The Epic, Exciting 3 Days in New Orleans Itinerary

In a city that is all about indulgence, it’s no surprise that an itinerary for 3 days in New Orleans will lean heavier toward food than sightseeing, toward music than monuments, and toward meandering rather than long checklists of things to do.

New Orleans is all about the good times–and however you define the good times, you’ll find them here.

If this is your first time in New Orleans, don’t worry!

We’ve designed this 3 days in New Orleans itinerary based on multiple lingering trips to the Big Easy and will make sure that you have more than enough time to see its most famous sights, learn a few things about the history of the city, indulge in whatever it is you hope to indulge in, and to eat far more beignets than any one human being should.

That being said… New Orleans is not a place that can be checked off the list.

This is a city that devours you, and I can virtually guarantee that you’ll leave wanting to come back–we always do.

kate storm and jeremy storm at the carousel bar in new orleans on the weekend
The rotating Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone is a NOLA classic that lives up to the hype!
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The Perfect 3 Day Weekend in New Orleans Itinerary

New Orleans Itinerary Day 1: The French Quarter + Nearby Sights

Start your day in Jackson Square.

If you’ve seen photos of New Orleans, you’ve likely seen Jackson Square: a small park that sits in front of St. Louis Cathedral, the view of New Orleans’ beautiful white cathedral is one of the most classic shots of New Orleans.

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It doesn’t take long to walk around, but the real treat is what’s between Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral.

In this small walking area, you’ll often find energetic street performers, from jazz musicians to jugglers, as well as plenty of people willing to exchange a bit of touristy New Orleans voodoo for a fee.

The area is lively, exciting, and definitely a great first stop when visiting New Orleans.

St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square as seen during a 3 day trip to NOLA

Head into Cafe du Monde.

Just a short walk away (essentially on the opposite side of Jackson Square as the St. Louis Cathedral) sits the famous Cafe du Monde, home to French-style beignets (fried doughnuts topped with a literal inch of powdered sugar) and a cafe au lait.

The menu is very small–beignets are the only food that they serve, though there are a few other drinks on the menu.

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It’s also very reasonably priced, with a plate of three beignets and a drink coming out to about $6-8 USD in 2024, depending on what drink you order.

Note that Cafe du Monde is cash only only, though there’s an ATM hidden in a tourism office across the street.

At prices like that, don’t feel guilty if you end up stopping by more than once during your 3 days in New Orleans–but don’t fill up too much this morning, either, because we have a lot of eating to get to today!

close up of beignets and chicory coffee at cafe du monde new orleans

Stroll along Decatur Street and visit the French Market.

Decatur Street is, in many ways, one of the main drags of the French Quarter, and is home to some of New Orleans’ most popular restaurants (don’t worry, we’ll get to those in the food section below).

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You can also find souvenir shops, tour companies, donkeys hooked up to carriages offering rides, and just about any other tourist staple you can think of here.

Be sure to duck inside the French Market that runs parallel to Decatur Street for several blocks to do a little souvenir shopping!

shops lining the street in the nola french quarter on a weekend trip to new orleans

Eat your heart out on a New Orleans food tour.

Jeremy and I are big fans of food tours around the world, and there’s no doubt that New Orleans is one of the best cities on the planet to enjoy one!

Home to a complex, delicious, and legendary local cuisine that blends influences from its roots in France, the Caribbean, Africa, and more, NOLA’s food scene is one of the best reasons to visit the city–and if this is your first trip to New Orleans, you’ll no doubt find dishes you’ve never tasted (and possibly never heard of) pop up on menus throughout your visit.

And, with only 3 days in New Orleans, a food tour where you sample a dozen dishes or more in one fell swoop is an excellent way to not only have a chance to try more local foods than you may have a chance to otherwise, but it will also potentially help you discover new favorites that you can order throughout the rest of the weekend.

Unfortunately, the exact food tour Jeremy and I stuffed ourselves on during our last trip to New Orleans has been discontinued, but several friends of ours have taken and raved about this one (and we’ll be trying it ourselves the next time we’re in town).

Book your New Orleans food tour today!

fried oysters on a new orleans food tour, one of the best things to do in new orleans this weekend

Wander the French Quarter.

New Orleans is all about meandering: the French Quarter is one of the most picturesque neighborhoods I’ve ever seen in the USA, full of beautiful architecture, bustling street life, and plenty of bars, candy shops, restaurants, and more urging you to indulge in them.

We spend hours walking the streets of the French Quarter when visiting NOLA, taking photos, people-watching, ducking into bookstores, and picking up tasty treats.

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If you want a bit more of a structured look at the history of the Quarter and aren’t toured-out after eating your way through the neighborhood, consider booking a walking tour–prices are very reasonable, and they’re a great way to get an initial overview of New Orleans.

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Shop Pirate History Tours and/or Drunk History Tours for a different look at the French Quarter!

Row of colorful houses in New Orleans French Quarter with Mardi Gras decorations out front, as seen during a long weekend in New Orleans vacation.

Take your pick for nightlife: Bourbon Street or Frenchmen Street.

New Orleans is famous for its nightlife, and no New Orleans itinerary would be complete without including it.

This isn’t a place to call it quits and head back to the hotel after dinner.

The French Quarter offers tons of nightlife, but by far the two best-known streets are Bourbon Street (known for raucous partying and debauchery) and Frenchmen Street (known for live jazz playing in all of the clubs every night of the week).

Street in NOLA French Quarter at night with neon lights from the bars lighting it up--don't miss a chance to experience the legendary New Orleans nightlife during your 3 days in NOLA itinerary!

We find Frenchmen Street to be more our style, but if you’re unsure, there’s no harm in checking out both–and with a few nights in New Orleans, it’s a great idea to compare and contrast for yourself.

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Looking for a guaranteed, classic NOLA jazz experience in the French Quarter?

We enjoyed a performance at the famous Preservation Hall on our last trip and found it to be an incredibly memorable way to kick off the night–you can’t get much closer to the performers than this!

jeremy storm and kate storm taking a selfie at preservation hall when visiting nola for the weekend
Our selfies from Preservation Hall may be blurry, but you can tell we had a great time!

New Orleans Itinerary Day 2: Bayou + Beyond Day Trip

Learn dark but important history at a New Orleans plantation.

For your second day in New Orleans, it’s time to get out of the city: while NOLA is an amazing place, its surrounding areas are not to be missed.

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Start your morning by heading to a plantation for a chance to see a beautiful estate, but more importantly, to peek into some very sad history.

Needless to say, the New Orleans area has plenty of plantation museums to choose from due to its history of building wealth with slave labor.

On our first trip to New Orleans, we chose to visit the Oak Alley Plantation as part of a combo tour that included a visit to the bayou (more on that below).

Tools used by slaves displayed in Oak Alley Museum.
Artifacts of chattel slavery on display at Oak Alley Plantation.

At the time, we felt Oak Alley also did an excellent job covering both the glamorous and indefensibly horrible parts of plantation life, including stories, documents, and displays covering the lives of not only the wealthy family who owned the plantation but also the people enslaved there.

Sadly, that balance is not a guarantee–some plantation museums have a tendency to focus too much on antebellum glamour rather than telling the whole nasty story.

And, fair warning, we’ve had friends tell us their Oak Alley tours were not as balanced, so the kind of tour you receive may end up being driven in part by the onsite tour guide who happens to give it.

On a later trip to NOLA, we visited the Laura Plantation, which we found did an even better job with this balance.

front facade of the laura plantation main house, one of the most interesting day trips from new orleans
The Laura Plantation

On our Oak Alley tour, the cabins enslaved people lived in, complete with artifacts, were part of the self-led portion of the trip, while at the Laura Plantation, they were included in the guided tour, which we found to be a more thorough experience.

Other plantations in the area include the Houmas House Plantation, the Nottoway Plantation, and the Whitney Plantation.

The Whitney Plantation is newly renovated and has an exhibit that focuses on the children of slavery that is said to be deeply moving and emotional.

Famous oak-lined path leading to the Oak Alley Plantation near New Orleans Louisiana
Oak Alley Plantation

Spend the afternoon in the bayou.

As the highest point in Louisiana (so-called Driskill “Mountain”) reaches a mere 535 feet above sea level, it’s no surprise that Louisiana, and especially coastal New Orleans, are home to significant amounts of wetlands.

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Home to cypress swamps, interesting wildlife, and a fragile ecosystem, it is definitely worth a trip outside of New Orleans to see the nearby bayou.

We spent an afternoon on the bayou traveling by airboat, which was a very fun experience in its own right.

Our guide, a local Cajun man who was born and raised on the bayou, did a great job not only explaining the ecosystem, but spotting wildlife: even though we were traveling in winter when alligator spottings are rare, he still managed to find us a small one to check out!

tour guide holding up alligator on airboat tour in new orleans bayou

My personal favorite part of the tour came near the end: we got to hold some baby alligators belonging to a local rescue, and while I would never want to meet one of them once they’re all grown up and released (they’re released once they’re old enough to have a reasonable chance to survive on their own), they were very entertaining in the meantime.

With only 3 days in New Orleans, we definitely recommend a combo tour to get you out to both a plantation and the bayou efficiently!

On our first trip to New Orleans, we booked a tour similar to this one at the last second in person, and paid about 30% more than the price listed on Get Your Guide.

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Prefer to skip the plantations and just hit the bayou? This tour is a great option!

Kate Storm in a blue coat holding up a baby alligator on a bayou tour during a 3 day New Orleans itinerary

New Orleans Itinerary Day 3: A Cemetery, the Garden District + Ghosts

Start your morning in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

Between New Orleans’ history of voodoo, many legends of ghosts, and quirky residents dating to the modern day (did you know that Nicholas Cage owns a pyramid in New Orleans that he plans to be buried in?), it’s no surprise that NOLA’s cemeteries have become tourist attractions in their own right.

Add in that–thanks to the city’s geography–its former residents tend to rest in mausoleums above the ground rather than concealed under it–and the cemeteries are quite striking!

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None is more famous or popular than St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, home to the infamous Marie Laveau, the aforementioned pyramid belonging to Nicholas Cafe, and much, much more.

Visiting requires signing up for a guided tour, which luckily runs near-constantly and is easy to sign up for.

We recommend going in the morning for a couple of reasons: first, we’ll be heading to a different part of the city this afternoon, and second, it can get quite hot later in the day!

Book your visit to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 today!

tombs inside st louis cemetery no 1, one of of the best new orleans weekend things to see

Head over to the Garden District.

Home to New Orleans’ moneyed elite (and more than a handful of celebrities), the Garden District is the perfect place to walk around and gape at gorgeous homes.

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Whether you’re in search of Hollywood filming locations (the coven house from American Horror Story is here), familiar facades (the inspiration for the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland calls this neighborhood home), or celebrity homes (Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, and Anne Rice all both lived here, among others), or you simply want to enjoy the architecture, there’s plenty to love about exploring the Garden District.

We took a self-led walking tour, simply exploring with a list of remarkable locations in hand, but if you’d prefer to have a guide pointing out the best spots, guided walking tours of the Garden District are also popular!

Kate Storm in a blue coat walking in front of a mansion and below a large oak tree in the Garden District during 3 days in NOLA

Explore Lafayette Cemetery No. 1.

Set in the Garden District, Lafayette Cemetery has plenty of claims to fame, including being the home of the tomb that inspired Anne Rice when designing Lestat’s tomb, and recently playing host to the film crews from The Originals and NCIS: New Orleans.

Even without these claims to fame, though, Lafayette Cemetery is still worth a visit: New Orleans’ cemeteries have a unique look with their above-ground tombs that are fairly uncommon in other places in the USA.

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We used to love visiting Lafayette Cemetery, so I can’t quite bring myself to erase this section of our New Orleans blog post–but sadly, this famous Garden District cemetery has been “temporarily” closed to the public for years now.

If any of our readers ever happen to see that it has reopened, please let us know!

In the meantime, as you walk by, take a quick look through the gate at this historic Garden District location.

Like the Garden District as a whole, it’s easy enough to explore on your own, but if you prefer to have someone give you the details while you walk, tours are easy and inexpensive to book!

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 row of graves as seen during a long weekend in NOLA

Head to Magazine Street.

Funky costume shops and tasty restaurants: what could be a better combination?

Magazine Street is a great place to grab a meal (we loved the Red Dog Diner–order the banana pudding for dessert!).

After eating, be sure to duck into some shops to check out Mardi Gras costumes, eccentric souvenirs, antiques, and more!

halloween masks and dolls for sale in an oddities store on magazine street in new orleans
Just your everyday odds and ends for sale in a shop on Magazine Street!

Spend the evening on a ghost tour.

We love ghost tours, and can easily say that our first New Orleans tour was among the best we have been on!

We’ve been on a couple of NOLA ghost tours at this point, not to mention many ghost tours around the world, but this ghost tour is still our favorite that we’ve ever taken anywhere.

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Like Savannah, New Orleans is home to enough ghost stories that no two tours are likely to be the same, and almost all the stories are enough to raise the hairs on the back of your head even without believing in the supernatural.

We booked our tour through Get Your Guide with French Quarter Phantoms, and ended up being guided by Evian, who is among the best tour guides we have ever had anywhere–seriously, the guy is a born storyteller (not sponsored, we just really liked him!).

We recommend taking the latest tour at night if possible–the crowd will skew older, and the stories likely scarier.

hurricane cocktail being held up in the french quarter nola on a ghost tour at night

Since this is New Orleans, of course, there’s a bonus: no open container laws mean that you get to drink on the tour, and if there’s ever a walking tour to be a little bit tipsy on, it’s a ghost tour!

Reserve your spot on the Ghosts & Vampires Walking Tour!

This tour does sometimes sell out, especially during high season–we were only one person shy of a full group on a cold night in January, so book early if you can!

Also, be sure to arrive at the meeting point a little early–as of the time of writing, 2-for-1 Hurricanes are available at the bar up to an hour before the tour starts as part of your ticket.

Not into ghosts? Consider restructuring your time a bit to fit this popular steamboat cruise into the last day of your trip to New Orleans instead!

Kate Storm in a polka dot dress looking up at a tan Garden District Mansion during a 3 days in New Orleans itinerary

Say goodbye to New Orleans on Bourbon Street or Frenchmen Street.

Still have energy after your ghost tour?

Of course you do, you’re visiting New Orleans!

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On your last night in the city, give it a classic New Orleans goodbye by heading out for a bit of nightlife.

Travel to either Bourbon Street or Frenchmen Street–either whichever one you didn’t hit on your first day in New Orleans, or stick with what you know.

Whatever you choose, you’re bound to say a great goodbye to your 3 days in New Orleans.

Street band playing live jazz in New Orleans--any 3 days in New Orleans should include plenty of performances like this!

Where to Stay For 3 Days in New Orleans

Any trip–especially one as brief as spending 3 days in New Orleans–will be heavily influenced by where you stay.

To make the most of this New Orleans itinerary (and to avoid wasting a lot of time traveling from place to place), we recommend staying in or within walking distance of the French Quarter.

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We loved the Best Western property where we stayed on the edge of the quarter on our first trip, and were also impressed with the One 11 Hotel (also on the edge of the quarter, but by the river) on a later trip.

We’ve also included a couple of other suggestions below based on price point, reviews, and–importantly–location.

White house in NOLA Garden District with blue doors and American flags hanging out front, as seen during a 3 days in New Orleans itinerary


IHSP French Quarter House — There’s no getting around it: New Orleans is a fairly expensive city to visit. However, IHSP French Quarter House provides an excellent location near the French Quarter, as well as both private room and dorm options–making it an excellent choice for budget travelers hoping to spend 3 days in New Orleans.

Located just a 5-minute walk from Bourbon Street (and therefore an easy walk to many other highlights in the French Quarter) and boasting solid reviews, budget travelers can’t go wrong with a stay at the IHSP French Quarter House.

Check rates & book your stay at the ISHP French Quarter House!

Quiet street in NOLA French Quarter with colorful buildings on the left side of the photo


Best Western Plus French Quarter Landmark Hotel — We LOVED this property!

The hotel itself is beautiful in that classic New Orleans way, and the (included) breakfast is varied and tasty.

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Best of all, this hotel is situated right on the edge of the French Quarter, meaning that all of the French Quarter and some areas beyond are within easy walking distance.

For the price, it’s hard to imagine a better deal in New Orleans, and we’d be more than happy to check in again.

Check rates & book your stay at the Best Western Plus French Quarter Landmark Hotel!

close up of metal balconies in the french quarter in new orleans


Omni Royal Orleans Hotel — Located in the heart of the French Quarter, this beautiful hotel is known for its gorgeous building, attentive service, and lovely ambiance–plus its ghosts.

Yeah, that attentive service?

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It just may come in the form of the ghost maid who likes to tuck guests in at night!

If your idea of the perfect 3 Day New Orleans trip includes luxurious accommodations with a side of spookiness, the popular and stunning Omni Royal is the place for you. 

Check rates & book your stay at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel!

Pirate Alley in New Orleans Louisiana with buildings on the left side of the photo--be sure to check out this spot during your 3 days in New Orleans

What + Where to Eat in New Orleans

Jambalaya, red beans & rice, po’boys, muffulettas, gumbo, beignets, boudin… New Orleans cuisine is like no other place in the world and should feature heavily on any New Orleans itinerary.

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With heavy African, Caribbean, Spanish, French, Native American, and even occasionally Italian influences (quite the list, right?), New Orleans has long been known as a city worth eating in, with very good reason.

We’re far from food experts on New Orleans, but we’re happy to share what we thought of some of the dishes and restaurants we have had a chance to try (primarily in the French Quarter), and to let you know what’s still on our wishlist for next time(s).

Jeremy Storm in a black jacket holding a beignet in Cafe du Monde during a trip to New Orleans Louisiana

Where We Love to Eat in New Orleans

Coop’s Place — Decatur Street

We made a beeline straight for Coop’s Place after getting into New Orleans: Willie Mae’s was closed, and this was supposed to be the next best thing for fried chicken!

Well, the fried chicken was terrible (and we’re not picky–hopefully we just caught them on a bad day?), but the sausage and rabbit jambalaya, coleslaw, and cheese fries were amazing.

We’d definitely go again… but we’d skip the fried chicken and head straight for the jambalaya.

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Cafe du Monde — Decatur Street

You never quite know if something as hyped up as Cafe du Monde is going to live up to the legend… but oh my, these beignets ever do.

Fresh, delicious, and not remotely nutritious, Cafe du Monde deeply embodies New Orleans’ spirit of indulgence–and let’s just say we indulged roughly every 48 hours that we were in the city.

Quick logistical note: Cafe du Monde is cash only. Including tax, a plate of 3 beignets and a drink costs $6.00 USD, and there’s an ATM inside a tourism office across the street.

3 Days in New Orleans Itinerary: Cafe du Monde Beignets

Bamboula’s — Frenchmen Street

On one night we were in New Orleans, we were on a quest for a bar on Frenchmen Street with great live jazz that also served decent food… and we ended up at Bamboula’s.

The “boat” (oversized po’boy) and Caesar salad were good, the fries and burger were excellent, and the drinks were tasty and reasonably priced–we would definitely go back.

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Central Grocery — Decatur Street

What happens when you combine delicious Italian bread, all kinds of salamis, meats, and cheese, and top it all with the most wonderful olive spread we’ve ever tasted?

A muffuletta.

Italian inspired (and invented by the Sicilian immigrant who opened Central Grocery in 1906), the muffuletta is the only prepared food item on the menu at Central Grocery, which still looks remarkably like a small Italian grocery store when you walk inside–if you happen to be in the market for olive spread, mascarpone cheese, or cannoli shells, you can pick those up here along with the sandwich.

Muffulettas are big–half of one fed Jeremy and me both–and are absolutely unmissable during 3 days in New Orleans.

3 Days in New Orleans Itinerary: Central Grocery

Red Dog Diner — Magazine Street

Walking down Magazine Street after our self-led tour of the Garden District, we had no plan for where to eat… so we settled for googling reviews of places that we walked by that looked appealing.

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It didn’t take long for the Red Dog Diner to emerge the winner. Cute restaurant, reasonable prices, great reviews: we were sold.

The food was even better than we expected: from the smoked gouda mac’n’cheese (SO good) to the giant plate of parmesan chicken that was twice as big and twice as tasty as we expected,  to the absolutely decadent banana pudding, we chalked the Red Dog Diner up to an easy food win.

front facade of a stately home in the new orleans garden district

The French Market Restaurant — Decatur Street

We ate our first po’boys here, and all we can say is yum.

The sandwiches were solid, and the hush puppies were absolutely delicious.

We didn’t leave with the impression that this was an unmissable culinary experience in New Orleans or anything like that, but we enjoyed the food and would say it’s a solid option on the tourist trail with plenty of New Orleans’ favorites on the menu.

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Cafe Beignet3 Locations

Considered by some to have even better beignets than Cafe du Monde, Cafe Beignet is very popular and well worth a visit during your 3 days in New Orleans.

Personally, we still prefer Cafe du Monde, finding Cafe Beignet’s beignets a bit heavier and cakier than we prefer.

That being said, plenty of people would disagree with our opinion–and the fact that Cafe Beignet has some savory items (omelets, etc.) on the menu to break up the sugar rush is a definite plus.

The only reasonable option, of course, is to try both places for yourself!

kate storm and ranger storm inside cafe beignet during 3 days new orleans itinerary

Willie Mae’s Restaurant/Scotch House — St. Ann Street

Incredibly famous (and Food Network featured) Willie Mae’s sits just a few minutes by Uber outside of the French Quarter and is well-regarded as the place to get fried chicken in the Big Easy.

While prices are high by local standards ($15.00 for three pieces of chicken and one side, and we highly recommend adding a corn muffin onto that for $0.75), it’s worth the experience to try their amazing chicken once while in New Orleans.

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The chicken was delicious, as were the corn muffins. The rest of the sides were solid-to-mediocre (we tried green beans, mac’n’cheese, sweet rolls, and corn muffins), but let’s be real: you’re there for the chicken anyway.

The restaurant is small and has strange hours (10am-5pm, Monday-Saturday), so plan to wait in line outside before getting in. We didn’t wait more than 20 minutes on a beautiful day, but if you’re traveling during the on-season, word on the street is that the earlier you arrive, the better: show up by 11:30am for best results.

Note: As of early 2024, Willie Mae’s remains closed due to damage from a 2023 fire. We look forward to their eventual reopening!

3 Days in New Orleans Itinerary: Willie Mae's Fried Chicken

Clover Grill — Bourbon Street

This 24-hour diner on Bourbon Street is tiny, adorable in that old-fashioned Americana sort of way, and utterly unpretentious. Their goal is obvious: feed the drunk people.

Prices were some of the cheapest we saw in New Orleans, and the food was solid–not a culinary experience to write home about, but nothing that we regretted sitting down to either. We wouldn’t mind stopping by again for biscuits and gravy the next time we’re visiting NOLA!

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Muriel’s Jackson Square — Chartres Street

How would you like to dine with a ghost?

At Muriel’s, it is said that their resident ghost (the spirit of the man who once owned and lived in the building) only stays calm and non-disruptive if they set a table, including a glass of delicious French wine, out for him every night–and for a fee, you’re welcome to join him!

If dining with the dead isn’t your thing, the gorgeous dining room and Creole cuisine may still entice you to visit!

We didn’t see any ghosts during our visit–but we did love our meal, including the famous NOLA dish of turtle soup.

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Acme Oyster House — Iberville Street (and other Louisiana locations)

We aren’t the biggest oyster fans in the world, so didn’t make Acme a priority, but it was recommended to us several different times on our trip!

If you’re into oysters, don’t miss this place.

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The Gumbo Shop — St. Peter Street

Home to just about any type of gumbo you can hope for, we’re told that this the place to indulge in gumbo while in New Orleans!

House in the French Quarter seen from the side, 3 Day New Orleans Itinerary

Cafe Amelie — Royal Street

Slightly toward the pricey side, Cafe Amelie serves up classic New Orleans cuisine in a romantic, elegant atmosphere.

The food is said to be wonderful, as is the simple experience of eating in their courtyard on a pretty day.

The menu is not static, and reservations are encouraged, though not required.

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Commander’s Palace — Washington Avenue

Located in the Garden District, Commander’s Palace is one of New Orleans’ finest and most famous restaurants.

You’ll need to plan ahead (and we mean far ahead: we failed to score a reservation on our last visit despite planning more than a week in advance in winter) as Commander’s Palace does have a dress code, and reservations are needed.

While pricey, the $0.25 martinis during lunch (yep, you read that right!) will help ease the bill a bit!

front facade of teal commanders palace in the garden district nola

Antoine’s Restaurant — St. Louis Street

Similar to Cafe Amelie and Commander’s Palace, Antoine’s is an upscale New Orleans staple for those wanting to experience classic New Orleans cuisine (Antoine’s focuses on French-Creole dishes) in an absolutely beautiful location.

Antoine’s is still owned and operated by relatives of the original founder from 1840, making it a restaurant with a strong legacy.

Personally, we’d love to visit for the jazz brunch!

sign for antoines restaurant as seen during weekend new orleans itinerary

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However many days you have in New Orleans, that’s the perfect amount of time to spend here!

That being said, 3 days in New Orleans is the perfect amount to get an overview of the tourist highlights while also leaving enough time for rest so that you don’t end up utterly exhausted and skipping tours to sleep by the last day of your trip.

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The good news?

That means New Orleans can be done in a long weekend!

The bad news?

You’ll have to keep your nightlife hours vaguely reasonable to make sure you have enough energy to see all the highlights during the day.

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More than a long weekend in NOLA?

If you’re lucky enough to have more than 3 days in New Orleans, there are dozens of other things you can do!

A few interesting options include visiting the famous WWII Museum, hitting up the Pharmacy Museum, visiting City Park (Ranger was a big fan of this!), or working your way through New Orleans’ best independent bookstores like we spent a day doing.

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You can also consider a visit to Mardi Gras World to see incredible Mardi Gras floats throughout the year, duck inside the St. Louis Cathedral, and take any number of tours about the city’s history or contemporary culture.

Personally, we have an eye on a Katrina Recovery Tour during our a future visit–we had hoped to squeeze it in this time but didn’t have time for it–and a steamboat cruise, as we keep hearing rave reviews about them!

3 Days in New Orleans Itinerary: French Quarter Decor

The Best Time to Visit New Orleans

Even with the random and very unusually severe cold snap we experienced in New Orleans (highs in the 40’s F on a couple of days–so not a real cold snap for most of the world!), we still believe that January is one of the best times to visit New Orleans, enough that we’ve been back twice in January.

(Though note that one trip I wore peacoats and on the next, sundresses).

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The city is very quiet, with the Christmas season over and the Mardi Gras season just barely getting underway, we didn’t have to deal with the oppressive heat that comes with a New Orleans summer, and the crowds of Mardi Gras and the spring season hadn’t set in yet.

If you’re not interested in braving the winter, spring is the most popular time to visit New Orleans–just try to arrive before the heat does!

While Mardi Gras is supposed to be an incredible experience, only plan on going to New Orleans then if Mardi Gras is your purpose of being there–the crowds, prices, and businesses will all revolve around the festival.

3 Days in New Orleans Itinerary: Oak Trees

Getting Around When Visiting New Orleans

Unless you’re planning on road-tripping in for your 3 days in New Orleans, do not rent a car to explore the city–you’ll end up spending way more than necessary, we promise!

Parking generally costs a pretty penny for a southern US city here–we saw multiple garages around $40-50/day, and you’ll very rarely need a car in New Orleans.

We stayed on the edge of the French Quarter and walked almost everywhere.

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The exceptions: we took Ubers to and from the Garden District/Magazine Street, Willie Mae’s, and the airport, and we took a guided tour out to Oak Alley Plantation and the bayou.

The tour was a bit expensive, but compared to the cost of renting and parking a car in New Orleans, it was a bargain!

Public transportation in New Orleans is limited and not incredibly reliable, but there is a bus system and a limited streetcar system if you’d like to give them a try.

red new orleans street car traveling between the mississippi river and french quarter

Read More About Visiting New Orleans (+ the South)

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Photo of a red brick building with black shutters in the French Quarter of NOLA. Black text on a white background reads The Ultimate itinerary New Orleans 3 days
About Kate Storm
Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

68 thoughts on “The Epic, Exciting 3 Days in New Orleans Itinerary”

  1. This was a perfect read for me, as I’ve never been to New Orleans. Cafe du Monde and those beignets sound delicious, I’m seriously drooling right now. I’d never think of visiting a plantation either, but after you saying I should include it on an itinerary, I will re-consider it.

  2. Waaaa you touched a tiny crocodile! That beign said, I loved this guide! It is super complete and fun. Especially because I have never been to New Orleans, but I am planning to do so in the future. I would love to visit the French Quarter and eat all of that amazing food! Thanks for all the tips! I’m bookmarking this for future references!

  3. If there is one city in the US that I want to visit, it’s New Orleans. This city has intrigued me so much but this post has opened my eyes that there is more to this city than I fell in love with. I have also heard so much about Cafe Du Monde. Apparently, I can’t afford to miss that!

    • No, you definitely can’t! And I would say New Orleans definitely deserves to rank among the top cities in the USA worth visiting–it is a very unique place.

      • My 3 sisters and I have started going on a trip each year a couple years ago. While we were trying to decide where to go this year, one sister suggested New Orleans and did some digging. That’s how she came across your blog. We have exactly 3 days to spend there too. So thank you so much. We’re looking forward to the plantation tour and boat ride. Is course to taste all those yummy food that you mentioned as well. Thanks again for your help.

  4. We went to Gasparilla this weekend, which is kind of like a pirate themed Marti Gras in Tampa. It made us think that too much drunken tomfoolery might not be in our wheelhouse. Seeing your three day itinerary to New Orleans has renewed my zeal for the city. Eating my way through the city has always been high on the list but that ghost tour looked like a lot of fun as well. We’ll have to go soon and check it out for ourselves.

    • Oh yes, New Orleans goes way beyond the drunken debauchery! That’s not really our thing, either–part of the reason we kept pushing it back–but NOLA would be worth visiting even if the nightlife didn’t exist.

  5. I have been wanting to go to New Orleans for half my life. I even have a list of things to do… visit Bourbon street, the cementery, eat a beignet in Cafe du Monde… I am so jealous! Although it is very nice knowing that you can squeeze so very much in only three days!

    • I hope you get to go soon! We had wanted to go for ages as well, and now we’re kicking ourselves for letting it slip by for so long–we’ll definitely be back again.

  6. Lovely post! This is a perfect guide for first timers in New Orleans. The itinerary covers everything – the landmarks, history tours, plantation visit, night life, food and a lot more. Food looks and sounds yummy with all your delicious descriptions. Ghost tour- really? That sounds fascinating!

    • It’s funny–ghost tours are pretty common in the USA, but I feel like only some places “deserve” them, or know how to do them right, lol. NOLA definitely makes that list!

  7. Very well spent 3 days in New Orleans! I am in love with those colorful facades. The grilled exterior of Commander’s house too is stunning. French Quarters too look charming and is worth a photo shoot. I might need more than 3 days for such a wonderful place.

    • That’s actually not the Commander’s Palace (didn’t take a photo of that, bad blogger moment), but it IS an interesting place–that’s the mansion that inspired the designed of the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland! And yes, I agree–more than 3 days is great (we spent a week), but I wanted this to be doable for long weekend visitors! :D

  8. New Orleans is a beautiful city with vibrant streets and colorful houses. I would love to go around Bourbon street which is designed according to French style. And would love to eat in Central Grocery which is running from 3 generations. Exteriors of Commander’s Palace is very elegant and beautiful. New Orleans is very photogenic.

  9. The architecture of the cathedral is so beautiful. New Orleans sure look like a trendy place. The café and the colorful streets are evidences. I am a wildlife enthusiast but would love to observe the alligators from a distance. Loved this blog.

    • From a distance is a good idea, lol! I loved holding the young ones, but the adults can stay far away as far as I’m concerned!

  10. Love it! I know I spoke with you on instragram and am so glad I stumbled upon this! Can’t wait for my trip out there in May! Thanks for the great info!

    • Aw, thanks so much, Madison!! I hope your trip is amazing. :D If you get the chance, definitely reach out this spring and let us know how it goes!

  11. I enjoyed your travel tips for 3 days in New Orleans. I think the suggestions you made are exactly what I have in mind. We are retired couple in our 70’s but still feel young enough for wanting to have a good time…drinks…great music and fabulous food! I have a bit of mobility problem …I walk slow…..and can’t walk too far. So…probably best to stay by French Quarter…right?? Will look into the hotel you mentioned!

    I hope all the self- walking tours would not be too much for me. Maybe….
    Interested in ghost story tour…or a walk in the cemetary…
    U love the architecture there….maybe
    a tour of homes would be fun!!….& for sure, a Plantation tour would be very interesting.

    Now to figure out best “quiet” date that won’t be too boring!! We are not interested in wild partying time of Mardi Gras… but do not want to feel like we are in a morgue either!

    Also would be happy to save on hotel rates, food, etc. So…off season should be best for us!!

    Now to check air fares! Thanks for your help!!

    • Hi Barbara!

      With mobility issues, yes, definitely best to stay in or very close to the French Quarter. The Quarter itself still includes quite a bit of walking, so you’ll likely want to feel out how comfortable you are with it once you’re there. If needed, Uber is popular in the area!

      For quiet but not a morgue, we really did enjoy our trip in January–not too cold, not deserted, but far fewer crowds than when Mardi Gras truly heats up.

      I hope that you guys have an amazing time!!

  12. My husband is a native Cajun who grew up just an hour south of New Orleans & when we first met (25 yrs ago), he took me to the tourist spots as a teaser, then gave me a “real” taste of NOLA for our honeymoon by taking me to the not-so-touristy places & we have been doing NOLA every year since. If you don’t want to wait in the rediculously long line at Cafe Du Monde just for a yummy beignet, head over to Cafe Beignet on Bourbon Street. The service is just as warm and in my opinion the treats are a little more tastey. Brennan’s on Royal Street is also a great breakfast spot. If you enjoy art like we do, please take time to visit the many galleries around town. The art varies greatly from folk to classic & there are also many sidewalk artists that are absolutely amazing. Commander’s Palace is an upscale farm to table dinning experience that’s “modern New Orleans cooking meets Haute Creole” (reservation & dinner jacket required). Antoine’s Restaurant is also a wonderful experience and is considered America’s oldest, dating back to 1840 & is a winner of the coveted Lafcadio Hearn Award (reservations suggested). For a real taste bud experience, there are also New Orleans cooking classes & food walking tours.
    Swamp tours are a dime a dozen here so shop around & don’t be afraid to drive away from NOLA for this experience. Airboats are fun, but they are LOUD. Though you may see lot’s of swamp, you aren’t going to see a lot of animals as they are scared away by the noise of the air boats (some more than others). To get the up close & personal experience see if the tour company has the smaller outboard motor boats. I personally enjoy the quiet educational aspects of a swamp tour, but some tours can be very hokey, so ask the locals and READ the REVIEWS. Also take time to read NOLA rules/regs. As mentioned before by others posting here the city of New Orleans lacks strict open container laws, but it does require people who drink alcohol on sidewalks and streets to do so only from plastic cups – NOLA also prohibits drinking alcohol in a parking lot. Drinking while Driving is prohibited. There are quite a number of drive through daiquiri shops and they will place a strip of tape over the straw hole. Please note that if you are caught driving with a straw through the lid of your cup, that container is considered “open”. Here’s an odd rule for “fancy biking”. New Orleans is as flat as an ironing board and has lots of side streets, making getting around by bicycle a great option. If you rent one for your stay, remember: No fancy bike riding. The law: “Every rider of a bicycle, tricycle or other vehicle propelled by hand or foot must keep at least one hand on the handlebars of his machine when riding it.” Good work Mrs. Storm & thanks for reading.

    • Thanks for writing in! Always fun to hear about the inside tricks & quirks of different places… and New Orleans, of course, is one of the quirkiest of them all. ;-) We’d love to make time for Commander’s Palace on our next visit, there was just no squeezing it in this time!

  13. Just come across this 3-day itinerary – very useful. My daughter and I will be there from UK for 3 days end of Feb celebrating her 21st birthday. Sounds like just the sort of things we want to do, along with enjoying some of the Mardi Gras parades. Just hoping it won’t be too busy to enjoy wandering around the French Quarter.

    • Oh, how wonderful! Sounds like an excellent way to spend a 21st birthday.

      If you’re going during the Mardi Gras festivities, you’ll definitely see some heavier-than-usual crowds, especially around popular spots like Bourbon Street.

      Luckily, though, the French Quarter (and New Orleans in general for that matter) is big enough to allow some spreading out if you get off the busiest streets. :-)

    • Good question! We actually ended up buying a sandwich between the plantation and boat tour to get us through. What we should have done (and recommend you do) is pack some snacks! There’s not really a lunch break, and it is easier to eat a big breakfast and then save room for an epic dinner in NOLA than worry too much about lunch. :-)

  14. Any tips on safety in New Orleans? I’ve heard from friends that live there that it is legitimately unsafe in some parts at night. I’m going with a decent sized group of friends (5 or more), so I figure staying in a group, not staying out too late, and remaining in touristy areas, would be fine. Any thoughts? How about suggestions for neighborhoods for Airbnbs?

    • I agree with your plan–sticking to touristy areas and staying with a group is a great way to stay safe. We never felt unsafe during our trip to New Orleans (and we have friends who live there and love it), and like in most major cities, the areas where crime is a significant risk and the areas that tourists are interested in visiting don’t have much overlap. The only other thing I’d suggest is taking a cab back to where you happen to stay out very late at night and have a long walk ahead.

      Airbnb use is actually extremely contentious in New Orleans, more so than in most cities in the world, and isn’t allowed at all in the French Quarter and Garden District. We’d recommend skipping an Airbnb entirely in New Orleans and opting for a hotel or B&B instead. In or right next to the French Quarter would be our first choice–we loved the Best Western we stayed at on the edge of the French Quarter!

  15. This has been the BEST article I have read, BY FAR! I’m heading down in a couple of weeks to stay a week, but we are thinking about driving to the beach for a couple of days and worried we would miss stuff! This is perfectly broke down and will fit in most that we want to do plus we will have a couple of extra days to repeat or find new things!

    • Thanks so much, Lacey, and I’m glad we could help!! Hope you have an incredible time both in NOLA and at the beach. :-)

  16. Hi,

    We’re flying to NOLA on Saturday, June 29 and we plan to stay at Club Wyndham along Magazine Street. I just wrote down the things you mentioned on what to do in 3 days. I was telling my wife the helpful tips that I read about your trips in the different parts of the world and at the same time earning commissions in your tie up with Amazon Services. I would like to do the same but planning to use it in the classroom for the benefit of my students. Thank you so much Mr and Mrs Storm! Godspeed!

  17. Thank you so much for writing this! My husband and I are headed to NOLA next year and I already knew a plantation tour and the French Quarter were not to be missed, but this is (in my opinion) a perfect three day itinerary, which is exactly how many full days we will have there.

    I also appreciate your long list of places to eat. We are huge foodies and look forward to exploring your list.

    Book marking this now. :o)

    • Thank you so much, Shannon! Comments like this always make my day.

      Hope you guys have an amazing trip to NOLA next year–enjoy some of that food for us! Our tastebuds miss it daily. :-)

  18. We just book a trip to New Orleans last night! I looked up ‘things to do’ while there and came across your article. I am literally giddy with excitement!! I’m dying for my husband to come home so I can fill him in on all of the awesomeness that’s to come!

    • Thank you so much, Courtney!! There’s nothing like the thrill of anticipation for an upcoming trip.:D Hope you guys have an amazing time on your trip to NOLA!

  19. Hello Kate Storm.

    I have family members that live in and around the city of New Orleans as well as the French Quarter. I have been to New Orleans many times as a young child and as an adult. I did a quick one day walk through of the French Quarter and Riverwalk but missed out on so many other sites. I came across your article while googling for an itinerary of things do in New Orleans. Your article was very thorough and impressive. I am planning an upcoming 4 days trip to Nola for the end of October and will attempt to complete most of the 3 days itinerary you shared in the article. Do I still need to book the ghost tour in advance and which weekend night is preferably the best for this tour? Thank you in advance for your attention to this question and for an informative article.

    • Hi Lorenzo! I would definitely recommend booking the ghost tour in advance, the earlier the better for a weekend in October (aka pre-Halloween). I’d say any weekend night would work, if I remember correctly our tour was almost sold out on a weekday in January!

  20. I echo all of the sentiments on New Orleans being the best US city! Even over LA, Chicago or NYC. NOLA is alive – like a living organism. It’s one of the few spots left in the US that fully embraces and intermingles all cultures. The music permeates all senses and sensibility. And it’s like this all year long. I agree with visiting December-January. I find early December is perfect for me. I love Christmas and everything is jazzed up Christmas Creole style! Plus, its very mild (50-70F), low crowds and cheaper hotel prices. NOLA is a gem and should not be missed!

    • It absolutely is! I’d love to see NOLA at Christmas… maybe next trip! Beignets sound like a perfect holiday treat to me. :-)

  21. Thank you for this article it has been really helpful while planing my 7 day trip. We are staying near the French Quarter, would you recommend renting a car or just doing Uber ?

  22. Hello I enjoyed the information you wrote, I am going to New Orleans for several days around the Christmas holidays. My first time, and I am staying in the Warehouse District, arriving on the train. I am going to try some of your suggestions and walk and your, I really want to go to the aquarium there.
    Thank you

  23. Loved this post and so excited to go to NOLA! I’m super curious what camera you use to take photos? They came out amazing!


    • Thank you so much, Nikki! We took the photos from this trip to NOLA on our Nikon D3300, but we’ve since switched over to the Sony AR7III. :-)

  24. My hearts in new Orleans, been going to the big easy for over 25 years. Try an get down once a year if not 2 times, music, food, people, architect. If your lucky enough to make it there you do need to learn the trolly system for a dollar twenty five. You can go from frenchmen to the garden district, an royal street for antiques an art r out of this world, as for the art I have been painting oils of my second home for years, next best thing then being there! Safe travels…..

  25. Great article! What was the name of the mid-range hotel? I couldn’t find the name in your copy…


    — We LOVED this property!

    The hotel itself is beautiful in that classic New Orleans way, and the (included) breakfast is varied and tasty. Best of all, this hotel is situated right on the edge of the French Quarter, meaning that all of the French Quarter and some areas beyond are within easy walking distance.

    For the price, it’s hard to imagine a better deal in New Orleans, and we absolutely plan to stay here again when (because it is when, not if) we return to New Orleans.”

  26. Hi Kate,

    Thank you for the wealth of information on NOLA! We have friends coming in from Hawaii and they are really interested in visiting the city. We’ve been there a few times but your 3 day itinerary will be a great help. The first time we visited we did a city tour to get an over view. Do they still offer those? We plan to drive there from San Antonio, TX. Thank you again! Btw: Do you have a blog on Athen, Greece? You’re living my dream!

    • Sounds like a fabulous trip–so glad our article was helpful in your planning!

      Yes, they definitely still offer city tours. We usually book our tours on Get Your Guide, but Viator is another reputable option. They’re both aggregators, so list tours by varoius local companies.

      For boutique tours, Take Walks also has some unique offerings. We love them in Europe and they’re just starting to enter the US, including NOLA.

      We do also have several posts on Athens! It is just as wonderful as you’re imagining. :-) Here’s one:

      Unrelated but we also love San Antonio, so please eat some breakfast tacos for us! We lived there for 2.5 years back in the day and still miss the food at least 5 times a week.

  27. I live in Houston and am a Google Local guide so I’ve visited New Orleans multiple times and explored what other neighborhoods have to offer outside the French Quarter and eaten my way through many James Beard Foundation award winning restaurants. I’ve enjoyed exploring the Treme, Marigny, Bywater, Bayou St. John, etc. I could share my Google Map with you. Four restaurants you shouldn’t miss are Liuzza’s at the Track (sbbq shrimp po-boys and a goblet of beer), La Petit Grocery (very well executed, flavorful food), Herbsaint, and Cochon Butcher.


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