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I haven’t traveled nearly as much as I’d like, but even out of the places I have been, there are a few that grabbed a hold of me tight and make my heart ache for another visit. One of these such places is New Orleans. It’s so unique and I can’t imagine finding this experience anywhere else in this country. I’ve written about New Orleans a few times here, here and here.
Today though, I’d like to talk about how to spend a weekend in New Orleans. This budget-friendly guide can serve as an itinerary for a long weekend full of things to do in New Orleans. I hope it gives you an idea of how to spend a weekend in NOLA and how to manage your time. It’s easy to swap out any of the restaurants or bars I’ve mentioned below and visit the places on your foodie bucket list. This guide includes plenty of time to wander around the neighborhoods and take in the sights and sounds of the Big Easy.
Cafe Du Monde – No matter what time you arrive, visiting Cafe Du Monde is a must. I sampled beignets from one other restaurant and I won’t even list it below, because it was not worth it whatsoever. Cafe Du Monde is as indulgent and tasty as they say. It’s one of those touristy eats that is totally worth it. If you arrive on a weekday you shouldn’t have to deal with much of a line whatsoever. However, if you do see a line, just come back later since the place is open 24 hours. On Saturday AM, my boyfriend actually stopped at this location around 9 am and didn’t have to wait at all for a carryout order. Feel free to take yours to go too.
French Market – Put all that sugar to use by browsing and walking around the French Market and the other shops lining the streets.
Jackson Square – Right by the French Market, you’ll find Jackson Square. You’ve probably regularly seen it photographed in New Orleans. When we were here they even had a special tree lighting ceremony! I believe there is regular entertainment and events going on in this square regularly.
Willa Jean – Depending on what time you arrived, you might be ready for lunch. I suggest visiting a restaurant owned by John Best. Willa Jean and Domenica are both great options. Willa Jean offers inexpensive sandwiches and fresh baked items. Domenica is Italian food with a great happy hour that includes half price pizza from 2-5 pm.
Walking Tour – Now would be a great time to try a walking tour of the French Quarter or head back to the hotel to relax for awhile.
Bourbon Street & Shopping – Now’s time for Bourbon Street, baby! I personally wasn’t trying to spend a late night out on my first evening, so my boyfriend and I walked through Bourbon Street and enjoyed just a few drinks.
St. Roch Market – You could head here earlier and end your night at Bourbon Street, but since we were taking it easy for our first evening, we ended it at the St. Roch Market. I looooved this place. It’s one of the restaurants that I really hope you visit. It’s essentially like a food hall market. You walk into one large space where different vendors have mini kitchen spaces set up all along the walls. You can grab a variety of food like a BBQ sandwich from one spot and pair it with a taco from another. Plus, there’s a bar to grab a drink and loads of communal seating in the middle. I actually saw Kate Bosworth here, so if it’s good enough for her tastes, it’s good enough for me.
Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Bus – I’ve written about these buses several times, and I found it super useful in New Orleans. Since we stayed in the French Quarter we were able to hop on right near Jackson Square (also where you can pick up your tickets) and ride the bus in a big loop towards Magazine Street. You actually get a lot of history and interesting facts from the guides. We hopped off on Magazine Street and headed straight to the next stop.
District Donuts – LOVE this place! I’m honestly not a huge donut person, but DD was really good. They are huge and have lots of unique flavors. But, don’t just stop at the donuts. The food here is great too and makes a perfect early lunch. I had the chicken slider and waffle fries to go along with my donut. The sides are huge so I’d suggest sharing. Now for lots of walking to work off that meal.
AHS: Coven House – If you’re an American Horror Story fan, I just want to note that the house from the Coven season is located just around the corner from District Donuts. I had to stop for a quick snap.
Magazine Street & the Garden District – This entire strip is full of shops and sights to see. You can easily spend several hours walking along the streets.
You can check out this free walking tour guide http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/self-guided-garden-district/ to save some costs. If you have time, I’d suggest stopping at the Lafayette Cemetery over here too.
Mardi Gras Museum – If you can’t visit during Mardi Gras, then you’ve got to get yourself to the Mardi Gras Museum. You’ll be able to see how the floats are created and more. Plus, with your Hop On Hop Off pass you get a small discount on the price.
The Company Burger – I love trying the burger restaurant that is popular within the region whenever I travel (i.e. Shake Shack, Whataburger, In ’N’ Out, etc.) and from what I could tell, TCB was the place to enjoy burgers in NOLA. So we stopped here for an inexpensive bite. My favorite part was the mayo/topping bar so you could try out all the different sauces that you’d like.
Barcadia – We love arcade bars and always stop in one if there are any available in the cities we visit. But feel free to stop at another bar in the area, like Erin Rose, Backspace Bar and Black Penny.
Walking Haunted Tour – There’s so much haunted history within New Orleans that I think a haunted tour is a must. Visit TripAdvisor for reviews to see which one is the best fit for you. Afterwards, continue the bar hopping! Click here for my full list of the bars that locals love and some really crazy ones!
Cafe Du Monde – If you’re feeling a bit rough after last night, I would recommend more beignets. We enjoyed ours in the hotel room while getting ready along with a big Coke. #hangovercures Feel free to make time for breakfast if you’re someone who needs a big meal to start their day.
Cemetery Tour – The cemetery closest to the French Quarter is the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. This is where you can find the burial site of voodoo queen Marie Laveau. You will need a guide for this tour. You can even go up to the cemetery and pay a guide there or book before. I wouldn’t recommend paying more than $25 either way.
Killer Po Boys – It’s not a NOLA trip without some Po Boys. We stopped at Killer Po Boys for a casual and creative take on the sandwich. These things are huge which is why I didn’t recommend a big breakfast. After this and your cemetery tour, take some time to relax. Do some more sightseeing or grab a quick nap to freshen up for your last night.
Sweet Pea and Tulip Boutique – This was my favorite shop that we stopped in. I loved the selection in the boutique and picked up gifts for my siblings and a cute hat for myself. They have some cute, but not tacky, New Orleans branded type tops that are great to remember your trip with.
Hotel Monteleone Carousel Bar – I adore this bar and hotel. We visited during the holiday season and OMG the lobby was SO gorgeous. I don’t know what it is about Christmas decorations, but the lights and the smells of fresh pine just make me so happy. But, regardless if it’s the holiday season during your trip, a visit to the Carousel Bar is a muuuust. It’s just as it sounds. The bar within Hotel Monteleone is similar to a carousel in that it rotates. It goes very slowly so you almost don’t notice it and therefore aren’t going to get motion sickness (I hope!). There is also plenty of seating around the bar if you’re not able to grab a seat right there. The service at our table was great and the cocktail selection includes many local classics.
NOLA Restaurant – After your upscale cocktails at the Carousel Bar, I’d suggest treating yourself to a great meal. I suggest trying out on of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants since he really put NOLA dining on the map. But, you can check out this list for other restaurant recs.
Frenchmen Street – I adore Frenchmen Street. I think this street is a million times better than Bourbon Street. The bars and live music and street entertainment makes you feel like you’re instantly part of the group.
Frenchmen Art Market – The night we stopped here, the Frenchmen Art Market was going on. I absolutely recommend checking it out if it’s available during your visit.
Kajun’s Pub – There are many bars along Frenchmen Street so take your picks for a great bar crawl. I’d recommend ending the evening at Kajun’s Pub. It’s a bit of a trek from the strip on Frenchmen so take an Uber if you’d like. We made the walk and stopped at The John on the way. (The John is a bar with actual toilets as decorations inside. NOLA is truly one of a kind! ? ) Kajun’s Pub was a hole-in-the-wall kind of place with some great karaoke action going on. I don’t even do karaoke, but my boyfriend will take any opportunity to sing. The main reason I recommend it though is because everyone here was so friendly and chatting with us from the moment we walked in. It was a great experience for two out-of-towners.
If you’re just taking a long weekend in New Orleans, then sadly it’s time to go home. If you’re lucky, grab some more beignets on your way to the airport!
I hope this itinerary for a weekend in New Orleans is helpful for any planning purposes! If you’ve been there before or are lucky enough to call the place home, please let me know what you’d add to the list!