Before I got to New Orléans I had googled things to see, do and eat when I arrived. I knew I only had three days and that I needed to cram in as many activities as I could.
Once I arrived, I realised that the city is so much bigger than I thought, and to truly get a taste you need to do lots of walking. I would first recommend five days here to truly sink your teeth into The Big Easy.
Because we’re staying in a motorhome about fifteen minutes drive from the city, we caught the bus into the city each morning to Broad Street. We then hopped on a streetcar which took us down Canal Street, it’s only $1.25 per ride. If you need to catch a bus from your accommodation, I would recommend grabbing a 24-hour jazzy pass onboard which costs $3.00. This allows you to hop on and off all buses and street cars as much as you like for the 24 hour period. From Canal Street, you are in perfect place to explore the French Quarter the most touristy part of New Orléans. I would definitely recommend starting here, and then potentially moving on to the Garden District if you feel like it.
New Orléans Must Do’s
Walk Bourbon Street once, then get the hell outta there. It’s not the nicest street unless you love getting drunk and being sick in the streets. I’m serious. It smelt really gross, and there were so many bars with bad music. It’s literally the “go and be a drunk idiot’ street.
There are lots of homeless people around the side streets asking for money or drinks so be prepared for this. Walk the street once, see the pretty buildings and visit Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. Then walk away, far away.
Walk Decatur Street and visit along the way
- The Mississippi River lookout
- Jackson Square (often live music) + St Louis Cathedral
- Follow the powdered sugar over the road to Cafe du Monde for classic French beignets
- Check out one of the praline shops (there are heaps)
- Grab a bite to eat at The Original French Market Restaurant and Bar (ask to sit upstairs) or Cafe Maspero and watch the mule-drawn carriages drive by. Both these places have incredible southern food.
You can also check out my foodie bucket list which are all the things I want to eat/drink.
Also… don’t be fooled by the cafe’s you may see around selling beignets DO NOT get beignets from them, you MUST go to Cafe du Monde for the authentic experience! You’ll thank me for it 🙂
Walk Frenchman Street and check out any of the bars for some amazing live jazz. You could also wander around some of Esplanade Avenue, one of the quieter and more scenic roads for sure.
If you feel like doing some vintage shopping head down Magazine Street but if you’re coming from the Canal Street end, I recommend catching an Uber. It’s a LONG walk to get down the other end which is where the shops like Trashy Diva, Magazine Antique Mall, and Century Girl Vintage are.
Take your time looking around the French Quarter. The quaint, shuttered Creole style townhouses are painted in beautiful colours. They’re a real sight to see off the beaten track and give tons of awesome photo opportunities. I’m a complete weirdo and walk along imagining the lives of the people who live there (I do this in New Zealand also).
Do a walking tour through the Garden District if you can, you’ll see some amazing sights as well as learning the historical background to many of the places you visit. It’s one of, if not the most beautiful area in New Orléans.
Visit the Whitney Plantation which is just outside New Orléans towards Baton Rouge. I couldn’t visit the southern states and not do a plantation tour. Civil Rights history, as well as world history, has always been of huge interest to me so it was a must. My only problem was finding a plantation tour that didn’t bullshit their way through the tour. I wanted something that was raw, powerful and told the lives of the people who were enslaved.
If I can recommend one plantation tour to do in Louisiana it’s the Whitney Plantation (I trawled through everything that was available and this one seemed the best at telling what really happened). It was a sugar cane plantation during the 1800’s and they concentrate on the lives of the slaves who worked the land. It was absolutely heartbreaking but something I would recommend to anyone visiting Louisiana. I shed a tear a few times during the 90-minute tour because it was all very emotional and I just felt like the land we were walking on had a vibe I couldn’t shake. Our tour guide was an incredibly passionate African-American man who had studied slave history. I held on to every word he told us. Gentrification was not an issue on this tour while being respectful to the history of those affected by slavery it was not a ‘white-washed’ story
The Plantation has only recently reopened to the public after its 262-year-old history. We booked online to make sure we got our spots, $22 dollars per person and worth every cent.
As always, with every overseas trip, you can never do everything. We ran out of time and had to make our way towards Mississippi so didn’t get the time to do the below list. I’ve recommended them to you, and will hopefully be able to cross them off my bucket list for when I’m back.
The Activities I Wish I Had Time To Do
Go for a cruise on the Natchez. The last remaining steam boat on the Mississippi River, there’s live jazz!
Try Banana’s Foster at Brennan’s on Royal Street (the pink building). A classic dish, and the one that Brennan’s is most famous for. Make sure you check their website for sitting times. You need to dress fancy if you’re heading in during the evening.
Try a Sazerac at the Sazerac Bar in Roosevelt Hotel. It’s the oldest cocktail in America, and was first made here in The Big Easy. You need to go into the hotel and walk down past all the beautiful chandeliers. You’ll see the Sazerac bar there on your right. They are $17.00 USD each.
Go on a swamp tour – we just didn’t have the time and I wish we could have fit this in.
And lastly, take one of the daily classes at New Orleans Cooking School. Learn all about the regions delicious cuisines.
Extra Travel Tips*
I would suggest being extra aware of your surroundings in New Orleans. Like all big cities in America, be careful in the evenings. You will also most likely see abandoned buildings, broken pavements and areas of New Orléans that still haven’t been fixed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Please let me know if you have comments or can recommend other amazing things to do in New Orleans. I definitely want to head back there again.