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Planning a New Orleans Itinerary can be perplexing. Everyone knows to go to Bourbon Street, but what else is there to see in New Orleans? Let us assure you: There are many incredible things to do in New Orleans, Louisiana! To help other travelers discover the best of the city, we have created a perfect 3 Days in New Orleans Itinerary that highlights the top attractions, must-try foods and the best NOLA bars.
3 Days In New Orleans
In our itinerary for New Orleans, we feature must-see sights, the most delicious things to eat, the best places to listen to music and a few legendary bars…and we squeeze them all into a 3-day trip to New Orleans. Formatted as a day-by-day guide, our NOLA 3 Day Itinerary is all you need to plan your trip!
While we highlight what to see in New Orleans in 3 days, we know other travelers may have more (or less!) time in the city. No worries! Whether you are visiting New Orleans in a day or are planning a New Orleans 4-Day Itinerary, we have got you covered! In addition to our Three Days in New Orleans guide, we offer New Orleans trip planner suggestions for one to five days in the city at the end of the post.
Weekend In New Orleans
NOLA has long been a weekend party destination highlighted by excessive debauchery. With booze flowing and beads flying on Bourbon Street, revelers sip drinks until the wee hours of the morning. To be honest, my first time in New Orleans was spent entirely on the world-famous Bourbon Street.
However, as I planned a return trip to the city, it was my fuzzy memory of 2 days in New Orleans that prompted me to actually do a little research before arriving. While Bourbon Street is a blast, there really is a whole lot more to New Orleans. I was meeting friends for a long weekend in New Orleans – and we were intent on experiencing NOLA beyond Bourbon Street.
The New Orleans Weekend Itinerary that I planned for my NOLA girls’ trip included bar hopping at night, but we went beyond the French Quarter for daytime sightseeing and district exploration.
New Orleans Festivals And NOLA Events
The city of New Orleans hosts numerous festivals and events throughout the year, attracting guests from all corners of the world. Mardi Gras is the most famous, followed by the Jazz and Heritage Festival, but the city puts on about 130 festivals a year. Additionally, the lively party atmosphere is an attractive destination for bachelor parties, girls’ weekend trips and top sporting events (such as the Super Bowl, NCAA Basketball and College Football).
Whether you are in the city for Mardi Gras or New Orleans New Year’s Eve, celebrating a birthday or hosting a bachelorette party, you can use our New Orleans trip itinerary to help plan your time in the city.
Our New Orleans Itinerary
We have devised the best way to visit New Orleans in three days. In addition to our day-by-day 3-Day New Orleans Itinerary, we share our top tips for how to get there, where to stay and what to pack. This New Orleans travel blog post includes everything you need to know to plan your NOLA trip!
Save, Pin or Bookmark this NOLA Itinerary so that you can easily access it while planning (and during) your trip to New Orleans!
DAY 1 of Your New Orleans 3-Day Itinerary
On the first day of your 72 hours in New Orleans, get a full dose of the French Quarter! See the city sights, discover delectable tastes and go barhopping on Bourbon Street.
A must on every New Orleans travel itinerary, the French Quarter is the heart of the city. Elegant architecture and lively music fill the colorful lanes.
The best way to get your bearings in the French Quarter is by simply strolling the picturesque streets. While wandering is highly encouraged, you will want to make sure to pass by top city sights – like Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, The Cabildo, Faulkner House Books on Pirates Alley, Musical Legends Park, French Market, Moonwalk Riverfront Park, Cafe du Monde (stop in for their world famous beignets!), Royal Street, and (of course) Bourbon Street.
Pro Tip: Route your exploration of the French Quarter to include Coop’s Place for lunch. Seafood Gumbo and Rabbit & Sausage Jambalaya are the house specialties – but the menu offers an array of Southern favorites. Note that Coop’s Place is adults-only; if you are in New Orleans with kids, go to Oceana Grill instead, where they serve divine Louisiana Crab Cakes, delicious Oysters and fun Alligator Bites.
Happy Hour at Brennan’s
Celebrate the end your French Quarter walking tour at Brennan’s – a fine dining establishment credited with creating the sweet dessert, Bananas Foster. The posh restaurant is usually pricey, but at happy hour they offer nibbles at a discount and half-priced bubbles in their Roost Bar and Courtyard. Happy Hour is on Monday through Friday from 2 until 7pm.
Ghost, Voodoo and Vampire Tour
As nighttime approaches get an introduction to NOLA’s dark side on a Ghost, Voodoo and Vampire tour. Local guides lead participants through the streets of the French Quarter sharing the history and horrors that have occurred through the centuries. Plus, your guide can give you tips on New Orleans nightlife. Reserve your spot!
Dinner in NOLA French Quarter
For dinner, indulge at one of the classic French Quarter restaurants. Founded in 1914, Napoleon House specializes in Muffuletta and Po-boy sandwiches and is a New Orleans institution. Steeped in history, the casual eatery is a bit eclectic and the Muffuletta’s are out of this world!
However, if you are looking for upscale Creole fare, stop into SoBou where they offer sumptuous meals in a stylish setting. To really take it up a notch, make reservations at Antoine’s, the city’s Creme de la Creme in French-Creole cuisine.
End the first day of your 3 days in NOLA on the city’s most famous street, Bourbon Street. Bounce your way up the street, partaking in generous drink specials and potent cocktails at the best bars in the city.
Start in Upper Bourbon Street (which is actually the southern end) and work your way toward the glowing neon signs. Stop for a sugary sweet Hand Grenade cocktail at Tropical Isle, one of the many must have drinks in New Orleans
Walk another block to the Cats Meow, the world-famous karaoke bar. Take your turn at the microphone or angle for a balcony spot that overlooks the street (and, if you arrive early enough, score happy hour drinks priced 3-for-1). This block is the epicenter of Bourbon Street, so pop into any other place that looks entertaining.
Continue your bar hop through the eclectic LGBTQ district off Bourbon St and down St Ann, which plays host to a handful of fun gay bars, and finally make your way to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar. A Bourbon Street favorite, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is housed in one of the oldest buildings in New Orleans (it dates to 1722). Try a one of their famous cocktails and sing along to the piano tunes!
DAY 2 of Your 3-Day Itinerary New Orleans
On Day 2 of your New Orleans Three-Day Itinerary, venture out of the French Quarter to a few must-see NOLA sights – then end your day listening to live jazz music.
Breakfast at Cafe Fleur de Lis
Feast on a savory Southern-style breakfast at Cafe Fleur de Lis. The small greasy spoon serves generous portions of classic fare. I enjoyed the Creole Country Breakfast, but their Shrimp and Grits get rave reviews from fellow patrons.
NOLA City Park
Bigger than Central Park in New York City, New Orleans’ City Park is an expansive urban green space that features a multitude of attractions. To get to the park, hop on the #48 streetcar on the Canal Street line.
Besides the lush landscapes, paths and lakes, the top things to see at City Park are the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden, the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park and the Botanical Gardens. And, if you have yet to taste the iconic beignets from Cafe du Monde, you can try them at the City Park location.
Pro Tip: If you don’t want to go all the way to City Park, still spend the morning outdoors…on a tour of the famous St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Dating to 1789, the St. Louis Cemetery is the oldest in the city. The above-ground graves – a NOLA oddity – are burial sites for numerous famous citizens, including the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. The cemetery, however, can only be visited on a guided tour. Find out more here!
Lunch Outside of the French Quarter
For lunch, dine at one of the famous restaurants outside of the French Quarter. Top picks (which are conveniently located between City Park and the French Quarter) are Katie’s and Willie Mae’s Scotch House. Katie’s, which was featured on the TV show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, is a family-owned spot that features oysters and seafood. Willie Mae’s – also family-owned and operated – was established as a neighborhood eatery in 1957 and is known for fried chicken, soul food and long lines!
World War II Museum or Steamboat Cruise
If you haven’t run out of steam yet, spend the afternoon visiting a museum or taking a steamboat ride.
The National World War II Museum, located south of the French Quarter in the Warehouse District, is one of the best museums in New Orleans. Packed with artifacts and interactive displays, the state-of-the-art museum details the events of World War II in an informative and engaging way. Buy your tickets!
Alternatively, learn some of the history of New Orleans and take in the spectacular scenes from one of the last surviving NOLA steamboats. The historic Natchez Steamboat takes passengers on a ride along the Mississippi River and includes narration of the some of the city’s most remarkable events. Book your seats here!
Pro Tip: Upgrade your riverboat experience with an evening Dinner and Jazz experience aboard the Natchez. Find out more!
For dinner, drinks and entertainment, go east of the French Quarter into the Marigny District. The district’s main street, Frenchmen Street, is teeming with cool jazz clubs and hip restaurants – offering a tamer bar-hopping experience compared to Bourbon St.
The Maison is one of the best venues for live jazz and dinner. With a soulful ambiance and an amazing drink list (try the Sazerac!), it’s the perfect place to start the evening.
That said, visitors who have had their fill of Southern Creole food have many options in Marigny. Go to the 24/7 dive bar, Buffa’s, for excellent burgers – or opt for a unique hot dog from Dat Dog (where you can get an Alligator or Crawfish Sausage topped with Etouffee). Three Muses, Mona’s Cafe and Sukho Thai all have international fare on their menus, too.
After dinner, create your own bar crawl on Frenchmen Street. A few of our favorite spots are Blue Nile, d.b.a. and The Spotted Cat – all of which have live jazz.
DAY 3 of your 3-Day New Orleans Itinerary
On the last day of your Three-Day Itinerary New Orleans, delve into one of the best-preserved neighborhoods in NOLA, then go alligator-spotting in the swampland.
Brunch at The Ruby Slipper Cafe
Start your day at The Ruby Slipper Cafe – one of the hottest brunch spots in the city. Established in 2008 after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, the popularity of the restaurant quickly grew – and there are now multiple locations throughout the city (and the South!). The omelets are incredible…and so are the mimosas!
Garden District NOLA
Hop on a St. Charles Streetcar for a ride into the Garden District, where the streets are lined with historic mansions. Explore the district on foot to gaze at the classy dwellings – and don’t miss iconic sights like the Garden District Book Shop, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 (free to roam on your own!) and Commander’s Palace, a city landmark since the late 1800s. In fact, consider eating lunch at Commander’s Palace, the upscale restaurant is famous for Turtle Soup and lunchtime 25-cent martinis.
Make your way to the southern boundary of the district, Magazine Street. Walk along the street, popping into boutique shops and chic eateries. If you have worked up an appetite for sweets, head for District Donuts Sliders Brew for amazing fresh doughnuts. Further south in the Touro District (a sub-district of Garden), check out Tchoupitoulas Street where the famous Tipitina’s music club and NOLA Brewing Company are located.
NOLA Airboat Tour
If time allows, end your 3 perfect days in New Orleans on the Mississippi River and Barataria Preserve on a small-group swamp tour. Aboard the airboat, participants will ride through swamp, marsh and lake in search of alligators, bald eagles and other wildlife. Best of all, unlike other tours, this tour includes round-trip transport from New Orleans! Get the details!
Pro Tip: Travelers interested in a full day tour can opt for a Swamp Boat and Plantation discovery. Participants are taken deep in the bayous in search of wildlife, treated to a traditional southern lunch and then visit two of Louisiana’s plantations. Find out more!
More Things To Do In NOLA
We have shared our top suggestions for what to see in New Orleans in 3 days – but there are still more activities you can add to your NOLA vacation itinerary!
New Orleans Museums and Cultural Attractions
We only highlighted one museum in our NOLA 3-Day Itinerary – but there are several other museums in New Orleans to visit! Some of the top-rated places are the New Orleans Museum of Art, the New Orleans Jazz Museum (housed in the former Mint), the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.
French Quarter Food Tour
Throughout our 3 Days in New Orleans Itinerary, we highlighted some of the best restaurants and things to eat in the city. However, guests who want a guided tour to the local cuisine should consider joining a Food Tour in the French Quarter. On a highly-rated lunch food tour, visitors get to sample food – like Seafood Gumbo and Creole Brisket – while learning about the history of the city. Get the details!
Mardi Gras World
Mardi Gras is the biggest celebration in the city – and it’s marked by fabulous parades, costumes and King Cake. Visitors interested in learning more about the festival can get a behind the scenes tour of Mardi Gras World. Check it out!
The National Historic Landmark Whitney Plantation offers visitors a unique perspective on southern plantations, telling the terrible story and sad history of the slaves that worked there, rather than that of their owners. The moving exhibits and first-person stories detail the reality of the life of slaves living on the plantation in a powerful presentation. Learn more here!
How Many Days In New Orleans?
Deciding how many days to spend in New Orleans should be based on interest, budget and overall timeframe available for the trip. As not all travelers are planning to visit New Orleans in 3 days, we are sharing our suggestions for shorter and longer NOLA trips.
One Day In New Orleans
Building a New Orleans One-Day Itinerary is tough; there is just so much to see and do! However, if that is all the time that you have, then we recommend making the most of it. An easy way to plan your New Orleans 1-Day Itinerary is to simply follow Day 1 of our 3-Day Trip to New Orleans Itinerary.
That said, guests limited to visiting New Orleans in one day who want to see more than just the French Quarter could get a sweeping overview of the city on a Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour.
2-Day Itinerary New Orleans
There is a lot of sightseeing you can fit into a 2-Day New Orleans Itinerary! In fact, to create the best 2 Days in New Orleans Itinerary, simply follow Days 1 and 2 of our outlined 3 Days in New Orleans.
However, if Garden District exploration and/or the swamp tour is more intriguing to you than City Park and the National WWII Museum, simply swap Day 2 for Day 3 (but still venture into Marigny for jazz at night!).
New Orleans Itinerary 4 Days
With 4 days in New Orleans visitors can really get a good feel for the city! To plan a 4-Day New Orleans Itinerary, we recommend using our outlined Three Days in New Orleans Itinerary, then on the last day take a full-day tour from the city (either the combo Swamp and Plantation Tour or the Whitney Plantation Tour).
New Orleans 5-Day Itinerary
Planning 5 days in New Orleans is no problem; there is plenty of time to experience the city! We think the best way to plan a 5-Day New Orleans Itinerary is to use our above tips for 4 Days in NOLA, then on the last day spend the morning at one of the New Orleans Museums – and the afternoon on the French Quarter Food Tour.
Top Tips For Planning A Trip To New Orleans
We have outlined the best 3-Day New Orleans Itinerary – but there are a few more things to consider when you plan a trip to New Orleans…like how to get there, where to stay and our top packing hacks!
How To Get To New Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana can be reached by plane, train boat or car. Most city visitors arrive via airplane at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) with nonstop flights from Chicago, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Boston and DC to name just a few! When we start our search for the best airfare, we start online at SkyScanner.
New Orleans Airport to New Orleans
There are several ways to get from the NOLA Airport to Downtown – including Private Transfers, Shared Minivans, Taxicabs or Uber (although they cost about the same) and the city bus (which has infrequent travel times, but is cheap).
Amtrak to New Orleans
There is limited train passenger service via Amtrak in New Orleans. One of the most popular routes connects Chicago, Memphis and NOLA. However, it is not a very fast or cost-effective way to travel…but for train enthusiasts, it could be a lot of fun! Find more information on the official Amtrak website.
Port of New Orleans
Port NOLA is one of the largest cruise ports in the United States. Most cruise itineraries originate (and terminate) in the city with 4- to 7-day itineraries to the Caribbean, Mexico and Belize.
Where To Stay In New Orleans
Choosing where to stay for 3 nights in New Orleans is quite the task! Choices range from posh boutique hotels in the French Quarter to Central Business District high-rise chain hotels to hostels in Mid-City to Airbnb Apartments.
On my first trip to NOLA, I stayed at the Inn on St. Ann, which is located near the Louis Armstrong Park and just a few minutes’ walk to Bourbon Street. In addition to its proximity to Bourbon Street, what we loved about the Inn on St. Ann was the character of the rooms (our room had exposed brick walls), the quiet street and the quaint courtyard. Plus, the rooms are very affordable in comparison to other nearby hotels. Check rates and availability!
For my Girls’ Weekend in New Orleans, we opted to stay at the Sheraton New Orleans on Canal Street in the the business district. The hotel is just steps from the French Quarter and ideally located to reach numerous attractions. What I loved about the Sheraton is the spacious, clean rooms with amazing views, the comfortable bed and the rooftop pool. Check rates and availability!
Start your search for the best New Orleans hotels on Booking.com – like we do!
What To Pack For Your New Orleans Trip
We have a few final tips for your trip to New Orleans! You can find all of our packing advice on our Packing List page.
We include a ton of walking in our New Orleans Itinerary – so be sure to pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes! I love my lightweight Columbia shoes for women and Kris prefers wearing Merrell trail shoes for city sightseeing.
Weather Appropriate Clothing
New Orleans has a subtropical humid climate – which means that summers are hot and it rains year-round. The best time to go to New Orleans is from December until May – and it is best to avoid the city from June to November, which is hurricane season.
Winters are pleasant – you should even bring a coat; Spring is already getting warm – consider bringing clothing that can be layered. Summer is downright hot – wearing breathable clothing, a wide-brimmed travel hat, sunscreen and insect repellent. In Autumn, temperatures don’t really start to drop until November – prepare for summer temps if visiting in September or October.
New Orleans, Louisiana is a photogenic city! Rather than trying to capture the beauty with a cell phone camera, we recommend upgrading to a DSLR camera. We carry a Canon Rebel with an everyday 18-135mm lens on our travels. It is a great camera for beginners because it is easy to use, is relatively affordable and the camera comes bundled with heaps of accessories!
We Want To Know: Have you spent 3 Days in New Orleans? What were your favorite things to do? Is there anything you would add to our 3-Day New Orleans Itinerary? Give us your best tips in the comments below!
Planning More Weekend US Getaways? Super! Check out our detailed guides to Savannah, Austin, Denver, Nashville, Montana and NYC! Heading out West? We can also help you plan a perfect weekend in Vancouver WA, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle and Portland!
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