If you haven’t had time to make those New Year’s resolutions, consider this your New Orleans bucket list for 2017. 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.
27 Things to do in New Orleans for 2017
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.
Try a bizarre king cake
Sure, there are the classics. But in 2017 why not branch out and rethink your king cake craving? Spots like Cake Cafe offer savory king cakes during Carnival (Jan. 6- Feb. 28), Abita beer makes a sippable king cake soda, and Seed serves up a gluten-free and vegan version.
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
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. 28, 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.
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.
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.
In a city known for its musical heritage, dance to the beat of your own drum at the Music Box Village. This sonic playground gives visitors a chance to tap into their creative side or attend a show.
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.
Find a hidden gem
Don’t judge a book by its cover at these New Orleans restaurants. They might not look like much from the outside, but trust us: you’ll want to try them all.
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.
Run in the Crescent City Classic
Held on Saturday, April 15, the 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.
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 National 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.
Boot scoot to Bayou Country Superfest
Previously held in Baton Rouge, Bayou Country Superfest makes its way to New Orleans this year during Memorial Day Weekend. Take advantage of the A/C inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as you hear performers like Blake Shelton, Rascal Flatts, Miranda Lambert, Hank Williams, Jr., and more.
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 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 one fine Saturday every August. RDR is the happiest day of the summer, and your chance to look your best while supporting a great cause.
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 15 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.