New Orleans. A city known for jazz, voodoo, beignets, Mardi Gras, and gumbo, it is one of the best destinations in the USA. And, as a city teeming with vibrant culture, a complex history, and lively art, there seems to be an endless list of things to do. So, you may be wondering how to plan your itinerary for New Orleans.
I’m going to be honest with you, planning a trip to New Orleans is going to be tough. Especially if you’re only visiting for a few days, like I did.
The first time I set foot in New Orleans, I was visiting as a student with my high school band (yup, I’m a proud trombonist). So, my options for exploring the city were limited. However, spending a few short days in New Orleans was enough for me to fall in love with the lively city.
And I’m sure you’ll feel the same way. With its melange of Spanish, French, West African, and Native American influences, New Orleans is truly a unique city. So, if you’re wondering how to spend your New Orleans itinerary, look no further than this article: the perfect 3-day itinerary of the Big Easy!
Without further ado, let’s begin!
Summary of my 3-Day Itinerary for New Orleans
Morning: French Quarter
Afternoon: Garden District
Evening: Jazz music at the Preservation Hall and Frenchman Street, and Beignets at Café du Monde
Morning: Laura Plantation
Afternoon: Food Tour
Evening: Ghost Tour
Morning: Bayou Tour
Afternoon: French Quarter
Evening: Palace Market
The Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary for New Orleans
Explore the French Quarter
The first thing you have to do in New Orleans is explore the French Quarter. The most historic, vibrant, and popular neighborhood, it is an essential stop for any itinerary for New Orleans. And it’s not hard to guess why.
The oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, it’s best to visit the French Quarter early, before the crowds start swarming in. Filled with charming and colorful buildings, lively music from jazz clubs and street performers, and delicious eateries, you can easily spend your whole New Orleans itinerary in the French Quarter.
While I wholeheartedly advise that you simply walk around the French Quarter, exploring the New Orleans streets without a plan, there are also many attractions to check out. These include Jackson Square, the St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo, Woldenberg Park, the New Orleans Jazz Museum, and the Museum of Death.
Wander Around the Garden District
After a delightful morning exploring the French Quarter (and after enjoying a hearty lunch—I recommend trying some gumbo!), it’s time to head to the Garden District.
Taking the St. Charles Avenue streetcar (which is an experience in itself), the enchanting New Orleans Garden District is filled with spectacular houses, from the grand historic mansions to the cute cottages.
Filled with boutiques, relaxing coffee shops, and picturesque Spanish oak trees, I recommend taking a few hours to walk around this dazzling neighborhood.
Hoping to save some money on this trip to New Orleans? Check out my article on how to travel without breaking the bank!
Catch a Show at the Preservation Hall
As a jazz lover, it’s really no surprise that one of my favorite memories from my itinerary for New Orleans was watching a show at the Preservation Hall.
Located in the French Quarter, the Preservation Hall was established in 1961, and is the best place to listen to some incredible traditional New Orleans jazz. With an intimate setting and great storytelling, catching a show at the Preservation Hall isn’t something you’ll regret!
If you want to learn more, check out the Preservation Hall website; I recommend purchasing your tickets in advance.
Enjoy Some Jazz on Frenchman Street
After listening to some traditional jazz in the Preservation Hall, it’s time to catch the street performers on Frenchman Street! Listening to street jazz is definitely one of the best things to do in New Orleans at night.
Devour Some Beignets at Café du Monde
Finally, after a long day of sightseeing, it’s time to treat yourself to some mouthwatering beignets at Café du Monde! Established in 1862, Café du Monde is the number one place to try New Orleans’ classic treat.
Tour the Laura Plantation
After a restful night’s sleep, it’s time to start your new day in New Orleans! While yesterday’s activities included walking around New Orleans’ bright and vivacious neighborhoods, you will start day two by learning more about America’s ugly history, by visiting the Laura Plantation.
One of the essential day trips from New Orleans, the Laura Plantation is a historic and restored Louisiana Creole plantation. With informative guided tours taking you around the parlors, service rooms, common rooms, gardens, and the original slave cabins from the 1840s, the Laura Plantation is one of the best places to learn about the detailed lives of the African slaves who lived on the plantation.
Overall, the Laura Plantation (Louisiana’s Creole Heritage Site) is an essential stop on your itinerary for New Orleans, with its informative and educational tours showcasing New Orleans’ dark history.
Try out the New Orleans Cuisine on a Food Tour
After that meaningful morning tour, it’s time to return back to New Orleans and learn about their unique cuisine! From New Orleans seafood, po-boys, gumbo, jambalaya, pralines, turtle soup, barbeque shrimp, and fried chicken, there are endless amounts of dishes to try. And the best way to experience the New Orleans cuisine is through a food tour!
And if you’re vegan, don’t worry; there are several vegan and gluten-free food in New Orleans as well.
Go on a Ghost Tour
Finally, day two will end with one last tour. If you want to hear the tales of the New Orleans vampires, ghosts, witches, and other supernatural beings, as well as explore the most frightening and eerie New Orleans locations, then you should definitely add a ghost tour to your itinerary for New Orleans.
But make sure to book with an authorized company, especially if you’re going to visit a cemetery in New Orleans at night!
Embark on a Tour of the Bayou
On the final morning of your 3-day New Orleans itinerary, I recommend embarking on one of the coolest day trips from New Orleans: go on a tour of the bayou!
The perfect option if you want to escape the city, the bayou is filled with enchanting scenery, from the diverse flora and fauna, native wildlife, and flourishing swamps.
With beautiful scenery, and alligators in the spring and summer (my favorite part of touring the bayou), you won’t regret exploring Louisiana’s wilderness.
Walk Around the French Quarter
Next, let’s explore the French Quarter one last time. Visit the jazz clubs down Bourbon Street, try out some more Cajun cuisine, soak in New Orleans’ energetic atmosphere, walk alongside the Mississippi River, and buy some last-minute souvenirs for friends and family.
Visit Palace Market
Finally, after spending 3 days in New Orleans, the last thing you have to do is visit Palace Market. An open-air market featuring the works of local artisans, from handmade jewelry, art, and other fantastic pieces, it is the best place to shop (much better than the malls in New Orleans!).
Other Incredible Things to Do in New Orleans
- Warehouse and Arts District: A trendy New Orleans neighborhood, the Warehouse and Arts District is definitely an area to explore, if you have the time.
- Steamboat Natchez: If you’re looking for a relaxing two-hour cruise on the Mississippi River, all the while enjoying some delicious food and live jazz, then I recommend embarking on the Steamboat Natchez.
- Jackson Square: A lively park beside the historic St. Louis Cathedral in the middle of the French Quarter, Jackson Square is the best place to find some New Orleans art to take home.
- Audubon Park: A municipal park set in uptown New Orleans, Audubon Park is filled with enchanting Spanish oak trees.
- New Orleans City Park: One of the oldest and largest municipal parks in the US, New Orleans City Park is filled with stunning oak trees and moss canopies.
- Louis Armstrong Park: If you want to visit a park closer to the French Quarter, then I recommend the Louis Armstrong Park. Filled with sculptures (and not only of Louis Armstrong), ponds, and a Congo Square (a historic meeting place for slaves), the Louis Armstrong Park is a small but delightful park.
- Confederate Memorial Hall Museum: A perfect stop for all the history buffs, the Confederate Memorial Hall Museum showcases historical artifacts from the American Civil War
- Mardi Gras World: If you’re not visiting New Orleans during Mardi Gras, then the perfect alternative is visiting Mardi Gras World! Holding Mardis Gras’ most flamboyant floats, it is the best place to admire the flair and art of Mardi Gras.
- New Orleans Museum of Art: Perfect for all the art-lovers out there, the New Orleans Museum of Art includes French, American, Japanese, and African works of art.
- New Orleans Jazz Museum: Finally, if you want to celebrate jazz music in the place it was conceived, then you have to visit the New Orleans Jazz Museum!
If you’re thinking of traveling to Seattle, another great USA travel destination, then check out my articles on Seattle:
Other Important Information for your Trip to New Orleans!
The Best Time to Travel to New Orleans
So now that you know what to do in New Orleans, you’re probably wondering when the best time to travel to New Orleans is.
While I’ve never visited New Orleans during Mardi Gras season, it is definitely one of the best times to visit if you love to party. With the Mardi Gras festivities starting weeks before Fat Tuesday (in February), the celebrations include huge festivals and colorful parades. However, it does come at a price, as this is the most expensive time to travel New Orleans.
Another busy season, but the best time to visit New Orleans if you love music (especially jazz music), is early April for their French Quarter Festival, and late April to early May for JazzFest.
However, if you have no interest in visiting New Orleans for their music festivals or Mardi Gras, the best time to visit is in the winter, from November to January. With comfortable temperatures, cheap prices, and smaller crowds, it makes exploring the city a whole lot easier!
How to Get Around New Orleans
As you plan a trip to New Orleans, you may be wondering how to get around. Well, there are many great ways of traveling around New Orleans, including:
- Public Transportation: Bus & Streetcar (Rail-Guided Trams): A tourist attraction in itself, I highly recommend taking the streetcar at least once on your trip to New Orleans!
- Pedicabs/Taxis/Uber/Lyft: While these are the most expensive options, they are sometimes necessary.
- Rent-a-Car: If you’re planning on taking a lot of day trips from New Orleans (and don’t want to go by tour company), then you can rent a car. However, it can be inconvenient to drive within the city.
- Ferry: Another charming way of getting around, there are two ferry routes crossing the Mississippi River: one connecting the French Quarter to Algiers Point, and another connecting Chalmette with Algiers.
- Bicycle: While you can rent a bike with a bicycle-rental company, New Orleans also has a bike share program: the Blue Bikes Bike Share program.
- By foot! My favorite mode of transportation (hence, the blog name… Walk a While with Me), the best way of getting around New Orleans, for freedom, mobility, price, and ease, is by foot.
New Orleans Safety Tips
Now onto some travel tips for New Orleans. Or more specifically, safety tips for New Orleans.
Now, the big question you may be asking yourself is this: is New Orleans safe for travel? And the answer is absolutely. But are there risks? Absolutely.
However, this is not a great cause for concern. As long as you use common sense and avoid certain areas, you should be safe (if you want to find out which areas to avoid in New Orleans, I recommend checking out this article).
Moreover, some basic tips for staying safe in New Orleans are to stay alert, stick to the more touristy and populated areas (but be aware of the petty criminals and pickpocketers in these tourist areas), and avoid straying alone, especially after dark.
And That’s It!
I hope you enjoyed this 3-day itinerary for New Orleans! Hopefully I was able to provide you with some awesome travel ideas, whether you’re spending 2, 3, or 4 days in New Orleans (or you know, any amount of time in New Orleans).
Thanks for reading the article! If you have any questions, feel free to comment down below, and if you want to see more travel and hike-related content, make sure to check out my other articles.
Photos by Mia and Pixabay.
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