This post provides a simple itinerary to help you experience as much of New Orleans as possible in just one day, including tips about how to prepare for a day of sightseeing in the Big Easy.
- 1-Day Itinerary
- Tips for the Trip
- Neighborhood Guides
- New Orleans Self-Guided Tours
- Things to Do in New Orleans
1-Day in New Orleans Itinerary
Get ready for a deep-dive into this wonderful city. This itinerary is intended for those who are new to New Orleans and assumes that you have just one day to explore.
This itinerary begins at 8 am to give you some time to see the French Quarter before most of the local businesses open.
8 AM - Breakfast in the French Quarter
New Orleans is typically quiet during this time of day, because not many businesses are open. This makes the morning a great time to get a little early sightseeing done and avoid crowds.
If you’re looking for a good place to grab a bite, consider the following options:
- Daisy Duke’s
- Pasgoda Cafe
- French Truck Coffee
- Cafe Fleur-de-lis
- Cafe du Monde
- Spitfire Coffee
- Ruby Slipper
9 AM - Mid-city/Esplanade Ave
The next stop on this itinerary will take you to mid-city New Orleans, preferably via Esplanade Avenue.
This road leads directly from the French Quarter to mid-city, and there are a lot of historic houses to see along the way.
By 9:30 am, you should reach St. Louis Cemetery #3. This is one of the largest and most historic cemeteries in town, and you can learn more about it on our morning tour covering this cemetery and Bayou St. John.
When you’re done here, head to the bridge over Bayou St. John. You’ll see City Park on the other side, and it’s such a big park that you’ll probably wish you had more time to explore the area.
In addition to all the traditional park activities, City Park is also home to an amusement park, a mini golf course, a botanical garden, the New Orleans Museum of Art, a sculpture garden and much more.
If you need more coffee or a snack, there is another Cafe du Monde located right here in the park!
10:30 AM - 2 PM - Head Back to the French Quarter
By this time in the morning, a lot of the big attractions in New Orleans will be opening up. You can get back here the same way you came using Esplanade Avenue.
When you get back, you’ll probably notice a lot more people around, which will give you a better look at the social flavor of this city. One of the biggest hubs of the French Quarter is of course Jackson Square.
During the day, you’ll typically hear a lot of street music in the Jackson Square area and Royal Street. It’s hard to beat free music!
When you’re done there, be sure to head down Decatur Street to see the historic French Market. The farmer’s market portion is a great place to find a quick bite to eat for lunch.
If you continue walking down Decatur, you’ll eventually find yourself at the Old U.S. Mint, which has since been turned into the New Orleans Jazz Museum.
From here you can get a good look at Frenchmen Street before it really becomes a hotspot at night. You might also want to consider heading to Congo Square to get a look at one of the most historic public squares in the United States.
2 PM - Uptown New Orleans/Magazine Street
To reach the next stop, you can take either the St. Charles Streetcar or the #11 bus which will take you from Magazine Street to the Garden District.
One of the most notable sites you’ll see along the way is the National WW2 Museum, which is full of interesting exhibits related to the war.
Attached to the museum is BB’s Stage Door Canteen, where you might be able to catch a performance from the Victory Belles.
While it might be tempting to head into this museum, it can take a while to see everything there, so it isn't on our itinerary.
That said, if you have an extra day, this is definitely one of the highlights of New Orleans that we recommend visiting.
Just beyond this location is the Lower Garden District, and one of the best spots to shop on Magazine Street. There are also several restaurants where you can grab a quick bite if you’re feeling hungry.
Here are a few places you might want to stop to get some food:
- Stein’s Market and Deli
- Tracey’s (Po-boys)
- Parasol’s (Po-boys)
After that, head down into the Garden District to see some of the most beautiful homes in the city. We offer a pay-what-you-want walking tour of this neighborhood.
When you get to St. Charles Street, you have a number of different options for where to go. One option is to keep going down Magazine Street until you reach Audubon Park, which is also where you’ll find the Audubon Zoo.
Alternatively, you can hop on the St. Charles Streetcar and head back to the French Quarter to see what it looks like in the late afternoon.
Either way, we recommend riding this Streetcar back because it’s the oldest line in the city and it’s an absolute must when visiting New Orleans.
The St. Charles Streetcar will take you right to Bourbon Street.
5:30 PM - Bourbon Street/French Quarter at Night
If you’re visiting in the fall or winter, this might be a good time to explore Bourbon Street, as it’s best experienced after dark when the neon lights create a unique atmosphere.
During other times of the year, we recommend heading down Royal Street and coming back to Bourbon Street later.
Whatever the case, this is definitely the point at which you might want to consider grabbing a drink at one of the local bars.
You might also want to make reservations for dinner at one of the restaurants in the area. Some locations such as Napoleon’s do not accept reservations, so you just have to hope they have seats available.
It might be a good idea to eat an early dinner and then head to Bourbon Street after you’ve eaten. Then you can experience this famed location after dark at the perfect time.
If you’ve had enough of Bourbon Street, head back to Frenchmen Street to find a venue that offers food/drinks and a show. Check out our post on live music in New Orleans to find the best options.
Alternatively, you can also start a New Orleans ghost tour to learn more about the haunted history of this city. Depending on how late you plan to stay out, there are a number of different activities you can do after dinner and bar hopping.
During weekends, the Ritz-Carlton hosts a live jazz performance which runs late into the night. You might also want to check out Harrah’s casino!
Tips for the Trip
Before you head out to follow the itinerary below, there are a few things you might want to do in preparation for your day. Here are a few tips and suggestions to help you get the most out of your journey.
Wear Comfortable Clothes/Shoes
Since you’re going to be walking around the city all day, it will make sense to wear comfortable clothing. In other words, focus less on fashion and more on comfort. This is especially true regarding your choice of shoes.
Many businesses in the French Quarter only accept cash, so you might want to consider bringing some money with you. This will help you avoid wasting time looking for an ATM.
Have a Transit Plan
While you could just walk everywhere, transportation will help you get from one stop to another a lot quicker.
If you’ve only got a day to see the city, consider either renting a bike or getting a transit pass.
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority offers day passes for $3 which are valid on buses, streetcars and ferries. Read our post covering how to ride the New Orleans Streetcars to learn more.
Have Your ID Ready
If you plan to enter a bar or similar establishments, you may need to present identification. International travelers should have their passport ready, and citizens of the US will need either a state ID or driver’s license.
You may also need to provide proof of vaccination to enter certain establishments. Be prepared to show your vaccination card before entering restaurants, bars, museums, and other attractions.
Prepare for Weather
Depending on when you visit, you might want to bring an umbrella for rainy days and/or a bottle of sunscreen and sunglasses on a sunny day.
It’s also a good idea to bring a bottle of water for when you get thirsty!
Download a Weather Radar App
This will help you keep track of the weather throughout the day so that you can avoid any unforeseen surprises.
Given New Orleans’ history with weather, radar is a good way to see what is happening and make plans accordingly.
Have a Food Plan
There are a lot of great places to eat in New Orleans, but some food is only served in sit-down restaurants.
If you want to get as much done as possible in one day, consider foods that will keep your energy up and won’t take much time to eat. Might we suggest a Po-boy?
Below are our neighborhood guides, some of which we have already included in our sample 1 day in NOLA itinerary above.
Each guide provides a self-guided tour with tips on what to see and when best to come and visit.
- French Quarter
- Garden District
- Faubourg Marigny
- Esplanade Ave and Bayou St. John
- Guide to NOLA Cemeteries
- City Park