This is a blog post that summarizes the best 10 things to do in a New Orleans weekend trip, based on the perspective of a first time visitor in New Orleans. If you are considering the possibility to visit NOLA and already feel overwhelmed on the incredible amount of information online about this city, keep reading to find out what are the activities to be included in your tour:
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New Orleans for the weekend: 3 days in New Orleans
New Orleans is the perfect getaway for a weekend. This is a bullet point recommendation list for your 3 day stay in NOLA, including two activities outside the city; all together, will undoubtedly give you the notion on how quirky, miscellaneous, vibrant and wild this city introduces itself to the guiltless first timers!
I spent 6 days here as part of my 3-week itinerary across the Midwest and Southern USA, but I could certainly have stayed less days and still make the most out of it! – You can read my NOLA misadventures here – I recognize, if you organize your time well, it is possible to visit the main hotspots and enjoy its atmosphere in 3 days total.
'Supreme Court of Louisiana, New Orleans'
Old town in New Orleans
Discover New Orleans old town during your New Orleans weekend trip! You can either do it on your own or join one of the several city tours offered in place.
- Wander around the city centre aka. The French Quarter & visit one of the historic cemeteries
Walk along the beautiful and colourful french architecture inspired streets in the French Quarter borough. You’ll also find there is a mixt of some Spanish and Caribbean architectural influence. The combination of architecture styles in New Orleans is called ‘Creole’.
'French Quarter, New Orleans'
'Streets at French Quarter, New Orleans'
Each street is very different from the rest, buildings are super colorful with plants decorating each floor; bars, hotels and houses are camouflaged in the city centre under the appearance of what it feels to be a 19th century film scenery.
'Building at French Quarter, New Orleans'
St Louis Cemetery is the closest to the French Quarter, however, there are other options like ‘Lafayette Cemetery’ or the ‘Greenwood Cemetery’, located a few minutes far out the centre.
- People watch at Plaza de Armas Square & visit Saint Louis Cathedral
This is the current Jackson Square; located in the French Quarter, it has been declared a National Historic Landmark and plays an important role in the city. This square is where life happens in NOLA: artists, street musicians, fortune tellers, locals and tourists gather here. There is always something going on and is everytime surprising to say the least. Pick a spot and people watch for a while, you’ll better understand what this city is about!
'Jackson Square, New Orleans'
Visit Saint Louis Cathedral, this is considered the oldest catholic cathedral in continuous use in North America (from the 18th century) and is dedicated to Louis IV, King of France.
'Saint Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square, New Orleans'
- Have breakfast at Café du Monde
Eating ‘Beignets’ at Café du Monde is a MUST. This delicious pastry was one of the highlights of our visit to NOLA! ‘Beignets’ have been declared the official state doughnut of Louisiana in 1986 and the fact is that they don’t disappoint.
They are commonly known in New Orleans as a breakfast, served with powdered sugar on top. Moreover, this emblematic coffee shop located in the French Quarter, serves the Beignets and coffee with chicory or café au lait, and they even bring a complimentary glass of water with your order.
'Beignets at Café du Monde, New Orleans'
Pro Tip: Make sure you come here with plenty of time, as normally you will need to queue for a few minutes before you get a table
If you prefer not to queue, ‘Cafe Beignet’ at Royal St. is not as emblematic as the previous mentioned, but it is definitely a good alternative to Café du Monde; breakfast here is really good and beignets are top notch!
- Walk along Bourbon Street
This is one of the most famous streets in NOLA; a combination of bars, striptease clubs, voodoo shops, old pubs and more! It is a wonder to the senses, don’t miss it out!
'Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar at Bourbon St, New Orleans'
'Bourbon Street, New Orleans'
- Dance outside Frenchmen St.
Heard about people playing instruments and dancing in the street in New Orleans? Well, it’s ALL TRUE! This is one of the things that I liked the most about the city! It is the only place in the world where a marriage and a funeral can converge in the same street and still keep celebrating!
I was heading home one night after clubbing in Frenchmen St, when I got caught by the incredible atmosphere some street musicians! It was pure joy – it was one of those moments of realization of: Hell yeah! I am in New Orleans!
'Street musicians playing and people dancing at Frenchmen St, New Orleans'
Another night, I was leaving the restaurant where I had dinner and stepped into a wedding celebration! How cool is that? The new husband and wife and their entire wedding crew, were dancing, drinking and singing all along the main streets! I remember this fondly – NOLA is a big celebration!
- Visit a night market
One of the coolest things to do before or after dinner in your New Orleans weekend trip, is visiting one of the night markets. My favorite is called ‘Palace Market Frenchmen’. Artists here present their own work and answer any questions about it.
'Palace Market Frenchmen at Frenchmen St, New Orleans'
- Party in NOLA clubs
D.b.a is my favorite club in New Orleans so far, not only you can attend Jazz concerts here and ‘bounce dance’ but also they’ve got a really good selection of beers and the atmosphere is just unique!
'Inside D.b.a Club at Frenchmen St, New Orleans'
‘The Spotted Cat’ & ‘The Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro’, also feature some of the best jazz in town!
- Eat Creole food & try the hot chicken wings
‘Creole Cuisine’ is a modern combination of European food (especially french and spanish), Native American & African food. While in the city you could check a few boxes off very easily by eating alligator, gumbo, catfish, jambalaya rice, crawfish and the po-boy sandwich or the muffuletta sandwich.
There are many other creole style dishes with shrimp, oysters and essentially any étouffée cooked dish you should never leave out of the list themany pastry options. There is also a similar kind of food which is the Cajun style food, not to confuse with the creole food.
One of my favorite restaurants in NOLA is the ‘Gumbo Shop’ where I ate gumbo, shrimp étouffée and alligator sausages.
'Alligator sausages at Gumbo Shop, New Orleans'
'Shrimp étouffée at Gumbo Shop, New Orleans'
Also, as typical as it could sound, if you are in Louisiana, you should probably give it a chance to the fast food chain ‘Popeye’s!
Visit a Plantation near New Orleans
I totally recommend visiting one of the many plantations in the southern area of the USA during your New Orleans weekend trip. Some of them are very well prepared to receive visitors; this is the case of the ‘Oak Alley Plantation’.
'Oak Alley Plantation Mansion'
I chose this plantation because nor only do they talk about previous landlords, but also they own a complete exhibition about the lives of the slaves in the plantation. They give you many details about how they used to ‘live’ there and name a few who actually had the chance to thrive in those adverse and cruel conditions.
'Old houses where slaves lived in the plantation'
This plantation has a Foundation you can support which has the aim to preserve and maintain the historic grounds and mansion for the educational and cultural benefits of the community.
PS. Another reason to visit – The movie ‘Interview with the Vampire’ was filmed here! Best thing to do is book the tour through their website
Join an alligator tour in New Orleans
Join a half day alligator boat tour while you are in Louisiana. I recommend you to book the regular boat tour instead of the airboat tour. The aim is to see alligators in the wild and the area has nothing to do with the vastness of the Everglades – so better to do it in a nice slow pace.
'Old Pearl River Bridge, Louisiana'
I chose the company ‘Cajun Encounters Tour Company’ for the guided tour and I would do it again! During the 2:30h tour, we saw and fed gators navigating the Old Pearl River and we also encountered raccoons, turtles and even a wild boar in the Honey Island Swamp. It was definitely a day to remember!
'Feeding an alligator, Old Pearl River, Louisiana'
'Raccoon encounter, Holy Island Swap, Louisiana'
Make sure you book the tour online to ensure your spot! and if you are coming to this area with your own car (as it was our case) take into account that there is a previous check in before the tour starts, so better to arrive at least 30 minutes before the departure time.
'Swamp at Old Pearl River, Louisiana'
Ps. This is a list of suggestions based on my first visit, combining the cultural side of New Orleans with its cuisine, night clubs, markets & a couple cool adventures in the outskirts. However, I would highly recommend doing further research, if you are coming with the idea of making your trip a cultural one.
Do you have any questions about New Orleans and its surroundings? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!
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