The French Quarter of New Orleans, which you would most likely be staying in, is small, and easy to get around by foot, or by streetcar. You can even stay in the slightly cheaper business district and easily trek into the heart of the city. First things first. You need beignets and a chicory coffee. No trip to New Orleans is complete without a trip to Café Du Monde. Their coffee will kick your ass into gear.
Now that you are full of energy, walk a few blocks over to the Riverwalk where you can jump on the Algiers Ferry for $2 bucks per person each way. Algiers is the Brooklyn of New Orleans – complete with views of the city skyline and Mississippi River. You can walk, bike, and picnic along the three miles of the riverside. Also be sure to check out the glass blowing workshops, and specialty stores.
After enjoying Algiers, return to the French Quarter and walk over to Royal Street, which is just one block over from Bourbon Street. The French Quarter is well known for local art. Some of the most photographed architecture, which dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries, can be found on the stretch of Royal Street between Canal Street and Esplanade Avenue.
If you are in New Orleans and haven’t had a drink by noon, something is going wrong. Head one block over to Bourbon Street to Tropical Isle for a famous hand grenade.
Now that you have a drink in hand, indulge in what New Orleans is known for, Gumbo. Walk over to Petite Amelie for a bowl of chicken and sausage gumbo that will warm your soul.
Now that you are sober and full, have another drink. Walk down Bourbon to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar for an original Hurricane at one of the oldest bars in America dating back to the 1770s.
Head over a few blocks to Decatur where you will find the French Market. Check out the stalls and have some freshly shucked oysters before walking up to Jackson Square. At Jackson Square, you can hop on a carriage ride and see the city with a guided tour. You can also save this for nighttime, as they also offer after-dark haunted tours.
Walk up Decatur back to Canal Street where you can ride the street car down to the end of the line, where you can hop off and visit St. Charles #3 cemetery as well as the famous City Park. City Park is a 1,300-acre oasis in the heart of the city that holds weekly events.
Ride the street car back down Canal Street and treat yourself to a New Orleans classic dinner at Brennan’s. It boasts eight glamorous dining rooms, each steeped in New Orleans architecture and ambiance. Start your meal with the New Orleans BBQ Lobster appetizer; Creole spiced butter, lemon confit, thyme, toasted baguette. Save room for the best item on the menu, Sweet Potato Pappardelle. The pasta was cooked with roasted Mississippi shiitake mushrooms, sheep’s milk cheese, garlic confit, brown butter sauce will make you want to lick the plate clean. Don’t forget to get the local favorite, bananas foster, cooked tableside, for dessert.
After dinner, walk down Decatur toward Frenchman Street. Follow your ear to nearest jazz lounge or head to The Maison where you will surely find live music and delicious drinks. Walk along Bourbon Street for some great people watching to end your evening.
10 tips for 24 hours in New Orleans
- Book a hotel in the French Quarter or Business District
- Don’t eat on Bourbon Street
- Shop at the boutiques on St. Charles
- Listen to live music on Frenchman Street
- Take a haunted tour of the French Quarter
- Eat at restaurants that seat 40 people or less
- Visit NOLA Brewing if you are into local, craft beer
- Get out on the water via kayak, but watch out for ‘gators
- Go on a swamp or plantation tour if walking the city doesn’t appeal to you
- Holiday traveling? Make reservations at Red Fish Grill for amazing holiday buffets.
Matador articles for New Orleans trip planning
- 5 places to drink during Mardi Gras
- 7 food spots you have to try during Mardi Gras
- The best places to catch live music in New Orleans
- Cabs: Plentiful in the French Quarter
- Public transportation: Streetcars can get you around under $2
- Ride Share: Both Uber and Lyft operate in New Orleans.
- Bikes: Many bike paths and extended bike routes.
- Foot: The French Quarter and its surroundings are easily explored on foot.
All photos by the author