New Orleans Travel Tips for the Perfect Weekend in NOLA

New Orleans Travel Tips for the Perfect Weekend in NOLA

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A complicated colonial past, a resounding spirit in the face of disaster, and a top party destination. This doesn’t sound like the same place – but it perfectly describes the distinctive city of New Orleans. And there really is no other way to describe NOLA (New Orleans Louisiana) than distinct, unique, and one of a kind. There might not be anywhere else in the world quite like it, certainly not in the United States. You immediately feel the soulful, vibrant buzz of the city that makes it one of the best places to travel in the US. This post is designed for you to fall in love with NOLA and give you all the New Orleans travel tips to plan the ultimate trip.

Having soldiered on after recovering from the devastating hurricane Katrina in 2005. Tourism in New Orleans is back, and the city is no longer just a destination for partiers. Yes, that’s still a huge draw and anyone who attends Mardi Gras will tell you it’s a must do. But going to New Orleans is worth it any time of year and by any type of traveler.

Vibrant and complicated history, unique architecture, incredible food, world renowned music, and untouched nature reserves are just some of the reasons for a New Orleans visit.

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February through May are the most popular times to visit. Cooler weather makes it more comfortable compared to the high humidity that is common in the summer. December and January are typically the quietest time to go. Mardi Gras is mid-February and by the far the busiest time, requiring hotel reservations often a year in advance.

Travelers could have an activity filled long weekend and experience quite a lot of the city. For longer stays of a week or more, there’s no shortage of things to do and would give you an opportunity to see some parts of the state outside the city.

new orleans travel tips mardi gras

How to Travel to New Orleans


Traveling to New Orleans is generally fairly easy, especially by air. There are multiple direct flights from all major US hubs, but unless you originate in a hub or city relatively close, you’re likely in for one connection. However, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a convenient flight. New Orleans regularly hosts large conventions and its central location makes it accessible from just about anywhere in the US.

Leaving the airport, it is extremely convenient to get into the city. Unless you get slowed down in traffic once you hit downtown, it shouldn’t take much more than 20 minutes. Taking a taxi or rideshare is your best option when leaving the airport, the only real alternative being a bus which takes at least an hour.

Once you’re in the city, getting around New Orleans is a breeze. The tram line makes a broad horseshoe route around the greater New Orleans area. You’ll probably only take it a few stops if you’re staying in town but at just $1.25 a ride, it’s absolutely worth using. Rideshares are widely available in the city, but we generally walked or took the tram.

Most importantly, NOLA is an extremely walkable city. If you’re sticking to the main downtown area and French Quarter you can walk around everywhere, which is also the best way to take in the historic sights and sounds of the city.

Where To Stay in New Orleans Travel Tips

news orleans travel tips where to stay

One of the most important New Orleans travel tips is learning where to stay during a visit to New Orleans. Staying downtown is a great option, but we’ve also been comfortable staying outside the core and along the tram line like in the Lower Garden District. Historic bed & breakfasts’ in classic southern estates line the streets and are a great option over Airbnb or hotels in New Orleans.

A lot of the charm of the city comes from the historic buildings, and staying in one really adds to the experience. The comforts of a downtown Hilton are great but we always opt for the more classic accommodations here.

Many of the downtown hotels have rich histories and ghost stories to go with it. From one recent visit; a stay in the Bourbon Street Hotel, one of the most haunted hotels in America, leaves me still wondering if my bathroom door actually opened by itself in the middle of the night or whether I imagined it.

No matter where you stay you’ll have easy access to a wonderful city that has its own unique identity and isn’t afraid to share it. Here are our recommendations for the top things to do in New Orleans.

Recommended New Orleans Hotels

Top Things To Do in New Orleans Travel Tips

Visit The National World War II Museum

Perfect for a rainy day (and there likely will be rainy days, I have yet to visit the city and not have it rain) the National WW2 Museum is extensive and incredibly well done. It follows the history of American soldiers in the Second World War broken up by significant events or periods. We thought it was one of the best military history museums we’ve ever experienced.

Most of the exhibits are not what we would consider interactive, though they are incredibly informative and feature great visuals, models, & artifacts. The coolest part is a massive exhibition hall filled with WW2 era vehicles including bombers and fighters hanging from the ceiling that you can learn about. We spent over 4 hours and barely got through everything.

<<<For Tips on Getting the Most Out of a Museum CLICK HERE

Go On A Ghost Walk of New Orleans

If you don’t stay in a haunted hotel and still want a taste of the spookier side of New Orleans, take a ghost walk. It’s incredibly touristy BUT a ton of fun and actually a great way to learn about the city.

Whether the ghost portion of the ghost stories is true or not, they’re all based on historical events and real people, so you inevitably get to learn some pretty interesting (although also unsettling) events from New Orleans history.

Ghost walks are advertised everywhere and each company offers multiple tours. The stories are tied to locations you’ll visit, so don’t bother taking two in the same part of the city, the stories will be the same even with different companies.

new orleans travel tips cemetary

Explore New Orleans On Foot

This is one of the best ways to get to know a new city, especially on your first day! New Orleans has many different walking tours available through different parts of the city and focused on different topics. All the tour guides are licensed and like all free walking tours, you pay them what you think its worth with tips.

A tour of the French Quarter while visiting New Orleans is a must do, and a fabulous place to start. Other areas include neighborhoods like the Garden District or St Louis Cemetery, and of course there are many food tours available as well.

Book a Segway Tour

Over many years of travel, we’ve faithfully avoided the overly touristy segway tour – until our first time in New Orleans. I’m not sure what it was about the city but we felt like this was the time to finally take a segway tour, and we loved it. The narrow, often cobblestoned streets make it probably one of the more difficult places to learn to use a segway, but we got the hang of it eventually. And fortunately the narrow roads also mean slow traffic so we never felt unsafe.

It was a great alternative to a free walking tour which we typically do in new cities. Our guide was informative, and being on segways allowed us to cover more neighborhoods in the city and take in more sites. A walking tour would still be a great option to learn about the city’s unique and fascinating history but if you’re on the fence about trying a segway tour, give it a shot in the crescent city.

And yes, they’ll take a mid-tour break to let you go as fast as possible in an empty parking lot.

Hitch a Ride on a Mississippi Rover Boat

new orleans travel tips river boat

Float down the Mississippi on classically designed paddle boats. Most tours are around two hours and include a guide to share the history of the region.

Some longer tours include jazz bands and lunch. Whatever you choose, it will feel great to get out on the river and see the city from the water. Experiencing the Mississippi River is one of our most important New Orleans travel tips. You can’t understand NOLA unless you understand the mighty Mississippi.

Browse availability and rates of these great activities and others on GetYourGuide.

Instant ticketing confirmation, cancel up to 24 hours before your activity and get your tickets sent right to your mobile device!

Things To Do in New Orleans at Night

New Orleans has long ago established itself as a party city. Mardi Gras brings in thousands of tourists and is certainly a once in a lifetime experience worth having but if you’re there any other time of the year, you’re still in for a great time.

Enjoy our New Orleans travel tips for where to and what to do when the sun goes down over The Big Easy.

Bars and The New Orleans Nightlife

New Orleans has long ago established itself as a party city. Mardi Gras brings in thousands of tourists and is certainly a once in a lifetime experience worth having but if you’re there any other time of the year, you’re still in for a great time.

Where To Grab a Drink in New Orleans

new orleans nightlife

Bourbon Street
The central party street, famous for the pictures of packed streets during Mardi Gras, is bustling basically every night of the year. The energy is incredible, and even if you feel out of place, a walk down Bourbon street is worth checking out. We recommend grabbing a beer, going for a walk, and popping into whatever bar or restaurant suits you. Every variety of live music is available so you’re bound to find something you love.

Carousel Bar
Located in the Hotel Monteleone lobby, the carousel bar is a slowly revolving, circular bar that serves up some unreal cocktails. Listed as one of the best bars in the US, it’s the perfect stop for a pre-dinner cocktail. It’s very popular and one of the most unique places to drink in New Orleans, so visit during off-peak hours for the best experience

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
One of the oldest surviving structures in New Orleans, a drink at this historic bar is a must!
Jean Lafitte was a legendary privateer pseudo-pirate who lived in New Orleans during the 1800s. He owned the building with his brother, Pierre the blacksmith. The nature of the businesses run out of the building under the guise of a smithy remain a mystery and part of New Orleans folk lore. It’s also one of the most haunted buildings in the French Quarter, so you may get more than a cold drink at Lafitte’s.

Where To Enjoy Live Music in New Orleans

Jazz Clubs
One of the things New Orleans city is famous for is jazz. Even if it’s just a short stop while you’re wandering around, check out one of the jazz clubs or bars littered throughout the city. We also loved the dueling piano bars but there’s a ton of places to stop in for a drink and live music. One of the most historic is Preservation Hall, they plat 45 minute sets through the night and you have to buy tickets to see one set at a time.

Frenchmen Street
Located a bit outside of the core and favored more by local New Orleanians, Frenchman street is a great alternative to the craziness that often takes over Bourbon street. Amazing live music and restaurants fill this area. It’s the kind of area you can go to with no plan and have an unforgettable night.

Day Trips From New Orleans

One of the best New Orleans travel tips we can offer is to get out of New Orleans.

There is an abundance of parks, conservation areas, and wildlife reserves in and around New Orleans. The proximity to the ocean and the Mississippi river provide an incredible ecosystem. We love the Jean Lafitte National Park, a little over 30 minutes from the city core.

At a minimum you can walk the trails and spot some wildlife (alligators included). There are multiple visitor and cultural centers, and Chalmette Battlefield where you can learn about the 1815 Battle of New Orleans.

Boat tours led by park rangers or private operators allow you to take in even more! Tours are typically a little under two hours and the perfect way to experience the famous Louisiana bayou. Honey Island Swamp is a popular alternative for swamp tours by boat.

What To Eat in New Orleans

Unique, exciting, & delicious just begins to describe the incredible New Orleans cuisine. Cajun and creole flavors blend with fresh seafood and so many unique dishes it’s hard to know where to start! Here’s a list of your must try meals in NOLA.

Gumbo: Known as the official state cuisine for a reason; warm, delicious seafood soup that you can find on menus across the city.

Alligator: Most commonly you’ll find it as fried & bite sized. Consistently great and makes an ideal appetizer to split with the table.

Beignets: Deep fried pastries with powdered sugar, often served with hot chocolate. Cafe du Monde is the most famous location serving them round the clock.

Jambalaya: Another dish synonymous with the region, this blend of meat, veggies, and rice is slightly different depending on whether it’s Cajun or creole style. Guess you’ll have to try them both!

Po-Boys: Your go-to grab and go lunch; meat or fried seafood in a crispy French bread.

Now You Have The Top New Orleans Travel Tips

Whether you go for the party, the history, the food, or the music, you’ll be drawn in by the soul of the entire city. New Orleans is a must visit for every traveler and a destination that isn’t afraid to share its distinct identity.

Author's Bio

jason-flashpackerco-guest-post-author

Jason Kraemer is the co-founder of Flashpacker Co, a lifestyle brand aimed at helping the growing number of global flashpackers get the most out of their adventures – experiencing more by sacrificing less. Follow Flashpacker on Instagram @FlashpackerCo and their website; flashpackerco.com

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This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Michelle Segrest

    I’m a southern girl from Sweet Home Alabama and I absolutely adore the rich culture and history of New Orleans. I’ve outgrown the party stuff and the big crowds, so thanks for adding treasures like the ghost town tours and World War II Museum which I have visited many times! I know New Orleans very well, and your article actually described some great things about this fabulous southern city that I didn’t know, so thank you very much for that!

    1. Derek Hartman

      So happy you liked it, and that you fell the same way about New Orleans. It’s a treasure, such a cool blend of cultures over history. I’ve gone to NOLA in my early 20s, late 20s and then twice in my 30s and each time was different because the partying just isn’t as important – but that’s when you notice the other amazing things in the city.

  2. Jay Artale

    I love the idea of jumping on a Segway and exploring the city, but so many destinations only offer group guided tours and I much prefer independent travel, so I usually end up exploring on foot. But I think that’s one of the best ways to get to know a city. That way you can stop when you want, and if something catches your attention you have the flexibility to indulge your curiosity. It certainly looks like New Orleans has a lot to offer in that department!

    1. Derek Hartman

      The city definitely has a lot to offer and that will catch your eye. I was always anti-segway but tried one in Alicante, Spain and was converted. They’re great in cities with any elevation.

  3. Cecilie

    New Orleans sounds like a must visit! You sold me on the food.
    Maybe some day, when I finally save up enough money for the great US roadtrip.

    1. Derek Hartman

      You definitely have to check it out, especially if you drive coast to coast and do a southern route! 🙂

  4. Agnes

    I love New Orleans, one of my favorite cities in the U.S. I love the cuisine, especially gumbo, architecture, and above all, jazz on the streets. We spent the last Christmas in New Orleans. And earlier, we were also during Mardi Gras, which is a fantastic event.
    It is an exciting and detailed guide.

    1. Derek Hartman

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and hopefully it brought back some good memories. New Orleans is one city I can go back to over and over again – hopefully soon 🙂

  5. Kelly

    New Orleans is definitely on my bucketlist, but not for Mardi Gra. Too many tourists for me lol. I have always wanted to do a ghost tour, so New Orleans would be the perfect spot to do one especially with all of its history. I am always up for fun and adventure as well, so I would definitely do a segway tour, which I do whenever I possibly can.

    1. Derek Hartman

      I’ve never gone for Mardi Gras and I’ve always had more than enough entertainment! I haven’t been there for it yet, but I’ve been told that Jazz Festival is a great time to go for an event that’s less raucous.

  6. Bolupe

    Louisiana is on my list of must-see places when I visit US. I am interested in its history and diversity and I am intrigued by the ghost walks, the boat tour and the food looks tasty as well. Are there family-friendly things to do?

    1. Derek Hartman

      You should definitely make it there, there’s really something for everyone and a lot of family-friendly attractions, museums and history to explore outside of the bars and music.

  7. In these days of lockdown, all we could do is armchair travel and your blog, I must say, has all the precious details of New Orleans. Thanks a lot for the virtual trip through your words and photos. 🙂

    1. Derek Hartman

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Eventually we’ll be able to travel again and hopefully you can make it to New Orleans in real life too 🙂

  8. Courtney Vondran

    You had me at ghost walk. I’ve actually only been to New Orleans on a long layover and had the time of my life on Bourbon street. It’s so alive! I love the history and uniqueness of the city – I can’t wait to go back for a real stay. Thank you for your detailed article, I loved it!!

    1. Derek Hartman

      I love a ghost walk, and try to do them in every city but my partner hates them. He actually loved the one in NOLA though, so there’s just something about the history, culture and urban folklore in New Orleans that makes the ghost stories so good!

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