The Big Easy ranks in the top ten on a lot of travel lists from best foodie destinations to most affordable and beyond. When you're looking at ole New Orleans for a student group trip, graduation celebration, or other class trip destination, these are some of the city's must-see attractions that you won't want to miss.
1. French Quarter
Perhaps the most iconic region of New Orleans, the French Quarter is on everyone's itinerary in NOLA. The Quarter is free to roam at your will so wander through this historic and beautifully colorful district on your trip to start off your vacation with the true New Orleans spirit. The French Quarter is the site of the original city colony established in 1718 by French settlers and still maintains its heritage with original street names and antebellum buildings. Several other attractions on this list can be found at or near the French Quarter so this famous landmark makes a wonderful springboard into the rest of the city.
2. Audubon Nature Institute
Ranking as one of the absolute best zoos and aquariums in the U.S., the Audubon Nature Institute is a one stop wonder for all things nature related. Great for families, students, individuals and large groups alike, the Audubon Nature Institute campus includes a zoo, aquarium, insectarium, and butterfly house plus an IMAX theater and golf course. This giant complex gives you insight into your favorite animals plus some exotic, rare creatures in amazingly gorgeous exhibits and enclosures. Say hi to more than 15,000 animals at the zoo alone!
3. Jackson Square - St. Louis Cathedral
Located in the French Quarter, Jackson Square is a beautiful historic city plaza leading up to the front porch of the glorious St. Louis Cathedral. Although there are other attractions located around the square, the Cathedral grabs your eye with such force that you have to visit. Wander through the gorgeous park named after Battle of New Orleans hero and former president Andrew Jackson, and then walk up to the Cathedral's brilliant white facade and purchase a self-guided tour brochure for a $1 donation. Learn about the famous individuals buried in the Cathedral crypt and St. Louis cemeteries, tour the wondrous interior, or even stop by on Saturday night or Sunday morning to attend mass.
4. National WWII Museum
New Orleans' own National WWII Museum ranks as one of the best in the country for its collections of artifacts and memorial to those who lost their lives in the second World War. Spanning an impressive 178,000 square feet, the museum is separated into three buildings each containing their own central theme including U.S. Freedom and the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion featuring restored artifacts. See over 100,000 artifacts including ally and axis uniforms, a Sherman tank, weapons from both sides, and original and restored U.S. aircraft.
5. New Orleans Museum of Art
Located in City Park, the New Orleans Museum of Art is the oldest fine arts institution in the city. Opened in 1911, the NOMA has continuously collected expressions of visual art from around the globe, evolving with the many artistic movements and genres. Nearly 40,000 objects make up the permanent collection, including those in the sculpture garden, though the museum regularly supports temporary exhibits from traveling collections. See rare pieces like Archangel Michael Triumphant, a 17th century European piece from an unknown artist, and paintings such as Coronation of the Virgin by Vivarini ca. early 14th century.
6. Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve
Historically and naturally rich, the Jean Lafitte park and preserve is a fabulous, can't-miss attraction in New Orleans. Named for notorious French pirate Jean Lafitte, the park protects and preserves the natural landscape of New Orleans and the animals who call it home. Learn about the history of the park on a guided tour or take a hike through the bayou on the slatted boardwalks, birdwatch or view the amazing wildlife including Louisiana's state bird the brown pelican, or even skip over to one of the park's six sites like the Chalmette Battlefield and the Barataria Preserve.
7. City Park
A 1,300 acre public park in the heart of New Orleans brings more than just pretty lawns and nice gardens. As one of the oldest urban parks in the country, City Park has had a lot of time to grow and adapt to the desires of the public. Aside from beautiful walking trails and community events, the City Park is the place to find the Botanical Garden, the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, Carousel Gardens Amusement Park, and more. City Park is also the site of the world's largest stand of mature live oaks dating back nearly 800 years. Though the park was damaged by Hurricane Katrina, it has been revitalized and has grown even stronger in character and beauty.
Originally built in the late 18th century under Spanish rule, the Cabildo was a site of extreme historic and political significance, operating as the center of New Orleans government as well as the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer in 1803. While it was once the headquarters of the Louisiana Supreme Court, today it is but a museum housing history and artifacts capturing the passage of time. Some of the iconic artifacts include Napoleon Bonaparte's death mask, one of only four in existence, as well as the drum responsible for the long drumroll at the start of the Battle of New Orleans and much more.
9. Garden District
Like the French Quarter, the Garden District is a must-see spirited New Orleans district full of character, color, and historic vivacity. Generally considered to be one of the best displays of preserved southern antebellum architecture in the country, the Garden District is perfect for a walking tour (free of charge) for groups looking to experience true New Orleans. The grand affluent structures make for a photographer's daydream and the history of the district is enough to fascinate even the most reluctant students. If you're really daring, take a guided ghost tour of the Garden District at night and learn about the city's dark history.