New Orleans, also known as NOLA, is one of the most exciting and one-of-a-kind destinations in the United States. Once we finally visited, we were hooked! There’s something for everyone in New Orleans, but we think it’s an especially great place to bring teens, so in this post I’ll share our top recommendations for things to do in New Orleans with teens!
With its blend of American, Latin, Creole and Afro-Cuban cultural roots, New Orleans has so much to offer. Its many colors and flavors are legendary, and it is quickly becoming one of the most popular tourist spots in the United States, attracting visitors from all over the country, as well as the rest of the world.
If you’re considering a family vacation to New Orleans with teenagers in your travel party, know that you’ve picked a great spot. It won’t be hard to keep teens entertained and engaged in a city as exciting as New Orleans (though you might want to keep them away from too much excitement — Bourbon Street, I’m looking at you)! Keep reading to learn more about some of the very best things to do in the city if you are traveling with teenagers.
20 best things to do in New Orleans with teens
We’ll start off with all of the delights found in the French Quarter and then venture further out into the city for more great activities and sightseeing for teens in New Orleans.
1. Stroll around Jackson Square
Located in the heart of the French quarter, Jackson Square isn’t just a very important landmark for New Orleans, but for America as a whole. The square is featured in the list of National Historic Landmarks, and rightfully so, given its significant cultural and social importance and everything that it represents. Back in 1803, Louisiana became a part of the United States after it was purchased from France, and the transition actually happened in this exact square.
Today, Jackson Square is a bustling center of activity. The beautiful St. Louis Cathedral towers over the park — be sure to have a look inside as well as admiring the exterior. You’ll find plenty of people relaxing on the grass or benches, walking the perimeter of the square, browsing the nearby shops, and even enjoying muffuletta picnics, like we did!
We usually see jazz bands performing in front of the cathedral, which are fun to listen to but always make me laugh because they perform right by a sign that says “quiet zone.” And at the far end of the square by Decatur Street, you’ll find outdoor art galleries where talented artists are selling their works.
In Jackson Square, you are also close to a lot of other landmarks. The French Quarter is very walkable to begin with, but Jackson Square is right by Cafe Du Monde, Central Grocery, the French Market, and the waterfront. We’ll talk more about all of those places as we continue our tour of New Orleans!
2. Eat a muffuletta from Central Grocery
Central Grocery is perhaps one of the most famous and popular delis in the whole of the United States. Not only is this a place where visitors can discover many local delicacies and amazing imported Italian products, but it’s also the original home of the quintessential New Orleans sandwich: the muffuletta!
This tasty treat has a rich history, which in itself is a strong reflection of New Orleans’ cultural melting pot. From French-inspired breads to Italian cold cuts, the muffuletta is a little taste of history showcasing the influence that waves of immigrants from the “old world” had on American culture.
History and culture aside, this sandwich is absolutely glorious! They sell them in halves or wholes, and they are BIG! Our family of six only needs two to fill us up (mmkay maybe two and a half now that we do have teenagers!).
New Orleans is definitely well-known for its food scene, and this is one of those eateries that deserve some attention.
3. Eat beignets at Cafe Du Monde
I hope you saved some room for dessert! Cafe Du Monde is a true landmark in New Orleans, proudly serving customers under their iconic green and white awning since 1862.
People flock to the cafe daily, as it’s still well-known for its amazing coffee drinks (especially the lattes) and beignets, inspired by the French delicacies but with a unique twist. Beignets are similar to donuts — fried dough covered with powdered sugar. They are served in a paper bag in groups of three, with extra powdered sugar tossed on top. You’ll need some napkins!
If you’re up early, head here for breakfast before your day of exploring New Orleans. It’ll give you the sugary kickstart you’ll need! Beign-yay!
4. Shop for unique souvenirs
New Orleans offers many options for world-class shopping. Whether you’re after big name brands or some quirky local shops with a unique vibe, the possibilities are truly endless. We all know teenagers love to shop and have their own unique tastes and preferences, so give them the experience of finding that perfect souvenir or memento of New Orleans!
If you’re down by Jackson Square, you can start at the French Market where you’ll find everything from t-shirts to handmade local creations. Then, walk along the riverfront to the Riverwalk Mall where you’ll find all their favorite brands plus plenty of local shops as well.
5. Cruise the Mississippi on the Steamboat Natchez
You’ll see it when you walk along the waterfront — the Steamboat Natchez is one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Orleans. It’s an authentic steam-powered boat that offers cruises along the Mississippi River.
The Steamboat Natchez has a beautiful interior and offers a great view of the city as you cruise. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and the food you can buy onboard is delicious. The cruises are a great way to see New Orleans from a different perspective and to learn about the city’s history.
6. Enjoy local street performers
When you think of New Orleans, music is probably one of the first things comes to your mind. The marching bands, the jazz scene, the blues players… all of these amazing sounds merged into something truly astonishing and incredibly influential, which created ripples on the music scene on a global scale.
In New Orleans, there are many concerts and music-related events happening every day. Still, you do not need to attend a show at a venue to enjoy some world-class music. Some of the best performers in NOLA happen to be street artists!
It’s always an amazing experience to witness so much talent, especially if you stumble upon a drum line or a jazz band! They aren’t hard to find in the French Quarter, and they really add something special to the atmosphere of the city.
7. Join a second line parade
Second line parades are a quintessential New Orleans tradition and a must-see for visitors to the city. The parades are led by a brass band, and participants typically follow behind, waving handkerchiefs or twirling parasols. The parade route typically winds through the city’s neighborhoods, and the party continues at the end of the route with a second line dance.
The origins of the second line parade can be traced back to the late 1800s, when African American brass bands would accompany funeral processions. The bands would often play upbeat music, which led to the development of the second line parade as a celebration of life. Today, second line parades are a regular occurrence in New Orleans and can be seen at celebrations of all kinds, from Mardi Gras to weddings. I got to participate in one when I was there for a blogging conference!
The combination of brass band music, colorful umbrellas, and happy people dancing down the street is a true New Orleans experience. Anyone can join in on the fun, so be sure to bring your dancing shoes!
8. Have a sno ball
Time for another sweet! You’ve heard of sno cones, but in New Orleans they have sno balls! Whether you’re enjoying one on a hot day or taking a break from the Mardi Gras parade crowds, these icy treats are a must-have in New Orleans. There are dozens of flavors to choose from, but some of the most popular ones are grape, strawberry, and piña colada. You can get your sno ball with or without cream, and they can be topped with everything from sprinkles to marshmallows.
No matter where you are in the city, you’re never too far from a sno ball stand. Some of the most popular spots are Hansen’s Sno Bliz in the Garden District, Plum Street Sno-Balls in the French Quarter, and Rouses’ Sno Balls in the Central Business District.
9. Listen to the jazz band at Preservation Hall
Preservation Hall is a must-see attraction for visitors to New Orleans. It is a small, intimate venue that showcases the city’s world-renowned jazz musicians. The hall has been in operation since 1961, and has hosted some of the biggest names in jazz, including Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Miles Davis.
Preservation Hall is a great place to catch a show if you’re a fan of traditional jazz or want to learn more about it. The musicians who play here are some of the best in the business, and they always put on a great performance. The hall itself is also worth checking out. It’s a historic building that has been around for over 50 years, and it has a lot of character.
If you’re looking for a unique and authentic New Orleans experience that is good for the whole family, Preservation Hall is the place to go. It’s the perfect place to catch a jazz show and soak up some of the city’s culture.
10. Escape the room
If you need a break from the heat, but don’t want to pause the fun, head to The Escape Game New Orleans, right in the French Quarter. I’ve been playing escape-the-room online games since the days of Flash, but there’s nothing like an in-person escape where you can actually touch and interact with elements in a real room!
Teens will love solving puzzles, unlocking unique locks, and putting together all the pieces needed to solve the mystery and escape the room in 60 minutes. The family-friendly and immersive games you’ll find in New Orleans include Prison Break, Special Ops: Mysterious Market, Gold Rush, and Playground.
11. Tour a unique cemetery
Heading back outside, it’s time to explore the spooky side of New Orleans!
When you tour a cemetery in New Orleans, you are getting a glimpse into a rich history that is unlike any other place in the United States. Because New Orleans is at sea-level, the ground is too wet to dig deep graves, so the dead in New Orleans are laid to rest above ground.
The cemeteries in New Orleans are lined with elaborate statues and tombs, making them a popular tourist attraction and offering a unique look at the culture and history of New Orleans. Some popular cemeteries to tour in New Orleans include Lafayette Cemetery, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (where you can visit the famous voodoo queen Marie Laveau’s tomb), and Metairie Cemetery.
12. Take a ghost tour
Sticking with our cemetery theme, New Orleans is one of the most haunted cities in the United States, and there are plenty of ghost tours to choose from. Some of the most popular ones include the French Quarter Ghost Tour, the Haunted History Tour, and the Ghost City Tour.
The French Quarter Ghost Tour takes you on a walk through the oldest and most haunted neighborhood in New Orleans. You’ll hear stories about ghosts, vampires, and other supernatural creatures that are said to haunt the city.
The Haunted History Tour is a walking tour that takes you through some of the most haunted locations in New Orleans, including the Lalaurie Mansion, the USS New Orleans, and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Prefer to ride instead of walk? Try the Ghost City Tour.
If your teenagers are interested in the other-worldly and can handle some spooky sites, they are sure to love the unique experience of taking a ghost tour in New Orleans!
13. Ride a streetcar
Streetcars in New Orleans are a popular way to get around the city. They offer an enjoyable scenic ride and they’re a great way to see the different neighborhoods. There are several different lines and each offers a different experience.
The St. Charles line is the oldest and most popular, and it takes you through the Garden District and the French Quarter. The Canal Street line is a great way to get to the Central Business District. And lastly, the Riverfront line offers a scenic ride alongside the Mississippi River.
Streetcars are a fun, affordable way to get around New Orleans and see different areas. Even if you don’t have a destination in mind, enjoy the ride and discover something new!
14. Tour American Horror Story filming sites
When I first visited New Orleans, this was one of the top to-dos on my list. American Horror Story: Coven had come out just the year before, and it was super cool to visit some of the filming sites for that season.
If your teens are AHS fans, they’ll also enjoy the experience of visiting some of the locations that appeared on the show! I highly recommend taking the tour of the Hermann-Grima House. They don’t actually mention the show on the tour, but if you’ve seen it, you’ll certainly recognize the interior. Plus, the tour was full of interesting information about the history of the house, the people who lived there, and New Orleans in general.
Also, take the streetcar to the Garden District to visit Buckner Mansion, home of the witches’ school in the series. Check out this post for more on AHS New Orleans filming locations.
15. Visit Mardi Gras World
Just outside the French Quarter, you’ll find Mardi Gras World. This is a massive warehouse filled with colorful floats and props from Mardi Gras parades. You can watch artists and craftsmen at work, and even take a workshop to make your own float or mask.
You’ll find lots of great photo ops here. It’s a very interesting, unique place to tour, plus, every visitor gets a slice of king cake!
You can take the streetcar to Mardi Gras World, or they’ll send their own free shuttle to pick you up in the French Quarter.
16. Visit the Audubon Park and Zoo
Audubon Park and Zoo is another popular spot for families and a beautiful place to visit while in New Orleans. The park has a large green space for picnics and playing, and the zoo is home to a variety of animals from around the world.
Audubon Park is also home to a few restaurants, a carousel, and a train that kids can ride. It’s a great place to spend a day with the family.
17. Play in City Park
City Park in New Orleans is a beautiful 1,300 acre park that offers something for everyone. There are playgrounds, a golf course, a swimming pool, a skating rink, and plenty of green space for picnics and relaxation.
The park is also home to the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, and the New Orleans Botanical Garden. City Park is a great place to spend a day or evening with friends and family.
18. Tour a Plantation
There are many plantations located in and around New Orleans. You’ll find some of the most popular plantation tours at the Oak Alley Plantation, the Laura Plantation, and the Whitney Plantation.
The Oak Alley Plantation is a beautiful plantation that was built in 1837 and is known for its impressive alley of oak trees, which can be seen from the road. This plantation has a number of interesting buildings, including a sugar mill and a blacksmith shop.
The Laura Plantation is another popular plantation to visit. It was founded in 1803 and is known for its Creole architecture. You’ll hear a number of interesting stories on your tour, including the story of the Quadroon girl.
The Whitney Plantation is one plantation in the area dedicated to telling the story of the slaves who lived and worked there. This plantation is open to the public and offers guided tours.
Touring a plantation is a great way to learn more about the history of this part of the country. Teens will likely have already encountered hard topics like slavery in school, but nothing brings history to life quite like visiting the actual historic locations where important events occurred.
19. Take a swamp tour
Visiting the Louisiana bayous is a true adventure: it’s a little scary and exciting, especially when you know an alligator might just show up out of nowhere!
We highly recommend taking at least half a day during your New Orleans visit to go on a guided tour through the swampland. There are several great tour companies and many will pick you up from your hotel and bring you back after your excursion.
On my first visit to New Orleans, I went on a swamp tour with Cajun Encounters, and it was fantastic! We got to see alligators and wild pigs up close and enjoy a boat ride through the bayou.
Teenagers will definitely have a blast, and if you’re feeling more adventurous, go for an airboat tour or even kayak through the swamp!
20. Let them babysit
Sometimes teenagers just want some time to themselves to lounge around and watch TV. And considering the unmatched nightlife in New Orleans, you should take advantage of that and go out for a night on the town! If you only have teenagers, they’ll appreciate the time alone. And if you have little ones, they can keep an eye on them — just make sure to thank them the next day with a sno ball!
There truly are so many amazing things to do in New Orleans with teenagers. This list barely scratches the surface, as this city is a fantastic haven for all sorts of fun activities, unique cultural experiences, and a trip you’ll never forget!