Known for the boisterous Mardi Gras, vibrant nightlife, Jazz music scene, and amazing food that reflects American, Spanish, French, and West African influences, New Orleans is a one of a kind destination. Endearingly called the “Big Easy,” the hospitality here is legendary.
This city is loaded with things to do and see and lives up to its fun place reputation.
How many days do you need in New Orleans to see what all the hype is about? Well, it depends on how much fun you can handle, but three days and nights would be ample. Of course, a longer stay would be great, but three days would be enough for the traveler going to many destinations in the US. (Read How Many Days Should I Spend In Barcelona)
You could always come back for more.
Given the many things to do and see, a New Orleans itinerary would be great, so you can allocate time to see priority places. How many days in New Orleans you plan to stay means you have to cram everything in that period. I say “cram” because the only limit here is your enthusiasm for action with the many sites and activities.
6 Best Places to Visit
1. The French Quarter
Also called the Vieux Carré, the French Quarter pretty much embodies all that is New Orleans. Bourbon Street is the driver of the party and food scene, and it can get rowdy, especially at night. The other streets feature shops, house galleries, and music venues, so explore all you can.
This area is also a virtual architectural time capsule, rich with Victorian and Creole structures. Expect many tourists here as they flock to the many restaurants like Café du Monde, admire the Jackson Square street artists, go to Royal Street antique shops, or chill in a watering hole for some refreshment.
2. New Orleans Jazz Museum
This museum is a homage to the genres, and rightly so, since New Orleans is the cradle of jazz. Situated in the Old Mint building, exhibits here are never static. This museum is the repository of the most comprehensive jazz artifacts in the world.
Among the highlights of the collection is Louis Armstrong’s first cornet and the first jazz audio recording committed to a disc in 1917. Also, expect to see live concerts and other music-related events.
3. City Park and Audubon Park
At some point, you will need a break from all the partying and drinking. Thankfully, the city has not one but two excellent parks to chill in. Audubon Park is located uptown, and they have a butterfly garden, the natural sciences crown, a zoo, and an aquarium.
City Park across town features the largest collection of live oak trees. There are also miles of hike-and-bike trails, as well as the New Orleans Museum of Art. Halloween and Christmas are especially fun times as the trees are themed accordingly, with decorations marking the celebrations.
4. New Orleans Museum of Art
While at the City Park, the New Orleans Museum of Art or NOMA is notable for its late-19th and early-20th-century French artworks. Included in the collection is a comprehensive art of the Americas collection and works by Edgar Degas. There are many more indoor galleries to explore.
It would be best if you also walked through the newly enlarged Besthoff Sculpture Garden. More acres were added recently, and 27 more sculptures are new to the garden. Among those is a large skull by artist Katharina Fritsch.
5. The Garden District
The Garden District can be eye candy to many. It is a beautiful neighborhood to lose yourself around with time to squander. Great opportunities await picture-perfect images as the elegant architecture provide the perfect backdrops for great shots. To get around, ride the St. Charles Streetcar and get off whenever you fancy.
6. The National WWII Museum
This place is designated as the official WWII museum of the United States. You will find here restoration works, interactive exhibits, a theater, and restaurants. The WWII memorabilia include uniforms, weapons, documents, and even aircraft.
A 4-D theatre production (narrated by that Saving Private Ryan guy, Tom Hanks) with artillery explosions and simulated gunfire is a sensational experience. This an excellent place to learn of the Allies’ role in World War II and the sacrifices made not just for America but the world. A room dedicated to the D-Day landings in Normandy will give you goosebumps.
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
New Orleans would not be what it is without the music, particularly jazz. While not a yearlong event, this is a must-see if you happen to be in the city. Traditionally held the last weekend of April and May’s first weekend, this event is Jazz heaven.
Expect music genres spanning country, funk, rap, hip-hop, blues, gospel, Cajun zydeco, rock, and of course, all that jazz. The event also highlights food in your face, from local classics like crawfish Monica, jambalaya, gumbo, Cafe du Monde beignets, and soft-shell crab po’boys.
Oh Yes! The Mardi Gras
Many tourists are here exclusively because of the Mardi Gras. Louisiana is the only state where Mardi Gras is a legal holiday. Mardi Gras is observed on “Fat Tuesday,” the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It is a tradition that goes back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility.
It is a merriment day that includes parties, gastronomic pleasures and parades, parades, and more parades. It marks the last day before the fasting season begins for Christians. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, and it is the last day of the Carnival season, essentially six weeks of partying.
The New Orleans Experience
You could spend more than three days in New Orleans, but this period provides enough time to experience the city’s main highlights. A day trip to New Orleans for the time constrained can even be a fun experience in a pinch, but of course, a longer stay is ideal. Short trips to the city are possible, thanks to the proximity of everything. (Read How Many Days Do You Need In Prague)
A walkable tour is quite doable, and you do not waste a lot of time traveling from one area to another. Keep these things in mind, so you pace yourself well when you do visit the “Big Easy.”