

Take a Day Trip to Oak Alley Plantation

A short drive from New Orleans on the west bank of the Mississippi, Oak Alley Plantation sits on 25 acres of southern bliss. As you walk up the oak-lined drive, you are transported to the antebellum years that seem to have frozen the mansion. Plus, the Mint Julep alone is worth the trip.

Learn to Cook Like a Pro

Take home a new skill and carry on the flavors of New Orleans after a few lessons in one of these kitchens. Whip up classics like crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, and creamy pralines with the help of a legendary chef.

Explore the Swamp life

Deep down in the bayou, southeast Louisiana comes to life with wild hogs, snakes and the sought after gators. Take a guided boat tour to see all three and more from the swamps.

Red dress run. (Photo via New Orleans Tourism & Marketing)

Red Dress Run Through the French Quarter

Imagine a sea of red consuming every inch of the French Quarter as ladies and gents don their finest red ensemble (and running shoes), beer in hand. RDR is the happiest day of the summer, and your chance to look your best while supporting a great cause. Get red-dy August 13.

Meet Some Ghosts

As the most haunted city in America, it’s possible to encounter a spirit around every corner, some more than others. Whether it be a ghost tour or strolling through the cemeteries, everyone should experience the thrill at least once.

Sample Every Single Gumbo Dish at Treme Creole Gumbo Festival

Seafood? Chicken and Sausage? Vegan? With more than 15 varieties of gumbo at the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival held each November in Armstrong Park, choosing one just isn’t an option. Pull on those stretchy pants and get a sampling of all the fest has to offer like a true champ.

Feast at a James Beard Award-Winning Restaurant

It’s not every day you get the chance to dine at a James Beard award-winning restaurant. Unless you’re in New Orleans and have 12 chances.

Toast with a Sazerac at The Sazerac Bar

It’s only appropriate to sip on the official cocktail of the city at a bar named for the official cocktail of the city. You won’t be disappointed.

Eat a Beignet — Without Getting Powdered Sugar on You

Let’s see if you can make the impossible possible this new year. Be sure to document all of your NOLA adventures and share with us using #followyournola.