New Orleans: Ultimate Weekend Guide!
If you're planning a trip to New Orleans you're in for a whirl of fun, creole cuisine, celebrations, and festivals. I absolutely loved my quick weekend trip and can't wait to return another time to see even more. I definitely didn't get to do everything I planned but that's one of the best parts - knowing I can return and there is plenty of new things to see, explore, and EAT! This guide is perfect for those seeking a quick weekend trip itinerary to NOLA with a list of example activities, restaurants, bars + nightlife, and black owned local eateries. Check it out!
WHERE TO STAY
When choosing accomodations that nest in the main areas of Canal St, Bourbon, or the French Quarter. This way you will always be in the midst of all the culture and fun action to experience without having to drive, find parking, or grab a Lyft/Uber throughout the day.
For my Friday-Sunday trip to New Orleans in June I stayed at the JW Marriott New Orleans right in the middle of Canal street. This was a perfect location because we had direct street access to Canal shops and restaurants. We were also only one street over from Bourbon. We pretty much walked a max of 15 minutes to any destination. The service and valet was impeccable and the beds were comfy. I was surprised to see that the TV's also had Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu streaming services to login to. There's also a fine dining restaurant and bar on the main lobby, and outdoor rooftop pool on the 9th floor, fitness center and spa. I would definitely recommend this hotel for your stay in New Orleans!
A hotel or Airbnb accomodation is going to run you a nice penny so budget higher for accomodations in New Orleans. The good thing is if you travel with a group, the average per person for a weekend or extended weekend trip should be aroud $200-$250 per person. In my opinion, it was a little easier to save on food and activities than accomodations.
3 DAY WEEKEND ITINERARY
This 3 day itinerary is perfect for those who want to plan a last minute trip but get the necessary jazz filled, art, and culture of New Orleans with limited time to plan. At the bottom of this blog you'll find 20+ restaurants and bars to fill in for yourself within this itinerary. There is definitely SO MUCH to see and do so don't fret if you find something along the way during your exploration or walks along Canal/Bourbon. Even if you just need a break from the heat and humidity, Bourbon is open 24/7 so there is always more fun awaiting you after a quick nap to rejuvinate.
8am-2pm | Departure to New Orleans! Memphis to New Orleans is only 5-6 hours away so we opted to drive instead of fly. We left at a optimal time in the morning and still arrived by early afternoon to grab lunch and start exploring before our 4pm check in at the JW Marriott.
2pm Arrival + Lunch PoBoys Parkway Tavern or Nola PoBoys: Our first stop was Parkway Tavern for their famous PoBoys! Definitely try the James Brown PoBoy when you go because its the most delictable barbecue shrimp and catfish PoBoy you have EVER tasted. We even thought about going AGAIN during our trip because it was so good. They have both indoor and outdoor seating. Normally there is a line to order and receive your food but if you go to the bar you can sit, eat, and drink to avoid the line!
4pm Check In Hotel/Airbnb: Check into your hotel/airbnb after getting full off of the huge PoBoy sandwich from Parkway Tavern. Refresh and settle in before heading out to explore.
5pm JamNola Art Installation: This is a $30 interactive art installation pop up that features local NOLA artists and stands for JOY, ART, + MUSIC. The tour first starts by giving an overview of the installation, introduces some of the artists through storytelling, and then you have your own time to freely explore the remaining rooms and take photos with various props! Everything in this art pop up represented New Orleans and it was a perfect way to dive into the colorful culture, while learning a little background/history of New Orleans. At the end you get to take home JamNOLA plastic cups that get you discounts on drinks in local restaurants and bars. We took advantage and made a stop at Cafe Negril for half off specialty drinks named after NOLA artists. I got to try the hurricane drink for only $7.5!
- Royal Street – A shopping and dining destination in the city, Royal Street features grand architecture, antique shops and fine art galleries. One of the best reasons to visit Royal street is for all of the authentic street musicians you'll see performing along the street.
- Cafe Du Monde: There's a huge debate on whether Cafe Beignet or Cafe Du MOnde has the best beignets, so why not try both? I only had time to try Cafe Beignet for breakfast and beignets on my last day which means I have another excuse to return to New Orleans and try Cafe Du Monde! The lines to both are way out the door so plan ahead to stand in line for some time. We weren't in line for 30 minutes but definitely between 10-15 minutes. The food and beignets were fast and delicious!
- Moonwalk Riverfront Park – The riverfront park is a brick promenade fronting the Mississippi River and walkway offering great views of the city.
8pm Dinner Morrow’s: Try out one of the many listed restaurants below or try a local Black Owned restaurant Morrow's for dinner before partying on Bourbon Street.
Bourbon Street: Get the party started and see one of the main touristy streets in New Orleans. The partying never ends and theres plenty of drinks, bars, and nightlife to bounce back and forth to. All bars and nightlife are free to enter!
11am Brunch at Bearcat Cafe // Explore Uptown New Orleans: Bearcat cafe is a small brunch spot easily walkable from Canal street. They stay busy as well so try to get there early or expect a 15-30 minute wait. The shrimp and grits was flavorful and scrumptious and we started our day off strong with bottomless mimosas.
2pm-4pm Jean Lafitte Swamp Tour You can't go to New Orleans without planning a swamp tour to see some GATORS! The Jean Lafitte Swamp Tour is about 30 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy area of the city and is 2 hours for $30. It's easy to book online including booking other attractions all at once offered within the same company. They also offer hotel pickup as an additional cost. All of the wildlife you see is real and not simulated so you'll see real gators, turtles, birds, and swamp life. The tour has gator jerky, water, soda cans, and other snacks to purchase on the boat for $2-4 as you glide across swamp waters. The gators do swim close to the boat for good photos and videos. Do note that the gators are more likely to come out of the water and rest on the banks to soak in the sun during the spring time versus summer. You'll be more likely to see the 12ft gator during the time period but we saw plenty of smaller gators in the summer as well.
I would HIGHLY suggest bringing extra water, sunscreen, hats, or a portable fan. It was so muggy and hot in June that I was ready to go after the first hour LOL. We couldn't wait to run back to the car to turn on the AC!
Explore French Quarter
- Voodoo Museum
- Jackson Square
6-8pm Drinklab: This 2 hour cocktail class is $80/pp + tax where you'll concoct 3 different cocktails from scratch. I absolutely adored this class and had so much fun with the other atteendees. The teacher for the class was upbeat, talked about the history of the bar and New Orleans, and gave us intermission shots inbetween each cocktail. In total we took atleast 9-10 shots making the class very well worth it!
Bourbon street: If I'm being honest, the cocktail class had me ready to parTAY on Bourbon street and as soon as we arrived to Bourbon, I took 2-4 more shots with the ladies paradying around. The ladies on the street definitely overcharged me for $35 as the second set of shots only cost me $12 but I was in it for the experience and *supporting local entertainers and communities* LOL....(I was just in it for the drinks). We walked along Bourbon stopping at random bars and clubs to dance or see entertainers along the way. We eventually stopped at Mambo's so I could try their gator nachos, hush puppies, and barbecue shrimp for dinner. Oh what a delicacy they were. Salty tortilla chips topped with gator bites, crawfish and melted cheese - yum!
11am-1:30pm Steamboat Natchez River Cruise: This 2 hour $39 river cruise allows you to sit back and relax to enjoy the scenery along the Mississippi river. There are several cruise options including an added brunch option for $40 more. They also have jazz night cruises and or sunset cruises to choose from as well. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, an indoor bar, and snacks if you don't choose the brunch option.
Choose from these other well known activities in New Orleans to add to your trip before your departure!
- St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (Instead of or before City Park)
- French market flea market
- Coven house - american horror story
- House of dance and feathers (BO)
- Artist Journey Allen Gallery & Painting Studio
- City helicopter tour $112 12-24 minutes
- Shrimp boil cabaret $89
- Photoshoot nola
- Instagram Photoshoot Tour
- Gondola Tour 1 hour $50
- Burlesque ballroom
Try to book your main activities ahead of time to avoid long lines but try not to overbook yourself with more than two activities per day. Give yourself time to explore and walk around there are plenty of things to find along the way!
Uber + Lyft had pretty affordable prices, but both Canal and bourbon street are wakable. Drink plenty of water in the summer time to stay hydrated in the heat and humidity.
The trolley is also is a great way of transportation but I would highly suggest looking at the trolley map nearest your hotel. We hopped on a trolley thinking it was going to go down Bourbon but instead it took a right turn and we ended in the St. Charles area which was more than a 30 minute walk away. Even though we enjoyed the scenery and break from walking, it threw us off schedule a bit and we took a Lyft back to the main downtown area.
- Peche Seafood Grill - seafood restaurant with local brews
- pat obriens for hurricane drinks
- Creole House - seafood bar/eatery, creole dishes
- nola POBOYS - seafood restaurant
- Jacques- imo’s - quirky hot-spot, creole soul food
- Molly's Rise and Shine - laid back restaurant with classic breakfast dishes
- Cafe Beignet - counter-serve cafe with cajun, breakfast eatery
- Cornet - steaks, seafood, & cajun eatery
- Day Dog - colorful local hot dog restaurant
- Rum house - Caribbean & Latin taco eatery with tropical cocktails
- Delachaise - loungey wine bar with eclectic menu
- Wine Institute New Orleans - high-tech wine bar with global wines
- Sylvain - American styled restaurant
- Barrel proof - rustic bar with wide array of beer, whiskey, & cocktails
- Stella Dallas
- Canal place style - bright luxury retail complex with 3 floors of brand-named shops
- Armoire boutique - women’s clothing store
- Bar Marilou - French-styled restaurant in former library
- The elysian - cafe restaurant
- The tasting room new orleans - polished, old-world wine bar
- Tipitina’s live music hall - rustic black & white tiled warehouse space for live music & cajun dancing
- Parkway tavern po boys - bakery and classic-styled po boys
- Tropical isle shark attack
- Arnauds & french 75 bar -cute, seafood classics & a jazz brunch
- Flamingonola - outdoor day drinking; American eatery with cocktails on tap
- True Food Kitchen - super cute and relaxed, eco-chic eatery with cocktails, vegan friendly
- Tsunami new orleans - sushi making class
- Drago - modern, downtown seafood eatery
- French Truck Coffee - bright yellow cafe with house roasted coffee & local pastries
- Vessel Nola - century old church turned restaurant with Mediterranean coastal fare with bomber beers and cocktails
- Sofia Nola - Italian cuisine
- Copper Vine - Adorable ew American cuisine with wine and beer on tap
- Sidney's Saloon - upbeat, low-key spot offering local & regional craft beers
- The Vintage Nola - chic cafe with Paris style decor serving beignets
- Seaworthy - seafood, cocktails
- The Tchoup Yard - lively outdoor cocktail place
- Barracuda - tchoup district and tacos
- Tito’s Ceviche & Pisco - Peruvian cuisine & pisco
- Republic Nola - live music venue
- Barcadia - nightclub offering live music and American cuisine
FUN BARS + NIGHTLIFE
- Claret wine & cocktail bar - wine bar
- The bower nola wine and cocktail bar
- The Independent Nola wine bar + outside
- Bacchanal Wine wine bar outside live music
- Pluck - Wine bar!
- Baco bar nola
- cats meow karaoke bar
- tropicle isle - for hand grenades
- bourbon o bar for jazz
- Black penny
- Hi Ho Lounge - bar + drinks
- Selina catahoula - rooftop cocktail bar
- Bourree at boucherie - daiquiris
- Nola_Art_Bar - wine / art bar
- Double Dealer SPEAKEASY
- Jewel of the south
- Manolito nola - cuban bar, french quarter
- The old absinthe house
- Justine french quarter parisian brasserie small bites and wine
- Allways lounge and cabernet - burlesque shows & Indie music concerts
- The chloe - wine bar
- High hat cafe - cocktails
- Nola art bar
- Winston's Pub and Patio
BLACK OWNED RESTAURANTS + NIGHTLIFE
- Whiskey and Sticks
- Nice guys
- Second Vine Wine
- Morrow’s - New Orlean cuisine & Korean BBQ dishes
- Neyow's Creole Cafe
- Up and Adam
- Get Stuph’d
- Jack Rose Nola - elegant hotel restaurant with cajun-creole dishes
- Monkey_board_nola - rooftop bar
- Acme Oyster - Cajun Creole classics
- New Orleans Social House
- Ciao Tapas Band Lounge
- Krave lounge
I hope you found this weekend guide to New Orleans helpful and if you're planning a trip you'll definitely have a blast. This introductive guide will give you a perfect way to see some history, art, culture, and creole cuisine within 3 days. I can't wait to go back - the beignets and Parkway Tavern PoBoy is already calling me to come back again.
Have you been to New Orleans and have a favorite activity or restaurant that is a must see? Comment below to let me know!