How to Spend 3 Days in New Orleans

21 March 2016

A while back, I wrote about some of my favorite things to do in New Orleans, which has become one of our top posts on The Brave Little Cheesehead. We frequently get questions from readers about how to cram everything into a long weekend. To make things easier for you while you're planning a trip, I've written out in detail the itinerary I made. We hope this helps inspire you as you're deciding what to do in New Orleans!

DAY 1 | Bourbon Street Bar Crawl
A visit to Bourbon Street is a must for every first-time visitor to the Crescent City, though we wouldn't recommend spending more than a half-day or so there. Start your weekend off by stashing your things at your temporary residence. We made an excellent decision by staying at Lanaux Mansion, a lovely B&B nestled between the French Quarter and Frenchman Street. Not only was its location perfect for our plans, its owner Ruth is a sweet little old woman who will really take care of you. If you imagine spending your mornings sipping coffee and nibbling on some sweet rolls at a charming wrought iron cafe table right outside the private entry of your own room, then Lanaux Mansion is the spot for you.

How to Spend 3 Days in New Orleans | The Brave Little Cheesehead

Stroll along Decatur Street past the old U.S. Mint Building, and stop to wander through the stalls and shops of the open-air French Market. Here, you'll find a wide range of items like traditional souvenirs, hand-made jewelry and artisan crafts. Stop for a glass at Alberto's Wine and Cheese stall or a cup of coffee at French Market Produce. Or, if you're like me, you could grab a snow cone and have them top it with sweetened condensed milk. A real treat!

How to Spend 3 Days in New Orleans | The Brave Little Cheesehead

Continuing along Decatur, make sure to take your time soaking up the sights and sounds of the French Quarter. Spend some time at Jackson Square Park, admiring the southern style architecture or getting your palm read, or take a pause at Stanley, a bright, sunny cafe style restaurant with a diner-like bar. You can help your self to a pint of Abita, New Orleans' local brew, or a hand-spun chocolate milkshake. At some point, make your way to Cafe du Monde for the city's best beignets doused in powdered sugar. And trust me, this won't be your only visit for the weekend!

In the afternoon, make your way up to Bourbon Street and begin your own personal bar crawl. Stops should include Pat O'Briens for the outdoor beer garden, a Bloody Mary or an original Hurricane, the divey Old Opera House for live music and no cover, and LaFitte's Blacksmith bar for some of the coolest, masonic indoor decor. You could wander the street bopping in and out of bars until last call.

How to Spend 3 Days in New Orleans | The Brave Little Cheesehead | Photography credit Kyle Janowski
Photo courtesy of Kyle Janowski
DAY 2 | Bikes and Be-bop on Frenchman Street
Spend your second day venturing outside of the French Quarter by renting bikes and DIY-ing your own tour, or join a group with Confederacy of Cruisers. This little local outfitter will set you up with a knowledgeable guide and cruisers for a few hours and offers a variety of different tours. We opted for the Creole New Orleans bike tour, but if you want to mix a leisurely ride with a culinary adventure, go with the Culinary New Orleans tour or the Cocktails in New Orleans Tour.

For about four hours and $49, we followed our guide Keith through the incredibly colorful Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, checked out traditional shotgun style houses in the Bywater, cruised through Treme learning about its history and musical culture with a ride through Louis Armstrong park, and even stopped at a local bar for a Bloody Mary. Your tour will be a maximum of 8 people, so you'll have plenty of time to stop for photos and explore interesting things you see. It was among the highlights of our trip.

How to Spend 3 Days in New Orleans | The Brave Little Cheesehead | Photography credit Kyle Janowski
Photo courtesy of Kyle Janowski

Your morning cycling adventure will come to a close just a few short blocks from Frenchman Street. Before the crowds hit, stop at Marigny Brasserie for some lunch, and choose to sit up at the bar if you can. While the piano man plays classic jazz tunes in the background, chat up the bartender, and try some of the homemade moonshine.

Before you know it, Frenchman Street will come alive. Spend the rest of the evening wandering in and out of the bars, letting your ears be your guide. From be-bop to honky tonk to dixieland jazz, you'll find live entertainment in every place you visit, and you won't be disappointed. Make sure to stop into dives like d.b.a, the Spotted Cat, Snug Harbor and Bamboula's, and take a break at Three Muses for a bite to eat or stroll through the pop-up open air market where you'll find local photographers, silk screen printers, jewelry makers and furniture craftsmen displaying and selling their creations.

DAY 3 | DIY Garden District Walking Tour
On your last day in New Orleans, stop at Cafe Beignet on Royal Street in the French Quarter for a breakfast of -- you guessed it -- the city's famous sweet, puffy treat. If treasure hunting is your thing, spend the morning exploring the little galleries on Chartres and antique shops on Royal. You'll find costume jewelry, crystal dinnerware, vintage music paraphanalia like guitars and records, and so much more. Once you've had your fill, pick up the historic 12 St. Charles streetcar at Canal and Carondelet, which will set you back about $1.25 for fare. Enjoy the ride out past the Robert E. Lee Monument along St. Charles Avenue until you arrive at Washington Avenue.

How to Spend 3 Days in New Orleans | The Brave Little Cheesehead

From here, you can head about six blocks north to visit the Lafayette Cemetery No. 2. Enjoy an eerie walk among the mausoleums and above-ground crypts, designed for floods during hurricane season. Some visitors prefer St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, but while you're in the area, this is a great place to stop. As I've mentioned before, New Orleans cemeteries are hauntingly beautiful.

Before embarking on your walking tour, consider stopping at Commander's Palace for lunch. We didn't have time to experience this New Orleans classic while we were in town, but had we had more time, this certainly would have made our list.

With some advance planning, you can be sure to see some of the most famous mansions within the Garden District. Structure your own walking tour around what interests you most, but we recommend following this list, which includes the houses from Benjamin Button and Jason Statham's The Mechanic, as well as the stained glass house and the Buckner Mansion where FX filmed its third season of American Horror Story: Coven.

How to Spend 3 Days in New Orleans | The Brave Little Cheesehead

When you've finished your tour, head back to the French Quarter, stopping by Johnny's Po'Boys. While the award for the best po'boy in New Orleans is often debated, this one made the top of our list. We recommend the shrimp and fried chicken po'boys with a side of fries. And of course, a final stop at Cafe du Monde might seem to be in order.

Keep these trip ideas all in one place. Pin our New Orleans Weekend itinerary!
How to Spend 3 Days in New Orleans | Brave Little Cheesehead at bravelittlecheesehead.com


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24 comments

  1. I have always wanted to go to New Orleans and this is a great little weekend itinerary. The beignets look amazing!

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    1. Thank you! We highly recommend a trip. And as many beignets as you can eat!

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  2. This sounds like a wonderful itinerary. All those years in the U.S and we still never made it NoLa. The closet we got was to Shreveport, but we need to rectify this. Would love to see where The Mechanic was filmed, as well as eat all the delicious food. Great post :-) .

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    1. Thanks Fede! Yes, definitely get to New Orleans! It's sincerely unlike any place I've ever been, and one of my favorite U.S. cities!

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  3. We just got back from New Orleans, such a great city!! This is a great list for a first-timer for sure. We've been a few times before so we adventured outside of the French Quarter this time. Audubon and City Park are gorgeous and the houses in the Bywater neighborhood will make you want to move to NOLA right away :)

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    1. Great point on this being a good list for first-timers! We only scratched the surface in our few short days. And we definitely want to head back and spend more time in other neighborhoods. We managed to bike out to Bywater during our trip, but didn't get to spend too much time. Great recommendation!

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  4. I have never been to New Orleans, this would give me a good guide to where to visit! Thanks

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  5. I have always wanted to visit New Orleans especially during Marti Gras week. But it looks like anytime is a good time. You made it sound so easy to get around and bike tour looks like a lot of fun!

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    1. If you stay in the right place, it can be a very walkable city. I also want to go back for Mardi Gras week!

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  6. Great subject matter, great topic, great blog. Looked like you had a great time. Look forward to reading more

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    1. Thank you! It was a great weekend for sure. We hope to see you back!

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  7. Great tips - we'll be heading this way later this fall and will weave your suggestions in our itinerary :)

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  8. Oh Bourbon Street, Lafayette Cemetary....there's so much I want to see in New Orleans. Such an exciting city!

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  9. The garden district is one of my favorite places to walk around. There are just so many great houses and things to look at, and it's a good walk. Then Commander's Palace for the 25cent martini lunch!

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    1. Loved the Garden District too! So sad I had to miss the Commander's Palace for lunch... but I guess that gives me an excuse to go back! :)

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  10. I've been to NOLA about 25 times and never, ever get tired of the city. Lafitte's is one of my go-to places when I'm there. ;) Glad you know of it. Never a dull moment in New Orleans and I like that you got out of the city and visited the Garden District. We once tried to take home several bottles of Anne Rice's wine which broke in our suitcase and everything in it was ruined. lol

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    1. Never a dull moment is right! That's hilarious that you tried to sneak home that wine. I'm so sad to hear it didn't make it back! Guess that gives you an excuse to return.... right? ;) Thanks for stopping by Melody!

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  11. If you come back to NOLA, be sure to plan time for the WWII museum... It sounds very dry, I know... but it's not. I promise. My kids, who were 10 and 13 when we went last, are 12 and 15 now, and they are begging me to take them back. Be sure to begin your tour with the simulated train ride in the lobby area, and do not miss the Beyond All Boundaries 4-D movie.
    There are also live shows/ music in the restaurant in the evenings... you can buy tickets for dinner and the show, or the show only. These are shows that give a taste of entertainment of the time.

    I am in awe of you 20-somethings taking advantage of your opportunity to travel... I've been preaching that to my "approaching adulthood" aged kids. Travel! See the world! Have adventures!
    Best wishes to you both!

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    1. Hello again! :) We are so thrilled to hear your suggestions. I love the idea of going to the WWII museum. To be honest, we did expect it to be dry upon our first trip and decided to pass... but your comment has me changing my mind. I love the idea of live music in the evenings! What a great idea. And thank you so much for the compliment on our travels! We love to hear that you're encouraging your kids to do the same. We are fortunate that our parents always supported our dreams to see the world, and we may not have decided to take the leap if we hadn't had their encouragement. Feel free to have them shoot us an email if we can help answer any questions about travel!

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  12. P.S.
    Court of Two Sisters brunch is to die for... soft jazz quartet and covered patio dining... best experience of my whole trip!

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    1. I had heard that! We tried to get in for brunch the weekend we were there but it was booked solid. Makes a great reason for a return trip though, no? :) Thanks again for stopping by!

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