New Orleans attractions are numerous. The city is steeped in a long, colorful, and rich multiethnic tradition that has given birth to two of the most famous New Orleans tourist attractions—an incredibly diverse cuisine and a rowdy over-the-top nightlife epitomized by the annual Mardi Gras that rivals Carnival in Rio de Janeiro.
The French Quarter attractions include the French Quarter itself, one of the most famous neighborhoods in the world. Known for its unique music, party atmosphere, and gracious French and Spanish antebellum architecture, this is one of the most beautiful inner city neighborhoods in the world. Much of the sightseeing in New Orleans (and partying) occurs here. Begin your tours of the French Quarter attractions at Jackson Square, which is surrounded by hotels and some of the most historic dining spots in the city. Behind this park are the three historic buildings considered among the finest of the New Orleans tourist attractions and dating to the eighteenth century—the Cabildo, the Presbytere, and the St. Louis Cathedral. Across from the park is a Mississippi River boardwalk that follows the levees down to Canal Street and Woldenberg Park, where the prestigious Aquarium of the Americas is located.
One of the great New Orleans attractions is its legendary music. This entire Mississippi Delta region is the cradle of American blues and jazz, as well as the unique zydeco and Cajun music born of the area's rich multicultural history and traditions. If you head for the suburbs such as Covington and Slidell on the North Shore area of Lake Pontchartrain, you can find some of the most authentic Cajun music. But you can hear music almost 24 hours a day almost any time of year just by walking down Bourbon Street, where it emanates from the open doors of the many music bars and jazz clubs. You may catch another of the French Quarter attractions—a brass band somberly escorting a body to one of the city's cemeteries or dancing back after the burial.
There are also many New Orleans attractions outside of the famous French Quarter. You can look for alligators, red wolf, deer, bald eagles, herons, and even the rare Florida cougar on tours of the Honey Island Swamp near Slidell. Some say Big Foot roams this area, so be on the lookout. Enjoy river cruises on authentic Mississippi steamboats, dining on superb Creole food and dancing the night away. Even if you don't visit during Mardi Gras and even if you're not in the French Quarter, you can still experience the magic of some of the most magnificent parade floats anywhere at Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World located in the Garden District. Tours are available of this truly magical events venue where artist and sculptor Blaine Kern has been creating parade floats since 1947. You can also see his work at Universal Studios and in the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Parade.
Other New Orleans tourist attractions include the Audubon Zoo, located in the Uptown area. Here you can experience a Louisiana swamp, marvel at elephants, or search for exotic jaguars and white tigers in the jungle. Get in some shopping in the outlets of Canal Street or the antiques stores and trendy boutiques of Magazine Street. Or you might explore the unique architecture of the city. Down river from the French Quarter is the residential neighborhood of Faubourg Marigny, with its unique Creole cottages. In the Central Business District is the Piazza d'Italia, a famous piece of postmodern architecture designed by Charles Willard Moore. Between the Superdome and Canal Street is St. Charles Avenue, home of the city's famous streetcars and known for its many old antebellum mansions, including the gracious Benjamin Mansion built in 1907.