New Orleans (Crescent City, the Big Easy, NOLA, whatever you like to call it) is loads of fun. Culture, art, music, nature, nightlife, and plenty of good food–it’s all there in NOLA!
What more can you ask for of a city? It’s personally one of my favorite cities in the world, and in my opinion, not many other US cities top New Orleans in terms of entertainment and culture. That’s why I always find myself visiting New Orleans at least once every two years! I really can’t get enough of this spectacular city.
If you’re not sure what to expect of NOLA, here’s a list that’ll stir your imagination. French-influenced architecture? Everywhere! Drinking in the streets until the wee hours of the morning? Check. Gas station fried chicken (yum). Check. Live music playing at every street corner? Check. The opportunity to learn more about voodoo culture? Check. Cemetery and ghost tours? Yes and yes!
There really is no better place to vacation for a long weekend or even a full week! As you can already see, there is absolutely no shortage of things to do in New Orleans. This 5-day New Orleans itinerary features all of my favorite things to do in New Orleans, ranging from must-do tourist activities to the off-the-beaten-path gems.
The ultimate goal of this post is to help you plan the perfect 5 days in New Orleans. Whether you’re planning for a romantic getaway, a bachelor or bachelorette party, or just a family trip, we’ve got you covered. Read on to discover some of our favorite sights and activities (and food options) in New Orleans!
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HOW MANY DAYS TO SPEND IN NEW ORLEANS
New Orleans is packed to the brim with things to do. Many people associate NOLA with just Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, which can easily be explored in 1-2 days. It is important to note, though, that there are lots and lots of attractions outside of the French Quarter district.
Some even require you to leave the city limits (such as for plantation tours and swamp tours). You’ll need to keep this in mind when deciding how many days to spend in New Orleans.
For first-timers, we highly recommend that you start with a minimum of 4 full days in New Orleans. This usually means taking time off of work to catch a flight into town on Wednesday afternoon and staying until Sunday or even Monday night.
Having said that, I have done multiple 4-day trips to New Orleans, yet I never feel like it’s enough time!
Personally, I think 5 days is the perfect amount of time to spend in New Orleans. You still won’t be able to see everything the city offers, but you’ll be able to hit a bunch of the city’s highlights!
WHERE TO STAY IN NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
New Orleans is a pretty large city. It’s not as compact as cities like San Francisco, California or Lisbon, Portugal. Despite its size, the city center of New Orleans is still pretty walkable. You’ll want to make one of these three districts your home base.
You’ll likely be spending a lot of time in the French Quarter, making it one of the best areas to stay in thanks to its convenient location to some of the best things to do in the city, including the iconic Bourbon Street. While the hotels here are very convenient and central, they are often not the cheapest.
We did a lot of research on this, and here are some of our top recommendations for the French Quarter:
- The NOPSI Hotel – By far our favorite boutique hotel in all of New Orleans! Not only do we love the clean and elegant design of the rooms, but we love how conveniently located it is from everything.
- Hotel Le Marais – Tucked away on a side street within the French Quarter, Hotel Le Marais is another great option with close proximity to everything. Even though you’re close to Bourbon Street, you can rest assured you will get a great night of quiet sleep!
Another wonderful neighborhood to stay in is in the Garden District. This is where you’ll find many historic mansions, lush greenery, and lots of great dining and shopping options.
If you’re looking for a quieter, more spacious neighborhood to stay in, look for lodging/hotels in the Garden District.
- St Charles Coach House, Ascend Hotel Collection – The rooms are exceptionally modern/comfortable and the front desk personnel are always super friendly. The hotel’s location on St Charles Ave is perfectly situated for almost everything you’ll want to do in NOLA. Lots of restaurants are within short walking distance.
- Maison Perrier Bed & Breakfast – I have so many good things to say about this B&B! If you want to stay in a spot with historic charm, this B&B for you! The rooms are all unique from one another, and there are also so many little hospitable perks of staying here: free, home-cooked breakfast is served every morning, complimentary tea, fresh-baked cookies, brownies or cakes are available any time, and gourmet fruit and cheese board services are served in the evenings on Fridays and Saturdays!
Our last recommendation on where to stay is The Arts District of New Orleans, also known as the Warehouse District. This area has recently undergone a facelift and is becoming a bustling hub for art, museums, and good food.
Another perk? Its proximity to some of the best New Orleans attractions! The Arts-Warehouse District is next to the French Quarter, so it’s super central to everything.
- Ace Hotel New Orleans – seriously one of the most gorgeous and unique hotels in NOLA. It’s decorated with artwork from local artists and features a rooftop bar, award-winning restaurant, seasonal outdoor pool, fitness center, and live music on-site. The Ace Hotel is just a 5-minute walk to Harrah’s Casino.
GETTING AROUND NEW ORLEANS
New Orleans is a place where you can get around easily without a car.
If you’re staying near the French Quarter, Warehouse District, or Business District, then you’ll be able to walk to a lot of places on foot. While you’re in the French Quarter, getting around is easy as the area is compact.
If you’re staying farther away or want to explore other neighborhoods, there’s public transportation that consists of streetcars and buses. Nearly all of the city’s top attractions (Garden District, City Park, New Orleans Museum of Art ) can be reached via streetcar or bus.
The streetcar will take you to Garden District, to various cemeteries, popular parks, etc. The bus is a good option if you’re in need of more extensive routes. Check out the RTA website for more information on bus routes and schedules.
One-way fares on streetcars and buses cost $1.25 per person. If you plan to take public transportation a lot, there’s the Jazzy Pass, which offers unlimited rides on both buses and streetcars for 1, 3, 5, or 31 days.
For every other occasion, you can rely on rideshare apps like Uber/Lyft. On all of my previous trips, we used Lyft to get to the farther away places whenever we didn’t feel like walking.
Personally, I would not rent a car in NOLA unless you are planning on going on a lot of day trips outside of the city center. First off, parking at your hotel might be a pain in the butt and cost you an arm and a leg. Secondly, parking in touristy neighborhoods will also likely be a pain in the butt.
Having said that, if you plan on exploring the outskirts of town or want to go on the swamp tours, plantation tours, or gulf shores, that it might make sense to rent a car. Even still, many of the plantation tours come with drop off/pick up from hotels.
Now that we’ve gotten the logistics out of the way, let’s dive into breaking down your 5 perfect days in New Orleans, LA!
5 DAYS IN NEW ORLEANS: DAY 1
From po’boys to crawfish, urban parks to open-air markets, and a multitude of jazz venues to street performances at every turn, there is no shortage of things to do in New Orleans, Louisiana. Day 1 is all about getting situated, getting a feel for the lay of the land, and taking in the local culture!
TAKE A FREE WALKING TOUR
Welcome to New Orleans! We’re going to start you off with a free walking tour of the French Quarter,
In a city that dazzles visitors with its remarkable architecture, the French Quarter is certainly one of the most iconic districts, with Spanish, Caribbean, French, and American influences all balled up into one.
The French Quarter is one of NOLA’s most historic neighborhoods and is even a designated National Historic Landmark. For many people, all they see of the French Quarter is Bourbon Street. These folks are missing out on so much fascinating and rich history!
On this morning tour, you’ll wander the historic streets of the Old District, peeking into historic churches, discovering hidden courtyards, all while learning about New Orleans history and being entertained by tories of authors, artists, priests, and pirates!
Free Tours By Foot offers a lot of pay-what-you-wish walking tours. Over the course of my many trips to NOLA, I’ve taken pretty much all of them. They’re fun, super informational, and totally worth the 2 hours you’ll spend taking it!
If you can swing it, I’d highly recommend taking a second walking tour during the course of your trip.
SHOP AND DINE AT THE FRENCH MARKET
At this point, you’ll likely be hungry. Head for the French Market to pair some more exploration with a hearty meal!
Strolling around the French Market (in the French Quarter) is one of my favorite things to do in New Orleans. This is where people go to get their fill of shopping, dining, music, and local NOLA tradition. The charming open-air market spans five blocks and contains a wide variety of restaurants and shops, a farmer’s market, and a flea market selling specialty art and handmade goods.
Do come hungry, because the food options here are endless! Don’t miss the large variety of food stands, full-service eateries, and outdoor dining spaces at the Farmers Market Pavilion.
While you’re here, browse the food stalls for snacks and other packaged edible goods to take home! Some ideas for food items to bring home: spices, beignet mix, hot sauce, local candy, and flavored nuts.
Once you’re done with your meal, follow it up with beignets from the nearby Cafe Du Monde. If you’re looking to buy local crafts, check out the tax-free Dutch Alley Artists’ Co-op.
CATCH LIVE PERFORMERS AT JACKSON SQUARE
Jackson Square is a National Historic Landmark nestled right in the center of the French Quarter. It’s an absolutely beautiful and entertaining place to hang out for a few hours. Sure it’s picturesque, but there’s one major aspect that draws travelers to Jackson Square (and often compels them to fall in love with NOLA)– the live music and performances that take place on a daily basis!
Unlike street performers in other tourist destinations (whose main purpose is to make money off tourists doing backflips and showing off their pet parrots), the performers and musicians in New Orleans are extremely talented.
Trust me, you won’t regret grabbing a seat on a bench, catching a live performance or two, and watching the time go by. Every time I’m in New Orleans, I carve out a few hours just to sit and enjoy the lively atmosphere in Jackson Square. Definitely some of my fondest memories in New Orleans!
Pro Tip: Grab an afternoon coffee and beignets from Cafe du Monde and enjoy your snack while people-watching in the Square.
ST LOUIS CATHEDRAL
While at Jackson Square, make note of the St. Louis Cathedral! This is one of New Orleans’ most notable landmarks. It has been seen in hundreds of movies, TV shows and other visual presentations in pop culture.
In fact, it is the oldest continuously active Roman Catholic Cathedral in North America, originally founded as a Catholic Parish in 1720 along the Banks of the Mississippi River in New Orleans.
This place is iconic and quintessentially New Orleans, so peek inside, snap a few photos, and admire its grand presence in Jackson Square.
EXPLORE THE FRENCH QUARTER
We know, you just had a tour of the French Quarter. Still, we recommend you head back there to wander the streets at your own pace because there’s a lot to take in.
Take a stroll through the various streets of the neighborhood and soak in the district’s French-influenced architecture. Seriously, get lost in it. There’s so much old-world beauty here.
Along with its bohemian charm, the French Quarter is home to dozens of museums, art galleries, boutiques, long-established restaurants, and bars. Check out all the antique shops, galleries, restaurants, and hotels on Royal Street.
DINNER: FRENCH QUARTER
If you’re looking for a stellar meal in the French Quarter, some classic must-try restaurants include Antoine’s Restaurant, Arnaud’s Restaurant, Galatoire’s, and Brennan’s. Go ahead, eat your heart out.
These spots are all iconic and delicious. Take a look at the menus and decide which best suits your tastebuds. Because of how popular these restaurants are, you’ll want to make reservations ahead of time if possible!
Looking for a place in the French Quarter to brunch for the next few days? My favorite spot is Cafe Amelie–you gotta get the shrimp and grits here. For daytime drinks on a hot day, head to Napoleon House and try a Pimm’s Cup! Remember these places for later and try to slot them in when you find time in your 5-day NOLA itinerary!
NIGHTLIFE ON BOURBON STREET
Bourbon Street doesn’t need too much explanation, other than the fact that it’s pure craziness and the go-to spot for partying all night long. Begin your night at Pat O’Briens for drinks, mingling by the piano bar, and live music (sure, it’s touristy, but you gotta get one or two of those sweet, sweet Hurricanes that’ll slowly creep up on you).
On your night adventures, be sure to head to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar to experience the oldest bar in the country (it was established back in the 1700’s, is one of the only surviving examples of a Creole cottage in the French Quarter, and is possibly even haunted). Then, head to Ticklers Dueling Piano Bar for more fun, live music!
If you’re done with live music and want to turn it up a notch, head to Saints and Sinners, Channing Tatum’s bar, for a touristy, good ol’ time (yes, it’ll be a little reminiscent of those fraternity house party days–for those of you who know what I’m talking about).
Even if you’re not planning on drinking or dancing, a stroll down Bourbon Street during the night hours is an experience not to be missed!
5 DAYS IN NEW ORLEANS: DAY 2
TAKE A FREE VOODOO TOUR
Voodoo tours in New Orleans tend to be pretty popular since voodoo is a subculture that isn’t as prevalent in other parts of the United States. I highly recommend Free Tours By Foot’s pay-what-you-wish New Orleans Voodoo Tour.
This tour dives into the history, culture, and beliefs of both historic and current practitioners. Along the way, they’ll also touch upon the history of slavery, Haitian rebellions, the voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, and also explain the truths behind popular superstitions. The tour ends with a stop inside a Voodoo temple and a chance to pick up some New Orleans “gris-gris” to take home.
Of all the tours I’ve done in New Orleans over the years, the voodoo tours were my favorite–simply because they’re jam-packed with so much educational and historical information!
Pro Tip: There is usually a morning tour and an afternoon tour. If you can’t make the morning one, you’ll have another chance to catch it later in the day. Check the Free Tours By Foot website for the latest info.
EAT A PO BOY
If there’s a food that encapsulates the essence of New Orleans, it’s the po’boy! Po’boys are basically sandwiches filled with anything from fried oysters to fried shrimp, fried crawfish to fried fish, and even roast beef with gravy, fried chicken, soft shell crab, hot sausage, turkey and more.
You won’t have to look hard for a joint that sells po’boys (a lot of restaurants have them on their menus) but my favorite spots are Guy’s Po Boys, Killer Po’Boys, and Parkway Bakery & Tavern (this one is a little farther out, but so worth the trip).
VISIT MARDI GRAS WORLD
If you can’t make it out to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, don’t fret. You can still get a taste of the carnival season on a tour of Mardi Gras World! Mardi Gras World is not an amusement park or anything, it’s actually a working studio where they create and store Mardi Gras floats.
On Mardi Gras World’s behind-the-scenes tour, you can peek behind the curtain and catch a glimpse of what they’re currently working on, as well as check out a bunch of historic floats, costumes, and decorations from past Mardi Gras festivals.
Along with the tour of the carnival float factory, you’ll be given beads, have the chance to try King Cake, and even get the chance to try on costumes!
The first tours beginning at 9:30 am and the last tours begin at 4:30 p.m. Admission costs $22.
TAKE A CRUISE ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER
If you find yourself strolling down the riverfront of New Orleans, chances are you’ll spot many riverboats cruising down the Mississippi River. Consider hopping on one yourself! A river cruise in NOLA means you’ll get to experience the bustling activity of America’s second-largest port.
While onboard the vessel, you can stroll the deck, admire the iconic paddlewheel, enjoy live music, and snap a few shots of the beautiful Crescent City skyline.
There are 2 main paddlewheel vessels to choose from–the Creole Queen and the Steamboat Natchez. There are lots of riverboat cruise options, including evening jazz dinner cruises and daytime cruises with live music included.
Pro Tip: If you’re traveling on a budget and still want to experience a ride on the river, you could take the Algiers Ferry across the Mississippi for just $2 each way, however, it won’t come with live commentary or live music!
TAKE A GHOST TOUR
A ghost tour is so uniquely New Orleans and is so fun to do, especially with a group of friends! Discover New Orleans’ dark side on a 2‐hour history ghost tour with Haunted History Tours. Hear tales of famous hauntings from your local guide, and visit the French Quarter’s most infamous and eerie locations.
The ghost tour we booked a few years back for our bachelorette party group of 8 was a great mix of fun, entertainment, and spookiness!
Each location we visited was paired with some kind of story–some were about real vampire worshippers while others were about ghost encounters. If you’re looking for a different kind of walking tour, this one will have you biting your nails and laughing at the same time!
Free Tours By Foot also has a free ghost tour, and though I can’t speak to its quality, all the other tours I’ve taken with them were awesome.
5 DAYS IN NEW ORLEANS: DAY 3
EXPLORE THE GARDEN DISTRICT
Located just 2.5 miles from the French Quarter, New Orleans’ Garden District feels worlds away and is a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter. Here, you can expect to find grand mansions, beautiful greenery, and great shopping opportunities.
The iconic St. Charles Streetcar is located in this district, as is Magazine Street where you can get in some retail therapy (think high-end boutiques, spas, costume shops and art galleries)!
Most people will take the St. Charles Streetcar from the French Quarter to the Garden District. It costs $1.25 each way and is an easy way to see the beautiful uptown mansions then get to experience the downtown energy (or vice versa). Really, the Garden District is all about admiring the scenery and the grandiose architecture around you!
Also located in the Garden District is Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, which is beautiful and worth a tour or even a quick afternoon stroll. The cemetery is steeped in rich history, as some of the first settlers from Ireland and Germany were buried here. Some of the most notable people buried in Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 are Mayfair Witches, Lafayette and Jefferson fireman. More on that below!
TAKE A CEMETERY TOUR
Now, you may think it’s a little strange to be touring cemeteries, but trust me when I say New Orlean’s cemeteries are a sight to see. Architecturally, the tombs are predominantly above-ground tombs which is very different from what most other places in the US have (this is because New Orleans is actually situated below sea level, which means its water table is too high).
I mean, the Saint Louis Cemetery is just beautiful. It dates to 1789 and is the oldest cemetery still standing in the city.
Visiting the city’s cemeteries is an activity unique to NOLA and the best part is that they’re free to visit. If you want to check out some cemeteries, two of New Orleans’ most famous cemeteries include St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 on the edge of the French Quarter and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in the Garden District.
Don’t feel like visiting on your own? There are various tour groups out there that hold cemetery tours on a daily basis. Below are some highly recommended options:
Fun Fact: Marie Laveau, the most famous voodoo priestess who lived in New Orleans in the 19th century, is said to be buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
LUNCH & SHOPPING: MAGAZINE STREET
After the cemetery tour, head back to the Lower Garden District’s Magazine Street for food and shopping. Magazine Street is a six-mile-long stretch of road boasting an eclectic mix of independent boutique shops, art galleries, pubs, cafes, and restaurants. You could easily spend a few hours of your day in this area!
First thing’s first–food! Magazine Street is a great place to grab a meal (we loved our meal at the Red Dog Diner). Coquette and Atchafalaya Restaurant are also awesome dining options you could try out.
Once you’re done refueling, spend a few moments perusing in some of the shops to check out Mardi Gras costumes, eccentric souvenirs, antiques, and more! If you’re a vintage lover, you’ll especially like Magazine Street!
Don’t forget to make time for a quick pre-dinner happy hour! There are lots of great little bars in the area.
RIDE A HISTORICAL STREETCAR
Once you’re done with lunch, shopping, and happy hour, it’s time to head back to the more central part of town. You can either explore more in the French Quarter or head back to your hotel for a quick rest.
We recommend getting on a streetcar at St. Charles Avenue to take you back to the French Quarter on Canal Street. Again, the ride costs $1.25 each way. The streetcars have no set schedule but usually, arrive every 5-15 minutes.
Keep your eyes peeled because it’s a scenic ride, to say the least.
DINNER: YOUR CHOICE!
There are so many delicious things to eat in New Orleans, so many that I couldn’t possibly drill it down to just one spot!
From epic fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House and Coop’s Place to the best charbroiled oysters ever at Acme Oyster House, and from iconic establishments like Commander’s Palace to Jacques-Imo’s Cafe, the options are endless.
Take your pick! You won’t be disappointed, but definitely bring your stretchy pants.
PALACE MARKET ON FRENCHMEN STREET
After dinner, it’s time to get yourself situated for the liveliness that nightfall brings! We’ll start off your night at the Palace Market.
Not only is Frenchmen Street a great spot to catch live music and grab a few drinks, but it’s also home to the Palace Market, a weekly night art market. The Palace Market hosts various local and regional artists selling anything from art, jewelry, and handmade crafts.
It is open every night except for Saturdays so it’ll be hard to miss when you’re out exploring Frenchmen Street. Just walk towards the string lights and the crowds of other visitors! Who knows, you might find something cool to bring home as a souvenir.
NIGHTLIFE ON FRENCHMEN STREET
If you’re looking for nightlife that’s a bit less wild and touristy than Bourbon Street, head to Frenchmen Street. It’s a whole other side to New Orleans nightlife!
Ask anyone what they think of when asked about Frenchmen Street–chances are, their answer will be live music and festive jazz clubs. Here, it’s all about showcasing local talent (unlike Bourbon Street, where the goal is to rage, rage, rage).
Once the dinner rush ends, the street itself turns into one big jam session, as talented street performers emerge for the night. On Frenchmen, both inside and outside of clubs/venues, you are likely to encounter all types of live performances ranging from traditional jazz to blues to reggae and even rock!
Once you’re ready to head indoors, check out some music clubs like Snug Harbor, the Spotted Cat, d.b.a, and Blue Nile.
5 DAYS IN NEW ORLEANS: DAY 4
Day 4 consists of a little bit of history and exploration and a whole lot of eating!
BRUNCH AT CAFE AMELIE
Café Amelie is known for having one of the most beautiful and romantic courtyards in the Quarter, where guests can choose to dine al fresco or inside the lovely historic Carriage House.
Aside from its quaint and charming setting, the food here is to die for. Honestly, the best shrimp and grits I’ve ever had in my life was at Cafe Amelie! This is one place I come back over and over and over again.
Pro Tip: Make a reservation! If there’s a long wait and you don’t have a reservation, you can ask to eat at the bar.
TAKE A PLANTATION TOUR
If you’re open to venturing out of the city, consider a plantation tour to enhance your understanding of slavery in the past as well as to discover some of the most well-preserved southern plantation estates in the U.S. These tours will teach you about the history of creole mansions and the people who lived there. Most offer guided tours of the mansions, grounds, and slave cabins.
The Oak Alley Plantation is exceptionally picturesque due to the tunnel of 300-year-old oak trees that line the path to the house. A tour here will not only allow you to marvel at the old architecture but will also educate you about the unfortunate truths of plantation life and slavery.
Want to learn more about the history of plantations and slavery, but don’t want to bother with figuring out how to get there? The Whitney Plantation tour and the Oak Alley Plantation tour offer convenient transportation from Central New Orleans. The Whitney Plantation is newly renovated and has an exhibit that specifically focuses on the children of slavery.
Other plantations in the area to consider are the Laura Plantation, the Houmas House Plantation, and the Nottoway Plantation.
TRY A PIMM’S CUP AT NAPOLEON HOUSE
I first discovered what a Pimm’s Cup was when I visited NOLA. Today still, it is my favorite summer afternoon drink! When in New Orleans, you cannot miss out on trying this delightfully light drink.
This refreshing drink was created by James Pimm in London in the 1840s. Pimm’s is a gin-based spirit, made by infusing gin with a secret combination of herbal botanicals, caramelized orange and warm spices.
A hundred years later in the 1940s, the owner of the Napoleon House took Pimm’s No.1 creation and gave it a New Orleans twist by adding lemonade, Seven Up, and cucumber garnish. It’s now become a New Orleans staple, especially during the hot summer months!
Seriously, this drink is so delicious and easy to drink!
DINNER: ST. ROCH MARKET
St. Roch Market is a chef-centric food hall featuring an eclectic mix of local food and drink. This old market hall on St. Claude Avenue came about as a post-Hurricane Katrina renovation between 2012-15.
If you’re open to trying new cuisines, there are 11 exciting dining options all centered around their award-winning craft cocktail bar, The Mayhaw.
The food hall offers all-day dining, counter service, and a variety of other seating options that allow you to dine, grab a drink, work, or just hang out!
BANANAS FOSTER AT BRENNAN’S
In 1951, Owen Brennan challenged his chef to create a dish featuring the banana. The result? The Bananas Foster. This delightful dish is now the most-ordered item on Brennan’s menu.
You can choose to have dinner there, or just stop in after dining elsewhere just for a dessert of Bananas Foster! A lot of people (us included) stop in for just drinks and/or dessert–it’s totally normal.
NIGHTLIFE: BOURBON STREET OR FRENCHMEN STREET
Because obviously once on either of these streets is not enough. Pop into some new bars, catch new bands playing live music, and have a grand old time!
5 DAYS IN NEW ORLEANS: DAY 5
You’ve made it to your last day in New Orleans! By no means does this mean it’s going to be a boring day–NOLA still has a lot in store for you!
JAZZ BRUNCH AT COURT OF TWO SISTERS
For those of you who are all about ambiance and jazzy vibes, you need to partake in the jazz brunch at Court of Two Sisters. All you can eat brunch paired with live jazz music in a beautiful outdoor courtyard? How can it get any better?
You’ll get the chance to enjoy an array of delicious Creole and Cajun cuisine options including turtle soup, gumbo, duck leg confit, blackened fish, fried catfish, shrimp and grits, bread pudding, bananas foster, and much more.
Again, NOLA comes out on top doing what they do best–featuring their great music culture while keeping your bellies happy. This spot is a NOLA classic! Please note, reservations are required.
TAKE A SWAMP TOUR
Being that New Orleans is situated in the Mississippi Delta, it is surrounded by swamps and marshlands. And you know why that’s cool? Because it means travelers like you get a unique opportunity to explore the swamps of Cajun country!
Head out to the swamp on an airboat tour in search of wild boars, turtles, snakes, and alligators. As you pass through the beauty of the bayou, you’ll learn about the history of the marshlands and their inhabitants from your expert captains.
Most of the swamp tours operate just outside of New Orleans’ city limits, 30-45 minutes from the French Quarter. Booking a swamp tour means you’ll be able to simply hop onto a bus that’ll take you out to the swamp and back to the city once your tour is over–easy peasy.
We took a tour of the Honey Island Swamp led by Cajun Encounters and it was by far one of my favorite New Orleans experiences. Highly recommend these guys!
Pro Tip: There are different boat options to choose from on swamp tours, with the airboat tour being the most exhilarating (you’ll alternate between adrenaline-fuelled high speeds and gentle cruising) and the small boat tour being the more relaxing option (allows for better wildlife viewing than larger boat tours; best for families). There are also various swamps to consider, but these are the best ones out there.
SHOP FOR PRALINES TO BRING HOME
At some point, you’re bound to catch a glimpse or a taste of these sweet babies. Introducing the New Orleans praline, an intensely sweet creation made of sugar, butter, and pecans. Pralines are a southern specialty with a load of history behind it.
It’s hard to find one definitive origination story of the praline, but despite the many stories, it is widely agreed that pralines are named after a French diplomat from the early 17th century whose title and name was César, duc de Choiseul, comte du Plessis-Praslin.
Whatever the history, these confectionary delights are worth trying for yourself! The best place to grab a batch (for yourself or for friends) is Aunt Sally’s Praline Shop, Southern Candymakers, or Loretta’s Authentic Pralines.
VISIT THE VOODOO MUSEUM
New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum is a small, eclectic museum dedicated to showcasing the city’s fascinating and mysterious voodoo culture. The museum focuses on New Orleans Voodoo, or Louisiana Voodoo (a blended product of African and European influences that was a result of the cultural melting pot of New Orleans).
The history of voodoo is so interesting, and I found a visit to the voodoo museum to be extremely educational. You’ll find a plethora of interesting artifacts within the museum, including antique voodoo dolls, taxidermy, and talismans. The museum also offers various items for sale, such as potions, books, candles, and even chicken feet. You can even have your fortune told by on-staff practitioners. General admission is $8.
Can’t get enough of the voodoo culture? Stop by Voodoo Authentica to browse and shop for more handmade voodoo goods (voodoo dolls, potions, gris gris bags, artwork, etc). They also have certified practitioners for spiritual readings!
GRAB DRINKS AT THE CAROUSEL BAR
The carousel bar, located within Hotel Monteleone, has got to be the coolest bar we’ve ever seen in our lives. It’s the only rotating bar in New Orleans, decorated like a classic merry-go-round, spinning ever so slowly.
If you can snag a seat at one of the 25 seats available at the bar, you’ll rotate one revolution every 15 minutes. This bar has even been ranked by some publications as one of the best bars in the world!
The bartenders at the Carousel have also invented two signature cocktails worth trying out. There’s the Vieux Carré Cocktail (rye whiskey, cognac, and sweet vermouth), and The Goody (dark rum, light rum, orgeat, pineapple juice, and orange juice). Other classic New Orleans cocktails to try: a Sazerac, a Pimm’s Cup, or just straight up absinthe.
Pro Tip: You do not have to be a guest at the hotel to drink at the bar, and there’s no dress code. However, because of its popularity, you may have to wait for a seat at the bar. There’s also plenty of non-rotating seating in the room!
DINNER: COMMANDER’S PALACE
You’ve probably seen Commander’s Palace featured on many top restaurants in New Orleans lists. It’s for good reason because the food here is bomb!
Having won 7 James Beard Foundation Awards, Commander’s Palace has evolved into a culinary legend. Your tastebuds will be extra delighted to know that Commander’s Palace serves up award-winning quality Haute Creole cuisine.
Anything you order will be good here! I still dream about my meal there–the turtle soup appetizer, the quail entree, and for dessert, the bread pudding soufflé (their famous specialty). On top of that, be ready for some truly impeccable service.
From your first sip of a Sazerac to your last crumb of bread pudding soufflé, you will absolutely love every moment here!
CATCH A LIVE PERFORMANCE AT PRESERVATION HALL
Preservation Hall is a historic music venue in the French Quarter that serves to protect and preserve the spirit of traditional New Orleans jazz. Catching a show here is a must for music lovers–and personally, it was one of my all-time favorite experiences in New Orleans!
Preservation Hall offers multiple showtimes per night, seven days a week. A ticket will grant you a jazz concert in a very intimate space. You can either sit on benches or opt for the standing room. General admission tickets are $15-$20 at the door, or you can reserve “Big Shot” seating tickets for $35-$50.
There is a limited number of advance “Big Shot” reservations. These reservations allow guests first access into the Hall before the general admission line and a guaranteed seat in either the first or second row.
Pro Tip: Get there 30 minutes early. People with reserved seats are seated first, and if you get there 30 minutes early, you will most likely get a seat.
EAT MORE BEIGNETS
Obviously, eating beignets is one of the most iconic things to do in New Orleans. Eating them once is not enough–three times per trip seems to be my average these days. Head to Cafe Du Monde, but do things a little differently by skipping it in the daytime (thereby skipping the lines).
Cafe Du Monde is actually a great place to stop after a night of drinking on Bourbon Street! Not only will it help soak up some of that alcohol you’ve just consumed, but you’ll also find the greatest surprise of all–no lines!
THINGS TO DO IN NEW ORLEANS: IF YOU HAVE EXTRA TIME OR DAYS
If you’ve got extra time in NOLA or would rather swap out an activity on the 5-day itinerary for another, check out a few of these other popular things to do in New Orleans.
NEW ORLEANS AIRBOAT RIDE
Experience New Orleans’ wild bayou country on an exhilarating, family‐friendly airboat ride. This boat tour winds through the mossy cypress swamp close to Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, named for the 19th‐century pirate and smuggler.
While onboard, enjoy lively commentary from a native guide as you admire lush, forested shoreline and spot local wildlife. Your chances of spotting alligators, turtles, snakes, egrets, herons, ibis, and other wildlife are pretty high!
FRENCH QUARTER FOOD TOUR
A food tour is one of the best ways to learn more about the local culture. And with so much good food in NOLA, this is a really good way to fit more cuisine into your itinerary!
On this highly-rated French Quarter Walking Food Tour, you’ll stop by some of the French Quarter’s most famous restaurants for some of the area’s most delicious food. Enjoy tastings that could include seafood gumbo, Creole brisket, Pimms Cup, and beignets, all while learning fun facts from your guide as you walk along the vibrant city streets!
GO ON A GONDOLA RIDE
If you thought gondola rides were only a thing in Italy or Las Vegas, think again! You can actually ride a real gondola right here in New Orleans!
With a Nola Gondola, you can experience romance and relaxation aboard the Bella Mae for approximately 50 minutes as she glides quietly through City Park’s breathtaking lagoons.
Whether you want an intimate cruise for two or a small group of friends (the gondola fits up to six), you will cherish this super-unique excursion for years to come!
TAKE A CRAFT COCKTAIL WALKING TOUR
We’ve listed a lot of walking tours in this post, but only because there are just too many cool walking tours offered in this city! One of the most creative walking tours that should not be missed if you like cocktails is this craft cocktail walking tour featuring New Orleans’ most famous drinks.
On this tour, you’ll visit the city’s historic bars and restaurants and have the option to sip on classic concoctions like the Sazerac and Pimm’s Cup. Immerse yourself in the stories from your guide and learn all about the famous (scandalous) history of drinking culture in New Orleans!
NEW ORLEANS PHARMACY MUSEUM
Calling all science lovers, this museum is for you! The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum showcases an extensive collection of historical medical equipment both in the realm of pharmacy and healthcare.
You’ll be able to examine old apothecary jars, old wheelchairs, aged physicians’ bags, medical instruments, and even surgical tools displayed in the museum’s cabinets. Be sure to check out the voodoo potions section, where you’ll find the famous “Love Potion No. 9”!
Admission is $5. Tickets must be purchased in advance and are valid only for the date and time slot purchased.
Located in historic Uptown New Orleans Audubon Zoo cares for animals from around the globe, engaging educational programs, and hands-on animal encounters. Today, Audubon Zoo is made up of 58 acres of animals living their best lives in their natural habitats. In fact, the Zoo consistently ranks among this country’s best!
Highlights you absolutely cannot miss include the Komodo dragon and the beautiful, rare white tiger named King Zulu! You can also expect favorites such as jaguars, alligators, bears, monkeys, snakes, orangutans, and more.
This is a great option for your New Orleans itinerary if you’re traveling with little ones!
MUSIC BOX VILLAGE
There is no shortage of music in New Orleans. But one of the most unique music experiences has entered the scene recently. The Music Box Village is a village of musical architecture and is a particularly great activity for families. How does it work? Well, each of the houses at Music Box Village is a musical instrument.
For example, there’s a telephone booth that serves as a vocal station, a structure that serves as a drum station, and much, much more. It’s a totally immersive hands-on experience, perfect for those who are interested in music, architecture, or community art!
Trust, this one-of-a-kind art installation will keep adults and children alike entertained for a few hours. Music Box Village also hosts national and local musical performances periodically, so keep an eye out for events before you go.
NEW ORLEANS JAZZ MUSEUM
Where better to learn about the history of jazz than in its birthplace right here in New Orleans? The museum will educate you about the origins of jazz and about various musicians. You’ll be able to hear recordings and check out the collection of musical instruments and other jazz memorabilia, including Louis Armstrong’s first cornet.
Pro Tip: The New Orleans Jazz Museum is housed in the historic Old US Mint, which means you’ll get to enjoy free exhibits about the historical building too!
THE NATIONAL WWII MUSEUM
The National WWII Museum is a must-see for history lovers and all patriots alike! This museum contains five pavilions’ worth of history and exhibits dedicated to the second world war. Relive the WWII experience through immersive exhibits, multimedia experiences, and thousands of personal accounts. You can even upgrade for a 4-D movie experience, “Beyond All Boundaries”, narrated by Tom Hanks.
Not only is City Park a great place to go for a jog or stroll among the Spanish Moss and Resurrection Fern trees, but there’s also a wide array of activities to do here. Being a nature lover, I absolutely love strolling through City Park, enjoying the fresh air, and taking in the beautiful scenery the park has to offer. Seriously, I could spend a whole afternoon here by myself!
City Park is not just trees and plants–it is a particularly family-friendly park as well! Younger children will love Storyland and Carousel Gardens, while older kids will love the chance to play mini-golf at City Putt.
For art/museum lovers, the New Orleans Museum of Art is located here as well. Outside of the NOMA, you’ll find the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden (my personal favorite attraction here), which I highly recommend you check out! The 11-acre sculpture garden holds more than 80 sculptures, all incredible works of art surrounded by live oaks, meandering footpaths, and reflective ponds.
Whenever I find myself in City Park, my first stop is to check out the sculpture garden–the artwork there is simply amazing (and free to see).
Following that, my go-to spot is Morning Call. Any beignet aficionado who swears by Cafe Du Monde needs to take a trip to City Park to grab a few beignets at Morning Call, open 24 hours!
OLD NEW ORLEANS RUM DISTILLERY
The oldest operating rum distillery in the United States can be found right here in New Orleans’ Gentilly area, just minutes outside of the French Quarter.
With the distillery and tasting tour of the Old New Orleans Distillery, you’ll be treated to a cocktail on arrival and go on a 45-minute tour with an expert guide to learn about how molasses is fermented, distilled and aged to become rum. The tour ends with a premium rum tasting!
The distillery provides a free shuttle service from the French Quarter. Be sure to grab a fresh daiquiri at Organic Banana while you wait for the shuttle!
THE SOUTHERN FOOD AND BEVERAGE MUSEUM
The Southern Food & Beverage Museum (SoFAB) is an organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding, and celebration of Southern food, drink and culture. The museum showcases all the various cultures that have come together throughout the centuries to create the unique culinary heritage we know and love today. They often host special exhibits, demonstrations, and even tastings that’ll enhance your experience that much more.
The museum is definitely small, but full of information regarding food & drinks in the south. Each southern state has its own little exhibit here, and there’s even a large exhibit on absinthe! If you’re interested in cocktails, the grand Museum of the American Cocktail (MOTAC) is located here too. There’s also an attached restaurant with a historic 1850’s bar where you can grab a bite to eat (or even grab a cocktail)!
Admission is $10.50 per adult; half-price for students, military, and seniors.
CONSIDER GETTING THE GO CITY NEW ORLEANS PASS
New Orleans offers several tourist attraction discount cards which can help you can save up to 50% on attractions and tours when you bundle them together. Some of them can also save you time with skip-the-line privileges.
One of the best options out there (one that we’ve personally used and loved) is the Go City New Orleans Pass. This pass provides free access to over 25 tours and attractions around New Orleans so it’ll be the best bang for your buck if you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing over a short amount of time. You can choose between a 1, 2, 3, or 5-day pass.
These are just some of the activities, attractions, and tours included with the Go City New Orleans Pass:
- Paddlewheeler Creole Queen
- Adventures in New Orleans Bus Tour
- The National WWII Museum
- Haunted History Tours
- Ultimate Swamp Adventures
- Mardi Gras World
- St. Louis Number 1 Cemetery Tour by French Quarter Phantoms
- Cooking Demonstration Class / New Orleans School of Cooking
- Southern Food and Beverage Museum
- The New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old US Mint
You can buy your all-inclusive attraction pass here.
ESSENTIAL TRAVEL TIPS: NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
- The best time to visit New Orleans is in late February to April. If sticky, humid, and downright hot weather prevents you from functioning or enjoying yourself, skip visiting in July and August. I’ve only ever gone to NOLA in the month of March and I must say, the weather is perfect (low 70’s, low humidity) each and every time!
- Renting a car in New Orleans is not required. You can get everywhere you want to go on foot, by streetcar or bus, or rideshare. Not to mention, parking is ridiculously expensive and hard to find in Downtown NOLA and the French Quarter.
- New Orleans is one of the most walkable cities in the USA. So don’t forget to pack a pair of your favorite walking shoes!
If you do end up going to New Orleans in the hot summer months, bring a cooling towel or portable mister fan.
- Your streetcar day pass also grants you free rides on any of the city buses as well. Benefits of taking the bus? It’s air-conditioned (much needed on those sweltering summer months)!
- If you need to be somewhere on time, skip the streetcar. The streetcar is fun and enjoyable but get you there on time it will not. If you need to be on time for reservations, take an Uber or Lyft instead.
- Rideshare and taxi to and from MSY are not that cheap. Taxi rides cost $36.00 from the airport to the Central Business District or French Quarter for up to 2 passengers. For 3 or more passengers, the fare will be $15.00 per passenger. Uber will cost around $30+. If you’re traveling with friends/family, it won’t be too bad since you’ll be able to split the cost of the ride.
- Mosquitoes may be prevalent on warmer nights, so be sure to bring bug repellent if you’re traveling during the summer months.
- If you plan on wandering around at night, bring a few friends with you. As with any other big destination city, New Orleans has its fair share of crime. Be sure to stay in well-lit areas and areas with crowds. Always be cautious!
- Don’t wear open-toed shoes on Bourbon Street. You’ll definitely want to keep your toes dry of spilled cocktails, mystery water puddles, and even the occasional throw-up pile.
- If you can’t finish your drink at the bar, take it to-go! Unlike other places with strict open container laws, drinking in public is legal in New Orleans. However, glass is not allowed so if you’re drinking in the streets, you must consume alcoholic beverages from a plastic to-go cup.
- Don’t pick up beads off the ground! Not only is the floor likely dirty as heck, but picking beads up off the ground is considered bad juju!
- Many New Orleans attractions are closed on Mondays (like the aquarium or zoo). Some restaurants are even closed on Mondays in New Orleans. Be sure to check business hours before going anywhere!
- Venture out and check out some of the other cool neighborhoods in NOLA other than the French Quarter. Visit the Arts/Warehouse District, Garden District, Uptown, Downtown, and Marigny/Bywater, just to name a few. They’re all so fun to explore!
- To visit St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, you’ll need to visit with a licensed tour guide. Don’t worry, there are tons of free/cheap walking tours that will take you there.
- Get the Go City New Orleans Pass. New Orleans is a big city and there are lots of exciting things to see and do. It can be challenging to plan an itinerary and decide which attractions to spend your money on. The best bang for your buck is definitely going to be the GO New Orleans Pass (this pass gets really good user reviews)! With the GO New Orleans Pass, you’ll save so much time and money!
ESSENTIAL PACKING LIST: NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
- Packing Cubes | Start packing the smart way. The key to smart packing is going to be compartmentalization, aka your packing cubes. This set comes in a bunch of different sizes, so you can create a separate compartment for undies and socks, one for clothing, one for toiletries, and one for anything else you may want to organize. By using packing cubes, it’s so much easier to pull out only what you need, rather than dig through all of your luggage to find that one thing you’re looking for.
- Laundry Bag | Warm, humid destinations = potentially lots of sweaty, smelly worn clothes. Don’t spoil your entire bag by mixing worn clothes with your unworn clothes! Definitely bring a laundry bag to separate your clean clothes from your dirty clothes to maintain the utmost freshness.
- Smartphone UV Sanitizer and Charger | Our phones gather all the grime and bacteria we touch throughout the day, and then they are stored in warm, dark places like purses and pockets, which make for great breeding grounds for bacteria to grow. They are the third hand we never wash, but should! Using a UV sanitizer such as PhoneSoap on a regular basis will help keep germs and illness at bay.
- Packable Puffy Jacket | If you’re traveling in the fall or wintertime, you’re going to need layers. You have a lot of options here, but I personally have the North Face Thermoball, and it’s kept me warm throughout my many years of exploring! A jacket that’s packable is key.
- Travel Daypack | I’m a huge fan of the Fjallraven Kanken Mini Backpack. It stylish and has ample room for all the snacks and water you’ll need, as well as for your camera and the safety essentials for the hike.
- Walking Shoes | One pair of closed-toed shoes (walking shoes or running shoes) is always crucial for any trip. These ones that I’ve been traveling around with are super light and breathable. I can even walk 15+ miles in them before getting sore feet.
- For women: Adidas Cloudfoam runners are classic-looking and ultra-comfortable.
- For men: ON Running Shoes have risen in popularity, and for good reason! They are comfortable as heck, my boyfriend loves his pair.
- Clothing | A few pairs of casual pants, shorts, skirts, a few casual t-shirts, 1 long sleeve shirt for layering on cool evenings, 1-2 dressier shirts, dresses, pants or skirts for evenings out
- Socks and Underwear | Enough for your entire trip.
- Hat, sun visor, or Buff bandana | Sun protection is key for any southern USA destination. Keep the sun off your skin with a fancy sunhat, baseball cap, Buff bandana, or sun visor. All three can be used to shield your neck and forehead from the sun. As a bonus, Buffs can be used as headbands to keep hair and sweat off of your face. Soak your Buff with some cold water, then put it on your head, face, or neck for a quick cool down!
- Hand Sanitizer | Hand sanitizer gel or wipes are a must any time you’re going to be in contact with surfaces many other people have touched. Never leave your hotel room without it! And if you do happen to forget it, remember to wash your hands often, especially before eating or touching your face.
- Body Wipes / Feminine Wipes | Feeling a bit gross after a hike (or even after a walk outside on a hot, humid day) but don’t have the time to shower right that instant? Just whip out one of these body wipes for a quick refresher. The feminine wipes I like are infused with cucumber and aloe. Trust me, you will feel and smell so much better. Always good to have a few handy in your travel bag.
- Portable Power Bank | You’re probably going to be out all day, snapping away taking pictures… the last thing you want is to be exploring with no phone battery! A portable power bank is a must-have, and Anker’s ultra-light, ultra-portable power bank is tried and true by so many travelers! I never embark on a day of urban exploration without it.
- Travel Adapter | If you’re traveling from abroad, a universal travel adapter is a necessity. This 5-in-1 travel adapter is perfect for travel use with cell phones, laptops & other devices anywhere in the world.
- Soft Hydration Flask | Stay hydrated throughout the day with a water bottle that can go anywhere with you—and fold up when not in use. I love the packability of these bottles!
- Sunscreen | A must for any warm, sunny destination.
- Cooling Facial Mist | When you’re faced with mid-day humidity, it can be very hard to deal with. Keeping a small bottle of facial mist in your purse or backpack on a hot day will save your life. This mist takes all the cooling, soothing ingredients you can think of—aloe, cucumber, and green tea—and combines them into one refreshing spritzer for your face.
- Dry Shampoo | Bring some dry shampoo to use in between washes to instantly revitalize and freshen your semi-dirty hair.
ANNUAL EVENTS IN NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
- Sugar Bowl (January)
- Mardi Gras (February-March)
- Tennessee Williams/Literary Festival (March)
- BUKU Music + Art Project (March)
- St. Patrick’s Day (March)
- Tremé Creole Gumbo Festival (March)
- French Quarter Festival (April)
- Crescent City Classic 10k Run (April)
- New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (April-May)
- New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (May)
- Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival (June)
- New Orleans Pride Festival (June)
- Satchmo Summerfest (July-August)
- Coolinary New Orleans (August)
- Red Dress Run (August)
- Louisiana Seafood Festival (September)
- Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival (October)
- New Orleans Film Festival (October)
- VoodooFest Music Festival (October)
- Halloween – Lots of events (October)
- Oak Street Po-Boy Festival (November)
- Celebration in the Oaks (November-January)
- NOLA ChristmasFest (December)
- New Year’s Eve – Lots of events (December 31)
And that’s it! We hope this post has truly helped you plan out the perfect itinerary for your 5 days in New Orleans!