1 Day in NEW ORLEANS "THE BIG EASY"
1 Day / 1 Night
Only have one day to see NOLA? No problem! Our itinerary below gives you a nice sampler of New Orleans' history, culture, and cuisine.
Note: This itinerary includes a bus tour of the city as well as walking tours of the French Quarter and Garden District. If you're not interested in guided tours, check out our 1 Day / 1 Night without Tours Itinerary.
Before your trip: purchase city sightseeing bus pass
To make the most of your one day in New Orleans, we suggest purchasing passes for the City Sightseeing New Orleans Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour. This Bus Tour provides an excellent, whirlwind way to see much of the French Quarter, Central Business District, Marigny, and Garden District while learning their unique stories. The bus tours are live hosted by local New Orleans guides, providing you with a humorous and authentic cultural context. The full bus tour is approximately 2 hours (13 miles round trip) and has numerous stops along the way at major points of interest, such as Jackson Square, Cafe Du Monde, the National World War II Museum, Frenchmen Street, Magazine Street, Mardi Gras World, the Garden District, etc. Your bus ticket is valid for 3 days (in case you decide to stay longer after falling in love with New Orleans) and includes 3 WALKING TOURS at designated tour stops:
French Quarter Walking Tour (Guided ~ 45 min)
Garden District Walking Tour (Guided ~ 45 min)
Lafayette Cemetery #1 Walking Tour (Self-Guided ~ 45 min)
Note: If you're not interested in walking tours and only want the bus, go with the 1 Day Ticket instead. Its cheaper and doesn't include the walking tours ($39 for adults and $10 for children). Lastly, you’ll receive a $3 discount on each ticket when you use promo code FTVNOLA at checkout.
1. BREAKFAST AT CAFÉ DU MONDE
Okay...we know you've heard about Café Du Monde...we know from the minute your friends told you about the famous beignet restaurant, your mind started racing through the splendor of sitting in this French style cafe with the iconic green and white striped canopy top and you decided that you had to go.
Because you only have one day in New Orleans, we suggest arriving at Café Du Monde early-ish (say between 8-9am). This can be a relatively light breakfast, depending on how many beignets you devour, of course.
Word of advice: Don't be intimidated by the long line as it moves quite fast. What looks like it should be an hour wait, usually takes only 10-15 minutes (somehow?!). Also, if you don't want to sit in the restaurant and just want to taste what all the fuss is about, there is a separate line for "to-go" orders.
2. GARDEN DISTRICT AND MAGAZINE STREET
In order to optimally see as much of New Orleans as humanly possible in one day, you should get on the City Sightseeing Bus right after breakfast and ride until the Garden District. Yes, you'll be coming back to the French Quarter in the afternoon! So once you've had your fill of beignets, hop on the City Sightseeing Bus at Stop 2 (a few blocks away from Café Du Monde - check out the tour map on their website). You'll relax, take in the surroundings, and catch up on your NOLA facts for roughly half of the full bus tour until you get off at Stop 12 for a Garden District excursion.
Garden District Walking Tour (Included with City Sightseeing Bus Pass)
Ever hear about the beautiful mansions nestled in New Orleans? If so, then you've likely also heard about the Garden District, which hosts some of the best preserved, still lived in, elegant homes in the Southern United States. Your walking tour guide will go over the neighborhood's historic significance as well as point out homes currently owned by some famous folks. All you have to do is listen and absorb the charm/peacefulness of the Garden District. This tour is also included with the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus pass and lasts roughly 45 minutes. Tours begin daily at 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm at Bus Stop 12. More information and route updates can be found here.
Don't feel like taking a guided tour? You can always walk through the Garden District on your own and marvel at the homes surrounding you. We'd also suggest adventuring down Magazine Street or through Lafayette Cemetery #1. Both of these areas can be explored from the same stop as the Garden District walking tour (Bus Stop 12 at Magazine and Washington).
Wander Down Magazine Street
One of the most famous and bustling thoroughfares in New Orleans is Magazine Street, lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and art galleries. It isn't uncommon to see celebrities, local and visiting, work their way through Magazine's many boutiques.
Starting at Washington and Magazine, you will find plenty to do in either direction. However, we suggest heading West on Magazine (away from the French Quarter), poking through the small boutique shops and art galleries. Also in this direction, you will find some of our favorite New Orleans bars and restaurants. For a nice biergarten (beer garden) feel, check out The Bulldog. If you would like to sit above the street on one of those picturesque balconies (fun fact: actually called a "gallery"), we suggest you go to the conveniently named Balcony Bar.
3. LUnch IN THE GARDEN DISTRICT
The Rum House
Creole/Caribbean Tacos...enough said. The Rum House is an incredibly popular Magazine Street spot for both locals and visitors alike. This is the restaurant we always bring friends to that are visiting New Orleans for the first time and the one that everyone always wants to go back to during future visits. The majority of the menu is Caribbean influenced, featuring savory meat and fresh seafood dishes/tacos as well as an impressive collection of rums and mixed drinks. Despite all the meat options, there are some vegetarian dishes too. There are also plenty of gluten-free options. Check out The Rum House menu on their webpage for more information. PS: if you happen to be in New Orleans on a Tuesday, it will be Taco Tuesday at The Rum House and all the tacos are only $1!
One of the most well known and high-end dining experiences in New Orleans can be found right in the heart of the Garden District, one block away from the famous Lafayette Cemetery #1 (and only three blocks from the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Stop). Commander's Palace, established in 1880, serves award-winning Haute Creole dishes, delicately crafted and perfected by world-renowned chefs. Note: reservations are usually required and the dress code is strict. For more information about Commander's Palace and their menu checkout their website. Insider tip: at lunch, martini's are only $0.25...yes, 25 cents!
4. Finish the City sightseeing bus tour
After lunch, get back on the City Sightseeing Bus and ride until you're back at Stop 2, where you'll start your French Quarter Walking Tour.
Receive $3 off each ticket when you use promo code FTVNOLA at checkout.
5. French Quarter Walking Tour (included with City Sightseeing Bus Pass)
On the French Quarter Walking tour, included with the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Pass, your guide takes you through the rich history of the Quarter (and New Orleans in general), discusses the various architectural styles found throughout the city, and helps paint a picture of NOLA's culture. Starting at the famous French Market, you will work your way through the Quarter's famous picturesque streets with balconies covered in vines and hanging gardens. The tour ends at Jackson Square, where New Orleans classics, such as Café Du Monde and St. Louis Cathedral are located. The tour lasts approximately 45 minutes, which is about the ideal amount of time spent on a walking tour. Tours start daily at 11am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm at Bus Stop 2. More information and route updates can be found here.
6. POKE AROUND Jackson squARE
The French Quarter Walking Tour ends in Jackson Square, which is great because there is plenty of wandering to be done in this area!
Crescent City Art
If the weather is good, walk around Jackson Square and check out the local artist's work (great if you're looking to invest in some French Quarter and NOLA cultural art as well as caricatures and other art styles). A few artists displaying their art here frequently paint only on re-purposed wood from the homes and structures destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and some of the proceeds will go to helping local families affected by the storm.
Who doesn't love a good street performance? But seriously, if for some reason you hate street performers, the French Quarter is probably not your cup of gumbo (eeeeeh sorry...) because there are usually a lot of them ranging from dancers, musicians, magicians, poets, and living artists. The whole display has a cool Euro vibe and to be completely honest, some of the best shows you'll see in New Orleans will be on the streets for free...or whatever you tip them.
Palm Readers and Fortune Tellers
New Orleans has a very spiritual scene. It is a fact...and is apparent by the voodoo culture, hex shops, and many ghost tours. So it seems only fitting that plenty of Fortune Tellers, Palm and Tarot Card Readers would set up shop in this town. If you're ready to have your destiny unveiled, you need not look further than right in front of Saint Louis Cathedral, where most weekend days, a dozen or so of these spiritual tellers have been waiting for you.
7. DINNER IN THE FRENCH QUARTER
Pretty much anywhere you go in the French Quarter is going to serve your traditional New Orleans cuisines (gumbo, jambalaya, po-boys, oysters, alligator sausage, red beans & rice, etc...). But, we recommend the following two restaurants.
Napoleon House offers beautiful courtyard (or indoor) seating and delicious NOLA eats in an early 1800's home built to be the safe haven for refugee Napoleon Bonaparte, the exiled French Revolution military leader of France. Beyond the unique wall art, historic feel, and peaceful courtyard, the best part...the menu is reasonably priced! Check it out here. Also, if you're interested in enjoying a drink while at Napoleon House, make sure to the try their famous Pimm's Cup.
Coop's Place (must be 21 or older)
The Coop's Place staff have perfected the balanced mixture of Southern Hospitality and Crescent City roughness that has made New Orleans the city it is today. Here, you can find classic New Orleans eats while enjoying a NOLA twist on a pub-style restaurant. Check out the menu here.
8. Night Life in The French Quarter or Marigny
Looking to party? Or do you just want to see nightlife chaos? Probably the most well known (or at least, most heard about) place in New Orleans is Bourbon Street. Here's the Bourbon Street breakdown:
0.6 miles (From Canal Street to St. Philip Street) lined with Bars, Restaurants, Dance/Music Clubs, Strip Clubs, and some shops.
The party is just as much in the street as in the bars (almost all bars serve drinks in to-go cups so you can have your drink as you walk).
At night, cars are not allowed to drive down this street as the traffic of people is too thick (this is not the place to go on a weekend night if you do not like crowds).
Many bars have balconies and galleries, great for viewing the street from above...and truly take in the madness occurring on the street from a bird's eye view.
Very few bars (not strip clubs) have a cover charge to get in.
No dress code. People will range from suit/tie and cocktail dresses to t-shirts and shorts. It all depends on what look you're feeling that night.
For a complete bar crawl experience on Bourbon Street, check out First Time Visiting's Bourbon Street Bar Crawl Article.
Dueling Pianos! Dueling Pianos? DUELING PIANOS!!! This spectacular bar, located half a block off Bourbon, on St. Peter Street, is one of our favorites in the French Quarter. The pianists take song suggestions from the audience (with a tip of your choice), creating a fantasy-like sing-a-long session with the whole crowd engaged. Basically, this is your chance to sit-back, have a drink or two, and listen (and sing if you’d like) to live covers of today’s hits, classic throwbacks, and many other timeless songs with one of the most energized crowds in New Orleans. Make sure you try a Hurricane here. Caution though - can be quite sugary.
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar
Located at the end of Bourbon, away from the Canal Street side, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar boasts the fame of being the oldest structure in the United States used as a bar. The structure was built sometime between 1722 and 1732 and was allegedly owned by Jean Lafitte, the famous pirate and hero of the Battle of New Orleans…trust me, you’ll hear about this guy all over the city…he’s kind of a big deal.
Frenchmen Street was the birthplace of Jazz and Blues! Most people come down to New Orleans, gearing up for live music (specifically Jazz in mind) but end up getting particularly caught up on Bourbon Street (understandably so). But, if fantastic live music of all genres (yes...plenty of jazz too) and an awe-inspiring dance scene are what you're searching for, Frenchmen is where-it's-at. Frenchmen is a much more local scene compared to to Bourbon, and true New Orleans culture can be experienced at a somewhat slower pace. Frenchmen Street is located in the Marigny, one block down river from the French Quarter. We suggest checking out some of our favorite music clubs, such as The Spotted Cat, 30/90, and Maison.
Frenchmen Art Market
If you decide to visit Frenchmen Street, make sure you walk through the Frenchmen Art Market. Many of the best artists in New Orleans live in the Marigny and Bywater (adjacent neighborhood, opposite direction from the French Quarter) and showcase their art, crafts, and jewelry at this open-air market. The market is open every night of the week and is always festively decorated. Fun tip, this is a great place to take a break since there are benches, tables, and chairs set up and ready for you. Take a load off, listen to the music bursting from the Frenchmen clubs and enjoy the artistic atmosphere.
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