New Orleans is one of the top destinations in the United States because of its famous Cajun & Creole cuisine, Mardi Gras season, Jazz heritage, incredible architecture and overall Southern charm. Its nickname, The Big Easy refers to its laid-back attitude and the easy-going nature of the jazz musicians and other residents of the city.
Guest post by Emily Hines
Blog: Em’s on the road
What’s the best time to visit New Orleans?
– Spring is the best time to visit New Orleans because of Mardi Gras and other festivals. Fall and early winter are ideal if you want to avoid Southern humidity and the large festival crowds while still experiencing the best of The Big Easy.
– Mardi Gras is an obvious choice because it’s a huge street party, but you have to be prepared for major crowds and high prices at hotels. If you want to experience some parades but not full blown Mardi Gras, I would suggest visiting over St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish Channel parade is always a lot of fun and a lot more low key than Mardi Gras.
The warm season lasts from the end of May to late September with an average daily high temperature around 85°F. The cold season lasts from late November to late February, with an average daily high temperature below 66°F.
The busiest tourist season is spring, February to May. The weather is milder than in the summer months, and there are many festivals during this season making it very popular for visitors.
Mardi Gras is from January through March. St Patrick’s Day is typically celebrated over two weekends in March with four parades around the city. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is another popular spring festival at the end of April featuring live music, Cajun and creole food, crafts and more.
a Few facts about New Orleans
Much of the tourism in New Orleans revolves around the food and booze scene, and for good reason. A number of famous chefs got their start in New Orleans, including the Food Network’s Emeril Lagasse, Susan Spicer of Bayona, Donald Link of Herbsainte, and John Besh of Domenica. There are no strict open container laws in the city, so if you don’t finish your drink somewhere, just ask for a to-go cup.
New Orleans is also known to be the place where voodoo was introduced into the US. One of the most prominent figures of New Orleans was Marie Laveau, an oracle who performed numerous exorcisms and voodoo rituals and who became widely known as the Voodoo Queen back in the 1800s.
Jazz was also born in New Orleans. Famous singers like Louis Armstrong once lived in New Orleans, and the deep jazz heritage can be seen all over the city with jazz clubs and performers on every corner.
One Day in New Orleans Itinerary
Top things to do in New Orleans, Louisiana
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do during your one day in New Orleans.
Breakfast at The Green Goddess
New Orleans is a culinary destination, so don’t be afraid of trying something new on your trip whether it be raw oysters or alligator. Start the day with a hearty breakfast at the Green Goddess in the French Quarter. Nestled in Exchange Alley, the Green Goddess serves up eclectic cuisine with a New Orleans backbone. Expect to find vegan dishes alongside southern comfort food, so there is something for everyone. Grab a table outside and try the sweet potato biscuits and wild mushroom gravy or the daily french toast.
Enjoy New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
New Orleans is famous worldwide for being a city of music. But of all the genres, jazz take up the most prominent place in the city’s culture. That’s why a visit to New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park is a must. With a bit of luck, you will come across a free concert here, and do try to get a hold of one of the rangers who will tell you absolutely everything about this type of music and its relationship to this town.
Explore Jackson Square
One of the most famous historic landmarks in New Orleans, Jackson Square is host to a number of artists and performers. Have your palm read, get your portrait painted, or enjoy the sunshine and street performers playing music all day long.
When you need a break from the sun, venture across the square and tour the incredible St. Louis Cathedral built in the 1720s. If you want to see more of the French Quarter without walking, hop on a carriage ride.
Beignets at Cafe Du Monde
You can’t visit New Orleans without going to Cafe Du Monde for some beignets and coffee. This traditional coffee shop dating back to the 1860s serves coffee and chicory black or au lait (with hot milk) and beignets (square donuts covered in powdered sugar). They arrive on your table piping hot, crisp at first bite with a soft and fluffy center. To cut the sweetness give them a good dunk in the dark coffee. There is usually a wait but it is worth it. The donuts and coffee are the perfect pick-me-up until lunch.
The National WWII Museum
Now this is something really special. The National WWII Museum in New Orleans is one of the finest museums in the country and is absolutely HUGE, so plan accordingly. Not only does it have an incredible amount of exhibits, but you can also ride a torpedo boat from the period and actually handle some of the artifacts. See how the war was fought abroad and how it affected the country back home. It will surely be an enlightening experience.
Po-Boys are another food synonymous with the Crescent City. There are dozens of shops slinging these popular sandwiches all over the city. Head uptown and try the oyster po-boy at Domilise’s Po-Boy & Bar. The seafood is fried fresh to order so expect to wait. For the land lubbers, try the roast beef.
Shopping on Magazine Street
After lunch venture to Magazine Street to do some shopping at a variety of local shops. Magazine Street is home to tons of antique shops, boutiques, art galleries, and more. A few must sees: Funky Monkey Vintage, Bin 428 (gourmet wine & gift), and Sucre Chocolate Shop.
Dinner at La Petite Grocery
After an afternoon of shopping stop by a favorite eatery among locals and visitors, La Petite Grocery. Once a full service grocery store in the late 1800s, La Petite Grocery opened its doors in 2004 to once again provide the neighborhood with unique foods and remind guests of old New Orleans. This restaurant moves at a slower pace encouraging patrons to linger and enjoy their time together. They serve up traditional New Orleans dishes like Turtle Bolognese and Shellfish Stew with collard greens and have a truly incredible cheese burger served with housemade pickles and hand cut fries.
Drink a Sazerac
Head back downtown for New Orleans’ signature cocktail, the Sazerac. Created in the 1830s, the Sazerac is made with cognac or whiskey, Peychaud’s Bitters, absinthe, and a sugar cube on the rocks. Try it at the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel or the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone.
If you can handle more, head to Bourbon Street to drink and dance the night away. There are plenty of places with giant daiquiris and hurricanes but if you want a classic Bourbon Street experience, head to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop.
It’s one of the oldest bars in America and a decent walk down on Bourbon Street so it’s not as touristy as other parts of the street. Grab a drink and a seat on the piano and sing along. Beware of their signature cocktail, the purple drank. It’s liable to knock you on your ass if you can’t handle your booze.
Where to stay in New Orleans?
The Roosevelt Hotel
Part of the Waldorf Astoria collection, The Roosevelt Hotel is phenomenal pick if you’re looking for luxury. This elegant 5-star hotel is located only a 15-minute walk to Jackson Square. Spacious rooms offer stylish décor and luxury amenities. The hotel also features an outdoor pool, a gym and a spa with wide variety of treatments.
Hotel Le Marais
Hotel Le Marais is an upscale boutique hotel located in the French Quarter, only a short walk to Bourbon Street. City’s best restaurants, art galleries and jazz clubs can be found a half block away from the hotel. Rooms offer ultimate comfort and a nice decor that combines both modern style with classic furniture. The hotel features a business center and fitness center as well as the heated saltwater pool with the shared lounge area or landscaped courtyard.
Dauphine Orleans Hotel
Dauphine Orleans Hotel, set in a historical building, brings the real New Orleans experience. Located only a block away from Bourbon Street, the hotel is a great pick for those who are short on time, but still want to experience a lot. The hotel features saltwater pool with a beautiful terrace as well as the fitness center.
Madame Isabelle’s House
Madame Isabelle’s House is a charming hostel and one of the best budget stays in New Orleans. The hostel features beautiful terraces and common areas great for socialization and meeting new people.
day trips from new orleans
Louisiana offers a lot, so a day trip from New Orleans is an excellent way to get to know this intriguing state a bit better. Explore the different cultures present here, head to the swamps, or simply do both.
Oak Alley Plantation
From the mighty Mississippi to various swamps, a trip to Oak Alley Plantation has it all. But the most important thing is that you get to see what it was like to live on plantations before the civil war in the United States. Of course, don’t forget to taste some delicious Cajun cuisine. A lesson in history and nature, this day trip from New Orleans is something you won’t forget any time soon.
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There are certainly worse ways to spend your day than cruising the Mississippi River. Even better, you can do it aboard the Natchez, the only steamboat left in town. Enjoy the trip spiced up with some excellent jazz music, try some Creole food and local drinks, or simply stay outside and soak in the magic of this immense river. Either way, you’re in for something very special.
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Bayous of Cajun Country
If you’re up for some excitement, head into the wild and explore the bayous of Cajun Country. These swamps are full of awesome animals (like alligators and snakes) and are tied to numerous legends. Simply hop on a boat and listen to the stories from the guides and captains who will take you on this trip and enjoy a pretty surreal but absolutely beautiful scenery.
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Exploring a new city is always a good reason for a day trip. Baton Rouge is the capital of the state of Louisiana and has a lot to offer in terms of culture. Check out Lousiana’s old state capitol, African American Museum, board the USS Kidd and visit many more fascinating cultural sites. Or simply head right to one of the city’s excellent theme parks for some adrenaline and fun.
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Yes, yes, swamps again. Atchafalaya is the biggest river swamp in the country, and the things you can see there are absolutely incredible. This is Louisiana’s nature at its very best, with loads of trees jutting from the water and loads of foliage all around you. You can explore everything on foot, by bike or even rent a boat, but whatever you choose, you will enjoy the incredibly serene nature here.
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Extra tips for visiting New Orleans
– Take the streetcar around town. It is really affordable and allows you to experience the city in a different way. The St. Charles Line is the oldest operating streetcar in the world and runs through the oldest and most charming section of Uptown. New Orleans is really walkable, so grab a map and hit the pavement.
– Leave your diet at home.
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