1 day in NEW ORLEANS
1 Day / 1 Night (without tours)
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 doesn't contain the city bus tour, French Quarter walking tour, or Garden District walking tour. If you're interested in in guided tours, check out our 1 Day / 1 Night with Tours Itinerary.
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 will 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. EXPLORE THE FRENCH QUARTER
Once you've had an ample fix of beignets and all that sugar starts rushing through your body, you'll probably be ready to burn some energy...And what better way to expend said energy than by exploring the mecca of Louisiana culture and chaos surrounding you in the French Quarter, New Orleans' most popular and exciting neighborhood.
Around Saint Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square
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.
The Presbytère Museum
If the weather isn't great or if you have some extra time or if you enjoy museums, we'd highly suggest the Presbytère, located adjacent to Saint Louis Cathedral. This museum has two permanent exhibits:
Mardi Gras - The history and celebration surrounding New Orleans' most popular festival.
Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond - This extensive exhibit illustrates the events leading up to and during Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of this colossal storm.
Tickets are cheap too! $6 for adults; $5 for students, active military, and senior citizens.
Shops On Royal and Chartres Street
Lining these two streets are a plethora of shops and art galleries, ranging from voodoo and hex shops to praline and candy stores. This would be an excellent chance to pick up some New Orleans swag to take home for family and friends or memorabilia for yourself. As with Jackson Square, you're quite likely to catch some street performers and artists on these streets. Don't forget to look up occasionally though. The balconies and architecture found on these streets can be particularly beautiful, especially with the overhanging patio gardens that are common to the area.
The French Market
Make sure you walk through the French Market. This open air market provides 6 blocks of shopping, bringing together merchants, local and foreign, to showcase their crafts, passions, and trades.
3. LUNCH 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.
4. GARDEN DISTRICT AND MAGAZINE STREET
In order to optimally see as much of New Orleans as humanly possible in one day, you should take an Uber, Lyft, Taxi, or the New Orleans Street Car to the Garden District after lunch. Yes, you'll be coming back to the French Quarter for a night on Bourbon Street! To be exact, we suggest riding to the corner of Magazine Street and Washington Avenue to begin your Garden District excursion.
Note, if you are taking the street car, which picks up at the Canal Street and Carondelet Street Station (closest Street Car station to Jackson Square), take it until the Saint Charles Avenue and Washington Avenue stop (check out the street car schedule and map here.) An Uber shouldn't cost more $7-$10 one way and the street car is $1.25 one way per person.
Wander Through The Garden District
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. Starting at Washington street (with cross street of either Saint Charles or Magazine), walk toward Lafayette Cemetery #1. Take one of the side neighborhood streets and begin exploring. You'll find, pretty quickly, that it's amazingly easy fall in love with this neighborhood after experiencing the charming calm and peacefulness that saturates the Garden District. Insider Tip: Garden District Walking Tours tend to focus primarily on the area bordered by Washington Avenue, Saint Charles Avenue, Jackson Avenue, and Magazine Street. Some mansions of interest include Sandra Bullock's New Orleans residence (2627 Coliseum Street) and The Buckner Mansion, which was featured in American Horror Story (1410 Jackson Avenue).
We'd also suggest wandering through Lafayette Cemetery #1. Historically significant graves and picturesque rows of above-ground tombs make this cemetery a very worthwhile part of your Garden District adventure.
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 Bull Dogg. 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.
6. Dinner 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 two blocks from the Saint Charles and Washington Street Car Stop). Commander's Palace, established in 1880, serves award-winning Haute Creole dishes, delicately crafted and perfected by world-renowned chef's. Note: reservations are usually required and the dress code is strict. For more information about Commander's Palace and their menu checkout their website.
7. 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 birth place 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-its-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 musics clubs, such as The Spotted Cat, 30/90, and Maison.
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OTHER NEW ORLEANS ITINERARIES AND ARTICLES
OVERALL NEW ORLEANS EXPERIENCE (WITH TOURS)
OVERALL NEW ORLEANS EXPERIENCE (WITHOUT TOURS)
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