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A Perfect Four-Day Itinerary for New Orleans


jackson squaire new orleans at night

Welcome to New Orleans!


I hope you’re ready for an adventure! The Big Easy has a truly unique atmosphere, unlike any other city in the world. You could spend years here and always be discovering new things. But if you’ve only got a few days, here are all the best things you should see, do, and perhaps most importantly, eat!


Friday


a solo traveler in the french quarter new orleans

For your first day in New Orleans, the best first thing to do (after checking into your hotel of course) is to roll into the French Quarter and just explore! The French Quarter is NOLA’s historic center, and is the place most people picture when they think of New Orleans. It’s a picture-perfect neighborhood full of beautiful buildings, live music on every corner, and more restaurants and bars than you can possibly imagine. 


The best way to experience the Quarter for the first time is to get a little lost. Wander up and down the streets and explore anything that looks interesting! Admire the landscaping in Jackson Square and the facade of Saint Louis Cathedral. Laugh at all the touristy spots on Decatur Street. Savor the music and unique shops on Royal Street. Grab a drink on Bourbon Street if that’s your jam!


a bowl of gumbo and a mint julep

Dinner at The French Market Restaurant


When you start getting hungry, follow your nose all the way to the French Market Restaurant. This place is a Quarter icon, and serves up classic NOLA fare in a no-frills but impossibly delicious fashion. I’ve heard locals describe this place as serving “the best beans and rice they’ve ever tasted” and “the only place in the Quarter where they’ll order boiled crawfish.” Arrive here early as there’s often a wait on weekend evenings, but it’s worth it!


A Ghost Tour


If you have any interest in the paranormal, you cannot leave New Orleans without taking a ghost tour. Or even if this isn’t a particular area of interest for you, a Ghost Walk through the Quarter is an amazing way to learn some unique NOLA history and experience a new side of the city. I recommend New Orleans Ghost Adventures for the perfect balance of history and ghost stories. (If you get Orion as a guide, tell him Andi says hi!)



Saturday


cafe beignet in New Orleans

Breakfast Beignets


For your first morning in New Orleans, nothing hits the spot quite like a beignet or two and a chicory coffee! These delicious treats are almost synonymous with New Orleans, and absolutely must be tried when you’re in the Big Easy. 


There are two main places to get these treats: Cafe Beignet and Cafe Du Monde. Personally, I think Cafe Beignet serves the superior beignet, but the dining experience at Cafe du Monde is one of a kind. Click here to read up on both cafes and choose which version of the beignet experience you want. Or try both and decide for yourself which is better!


A Museum Visit

a sample cup from the sazerac house

After your powdered sugar and coffee breakfast, it’s time to hit a museum! There are dozens of amazing museums in New Orleans. So many that, despite many trips to New Orleans, I haven’t been to all of them! I can personally recommend the National WWII Museum for an immersive history experience, The Sazerac House for a NOLA history lesson through the lens of famous cocktails, or the Audubon Aquarium for a nature adventure. If none of these sound like your cup of chicory coffee, locals also speak very highly of the Presbeyaire and the Jazz History Museum.



Did all that museum-ing make you work up an appetite? Time for a NOLA lunch break classic: a muffuletta! This sandwich is another must-try, and the best place to get one is Central Grocery in the Quarter. Pick up a sandwich to go (one sandwich for every two people is the way to go!), grab some extra snacks and drinks, and prepare for a picnic in your next destination.


the singing oak city park new orleans

City Park


Located just north of the French Quarter, City Park is one of my favorite places in New Orleans. It’s a sprawling green space full of everything from water features and wild bayous to a free sculpture garden. I could (and did!) write an entire post about everything you should see and do in City Park, so hop over there and read that for all the details. But for this itinerary, the top priority is to take that picnic you purchased at Central Grocery and have a quiet meal under the Singing Oak: a gorgeous tree full of soothing wind chimes.


Cafe Sbisa (or Muriel’s if you’ve got the dough)


After your lovely afternoon in City Park, it’ll be time to eat again. (Most of this itinerary is food. Why else does one go to New Orleans?!) For your Saturday night dinner, it’s time to class it up! If you have the budget, you should absolutely check out Muriel’s. This restaurant is right on Jackson Square. It’s one of the most classy spots in the quarter, and make sure you say hello to their resident ghost! (You probably learned about him on your tour last night!)


If Muriel’s is outside of your price range, Cafe Sbisa is a more than worthy substitute. This restaurant serves creative entrees paired with exquisite cocktails. It’s another delicious choice.


Soak Up the Music


After your meal, head east from the French Quarter over to Frenchman Street. This corner of town is home to the best jazz clubs in this already music-soaked city. You can walk down this street anytime after 2pm or so, and the music will be pouring into the street. Walk until you find a place where the sound catches your attention. If that place is too crowded, keep walking! Find the next one! No matter the time of day or the night of the week, the music will be amazing. The Spotted Cat is probably the most famous of the clubs, but I also love Bamboula’s!



Sunday


a frozen irish coffee

Frozen Irish Coffees at Molly's on the Market


For your next NOLA breakfast, you can -and should- get more beignets! But you know what else you should get? A frozen Irish Coffee that will haunt your dreams. Molly’s at the Market serves up a frozen Irish coffee that’s absolutely to die for. Picture a frappuccino, and then add whiskey. It comes fresh and icy and served with a swirl. You can customize yours with a whole list of additional shots, but I think the OG version takes the cake. There’s no better drink on a hot day in the quarter, and they are a must-try on any New Orleans itinerary.


Steamboat Tour


While you eat your beignets and sip your Irish coffee, wander down the riverfront towards the west end of Jackson Square. This is where you’ll find the boarding areas for the Steamboat Natchez and her sisters. These old-fashioned paddlewheel steamboats are NOLA history in motion. There’s something magical about being out on the Mississippi in one of these vessels that I can’t quite put into words.


You can book tours that come with meals, or just sign up for the cruise. Word to the wise: compared to some other river cruises I’ve taken in other cities, this cruise isn’t particularly scenic. The draw to this cruise is the live narration that teaches you about the area, the experience of seeing the paddlewheel in motion, and the live jazz band that plays on the upper deck!


the steamboat natchez in New Orleans

Magazine Street (feat. Dat Dog!)


After your boat trip, it’s time to get out of the French Quarter and into areas that most visitors never see! For a much more local but still very vibrant scene, duck under the expressway bridges and hop over to Magazine Street! This local hangout has everything you need to while away an afternoon. Cozy cafes, unique shops, delicious restaurants, and everything in between. 


It’s also one of the best places in New Orleans to try an iconic Dat Dog hotdog! This counter-serve restaurant will change your opinion of hotdogs forever. Order a Rougarou with a pint of something refreshing and thank me later!


The Gumbo shop


After your afternoon on Magazine, hop back over to the quarter for one more amazing cajun dinner. And the last place on the top of my recommendations list is The Gumbo Shop. Don’t worry, they serve a lot more than just gumbo! It’s a cozy restaurant in a historic building with a menu chock full of New Orleans classics. It’s the kind of place that lists a “remoulade salad” on their menu as an excuse to serve you a scoop of crawfish remoulade on a bed of plain lettuce, so you can eat an entire scoop of remoulade with a fork like the champion you are.


drinks from the gazebo cafe on a table with a rainbow fan

Go Bar Hopping!


And now that your stomach is all full of hotdogs and remoulade (and maybe gumbo), it’s time to take part in a classic New Orleans tradition: the bar crawl! Sure you can shuffle down Bourbon street if you want, but I think the best locales in the Quarter tend to be on Royal street, or on the cross streets between Royal and Rampart. Go for a wander and stop anywhere that catches your eye. Or check out this list highlighting all my personal favorites! And whatever you do, make sure you can stumble back to your hotel at the end of the night!



Monday


For your final morning in New Orleans, it’s time to put your feet up. You’ve been running around the Big Easy for three days now, and it’s time to -you know- take it easy. There’s nothing quite as quintessentially New Orleans as taking a stroll down the bustling streets, stopping for a drink or a beignet whenever the need strikes, and soaking in the atmosphere.

a sazerac on a table on the Muriel's balcony

But if you’re looking for a specific place, my favorite place to take it easy in the Big Easy is the gallery at Muriel’s.


Maybe you visited Muriel's on Friday, but even if you did, you should check out the gallery. You can reach it by ordering a drink at the back bar. Once you’re there and have paid, ask if the seance lounge and the gallery is open. It usually is. You’ll get directions to the stairs, and you can follow those stairs up to the best kept secret on Jackson Square. The views up there are amazing, and I've never once seen this gallery full. It’s the perfect place to soak in New Orleans.



This is an Ideal New Orleans Itinerary


I hope you enjoyed your weekend in New Orleans! It’s a magical city that I find myself returning to again and again.


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Love and Shenanigans,


Andi


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