2 Days In New Orleans – What To Do, Where To Stay
The Big Easy, the Crescent City, NOLA, Nawlins. New Orleans is known by many names, and just like the city, it’s people are just as diverse. There truly is nowhere else in the world like New Orleans. A fusion of cultures, it’s history, heritage and traditions are unique to this part of the world. Wondering what to see in 2 days in New Orleans? This 2 day New Orleans itinerary takes you to the most fun, frightening and fascinating places in the city.
How To Get To New Orleans
New Orleans International airport is serviced by several domestic and international airlines including: American Airlines, Delta, United Airline, AirCanada Express and British Airways.
The easiest way to get from New Orleans International Airport to the French Quarter is by Uber. The walk to the Uber pick up point is a little hard to find, but don’t give up! It’s far cheaper than a taxi. Our Uber costed about $35 for two people. If travelling solo it might be easier and/or cheaper to book a shuttle. You can book a shuttle once you arrive at baggage claim or book once in advance.
Where To Stay In New Orleans
Hotel Royal is located on Royal Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans. I actually never booked this hotel in advance. It was a fluke. I’d originally booked a different hotel. When my friend and I boarded our bus to the airport at 3am I double checked my emails do double check all our bookings and my hotel booking had been cancelled due to incorrect card details. I managed to find another hotel in a similar budget, and that’s how I came to stay at Hotel Royal.
I booked this hotel in a bit of a panicked frenzy about 4 hours before I arrived. In some ways I feel it was fate (yeah… fate!) This was one of the best hotels I’ve stayed at anywhere in the world. It was clean, has ridiculously nice staff, as central as you can imagine, and had character. Hotel Royal is actually based inside an old Louisianan home. As you make your way to your room, you are greeted by an open courtyard, typical of New Orleans homes. The room and bathroom were both spacious. Hotel amenities include tea and coffee available 24 hours, complimentary wifi, iron and ironing board, a safe, bathroom amenities and a flatscreen TV.
How To Get Around New Orleans
Getting around New Orleans is fairly easy. The French Quarter itself is compact enough that you can easily walk everywhere. Some streets are pedestrian only and some have very limited parking and narrow roads. Buses and Streetcars are the best way to get around the city and a day pass for both will cost you $3. If you can avoid renting or driving your car to New Orleans, I’d recommended doing so since most hotels do not offer parking and street parking is limited. If you are driving to New Orleans consider staying outside of the French Quarter.
Day 1: Ghost Tours & Jazz Clubs
But First, Coffee…
Every day starts with coffee for me, and being in New Orleans is no exception! You won’t have trouble finding a good coffee shop in the Big Easy. Directly across from our hotel was CC’s coffee, which was very similar in taste to Starbucks (So naturally, I loved it!) But I did try a different coffee shop every morning. French Truck Coffee is located on Chartres Street and serves the freshest small batch coffee beans.
If you’re looking for good coffee and a good breakfast, head to the Old Coffee Pot. The Old Coffee Pot is located on St.Peter and is famous for it’s Creole rice fitters calas. Opening times of the Old Coffee Pot are 8am – 10pm but we found that their cut-off for breakfast was around 12pm (We were exhausted and took advantage of sleeping in on Day 1!)
Explore The Antique Shops On Royal Street
Royal Street was easily my favourite street in the French Quarter. Royal street is famous for it’s many antique shops and art galleries. While you’ll be window shopping in most stores along Royal Street, there are a few unique shops that cater to the every day tourist. I stumbled upon a wonderful store selling the most amazing Mary Poppins-esque umbrellas. They were on the higher price tag side of $45 but the quality was fantastic! You’ll also find some independent coffee shops and eateries. Antoine’s Annex offers some really refreshing frozen desserts and ice cream to cool down on a hot day!
Royal Street was substantially quieter than the throng of Bourbon Street, and it felt much safer to me. I really loved wandering down here later at night and seeing all the street bands play. One even played “The Mickey Mouse Club March” as we wandered past – how fitting!
Try Your First Beignet!
Café Beignet was recommended to me from a friend as they prefer it here to the famous Café Du Monde. So this is where I tried my very first beignet! (And if you only have 2 days in New Orleans, trying a beignet is a must!)
There are several Café Beignets around the city but this quaint little store is located on Royal Street. I wasn’t prepared for just how much powdered sugar would be on them. Pro tip: Don’t wear black! Obviously the unwritten rule is to see how long you can chew before licking your lips! So, how do they compare the Café Du Monde? They are bigger and softer, almost like they are pulled from the fryer a few seconds earlier.
Wander Through The French Market
The French Market in New Orleans originated as a Native American trading post and has existed on the same site since 1791. The French Market is located along the riverfront in the lower French Quarter and is the perfect place to take a stroll. The open air market features 5 blocks of vendors. One of the most popular attractions here is the Crescent City Farmers Market. Open every Wednesday from 1-5pm you’ll find everything from fresh produce, preserves and locally baked goods.
Try Your First Po’Boy
Po’Boy? Yes Po’Boy! If you’ve never had a Po’Boy you’ve never lived. So, what is a Po’Boy?
Story has it that the Po’Boy was invited by brothers Clovis and Benjamin Martin. These two former streetcar drivers opened a restaurant on St.Claude Avenue in the 1920’s. During the Streetcar strike of 1929 the brothers created an inexpensive sandwich of gravy and spare bits of roast beef on French bread. When workers would come to the restaurant for one, the kitchen would shout “Here comes another poor boy!”
A Po’Boy is a sandwich traditionally on soft French bread and can have a variety of fillings. If you want to get the best Po’Boys in New Orleans with fresh succulent roast beef – head to Mother’s Restaurant. Open since 1938 Mother’s is famous for it’s roast beef, make sure you order it with “debris” mmmm! There are no reservations taken here and there is usually a line up, this is because you order first then find a seat. The Line thins pretty quickly and is more than worth it.
Get Your Voodoo On
New Orleans is famous for it’s spooky and very unique history. Voodoo was first introduced to New Orleans in the 1700’s from slave’s brought to the city from Africa. You’ll find Voodoo shops scattered all over the city – but the most famous is Reverend Zombies House Of Voodoo. The store is filled from top to bottom with interesting finds, everything from Voodoo dolls to incense and spells can be found adorning the walls.
Museum Of Death
The Museum Of Death probably isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially for those of you who might be sensitive to the exhibits on display, but if you do want to experience one New Orleans is the place to do it! While I do like the horror genre, some things in this museum were a bit much even for me. However, it was a really interesting experience and I did learn some new things (some gross things, but new none the less!)
New Orleans Ghost Tour
Keeping in with the theme of spookyness, New Orleans has a fascinating history. So much so, that Ghost Tours are one of the top things to do in New Orleans. I never actually got the chance to take a Ghost Tour but I did google some of the locations that are prominent on the tours. One of them was a stones throw away from my hotel – I could literally see it from the entrance! The LaLaurie Mansion.
If you’re not familiar with the Story of Madame LaLaurie, it’s goes something like this…
“In 1834, a fire broke out at the LaLaurie Mansion. When area residents rushed to the scene to help, they resorted to breaking down the doors to the slave quarters after the LaLauries refused to provide the key. Inside, they found seven horribly mutilated slaves who had been imprisoned in the house for some time.”Atlas Obscura
Dinner At The Gumbo Shop
If you’re spending 2 days in New Orleans, experiencing authentic creole and cajun food is a must! The Gumbo Shop is the perfect place to come for some of the best food in New Orleans. This place can get pretty busy and it’s easy to see why. The interior is distinctly Louisianan, with walls adorned with traditional New Orleans paintings.
If you’re interested in trying something new, the alligator sausage was amazing! My other recommendations would be the crab cakes and creamed corn – both spectacular. For dessert pecan pie is a staple, after all the modern day pecan was harvested right here in Louisiana.
Listen To Live Jazz On Frenchmen Street
Head to Frenchman Street to end your night popping in and out of the many Jazz clubs. This exuberant neighbourhood is always full of life and people. One of my favourite places to head to on Frenchman is the Dat Dog balcony. Grab a drink and late night snack and sit on the balcony watching the “Young Fellaz Brass Band”, who play on the corner of Frenchmen and Chartres every night.
Considered one of the best kept secrets on Frenchmen is the The Apple Barrel, the acoustics are so good, some local artists have recorded here. This bar is small and cozy with friendly staff, but make sure to get there early as it does get busy.
Make sure you check out the Palace Art Market on Frenchmen too. This quirky open air market features locally made artwork from over 80 vendors, including everything from unique illustrations to handmade jewellery. At night this place literally lights up, with hanging lights above and chairs that glow in the dark, there’s no other market like it.
Day 2: Streetcars And Cemeteries
Café Du Monde
With only 48-hours in New Orleans a visit to Café Du Monde is essential. Café Du Monde is legendary in New Orleans, it’s the place to head for beignets and it’s famous chicory coffee. I headed here several times during my trip to New Orleans. As Café Du Monde is open 24-hours you don’t necessarily need to come here in the morning, the beignets here make an awesome treat any time of day!
Although you will often see a line here, don’t be discouraged from waiting! People are constantly coming and going and the line goes pretty fast. As soon as you find a table a server will welcome you with water. The menu is limited so you really don’t need time to decide (Beignets or not Beignets?)
How do the beignets at Café Du Monde differ to that of Café Beignet? Café Du Monde serves smaller beignets in 3’s instead of 2’s and are a little crisper than that of Café Beignet.
Discover The Garden District Via Streetcar
The French Quarter of New Orleans is the most famous and is where most people choose to spend their time. But exploring the American sector of the city should be on everyone’s list of things to do in New Orleans. The Streetcar system in New Orleans is fairly easy to understand. If you’re unsure pop into a Visitor Centre and ask for a map and directions. A self-guided tour is sufficient but if you’d like a more in-depth history you can book a guided tour.
Keep an eye out for a change of name to the streets! Canal street was originally intended to be a canal splitting the city in two. The French Creoles once side with the Americans on the other. Spot the difference – Royal Street becomes St. Charles and Bourbon becomes Carondelet and so on!
To get to the Garden district, take the dark green Streetcar from “Canal at Carondelet” all the way to “Third Street”. The journey in total takes around 25 minutes and an all-day Jazzy Pass for $3 or a one-way ticket will cost $1.25. When boarding the Streetcars just ensure you have to correct change. The journey to the Garden District takes you along the Mardi Gras route. St Charles Avenue is lined with the most beautiful Oak trees and if you look closely you’ll be able to spot several with beads hanging from them.
The Garden District is a quaint charming neighbourhood filled with gingerbread style homes of all sizes. There was one in particular that I was eager to seek out. The Morris Israel House is considered to be the original inspiration for the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Although I’ve been unable to find any real evidence that this was the case. I personally think the house on the right looks more like it!
Take A Cemetery Walking Tour
Head to Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 for a self-guided Cemetery walking tour. One of the most unique things about New Orleans is that they bury the deceased above ground. The reason for this is due to the land that the city was built on. Shallow graves are a must since the water table is too high (If you dig far enough, the grave becomes soggy and fills with water)
One of the areas most notable residents is Anne Rice who lived within close proximity to the cemetery. The Lafayette No.1 became a big inspiration for her work and scenes from the movie “Interview with a Vampire” were filmed here. The cemetery itself is free to visit, just pick up a self-guided map. If you’d like to know more about New Orleans cemeteries and want to visit more book a guided tour instead.
After touring the Garden district and cemetery you can either head back to the French Quarter straight away, or enjoy a scenic ride on the Streetcar doing the whole loop taking in the scenery.
Get Ice Cream In The French Quarter
If you hadn’t noticed by now, a lot of my travels are focused around food and sweet treats. New Orleans was no different. This quaint picture perfect patisserie offers a range of treats including pastries, macarons, gelato and sodas. And ice cream or gelato is the perfect way to cool down in the humidity of New Orleans. (Update: Unfortunately this wonderful store closed in June 2019)
Walk Along The Mississippi Waterfront
The Mississippi waterfront is a great place to take a relaxing walk. We spent several moments here sitting on the steps that lead down to the river watching all the cargo ships cruise by. I also couldn’t leave New Orleans without having a photo with the “NOLA 300” sign.
Cruise The Mississippi On The Natchez Steamboat
The waterfront is also where you’ll find the famous Natchez steamboat. Tours on board the Natchez offer an evening dining experience along with live Jazz music and a scenic ride along the Mississippi.
Unfortunately I didn’t have time to do this but if you want to enjoy a journey along the Mississippi river, you can hop onboard and experience a real steamboat tour.
Walk Through Jackson Square
Jackson Square is a very important place for New Orleans, becoming a National Historic Site in 1960. This is the very site where the Louisiana Purchase took place in 1803. The United States acquired 827,000 Square miles, the largest in U.S. history!
You’ll notice the white church dominating Jackson Square. St. Louis is a notable landmark of New Orleans. It is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United states. You ca visit the Cathedral between 8:30am and 4:00pm. Mass is at 5pm Saturday and Sunday mass is 9:00-11:00am.
Experience The Debauchery Of Bourbon Street
It’s finally time to brave the streets of Bourbon Street. I’m Kidding. Kind of.
Bourbon was my least favourite street in New Orleans (despite being the place I was most excited for) Maybe it was the drunk homeless man with a black eye that followed me for 3 blocks, or maybe it was the sidewalks crumbling away at every turn. Bourbon Street didn’t impress me. But I still gave a chance.
I feel this is the place that you start to tolerate after you’ve had a few drinks. I certainly couldn’t handle it for too long sober. But it has character, it’s unique, and really unlike anywhere else. You cannot compare it to Vegas – it’s definitely not comparable. But it’s lively and there are police officers on the busy end of Bourbon.
There was something I did enjoy about Bourbon though. The Hand Grenade. If you’ve never heard of a New Orleans Hand Grenade, it’s a fruity/sweet alcoholic frozen drink served in a “hand grenade”. It contains almost 8oz of alcohol and there are only 5 bars in New Orleans licensed to sell them. (psst you can find them at Tropical Isle)
Listen To More Live Music At Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
Despite not loving Bourbon Street, it does have some good Jazz bars. We headed into Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop and listened to the band play for a while. This is where I tried my very first Mint Julep. What is a Mint Julep? A mint Julep consists of four ingredients: water, powdered sugar, bourbon and sprigs of mint, usually served over shaved ice. I’d only ever tried a non-alcoholic “Mint Julep” in Disneyland (I’m such a child) and let me tell you, they are nowhere near similar! If you love bourbon this will be for you. I tried something new at least!
Sip On Cocktails At The Carousel Bar
If Jazz clubs and bourbon whiskey aren’t your thing, the Carousel Bar inside the Hotel Monteleone is the perfect way to end your trip. The hotel interior is pure opulence, and the Carousel Bar is exactly what it sounds like. This whimsical bar looks like, and rotates, just like a real carousel! Keep in mind that this is an incredibly popular place and getting seats at the carousel can be difficult. Arrive early enough and you should be fine. The drinks here were fantastic and a really nice place to chill and hang out.
Day Trips From New Orleans
There’s plenty to see and do in New Orleans, I have seen only a snippet of what Big Easy has on offer. If you’re lucky enough to have more than two days in New Orleans you won’t find yourself bored. There are some great day trips on offer too! I spent some time seeing what lies further afield and the rest of Louisiana was just as amazing. Here are a couple of other ideas for your trip to New Orleans!
Oak Alley Plantation Tour
The Oak Alley Plantation is one of the most popular tours in New Orleans. Famous for it’s avenue of live Oak Trees leading up to the “Big House”. This tour is a half day and can be booked through Gray Line. This is who I took my tour with and as always the service was fantastic. Gray Line picks up along the Mississippi Waterfront with Air Conditioned buses. You can also opt to do a full day tour and visit more than one Plantation.
Cajun Encounters Swamp Tour
Considering New Orleans is famous for it’s swamps, I’d say a swamp tour is a must do! This is another half day tour, and half a day is all you need. We booked online through Cajun Encounters and the pick up was from their office just opposite the French Market on Decatur Street. During the tour you’ll see many an alligator, some of them even swim up against the boat! We were also taken down some narrow passage where we spotted a cute little swamp pig. Highly recommended, the tour guides were very knowledgeable and funny.
Looking for more USA adventures? Check out these other posts!
4 Days In New York City – The Perfect Guide For First Timers
2 Days In Philadelphia – What To See And Do
Utah’s Mighty 5 Road Trip Guide
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What a lot you fitted into two days. I have loved reading all about New Orleans – you’ve definitely moved visiting up my priority list. I’ve pinned your post so when I do come to plan my trip, I can refer back to all your recommendations. It was more than just the beignets!!
You described everything about New Orleans perfectly! I absolutely loved visiting and eating my first beignet!
I didn’t know that New Orleans is so exciting! It looks really nice and I with a lot of interesting places to see
New Orleans looks so wonderful! Love all the photos!
Who knew there was this much to do in New Orleans? We’vee never visited before but I think it may be going on the bucket list! Those houses are stunning and any location that involves a ghost tour and a trip to a cemetery rank high in my books! Thanks for the fantastic guide!
Hannah | https://getlost.blog/
Really beautiful photos, I’d love to visit someday it sounds like such a vibe! x
This was such a great guide! I need to try the tours you recommended and the antique shops. The Gumbo Shop sounds great too!
This makes me want to move here never mind visit!! Everything looks amazing from the food, culture and music scene! Beautiful photos too. I hope I can go here in 2021.
This looks like so much fun! I’d love to go to nola sometime. It looks absolutely beautiful! I loved your photos. 🙂
Krystianna @ Volumes and Voyages