New Orleans in a Weekend - Itinerary and First Timer's Guide

by - 1:14 PM

St. Louis Cathedral - America's Oldest active cathedral 

Known by many names including The Big Easy, N’awlins, NOLA, and more, New Orleans is a city rich in culture, history, and fantastic cuisine of its own. The 0.50 square miles that makes up the French Quarter is alive 24/7, with an active nightlife, a blend of casual restaurants, fine dining restaurants, historical museums, voodoo shops, souvenir stores, bars of all varieties, cafes, hotels, antique stores and art galleries. 

My first impressions of New Orleans: it felt like I was in a different country (in a good way) based off of the food, atmosphere and Creole accents alone. I spoke with lots of people who experienced Hurricane Katrina first hand. These people lost everything they had and were separated from their families for years in the aftermath. This city must be magical if everyone had the chance to leave and start over elsewhere but decided to come back and rebuild. The people of New Orleans will keep you on your toes. They're strong and stubborn. They celebrate life and music while simultaneously embracing the notion of death, honoring loved ones who have passed on with funerals that are more like celebrations than sad gatherings. 

If you’re a foodie, history buff, Instagram-addict, or just stopping by on business - there’s something for everyone. My guide will help give you a jump start on planning your NOLA trip. I’ll indicate the best photo opps πŸ“·, foodie spots🍴, and must-visit stopsπŸ“ using these emojis. 

New Orleans - Tips and Advice: 

Buildings in the French Quarter are known for this double-gallery style architecture 

What is the best way to get around New Orleans?
  • There are so many sights to see in New Orleans for free. The best way to experience New Orleans, particularly for a first-timer in the French Quarter, is by foot. A lot of the area’s popular restaurants, bars, and sights are accessible by walking. Bring comfortable shoes, reusable water bottles, a small backpack to hold your personal items and plan to be out walking for hours. The best route is to start at the intersection of Bourbon & Iberville, walking “up” Bourbon Street (head North), you will pass a lot of famous bars, balconies, and restaurants this way (on our list is Cafe Beignet, GW Fins, Arnaud’s, Spirits on Bourbon, and Marie Laveau’s Voodoo shop).
  • If you're looking for the best tours in New Orleans, I also highly recommend the Free Tours by Foot. They are only $2.00 per person but please tip your tour guide well if you liked the tour. We did the St. Louis Cemetery Tour because I wanted to see Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau's alleged tomb as well as the other famous sights in this cemetery. If you do this cemetery tour, please bring cold water during the warmer months. It is a decent walk through blocks of the city and then through the cemetery itself, you will need the hydration. We discovered that foot tours are really the best way to see the city, allowing you to get up close to certain sights and setting up the best photo opportunities. Also, we were instructed not to lean or rest up against any of the tombs, a lot of people on our tour still ended up doing so. Please do not do it as a lot of these tombs are fragile now due to vandalism and the people of New Orleans are big on respecting the deceased! Do not lean, touch or rest on these tombs!
  • Ride share services such as Lyft and Uber are common in New Orleans
  • Public transportation by way of bus or streetcar is also common. Check out their official website here. Both the bus and streetcar fares are inexpensive at $1.25 for a one-way. There are also daily passes that you can purchase that are more cost-friendly if you need transportation for 1 day or more. 

Where is the best place to get grilled oysters in New Orleans?
  • Hands down the best place for grilled oysters in New Orleans for us was Acme Oyster House🍴. We waited about 45 minutes in line for our table. Definitely worth it. We also enjoyed the banana cheesecake for dessert and it became the #1 spot in my top 3 best desserts I’ve ever had. 

What other foods is New Orleans known for?
  • Bananas Foster was invented in New Orleans, we made a point to try it at as many places as possible so we can compare which one had the city’s best. The dish was founded at a local restaurant called Brennan’s but many of the area restaurants take Bananas Foster very seriously. 
  • “BBQ Shrimp” in New Orleans means something else entirely. It’s not BBQ in the traditional sense, but don’t try to tell the locals that lol It’s shrimp cooked in a Cajun-style sauce (more like a stir fry). 
  • Voodoo chips are from New Orleans. It’s a potato chip flavor made of all the other potato chip flavors combined into one (Salt & Vinegar + BBQ + etc) 
  • America’s first mixed drink, the Sazerac, was also invented in the French Quarter so be sure to get one when you’re here! Another famous drink is the “Resurrection” from Spirits on Bourbon. The bar was featured on the tv show, Bar Rescue, and the drink is delicious! The bar also has a world famous barber’s chair, with a story of its own, that sits in the middle of the bar. Customers are encouraged to pay homage to the previous owner of the chair, Edward Deboire, by taking a shot while sitting in it! 
  • Tabasco Hot Sauce was also invented in Louisiana! 
  • Po'Boys. A traditional Louisiana classic! It's a sandwich that is served on French bread, usually with a zingy sauce called a remoulade and filled with fried seafood or meat. 

Places to Eat: 

There are so many restaurants in this area, you can’t go wrong. I’ve compiled a list of my personal favorites of foodie places in New Orleans for you if you needed some inspiration!
  • Palace Cafe πŸ΄πŸ“·  
    • Legendary restaurant known for its Creole dishes and modern execution 
    • The grand cafe is beautiful and has many spots for photo opps 
    • Crabmeat Cheesecake (it’s much better than it sounds, it’s actually a savory dish)
    • World Famous Bananas Foster 
  • Arnaud's
    • Bananas Foster 
  • Cafe BeignetπŸ΄πŸ“·  
    • Get the beignets (pronounced "ben-yays"), Alton Brown raved about these as the best beignets on the show: Best Thing I Ever Ate 
    • They have an outdoor courtyard area that is great for photo opps 
    • There's usually live music as well, the total package for a classic French Quarter lunch experience
  • Emeril’s🍴 
    • You know it’s serious when Wolfgang Puck’s recommends you visit and get the banana cream pie 
  • Acme Oyster House🍴
    • Po'boys
    • Grilled oysters (GET THESE)
    • Banana Cheesecake
  • Cafe Du Monde
    • A famous spot for beignets and chicory coffee
  • Desire Oyster Bar
    • Creole style breakfast
    • Seafood for breakfast? Heck yes. 
  • Luke🍴
    • Amazing creole food and seafood. 
    • Their brussels sprouts are pretty famous. 
    • Read our review of it here!
  • GW Fins
    • Fine dining 
    • Perfect for a fancy date night and drinks
    • Service is impeccable 
  • Le Salon at the Windsor Court Hotel πŸ“·
    • Afternoon tea service available with desserts and finger sandwiches, in a beautiful and classical setting 
  • Court of Two Sisters πŸ“· 
    • The most beautiful (and largest) outdoor dining in New Orleans, the courtyard covered in vines and flowers
    • Fantastic spot for late lunch or early dinner (I recommend planning to spend at least 1.5 hours or more here. Arrive at least 1 hour before sunset so that you can experience the courtyard in it's sunny daytime splendor, yet still enjoy the romantic vibes in the courtyard after sunset) 
    • Service is top notch, but can be a little slow and leisurely during prime times so plan enough time to sit and enjoy 
    • Get the table-side bananas fosters for dessert
    • Read our review of it here!

    Head to Moonwalk to see this view of St. Louis Cathedral overlooking Jackson Square at sunset. Behind you will be the Mississippi River!

Things to Do/See: 

  • Marie Laveau’s House of VoodooπŸ“ 
  • Voodoo Authentica 
  • New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum 
  • St. Louis Cemetery πŸ“· 
    • Rich in history, lots of famous graves here, cool place to learn about New Orleans history. Look for the alleged tomb of voodoo queen, Marie Laveau, here or the famous Pyramid Tomb, which is owned by Nicholas Cage 
    •  ‼️ Do not lean, sit or put your feet on any of the grave sites or tombstones. 
  •  St. Louis Cathedral/Jackson Square πŸ“πŸ“· 
    • This cathedral is the oldest active cathedral in the US. Main square of the French Quarter, there is a fountain in the middle with views of the water in the opposite direction of the church. 
    • If you walk on St. Ann street near Jackson Square, there are a number of cute gift shops and souvenirs. 
  • Moonwalk/Moonwalk Park πŸ“ 
    • The waterfront area where you can see the Mississippi river. The sunsets here are fantastic! 
  • New Orleans Ghost Tours
    • New Orleans is one of the most haunted cities in the US. There are numerous ghost tours and ghost hunts available. 
    • Some reputable companies: Nightly Spirits Ghost Tours, Free Tours by Foot, New Orleans Ghost Adventures Tours 
  • Royal St 
    • Walking Royal St. gives way to lots of art galleries, antique shops, sights and things to look at. 
  •  The Carousel Bar & Lounge πŸ“· 
    • A bar that is made out of a real and beautiful carousel that spins as you sit at the bar. I've met some of the best people while sitting at this bar! 
  • Frenchmen Street πŸ“·
    • If you have extra time to explore and are interested in seeing more, check out Frenchmen Street! You can walk to (or have your Uber/Lyft drop you off at) Decatur and Frenchmen Street. From there you can walk North on Frenchmen. 
    • There's a hot dog spot called Dat Dog πŸ΄ for the foodies and if you keep exploring, you'll find plenty of bars, live music shows, bookstores, and an amazing Art Garden and Floating Gallery πŸ“ where you can meet local artists, purchase unique souvenirs and enjoy people watching under the string lights hanging between the trees. 
    • I think Frenchmen Street is an underrated New Orleans experience and worth the time. There's jazz music, places to get a drink, local art, architecture and food. It's all here as well. 
  • St. Charles Streetcar Line πŸ“· 
    • The oldest continuously operating streetcar line in the world, running since 1835. 
    • Streetcar fare is $1.25 and you must pay when you board with exact fare amounts including change 
  • New Orleans Pharmacy Museum πŸ“· 
    • $10 per person and reservations required 
    • Great pitstop for history buffs and vintage-lovers
    • 1800's apothecary and pharmacy turned into an explorable exhibit 
  • 1850 House at the Louisiana State Museum 
    • $5 per person 
    • Self-guided tours of rooms with furniture and everyday items from the 1800's 
    • Great place for photo opps 
St. Louis Cemetery in New Orleans 

New Orleans Weekend Itinerary: 

New Orleans Time Zone: CST 

Cafe Beignet's second location on Royal Street | New Orleans

Day 1

  • Check into hotel (we stayed at the Marriott Courtyard Inn - French Quarter/Iberville location, it was about $189/night for us)
  • Walk east on Iberville towards Bourbon St. The intersection of Iberville and Bourbon Street will give you the best view to start your New Orleans adventure! 
  • Make a left onto Bourbon St and walk to Cafe Beignet (5 min) 
    • Cafe Beignet - They have two locations. Enjoy a brunch or lunch here with beignets and coffee for energy (cafe au lait, pronounced “cafe oh lay”) 
    • It's right around $15 per person
    • It's a popular place but if you go after 1pm, the crowds are significantly less and there are lower wait times
  • Next, head to Spirits on Bourbon (bar) for your first drink! Enjoy the sights and sounds of Bourbon street as you go. 
    • Get the Souvenir Skull drinks called the Resurrection - $15/pp 
  • Keep walking north on Bourbon Street 4.5 blocks to Marie Laveau’s Voodoo shop (6 min walk)
  • For the more voodoo experiences, head to: 
    • Reverend Zombie's House of Voodoo (2 min walk, they also do tarot card readings here)
    • New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum (2 min) $7 
    • Then to Voodoo Authentica (2 min walk) 
  • If you want to stop at something with less voodoo but equally cool, make a right onto St. Ann street and find Boutique Du Vampyre, a vampire themed gift shop! (1 min walk from Marie Laveau's)
  • Next, find St. Ann street and continue heading southeast
  • You'll eventually make it to St. Louis Cathedral
  •  Right in front of the cathedral is Jackson Square, which is really picturesque. On St Ann street right next to Jackson Square, there are several interesting gift shops and souvenir stores: 
    • Most notably is the Tabasco Country Store (Tabasco is from Louisiana!)
    • Creole Delicacies Kitchen Shop, where you will find culinary gifts and kitchen items 
    • New Orleans Cajun Store, filled with foods, jewelry, clothing, and table decor 
  • Other favorite local shops in this area: 
    • Royal Praline Company, fantastic place to grab more sweets to enjoy or take home as edible souvenirs 
    • Magnolia Praline Company, another great local place for sweet pralines 
    • Cafe du Monde is very close to Jackson Square, if you wanted to stop here for more beignets and coffee as well 
    • Skull Paradise is my personal favorite gift shop. They have vintage style postcards, travel themed items, stylish decor pieces, and more. The owners are great! 
  • Watch the sunset from the Moonwalk, the waterfront area across the street from the square right on the Mississippi River 
  • Head northwest on St. Peter Street towards Royal Street. Instead of walking back to Bourbon, we'll take Royal Street all the way back to Iberville Street to see a different area of shops, restaurants and nightlife. On this route, you'll pass by a few art galleries, antique stores, the Louisiana Supreme Court, and the famous Carousel Bar
  • Dinner at ACME Oyster House 
    • $20/pp
    • Expect to wait at least 45 mins for a table 
  • Back to hotel 

Day 2

  • On the second day, we'll usually enjoy a light breakfast at the hotel to save on time and money. Plus it's great not having to be anywhere early after a long first day the previous day!
  • Hop on the St. Charles street car near Canal Street and Carondelet Street ($1.25/pp), get off on St. Charles & Union. 
  • Lunch at Luke
    • My favorite menu items are the Etouffee, Crispy Brussels, and Seafood towers!
  • Find the intersection of Iberville Street & Chartres Street. We're going to explore Chartres all the way to Frenchman Street (northeast). Chartres is not as busy as Bourbon or Royal but has its own share of sights to see. Take in the architecture without worrying about the crowds. 
  • Museum stops: 
    • Visit the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. It's only open Wednesday through Saturday but definitely a must-stop for history buffs! 
    • The Cabildo, The Jazz Museum, and 1850 House are also in this vicinity, located at the Louisiana State Museum. All are superb options for some interesting city history. The 1850 House is the best choice for photo opps! 
    • There's also the Beauregard-Keys House, a 19th-century home with tours and a garden
  • Once you get to Frenchman Street, make a left and head north on Frenchman to explore some more, visit the Frenchmen Art and Books bookstore, stop at any of the jazz bars that catch your attention, the Art Garden & Floating Gallery, and the Palace Market. (Update: both galleries and markets are temporarily closed due to Covid-19). 
  • Dinner at the Court of Two Sisters
    • Make a reservation in advance to score a seat in the courtyard! 
    • Don't forget to order the table-side Bananas Foster for dessert. 
  • After dinner, head over to Bourbon street to experience the nighttime scene 

Day 3

  • Check out and store bags at the hotel 4 min walk from hotel to Desire Oyster Bar 
  • 7:30/8:00AM - Breakfast at Desire Oyster Bar 
  • 9:30AM-11:30AM -  Free Tours by Foot - St. Louis Cemetery Tour 
    • $2 per person, not including tip for your guide
    • 3 min walk from Desire Oyster Bar to Deja Vu Restaurant on Dauphine, which is where the tour's meeting spot is (make sure to pre-register for the tour with Free Tours by Foot)
  • Lunch at your place of choice 
  • Head back to the hotel, grab your luggage, then to the airport to depart back home 

A streetcar on Gravier Street & St Charles Avenue on the way to get lunch at Luke | New Orleans 

Other Things to Note: 

  • ‼️ Voodoo is very much still practiced in New Orleans today and it's not as "evil" as pop culture would have you believe. There are many different types of voodoo practiced all over the world, the one in New Orleans is specifically known as Louisiana Voodoo or New Orleans Voodoo and is a religion based in nature, spirits and ancestors. When I explain voodoo in layman's terms to friends, I tell them it's almost very similar to how Native Americans use nature, organic material, and singing to connect with their ancestors and spirits. New Orleans Voodoo includes readings, spiritual ceremonies, prayers, singing, dance rituals, and chanting. If you visit, make sure to treat the voodoo culture and religion with respect. Some voodoo shops do not allow videos or pictures. 
  •  ‼️ New Orleans is generally safe. However, you may encounter some scammers while walking around in the touristy areas. If they come up to you and ask a question (about where you are from, your shoes, your clothing, etc.) just be firm but politely say “No, thank you” and keep walking. Keep valuables and wallets out of pockets, as pick-pocketers may target crowded tourist areas. When watching street performances, keep an eye on your purses and backpacks. This can happen anywhere, in any city or country so stay alert and aware. Keep in mind, the homeless population in New Orleans is higher than most cities in the US due to Hurricane Katrina so many of these people may seem aggressive but they are simply trying to survive. (We like to carry dollar bills in small increments to give to people; we’ve found that donating what we can to be the least confrontational way out of certain situations). 
  • Bring a reusable water bottle to carry with you as you walk around. It’s way cheaper than buying water bottles everywhere and finding a disposal bin to recycle your single-use water bottle may be difficult. 
  • ‼️ Edit to add: all of my experiences were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, please check local listings for more information include updated hours of operation or new safety requirements. 

The Lost Ones Travel Vlog - New Orleans Episode

We also put together a video log (vlog) episode of our very first trip to New Orleans back in 2017. We've been back since then but it's always cool to look back on the first time. If you're a video person, this might help you see what we experienced during our weekend in New Orleans! Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more travel vlogs by clicking this link

Originally published 12/24/2018. Updated 3/20/2021. 

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