My husband and I had a delightful trip to New Orleans recently, and we cannot wait to go back. While visiting, I put together some tips for visiting New Orleans that I think are essential for anyone taking time in NOLA.
We travel often, but no city matches the atmosphere that you find when spending time in New Orleans. Before we visited, I spent some time reading about the city, and it has a long, rich history full of conflict and culture that makes this region of the United States unique.
Not only is it one of the only cities where French still is spoken at times, but New Orleans has a dark history as well. It’s considered one of the most haunted cities in the US, and it has a dark history in slavery and magical practices. For those who are interested in these things, you won’t have to look far to find something that peaks your interest in the city.
If you’re a music lover, jazz is the music of the city. Some say that jazz originated in New Orleans; it’s a combination of Caribbean and African music, mixed with gospel songs and community. Everywhere you turn, you hear jazz or blues played somewhere.
Whether you’re visiting the city for a good time or want to take time to learn more about its long history, here are some tips for visiting New Orleans.
14 Tips for Visiting New Orleans
1. Stay in the French Quarter
You might pay more to stay in the French Quarter, but we loved being close to everything. This is an area you’ll want to spend a lot of time exploring anyway, so staying nearby makes that a lot easier. I loved the French Quarter! It has so much to offer, but so does the entire city, so don’t focus too much on this one area.
2. Don’t Set a Strict Schedule
Leisurely strolling the streets and watching the live bands is part of visiting New Orleans, and if you have a strict schedule, you won’t be able to avoid the atmosphere.
That might be my favorite part of the city. New Orleans is FUN, and they have an amazing atmosphere throughout the entire city. It’s hard to describe unless you’ve visited, but the culture is rich in this area. You want to take time to appreciate it and not rush through each tourist destination.
3. Bring Masks While Traveling
While this is subject to change, if you travel to New Orleans while restrictions still apply, make sure you bring a few masks. They’re required to enter most places at this point; be sure to check the guidelines before traveling.
It can be complicated to know what to expect when all states are different!
4. Alcohol to Go is Real
New Orleans has some of the most relaxed alcohol laws in the entire country; the rumors that NOLA is a party town aren’t entirely wrong. The one big benefit to this is that you don’t have to drink things quickly or spend time sitting at a bar when you really want to be walking around and enjoying the town.
In NOLA, alcohol to go is a real thing. You cannot walk around with glass bottles or cups, but most bars offer souvenir cups or large plastic cups for drinks.
Also, unlike other areas, New Orleans has no rules about the times when alcohol may be served. So whether you want a drink at 5 AM or 7 PM, you’ll find a bar that is available to grab a drink. I even saw a few 24/7 bars; that’s something I’ve never seen before!
5. Take Advantage of Free Things in New Orleans
I know how important it is to travel on a budget, and I have to say that I think New Orleans is one of the most budget-friendly getaways in the United States. So many things are available for free; you only have to pay for the things that you REALLY want to do.
Visiting different areas of the city is free, and with live bands everywhere and tons of shops to explore, you could spend a day only paying for food. I also thought the food prices were decent; they’re always more than what you spend in your hometown, but they aren’t extravagantly expensive.
If you are a people watcher, you honestly could spend an entire day in the French Quarter or Bourbon Street and enjoy the people and music.
6. Jackets are Needed in the Spring
Since we visited in June, I assumed that we wouldn’t be chilly, but a few of the evenings, I needed a jacket. I would suggest bringing one with you, and I noticed that rain is common. If you have space, bring a small travel umbrella with you.
7. Don’t Avoid Bourbon Street
At first, my husband and I hesitated to visit Bourbon Street. Everyone knows that this is the street that is famous for Mardi Gras and being a 24/7 party. I like to have a drink now and then, but the party scene isn’t for me anymore.
That happens when you have three kids.
I’m glad we didn’t avoid Bourbon Street. It ended up being a great part of our trip, and if you visit during the day, it has a much more relaxed atmosphere. People still drink, but it’s not a wild party street during the day. I suggest visiting once in the day and once at night, and if the scene is too much for you, head out.
8. Frenchman Street is a Must
Frenchman Street seems to be a hidden gem in the city. Everyone talks about the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, but I loved the atmosphere of Frenchman Street. If you love live music, Frenchman Street is where you need to spend some of your time. You’ll find live bands everywhere and some of the best food imaginable.
These aren’t fancy restaurants. Instead, you’ll find sandwich joints and cheap eats that are delicious.
9. Embrace the History of the City
If history is your thing, New Orleans is a city that you will love. It’s steeped in history; the French settled this area over 300 years ago. This region is full of history and culture, so if you want to learn more about the region and its history, you’ll have plenty of places to check out.
Something we weren’t able to do that I wanted to was take a walking tour of a cemetery. New laws say that you can only enter these with a guided tour, and next time we visit, it’s on my list of things to do.
10. Take Some Good Walking Shoes
You can take a streetcar – not a trolley! – around the city, but you’ll going to walk a lot regardless. I suggest ensuring that you wear shoes that are conducive to a lot of walking. That means say no to your Old Navy flip flops and grab a better pair of sandals.
We strolled for hours, and by the end of the night, we were exhausted. I slept like a rock, but I’m thankful I wore good shoes everyday so my feet didn’t ache.
11. Be Ready to Eat – A Lot!
Now is not the time to stick to a diet. Everywhere you look, there is something delicious to eat. Bring your appetite and be ready to eat all the time. Then, walk it off and go to the next place, and eat again. You need to try as much as you can; you’ll burn off the calories when you get home!
12. Stop at Cafe Du Monde – A Must!
A lot of restaurants are touristy traps; some aren’t as good as the reviews say. The one major exception to this is Cafe Du Monde; it’s one of the best things to do in New Orleans. They opened over 100 years ago, and they stay open 24/7. You can eat fresh, hot beignets wherever the craving strikes.
I don’t think it’s possible to not want to grab some each time you walk by. Their beignets are world famous and not too expensive either!
13. Give Yourself Plenty of Time!
We only stayed a few days in New Orleans, and at first, I worried that we wouldn’t find enough things to do to fill our time there.
Boy, I was WRONG!
New Orleans has more things to do than most cities I’ve visited. You could spend weeks exploring and enjoying the sights and sounds of the city. It’s a vibrant, historical city that has something new around every corner. From the swamps to city parks and everything in between, NOLA is somewhere that you need to give yourself plenty of time to investigate.
14. Signs of Katrina Are Everywhere
It’s hard not to acknowledge the destruction that New Orleans faced over a decade ago from Katrina. The city has bounced back and feels as alive as ever, but you’ll notice areas that are shut down and abandoned.
It’s important to keep in mind that Katrina dealt this city a blow that many cities would never recover. New Orleans residents are strong, and they bounced back, but that doesn’t mean everything is the same. Keep this in mind when exploring the city, and be thankful you can visit it now after all that they faced.
Let the Good Times Roll
As the motto of New Orleans says – Laissez les bon temps rouler – let the good times roll when you come to the city. Visiting New Orleans is a place that everyone needs to check out at least once in their lives, and remember these tips when you visit!