Don’t worry if you think three days isn’t enough time to see New Orleans, I’m going to share the perfect 3-day New Orleans itinerary so that you can make sure to see and do the top touristy things but also check out some more off the beaten path things to do and some unique experiences that are totally less known!
3 Day New Orleans Itinerary
First let’s talk about how to get to NOLA, where to stay, and other basics.
Louis Armstrong International Airport is very well-connected airport so you’ll have no shortage of cheap flight options to get here. The airport is about 15 minutes from the city center and you can easily grab an Uber or if you’re fancy, you can book a car with Limousine Livery, a local company. I’d check out Cheapoair which is who I booked with for this trip and who lately, I’ve been liking more than my old-go-to, Kiwi.com.
The Loews Hotel is a perfect option to stay. It’s right on the edge of the French Quarter so you aren’t in the thick of it when you want some quiet but can walk into it in five minutes. It’s a 4-star hotel that feels like a 5. Prices are as low as $120 per night. My room had a bathtub with an amazing view! We actually went to LUSH and bought bath bombs to take full advantage and had a spa night since we aren’t big partiers.
Start the day with a bike tour of Marigny and Bywater
The two neighborhoods this tour goes on is Marigny and Bywater. These are “coming up” areas, kind of a little hipster and definitely not the standard places to visit. You’ll go to the bike shop in the French Quarter to meet the tour instructor then ride off! You’ll learn about what it means to be Creole, how NOLA is since Katrina, the real deal with Voodoo, what the best secrets places are to eat/drink at (make sure to stop into Paloma Cafe for a bite to eat and a coffee in Bywater). I recommend doing this first because it’s an introduction that will help you get the feel of New Orleans and learn the intro to the “Big Easy”.
You can book this with Freewheelin’ Bike Tours. It’s a 3-hour tour that costs $49.
Lunch at Johnny Po Boys
You have to try a po-boy while you’re here, and this is meant to be the best place for this. It’s no-frills, diner-style which is my favorite!
Time to learn about VooDoo and Ghosts
There are several tour options for ghost tours, but the best way to learn about that side of New Orleans is to go to St. Louis Cemetary (which is where famous Voodoo queen Marie Laveau’s grave is and where Nicolas Cage has bought a plot) and ask a local tour operator hanging around the entrance to take you on a tour! You can also visit Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo on Bourbon Street.
Dinner at Desire Oyster Bar
For dinner, you have to get oysters if you like them. They are one of the most famous foods here in New Orleans. This is a popular place for them and is also no-frills. Everything we ordered was DELICIOUS. Highly recommend!
Jazz at Jazz Playhouse & Explore Frenchman Street
If you want that jazz club experience, then check out the Jazz Playhouse inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel around 8 PM. From here you can either hang out on Bourbon Street but if you really want to see where the locals go, hop into an Uber and go up to Frenchman Street late into the night. These bars are the place to be: Snug Harbor, d.b.a., The Spotted Cat, Apple Barrel, The Blue Nile and Maison.
Snack time at Cafe du Monde
Gotta get some beignets or you didn’t come to NOLA. Have them with cafe au lait or hot chocolate. Beignets are just deep-fried dough drowning in powdered sugar. So good.
Explore the French Market and French Quarter Attractions
From here, you’ve got Jackson Square literally across the street, or if you walk out and to the right you can go to the French Market. Do both in whatever order you like then head into the center of the French Quarter. Some key points to check out in this small zone are: the artists along the street at Jackson Square, St Lous Cathedral (you can’t miss it), New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, and shopping for antiques on Royal Street. Of course, Bourbon street is here too and always popping even in the daytime.
Lunch at Auction House Market
This is a newer place on the outside of the French Quarter, just past the Loew’s Hotel. Inside are several cool restaurants like pop-up shops. You can get so many varieties here like Cuban, French, New Orleans style, desserts, you name it. So many cool local restaurants in one place; I highly recommend it.
Free Time: The National WWII Museum or Presbytere
Presbytere is the Louisiana State Museum. It has two exhibits that are always there: The Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond and Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana.
The WWII museum is said to be one of the best in the USA and is another great option.
Dinner at Bacchanal Wine Bar
This is located in the Bywater which I’ve been calling “hipster” because that’s the vibe but it’s also kind of gentrified. This area is having a tough time where locals can’t afford their homes as the city grows out – something that I guess happens everywhere. The Bywater area is the “cool place to be” right now and Bacchanal is the coolest place in Bywater. You will likely wait in line on the street (in the rain in my case). When you enter, you buy wine first and make a cheese and meat plate if you want one, selecting the items from the fridge. Wine ranges from $25 and up. Then you head in to get a table by the band and can order food. The food was good although very small plates (so order a lot or eat before) but the vibe was awesome.
If you want to learn about the past in regards to civil rights and slavery, you can go on plantation tours which are offered at tons of tourist shops. The Whitney Plantation House is meant to be the best one which doesn’t just focus on the mansion and owners but instead focuses on slavery and is turned into a slavery museum, with the money benefitting descendants of slaves (from what I’m told). I am really bummed I didn’t go here – I thought they might be unethical, then Sam talked to some locals who said this place was legit and totally a do-not-miss. Something to do on the next trip.
Explore the Garden District and Buckner’s Mansion
The Garden District is where you’ll find the epic mansions. You want to walk along here and take photos, even sign up for a tour if you’re interested enough. Buckner’s Mansion is where American Horror Story: Covent was filmed, so you can put that into your GPS.
Shopping on Magazine Street
So from the French Quarter, you then go to the Garden District on the way out, then Magazine Street, so it makes sense to hit up Magazine Street while you’re out this way. This is a key shopping area but also has very trendy places to eat and drink. You’ll find luxe homewares and vintage clothes – antiques and hipster novelty items. Take some time to explore the local shops.
Dinner at Mosquito Supper Club
What to try legit Cajun food? This is where it’s at – but this is a very unique experience. You need to book ahead and it’s family-style food from the Bayou. The chef is a little bit famous (although she wouldn’t admit that!) and she cooks what generations before her in Chauvin, Louisiana on the bayou have cooked for years. She doesn’t evolve it, add a twist, or change a thing. It’s as real as it comes: stuffed crab, crawfish, shrimp gumbo, and more… delicious. Book here.
For more tips, check out these experiences here which go more in detail on my favorite things we did in New Orleans!
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This trip was a paid campaign with New Orleans & Company but the activities were chosen by me and all opinions are my own.
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