New Orleans is such a beautiful, diverse and interesting city that planning a quick trip for just a couple of days can seem overwhelming. But with the proper planning, you’ll be able to see the best of what New Orleans has to offer in the space of a long weekend. We’ve put together this New Orleans itinerary to help you decide on where to stay, how to get around, and what to do during a 3 day trip to Louisiana’s most lively city.
Download This Itinerary & Edit for Your Trip (Word Document)
Where to Stay in New Orleans
Before embarking on a trip to New Orleans, it’s vital to decide what part of town you want to stay. Every district has its own personality, and you’ll get completely different experiences from each one of them. Here are our 3 favorites, and why they are good options for tourists visiting New Orleans:
The French Quarter is a New Orleans classic. It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods, and possibly the most popular with tourists. From impressive architecture to great food and live music, it’s not a place where you can ever be bored. Of course, finding accommodation in this district can cost a bit more than other less touristy areas. But if you want to be in the heart of all the action and easy access to all the other neighborhoods, then the French Quarter is your best bet.
The Garden District has all the culture and gorgeous architecture of the French Quarter, but with none of its chaos. If you’re looking for a calmer stay with fewer bars and more local cafés, then this district is for you. It’s beautiful, central, and a great place to stay with children.
Central Business District
The central business district used to be reserved for business tourists, but the face of the neighborhood has changed drastically over the past couple of years. Today, you’ll find some of the trendiest bars and restaurants there, as well as theaters, art galleries, and museums. If you’re looking for the hip place in town, then this one is for you.
** READ MORE: Top Rated Recommended Hotels in New Orleans **
Getting Around New Orleans
The great thing about New Orleans is that you don’t really need any form of transport if you stay around the French Quarter and Garden District. Many sites and attractions are within walking distance, including all the museums, bars, restaurants, and monuments you may want to visit. But if you want to venture a bit further out, here are your options:
Public Transportation in New Orleans
New Orleans has a good public transportation system, including a network of buses and ferries. There’s an airport shuttle that runs regularly, and ferries that can take you from landmark to landmark across the Mississippi River.
New Orleans has four lines of streetcars that can take you all around the city’s most popular districts. Colorful and quaint, they’re the perfect way to feel connected to the city’s rich heritage. Not to mention, they also make for great photo opportunities!
Rent a Car
If you want to leave the central districts of New Orleans, then renting a car can be a good idea. You’ll find car rental services at the airport and throughout the city.
New Orleans in 3 Days – Itinerary
This is your first day in New Orleans. You’ll spend it exploring the French Quarter, its beautiful architecture and local eateries. At night, get ready to explore the darker side of New Orleans, if you are up for it.
The French Quarter
The French Quarter is full of iconic architecture, porches, and balconies. We definitely recommend spending at least half a day there, just wandering around. Jackson Square, a historic park right near the heart of the French Quarter is also well worth a detour. Full of history, this district also a great place to go for a stroll.
Finally, if you get a chance, stop at the Café du Monde and pick up one of their signature French-style beignets. The place in itself is charming, and their beignets are world-famous for a reason! Give yourself enough time, because there is often a line (but rather than being seated, you can get take away at the quick service window in the back and find a nearby bench).
Eat & Drink Your Way Through Bourbon Street
Bourbon street is not something you should miss. Colorful, lively and full of jolly spirit on any day of the week, it should be your go-to for dinner and a drink. So grab a cocktail or some local food (perhaps some famous Louisiana chicken), and spend some time taking in the atmosphere of this legendary neon-filled street.
Have a Beer at Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is another legendary sight in New Orleans. It’s one of the city’s oldest bars, and certainly the most striking ones. And funny enough…it was never owned by Jean Lafitte nor was it ever a Blacksmith Shop! But outside its antique appearance, the place is best known for its drinks. Don’t miss their signature Hurricane, some say it’s the best in the world!
Take a Voodoo/Ghost Tour
Voodoo is essential to the history of New Orleans. Today, you can learn more about these ancient practices by taking a tour. A local tour guide will take you through cemeteries and modern temples, letting you in on everything you need to know about this age-old tradition.
On day 2, you will be venturing into Garden District and learning more about New Orleans food and music culture.
Stroll Through the Historic Garden District
The Garden District is one of the most beautiful places in New Orleans. Filled with historic Victorian mansions, you’ll get some serious ‘house envy’ just by looking at the architecture. And with trees everywhere, this district provides a breath of fresh air right in the middle of your trip!
Take a Cooking Class (Cajun & Creole)
New Orleans has a fantastically vibrant food culture thanks to the dozens of cultural influences that are at the center of. You can find some excellent Cajun & Creole cooking classes online, and it doesn’t have to be expensive either. For $30, you can get a full class taught by a professional, and enjoy some great food and fun along the way!
Personally, we really enjoy taking cooking classes when we travel. They are a ton of fun and give some great memories.
Take a Jazz Cruise Down the Mississippi
New Orleans brings up jazz in the mind of almost any American. In the city, jazz culture is alive and well. We think one of the best ways to celebrate it is to take a Jazz cruise down the Mississippi. There are quite a few different companies that offer this activity, and they usually start around dinner time.
On day 3, see some hallmarks of New Orleans: famous eateries, and the Mardi Gras festival. By that point, you should already know how to get around the city—so it’s time to relax and enjoy everything it has to offer!
Eat Breakfast at St. Roch Market
On the morning of day 3, head on over to St. Roch Market, a traditional market in New Marigny, reopened in 2015. You’ll find some of the best of Southern food in there…but also a little something for everyone. So whether you want pastries for breakfast, beignets or just a great cup of coffee, come here to do that in a stunning and traditional environment.
Tour Mardi Gras World
There’s no New Orleans without Mardi Gras. But if you happen to start your tour of the city outside the days of the parade, don’t panic! Mardi Gras World lets you admire floats, costumes, and performances all year round. You’ll even get to learn a bit more about the history of the Mardi Gras parade…and probably leave wanting to attend the real thing!
To finish your trip, why not have dinner in New Orleans’ oldest restaurant? Antoine’s Restaurant is an iconic place with over a dozen dining rooms and an impressive list of famous visitors. In terms of the food, expect some excellent French cuisine with fresh seafood and a touch of Southern tradition. We think it’s the perfect way to end your trip on a cultural yet fun note.
Other Popular Activities in New Orleans
Oak Alley Plantation
Oak Alley Plantation is a historical sugar cane plantation located just outside of New Orleans. Taking a tour of the place will lead you back in time and teach you more about history in the region. On a sunny day, you can admire the classic architecture and enjoy the abundant green spaces.
Take an Airboat Ride
Riding an airboat is a great way to go through the bayou in a small group setting. You’ll get really up close and personal with the nature of the place, experiencing its sounds and smells. And it’s a lot of fun! We’ve ridden an airboat before in Everglades National Park, and it’s a pretty cool experience.
Visiting the swamps around New Orleans is a great way to get out of the city and witness some pretty impressive wildlife. Prices for swamp tours usually range between $20 to $100, depending on the duration of the tour and the type of transport you use. From airboats to kayaks, find the perfect swamp tour for you, and spend a half-day admiring native birds and maybe even alligators.
New Orleans has some of the most beautiful cemeteries in the country. Take a cemetery tour and learn more about their history and the art on the tombs. And the great news is, prices start at $2 in some of the city’s cemeteries!
Go Shopping on Magazine Street
Magazine Street is a seemingly never-ending street where you’ll find all the best shopping venues. From clothes to accessories, food and lifestyle shops, there’s something for everyone on this beautiful alley.
Download This New Orleans Itinerary to Plan Your Trip!
We’ve put together an itinerary template with this information to help you plan your visit to New Orleans. It’s an editable Word Document, so you can make adjustments and add activities to suit your interests. Make sure you get the template below!