Visiting New Orleans

New Orleans is one of the most unique places in the United States. Full of rich complex history, amazing food, and a buzzing nightlife the Big Easy is well worth taking a trip to! Three full days (not including travel days) is a good amount of time to experience most things NOLA has to offer.

Visiting the French Quarter in NOLA
BEST TIME TO VISIT NEW ORLEANS
High Season: February to late May

The city’s busiest time of year with Mardi Gras, the Jazz & Heritage Festival, and Super Sunday. Larger crowds and steep prices will be inevitable. But if this is your scene you will love it! The weather will be warm, but cooler evenings will be perfect for dining outside.

Low Season: July to September 

During these months temperatures can reach up to 90 plus degrees with high humidity and rain. Plus side? There are fewer tourists and lower hotel prices. 

Shoulder Season: October to January

Cooler weather, lower prices, and fewer crowds make this an ideal time to tour the city. And don’t worry – no matter what time of year you go, there will always be a lively party scene!

Mel’s Tip: Restaurants tend to book up very quickly, I made most of the dinner reservations months in advance! I recommend making all reservations prior to visiting.

Best parks to visit in New Orleans
DAY 1 - ARRIVE

Arrive mid to late afternoon and check into your hotel. I stayed in the Eliza Jane and the hotel was perfectly located with a beautiful interior and a stunning bar.

Dinner: Herbsaint Bar & Restaurant. A short walk from Eliza Jane is the upscale French & American restaurant with views of St. Charles Avenue & outdoor seating. After dinner, you will experience one of the many things New Orleans is known for, Jazz music! 

Preservation Hall is a historic music venue located in the French Quarter. Make sure to purchase your tickets in advance!

Still wanting more music or to party? Check out the Dueling Pianos at Pat O’Brians around the corner. 

Eliza Jane Hotel
DAY 2 - EXPLORE THE CITY

Breakfast: Surrey’s Cafe & Juice Bar {Take the streetcar, get off on St Charles + Euterpe or walk from Eliza Jane about 1 mile}

Mel’s Sightseeing Tour:

In the northern area of New Orleans, there are many great sites that aren’t as touristy. I recommend visiting them only if you have time, if you are in NOLA for a shorter amount of time then I would go straight to the French Quarter.

How to get there: Uber or take the Streetcar.

  • Metairie Cemetery (Streetcar Stop: Canal Blvd Terminal). One of the most famous cemeteries, resting here lies civil war generals, mayors, governors, and artists.
  • City Park (1-mile walk from the Metairie Cemetary or Uber). This 1,300-acre park is an outdoor oasis with 900-year-old Oak Trees. There are also many things to do and see inside the park. City Park Attractions.
    • Mel’s Tip: Try the famous Cafe Du Monde beignets here. You will avoid long lines and wait times!
  • St. Louis Cemetery No. 3. Established in 1854 with elaborate above-ground mausoleums, tombs & gravestones.
  • The Luling Mansion. Once one of the grandest buildings, now decaying, the Luling Mansion was built for the wealthy German cotton merchant in 1865.

Lunch: Willie Mae’s Scotch House for Fried Chicken. THE BEST FRIED CHICKEN! Family-owned and operated since 1957, home to seriously the best-fried chicken and soul food.

With a full belly, it is now time to explore the heart of New Orleans, the French Quarter. Colorful buildings with cast-iron balconies and a vibrant atmosphere, there are endless streets and places to explore here.

French Quarter:
  • Louis Armstrong Park
  • Jackson Square
    • St. Louis Cathedral
    • The Cabildo
  • French Market District (Peters St)
  • Cafe Du Monde AND Cafe Beignet to compare which Beignets are tastier! Please write in the comments which beignet you prefer.
  • Woldenberg Park
  • Marigny/Bywater Artwalk
  • Royal Street. This street is beautiful to walk down.
  • Bourbon Street. No matter what time of day you walk down this street, it is wild!
  • Try a famous Muffuletta Sandwich at Napoleons House
  • Craving wine? Check out the Bacchanal wine bar

Sunset Drinks: Hot Tin Rooftop Bar. Make sure you are here around sunset, the views of the city are stunning.

Dinner: Shaya. Modern Israeli cuisine, with fresh oven-cooked pita bread. The James Beard Award-winning restaurant is an absolute must.

DAY 3 - EXPLORE THE BAYOU

Breakfast: Willa Jean the slogan here is “in biscuits, we trust,” I think that is all that is needed to be said. The food here is incredible, it was hard not to go back for every breakfast (but you can if you’d like!)

Swamp Tour: 

Gators & Ghosts Airboat Swamp Tour. This tour was the highlight of the trip! It was so much fun and informative, I suggest splurging and doing the small 9 person boat tour. You are able to go to places in the swamp that other boats can’t get to, allowing you to see more alligators and other wildlife. It is a fun, loud, and fast tour – so if you are traveling with little ones do pick a larger boat or else they might be gator bait! kidding 🙂 

Mel’s Tip: If you are in NOLA for a shorter period of time and would like to do a Plantation tour as well, do a combination tour of the Swamp and Plantation. Scroll to “Day 5” for more tour options.

Lunch: Mother’s Po Boy. Time to try a famous Po Boy! 

Cocktail Bar Tour:

Freshen up in the hotel and prepare yourself for a cocktail tour of New Orleans. 

  1. French 75 Bar. Pinky’s up! The most famous cocktail at the French 75 is, well, the French 75! Its distinct mixture is served in a frosted champagne tulip glass.
  2. Carousel Bar. Go around and around on a circular bar that resembles a carousel! 
  3. The Sazerac Bar. NOLA is known for Sazerac and what better place to try, than in a sophisticated and elegant setting inside the Roosevelt Hotel. Love Sazerac? Take a visit to the Sazerac House and see how it is made.

Seafood Dinner: Peche or if you want to stay in the French Quarter go to GW Finns.

Nightout: Bourbon Street (if you dare). There are so many bars here, to be honest, with NOLA open container law, you don’t even need to go inside a bar to feel a part of the party! Some of the more iconic bars are Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, Old Absinthe House, Tropical Isle, Famous Door, Bourbon Cowboy, & The World Famous Cats Meow.

DAY 4 - EXPLORE THE GARDEN DISTRICT

Jazz Brunch: Commanders Palace (take the St. Charles Streetcar and get off on St Charles + Washington). Your NOLA trip is not complete without attending an iconic Jazz Brunch. Make sure you come with a massive appetite and depending on the time of year you go, sit outside in the quaint courtyard!

Garden District:

Explore the charming Garden District, full of beautiful mansions, lavish gardens, and oak-shaded streets. Boutique and antique shops sit alongside Magazine Street.

  • Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Sadly now closed to the public, but still, peek your head in!
  • Walk Magazine Street
  • House of Broel
  • Buckner Mansion

Saint Charles Street Car: If you have time take the historic St. Charles Streetcar to sightsee. It is the oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world, since 1835. Tickets are only $3 for the day. You can take the streetcar to Tulane University and Audubon Park with many beautiful sites along the way.

Happy Hour: Jewel of the South. The cocktails made here are crafted under a James Beard Award winner. And they live up to the hype!

Dinner: Brennan’s fine-dining known for Creole cuisine and bananas foster dessert, with beautiful seating. Request to dine in the courtyard or the room with views of the courtyard. 

Ghost Tour: Hottest Hell Tours Ready to learn the horrors of New Orleans? The nighttime tour takes you through some of the most haunted places in the city.

Nightout: Frenchman Street is famed for its live music. Spotted Cat, Blue Nile, and D.B.A were my personal favorites.

DAY 5 - PLANTATION TOUR & DEPART

Breakfast: Bearcat NOLA A newer restaurant in NOLA, but not to be missed. Many breakfast options for all diet restrictions as well and still insanely tasty!

If your flight is not till later in the day or evening look into visiting a Plantation. Each plantation offers its own snapshot into the region’s tragic history. Oak Valley is the most picturesque, Whitney gives the tour through the slave’s point of view, Houmas House Plantation and Gardens is more of a scenic and architecture tour, and Laura gives a great presentation of both free and enslaved.

Plantation Tour Options:

Sadly depart this beautiful city!

IS NEW ORLEANS SAFE?

Unfortunately, New Orleans’ violent crime rate is several times above the national average. There are a lot of gun-point robberies, even in tourists areas. That being said, if you are cautious and aware of your surroundings you should be fine. Keep your valuables close to you and stay vigilant as to what is going on around you. 

As for walking around at night, always take the streetcar (ends at 11 pm) or an Uber/Lyft. Walking a short distance is fairly safe, as long as it’s in busy a neighborhood or area. Avoid sketchy areas or dark side streets that scream danger. If possible stick with a group after dark.

If you are still leery but want to go out to the bars at night? Consider doing a bar crawl with a tour guide. This way you are always with a large group and guide.

Here are a few I found online:

MORE NEW ORLEANS RECOMENDATIONS

Of course, like any trip, you cannot see and do it all. Below is a list of many other things to do, restaurants, and bars in New Orleans. Feel free to always pick and choose other places to mix them in the itinerary to fit your needs!

Restaurants:
  • St. Roch Market
  • Josephine Estelle
  • Sylvain
  • Galatoire’s (fine dining)
  • Gris Girs NOLA
  • August
  • Dooky Chase’s Restaurant for Gumbo
  • Antoine’s (fine dining, lunch is more reasonably priced)
  • Cochon Butcher
  • Coquette (lunch)
  • Cafe Amelie
  • Coop’s Place (Jambalaya)
  • Joey K’s (beans and rice)
  • Po-Boys:
    • Killer Poboys at Erin Rose
    • The “All That Jazz” Po-boy from Verti Marte
    • The Ferdi Special from Mother’s
    • The Slow Roasted Duck Po-Boy at Crabby Jack’s
    • The Fried Shrimp Po-Boy at Parkway Bakery & Tavern
    • The Fried Oyster Po-Boy from Domilise
    • The Buffalo Shrimp and Blue Cheese from Avery’s on Tulane
    • Johnny’s Po-Boys
  • Brunch:
    • Court of Two Sisters (famous jazz brunch)
    • Cafe Amelie
  • Praline Cookies:
    • Loretta’s Authentic Praline
    • Southern CandyMakers
    • Leah’s Pralines
  • Snowballs
    • Williams Plum Street Snowballs
    • Hansens Sno-Bliz
Bars:
  • Bacchanal wine bar
  • Tujague’s
  • Jack Rose
  • The Boot
  • Snake & Jake’s Xmas Club Lounge (Dive Bar)
  • The Saint
  • Music/Jazz Bars
    • Frenchman Street (a lot of Jazz places)
    • Maple Leaf (Brass Band)
    • Le Bon Temps (Thursday Night)
    • Tipitina’s
    • Howlin Wolf
  • The Gazebo Cafe
  • Erin Rose
  • Drive-Thru Daiquiris
  • New Orleans Distillery on Tchoupitoulas
  • The Absinthe Room
  • Old New Orleans Rum Distillery
  • Rooftop Bars:
    • Monkey Board
    • Capulet
    • Atop
More Activities:
  • Steamboat Cruise
  • Bayou St. John
  • Chalmette Battlefield
  • Voodoo Tour
  • Cemetery Tour (St. Louis Cemetery, Lafayette Cemetery, Metairie Cemetery)
  • Mardi Gras World
  • The Music Box Village
  • Abandoned Jazzland
  • Jazz Museum
  • World War II Museum
  • Pharmacy Museum
  • Museum of the American Cocktail
  • Museum of Art
  • Drive through the 9th Ward
  • Haunted Mortuary
  • Saint Roch Chapel
  • Backstreet Cultural Museum
  • Southern Food & Beverage Museum
  • Kayak-iti-Yat
  • Jean Lafitte National Historical Park: Barataria Preserve

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