Category: Louisiana
Author: Michael DeFranceschi • Updated

11 Best Things To Do For a Weekend in New Orleans [2024]

I bet you've never heard to do #4...
US travel blogger Michael DeFranceschi doing one of the best things to do in New Orleans-- standing in the middle of Bourbon Street.

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Louisiana was the 25th state I visited on my journey to go to all 50 states.

This means I'm exactly HALFWAY DONE!!! It took me 17 months to reach this milestone-- and what a super fun state to conclude the first half of this exciting adventure!

Two friends accompanied me for this trip! We went to Louisiana in late November 2022, when the temperature was in the low to mid 70's. It rained for half a day one of the three days we were there. I've heard it is miserable to visit Louisiana in the summer!

Louisiana is located in the deep south of the United States. On a map, it is especially easy to spot, as it is shaped like the capitalized form of the letter the state's name starts with-- "L".

When you visit the major cities of the southern United States, you can be sure you will experience two things: 1. amazing, AMAZING food, and 2. how friendly the people are.

New Orleans is the only city we selected to visit in Louisiana. Locals of the city told us this was a good idea-- as no other cities in the state are nearly as fun, safe, or beautiful.

While the city of New Orleans has a few nicknames, the most common is "NOLA". The four-lettered nickname is merely an acronym of New Orleans and the state's abbreviation of LA.

Like most of my to-do guides, these are the things you should see if you only have 2-3 days to explore. The things listed here are what personally appealed most to my friends and me-- and what we actually saw.

Below is my curated list of the 11 best things to do for a 2 or 3 day weekend in New Orleans.

IN THIS ARTICLE...

In 2024, here are the 11 best things to do for a weekend in New Orleans...

01 // Go wild on Bourbon Street

A picture of Bourbon Street with the street name in the photo. This street is one of the 11 best things to do for a weekend in New Orleans.
Bourbon Street. Source.

In the chance you have not heard of Bourbon Street, then I can be sure you've heard of Mardi Gras. Well, Bourbon Street is the epicenter of where this notorious festival is held every February.

Bourbon Street is one street that comprises a much larger neighborhood of New Orleans called the French Quarter. Honestly, one could spend their entire trip in the French Quarter alone and feel they got their fill of New Orleans.

If you're an adult and you want to really let loose, come to Bourbon Street-- especially at night! Whereas most cities don't allow people to consume alcohol or smoke outdoors, guess what you can do in New Orleans? It is legal for everyone to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes on the street! 'Mary Jane' I don't believe is permissible but it doesn't mean we didn't smell it-- or get solicited to buy some!

Admittedly, I appreciated the fact there weren't many children on Bourbon Street. This isn't like Magic Kingdom in Orlando. This is a locale tailored for folks over 21.

Albeit the abundance of bars and strip clubs on the infamous street, the pavement and sidewalks essentially function as an outdoor nightclub.

Bourbon Street is dialed-down during the daytime. Due to the absence of drunk people, more tourists who may wish to avoid the nightlife flood the street.

This isn't to say that Bourbon Street is less fun when the sun is out. Far from it! Souvenir shops with crudely worded t-shirts and merchants showcasing NOLA's fascination with the occult are widely accessible in the daytime.

Buskers and other street performers also are abundant in the daytime, as well. We even saw people playing chess on the street too! I was tempted to play a game, as one of my other hobbies beside travel is chess!

02 // Get powdered sugar on your shirt at Café Du Monde

The outside wall of Cafe Du Monde. Cafe Du Monde is one of the 11 best things to do for a weekend in New Orleans.
Outside of Café Du Monde.

While there are many restaurants you can dine at that aren't tourist traps, Café Du Monde is a must-go-to for anyone's weekend in NOLA!

Café Du Monde is located off Decatur Street in the French Quarter neighborhood and nearby downtown New Orleans. The business has been in operation since 1862! Imagine all the generations of people who have dined here!

When you go to this charming café, you must order their beignets (pronounced like a combo of the English words 'bin' and 'yay'). If you're not sure what a beignet is, a beignet is a deep fried square shaped piece of dough which is dowsed in powdered sugar. Very similar to a doughnut! At Café Du Monde, the beignets are served with an even higher than normal amount of powdered sugar!

The excessive sugar is very much so the draw of this restaurant. It's a large portion of the fun! If you don't leave here with powdered sugar on your shirt and pants, you haven't experienced this place in its full essence!

The delightful pastries are only served in threes. Lucky you if you're dining alone! You get all the sugar to yourself!

We also ordered hot chocolate and coffee with our sugary treats. The beverages were just as amazing as the beignets!

03 // Surround yourself with really colorful artwork at JAMNOLA

JAMNOLA is one of the 11 best things to do for a weekend in New Orleans.
One of the many colorful rooms you'll see as you walk through JAMNOLA.

Of the three museums we visited in New Orleans, JAMNOLA was by far my personal favorite!

We already know what "NOLA" stands for, but the "JAM" portion of the acronym stands for Joy, Art, and Music. This is the central theme to the colorful artwork inside the museum.

Tickets can only be purchased online and must be booked in advance. The museum has a limited number of slots per tour. We booked ours the same day so good chance you will be able to do the same!

I prefer to explore on my own and generally do not like guided tours. Luckily, at JAMNOLA, only the first three rooms are guided. The remainder-- you are free to roam by yourself.

The opportunities for photos are boundless here. There are so many vibrant backdrops for photos in this museum.

04 // See real-life alligators up close on a swamp tour

A swamp in New Orleans.
Something NOLA locals speak highly of! Source

Many to-do guides for New Orleans will miss this activity entirely!

While places like Bourbon Street and Cafe Du Monde are sure to show up on pretty much any travel blogger's to-do list (though, for good reason!) swamp tours are less commonly recommended. If you want to explore NOLA like a local, then book a swamp tour!

This activity was the last thing we did on our trip and I was, for lack of better words, photo-ed and video-ed out by then. I just wanted to experience the tour without peering through the lense of my iPhone 13 so I'm using a stock photo for this one!

We booked our swamp tour through Cajun Encounters. The tour was a little under 2 hours in a small boat which seats around 20 people. We learned there are swamp tours in the nighttime when we got there, which would have perhaps been even cooler to see! Next time!

Ever see an alligator up close? You will on this tour! You can't touch them though (but would you honestly want to?). In addition, you'll spot other wildlife native to swamps like turtles and egrets.

My two recommendations: eat before the tour and, depending on the temperature outside, wear long sleeves at least.

05 // Appreciate being alive at the Museum of Death

Left side of the souvenir area when you first enter the museum. Inside the Museum of Death.
Left side of the souvenir area when you first enter the museum.

The Museum of Death does not allow photographs nor video of the exhibits upon entry-- for respect of the dead.

One of the most common displays inside the museum are original copies of newspapers regarding stories about tragic events, such as the John F. Kennedy assassination or the murder of Sharon Tate.

Entire exhibits inside the museum provide extensive background information about the US's most nefarious serial killers, such as Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, and Jeffrey Dahmer.

One display shows you a surgeon through a series of photographs removing a human brain!

Perhaps because I've been used to seeing large art museums during my travels, I thought the Museum of Death would be bigger. The museum is about the size of the lower floor of a residential home.

06 // Explore Magazine Street

Somewhere off Magazine Street.
Somewhere off Magazine Street.

Magazine Street is another major street in New Orleans. Due to Bourbon Street's popularity, Magazine Street oftentimes is overlooked by tourists. If Bourbon Street is too rowdy for you, then spend some time on Magazine Street!

What makes Magazine Street worth exploring is that it crosses into a few different neighborhoods of New Orleans, such as downtown and the Garden District.

On this street you'll find an eclectic mix of restaurants, cafes, bars, clothing stores, furniture stores, souvenir shops, and museums. In general, this street attracts people who are looking to shop.

07 // Explore downtown and Canal Street

The streetcar line on Canal Street in downtown New Orleans.
The streetcar line on Canal Street in downtown New Orleans.

Even though the French Quarter is where most of the action happens in New Orleans, it is not considered downtown. This is something that separates NOLA from other major cities in the US.

Now I've told you about Bourbon Street and Magazine Street, I'll introduce one more major street in New Orleans: Canal Street.

Like many big cities, take a stroll down Canal Street and you'll be surrounded by skyscrapers, lofty hotels, and luxurious dining options. You can also catch a glimpse of the cherry red streetcars and if you're tired of walking, hop onboard!

08 // Go to the Garden District

Sitting in front of a gorgeous fountain in a public park somewhere in the Garden District.
Sitting in front of a gorgeous fountain in a public park somewhere in the Garden District.

The Garden District is a more residential area of New Orleans where one can simply meander through the neighborhood's many streets and admire the colorful and creatively decorated houses.

There are some mansions in the Garden District!

As I mentioned earlier, Magazine Street cuts through the Garden District. There, you'll find boutiques, cafes, bars, and other locally owned cuisine.

09 // Don't you dare leave NOLA without eating a po'boy!

Picture of a roastbeef with gravy po'boy.
A roastbeef with gravy po'boy at Katie's.

I am not in the habit of taking pictures of my food. While the po'boy in the above picture was still really good, it wasn't the best one I had in New Orleans!

First, when you visit New Orleans, you must go to Café Du Monde for a beignet and eat a po'boy at Parkway Bakery & Tavern. The restaurant is southern in style and spirit. I ordered the small portion of their specialty made roastbeef with gravy po'boy and added mayonaise on it.

This was southern comfort food at its peak. The French bread itself was exquisite. The gravy and roastbeef oozed out of the sandwich and I didn't even care. Every bite was more savory than the previous bite.

Food in the southern United States truly represents "American cuisine". At 25 states in and having visited six southern states, I feel it's safe to say the south beats the rest of the country in having the tastiest food.

10 // Go on a ghost tour at night

Somewhere off Royal Street in the French Quarter.
Somewhere off Royal Street in the French Quarter.

Yes, you can do a tour during the day but, what fun are spooky topics if discussed during the daytime? We all know from watching any horror movie that everything scary happens at night!

One of the first stops on our tour was at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. We were told a gruesome story about how someone died in the living quarters above the museum in the late 19th century and how their spirit supposedly is still there. Interesting stuff.

The final stop along our tour included a house that was either featured in or inspired episodes of the third season of American Horror Story. Apparently, the house is really haunted and has been owned by several different people-- including one well-known American actor!

11 // Drink sangria out of a blood bag at Vampire Cafe

Picture of sangria inside a blood bag at Vampire Cafe in New Orleans.
People of all blood types welcomed here!

If it wasn't for going on the aforementioned "ghost tour", we may never have heard of this establishment!

Welcome to... Vampire Cafe!

There are plenty of bars in the French Quarter alone... but I doubt any will hand you red wine to drink out of a blood bag!

The straw had an attached clip which allowed or prevented the wine from exiting the bag. I'm glad the waitress showed me how to manipulate it.

In addition to the unique drinking experience, I would suggest trying their deviled eggs. They are fried and served with caviar on top! Quite tasty.

Do tourists need a car in New Orleans?

No. I would strongly suggest to not rent one-- and I am very glad we opted to not do it. The French Quarter is easily walkable and neighbors downtown. For more distant districts, like the Garden District, use Lyft.

One big advantage of using Lyft were recommendations from the locals!

Even for someone like myself who is somewhat used to driving in city traffic, the French Quarter is maddening as a driver. The number of one-way streets are cumbersome to navigate and it's common for people to walk in the street-- especially on Bourbon Street.

Conclusion

I was fairly certain I'd enjoy New Orleans and, turns out, I had even more fun than expected! New Orleans is a city unabashed to be itself. It reminded me a lot of Portland, OR.

As of now, Louisiana would rank in the top five of my favorite states. The food is unbelievably good, the people are genuine, welcoming, and very friendly, the weather was nice, and there is so much to do. For free-spirited types, New Orleans will make you feel at home.

I hope you enjoyed my guide for the 11 best things to do for a weekend in New Orleans!

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