Beignets. Jazz music. Festivals. Ghosts. Gumbo. New Orleans is famous for about a zillion things, and all of them are well worth taking a trip to the Big Easy!
New Orleans is one of the most unique places in the USA: it’s a fascinating melting pot of French, Spanish, First American, and West African culture. It looks like nowhere else in the country, with a complex history that reflects the story of the United States. And the food is like nothing else you’ll find anywhere else in the South – or the entire country, for that matter.
Oh, and then there are the parties: New Orleans throws a better party than anywhere else, y’all, and I say that without even having been to Mardi Gras!
When we booked a trip to visit a friend in New Orleans, we wondered whether 3 days in New Orleans was enough. (Mind you – that’s 3 FULL days, not including travel days.)
Here’s the thing: 3 days is just enough to get a taste of New Orleans. It’s enough time to check off just about everything on the top of your “things to do in New Orleans” list, eat plenty of Creole food, befriend some ghosts, learn about the fascinating, complex history and culture, and explore New Orleans’ most beautiful neighborhoods.
But you’re probably going to leave New Orleans wanting to come back – because 3 days in New Orleans is the also perfect amount of time to whet your appetite. It’s an introduction to one of the USA’s most fascinating cities, and it’s just enough time for an excellent introduction.
In fact, we found ourselves back in New Orleans just a few months later – for Halloween! Ahem: HIGHLY recommend.
So without further ado, here’s everything you need to get the most out of your 3 day New Orleans itinerary!
Table of Contents
Psst: Planning a trip to the South? Here are a few of our favorite posts about other Southern destinations!
- 10 Enchanting Things to Do in Savannah, Georgia
- The Perfect Weekend Itinerary for Nashville, Tennessee
- The Ultimate Local’s Guide to Louisville, Kentucky
- The Perfect Weekend in Austin, Texas, 3 Day Itinerary
We created a handy dandy Printable New Orleans Itinerary! Sign up below to get it sent direct to your inbox!
Where to Stay in New Orleans
Many folks planning a trip to New Orleans want to stay in the French Quarter. It’s definitely the most iconic and famous part of town (and arguably also the most haunted, if you’re into that) but it’s also… the noisiest. And the most crowded. And the most expensive. To get the best deals we recommend using Kayak to price-compare prices on hotels for your trip!
So instead, we recommend that you stay in the Garden District. It’s quiet, it’s beautiful – gorgeous mansions and gardens galore – and it’s got several of its own attractions to explore!
Sure, you’ll end up needing to take a Lyft or the historic St. Charles Streetcar to and from the French Quarter, but that’s the only drawback. And considering how much money you’ll be saving by staying in a less crowded part of town, we think it’s well worth it and why we choose to stay here.
Here are some suggestions for where to stay:
- The Quisby: Located in the Lower Garden District, the Quisby is a cozy and well-decorated hostel that’s walkable to almost everywhere you might want to visit during your 3 days in New Orleans.
- The Henry Howard Hotel: This is an adorable boutique hotel in the Garden District which was built into a historic townhome. The rooms are all New Orleans themed!
If you do want to stay in the French Quarter, here are a couple of budget-friendly options.
- City House Hostel New Orleans: A budget traveler’s favorite in the French Quarter, City House offers both dorms and private rooms in the heart of the neighborhood.
- Hotel Provincial: Located centrally in the French Quarter, Hotel Provincial is a fantastic boutique hotel option that has spacious rooms in a very photogenic historic mansion (with one of the most beautiful courtyards in town). And as a bonus, it’s one of the most haunted hotels in New Orleans! Yay, fun!
We really love to stay in vacation homes when we travel but New Orleans has restrictions in place for certain areas. In the French Quarter, it is heavily restricted, and short-term holiday rentals in the Garden District are also illegal. When looking for vacation rentals in New Orleans check they have a permit to operate.
That said, there are some great places that are legal and have permits. This regal Victorian Mansion located in the historic Garden District will make you feel like you’re in Beauty and the Beast with its golds and blues (hey, it’s French!). Or this Historic Suite on the ground floor of the stately Lanaux Mansion allows you to stay in a piece of New Orleans history while being right where Frenchman Street meets the French Quarter! It doesn’t get much closer to the action than this.
New Orleans Travel Tips & FAQ’s
Is New Orleans safe?
In general, New Orleans is about as safe as any other major city. However, you’ll need to be alert and guard your valuables, especially if you plan on going out to the bars. Like any other large city in the United States (or the world), there are areas where crime is more rampant than others, so be sure to stick to highly touristed areas, especially at night.
Parts of the French Quarter, like the infamous Bourbon Street, can get rowdy with partygoers and drunk people after dark, so take extra precautions in the French Quarter during those hours, especially if you are alone.
As for wandering around during the day, as long as you keep your valuables and cash tucked away, stay vigilant, and don’t stray too far off the tourist trails, you should be absolutely fine! We’ve got more tips for staying safe while you travel in this post.
Is three days enough time to visit New Orleans?
While you could definitely spend even more than 3 days in New Orleans, it’s enough time to explore the city’s main highlights, and you’ll be able to experience a lot of what New Orleans has to offer in three jam-packed days.
Another great thing for short trips to New Orleans is that most of the city’s neighborhoods are either walkable or accessible by streetcar. This means you won’t have to waste a lot of time traveling from place to place.
Instead, you’ll be able to spend the majority of your 3 days in the city on foot, wandering through the many historic neighborhoods the city has to offer. Just make sure to pack good walking shoes! Psst: These are our favorite travel shoes for men & women.
When is the best time to visit New Orleans?
We recommend visiting during either April, May or October. April and May are lovely and warm, the perfect spring weather before the city becomes insanely hot and humid during the summer.
The city is also fairly empty during the off-season between October and January – and what better time than October to visit one of America’s most haunted cities?
Note that if you visit between October and January, you’ll want to bring warm clothing – New Orleans does get quite cold in the winter.
January through March is Mardi Gras – yup, the whole time – and the city will be busy, festive, and much more expensive. If you do plan to visit during Mardis Gras, you’ll want to book about a year in advance!
We visited New Orleans right after Mardi Gras during the first week of April, and the timing was perfect. There were still festive Mardi Gras decorations and plastic beads hanging off of fences and trees, but the crowds had cleared out and the prices had… er, slightly dropped (granted, we booked about 2 weeks before our trip, so that’s kinda on us).
The weather was mostly pleasantly sunny – although it was a bit colder than we expected and on one day, rainy (this rainy day guide to New Orleans came in handy).
We also visited in October for Halloween, and the weather was colder and rainier – but it just added to the overall spooky factor!
What are the must-eat foods of New Orleans?
New Orleans is a foodie city, and the history and story of New Orleans are reflected in its incredibly unique food. You can get to know New Orleans by eating your way through it – which, incidentally, is our favorite way to get to know a place! Here are the must-eat New Orleans foods for your trip.
- Gumbo: Rich, smoky, earthy, and a deep brown color, gumbo is the heart and soul of New Orleans. It’s the perfect example of blended creole food that New Orleans is known for, and its ingredients are representative of elements in New Orleans history: French, Spanish, West African, and Native American. You’ll learn all about those elements on the food tour we recommend in the itinerary!
- Crawfish: Also called “mud-bugs,” which was enough to make us not want to try them, these are a low country classic. If eating them whole makes your tummy turn a little, try it in pie form. You’ll find Crawfish Pie on menus across the city – we ordered some in the French Market.
- Cajun Food: Originating from Southwest Louisiana, Cajun food is rustic and spicy. A lot of the magic of Cajun food comes from a special blend of spices that’s got a great kick and is totally addictive. Add cajun seasoning to Creole food and you’ve got New Orleans cuisine!
- Po-Boy: Po-Boys are traditional New Orleans sandwiches, which consists of some kind of meat or seafood served with condiments on a New Orleans-style baguette, which is flaky on the outside and chewy on the inside (thanks, Louisiana humidity!).
- Muffaletta: This is another kind of traditional New Orleans sandwich that’s served on a special, round bread topped with sesame seeds. Sicilian immigrants invented this sandwich for Italian workers in the area, and basically stuffed the bread with a bunch of antipasta and olive salad.
- Red Beans & Rice: This is a dish typically served on Mondays, and many restaurants will give you a bowl along with your meal.
- Beignets: Deep-fried dough covered in sugar, need we say more? We’ve included 2 famous beignet stops in our 3 day New Orleans itinerary, but if you need more, here’s a fabulous beignet guide to NoLa.
- Oysters Rockefeller: Oysters topped with herbs, bread crumbs, and butter and baked to perfection. Try it at Galatoire’s (where we had them and fell in love) or Antoine’s, where they were originally invented.
What are the must-drink cocktails of New Orleans?
New Orleans is a foodie city and a party city, which is a recipe for truly excellent cocktails! The city is home to several famous and historic cocktails. Here are the ones you’ll want to try during your 3 days in New Orleans (start preparing your liver now).
- Sazerac: Known by some as America’s oldest cocktail, the original Sazerac was first made in New Orleans in the 1850s, and is made with a blend of cognac, absinthe, sugar, and bitters. In 2008, the Louisiana Legislature named the Sazerac the official cocktail of New Orleans (so you’ve obviously got to try one while you’re here, right?).
- Ramos Gin Fizz: Originally coined the New Orleans Fizz, the Ramos Gin Fizz became famous because of the meticulous process required to make it. It has approximately a dozen ingredients, including gin, egg whites, club soda, heavy cream, lime juice, and more. Fair warning: some bartenders will hate you for ordering this drink, so check with yours first! Try one at the Sazerac Bar, which is part of the Roosevelt New Orleans Hotel.
- Grasshopper: Invented in 1918 at Tujague’s (pronounced like Two Jack’s), the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans, this drink tastes like mint chocolate chip milkshake with none of the syrupy hangover-inducing effects you might expect. Try it at the perfectly preserved historic bar where it was invented (the oldest stand-up bar in America!) – you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Just, er, don’t ask about that trough on your floor, right in front of your feet… trust us, you probably don’t wanna know.
- Absinthe: In the 1800s, absinthe was banned in the United States because of its hallucinogenic properties. However, in 1934, some New Orleans locals created absinthe without the hallucinogenic wormwood and served it under a different name. It’s a favorite beverage of local speakeasies, and you can get it at the secret vampire bar behind Boutique du Vampyre. Er, if they let you in. Good luck.
- Brandy Milk Punch: Made famous at Brennan’s Restaurant, the Brandy Milk Punch is a seasonal drink made with nutmeg, brandy, and milk. It was traditionally served in the winter, although now, you can try in year-round in New Orleans. Order the original at Brennan’s Restaurant, or try variations at Commander’s Palace.
New Orleans Itinerary: Day One
On the very first day of your New Orleans itinerary, you’ll get to experience a little bit of everything that New Orleans has to offer: amazing food, fascinating history, chilling ghost stories, and a great party. (Also, yes: beignets.) Let’s go!
Coffee at French Truck Coffee
We’re hitting the ground running with this itinerary, so trust us: you’ll need to fuel up. French Truck Coffee in the Garden District is the perfect place to start your first morning in New Orleans. (If you’re not staying in the Garden District and need coffee ASAP, don’t worry: there are plenty of other locations, including one in the French Quarter).
French Truck is coffee snob-approved, with an excellent selection of single-origin beans and perfectly poured pour-overs. But even if you’re not a certified coffee snob, this is still the best place to try a classic New Orleans coffee, like a Cafe Au Lait made with chicory, or a sweet New Orleans Iced Coffee.
Self Guided Tour of the Garden District
After you’ve taken care of your morning caffeine fix, it’s time to explore New Orleans’ most beautiful neighborhood: the Garden District. We used this self-guided Garden District tour to help us explore the neighborhood, starting with The Rink, a historic building that once housed an ice skating rink.
During the self-guided tour, you’ll get a taste for what the Garden District is known for, including a famous cemetery and several historic and noteworthy houses.
You’ll visit several of the homes that inspired Anne Rice’s vampire novels, plus a few celebrity residences, like the homes of Archie Manning, John Goodman and Sandra Bullock.
Oh, and most exciting (for us): the house that inspired the Disney Haunted Mansion! … Supposedly. We couldn’t find any actual facts to back that claim up. It’s definitely a mansion that’s haunted, though, so … that counts.
- Travel Tip: For more fascinating history and fun facts about the Garden District (and… more accurate information) we recommend that you book a guided walking tour of the Garden District neighborhood. The tour is designed & led by New Orleans Secrets – we’ve taken two of. their tours (more on that later) and er HIGHLY recommend them.
Lunch at Commander’s Palace
Since 1880, Commander’s Palace has been one of the most famous restaurants in New Orleans. They serve traditional creole food, including New Orleans style seafood dishes and Louisiana alligator grillades. They’ve also got an adorable Instagrammable exterior. This is the perfect place to stop for lunch after your self-guided tour of the Garden District!
Because it’s one of the most famous (and fancy) restaurants in New Orleans, it can be tough to get a table at Commander’s Palace in without a reservation.
However, on a weekday you can typically walk in for lunch without one (and enjoy their 25 cent weekday martini special). Just make sure you’re dressed nicely! Luckily, Jeremy was wearing a button-down and I had on a nice flowy skirt, so we waltzed right in without a reservation.
On the weekends, Commander’s Palace hosts a signature Jazz Brunch, but you’ll definitely need a reservation for that!
In addition to enjoying a few 25-cent martinis (there’s a limit of 3 per person, which we found … generous) we highly recommend taking advantage of the weekday lunch specials – they’re a fantastic deal.
We tried the famous Turtle Soup with sherry, strawberry shortcake, and the Creole Bread Pudding Soufflé with whiskey sauce. Also, it was Jeremey’s birthday week. so they brought us balloons and a Chef’s hat to celebrate. Aww!
Visit Weird Museums in the French Quarter
The Garden District is beautiful, but let’s be honest: you can’t spend your whole first day in New Orleans outside of the French Quarter!
When people think of New Orlean’s most famous and historic neighborhood, two things usually come to mind: Bourbon Street and jazz music. And, like, yes – those are definitely fun after dark. But there are also tons of things to do in this area during the day!
- Travel Tip: The French Quarter is FULL of history, stories, legends, and secrets, and knowing those stories will deeply enhance your trip. So, we highly recommend taking a 2- hour walking tour with a local who can tell you all of the interesting legends and history of the French Quarter!
We recommend spending some time wandering around the French Quarter taking it all in – and we have more tips for what to see later on in this itinerary – but we highly encourage you to hit up some of the most uniquely New Orleans attractions in the French Quarter. Namely, 3 very weird museums.
Listen, here’s the thing about these museums: These aren’t necessarily the most educational, detailed, in-depth, or academically researched museums.
What they are, is weird. They are weird museums, and they’re totally fun and cool and quirky and super weird.
We would actually encourage you to do some research beforehand to make the most of your visits – don’t expect to be educated just because a place has “museum” in the name. Just managing expectations here.
- Pharmacy Museum: Located in the old apothecary of the first pharmacist in the United States, the museum has a collection of old medical equipment (yup – it was definitely used), apothecary jars, and “voodoo potions” labeled with names like “Love Potions” and “Leeches.” It’s kind of like an antique museum meets a doctor’s office, and, in true New Orleans fashion, it’s totally weird. And historically FASCINATING!
- The Voodoo Museum: Knowing nothing whatsoever about Voodoo, most of the stuff on display here mostly went over our heads on our first visit. But after taking this excellent Voodoo Tour we were familiar with the Voodoo religion, Madame Leveau, and had a basic understanding of what a Gris-Gris is – and this tiny 2-room “museum” (think less, like, art gallery, more like, someone’s house that’s obsessed with Voodoo) was much more interesting. It’s very unique, very New Orleans, and it only costs $7!
- Museum of Death: Less of a “museum” and more of a “collection of stuff having to do with death” this museum is a must-visit if you have a personal interest in the macabre. If you like to spend your evenings researching true crimes, would crush a Serial killer-themed Trivia night, and aren’t horrified by the idea of watching someone die, this is right up your alley! If you’re a little squeamish – but still morbidly fascinated with the macabre, hi, me – be sure to stay out of the theatre of death (it’s exactly what it sounds like). And use the bathroom before your visit, because it’s through the theatre.
Note that this will be your only chance to visit the 3 weird museums on this itinerary, so if your curiosity is piqued, this is the day to do it!
Once you’ve gotten your fill of weird, quirky little museums and explored a little bit of the French Quarter – don’t worry, you’ll be back again in a couple days – it’s time to head to dinner.
Dinner at Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar
A New Orleans original, Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar was founded in 1989. The French Quarter location is an oyster bar that specializes in seafood dishes, including the classic Oysters Rockefeller.
Get their Taste of New Orleans combo, which includes jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, and red beans & rice. Oh, and their gumbo is excellent!
Take a Ghost Tour
New Orleans is one of the most haunted cities in the USA. Also, for some reason, it’s full of vampires. Like … both the legendary kind, and the “this is just who I am, mom!” kind.
Anyway, we LOVE diving into all the weird, creepy stories lying just underneath the surface of New Orleans, so taking a Ghost Tour was high on our list of things to do in New Orleans!
There are a ton of NoLa ghost tours to choose from, but some of the ones we saw were HUGE, with 20-30 people all straining to hear their guide. Also, some tours include “ghost hunting” with various pieces of equipment, and we wanted to focus on storytelling and history.
The New Orleans Secrets ghost tour was the perfect balance of a small group with no paranormal ghost interactions! Our guide took us to a handful of places around the French Quarter, including the insanely creepy LaLaurie House, all the while telling us about New Orlean’s history – and the fires, plagues, and murders that shaped it. It was totally creepy and thrilling, and we highly recommend it!
- Random, Semi-Related New Orleans Fact: Nicolas Cage apparently once had a hobby of buying up the most haunted houses in New Orleans, including several of the homes you saw in the Garden District AND the insanely creepy LaLaurie Mansion. Sadly, he recently went bankrupt, and the IRS claimed his entire collection of creepy haunted mansions. Now the only thing he owns in New Orleans is a giant gravestone shaped like a pyramid. Because the IRS doesn’t take gravestones. He may or may not live inside…
Update: On our second trip to New Orleans, we booked this Voodoo Tour with the same tour company. It was led by a Voodoo practitioner and focused on accurate, validated historical information rather than hearsay and scare tactics.
We learned about how Voodoo is a religion rooted in slavery and the African Diaspora, and how there are actually a ton of similarities between Voodoo and Christianity. We also learned about the many misconceptions surrounding Voodoo, which are rooted in racism and fear.
The tour was respectful and fascinating, and we highly recommend it if your schedule allows for it!
The same company, New Orleans Secrets, also offers a guided Garden District Tour, and we’ll definitely be taking that on our next trip to NoLa!
Dessert at Cafe Du Monde
For a little late-night adventure after your Ghost Tour, head to Cafe Du Monde to try their famous beignets! You’re not too terribly far, and there will be plenty of room to sit once you arrive.
Late night is the best time of day to visit Cafe Du Monde’s most popular location without any lines, and trust us – the pillowy, sugar-topped beignets will help you stay awake for your last activity of the evening (a cup of coffee or some milk probably wouldn’t hurt either).
Frenchmen’s & The Palace Market
After you’re fueled up on beignets, start walking – you’re heading out of the French Quarter and into the best pocket of New Orleans nightlife: Frenchmen’s!
- Travel Tip: If you’re too tired, you can move this activity to the last evening of your trip. But DON’T skip it! It’s a late-night highlight of any trip to New Orleans. And we say that as boring, sleep-loving people who never stay out past 9PM.
When I say “the best place in New Orleans for music and nightlife,” what’s the first place that comes to mind?
If it’s Bourbon Street, you’re wrong, but you’re not alone – that’s a common tourist misconception. And tbh we’re not even mad about it because it means more tourists will keep the bars full there while you head here.
While Bourbon Street is like a big street party full of drunk strangers, Frenchmen’s is more like a medium-sized block party full of drunk friends.
You might see a 10-piece band playing out on the street for small crowds of dancing locals; you’ll probably hear jazz, soul, and funk music spilling out of neon-colored doorways; you might bum a cigarette and make new a local friend over drinks on the street; and you just might come home with a giant work of art.
Oh, that’s the other thing: Frenchmen’s is also home to the coolest night market in New Orleans: The Palace Market. It’s a rad art market featuring works from local artists ranging from sustainable bow ties to hand-crafted jewelry to screen-printed t-shirts to giant paintings, and it’s open until midnight!
There is nothing cooler than taking a break from watching live funk music to browse an art market at midnight, y’all.
After the art market closes and you’ve enjoyed as many drinks, cigarettes, and new friends as you can handle, call a Lyft and stumble back home to rest up for your day trip tomorrow.
New Orleans Itinerary: Day Two
I hope you had a blast yesterday because today is going to be … sobering. New Orleans is a lot of fun and throws a GREAT party, but it’s important to look back at the complex and dark history of New Orleans to understand how it became the vibrant and diverse place it is today.
Today, you’ll be visiting plantations. Not because they’re pretty – they’re too evil to be pretty.
But because plantations represent a huge, defining piece of New Orleans history. And because we owe that respect to the hundreds of thousands of people who were kidnapped and brought here from West Africa, enslaved, chained, beaten, and killed – and yet still managed to shape the culture of New Orleans.
Prepare yourself: today is going to be gut-wrenching. But I promise that after today, you’ll see New Orleans in a different – and deeper, and more complex – light.
Coffee & Breakfast
Eat a quick, early breakfast at the Silver Whistle Cafe, which is located in the Pontchartrain Hotel. It’s a famous historic cafe known for being the hotspot where the city’s big wigs, like Frank Sinatra and Truman Capote, hung out to make deals and gossip.
Today, you can sit at the 10-top where they sat while drinking a cup of coffee and enjoying the cafe’s famous blueberry muffins.
If we’re being totally honest, chances are you won’t be hungry for lunch: plantations have a tendency to replace any hunger you might feel with a pit of sorrow in your stomach.
So fill up on breakfast, and we promise the wait will be worth it for dinner.
Tour the Whitney Plantation
Although the New Orleans of today is a thriving and bustling city – despite being gutted by Hurricane Katrina just a decade ago – the history of the city is much darker. New Orleans – and the entirety of Louisiana – was built by enslaved people.
The wealth you see in the mansions of the Garden District or the elaborate facades of the French Quarter was paid for with money earned by kidnapping human beings from West Africa, enslaving them, and exploiting their labor.
It is an ugly history. And we feel that it’s not right to enjoy the beauty of New Orleans, to eat delicious Creole food and dance to jazz music, without acknowledging where that food and that music – and much of New Orleans’ flavor, soul, and spirit – came from.
We chose to visit a plantation to pay homage to the enslaved people who built and shaped this beautiful city.
There are 3 main plantations within an hour’s drive of New Orleans: Whitney Plantation, Oak Alley, and Laura Plantation. We cannot emphasize enough that the Whitney Plantation is the best choice for a plantation tour in New Orleans.
The Whitney Plantation is the only plantation in Louisiana that focuses exclusively on the lives of enslaved people. It honestly and academically portrays the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its effect on Louisiana while respectfully memorializing the thousands of lives that were lost.
During your tour, you’ll “meet” the enslaved children who once lived here, represented by beautiful and haunting statues throughout the property. The Children of the Whitney have names, and they tell their stories in their own words via recordings that were made in the early 19th century.
The Whitney Plantation features plaques and statues commemorating those quotes, as well as names and other known details about the thousands of enslaved people whose stories were once lost to history.
This tour is powerful, impactful, and emotional, and you should fully prepare yourself to cry. Allow yourself feel that sadness, and let it fuel your drive to prevent the injustices of racism and greed that led to the cruelty and inhumanity of slavery.
- Travel Tip: Whitney Plantation is located about 45 minutes outside of New Orleans. We rented a car from Enterprise in the Garden District so we could explore multiple plantations at our own leisure, but we recommend booking a tour to the Whitney Plantation – it covers both your transportation and entry fee.
Tour the Laura Plantation (Optional)
If you’ve got extra time and want to visit a second plantation, you can take a tour of the Laura Plantation.
The Laura Plantation was a Creole plantation, meaning that the owners were originally from France (and not Anglo-Saxon). It was also a women-run plantation, which was very rare at the time in the United States.
Memoirs from a plantation owner named Laura Locoul, which detailed what life was like in Antebellum Creole Louisiana for a wealthy white woman, were found in the plantation – hence its name.
The plantation was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993 because its buildings and associated quarters, including the slave quarters, are still intact.
We didn’t have a chance to take a guided tour ourselves, but we’ve heard that it does cover the lives of the enslaved who lived there.
That said, it’s not as progressive or brutally honest as the Whitney Plantation.
… What About that Other Plantation?
You may notice that we’ve chosen to exclude the most popular New Orleans plantation, Oak Alley. This was intentional.
We did visit Oak Alley, and we felt that the lives of the enslaved were not portrayed accurately nor given enough focus.
The takeaway of the tour was not that slavery was a horrible chapter of history, but that the plantation was pretty.
One look at the guestbook told us everything we needed to know: page after page of comments that all said the same thing: “so beautiful. So pretty. Such wonderful trees.”
Yes, Oak Alley is very pretty, in a menacing way – but that’s not a good reason to visit a plantation.
Plantations are the USA’s equivalent of concentration camps or killing fields. Thousands of people were imprisoned and murdered here. Families were torn apart. Unspeakable cruelty was a daily necessity in order to maintain a status quo fed by greed and money.
And to downplay that harsh reality in favor of emphasizing the ~romance of the antebellum era is, we feel, infuriatingly dishonest and disrespectful.
Romanticizing the lives of the enslavers, with their lavish furnishings and luxurious homes, does a disservice to the lives lost during slavery, and perpetuates a myth about the antebellum area that we feel is dangerous and racist.
To be fair, Oak Alley has gotten a little bit better in recent years (since the Whitney Plantation opened its doors). They used to dress their employees in Antebellum clothing, which is a bit like visiting a Concentration Camp and going on a tour led by a uniformed Nazi.
They don’t do that anymore. So … that’s good.
We hope that the progressive trend continues, because we’d love to visit a “beautiful” plantation that’s brutally honest about the cost of such beauty. But until then, we can’t recommend visiting Oak Alley. The photo just isn’t worth it.
Dinner at Gris-Gris
After a long and emotional day, Creole comfort food is just what you need. Gris-Gris, located in the Garden District, serves traditional New Orleans food with an elevated twist.
The owner worked at the famed Commander’s Palace for several years before opening Gris-Gris in 2018. The restaurant quickly became the most exciting and popular place to eat in town – which is why you’ll either want to make a reservation in advance or plan to wait for a seat at the bar upstairs. We awkwardly hovered at the bar for about 15 minutes before two seats opened up.
Unlike most of the historic and traditional restaurants in New Orleans, Gris-Gris features a modern open kitchen layout where you can see the chefs preparing your food. We’re the kind of people who watch Chopped while we eat, so we enjoy a good cooking show with our meal!
Of course, if you sit at the bar upstairs, you’ll have to settle for watching your bartender instead, but you’ll get a chance to walk through the kitchen if you visit the bathroom.
- Travel Tip: Order the oyster BLT, the gumbo, and the shrimp & fried green tomatoes – they were all heavenly. Honestly, everything we ordered was insanely good, so you can’t go wrong.
Drinks at Hot Tin
Featuring breathtaking views of New Orleans’ Garden District, Downtown, and the Mississippi River, Hot Tin is a chic bar on the roof of the Pontchartrain Hotel.
The bar was designed to model the home of Tennessee Williams, a famed New Orleans playwright who was said to be living in the Pontchartrain Hotel while he wrote his classic, A Streetcar Named Desire.
If you time things just right, this is the perfect place to watch the sun setting over the New Orleans skyline, cocktail in hand.
New Orleans Itinerary: Day Three
For your last full day in New Orleans, you’ll be heading back to the French Quarter to take a food tour (just in case there are still a few items on your New Orleans food list that you haven’t checked off), explore the French Quarter, enjoy some live jazz, and finish your trip on a sweet note with more beignets.
Visit the French Market
I know we didn’t start with coffee today, because it feels a little redundant at this point, but let’s be real here: you’re gonna want to get coffee first.
Once you’re caffeinated, head to the French Market.
The French Market is the historic center of the French Quarter, and it’s a critical part of the story of the founding of New Orleans. The French Market actually dates back to the Choctaw Indians, who ran a prosperous trading market here.
When the Europeans showed up, they were like “Oh wow, this IS a great location for a market. So we’re just gonna kick y’all out and stick our own city right here and pretend it was ours all along,” and that’s why an ancient Native American trading post is now called the French Market. Isn’t American history fun? That was sarcasm, in case it wasn’t super clear.
Anyway, depressingly representative of the history of the Americas or not, the French Market today is a pretty rad place to visit.
There’s delicious food, every manner of souvenir – this is the BEST spot to shop for edible souvenirs like hot sauce, spices, and beignet mix – and a huge selection of wares handmade by local artists and craftspeople.
Walk through the giant open-air market and you’ll see artists working behind their booths, meet self-published authors selling their books, and be tempted to try everything from alligator jerky to Crawfish pie.
Oh, and something that might look familiar: Cafe Du Monde, except now it’s during the day so it will be massively crowded. Good thing you already checked that one off your list!
It’s definitely tempting to fill up here, but don’t eat too much, because later on you’re taking a food tour!
Take a Food Tour
Not gonna lie, the Doctor Gumbo food & history tour we booked was one of the attractions we were most excited about. And it’s not just because we are food-obsessed foodies who literally travel just to eat stuff in cool places.
New Orleans is famous for a huge and bewildering variety of unique and delicious dishes, and we were so excited to sample them all – and learn about the history of New Orleans through the lens of its food!
Food tours are the most efficient way to combine sight-seeing, eating as much as possible, and learning a bunch of interesting stuff, and we try to take one everywhere we go. (We love food tours so much, we even started our own food tour company in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky!)
The Doctor Gumbo food tour is said to be the best food tour in New Orleans, and our high expectations were certainly met! During our 4-hour walking tour, we sampled everything from muffulettas to gumbo to po-boys at some of the city’s most famous historic restaurants and neighborhood dives, and learned about how every ingredient in Creole and Cajun cooking tells a story about the history of New Orleans.
We definitely recommend this tour!
Explore the French Quarter
After your food tour, you’ll have a few hours to kill in between all that food you just ate and dinner, so we recommend getting your final fill of the French Quarter to round out your trip. There are a few more must-see spots that we recommend visiting!
You can start by heading to Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral, which is really the heart of the French District. Named after Andrew Jackson, there’s a statue of the namesake president on a horse in the center of the square that’s one of the iconic symbols of New Orleans.
At Jackson Square, you can also visit the Cabildo, which is a museum/exhibition hall home to lots of artifacts from the area.
While you’re there, stop by the Pirates Alley, a small, hidden alleyway that’s the source of many of the city’s legends. It was once home to Andrew Jackson and William Faulkner, and no one really knows where the name came from. Now, it’s home to lots of small shops and cafes that reside in picturesque brick buildings.
Dinner at Galatoire’s
Once you’ve worked up an appetite again (though, it’s actually a blessing if you’re not too hungry, because dinner tonight will be on the pricey side) head to Bourbon Street!
Galatoire’s is a Bourbon Street institution and one of the most famous restaurants in town – it’s the one spot on Bourbon Street that even locals recommend eating. Its original owner was from France and infused French culture and tradition into his restaurant.
Galatoire’s has served up Creole and French cuisines for over 100 years, and its reputation as one of the best and nicest places in town precedes it.
Galatoire’s has steadfastly preserved that reputation by keeping prices high and insisting on a rigid dress code, even if the interior feels a little more “old-fashioned ice cream parlor” than “high-end luxury restaurant.”
Men are required to wear a suit jacket, so Jeremy packed his Bluffworks travel suit, which is the perfect, lightweight, wrinkle-resistant travel suit. We couldn’t figure out if there was a specific dress code for women – there’s nothing on the site – so I just put on my reddest lipstick and hoped for the best.
If it all sounds a bit stuffy and old-fashioned, you’re not wrong: it’s the kind of place where the check is decisively put down in front of whoever appears to be the man of the table.
And then put down in front of the man again, even after I made a big show about reaching for it. Which like, not surprised, but always a little irritated.
But low-key sexism aside, the food here lives up: it’s rich, heavy, French, and delicious. The seafood dishes are amazing, like the Crab Maison and the Oysters Rockefeller, but you’ll also find more traditional French dishes like foie gras and escargot.
This is definitely a splurge, but in a foodie town like New Orleans, splurges are well worth it!
Drinks at Jazz Playhouse or May Baily’s
After dinner, it’s time for your last taste of New Orleans nightlife. You’ve got three options: May Baily’s, Jazz Playhouse, or the Carousel Bar & Lounge. Or heck, just visit all 3: they’re all within a 5-minute walk of one another.
- History lovers and ghost enthusiasts should start at May Baily’s Place, a New Orleans institution built in 1821. May Baily’s was the city’s first licensed brothel in the city, and you can still see the business license displayed there today. There are also rumors that the place is quite haunted – being a historic New Orleans brothel and all – so if you like a good scare, be on the lookout for some sinister ghosts. While you’re there, grab a Pimms Cup, which is their signature drink.
- Jazz Playhouse is one of the most beloved places for jazz in the whole city of New Orleans. They have nightly jazz shows for audiences aged 21+ and seating is first-come, first-served. While you’re listening to the incredibly talented local artists doing their thing, you can sip on a signature New Orleans cocktails (just work your way down that list at the beginning of the post).
- The Carousel Bar & Lounge is most famous for being extremely Instagrammmable, thanks to the giant antique Merry-Go-Round still operating inside. The whole bar rotates, so if you’re on your 3rd drink of the night, don’t worry: it’s not just you that’s spinning. Order a Sazerac and enjoy live music and excellent people watching!
Dessert at Cafe Beignet
Did we mention we love beignets and can never have enough of them? Okay, great, because your 3 days in New Orleans is going to end the way it started: with a delicious beignet nightcap.
No matter which bar you end up in, you’re just a few minutes away from Cafe Beignet on Bourbon Street.
To be frank, we didn’t think the beignets were quite as perfectly pillowy as the ones from Cafe du Monde – they’re more on the dense side, which hey, personal preference – but they’re still delicious and the adorable, Instagrammable atmosphere of the place definitely makes up for it.
Savor your fluffy morsels of sugary heaven as you say your goodbyes to New Orleans … and then stumble out to head to the next bar. We won’t judge.
3-Day New Orleans Itinerary Summary
Here’s a quick summary of our 3 day New Orleans Itinerary!
- Coffee at French Truck Coffee | Address: 2917 Magazine Street 104, New Orleans, LA 70115
- Self Guided (or Guided) Tour of the Garden District
- Lunch at Commander’s Palace | Address: 1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130
- Visit the Weird Museums
- Explore the French Quarter
- Dinner at Mr. Ed’s | Address: 512 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA
- Ghost Tour with New Orleans Secrets | Address: 709 St Ann St, New Orleans, LA
- Dessert at Cafe Du Monde | Address: 800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA
- Frenchmen’s & The Palace Market | Address: 619 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA
- Breakfast at Silver Whistle Cafe | Address: 2031 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA
- Tour the Whitney Plantation | Address: 5099 LA-18, Edgard, LA
- Tour the Laura Plantation (Optional) | Address: 2247 LA-18, Vacherie, LA
- Dinner at Gris-Gris | Address: 1800 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA
- Drinks at Hot Tin | Address: 2031 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA
- Coffee at the French Market | Address: 700-1010 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA
- Take a Food Tour with Doctor Gumbo | Address: 310 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA (Starting point at SoBou Restaurant)
- Explore the French Quarter
- Dinner at Galatoire’s | Address: 209 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA
- Drinks at Jazz Playhouse or May Baily’s
- Dessert at Cafe Beignet | Address: 311 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA
3 days in New Orleans is the perfect amount of time to see the best of the city – but it will definitely leave you wanting to come back! What are you most eager to see, do, or eat in New Orleans? Drop us a comment below!
- Budget Travel Tip: Booked a flight yet? We recommend using Kayak to price-compare flight deals & dates before you book to save money on your flight.
Psst: Planning a trip to the South? Here are a few of our favorite posts about other Southern destinations!
- 10 Enchanting Things to Do in Savannah, Georgia
- The Perfect Weekend Itinerary for Nashville, Tennessee
- The Ultimate Local’s Guide to Louisville, Kentucky
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Disclaimer: During our trip, Visit New Orleans provided us with complimentary passes to a few New Orleans attractions. All opinions, suggestions that you should eat your weight in fried seafood, and bad jokes are 100% our own and totally not their fault.