Welcome to New Orleans. Are you ready for three days of food, drink, music, and beauty in a city like no other?
If you're looking for a New Orleans weekend getaway or just have three days to see the sites, that is plenty of time to discover some of the cultural, historical, and artistic highlights of the city without feeling rushed.
Our New Orleans 3 day itinerary will serve as your compass, pointing you toward a range of activities and experiences that capture the essence of NOLA.
We’ve grouped stops so you’re making the most of your time here.
And we’ve included restaurants, museums, gardens, neighborhoods, and more, each of which will give you a good cross-section of what New Orleans has to offer.
Whether it's a New Orleans weekend trip or a weekday visit, you're sure to be charmed by this marvelous city.
For your first day in New Orleans, we're sending you to the French Quarter.
While Bourbon Street is likely the most well-known location in the French Quarter, this neighborhood of just over half a square mile has so much more to offer.
Here is our suggested itinerary for your first day:
- Start at Jackson Square
- Have Breakfast
- Walk Royal Street
- Visit the Gallier House
- Choose the New Orleans Jazz Museum or the French Market
- Stroll Bourbon Street
Located right across the street from St. Louis Cathedral and steps away from the Mississippi River, this square and its central monument have become one of the most popular places for tourists to take a selfie in New Orleans.
In addition to providing an excellent photo opportunity, this location is also one of the most popular parks in the city.
The park is named in honor of General Andrew Jackson. His equestrian statue in the middle of the park was erected in 1856.
Around the edge of the park, you'll find artists selling their original creations, as well as musicians, magicians, dancers, and acrobats. You might even run into a second line making its way past.
There's so much to see and do in the few blocks surrounding the square, including walking Pirate's Alley, visiting exhibits at the Presbytere, or eating at one of the many restaurants nearby.
For a full list of things to see in and around Jackson Square, visit our post.
If you haven't had breakfast yet, you could pop across the street to the touristy Cafe Du Monde and grab some beignets.
This is its busiest time of day though, so you might want to head to Cafe Beignet, which is a short walk away and takes us to Royal Street, our next stop.
If you prefer a heartier breakfast, Stanley is a good option. It's just across from the square at the corner of St. Ann and Chartres Streets.
Named after the character in A Streetcar Named Desire, Stanley serves local riffs on classic breakfast items all day, along with a bistro-style lunch menu.
Many folks prefer Royal Street over Bourbon Street and consider its offerings a little more upscale, funky, and interesting.
It's certainly a quieter street.
You can spend hours going in and out of the little galleries and antique shops that line each side or just gaze at the windows full of interesting displays.
There are boutique hotels, cafes, restaurants, bars, and loads of lovely ironwork balconies dripping with flowers.
One thing to note, though, is that the sidewalks are a bit rough (as they are in many places in New Orleans). Just be sure to keep your eyes open.
This beautiful Creole townhouse, located off of Royal Street, was once the home of James Gallier, Jr. and his family.
During the mid-19th century, Gallier was one of the most popular architects in New Orleans, designing houses for many prominent businessmen and families throughout the city.
Guests to the Gallier House, completed in 1860, are transported back to the splendor of the 19th century—beautiful Victorian furnishings and decorations, toys and games of a bygone era, and the story of a young family living in a nation on the brink of war.
This house is said to have “inspired Louis and Lestat's New Orleans residence in Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice.”
Click here to book a tour of Gallier House.
Depending on your mood, there are two spots you may want to visit nearby.
The New Orleans Jazz Museum covers the history of jazz and includes many interactive exhibits.
It also has an extensive collection of memorabilia from throughout the history of jazz including Louis Armstrong's first cornet, first edition prints of sheet music, and over 10,000 jazz recordings.
Read our post on the New Orleans Jazz Museum for information on tickets and to discover the best time to visit.
If you'd rather go shopping, head over to the French Market, just across from the Jazz Museum.
The French Market is six blocks of restaurants, shops, a farmer's market, and a flea market running along Decatur Street.
It is nearly half the length of the French Quarter of New Orleans.
Predating European colonization, the site was a trading post for Native American tribes of the region.
When the French first arrived, they met with the indigenous people, who taught them about local food and how to prepare it.
Up until the 1980s, it was a place for locals to pick up produce and acted as a food market.
There is a modern resurgence of this occurring, with organic local food being sold and an extensive food court.
The back of the market is a cheap place to pick up trinkets at the flea market.
It's been a full day, and now that you've seen some of the most interesting parts of the French Quarter, it's time to walk Bourbon Street.
Bourbon Street has had its name since the beginning when the city was laid out following its founding in 1718.
The bars, on the other hand, are a thing of the late 19th century and beyond – before that, it was a quiet, respectable, middle-class street.
If you squint through the neon, you can see buildings that would have served as businesses downstairs with owners upstairs, and the size of those residences was one of the factors that led Bourbon to be an ideal bar corridor when the time came.
Of course, it doesn't only offer bars. You can finish Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo, have a poboy at 908 Bourbon, or visit the iconic Preservation Hall.
For a list of bars, restaurants, and things to do there, visit our post Things to do on Bourbon Street.
Today we move away from the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter, to a quieter part of the city for the first half of the day.
In the second half of the day, you'll visit a few spots just outside of the French Quarter.
- Take the St. Charles Streetcar
- Tour the Garden District
- Visit Lafayette Cemetery #1
- Explore Mardi Gras World
- Eat in the French Quarter
- Listen to the Music on Frenchman's Street
If you're staying downtown, an easy way to get to the Garden District is by street car.
The Historic St. Charles Streetcar Line is the longest in the city and the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world.
The cars on this line are vintage streetcars registered with the National Register of Historic Places and remain unaltered.
Note that we have an audio tour covering the St. Charles Street car that you can download and listen to on your trip.
As you travel along St. Charles Avenue, you'll pass by beautiful mansions sitting along the oak-lined street. This is truly a special way to travel through the city, just as folks would have done it back in 1835!
This line starts on Canal Street at Carondelet (look for the green streetcar) and travels through the Central Business District, Lower and Upper Garden Districts, and makes stops at:
For more information on tickets and a map, read our post, New Orleans Streetcars | How to Tide the Trolleys.
The Garden District, or 'Lafayette City', as it was once known, is part of Uptown New Orleans and is just a short streetcar ride from Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, but it feels like a world apart.
Excluded from early 19th-century Creole society, newly arrived Yankees got to work creating their own city.
They bought property blocks that were carved up from the Livaudais Plantation.
The result is one of New Orleans's most desired neighborhoods and one of the nation's most beautifully preserved city districts and it's home to the rich, the famous, the strange, and the dead!
There are a few ways to see the area. You can take our pay-what-you-wish - or you can download our audio tour.
Each will take you past some of the most well-known homes and landmarks in the area.
While you're in the Garden District, you'll want to stop by Lafayette Cemetery #1, the most filmed cemetery in New Orleans.
The planning of this cemetery began in 1832 in preparation for the creation of the City of Lafayette.
The City of Lafayette would eventually become a part of the City of New Orleans and include what is known today as the Garden District.
It was laid out in a formal manner, with four quadrants.
There are Magnolia trees for shade and an area for funeral processions in a cross shape, and there were originally very fragrant flowers abundant between the tombs.
The cemetery has been active since 1833 and still has burials occurring.
There are about 1,000 tombs and an estimated 7,000 people buried in Lafayette #1. It is a city block in size.
This Garden District gem has two entrances, one on Washington Ave. and one on 6th Street.
Note that the cemetery has been closed for badly needed repairs but it is expected to be reopened in late 2023.
If you're riding the streetcar, which is just three blocks from Lafayette Cemetery #1, hop back on and head down to Magazine. Get off and walk a few blocks to Canal and Magazine Streets.
There, you can pick up the complimentary shuttle. Just give them a call
This is a working float studio where you'll see historic floats, costumes, and decorations from past Mardi Gras festivals.
During this walking tour, your guide will explain the history of both Mardi Gras and Kern Studios.
Afterward, you'll get a look at their "float den," the location where artists work year-round to create memorable floats and other decors.
Mardi Gras World is open 7 days a week from 9:00 AM to 5:30. *As of January 2023, tours are currently self-guided and a visit lasts approximately one hour.
Note: There are also several museums or exhibits that are dedicated to some aspects of Mardi Gras and are free, including the Mardi Gras Museum at Armands Restaurant and the House of Dance and Feathers. There is also the inexpensive Presbytère and its Mardi Gras exhibit.
If you shuttle back to Canal and Magazine, you're right on the edge of the French Quarter.
This is the perfect time to walk through and find somewhere to eat. Or, you could take a French Quarter Food Tour.
If you'd like some French food, you might try Arnuad's Restaurant.
If a refined Southern Fried Chicken sandwich sounds good, you might try Sylvain.
Or maybe you're feeling like eating Cuban food, in which case Manolito is a sure bet.
Live music is everywhere in New Orleans. You can find it on the streets, in parks, in bars and restaurants, basically everywhere.
And this is even more the case if you come during one of the city's great events, such as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (Jazz Fest) or the French Quarter Fest.
Frenchmen Street, located in the Marigny neighborhood, has the highest concentration of local-flavored music in town.
Concentrated into a three-block strip just outside the French Quarter, Frenchmen Street is lively every night of the week, picking up steam as early as mid-afternoon on weekends, and has no mandatory closing times.
There are a number of places to hear music. Because it offers so many choices in a compact space, it's easy to go to Frenchmen Street without a plan and make spontaneous choices about where to go based on what you hear.
The best live music venues on Frenchmen St. offer shows starting at 6 pm, 9 pm, and 11 pm. As such, you can expect to hear a lot of great local musicians in this area from the early evening to midnight.
The atmosphere tends to be joyful, especially if a band shows up to play live on the street.
This is truly a part of the New Orleans experience you won't want to miss. And if you'd like a tour of New Orleans Music, Arts and More, we can help you with that too.
Just outside of New Orleans are a number of interesting places well worth visiting. We start the day outside the city and end it back in the French Quarter.
Since 2010, we have operated walking tours in New Orleans, serving tens of thousands of visitors to the city each year.
And the number one question we get asked is whether a swamp tour is worth it or not. The answer is often a resounding yes.
Aside from alligators, the swamps are teeming with wildlife, including wild boars, raccoons, snakes, bald eagles, herons, egrets, mink, and turtles.
Another highlight of these excursions is the flora and fauna, particularly gliding through the moss-covered cypress trees.
There are many companies to choose from as well as options to explore the swamps, which we cover in our post, Swamp Tour New Orleans.
A second option is a visit to the Whitney Plantation.
Opened in 2014, the Whitney Plantation is unlike any other experience you will find in Louisiana.
It is one of the only sites in the country that focuses solely on the experiences of those who were enslaved there.
In addition to the architecture and newly restored spaces, there are exhibits, artwork, and narratives that describe first-hand experiences at Whitney.
You can visit Whitney Plantation on its own or through Gray Line's Plantation Tour. Click here to book.
Have a meal and then head out for some more exploring. There are a few sites you can visit.
The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum is a small, 2-room building located off of Dumaine St, near the hustle and bustle of Bourbon St
Filled with artifacts, paintings, and sacred objects, the Museum explores the legends, myths, and history of New Orleans Voodoo.
The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, located on Chartres St., was the “first United States apothecary shop to be conducted on the basis of proven adequacy.”
The museum features collections of mid-19th-century medical equipment and practices, many disturbing or terrifying to modern viewers, on the first floor.
Revolving exhibits, as well as living quarters, a physician’s study, and a sick room, are located on the second floor.
Or you can visit the 1850 House Museum.
Located in the Lower Pontalba Building, the 1850 House is a step back into time—to the days of Antebellum New Orleans, often believed to be the most prosperous era in the city's history.
Guests to the house are treated to what life and culture were like during the mid-19th century, from room furnishings, china, and paintings, to cast-iron balconies.
The perfect way to close out your visit to New Orleans is with a Ghost Tour.
New Orleans is rumored to have a strong presence of ghosts and spirits. Some say it's America's most haunted city.
Authors and TV shows have used the city as the backdrop to some of the spookiest stories.
New Orleans offers a variety of tours focusing on Louisiana's haunted past, with guides that tell you all about the city's dark history.
Visit our post, Ghost Tour New Orleans to discover the many types of scary tours you can take.
Are Three Days Enough Time to Visit New Orleans?
Yes. It's enough time to hit a lot of the top attractions. It will give you a good sense of the lay of the land, so to speak. We're sure you'll want to return to see and experience even more in this unique city.
Is There a Good Time to Visit New Orleans?
In short, the answer is before it gets too hot. February through May and then October through January. Of course, if the heat and humidity don't bother you, any time is a good time to visit.
What are New Orleans' Major Events and Celebrations?
- Allstate Sugar Bowl: January 1st
- Mardi Gras: February and/or March
- Jazz Fest: April and/or May
- The French Quarter Festival: April
- New Orleans Pride: June
- Southern Decadence: Labor Day Weekend
- Bayou Classic: November
Where are the Best Places to Stay in New Orleans?
We've written a post that covers mid-range and luxury hotels, as well as hostels. You can find that here.
What Are the Best Things to do Each Month in New Orleans?
We've compiled a list of the top ten activities each month, as well as free, night-time, and family-friendly activites.