A weekend in New Orleans (NOLA) is never enough! But if 2-3 days is all you have, then it’s best to invest it wisely, to see, sip, eat and listen to all The Big Easy has to offer. This New Orleans itinerary is filled to the brim with classic NOLA experiences that will leave you wanting more.
How many days do you need in New Orleans?
More than you think! While a 2-3 day weekend getaway in New Orleans is great to dip your toe in, you’ll find there is so much to do and experience that you’ll soon be booking another trip.
If you are visiting for a specific festival, such as Carnival or the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, I recommend tagging on an extra 2-3 days to look around the city itself, beyond the program of celebrations.
Is New Orleans safe to visit?
New Orleans has one of the highest crime rates of all US cities. However, much of the crime in concentrated in particular neighbourhoods. Generally, the places a traveller would want to go are on the safer side. Not that you should be complacent in any way. Even in the French Quarter where police presence is high, petty crime and scammers abound.
Make sure you secure any personal items from potential pickpockets. If you appear overly intoxicated or flash around valuables, you’re going to become a target. Don’t wander around alone, particularly at night. Stay out of empty-looking backstreets and cemeteries (unless you are on a tour). If you don’t know where you’re going or how to navigate there safely, get a cab or rideshare. See more travel security tips here.
Where to stay in New Orleans?
I recommend staying in the downtown area, just across Canal Street from the French Quarter. There you’ll benefit from proximity but avoid a lot of noise in the evenings. Also, accommodation tends to be slightly less expensive in this area than in the Vieux Carré (French for “Old Square” and another name for the French Quarter).
3-day weekend in New Orleans itinerary
On arrival, check into your hotel and head for a classic New Orleans bar for a classic New Orleans cocktail: maybe a Vieux Carré (the cocktail) at Carousel Bar or a Sazerac at its namesake bar in the Grand Roosevelt Hotel.
Spend your morning in the Garden District enjoying a walking tour of the neighbourhood’s 19th century mansions and seeking out some celeb homes. I recommend New Orleans Architecture Tours, as they combine the architecture aspect with a look around Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 – checking off another NOLA to-do.
Follow up with a Jazz Brunch at Commander’s Palace (make sure you book ahead). Forgot to make a reservation? Just wander a few blocks down to Magazine Street and you’ll have a choice of eateries. Ruby Slipper is a great brunch spot and we love the food at Shaya.
Take the historic St Charles Avenue Streetcar back to the French Quarter—it’s only $1.25 for a one-way trip on the world’s oldest continuously running streetcar route! Wander down Bourbon Street as it starts to amp up for the evening (but isn’t super messy yet).
Make your way to Frenchmen Street for dinner, cocktails and live music. Also, explore the Frenchmen Art Market that runs until late into the evening.
Start the day with beignets and a café au lait at Café Du Monde. Be prepared to wait in a long line, it usually moves reasonably quickly. Alternatively, go to Café Beignet, it doesn’t have the high profile of Café Du Monde but the beignets are just as good and the atmosphere is arguably better.
Explore Jackson Square, St Louis Cathedral and the French Quarter. Don’t forget to cross through Washington Artillery Park and stand on the banks of the Mississippi too. I highly recommend taking a walking tour to learn about the architecture and hidden histories of this beautiful, old neighbourhood. Fascinating stories and secret sights can be found all over this part of town, if you know where to look.
Gumbo Shop is a nice, casual spot to sample some classic Cajun and Creole dishes such as gumbo and jambalaya for lunch.
In the late afternoon, attend a live music performance at Preservation Hall, where they stage daily, acoustic sets of New Orleans jazz by a rotating lineup of local musicians. It’s $25 and you will need to book a ticket to ensure you get a seat in the small venue.
Finish up with dinner at Antoine’s Restaurant, the USA’s oldest continuously family-run restaurant. If you’ve wanted to try a Café Brulot, Antoine’s is one of the few places you can still order this historic cocktail. Alternatively, Café Sbisa is another historic establishment serving tasty French-Creole dishes in the French Quarter.
Cruise on out of your long weekend in New Orleans with a relaxing two-hour trip down the mighty Mississippi on a genuine steamboat.
Experts tip: On your way to the airport, pick up a muffuletta from Central Grocery and have them wrap it well. A muffaletta makes the perfect picnic for your trip home, it’s so much better than plane food!
Long weekend in New Orleans map
If you’d like to save and customise the below map, just click on the rectangle in the top right corner and it will open in Google Maps for you to save copy.
Let me know how you find your weekend in New Orleans in the comments below. I’d love to hear your feedback on this New Orleans itinerary, especially if you are a first-time visitor. As I mentioned in the beginning, this is just a toe-in intro to New Orleans. We haven’t even touched upon the museums, swamp tours and other attractions within and outside the city. Nor have you had enough time to sample all the amazing dishes and cocktails. So until next time…
Peace, love & inspiring travel,