New Orleans is an exciting city in the state of Louisiana, USA. Founded by the French and ruled by the Spanish before being bought by the USA, it has an eclectic and vibrant mix of history and culture unlike any other city in the world. New Orleans is home to delicious French-inspired Creole and Cajun food, live jazz music, stunning architecture, and extravagant Mardi Gras celebrations. This guide will help you make the most of your time there.
Flying is the easiest way to get to New Orleans for most people, and the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is located just 15 miles west of downtown. Upon arriving at the airport, there are several options to get to the city centre:
There is a taxi rank at the airport where you will be able to get a taxi. There is a flat rate to the Central Business District (CBD) or French Quarter of $36 for up to two passengers, or $15 per person for three or more passengers. You can also use Uber or Lyft, which can sometimes work out cheaper depending on traffic. Check the fare estimate on both apps when you arrive at the airport to see which option is better value. Don’t forget that it is customary to tip your taxi driver around 10% of the fare, so factor that into the cost as well.
An Airport shuttle is available from the airport to hotels and other popular destinations in the city. The cost is $24 per person one way, or $44 per person return, so if there is more than one of you travelling it would be cheaper to get a taxi.
Bus is by far the cheapest option, but it does take longer and you may have to walk a little depending on where your hotel is in relation to the bus stop. There are two main operators, Jefferson Transit Authority (JET) and Regional Transit Authority (RTA). JET provide the Airport-Downtown Express (E2) for $2 – see full route maps and timetables here. RTA provide the Airport Express (202) for just $1.50 – see full route maps and timetables here.
If you live in one of the surrounding states, it’s possible to drive to New Orleans. Gas is relatively cheap in the US so it can be a very cost effective option, especially if there is a group in the car. The downside is that it can take a really long time. We drove from OKC, which took over 12 hours including stops. Also bear in mind that parking is not cheap in New Orleans – most hotels will charge an additional $30-$45 per day plus tip.
Where To Stay
The French Quarter, New Orleans’ most famous neighbourhood, is where the majority of the hotels and tourist attractions are. We stayed in The Pelham Hotel, set in a historic building with friendly staff and all the amenities you might need. It was in a good location just off Canal Street and offered great value for money, so we would definitely stay there again.
We also got to hang out at the New Orleans Marriot, where Kayla’s parents were staying for a conference. It’s a great option if you have a larger budget, with stunning views over the Mississippi River and a luxurious outdoor pool.
Things To Do
Explore the French Quarter
The French Quarter is filled with beautiful French and Spanish architecture. The buildings are gorgeous, with covered porches and intricate balconies overlooking busy streets lined with gas lamps. Check out the mix of eclectic shops, art galleries, and plenty of places to eat and drink.
Jackson Square is a historical square in the middle of the French quarter. It is a great place to see street performers, buy some artwork and souvenirs, or spend the afternoon people-watching. Jackson Square is home to the iconic St Louis Cathedral, the oldest active cathedral in the USA. Go around the back of the cathedral at night to see the large shadow of the statue of Jesus cast onto the wall.
Bourbon Street is the epicentre of New Orleans’ party scene. Each night the whole street is lit by neon signs and filled with the sound of music from every bar competing with the buzz of the crowds lining the street. It’s legal to drink in the streets in New Orleans, so grab a six pack or a bottle from a convenience store to save money on the higher bar prices. Lots of places will even let you bring outside drinks in.
Our favourite place on Bourbon Street was Maison Bourbon, a live jazz club filled with small tables. The musicians are some of the best on Bourbon Street, and perform more traditional jazz music. Elsewhere, you will find a mix of live and recorded music, so there are plenty of options to chose from.
If you like the idea of drinking and seeing live music but feel overwhelmed by Bourbon Street, you can check out Frenchmen’s Street – a similar street, but with a slightly tamer vibe.
Explore the Garden District
The Garden District is quite different from the French Quarter. There is still magnificent architecture, but the tree-lined streets are much quieter. Take a stroll down Magazine Street to see some of the gorgeous houses and cute little shops. Fans of American Horror Story might recognise Buckner Mansion, used as the academy of witchcraft in season three.
Lafayette Cemetery #1
The cemeteries in New Orleans are eerily beautiful. Because the city is below sea level, the graves are all built above ground to prevent the bodies from floating to the surface as the ground floods. The pathways through the cemetery are lined with impressive stone crypts and mausoleums.
New Orleans has a haunted history, and there are several options for ghost, voodoo, and vampire tours. They will walk you through the streets of New Orleans after dark, telling spooky stories of horror and mystery that took place throughout the city. A highlight is LaLaurie Mansion, infamous as the location where Madame LaLaurie held and tortured her slaves, also portrayed in season three of American Horror Story.
Fear not sports fans: New Orleans has two sports teams in the national leagues. The New Orleans Saints are the local NFL team, and you can expect to see and hear their ‘Who dat?’ chant all over the city. The New Orleans Pelicans play basketball in the NBA, home to all-star players Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. If you are visiting during the sports season, head to a live game to see the action for yourself, or head to one of the many sports bars in the city to watch the game on the big screen in a buzzing atmosphere.
The National WWII Museum
Although quite expensive at $27 per person, this is the largest museum dedicated to WWII in the USA and worth a visit if you are interested in war history.
Take a boat ride through the swamps to see creatures such as alligators and snakes in their natural habitats. We didn’t have time for a swamp tour during our trip, but we hear they are excellent. There are several different operators, most of which have similar offerings.
Eat & Drink
Cafe Du Monde
Cafe Du Monde is famous for their delicious beignets – a French doughnut covered in powdered sugar. It’s a popular place to sit under the covered terrace and listen to the street musicians perform. It’s cash only, so make sure you have some change with you.
Willie’s Chicken Shack
With seven locations throughout the French Quarter and Downtown New Orleans, chances are there’s probably a Willie’s near you. They boast the best fried chicken in New Orleans; their slogan is “Chicken so good you will slap your mama”. And I must admit, it was some excellent chicken (although I managed to refrain from hitting any mothers). It’s also always happy hour with two-for-one deals on beer (so cold you will slap your mama), an excellent option to wash down that all that fried chicken goodness.
Surrey Juice Bar
Unassuming from the outside, Surrey Juice Bar is a great little cafe on Magazine Street in the Garden District. They serve a fantastic breakfast, accompanied by freshly-squeezed juices. The place has a friendly, local feel and is quite popular, so you may have to wait for a table.
Daisy Dukes offers authentic Cajun and Southern dining, with several locations throughout the city. Come here to try some of the New Orleans classics such as Po Boys, gumbo, shrimp, or alligator sausage. It’s great value, the food is tasty, the atmosphere is fun, and it’s open 24/7. What more could you want?
House of Blues
Head to House of Blues for an early dinner to make the most of their happy hour deals. The menu offers iconic New Orleans dishes and other Southern-inspired recipes, as well as a mouth-watering selection of appetisers. They also have delicious cocktails and live music – the perfect way to begin your evening.
Spitfire Coffee is a tiny, hipster coffee shop in the French Quarter near Jackson Square that serves specialty coffee and signature drinks. The coffee is bold and flavourful, and it’s the perfect place to grab a hot drink before wandering around the square. Kayla got the Las Tres Flores, a latte with lavender milk, orange blossom syrup, and rose petals. Very artsy and a little expensive, but worth it (or so she says).
Ready to plan your trip to New Orleans?
We always use Booking.com to find the best deals on places to stay. Start searching below to begin your adventure!
Like it? Pin it!