If all you know about New Orleans is that it's the home of epic Mardi Gras bashes, buckle up! There's so much more about this city than beads and overindulgence.

Sure, there are lots of parties and activities happening all year, but there's plenty of culture, cuisine, and even nature to explore. Here's everything you need to know before planning a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana.

Things To Do In New Orleans

Partaking in Mardi Gras is a given if you're into partying. But if you're not, exploring the history and culture of the area is still a must. New Orleans is famous for music, so you can catch a show at nearly any time of year or day of the week.

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You can also take bayou tours of the local swamp (watch out for crocs!), tour historic homes, and view art (often for free). The city hosts free music, art walk, festival, and other events. Everything from swing dancing to beer tasting is available for visitors. There's also the Audobon Zoo to get closer to nature.

Best Time Of Year For Visiting

If you want to hit up New Orleans during the celebratory season, head over between February and May. That's when the weather is mild and comfortable. If avoiding crowds is your goal, head out in December or January. The weather is warm in the daytime (around 72 degrees Fahrenheit) and drops into the 50s in the evenings.

Places To Stay In New Orleans

There are three primary options when it comes to where to stay in New Orleans. There's the French Quarter, Downtown, and the Arts/Warehouse District. Staying off the beaten path can be adventurous, but sticking to these areas will provide you the best access to transportation, restaurants, and things to do.

The French Quarter offers tons of walkable boho charm, enticing restaurants, and cute hotels and inns. You can check out the nightlife, street performers, and more. Downtown has skyscrapers, rooftop bars, boutique hotels, and gaming and sports events. The Arts/Warehouse district is great for trendy restaurants, art, and museums, and renovated warehouses with funky vibes.

Excellent Hotels To Check Into

Staying in the French Quarter? Stay at Bluegreen Club La Pension on Decatur Street. The industrial-vintage vibes are inviting and luxurious, and the price is right at around $165 per night.

Downtown, you'll find Aloft New Orleans Downtown, with a rooftop pool, on-site restaurant, and a convenient location. Rates start at around $100 per night. The lively Arts/Warehouse district has vibrant spots like Harrah's New Orleans Hotel, which features 26 stories and skyline views. Rates are around $140 per night.

Foods New Orleans Is Famous For

Seafood is king in New Orleans. Crawfish etouffee, gumbo, and po-boy sandwiches with fried oysters are all considered delicacies. You'll also find dishes like jambalaya, BBQ shrimp, red beans and rice, and crawfish.

When it comes to dessert, you can't miss beignets, bananas foster, or New Orleans King Cakes! King Cakes are decorated in Mardi Gras colors and have fruit filling and cream cheese. Just watch out for the 'baby' figurine inside when you chow down!

Getting Around The City

Getting around New Orleans is not only easy, but it's also kinda fun! You can hop on the streetcar and get a great view of local attractions. Bike rentals, public buses, ferries, and pedicabs are all fun options, too. There are tons of ways to see the city, and none of them will break the bank.

Primary Points Of Interest In New Orleans

The Mardi Gras celebrations are a highlight in New Orleans, and the occasion begins in February. There are parades, costumes, and lots of oysters! Even if you miss the festivities, you can experience Mardi Gras all year, says NewOrleans.com. There are museums, tours, costume shops, and even Mardi Gras World where you can check out everything the event entails.

There's also a lot of culture and history in the inviting city. Most of the attractions are landmarks like plantations, museums, historic homes, parks, churches, streetcars, and cemeteries. Lots of things are free to enjoy, too.

Of course, the French Quarter is renowned for entertainment, food and drink, and Bourbon Street, so don't miss that, either.

Currency And Tipping Culture

As part of the United States, New Orleans, Louisiana uses US dollars. Like other spots in the country, tipping is generally expected, perhaps even more so than in other areas. The southern areas of the US tend to have lower minimum wage rules, which means your server relies on tips to get by.

The city can be pretty cheap to explore, except for during Mardi Gras and other big events. At that point, you can expect hotel prices to double or even triple because there's such a huge demand. If you skip those timeframes, though, a hundred bucks per night is enough to get you some pretty nice digs for the duration of your visit.

Flight Deals For Your New Orleans Trip

The cheapest month to fly to New Orleans, according to Kayak, is September. From a west coast destination, it can cost you as little as $200 to fly into New Orleans in September. Flying out on weekdays is preferable, and can save you up to a hundred dollars or more.

The History Of The Mardi Gras City

You've probably noticed a lot of French influence on New Orleans, and there's a reason for it. Both France and Spain swapped New Orleans back and forth for a long time until the United States finally purchased Louisiana. But the city's European vibes stuck, and today a lot of the culture and heritage come from those influences.

Want to learn more about New Orleans? Check out the plaques around the city that explain history and culture.

Beaches Around New Orleans

Obviously, New Orleans is surrounded by a ton of water, but it's mostly ferry rides and swamp explorations that are the main draw. There aren't public beaches right in New Orleans. But there are nearby beaches that people who visit New Orleans tend to flock to. Biloxi Beach in Mississippi (about 1.5 hours away) is a nice day trip if you're so inclined.

Coconut Beach in Kenner is only a 20-minute drive if you really need to dip your toes in the sand. Outdoor recreation in New Orleans also involves golfing, biking, fishing, boating, tennis, horseback riding, and more. Ready to explore?