Content Produced in Partnership with Louisiana Travel

2018 is a big year for New Orleans — the city is turning 300 years old. If you’re keeping score at home that’s officially older than the United States. Founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Vienville, the city of New Orleans briefly changed hands to the Spanish before coming back under French control in 1803. Eventually sold in the Louisiana Purchase to the US, New Orleans’ history and diversity makes it one of the most unique cities in the country — even by today’s standards. It should come as no surprise, then, that in honor of its tricentennial, New Orleans has a big party planned to mark the grand occasion.

The yearlong celebration will commemorate all the traits we known and love about the Big Easy: its resiliency, its culture, and its diversity — to name just a few. Special events and festivals will be bigger and better than ever before (and there will be plenty of fireworks shows in between, too). In addition, crews will be hard at work fixing, updating, and modernizing the city’s infrastructures so that the city will be just as accessible for the next 300 years.

As former New Orleans major Victor Schiro once said, “If it’s good for New Orleans, I’m for it.” We couldn’t agree more. In celebration of its 300 years, we’ve put together a list of the 30 activities, events, and adventures you simply shouldn’t miss in 2018. Let's let the good times roll, shall we?

NOLA Photo by Maciek Lulko via Flickr Creative Commons

1. Make Time for the French Quarter Festival

There ain’t no party like a New Orleans party — and the French Quarter Festival is the leader of them all. Frequently voted as a favorite festival by locals and visitors alike, the French Quarter Festival places 23 musical stages across the French Quarter, showcasing the finest local acts and restaurants around town. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the festival, meaning it’s going to be one for the record books. Mark your calendar for April 12-15, 2018.

2. Take a Stroll Through City Park

City Park is perhaps one of our favorite under-the-radar-gems New Orleans has to offer. At 1,300 acres, it’s the largest outdoor attraction in the city and its full of moss canopies and oak trees you’d hope to find in Louisiana. Aside from the trails, you’ll also find a miniature golf course, train rides and sculpture gardens. If you have children — or just need a break from the buzz of the French Quarter — City Park is a welcoming site.

3. Mardi Gras 2018 — or plan ahead for Mardi Gras 2019

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is an item that deserves to be on everyone’s travel bucket list. Though Mardi Gras is a holiday technically celebrated on the Fat Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, the carnival season can be celebrated for two to three weeks in advance. Krewe parades occur all over the city; however, the best view of any of the parade routes will always be from atop one of the balconies on Bourbon. Let the good times roll.

4. Visit Mardi Gras World

Missed out on the Mardi Gras celebrations? No worries because every day is Mardi Gras at Mardi Gras World. This behind-the-scenes tour takes you directly into the warehouse where more than 500 of the famous floats are created and stored. The hour and a half tour is one of the best experiences in the city, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with the floats and the artists to learn more about the history of this colorful spectacle.

5. Float Bayou St. John

Perhaps one of the city’s most underrated experiences, kayaking, canoeing, or floating Bayou St. John is one of the favorite past times for locals and visitors alike. Bayou Paddlesports offers tours, like Night Paddles and Dog Days on the Bayou, throughout the year so that everyone can get a unique glimpse of the history of New Orleans where it all began on the banks of the bayou.

Photo by @amydiazphoto courtesy Louisiana Travel

6. Ride the Streetcars from One End of Town to the Other

To mark this year’s tricentennial, New Orleans will be undergoing a series of infrastructure repairs and developments to make the city just as strong and as prosperous for its next 300 years. Though tourists will mainly know three main streetcar lines — St. Charles, Canal Street, and the Riverfront — they can soon see other parts of the city with the expansion of the Rampart and St. Claude line as well as the Loyola Avenue line. These streetcars are an important symbol of New Orleans’ past and the perfect way to explore the city throughout the year.

7. Go to New Orleans Jazz Fest

The New Orleans Jazz Fest is one of the most popular events in the entire city, drawing in big names and hundreds of thousands of onlookers. The 2018 festival is no exception. Artists like Aerosmith, Aretha Franklin, Trombone Shorty, Sting, and Jack White are all slated to perform alongside dozens of other local musicians and performers. This year’s event takes place April 27 through May 6 with a special tricentennial fireworks display on closing night. For a full list of the line-up and ticket information, click here.

8. Order a Plate of Beignets and a Café Au Lait from Café Du Monde

Café Du Monde, located at the corner of Jackson Square and the French Market, is a New Orleans institution that’s been around since 1862. Its chicory coffee, creamy café au laits and perfectly fried beignets have a fiercely loyal cult following. The original location is open rain or shine, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. If you’re heading there for the first time, take note: Café Du Monde only accepts cash, the waitress will bring your bill with your food — and you should avoid the rookie mistake of going during the morning rush.

9. Have Your Fortune Told in Jackson Square

It’s easy to get caught up in the street art and performances in and around the French Quarter, especially if you’ve imbibed in one or two adult beverages. Early evening is one of our favorite times to wander Jackson Square — and it’s also one of the best times to get your palm read by one of the many tarot and palm readers in the area. When in Rome…

10. Learn About the History of Jazz Music

Jazz music is synonymous with the city of New Orleans.With some of the greatest performers in history heralding from NOLA, the Birthplace of Jazz keeps the history and tradition alive in multiple venues across the city, including the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the U.S. Mint. From its first cool notes to the swanky uptown beats we hear today, the museum expertly traces the roots of jazz music and the musicians who have shaped it into what is today. The museum is open Tuesdays-Sunday from 10am to 4:30pm. It’s fittingly located at the intersection of the French Quarter and the live music corridor on Frenchmen Street.

Audobon Aquarium Photo by Louisiana Travel via Flickr Creative Commons

11. Seek Out Faulkner House of Books

The former home of renown author William Faulkner is now one of the most beloved bookstores in America. Featured rare finds and local authors, the Faulkner House of Books is a literary delight for bibliophiles. You can find it tucked away in Pirate’s Alley just off Jackson Square opposite Louis Cathedral.

12. Drink a Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s

In a city that has an all-too-cozy relationship with the effects of hurricanes, leave it to New Orleans to have a sense of humor. The celebrated hurricane cocktail is a classic and a specialty of bar Pat O’Brien’s. Only O’Brien’s claims dibs on the concoction made with rum, fresh fruit and grenadine. The drink comes served in a Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane glass — meant to mimic the shape of an hurricane — that you can bring home with you as a souvenir.

13. Pick a Bar for Its Dueling Pianos

In a city known for its jazz and blues scene, finding a bar or venue that offers up a dueling pianos experience is quintessential. And, while there are several piano bars, there are only a few left that offer dueling piano performances. Among the list of favorites is Pat O’Brien’s (and you thought they were only known for their hurricanes), Ticklers Dueling Piano Bar, and Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar (which will be mentioned later on this list).

14. Explore the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

Noted as one of the nicest and most visited aquariums in the United States, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas welcomes visitors from across the country to view more than 15,000 sea creatures. Fittingly nestled along the banks of the Mighty Mississippi, one of the aquarium’s most famous occupants is the extremely rare white alligator. The aquarium is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm. If you’d prefer to skip the crowds, plan to visit during a weekday afternoon.

15. Stroll the New Orleans Garden District

The grandiose oak tress and antebellum mansions lining the New Orleans’ Garden District draw in hundreds of eager onlookers each year.Easily accessible by the St. Charles street car line, the New Orleans Garden District is significantly calmer than the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter. For the most magical hours, plan to get their early in the morning when the light is just beginning to shine through the canopy and the neighborhood is just waking up for its day.

Photo courtesy Louisiana Travel

16. Order a Classic Roast Beef Po’Boy from Johnny’s Po’Boys

The oldest family-owned restaurant in the city is also home to the city’s number one voted po’boy sandwich. The classic sandwich — made with crispy French bread, a slice of tomato, lettuce and pickles — was originally served with gravy and roast beef for local workers during a street car strike in the 1920s. Today, Johnny’s Po’Boys has more than two dozen types of po’boys on their menu to choose from, and the classic roast beef is still considered to be one of the city’s finest. You can find Johnny’s Po’Boys at 511 St. Louis Street (they’re the restaurant with the long line out front).

17. Explore St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

Known as one of the oldest cemeteries in the United States, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is famous for its above ground tombs, a necessary design feature due to New Orleans’ position on the swamp. Some of the city’s most notable residents are buried here, including the first mayor of New Orleans and the famous Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. St. Louis No. 1 is located on Basin Street between Conti and St. Louis Streets and can only be visited as part of a tour group.

18. Gallery Hopping on Royal Street

Dozens of boutiques and galleries are located on Julia and Royal Streets in the French Quarter. Like most locations in the French Quarter, it’s best to let your feet guide you. Art lovers and serious collectors, be warned: You could easily spend an entire day wandering Royal Street and come back to your hotel with a significantly lighter wallet.

19. Participate in the Stella and Stanley Shouting Contest

The Tennessee Williams Literary Festival is one of the most unique festivals in New Orleans. Of all the unique contests that takes place during the four-day event, none is more famous than the Stanley & Stella Shouting Contest. Y’know from that scene in A Streetcar Named Desire. Participants — usually dressed in character costumes — take turns yelling, “Stella,” or “Stanley” to a group of eager onlookers. The most convincing theatrical performance wins a trophy, a slue of prizes and plenty of bragging rights. This year’s event takes places March 21-25, 2018.

20. Jazz Brunch at Commander’s Palace

Located in the Garden District just off the St. Charles line, the now blue mansion known as the Commander’s Palace has been a New Orleans staple since 1893. Most famous for its classic jazz brunch, the restaurant’s chefs pride themselves in sourcing 90 percent of their ingredients from the local area and staying true to traditional Creole cuisine.

New Orleans Post Card Photo by Britt Reints via Flickr Creative Commons

21. Listen to Jazz at Preservation Hall

Traditional New Orleans Jazz is best heard at Preservation Hall. A French Quarter feature since 1961, Preservation Hall offers exclusive, amazingly intimate performances from some of the finest New Orleans jazz musicians in the business. Excluding holidays, this New Orleans landmark is open every night with concerts at 5pm, 6pm, 8pm, 9pm, and 10pm.

22. St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square

Arguably the most famous landmark in Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral is perhaps one of the most recognizable and most photographed landmarks in New Orleans. St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in North America and is open to visitors throughout the year. Please note, this is still a fully functional church with masses held daily.

23. Join the Party on Bourbon Street

As part of the New Orleans tricentennial infrastructure updates, Bourbon Street will be getting a much-needed face lift in 2018. The street, which hasn’t received full updates since 1928, will undergo $6 million in repairs, including sewer and water line repairs. That’s a good thing, because enjoying the nightlife on Bourbon is a rite of passage for nearly everyone who makes their way to New Orleans. And, it’s a tradition we’d like to stick around for years to come.

24. Have a {Purple} Drink at America’s Oldest Bar

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar on Bourbon claims it’s the oldest bar in America. Established sometime between 1722 and 1732, legend has it the building (then a blacksmith shop) was used by the infamous Lafitte brothers as a smuggling headquarters. Today, you can find the bar at 941 Bourbon Street. It’s one of the only buildings with a slate roof, which proved useful during an 1800s fire. Today, the bar attracts tourists for its “purple voodoo drank” — a strong grape daiquiri served in Lafitte’s classiest glassware: a paper cup.

25. Plan a Fall Visit for a Specialty Festival

Mardi Gras isn’t the only festival you can experience in New Orleans. Home to jazz, foodie, and outdoor festivals — the unofficially official festival season [LINK TO FESTIVAL GUIDE] in New Orleans occurs in the fall when the mild temperatures and crisp fall air waft into the bayou.

Photo by @adventuresbyemma courtesy Louisiana Travel

26. Join a New Orleans Voodoo History Tour

Voodoo is unanimous with Creole culture — and New Orleans is full of options. This tour explores the history of the Voodoo phenomenon in the city with specialty stops at Voodoo altars and other points of interest in the city. Tours depart Rev. Zombie’s Voodoo Shop Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 7:30 pm. It is not recommended for children.

27. Make Yourself Part of a Second Line Parade

Second line parades run up and down the streets of New Orleans at all hours of the day — and night. When you see one, don’t be shy: Join the party!

28. Set Sail with NOLA Navy Week

New Orleans’ location along the banks of the Mississippi River and the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico gave ships exclusive access to the city. You can learn about the role New Orleans has played in trade and sea travel during Tricentennial NOLA Navy Week. From April 19 through April 25, dozens of Navy ships from the US and across the world will dock in New Orleans. Not only will visitors be able to tour the ships, they’ll also be able to participate in cook-offs on the ships as well (because, after all, it is New Orleans and there’s no such thing as a festival without food).

29. Take a Day Trip to Oak Alley Plantation

The 28 huge, moss-covered oaks at Oak Alley Plantation make it one of the most famous plantation homes in the South. Roughly an hour outside downtown New Orleans, Oak Alley Plantation offers powerful tours on the history of the plantation and its role during the Civil War. For more information and driving directions, click here.

30. Take a Spin at Carousel Piano Bar and Lounge

A spinning room is completely normal at the Carousel Piano Bar and Lounge.For more than 65 years, this classic New Orleans cocktail bar in Hotel Monteleone has been home to the city’s only revolving bar. Decorated in golds and jeweled tones like an actual carnival merry-go-round, the 25-seat carousel-style bar is a real stunner — and the drinks and bites are just as spectacular. The Carousel Piano Bar is located on 214 Royal Street and is open seven days a week, beginning at 11am.