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Ultimate New Orleans Travel Guide for First Timers : 3 days in New Orleans

 

 New Orleans is undoubtedly one of the best cities in America, what with its rich culture and terrific, diverse food that is one of a kind. There’s a lot more to the city than meets the eye, however. There’s music, the arts, sceneries, and more. Here are a good chunk of the great sights, sounds, and eats in the best place in the world to visit for the year 2018 (according to the New York Times!)

  1. Contents

    Take a Jazz Tour – Urban Adventures New Orleans Jazz Tour

When people think of the music genre Jazz, New Orleans is more often than not, the next thing that immediately comes to mind. New Orleans is known to be the birthplace of Jazz, dating way back to the 19th century. The music genre is also one of the things that makes the culture of the city and the people so rich and interesting.

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Must-do-in-New-Orleans
Louis armstrong park

If you want to enjoy the tunes and get to know more about the history of Jazz in the city, you can book a guided Jazz Tour with Urban Adventures where you’ll uncover the history behind the music and stroll through the scenic sights of New Orleans, like the Louis Armstrong Park and Frenchmen Street, as well as various local art markets where you can support New Orleans’ creators and curators. You’ll see some of the local musicians play all while enjoying a nice glass of beer, and see the top spots that only the locals know about. All in all, this guided tour is a great starting point if you want to get a big, flavourful bite of New Orleans in just a short amount of time—around two and a half hours to be exact.

Must-do-in-New-Orleans

The tour lasts around two hours and a half and costs $49 per person. Drinks are also served during the tour.

  1. Take a Cooking Lesson or Watch a Cooking Demonstration

Given that New Orleans is famous worldwide for their amazing cuisine, taking a cooking class is definitely a great activity to get a comprehensive understand of what exactly the inner workings of the city’s cuisine are. The New Orleans School of Cooking offers cooking lessons and cooking demonstrations of both Cajun and Creole meals. The cool part about booking a class is that you not only get to learn how to cook and eat some of the creations made by the skilled chefs, but you also get to learn about the history behind the cuisine.

Must-do-in-New-Orleans
Cooking demonstration during Halloween, hence the costume.

We watched cooking demonstrations of jambalaya, gumbo, pralines— they were so good. You even get a hefty portion of the meals, so the payment includes your lunch as well. You can also bring home recipes of the tasty Creole and Cajun dishes so you can recreate them anywhere you go.

  1. Take a Self-guided Walk around the Garden District

 

The Garden District is another popular spot in New Orleans freckled with lots of old, historically significant establishments and tourist locations.

Must-do-in-New-Orleans

  • The Rink: An ice skating rink where you can find the Still Perkin’ Café for desserts and coffee, as well as the Garden District Bookstore.
  • Lafayette Cemetery
  • Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel
  • The Women’s Opera Guild House
  • Toby’s Corner: The Garden District’s oldest residence which has not yet been destroyed or eroded
  • Payne­ Strachan House: The death place of former Confederate United States of America president Jefferson Davis
  • Commander’s Palace Restaurant: Known and praised as one of the best restaurants not only in New Orleans, but in the entire United States.

Must-do-in-New-Orleans

  1. Visit the National WWII Museum

This is a super informative and well-planned out museum. I spent around five hours here and learned a lot more about the history behind World War 2. The 4D films are also very worth the time. Expect to spend a while here because the films alone already take up 48 minutes—so expect to take around 2.5 to 3 hours inside the museum.

Must-do-in-New-Orleans
WWII museum in New Orleans

It is known to be the top-rated located to visit in New Orleans, but it is no surprise given that the five buildings of the museum are complete with relevant and interesting historical artefacts as well as interactive and comprehensive displays. You’ll really feel as if you’ve been transported into another time period; it’s so entertaining you won’t need to be an avid history fan or WW2 buff to be completely immersed in the experience.

Must-do-in-New-Orleans
WWII Museum train introduction

There are some additional fees inside the museum for extra activities, like the Beyond All Boundaries film which costs an additional $5, as well as the USS Tang Submarine experience which costs the same amount.

What to see at World War II Museum:

  • Road to Berlin
  • Road to Tokyo
  • US Freedom Pavilion
  • Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
  • D-Day Galleries
  • Merchant Marine Gallery
  • and more

Ticket prices for WWII Museum:

  • $27 for adults
  • $17.50 for children and students
  • $23.50 for senior citizens

You can reserve the tickets online or purchase directly via the museum when you walk in. Some dates can get crowded, however, so it might be best to book the tickets in advance.

Address: 945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA

  1. Go on a Cemetery Tour

The cemeteries of New Orleans are not only beautiful and picturesque, but also hold a lot of history and relevance behind them. Many important and renowned people have been buried in the cemeteries of New Orleans. There are two prominent cemeteries to visit, the St. Louis Cemetery and the Lafayette cemetery. The St. Louis Cemetery, however, can only be explored with the aid of a guide.

St. Louis Cemetery

This cemetery has roots dating all the way back to the year 1789, and is made popular and infamous by the belief that the area was the starting point for all sorts of diseases that spread through the people of New Orleans in the early days when medicine wasn’t as advanced as it is now, You’ll get to see above-ground tombs here, which look very similar to houses—something which earned them title the “Cities of the Dead”. Some of the spots to see here include the Varney Tomb which used to mark the very center of the cemetery grounds, oven vaults, and the Galpion Tomb which is said to be where the famous Voodoo Queen or priestess of New Orleans, Marie Laveau, was buried.

In order to explore the cemetery grounds, all visitors are required to be part of a walking tour as ordered by the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans. Visiting the French Quarter before or after visiting this cemetery is ideal because the two are located very close to one another—walking distance, even. Keep in mind that there are no restrooms inside the cemetery.

You can book a tour via the Ask Arthur Walking tours, however if you weren’t able to book before your visit you are allowed to walk in and book a tour right then and there on the spot for just 20 USD per person since the public are not allowed to go inside on their own, unless they have family members who are buried inside the cemetery grounds.

Lafayette CemeteryMust-do-in-New-Orleans

This cemetery is a bit further away from the St. Louis one, as well as the French Quarter. Around 20 minutes away, to be precise. One perk of visiting Lafayette is that you do not need to book a walking tour in order to be allowed entry inside. You might also recognise the area from many movies and television shows seeing as how the Lafayette is the most filmed cemetery in the city. Some of the most notable tombs are that of Harry Hays and Judge Ferguson—both important figures in the history of not only New Orleans but also the entirety of Louisiana.

  1. Visit the Aquarium: Audubon Aquarium of the AmericasMust-do-in-New-Orleans

This is a lot smaller than usual, so if you’ve been to bigger aquariums then you can skip this one, unless you are with kids who love seeing the underwater life. Despite its small size, the Audubon Aquarium still has a lot to offer, with 15000 different sea creatures to see and even an area where visitors are allowed to pet the baby sharks and talk to the assigned naturalists of the aquarium to learn more about the creatures. Overall, the aquarium is still a good and interactive visit especially if you’re bringing children along with you.Must do in NOLA

Hours: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily

Ticket prices:  $29.95 for adults, $24.95 for seniors, and $21.95 for children ages 12 and below.

  1. Visit the ZooMust-do-in-New-Orleans

The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans is one of the most popular attractions in the city of New Orleans with a very large amount of different attractions and sections for the animals, so it might be best to organise your trip ahead of time and purchase tickets – tickets happen to be cheaper when bought online in advance as opposed to when you walk in, as well. Another good reason to plan ahead is that exploring the zoo involves a LOT of walking, which is one of the few complaints of some visitors.

Hours: 10am – 4pm from Tuesdays to Fridays,  10am – 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays

Ticket prices: $29.95 for adults, $21.95 for children ages 12 and below, $24.95 for senior citizens

  1. Do a Ghost City TourMust-do-in-New-Orleans

New Orleans is a city which is known for its dark, eerie, and mysterious history, as well as ghost and spirit sightings – and ghost city tours are great ways to find out more about the dark and haunted past of New Orleans. There are many different walking tours available, and here are some examples of the most highly rated ones: 

Destination Kitchen French Quarter History Tour

This is a two hour walking tour of the French Quarter which kicks off the day with a serving of either coffee and donuts or beignets. Visitors will see all of the relevant spots in the French Quarter as well as the other parts of New Orleans. Tickets cost $32 per person, and the food is already included in the price. 

Haunted History Tours

This one of the most popular ghost tours in New Orleans, and has been featured multiple times on TV across different networks especially in the United States. You will see many different “haunted” locations – even pubs – for just $25 per person.

  1. Do a Swamp Tour

The New Orleans swamps are quite famous, and have been featured in many media including Disney’s the Princess and the Frog. But the swamps are more interesting up close, and you’ll be able to get the most information out of a visit if you join a Swamp Tour. There are many companies which offer boat tours through the New Orleans swamps, such as:

  • Swamp Boat Tours
  • Cajun Encounters
  • Cajun Pride

Most tours offer rides via kayak or boat, which usually carry around 20-25 people per ride. There are smaller tours, however they tend to be more expensive. You can expect to see the famous alligators, boars, egrets, and lots of plants native to the New Orleans area.

 

  1. Do a Plantation Tour


One of the best ways to see the nature and greenery as well as the rich history that New Orleans has to offer is to join one of the city’s many plantation tours. Unfortunately, there is no way to head to the plantations via commute—you will need to self drive or have the tour you booked pick you up from the hotel that you are staying at.

Here are some of New Orleans’s top rated plantations:

  • Laura Plantation:

    This is one of the oldest sugarcane plantations in the city, having been functional for a total of 180 years. The tour includes a guide who gives out very educational information; you will get to learn all about the workings of traditional Creole plantations, how slavery was a fundamental part in the plantation’s creation and growth, and the different sub buildings and structures that make it a whole, such as the tropical gardens and main sugarcane plantation area.

 

  • Oak Alley Plantation:

    Oak Alley is another plantation where you can have a deeper understanding of the real history and slavery that went behind the maintenance of the plantations. There are many exhibits at Oak Alley, including the Civil War exhibit, Sugarcane Theater, The Slavery at Oak Alley exhibit, and the Big House. One of the best features about the plantation is the walking path that is shaded by massive oak trees which seem to overlap with one another.

 

  • Whitney Plantation:

    The Whitney Plantation is one of the most historically comprehensive plantations to visit in Louisiana. They have museum exhibits, restored artefacts as well as slave accounts and narratives which will really allow visitors to understand the lives and points of view of the enslaved individuals who lived and worked under the owners of the plantation.

 

  1. Visit the Louisiana State Museum and Learn About Hurricane KatrinaMust-do-in-New-Orleans

The Louisiana State Museum is divided in multiple sections, each specializing in a different topic. These sections include the The Cabildo, The Presbytère, Wedell – Williams Aviation & Cypress Sawmill, Jazz Museum, Capitol Park, and the Sports Hall of Fame.Must-do-in-New-Orleans

You can learn about Hurricane Katrina at the Presbytère, specifically. It talks about the horrific effect of the hurricane on Louisiana, rendering over 80% of the city flooded and a significant amount of people dead. This was a very interesting exhibit for me. I learned all about how it went down, the struggle of the people of Louisiana, and what they have done in order to prevent another catastrophe like that from happening again. There are lots of artefacts and detailed exhibits you can read, leaving you with a very comprehensive understanding of the event. Lots of photographs are also there to help visitors understand the full intensity of the hurricane.

  1. Go on a Food Tour Must-do-in-New-Orleans

New Orleans has food which is renowned worldwide, and booking a food tour is one of the best ways to get the various cuisines and tastes of the city in just a short amount of time—from Cajun cuisine to Creole. Wine and drink lovers will have a good time too, because most tours show visitors the best food and drink pairings available. These are a few examples of the best food tours in the city of New Orleans:

  • TABASCO Food Tour:

    Tabasco hot sauce is incredibly important to the meals of the citizens of Louisiana. Go into any home any you’ll find that most—if not all—families have a bottle of Tabasco on their dining room table. This tour showcases many of the different cuisines in New Orleans, as well as which ones go great with Tabasco hot sauce!

Must-do-in-New-Orleans

  • New Orleans Food Tour by Destination Kitchen:

    Another great food tour which takes you through all of the best Cajun and Creole food spots in New Orleans. Aside from the great food, visitors will also get to see many relevant and beautiful sights and architecture as well as get to know more about the history behind the city.

 

  1. Visit Frenchmen StreetMust-do-in-New-Orleans

 Frenchmen Street is similar to Bourbon Street but caters more to the older, more relaxed and mild crowd. There are lots of pubs, bars, and clubs littered around but it’s a lot less noisy and filled with neon lights and crowds when compared to Bourbon. Frenchmen Street is a great place to grab some drinks and eat a hearty New Orleans meal. Here are some of the best stops to make while strolling along the path:

Dat Dog – hotdogs, sausages, and other meats

Frenchmen Art Market – Great place to see local art and craft being sold, as well as to do some shopping for souvenirs. The Frenchman Art Market is open everyday except Thursday from 7:00 PM to 12:00 AM.

Igor’s Checkpoint Charlie – Beers and music

The Maison – A restaurant which serves drinks, and also showcases live music from local artists

Praline Connection – Serves some savoury food, but the star of their show is definitely their pralines and cookies, as well as other locally-made desserts which are popular in the city of New Orleans.

  1. Stroll the French Quarters Must-do-in-New-Orleans

The French Quarter is undoubtedly one of the most must-see destinations in the city of New Orleans. It is ripe with culture and very old history—and it also happens to be the oldest section in the entire city, dating way back to its founding in 1718. It’s a hotspot for restaurants, hotels, bars, pubs, and street performers as well as shows. There are also galleries for art lovers down on Royal Street as well as lots of shops, be they worldwide franchises or locally-owned boutiques. Souvenirs are also aplenty here.

Famous Restaurants  

  • Antonine’s
  • Tujague’s
  • Brennan’s
  • Broussard’s
  • Galatoire’s
  • Arnaud’s
  • The Gumbo Shop

Right at the borders of the French Quarter, you can find the French Market which sells souvenirs, locally-crafted foods, as well as fresh produce like fruits and vegetables. The market is open from 10 in the morning to 6 in the evening every day, and is a great way to get a taste of local life as well as support the livelihood of the residents of New Orleans. 

15. Experience Bourbon StreetMust-do-in-New-Orleans

Bourbon Street is an area rich with culture and history, being one of the oldest cities in the whole of the United States. It rests at the very heart of the famous French Quarter and is one of the liveliest places in the city. You will hear music and joyous conversations at almost every block which really showcases the true spirit of New Orleans. Some of the most prominent locations and experiences on the street include the following:

– Masion Bourbon Jazz Hall

– Carnival

– Try a Hand Grenade

– See the street performers

– Bars and pubs

  1.  St. Louis Cathedral

Must-do-in-New-Orleans

This is an amazing place to visit both for Catholics and Non-Catholics. It is one of the oldest structures in the United States, the first church of the cathedral being built all the way back in 1718. The outside is very grand with high peaks resembling that of a medieval castle, but the inside is very fascinating as well. Aside from the magnificent architecture of the pillars, visitors will see European-inspired artworks painted on the ceilings and walls, as well as the famous pipe organ.


17. View Mardi Gras World

 Must-do-in-New-Orleans

Mardi Gras holds a lot of cultural and historical significance in New Orleans, making the city one of the best and more exciting places to celebrate it.  At the Mardi Gras World art museum guests will get some insight on how people create, paint, and set up the floats and props for Mardi Gras – the team makes a total of 500 huge floats, and that’s for every single year. They are also renowned for their strange and eccentric works which holds a big spot in the hearts of the locals. It’s a good place to visit for those who are into art and tradition.Must-do-in-New-Orleans

Ticket prices:

  • Adults, $22
  • Children under the age of 12, $14
  1. Go on a Jazz Boat Cruise

Jazz Boat Cruises are a great way to take in the sights and skyline of New Orleans on the Mississippi River, all while having a lovely meal and listening to amazing artists play Jazz music. There are multiple cruise lines to choose from, two of the most popular being from the companies Steamboat Natchez and Creole Queen. Prices range from $40 to over a hundred dollars, depending on the package and whether or not dinner will be provided on the cruise.

  1. Catch Music on the Streets 

Strolling around the streets of New Orleans, you’re bound to see lots of street performers especially on the ones with lots of traffic, such as Frenchmen Street and Bourbon. My personal favorite was the lady playing the violin under Royale – she was a show stopper.  

  1. New Orleans Pharmacy Museum Must-do-in-New-Orleans

New Orleans has a very rich history when it comes to medicine and treatments. Here you will be able to uncover the history behind medicine in the city, see all sorts of strange treatments they did in the past such as bloodletting and the use of heroin and leeches to cure diseases—they even have some live leeches in a tank up on display. There are lots of original artefacts which will really allow you to realise just how much medicine has evolved over the years. Aside from medicines, there are also potions, voodoo concoctions and cosmetics.

Hours: 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM from Tuesdays through Saturdays

Ticket prices: $5 for adults and $4 for children. 


21. Ride the StreetcarMust-do-in-New-Orleans

The streetcars are a traditional and affordable way to get around the city, with tickets just costing a dollar and 25 cents. There are five lines in total, the Rampart/St. Claude Line which passes through the business center of New Orleans, the St. Charles Line which is the oldest railway system in the world that is still working to this day – take note that there is no air conditioning available here as to preserve the original designs and essence of the streetcars, the Riverfront Line which overlooks the Mississippi river, the Canal Streetcar – Cemeteries Line which is the line to ride when visiting the cemeteries of New Orleans, and the Canal Streetcar – City Park/Museum.

Must-do-in-New-OrleansFor convenience’ sake, it might be more useful to purchase a Jazzy pass online or from the bus driver, especially if you’re staying for a few days and will be frequently using public transportation. You can also make use of these day passes not just for the trolleys, but also for the buses in New Orleans. One to two day passes can be purchased from your bus drivers, but days spanning more than that have to be bought online.

  1. Go on a Cocktail Hop

 Must-do-in-New-Orleans

It’s no secret that New Orleans has some of the best drinks in the entirety of the United States, and going on a cocktail hop is a great way to get some of the best tastes in a single night. There are many tours which offer cocktail tours around the best clubs and pubs in the city, such as Gray Line, the New Orleans Original Cocktail Walking Tour by freetoursonfoot, and the New Orleans Drink Tour by Urban Adventures.

Where to Eat

1.) The Court of 2 Sisters

Must-do-in-New-Orleans

Have a brunch buffet with a spread of various Creole dishes beloved by the locals of New Orleans, all while enjoying the performance of a live Jazz band.

2.) Maypop

Maypop isn’t like your typical New Orleans restaurants. It’s a must try for people who want to try something new. They specialise in taking already beloved Louisiana cuisine and giving it a Southeast Asian twist for a very exciting flavor combination experience.

3.) Commander’s Palace

One of the city’s most beloved restaurants, the Commander’s Palace offers brunch accompanied by live jazz music inside an upscale setting and under the pretty lights of a chandelier. This is a more upscale and elegant space where guests are required to wear semi-formal to formal clothing.

4.) Pêche Seafood Grill

The Big Easy is also known for its great seafood dishes, and Pêche delivers some of the best quality food of that variety. Aside from coal-grilled seafood and a raw bar filled to the brim with oysters and the like, the restaurant also offers locally made drinks and brews for a perfect pair.

5.) Cochon Butcher

The Cochon Butcher has a more laid back and easygoing atmosphere, alongside affordable and hearty Cajun food. They offer lots of meals, including their specialty pork dishes and sandwiches. The servings are quite sizeable, really giving visitors a bang for their buck.

Must Eat in New Orleans

  1. Gumbo


Gumbo is the official state dish of New Orleans, a hot thick stew featuring a usually red meaty stock, meat or seafood, as well as the extremely important holy trinity of vegetables: onion, celery, and bell peppers.

  1. Jambalaya 

Jambalaya is another Louisiana borne dish which is composed of meat and veggies mixed together with rice. It’s very similar to fried rice but is more saucy because the stock it is cooked in. It’s usually filled with different kinds of fillings depending on your preference, such as pork, chicken, shrimp, and shellfish. Jambalaya is also very easy to make at home—just throw the ingredients in a pot and press the start button. The restaurants in New Orleans make it like no other, however, with their specialized blend of Cajun spices and seasonings.

  1. Muffuletta 

Must-do-in-New-OrleansThe muffuletta is a kind of sesame bread which draws its roots all the way from Italy, with a crispy outside crust and a very soft inside as well as seasonings mixed into the flour. It’s usually served as a sandwich stuffed with olive salad as well as meats and cheese. Many restaurants in New Orleans all have their very own unique spin on the sandwich, so it isn’t likely that you’ll buy the same variety twice.

  1. Oysters

 The city has some of the best cooked oysters in the entire world which are the furthest they can be from bland. Freshly prepared oysters stuffed with cheeses and sauces are an absolute must have when visiting. 

  1. Poboys



A po’ boy is a sandwich stuffed with either fresh fried or grilled seafood or roast beef and filled to the brim with veggies such as pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and other sauces depending on the speciality of the restaurant. There are many different varieties of the sandwich, all depending on what fillings you want.

Must-do-in-New-Orleans 

Must Drink in New Orleans

Cocktail hopping is a must when visiting the city of New Orleans. They have some of the strangest and most delicious concoctions anywhere in the world, all of which are definitely worth a try.

  1. Have a sweet Hurricane at Pat O’Brien’sMust do in NOLA

Have a sweet hurricane, a drink made from syrup, juice, and rum—one of the most popular drinks in the city of New Orleans.

  1. Drink a refreshing Pimm’s Cup at the Bar ToniqueMust do in NOLAMust do in NOLA

Cucumber, strawberries, lemon, mint and Pimm’s makes for a refreshing and fruity drink perfect for a lively night. 

  1. French 75 at the French 75

The French 75 is a cocktail that contains a mixture of rum, lemon, champagne as well as some sugar and syrup for an extra sweet taste.

  1. Try a quirky Hand Grenade at NOLA

Usually packaged in a cute, green tube-like bottle, the Hand Grenade is a frozen drink made of gin, rum, vodka and grain alcohol—it’s only allowed to be sold at five nightclubs in the French Quarter!


5. Have a Classic Sazerac at the Sazerac BarMust do in NOLA

Sazerac is a whisky or cognac cocktail with a sugar cube added for extra sweetness, an old fashioned drink loved by many locals.

  1. Try an Exciting Ramos Gin Fizz at the Empire Bar

An exciting and refreshing cocktail consisting of lemon, lime, and gin; the Ramos Gin Fizz is a perfect precursor for a fun night.

  1. Minty Grasshopper at Tujague’s 

The grasshopper is a mint-flavoured cocktail which is colored a frothy green, a great drink for after dinner.

  1. Have a Zingy Brandy Crusta at the French 75

This shaken drink is made from a mix of fresh lemon, sugar, and cognac, making for a nice zingy taste which perfectly balanced out by the added sweetness.

  1. Have a Vieux Carre at the Carousel Bar

This is one of the more complex drinks in New Orleans, consisting of bourbon, whiskey, cognac, martini rosso, and lots more! Definitely a cocktail suited for the more adventurous and experienced individual.

  1. Satisfy your Sweet Tooth with a Brandy Milk Punch at Brennan’s

Another unique drink, the Brandy Milk Punch is a shaken mixture of Brandy, milk or cream, ice cubes and sugar sometimes served with nutmeg and vanilla extract for added flavor.

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