Like most people, I always wanted to visit New Orleans for the Mardi Gras experience. Unfortunately, I was 7 months too late or 5 months too early. Having been my first time in New Orleans and Louisiana I was overwhelmed with the intense humidity I was not expecting. In recent years, New Orleans made headlines with the devastation caused by hurricane Katrina as one of the deadliest natural disasters in the USA. Since then, the city has been under reconstruction as you will see when you visit. Undoubtedly, Nola needs more than a 24 hour visit, but if you are pressed for time here are some things you can do in a day!
After checking into your hotel in the French Quarter or closeby, make you way to Garden District. Garden district is popular for the well-preserved historic mansions. If you are a fan of American Horror Story, Season 3: Coven was filmed in the Buckner Mansion in this very neighbourhood. Also, Lafayette cemetery is where Madison (Emma Roberts) locked Misty Day (Lily Rabe) in one of the tombs. Pretty much all the cemeteries in the city are famous for something but this one has a lot of famous people buried here, even Nicolas Cage has purchased a tomb to be buried in here. (weird, I know!)
Once you're finished at the Garden District, take the streetcar to the Fresh Quarter. A one-way ticket costs only $1.25.The French Quarter is the oldest section of New Orleans. It is the cultural and historical hub that draws millions of tourists. With street performers, jazz clubs, beautiful architecture, nightlife and more, the French Quarter cannot be missed. Make sure to take a break from the hustle and bustle and grab a Po'Boy sandwich from Johnny's Po'Boy's. Po'Boy's are popular sandwiches with French bread stuffed with seafood or different types of meat.
After eating, head to Jackson Square for lots of photo opportunities or to visit the St. Louis Cathedral built in the 1700s. If you get tired of walking take a horse and carriage ride, the coachman will share a lot about the history of the city as well. Walking around the French Quarter you will learn a lot about the history of the neighbourhood by reading the plaques on the buildings or visiting one of the many museums.
Take a Boat Ride along the Mississippi River
After checking out Jackson Square you will end up right by the Mississippi River. The Mississippi River is the second largest river in the USA and runs through 10 different states. In New Orleans it is common for tourists to spend a few hours on a steamboat ride along the river for about $34. Whilst on the boat ride you will hear a detailed narration of all the famous landmarks in the city, steamboat and the river.
Bourbon Street is the most famous street in New Orleans. This is where everyone come to drink and party. However, if you are going to party, you should probably have a hearty meal. Visit Cafe Pontalba near Jackson Square to eat some good Creole and Cajun food. The food is amazing without the expensive price tag.
Pro tip: If you are into trying new food then order the blackened alligator
After you've filled your belly, head to Bourbon Street. There are plenty of places to drink and a whole bunch of drink specials. The best thing to do is bar hop since every bar has a different atmosphere. Or you can get drinks to go. In the French Quarter you are allowed to drink on the street as long as your cup is plastic, so you can hang about outside and people watch. The drinks here are huge but prices are pretty decent. Make sure to watch your wallet!
MORNING/ EARLY AFTERNOON
Feast on Beignets
You are probably dehydrated and hung over from partying on Bourbon Street last night. Head out for breakfast to try the delicious French Beignets and get some coffee. Cafe du Monde is the most popular place to get these pastries but often has an extremely long queue, I'm talking about 50 people waiting in line and no seats inside. Cafe Beignet has about 4 locations in the French Quarter, but like Cafe du Monde the queue is also quite long. I found the location on Royal Street to be the least busiest! For under $5 you can get 3 beignets, they are a deep fried pastry covered with sugar powder and absolutely delicious.
Visit a Museum
The French Quarter has plenty of museums to keep you occupied for hours. All you have to do is walk around the street and find one that you are interested in seeing. Some popular museums include Voodoo, Jazz, Pharmacy, Mardi Gras, Death, Haunted museum, etc. There are also old historic houses that were turned into museums.
Even though Nola has an abundance of things to do and see, it's hard to choose what to do in 24 hours. Obviously if you have more time you should go beyond the French Quarter. New Orleans has a lot to offer, so make the most of your trip!
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