New Orleans is famous for its “Laissez les bons temps rouler! (Let the good times roll!)” attitude towards life. It was one of my favorite trips we took last year, strolling through streets with amazing jazz performances and eating our fill of jambalaya and beignets. Below is a sample itinerary for 6 days in NoLa.
After landing, check in at your hotel. We stayed at French Market Inn which is right in French Quarter where most of the action is. It was very reasonably priced, and I recommend checking for lower prices on the hotel’s own website before using another booking site. Renting a car isn’t necessarily, you can easily hop on a Uber/Lyft if you want to go to another neighborhood. We landed late and had dinner at Coop’s Place (try their rabbit jambalaya).
aaaaaOn your first full day, grab breakfast at Cafe Du Monde. After getting some piping hot beignets and cafe au lait (oui oui!), head across the street to Jackson Square for the morning French Quarter walking tour. I suggest doing two tours today, the French Quarter tour and the Voodoo Bone Lady Cemetery Tour. Look on their websites for times that work best for you. We did the 10:00am French Quarter tour and the 1:00pm cemetery tour. These tours are very informative about the history and culture of New Orleans, and helpful to do on your first day to get a good grasp of where everything is. Our guides for both tours were native New Orleanians from different neighborhoods, and it was interesting to hear their different perspectives of the city. The Voodoo Bone Lady in particular gave a sharp, heartfelt, and nuanced commentary on the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and the lingering effects, both physical and psychological, of that calamity on the communities of the city.
aaaaaThe French Quarter tour begins in Jackson Square which is the heart of it all – tarot card readers, brass bands, portrait painters. The tour will cover many famous sights including St. Louis Cathedral, the Presbytere, and the house where Tennessee Williams wrote Streetcar Named Desire. In between the two tours, have lunch at Central Grocery and order their famous muffaletta with a side of Zapp’s voodoo chips. Muffaletta is a round-shaped sandwich stuffed with Italian cured meats, cheese, and olive spread. If you are hungry after the second tour, go to Acme Oyster House for a light afternoon snack.
aaaaaIn late afternoon, head back to the hotel to clean up and dress up before having (a fancy) dinner at Galatoire’s. Galatoire’s is an iconic New Orleans restaurant where city’s elite not only ask for regular tables but waiters as well. You can make a reservation, but all regulars do walk-ins to sit in the preferred downstairs dining room. We had the pleasure of sitting next to an elderly couple, the Bartons, who eat at the same table every Friday night. It’s a great place to people watch and even make new friends – the Bartons asked us about our plans in NoLa and offered delicious souffle fries from their own table. After dinner, grab drinks at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar.
aaaaaHave breakfast at Stanley or Brennan’s, then hop on an Uber/Lyft/taxi for your Garden District tour at 10:30am. The Garden District is well-known for its opulent Old South mansions developed by newly-rich Americans in 19th century. The Creole French didn’t want Americans living with them in the French Quarters, and advertised these mansions for wealthy newcomers to settle in. These mansions stood the test of time and are still very well preserved. Highlights include gothic author Anne Rice’s former residence, “Benjamin Button” House, the Cornstalk Fence house (wife was missing her home in Iowa so husband built a fence of metal cornstalks) and Morris Israel House which inspired the design of Haunted Mansion in Disneyland. The tour will also bring you into the historic Lafayette Cemetery #1. This cemetery was open since 1832 and was used as backdrop for many movie cemetery scenes (e.g. Interview with a Vampire). I’m scared of seeing unexpected things pop up in my photos so didn’t take any in the cemetery!
aaaaaMake a reservation to dine at Commander’s Palace at the end of your tour, around 1:00pm. Commander’s Palace has been open since 1880, with their classic dishes being turtle soup and bread pudding soufflé. Other than the tasty food, dining here is an experience itself – a live brass band walks around taking song requests to perform.
aaaaaAfter lunch, head to National WWII Museum. The museum is filled with memorabilia, interactive activities and walk through environments that allow you to understand the scale and destructiveness of WWII. A highlight here was watching Beyond All Boundaries narrated and produced by Tom Hanks. Covering the battles of World War II, this 4D experience featured first-hand stories and special effects (think vibrating chairs, flashing lights, smoke generator).
aaaaaFor dinner, walk to either Cochon or Cochon Butcher. Cochon, French for pig, lives up to its name with a multitude of pork-based dishes. The pork cheek and Louisiana cochon (pulled pork), are highlights of meal. At Cochon the chefs really pay homage to the local meat market. We were adventurous and ordered fried alligator which was perfectly seasoned and chewy. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this dish! In Cochon Butcher next door you can find a high-end version muffaletta and freshly made sausages.
aaaaaIf your trip includes Saturday or Sunday, stop by Cane & Table for brunch. They don’t take reservations but their bottomless cocktails are worth the wait. After getting to know the city better with tours, I suggest wandering around Royal/Bourbon St. and French Quarter, popping into any boutique stores that pique your interest. Some of my favorite ones are Leah’s Praline, KREWE du optic and Faulkner House Books. Down the street from Cafe du Monde is the French Market, which is the oldest public market in America selling everything from spices to jewelry. This is fun to check out even though most stalls sell touristy trinkets, and usually there are live music performances going on.
aaaaaAnother good place to go shopping is down the 5 mile stretch of Magazine Street. You’ll find collectibles, antiques, home decor, clothing and more boutique stores. Every first Saturday there is an open gallery market that sells sculptures, paintings, handmade fashion… etc. These some suggested stops to make on Magazine Street:
aaaaa– Aidan Gill for Man: sells unique grooming products, and provides shaving services with a shot of Jameson whiskey at their old-school barbershop in the back.
aaaaa– Sucre: this chic patisserie sells sparkly king cakes and exotically flavored chocolate bars, as well as a variety of macaroons to bring back for friends.
aaaaa– Casamento’s Restaurant: this old-school oyster spot is a good for lunch. Tip: they are closed from June to August.
aaaaa– Pied Nu: a woman’s clothing store that also has an amazing selection of candles and home goods
aaaaa– SnoWizard: perfect stop on a hot day for an icy snoball drenched in fruit syrup.
aaaaa– Box Paper Scissor: this beautifully curated store sells edgy and hip stationery, journals and cards.
For dinner, make a reservation at Meauxbar which was the best meal of our trip (read here). If you’re not bar hopping on Bourbon street at night, make your way to Frenchman Street for jazz performances. Snug Harbor and Spotted Cat are both popular choices.
aaaaaElizabeth’s in Bywater is an excellent choice for brunch, known for their praline bacon. Or you can try Willie Mae’s Scotch House, which touts the best fried chicken in the country. On this last full day, you can choose do to a trip away from the city center such as City Park, Audubon Park, kayaking at the bayou, or visit the plantation mansions. We chose City Park, a 1,300 acre public park that holds a lake, New Orleans Museum of Art, sculpture garden, and more. I suggest renting a bike to get around – we got pretty tired walking and didn’t reach the Chime Tree that I wanted to see. There are 6 different sized chimes hanging from this tree, creating peaceful whistling sounds with the wind. You can also paddle boat or kayak on the lake. The endless activities in City Park make it a great outdoors getaway from the bustling French Quarter.
aaaaaAt night, go to Preservation Hall for a live music performance. Preservation Hall was established to protect traditional New Orleans Jazz, and the jazz masters are truly amazing performers. Make sure to buy tickets ahead of time – this guarantees you a seat in the first two rows and you can skip the hour-long line as well!
aaaaaFly home! To enjoy your trip for a little longer, consider buying a muffaletta on the go for your plane ride. Click here to read more about the souvenirs we brought back from New Orleans.
New Orleans Cheat Sheet
Coop’s Place: 1109 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Cafe Du Monde: 800 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA 70116
Acme Oyster House: 724 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Central Grocery: 923 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Galatoire’s: 209 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Arnaud’s French 75 Bar: 813 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA 70112
Stanley: 547 St Ann St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Brennan’s: 417 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Commander’s Palace: 403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130
Cochon: 930 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Cochon Butcher: 930 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Cane & Table: 1113 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Elizabeth’s: 601 Gallier St, New Orleans, LA 70117
Meauxbar: 942 N Rampart St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Casamento’s Restaurant: 330 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
KREWE du optic: 809 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Leah’s Pralines: 714 St Louis St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Faulkner House Books: 624 Pirate’s Alley, New Orleans, LA 70116
Meyer the Hatter: 120 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130
Aidan Gill for Man: 2026 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Sucre: 3025 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
Box Paper Scissor:3900 Magazine St, General Taylor, New Orleans, LA 70115
Pied Nu: 5521 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
Free Tours by Foot (for French Quarter & Garden Tour)
Voodoo Bone Lady Cemetery Tour
National WWII Museum: 945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
French Market: 1235 N Peters St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro: 626 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Spotted Cat: 623 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Preservation Hall: 726 St Peter St, New Orleans, LA 70116
City Park: 1 Palm Dr, New Orleans, LA 70124
French Market Inn: 509 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70130