Don't let bad weather ruin your vacation ... there are plenty of things to do in New Orleans on a rainy day!
You'll find tons of indoor activities below, from tried and true NOLA traditions to rainy day activities you might have never thought of. There is something for everyone!
New Orleans is known for a lot of things ... Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, beignets, and so much more! But did you know that it's also one of the rainiest cities in the U.S.?
With its humid climate, New Orleans averages 59 rainy days and 64 inches of rain a year. That's more than Seattle!
If you stick around NOLA long enough, chances are you'll experience a rainy day or two during your visit. A dreary day I spent there recently actually inspired me to write this story!
Thankfully, a little rain doesn't have to ruin your trip, because there are lots of fun things to do on a rainy day in New Orleans!
Best Things to Do In New Orleans on a Rainy Day
Wondering what there is to do in New Orleans on a rainy day? The answer is: lots of stuff!
Don't let a little rain ruin your fun! Check out my favorite things to do when it's raining in New Orleans instead.
Ride the St. Charles Streetcar
Riding a streetcar is one of the best things to do in New Orleans, rain or shine! There are four lines, but I especially love the St. Charles Streetcar.
You can hop on the streetcar on Canal Street just outside the French Quarter, then ride it along St. Charles Avenue, ending up on Carrollton Avenue. Along the way, you'll pass by historic mansions, Loyola University, Audubon Park, and more.
It will take you about 90-minutes round trip. A ride costs $1.25 each way ($2.50 round trip), and you will need to have exact change or a pass. I recommend downloading the GoMobile App and buying a Jazzy Pass instead. A one day Jazzy Pass is only $3, and it's good for unlimited streetcar, bus, and ferry rides for 24 hours (a total bargain!).
Want to check out one of the other streetcar lines? Try one of these lines instead:
- Canal Streetcar: this line has two routes. Both start on Canal Street, but one goes to City Park and the other goes to Cemeteries (at the end of Canal). Check the front of the streetcar (or ask the driver) before you get on to make sure you're headed to the right place.
- UPT-Riverfront Streetcar: this route starts near the Jazz Museum and runs along the edge of the French Quarter (near the river), passing by the French Market and Woldenberg Park. At the Aquarium of the Americas, it turns onto Canal Street for a while before turning onto Elk Place / Loyola Avenue, which takes you through the CBD / Warehouse District.
- Rampart Streetcar (Temporarily Closed): this is the newest NOLA streetcar. It runs from the Union Passenger Terminal to Elysian Fields Ave, passing by modern buildings, classic New Orleans architecture, and Louis Armstrong Park along the way. Get off at the end and explore the Faubourg Marigny and St. Roch neighborhoods.
Why not spend your rainy day in New Orleans shopping? There are so many fun options!
- Royal Street: The French Quarter is full of shops, and many of them super cheesy and full of touristy crap! For better luck, head down beautiful Royal Street. You'll find everything from antiques to art to cute boutiques.
- Magazine Street: I love shopping on Magazine Street. It's full of unique shops selling home decor, clothes, antiques, gifts, and so much more! Not to mention coffee shops and restaurants ... perfect for when you need a short shopping break. Take the #11 bus or St. Charles Streetcar to get there from the French Quarter.
- French Market: A visit to NOLA isn't complete with a stroll through the French Market which stretches for six blocks along the edge of the French Quarter. You'll find everything from candy to souvenirs to clothes, as well as daily flea and farmers markets.
- Malls: If you're really feeling antsy for things to do, head to the mall. Canal Place is an upscale mall located on the edge of the French Quarter on (you guessed it) Canal Street. Then, head to The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk and see if you can find a bargain.
- Book Shops: Did you know that NOLA has an amazing literary scene? If you're an avid reader, a visit to a least one of New Orleans Bookstores is a must.
Eat Your Way Through the City
This city is known for its unique food culture. From po-boys to gumbo to beignets, a rainy day in New Orleans just might be the excuse you need to try it all!
As a vegetarian, I kind of have a love / hate relationship with this city's food (it can be hard, especially in the French Quarter). If you eat meat and seafood though, you are golden!
There are too many amazing restaurants too mention them all, but these are all worth a stop:
- Po-Boys: I love Killer Po-Boys in the French Quarter. They have options that will keep both meat eaters and vegans happy (not easy to find in NOLA!).
- Muffaletta: You can't beat Central Grocery in the French Quarter. Stop by early, because they often run out. And if you ask nicely, they'll make you a vegetarian muffaletta.
- Beignets: Get in line for a table at Cafe Du Monde ... don't forget your umbrella for the wait! Order a big plate of beignets to share (or not), plus a cafe au lait to wash it all down.
- Upscale: Blow your budget at Commander's Palace, Galatoire's, Jacques-Imo's, or one of the many other iconic New Orleans restaurants.
- Something Different: Head to District Donuts, N 7, Carmo, Juan's Flying Burrito, or Red's Chinese.
Looking for more ideas? You can check out all of my favorite vegetarian-friendly New Orleans restaurants here. And here's a fun guide to the best New Orleans food and where to eat it, plus one critic's guide to the best New Orleans restaurants by cuisine.
Watch Live Music
One of the best ways to pass a rainy day in NOLA is listening to jazz, brass, R&B, soul, and more. You'll find live music throughout the city... there are so many options that you almost don't need to seek it out!
Take a walk down Frenchmen Street, wander in somewhere, and grab a stool. You probably won't be disappointed!
For something different (think rockabilly, swing, and zydeco), head to Rock 'n' Bowl. This place has a soft spot in my heart, because I got married in New Orleans, and we had our rehearsal dinner there!
Tour a Distillery or Brewery
A cultural or history tour is the perfect rainy day activity, and New Orleans has quite a few options.
Interested in something other than a history or art? Take a brewery or distillery tour instead! Nola Brewing Company has a free tour on Fridays. Signups start at 3:00 PM, and you can enjoy a free beer while you wait for the tour to start.
If beer isn’t your thing, book a distillery tour at Happy Raptor, which specializes in flavored rum, or NOLA Distillery, which produces a variety of spirits. For something different, grab a table at Wetlands Sake. No tours, but the taproom has windows overlooking the brewing facility.
Visit Mardi Gras World
I can't think of a more colorful way to spend a rainy day than a tour at Mardi Gras World!
This fun museum and workshop takes you behind the scenes of Mardi Gras. It's a one of a kind place where you'll be able to watch the colorful floats and props being built by talented artists.
This is one of my favorite places in NOLA rain or shine. I wrote a whole guide to everything you'll see at Mardi Gras World ... make sure to check it out before your visit!
See a Movie
Sometimes a movie is the perfect antidote to a dreary day, and New Orleans has some great theaters to keep you entertained.
For old school charm, get tickets to a show at the Prytania Theatre. This single screen theater has been in business for over 100 years! They also have a newer theater in Canal Place downtown.
The Broad is another independent theater you're sure to love. Grab a cocktail or beer before the show, then enjoy the show.
Go Bar Hopping
Okay, so normally I wouldn't promote a day spent drinking on Hello Little Home ... but this is New Orleans after all!
And there are definitely worse things to do in New Orleans on a rainy day than traveling from bar to bar. Just try to pace yourself.
The French Quarter is the perfect place to while away the hours in a bar, since there's one on pretty much every corner. Here are a few places to get you started:
- Napoleon House has been around for over 200 years and is a must see. Get a Pimm's Cup or another classic cocktail.
- Pat O'Brien's ... their Hurricanes are a classic NOLA cocktail you have to try, and you might want to stay awhile to listen to the dueling pianos.
- Backspace is a low key place with good cocktails and food.
- Molly's at the Market is a dive bar that's one of my husband's faves. Makes a good pit stop on your way to Frenchmen Street.
- Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop ... at 300 years old, this is reputed to be the oldest building used as a bar in the U.S. It's located on Bourbon Street and gets super crowded, so stop by earlier in the day for a Purple Drink.
Not sure what to drink? Try a classic New Orleans cocktail.
I've already mentioned Rock 'n' Bowl once, but I'm going to do it again, because I like it so much!
Rock 'n' Bowl is the perfect place to get away from the crush of people and drunks (you may be one if you took my advice above!) found in the French Quarter. With bowling, food, drinks, and live music, you are sure to have a great time here!
Visit a Museum
New Orleans may be known for its partying, but it's also full of culture and museums, with exhibits that range from the classic to the kooky (RIP Musee Conti Wax Museum!).
The last time I was in town on a rainy day, I spent it at the New Orleans Museum of Art. It was the perfect way to enjoy the day without getting soaked, and the weather even cleared up enough to check out the beautiful sculpture garden and City Park in the afternoon.
New Orleans is full of great museums. There are too many to mention them all, but here are a few on my radar:
- Check out the cool and creepy history of medicine at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
- The National WWII Museum is one of the top museums in the U.S., and it is amazing! Add it to your New Orleans bucket list ... rainy day or not!
- Head to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas to enjoy an underwater world.
- Visit the Backstreet Cultural Museum to learn about the history and to see the intricate costumes of Mardi Gras Indians.
- The Ogden Museum is known for its wonderful collection of southern art. Across the street, you can also visit the Contemporary Arts Center, and the WWII Museum is just a block away.
Other Things to Do in New Orleans
Now that you know how to spend a rainy day in New Orleans, you can start planning the rest of your trip! Start by reading by reading my New Orleans Travel Guide ... it has everything you need to know to plan your trip.
Then, check out some of my favorite things to do in NOLA:
- Tour a city of the dead. New Orleans is known for its beautiful cemeteries. Take a self-guided walking tour of my favorite, Lafayette No. 1 in the Garden District.
- Admire the unique architecture. Speaking of the Garden District, you can't visit NOLA without viewing its jawdropping homes. A walking tour of the Garden District is the best way take them all in.
- Escape the tourists. It's never not touristy in New Orleans. Need a break from all the people? Take the ferry across the river to quiet, charming Algiers Point.
- Deal with the crazy weather. New Orleans is notorious for its bad weather ... here's how you can beat the heat in summer.
- Grab a bite to eat. If you're traveling with a vegetarian, this can be a tricky city. Check out my favorite New Orleans vegetarian-friendly restaurants that will please your whole group (veg or not!)
- Save a buck. NOLA can get expensive, but not every activity has to be super pricey. Here are my favorite free things to do in New Orleans.
Have you ever been stuck in the rain on vacation?