How to Spend Three Days in New Orleans
You’ll be in New Orleans for a long weekend, or perhaps taking a business trip there during the week. All told, you have three days to spend in the city. How will you choose to spend that time? There’s a lot of sites to see in such a short time. That means you’ll need to be selective about how you spend your time. Here are some suggestions on what should be on your short list of things to see and do in New Orleans.
1 Find Your Perfect Place to Stay
Before you set out to see anything, it pays to make sure you have a comfortable and convenient place to stay. One that you may not be familiar with that happens to be in a prime location and is worth your attention is the Selina Catahoula New Orleans. This lesser-known option is found in a quiet area of the central business district and is conveniently located near the French Quarter. The Creole-style helps you feel right at home no matter which of the 35 rooms you end up with for the stay. It doesn’t hurt that the rate per day is competitive with many of the larger hotel chains with a presence in the area.
2 Start With the French Quarter
What would a trip to New Orleans be like without spending some time in the French Quarter? There’s all the wonderful shopping along Decatur Street to consider. Over in Jackson Square, there will be plenty of restaurants to try and lots of music to enjoy. Enjoy the shade provided by the lines of Southern Live Oaks. While you’re in Jackson Square, don’t forget to visit the famous Cafe du Monde. It’s open around the clock, although afternoons and into the early evenings are usually the best times to go if you want to get a table and enjoy some relative quiet. Remember that the Cafe is cash only, so take along some spending money. If you forget, don’t worry. There’s a couple of ATM’s located across and down the street.
3 Do Take the Cemetery Tours
There’s a lot of history in the cemeteries around the city. That’s one reason why there are organized and guided city tours for all of the major cemeteries in the city limits of New Orleans. What tombs and graves can you visit during a tour? Some examples include Marie Laveau, the undisputed Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. You can also see the grace of Barthelemy Lafon, the noted architect, and pirate. Learn more about Dutch Morial, the city’s first African-American mayor. Don’t forget Homer Plessy, a shoemaker who refused to move from a whites-only railcar in 1896 and saw the case go all the way to the Supreme Court. There are day tours to enjoy, but you can also visit some of the cemeteries at night. You may find that the feel of the walks among the dead takes on a whole new context if you go when the stars are out.
4 See Historic Buildings
There’s no shortage of historic buildings to see. While you’re not likely to fit all of them in during a short stay, there are some that you don’t want to miss. The St. Louis Cathedral should be at the top of the list. Formally known as the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, it’s considered the oldest cathedral in the United States that’s still actively used. Constructed in 1794, it’s possible to take a guided tour for a modest fee. People are free to enter during the hours of operation and look around on their own as well. Everyone is welcome to attend Mass at the cathedral. As of 2020, that includes a Saturday late afternoon Mass, two Masses on Sundays, noon Masses during the week, and early afternoon Masses Wednesday through Saturday.
You also want to work in a few other historic buildings. The Old Ursuline Convent Museum is ideal for some afternoon time, as is the Louisiana State Museum. The Creole cottages and townhouses found around the city are included in several tours. A walking tour of St. Charles Avenue will provide a chance to see historic mansions in the Victorian, Greek Revival, and Colonial styles.
5 More Music Than You Dreamed Possible
When you think of New Orleans music, jazz is likely the first thing that comes to mind. You’ll find plenty of jazz clubs, open-air concerts, and other venues that will offer you everything from smooth jazz to progressive jazz. Be prepared to enjoy plenty of rhythm and blues music too. You’ll hear performances in concert halls, clubs, and even among musicians who play on the streets and pass the hats afterward. If you love the sounds of brass bands, you’re in luck. There are a number of places around town to enjoy the sound of a full band. If you’re fortunate enough to be in town during a local or national holiday, there’s likely to be a parade that includes a marching brass band.
Other forms of music are found tucked away in small clubs and coffee houses. Folk music has a presence in the city, as do country and western music. Don’t be surprised if you come across venues where rock and roll, hip hop, and rap are also found. Just as so many other aspects of New Orleans culture are eclectic, the same is true of the local music scene.
6 Consider a Swamp Tour
The swamps near New Orleans are beautiful, but they are also filled with potential hazards. If you want to experience the scenery but would prefer to do so in safety, going on a guided tour is the only real option. Some of the tours include visits to the famous Honey Island. The name comes from the fact that the nearby islands used to be home to large numbers of honeybees.
With the swamp tours, you have the chance to see all sorts of wildlife from a safe distance. That includes seeing alligators, different types of snakes, and plenty of turtles and bullfrogs. Along the way, you might even see some white-tailed deer, otters, raccoons, and wild boars. The lush green swamps will also help you recapture a sense of wonder about all that nature has to offer.
7 Spend Some Time in the Garden District
The Garden District is an eclectic mix of cottages and mansions that still sport many of the manicured gardens that give the area its distinctive name. Along with walking tours of some of these structures, you also have the chance to browse in antique shops, boutiques, and other locally owned retail shops. There are plenty of places to enjoy a meal, a cup of coffee, or relax with the beverage of your choice.
8 Enjoy and Support the Local Street Performers
In many areas of the city, you will find street performers who set up and entertain locals and visitors alike. As you stroll around, there will be singers, musicians, jugglers, mimes, and many other types of performers. Many of them live off the gifts provided by those who stop and spend a little time enjoying what they have to offer. In some areas of the city, it’s possible to grab a sandwich, settle into a neighborhood park, and enjoy this outdoor entertainment at your leisure.
No matter how you like to spend your time, there’s plenty to see and do in New Orleans. From taking in the history to enjoying fine cuisine to plenty of entertainment, your three days can be as busy or as relaxed as you choose. Don’t fret if you can’t see everything that you like in those three days. There’s always the option of coming back for another stay.