Disclosure: I visited New Orleans as part of a 12-day multi-state press trip. We were hosted throughout by New Orleans & Co but as always, all opinions are my own. I will not lead you astray! My New Orleans Itinerary highlights the best of what we saw and did as well as my experiences in NOLA in the past. Enjoy!
As long as I can remember, New Orleans has been on my list of favourite cities to visit. It all started in high school when I went to New Orleans with my Senior Girl Scout troop. Yes, my brave Girl Scout leader took teenagers to New Orleans. It opened my eyes to the rich culture, amazing music and delicious food that can be had there even if you have no interest in going to Bourbon Street.
This itinerary will be a bit of a “choose your own adventure”. I’ll give you ideas of where to stay, what to do and what to eat. These recommendations will focus on things you’d do with friends or your spouse. However, know that New Orleans can be a great place to visit with your tween as well. Evan and I had a blast visiting two years ago on our RV trip through the US.
How Long to Stay in New Orleans
The first thing that you need to decide is how long you will visit New Orleans. I recommend at least three days realizing that you will likely not get much outside the French Quarter in that time. After that, the world (or NOLA) is your oyster. The French Quarter is my favourite part of New Orleans and really has a lot of bang for your buck. Most of my recommendations will be in or near the French Quarter.
New Orleans itinerary – Where to Stay
In my opinion, spending extra money to stay in the French Quarter is totally worth it. Know that you will likely pay more than you would for an equivalent room somewhere else. Airbnb was recently outlawed in the French Quarter so hotel prices are likely higher as the number of available beds in the quarter has decreased. It is all worth it, though, when you can walk easily between attractions, dinner and drinks and then back to the hotel. Walking is definitely the easiest way to get around!
On this trip, we stayed at Dauphine Orleans Hotel. It is one block of Bourbon Street so it is a great location to see all of the French Quarter and can serve as an easy hub if you are planning to enjoy late nights on Bourbon Street (and they have a pool!).
We stayed in the main part of the hotel but if I return, I would make sure to request one of the Carriage House or Courtyard guest rooms. Those have exposed beams and brickwork that would make a stay in the French Quarter even better.
New Orleans itinerary – What and Where to Eat
New Orleans is one of my favourite cities mainly because of the food. There are delicious delicacies to be enjoyed everywhere you look. Plus you can spend as much or as little as you want since there are places to eat across every price point.
Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters
Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters is a great way to get a taste of the city and enjoy a bit of jazz in a gorgeous courtyard. If the weather is at all nice, make sure to ask to sit outside. The jazz trio played both inside and out on the day we were there.
Their buffet brunch is huge and has something for everyone with a cold salad bar which includes peel and eat shrimp and other seafood salad specialties, a hot food bar with cajun and creole specialties, an omelette and eggs benny station (made to order) and both hot and cold desserts.
They offer their jazz brunch daily from 9 am – 3 pm with the menu moving from breakfast favourites to heartier fare at 11:30 am You can see their menu online to get an idea of what is on offer though it does change daily.
Yeah, I know I didn’t give you a specific place to eat oysters. That is because they are a New Orleans institution and there are many, many restaurants that serve oysters in the city. Many will tell you that you MUST eat your oysters raw but I am not that person. I prefer to eat mine grilled and occasionally fried.
However you eat them, a few places to try are Acme Oyster House, Felix’s and Desire Oyster Bar. All have oyster bars where they will shuck your oysters right in front of you. Sitting at the bar is a true New Orleans experience and is always fun. The guys shucking the oysters are almost always talkative and fun.
Beignets are a New Orleans institution. You must make a trip to Cafe Du Monde as they are the original New Orleans beignet venue. If the weather is nice, you can seat yourself in the large open-air eating area. There is often a line but people often don’t really pay attention. If there is a free table, sit there even if it is dirty. They will come and clean it quickly and take your order. Otherwise, the line takes forever. I *may* sneak in the opposite door and sit at a dirty table foregoing the line altogether.
Now, before this trip, I never thought beignets could get any better than Cafe du Monde. One of my fellow bloggers got a tip from her driver from the airport that the beignets at the Ritz Carlton were actually the best. I was unconvinced but agreed to go and see what all the fuss was about.
I am so glad we did. While the Cafe du Monde beignets are a bit doughy, the Ritz Carlton beignets are light as air. Plus, they give you chocolate, caramel and vanilla sauces. At $44 for two orders of beignets (6 each) and 4 coffees in the Davenport Lounge, it is definitely worth a try. I dare say they are the best in the city. Who knew!
While walking around New Orleans, you will likely see signs for crawfish beignets, lobster beignets and more. Most of these are more like a hush puppy than an actual beignet but they are still a tasty snack. We tried crawfish beignets at the Gumbo Festival in Armstrong Park. (Make sure to see what festivals are on in NOLA when you visit. They are often free and always have yummy food and great music).
The Napoleon House has been a well known New Orleans restaurant since 1914. Housed in the city apartment of New Orleans’s first mayor, it is like a trip back in time.
Serving up all of the New Orleans specialties like the muffuletta (which they server warm), gumbo, red beans and rice, Shrimp Remoulade Stuffed Avocado and bread pudding at reasonable prices, it is the perfect stop for lunch during a busy day of sightseeing.
Plus, they introduced the Pimm’s Cup to the United States so it is a great excuse to have a Pimm’s Cup infused lunch. Delicious!
If you ever get a chance to see upstairs, DO IT. We got a special tour with the general manager and head chef. You can almost hear the whispers of all the people who’ve lived within these walls through the years. The current New Orleans lives and breathes within the walls built by the past. You can definitely feel that within Napoleon House.
Often when you eat somewhere with a show, the food isn’t as great as if you had just gone for food. Thankfully, that is definitely NOT the case at the Burlesque Brunch at SoBu. For me, this was one of our best meals in New Orleans. My Duck Legs and Eggs were amazing with crispy confit leg of duck with housemade boudin, a “5-hour egg”, local citrus and Grand Marnier pepper jelly. Divine.
In addition, we got to watch the lovely Bella Blue do a tastefully and not that risque burlesque show accompanied by a live band. The prices for brunch were in line with a high-end brunch so it is a great value for a meal and a show.
New Orleans itinerary – Things to Do
New Orleans has so many things to see and do. Everywhere you turn there are yummy things to eat, live music being played and people-watching galore. I think I could sit on a balcony with a cocktail and be completely happy doing nothing but watching for days. However, there are tons of things to do and here are a few worth giving a try.
See a Live Show at the Jazz Playhouse
New Orleans was built on Jazz. Seeing it live at a comfortable bar with table service? Perfect! Admission is free though there is a one drink per person per set minimum. If you prefer a seat upfront, you can reserve seats for $20 per person and they will hold them for up to 30 minutes after the show starts. They also have a small menu of appetizers, as well as jazz-inspired cocktails. I highly recommend the Jelly-Roll Morton cocktail!
Cooking Class at the New Orleans School of Cooking
I guarantee you will fall in love with the food in New Orleans. A great way to remember your trip is to learn to make some of your favourites once you return home. We took a hands-on class to learn to make shrimp and sausage maque choux, duck and sausage gumbo, and bread pudding with praline sauce.
Our teacher made the recipes easy to follow and approachable. We had a blast and thoroughly enjoyed the meal we made. Plus, we met a whole group of new people and enjoyed a bit of wine while we cooked.
Definitely a great way to spend an evening in The Big Easy. I learned new recipes and got to know my new friend, Sharon, from Daily Dream 360, better in the process. It is a must-do for your Girls Trip New Orleans itinerary!
Visit St. Louis Cemetary 1 with Two Chicks Walking Tours
Visiting a cemetery may seem like a weird thing to do but I highly recommend it when you are in New Orleans. New Orleans has been shaped by many things that can be learned about in a cemetery. Voodoo (see those XXXs in the picture below? Voodoo!), yellow fever, fires and more. To understand the New Orleans of today, you have to understand where it started. Definitely a must-do (I’ve even done it twice!).
The Walking Chicks also have a variety of other walking tours throughout New Orleans proper. It’s a great way to see the city and learn a bit more about New Orleans.
Love things that go bump in the night? Love looking over your shoulder and wondering if those footsteps you hear are real or maybe a ghost? If that sounds like you, a nighttime ghost tour is for you! Once you climb aboard the comfy bus you will meet your tour guide who is fully dressed for the job.
The next two hours will introduce you to some of the purportedly haunted places in New Orleans and the ghosts that possibly live there. Is it creepy? YES. Is it cheesy? Also YES. I had a blast because it was a fun way to hear about things you don’t find in the guide books. Plus we visited a charity hospital graveyard at night which was a super creepy thing I would never have done alone. It’ll make your New Orleans itinerary just a bit spooktastic.
Take a Segway Tour
Any New Orleans itinerary can walk your feet right off. Want to see a bit more of New Orleans, learn a bit of history in a fun new way? Check out the New Orleans Segway Tour with City Segway Tours. We zoomed around the French Quarter on our segways which was super cool.
I’ve done segway tours in 3 other cities so I remembered how to operate my segway pretty quickly. However, I would say that this was the most difficult tour I’ve ever taken because the streets in New Orleans are lumpy, bumpy and often congested with cars and tourists. I still thought it was a great way to spend the afternoon seeing the sights around the French Quarter.
Have a Drink in a Speakeasy
Let’s face it…there are a lot of places to grab a cocktail in New Orleans. Way more than I can begin to mention here. However, we did have a drink at a cool little spot called Bar Marilou.
Even when you are a tourist tired from travelling all day and vastly underdressed, Bar Marilou can make you feel like you’ve fallen through the rabbit hole into The Great Gatsby. Done in red velvet and gold tapestry, the bar area is lined with floor to ceiling bookshelves and then one of them opens onto a hidden back room. Cool, right?
When you go to find the bar, know that it will seem you are lost. You aren’t, it’s just hard to find. The entrance is down a plant lined alley. If you get too lost, just ask a local. They may roll their eyes but they’ll point you in the right direction. Oh and if you didn’t have time for dinner before heading out for drinks, Bar Marilou has a nice menu of heavy bar snacks too.
Looking for more ideas to add to your New Orleans itinerary?
- Check out the Sazarac House to learn about New Orlean’s famous cocktail.
- Grab a hurricane at Pat O’Briens.
- Head to the oldest bar on Bourbon Street, Jean Lafitte’s.
- Grab a muffaletta to go at Central Grocery.
- Watch them make pralines at Southern Candymakers
- Head to Jackson Square to see the buskers, artists and street performers.
- Visit City Park, one of the most beautiful things to see in Louisiana.
Enjoy Your New Orleans Itinerary
No matter what you decide to do while you are in New Orleans, you are almost guaranteed to have a good time. I’ve visited many, many times and each trip has had a different flavour and a different focus. Regardless of the things that change, my love for the city remains the same. I hope you visit and enjoy it as much as I do.