Happy 2019! New year means new vacations to plan (and for some of us, bank holidays to take advantage of). Forbes lists New Orleans as one of the cheapest places to visit in 2019. If you’ve got a free Friday-Monday coming up and want to make the most of it, here’s my mini guide to doing a quick New Orleans getaway in style.
Know Before You Go
- Pronunciation: The ‘leans’ in New Orleans is pronounced ‘linz‘. Pralines (to my dismay) are not pronounced pray-leans but correctly pronounced prah-leans. Faubourg Marigny – don’t even bother with this one.
- Scope out the restaurant scene at least (2) weeks before your visit. You’ll need time to collect all the recommendations people have to share, and at least a week to book reservations at your preferred spots.
- Be prepared with lots of cash. Many of the places where you’ll want to eat and shop are cash only and those ATM fees really add up (the highest I paid was $5.25).
- Budget Yourself! Piggy-backing off of the last tip, it’s easy to get lost in the back and forth flow of money exchanges. If you have a pretty solid idea of your itinerary, bring only a bit more cash than you need when you leave your room and avoid using your card at all.
- Bring your walking shoes. While there’s not a crazy amount of walking to be done (New Orleans is a relatively compact city) the roads aren’t exactly smooth and even. Riddled with potholes, puddles, and construction, the area will take some careful navigation on your part.
- Leave room in your plans to be spontaneous. The locals (especially the tour guides and Lyft drivers) have lots of recommendations to share. If you want to truly laissez les bon temps roulez be sure to take them up on their tips – you won’t regret it.
Friday or Day 1:
- Arrive ready to jazz things up! Head into town from the airport and drop your bags so you can explore the city hassle-free. *
*I have 0 regrets about arriving on the red-eye, but if traveling wipes you out, I suggest you make your arrival day as casual and relaxing as you can. Arrive as close to your check-in time as possible so you can rest up, get changed and enjoy an evening out in the French Quarter.
- Wet your appetite with beignets for breakfast then walk off the sugar with a free walking tour of the neighborhood.
- Enjoy local art, walking and peeking into a gallery or two (you’re sure to see the blue dog everywhere).
- Grab some grub: Mother’s, Willie Mae’s, Antoine’s or Acme Oyster House then find an open courtyard and soak up some sun.
- After checking in and changing up, hit the nightlife** scene with some live music on Bourbon and Royal streets. Get #turnt with a New Orleans special Hurricane and enjoy the novelty of walking around with an adult beverage in-hand.
**Night 1 will likely be your first night-on-the-town if you aren’t too tired. Frenchmen Street has some of the best nightlife in the city and feels a bit more immersive than Bourbon at the moment due to all the untimely construction.
Saturday or Day 2:
- Get lured into a local sweets shop for pralines (the smell is to die for).
- Enthrall yourself in all things voodoo, if you dare…
- Visit Armstrong Park for some early afternoon sunshine.
- Split po’boys or oysters with your crew for an afternoon snack then explore the city by streetcar, bicycle or carriage – maybe all three?!
- Make a pit stop at Buckner Mansion and tour Garden District.
- Visit Frenchmen street at night and snag those souvenirs at the art market.
Sunday or Day 3:
- Don’t miss another opportunity to try all the beignets the city has to offer.
- Creep around in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 then explore the Tremé and Rampart street.
- Cool down with local artisanal shaved ice or have a drink in the shoes of Jean Lafitte.
- If you didn’t take a carriage ride yet or streetcar, fit it in here. While doing so, you’ll likely get a chance to enjoy more live music and photograph the city.
Monday or Day 4:
- Dine at one of the local buffets (Harrah’s has one that even the locals take advantage of) then swing by the French Market for some local artisanal goods and more souvenir shopping (pralines make an excellent gift).
- Cruise along the Mississippi River either by boat, bike or foot, then journey to Cochon Butcher for some amazing modern Creole cuisine.
- Dedicate at least (2) hours to exploring the WWII Museum. It is relaxing enough to not wipe you out on your last day of visiting, but still interesting enough to make the most of the time you have left.
- Observe Tulane and the Mercedes Superdome on your way out of town.
- Antoine’s $20.19 lunch special and 25-cent cocktails
- A night as a celebrity singing your heart out at The Cat’s Meow
- Spontaneous live jazz (Eight Dice Cloth was a huge treat to watch)
- Uh, beignets.
- Free walking tours or tours in general. I registered with tours using Free Tours By Foot and French Quarter Phantom. Its recommended to tip $15-20 for the free tours (cash only) but they’re usually well worth the experience!
If you’re heading to the Big Easy for Mardi Gras, I expect it to be a very different but even more exciting experience with parades, beads, and parties galore! Have a blast and leave your New Orleans recommendations down below for other readers.