I’ve never been to New Orleans before, so I got a lot of recommendations from people before I went and I also discovered a lot while I was there. Here’s my New Orleans travel guide!
*This post does NOT contain any affiliate links, I’ve provided the lines solely for your convenience ☺*
New Orleans has a regional transportation system known as the RTA. The RTA operates the buses, streetcars, and ferries. One way ticket prices vary (usually about $1.50), but if you are planning to use a bus, streetcar, or ferry more than twice, it makes the most sense to buy a daily Jazzy Pass. Jazzy Passes come in one-day ($3), three-day ($9), five-day ($15), and 31-day ($55) options. Here are the maps and schedules to help plan out your trip. Most buses run every hour, which isn’t always the most convenient, but city transportation is always a great option when traveling.
I switched between using the bus and rideshares during my time in NOLA. This was mostly to get to and from my Airbnb and tour locations for my excursions. I thought the French Quarter was extremely walkable (depending on your level of accessibility and distance of activities). Renting a car is also another option that would be great, but I wouldn’t recommend driving to spend a day in the French Quarter.
Where to stay
There are tons of bed and breakfasts, hostels, and hotels in New Orleans, and if you’re wanting to do a lot of things around the French Quarter I’d recommend staying there, in the Central Business District (CBD), or Garden District. Canal Street divides the French Quarter and the CBD neighborhoods and reminds me a lot of the Las Vegas strip. Mostly because there are so many huge hotels and casinos, which might be a great location for you to stay. You can also use a travel site like the ones I mentioned above for airfare to also find deals on sleeping accommodations.
New Orleans Food
When in Rome do as the Romans do. My favorite thing about visiting coastal cities is enjoying fresh seafood, and there’s plenty of that around! New Orleans is famous for its flavorful cajun and creole cooking and dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, red beans & rice, PO-boys, and crawfish. And I don’t want to forget to mention the sweet treats like pralines, kind cake, and beignets. Get your tastebuds ready!
Beignets at Cafe Du Monde
An absolute must is this NOLA staple- beignets at Cafe Du Monde. A beignet is a fried piece of dough covered with powdered sugar. If you’ve had a funnel cake at a fair, this is very similar. This place is open 24 hours, so you can stop by for coffee and a beignet in the morning, or after a night out for a snack. Heads up- it is a cash-only establishment so hit an ATM beforehand.
Another NOLA staple is eating alligator while you’re there. Most places have a variation of this on the menu usually grilled or fried. (I’d recommend grilled if you’ve never had it before.) Many people say it tastes like chicken, and I agree.
Fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House
Fried chicken is southern comfort food so naturally, New Orleans is known for this. Crispy, crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside, go to Willie Mae’s Scotch House for the best fried chicken in NOLA.
Gumbo at Gallatoire’s
One of the most famous NOLA dishes is gumbo- a thick, spicy stew that usually has sausage, seafood, chicken, vegetables, and rice with broth. Pretty much any restaurant in NOLA will have gumbo, but the best is the French Creole Seafood Gumbo at Gallatoire’s.
Museum of death
If you’re interested in serial killers or anything related to human or animal death, the Museum of death is a must-see. It’s filled with information, artifacts, displays, and pictures- all very morbid and grotesque.
The pharmacy museum is located in the site of the apothecary of America’s first licensed pharmacist, Louis J Dufilho Jr. This museum showcases a collection of pharmaceutical materials, instruments, and information preserving the history of healthcare and pharmacy in the United States.
Tour a Cemetery
At first, I thought this was a very strange thing to do but quickly realized that it’s just something you do when you are in Louisiana. New Orleans sits 2 feet below sea level, so graves in cemeteries are constructed above ground. (Through trial and error it seems that people learned this was the best way to avoid watery graves.) It is quite interesting to see, especially if you are accustomed to seeing traditional cemeteries with in-ground graves. In my opinion, it almost looks like a miniature city with a bunch of mausoleums throughout. The most popular cemeteries in NOLA are Saint Louis Cemetery #2 and Lafayette Cemetery #1.
A huge part of history when visiting southern states can be experienced on a plantation tour. (A plantation is a large estate that specializes in farming, most commonly producing cotton, sugar cane, and coffee.) There is so much to see, do, and learn on a plantation tour, most of them are half-day or all-day activities. I visited two when I was in NOLA- Destrehan and Oak Alley. Oak Alley is a widely-recognized plantation as it has been well preserved, has many different educational exhibits, and was where 2012 movie Django Unchained was filmed.
If you aren’t familiar with swamps, I highly recommend going on a swamp tour. The Midwest has a bunch of grass and trees and that’s about all, so I was really excited to see a swamp in real life. There are numerous tour companies that you can book with, I used Cajun Encounters and thought it was fantastic! I had no idea how much wildlife actually lived in swamps but we got to see it all, including the vast amount of vegetation species. (I thought it was only Shrek and alligators).
The French Market is an outdoor market on the riverfront in the Lower French Quarter spanning about 6 blocks. There are lots of goodies here like fresh food, arts/crafts, sweet treats, and souvenirs. Going to the French Market is a great way to spend time outdoors (in shade), support local business, and pick up a couple of gifts or souvenirs.
NOLA has always got a festival of some sort going on (Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Mac & Cheese Fest, King Cake Fest, Po-Boy Fest). Whenever you decide to travel there, I would do a quick Google or Facebook search for your dates and see what festivals are going on.
New Orleans Helpful Information
Like most major cities with high populations of tourists, many businesses only allow paying customers to use their bathroom facilities. This is important to remember if you’ll be moving around from different places and spending a lot of time outside. The two locations in the French Quarter that offer public restroom facilities are the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve French Quarter Visitor Center (419 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70130) and across the street from the Jazz National Historical Park (940 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116).
New Orleans is located is in the southern United States, which means that it gets pretty hot. Since it is located near the water and lots of swamps, it is also pretty humid.
I hope this travel guide helps you plan your trip to New Orleans!
Have you been to New Orleans before? What were your favorite things to see and do?
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