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Cathedral De New Orleans by Mike Shubic of MikesRoadTrip.com

New Orleans is one of the most unique cities in America, founded well before the United States was even a country. This exciting city has world-class restaurants, hotels, shopping and, of course, nightlife. While New Orleans does have a reputation for being a wild party place, there are so many compelling reasons it should be on everyone’s bucket list.

RELATED: 15 ridiculously fun things to do in New Orleans that aren’t on your radar

New Orleans Louisiana by Mike of MikesRoadTrip.com

New Orleans (aka NOLA) has a charismatic “it” factor while managing to be both visitor-friendly but also authentic and engaging. It’s a place full of eloquent stories, and plays host to a plethora of art forms—from jazz music spilling into the streets to masterful fine dining and creole cuisine, to the effervescent art scene. The liveliness and vibrancy of NOLA is a contagion that everyone should catch at least once in their lives.

Like everyone and every place, we’re all much more than the sum of our most identifiable characteristics. This could not be truer when it comes to New Orleans. Yes, Bourbon Street attracts its fair share of revelers, especially during Carnival season. However, that is just the tip of what this diverse city has to offer.

Red Dress run in New Orleans by Mike Shubic of MikesRoadTrip.com

While Bourbon Street and its enthusiastic bar scene is a big part of the city, it’s not all just a party for party’s sake. Rather, NOLA is place where its citizens exude a lively spirit about life in general. This lively spirit is woven into the DNA and showcased within their generous hospitality.

Donkey ride in NOLA by MikesRoadTrip.com

Here are some things I recommend doing while visiting New Orleans

  • Get your bearings with a Hop-On Hop-Off sightseeing tour. And, be sure to ride the trolley (streetcars).
  • Take a walking tour with Le Monde Creole. Ask for a tour with Bill; he is an amazing guide and storyteller.
  • The National WWII Museum is incredible and it seems few know about it.
  • Stroll the Garden District to see some stunning homes; many are owned by celebrities like Harry Connick, Jr., John Goodman and Sandra Bullock.
  • Take a paddle boat cruise down the Mighty Mississippi.
  • Visit Saint Louis Cemetery #2. Since the ground is often saturated with water, the dead are not buried, but rather housed in mausoleums. It’s an eerily beautiful place.
  • Don’t miss restaurants like Tableau, Lüke and Café du Monde.
  • To get inspired, watch the movie “Chef.”
Creole food in New Orleans by Mike of MikesRoadTrip.com

Best time to visit NOLA

  • February to May are the best months weather-wise, but it’s also the most popular time of year and can be tough to get a hotel around Mardi Gras if you don’t book a year in advance.
  • December and January have fewer festivals and better hotel options/rates.
  • Early risers can avoid the crowds by strolling the streets between 6am-9am. It’s a magical time.

Horse drawn ride in NOLA by MikesRoadTrip.com

Where to stay

Random Facts about NOLA

  • More than 120 registered festivals happen annually.
  • Mardi Gras float riders must be masked by law.
  • The city boasts the oldest pharmacy in the country. Early medical mixtures became known as cocktails.
  • NOLA is the birthplace of jazz music.

New Orleans is one of the world’s exceptional cities—it mixes influences from Europe, the Caribbean and Africa to create a distinct cultural melting pot that can be seen through the food, music, architecture and way of life. With such a long and illustrious history, it’s no wonder people come to NOLA to see what all the fuss is about. Rarely does anyone leave disappointed.

French Quarter by MikesRoadTrip.com

If you have any questions or comments about visiting New Orleans, please leave a comment below!

Mike Shubic chronicles his travel adventures at MikesRoadTrip.com.

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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