New Orleans

A First Time Guide to New Orleans, Jackson Square

For anyone traveling to New Orleans for the first time, the city makes it possible to go to both Europe and the Caribbean without ever leaving the United States. This is something that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said many years ago and I couldn’t agree more.

New Orleans, Louisiana is a city filled with an expanse history, rich culture, jazz music, beautiful architecture, amazing food, charming courtyards and adventure.

Home to see in New Orleans during a first time trip to the city

During President’s Day Weekend in 2015, my friend and I did a long-weekend girls’ trip to “The Big Easy” since it had been one of my top bucket list cities for the United States.

We traveled to New Orleans in late February to escape the cold Northeastern weather and avoid the humidity the Gulf area tends to carry during the summer months. It was also a perfect time to go there as the famous Mardi Gras celebrations were coming to an end and the rise of St. Patrick’s Day parties were commencing.

A bachelorette party in New Orleans

I also revisited New Orleans in April 2019 for my friend Stacey’s bachelorette weekend. Stacey’s family is originally from the New Orleans area so we had a nice time and it was awesome visiting new and authentic restaurants and sites that her parents recommended.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans

I always love reminiscing on past trips that I loved! Get ready to discover all of the best things to do during a long weekend getaway to New Orleans for the first time!

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like.


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Everything to Enjoy during a First Time Trip to New Orleans

Traveling to New Orleans:

Shotgut houses in New Orleans

New Orleans is the perfect city to visit if you are traveling through the United States; looking for a southern escape or are celebrating a special event.

If you are traveling domestically to New Orleans, you can find decently-priced flights through Skyscanner! The airport in New Orleans is called Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. (I flew there from Newark Airport in New Jersey and it is around a three-hour flight.)

You could also do a road trip to New Orleans, but it is recommended that you rent a car so that you don’t use up miles on your own vehicle.

Looking for an RV for your next trip, reserve here!

An orange building in New Orleans

Where to Stay in New Orleans:

There are a plethora of different hotels to choose from in New Orleans. In addition, there are also a wonderful selection of Airbnb as well as Vrbo options.

If you are planning a trip to New Orleans for the first time, I highly recommend staying in the French Quarter, Business District, Warehouse District or Garden District because they are the safest and offer the best dining options and adventure.

Below are my hotel recommendations for each budget range:

Luxury Hotel: Audubon Cottages

Boutique Hotel: Maison de la Luz

Mid-Budget Hotel: Bourbon Orleans Hotel

Budget Hotel: Hotel Vinache

Best Places to Go Out:

Bourbon Street at night

The Columns Hotel (Garden District): The Columns Hotel is the perfect place to begin your night in New Orleans.

Located in an elegant Victorian house that was built in the 19th century, you could sip your favorite drinks on the outside porch that overlooks the famous St. Charles Street or enjoy your beverage inside at The Victorian Lounge.

The Spotted Cat Music Club on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans

The Spotted Cat (Faubourg Marigny): During your time in New Orleans, you HAVE to go to a jazz bar on Frenchmen Street.

Located east of the French Quarter, this three-block section of New Orleans features some of the city’s most popular live jazz music venues. You could even enjoy music on the streets (what I love most about New Orleans). The Spotted Cat is a great place to go and everyone is so friendly!

Pat O’Brien’s Bar (French Quarter): Located in the heart of the French Quarter, Pat O’Brien’s is one of New Orleans’ most popular bars. It has a heavy Irish influence and features five bars, a piano lounge and a courtyard restaurant.

A first time visit to Pat O’Brien’s Bar or New Orleans in general is not complete without trying the famous Hurricane drink. This delicious concoction features Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Rum, their secret Hurricane Mix, crushed ice and is garnished with an orange and cherry.

While we were at Pat O’Brien’s, their staff were super friendly and even offered to give us the famous Hurricane glass that we drank in to take home as a souvenir.

Le Bon Temps Roule (Garden District): Located in New Orleans’ Garden District is the famous Magazine Street that is filled with colorful homes, cute shops, great cafés and restaurants as well as fun bars.

My friend and I stopped at a neighborhood bar called Le Bon Temps Roule, where we were able to enjoy local music, delicious craft beer and the company of people’s dogs! (Yes, it is a pet-friendly bar.)

Frenchmen Street live jazz music show during a first time trip to New Orleans

Bourbon Bandstand (French Quarter): This fun Bourbon Street bar is the perfect place to go if you want to dance to 90s music as well as songs from the early 2000s. We had such a great time dancing to Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears as well as Justin Bieber at this spot.

Famous Door (French Quarter): Another great place to listen to New Orleans’ best cover bands is Famous Door located on Bourbon Street. It is here where you could listen to Top 100 music as well as alternative and rock music.

Bourbon Pub Parade (French Quarter): During my friend’s Stacey’s bachelorette weekend, we had a blast singing with talented drag queens at Bourbon Pub Parade – a fun gay bar located in the French Quarter off of Bourbon Street.

This is the perfect thing to do during a bachelorette party and also for a regular girls’ weekend. We had so much fun and enjoyed great laughs. (PS. Make sure you don’t forget those dollar bills LOL.) We danced to Cher, Donna Summers, Adele, Beyoncé, Celine Dion, Kelly Clarkson and more!

Best Places to Eat in New Orleans:

A woman on her first time trip to New Orleans

Café Amelie (French Quarter): Located on the charming Royal Street in the French Quarter is Café Amelie.

This beautiful courtyard restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy a weekend brunch. I savored a delicious breakfast Po’ boy, a traditional Louisiana sandwich that usually consists of fried seafood on a French baguette.

Café du Monde (French Quarter): If you are looking for a mid-afternoon snack, I highly recommend making your way to Café du Monde – the original French Market coffee stand since 1862.

Beignets and coffee from Cafe du Monde during a first time trip to New Orleans

This famous New Orleans café is known for its beignets, which are a French donut (similar to an Italian zeppole that you get at street fairs and carnivals); café au lait; freshly-brewed coffee and live jazz music.

You can either sit in the café and leisurely enjoy your treats or take it to go. The line to actually sit in Café du Monde is fairly long, but it goes quick!

Bacchanal Wine (Bywater District): During an evening in New Orleans, you cannot miss out on the experience that Bacchanal Wine offers.

This hidden gem is a laboratory and garden where food, music and culture collide to create one of the most magical nights you will experience when you are visiting New Orleans.

(Please note that Bacchanal Wine is further east and located in a more secluded area than the main New Orleans’ attractions, but it is totally worth the adventure there.)

When we arrived, we walked through the wine shop to the beautiful courtyard in the back. Christmas lights surrounded us and the best live jazz music was playing in the background.

When we sat down, an amazing jazz band called The Roamin’ Jasmine started to play. I have to say that they were probably one of the best jazz bands I heard during my time in Louisiana. During your first time trip to New Orleans, make sure to check out The Roamin’ Jasmine’s schedule and catch them playing. You will not be disappointed!

Not only was the wine at Bacchanal amazing, but so was the food too! I had clams in a potato leak parsley sauce with a fresh piece of French baguette on the side. It was delicious!

Remoulade (French Quarter): When you are in New Orleans, you definitely need to try some authentic Cajun and Creole food.

(Cajuns were French colonists who settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Canada and made their way down to Louisiana. Creoles were individuals born in New Orleans with French, Spanish, African and/or Caribbean ancestry.)

For lunch one day, we stopped at Remoulade on Bourbon Street. I had delicious seafood gumbo as an appetizer and then a traditional jambalaya with chicken, gulf shrimp, honey ham and Andouille sausage. On the side, I tried crawfish pie (a New Orleans staple). It was the best!

Muriel's Seance Lounge in New Orleans

Muriel’s (French Quarter): If you are looking to enjoy a fancy dinner during your first time in New Orleans, Muriel’s is the place for you!

Located in Jackson Square, embrace the history at Muriel’s and savor award-winning contemporary Creole food! (If you are looking to be even more adventurous, book your table with Muriel’s ghost. I go more into this below when I talk about the ghost tour I did in the city.)

Duck jambalaya from Muriel's in New Orleans

During my second time in New Orleans on my friend’s bachelorette weekend, I enjoyed a delicious duck jambalaya dish at Muriel’s and it was by far my favorite meal in the city!

We also visited Muriel’s Séance Lounge afterwards, which is a cool place to chill with a drink. This room is filled with haunted history as well.

Surrey’s Café and Juice Bar (Garden District): Located on Magazine Street, in the heart of the Garden District, is Surrey’s Café and Juice Bar. It is here where you could enjoy a lovely Cajun breakfast on the porch and get wonderful views of the colorful homes on Magazine Street.

Arnaud’s (French Quarter): Another wonderful restaurant to eat at during your time in New Orleans is Arnaud’s.

Fried catfish from New Orleans

Celebrating over 100 years on Bourbon Street, Arnaud’s is a beautiful restaurant offering classic Creole cuisine that will leave you dreaming for days. Besides offering great food, Arnaud’s also has Dixieland Jazz, romantic dinners and craft cocktails.

Desire Oyster Bar (French Quarter): Located right off of Bourbon Street is an oyster house with some of New Orlean’s best seafood! It was here where I enjoyed a delicious shrimp po boy after having some fun on Bourbon Street. It was amazing!

Shrimp po boys from New Orleans

Palace Café (French Quarter): Situated on the French Quarter side of Canal Street is Palace Café. This modern Creole restaurant is the perfect place to go for a lovely jazz brunch. Every Sunday, they have a live New Orleans jazz band that comes in and plays for guests.

In addition, Palace Café has a mimosa and Bloody Mary bar and they serve other amazing drinks such as the famous banana foster cocktail to enjoy with your meal.

Seafood gumbo, a meal one must have during a first time trip to New Orleans

At this gorgeous brasserie, I savored seafood gumbo with their signature blue crab cheesecake that included a pecan crust. It was all to die for!

Blue crab cheesecake from Palace Café in New Orleans

Commander’s Palace (Garden District): A notable and elegant Creole restaurant located in the beautiful Garden District is Commander’s Palace. It is a gorgeous blue building with stunning chandeliers and flowers inside.

A bachelorette party at Commander's Palace in New Orleans

We enjoyed lunch here during Stacey’s bachelorette. I savored the soup du jour, which was a crawfish tomato bisque alongside crawfish gnocchi. It sure was delicious!

Crawfish gnocchi from Commander's Palace in New Orleans

For dessert, we shared their signature Creole bread pudding soufflé, strawberry shortcake and the praline parfait. They were all amazing!

Haydel’s Bakery (Garden District): As you walk through the Garden District, don’t forget to stop at Haydel’s Bakery to enjoy a cup of coffee along with New Orlean’s King Cake!

This adorable café located on Magazine Street has outdoor seating so that you could enjoy your treats on a nice day.

Café Beignet (French Quarter): During my second time in New Orleans for my friend’s bachelorette, I made my way to Café Beignet, the local recommendation for beignets.

Beignets from Cafe Beignet - a must visit during a first time trip to New Orleans

Even though it was raining during my time here, I still savored these amazing powdery donuts and even got to listen to a live jazz band play on the patio. It was a lovely morning.

(Personally, if I had to choose between Café du Monde and Café Beignet, I would definitely choose Café Beignet. It is a little less crowded than Café du Monde and I enjoyed the atmosphere more.)

What to do During Your First Time in New Orleans:

A woman on her first time trip to New Orleans
Stroll through Jackson Square:

As you are exploring New Orleans, head over to the historic Jackson Square, which is located in the heart of the French Quarter.

A woman enjoying her first time trip to New Orleans in Jackson Square

Jackson Square faces the iconic Mississippi River and is surrounded by historic buildings, including the St. Louis Cathedral, Louisiana State Museums and the Lower and Upper Pontalba Apartments (the oldest apartment buildings in the United States).

Artwork in Jackson Square

In addition, Jackson Square has been a place where local artists tend to gravitate and create beautiful paintings, portraits and caricatures. They display their work on the square’s iron fence. What is awesome is that you can even purchase these colorful paintings to display in your own home!

Grab a Drink at a Piano Bar on Bourbon Street:

No matter what time of the day it is, the bars on Bourbon Street are always open!

A Piano Bar experience during a first time trip to New Orleans

With New Orleans’ liberal policy on open containers, you could grab a drink at a bar and stroll the streets with your cup or bottle.

As you are making your way around Bourbon Street, make sure to stop in one of the piano bars! Not only could you listen to beautiful music played by professional pianists, you could also enjoy a voodoo daiquiri.

You heard that right! Since daiquiris and voodoo are big staples in New Orleans, I wanted to make sure I got one when I was in the city. There have been many misunderstandings of the practice behind voodoo.

Most people think voodoo is bad, but it actually isn’t! Originated in Haiti by West African slaves who were forced to convert to Roman Catholicism, voodoo refers to an assortment of cultural elements: personal creeds, folk medical practices, stories and songs.

Mardi Gras mask
Visit the Mardi Gras Museum:

Right around the corner from Bourbon Street is the Germaine Cazenave Wells New Orleans Mardi Gras Museum.

It is free and you can walk through and view lavish Mardi Gras costumes. The museum also features vintage photographs, Carnival masks, jewelry and more.

A first time trip to New Orleans
Get Some Goodies at the French Market:

Spanning six blocks in the French Quarter of New Orleans is the famous French Market. Founded as a Native American trading post, it is the oldest market of its kind in the United States.

It is at the French Market where you could get fresh produce, beautiful flowers, clothing, jewelry, home décor and so much more. There are also food stands and a farmers market where you could buy delicious King Cake!

Say Hello to the Alligators:

One of the most fun and thrilling adventures during my time in New Orleans was the bayou tour where we had the chance to see alligators.

My friend and I found a great tour where they picked us up on a bus at our hotel and took us to the bayous of Eastern Louisiana/Western Mississippi.

A first time trip to New Orleans' bayous

During the month of February, Louisiana is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is the perfect time to head to the bayous.

After you arrive at the bayou, there will be an airboat waiting for you. The tour was approximately two hours and we rode all throughout the beautiful bayous that feature Spanish moss and exotic wildlife.

As we got deeper into the bayou, we started to see the alligators! They were either chilling in the water or hanging out in the brush. We were able to get close enough to take a few pictures, but not too close!

A woman on an alligator tour during her first time trip to New Orleans

There was even a point where our tour guide grabbed a baby alligator from the brush and we were able to pet it. I was obviously freaked out at first, but then realized that the babies don’t bite… yet!

Get Spooked Out by Doing a Ghost Tour:
Haunted New Orleans

During my first time in New Orleans in 2015, my friend and I signed up to do a ghost tour around the French Quarter. The tour was around two hours long and we got to see some of the most haunted places in the United States.

The first stop on the tour was the Old Ursuline Convent, which is the oldest building on the Mississippi River.

Catholicism is deeply rooted in New Orleans and it was the Ursuline Nuns who were the first women to brave the New World. They turned the Convent to a place where young girls from France would come over to become wives to men who had settled in the area.

The girls would reside in the convent before finding their husband. There have been folklore stories of these girls arriving in caskets and becoming vampires. Some of the girls have boarded the ships and did not arrive in the New World. It is unknown what happened to them.

Our next stop on the ghost tour was to the LaLaurie Mansion, otherwise known as one of the most haunted houses in America. The origin of the ghostly tale dates back to the early 1800’s when Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife Delphine moved into their Creole mansion on Royal Street in the French Quarter.

This horrifying house recounts the brutal execution of slavery by Madame LaLaurie. For close to 200 years, there have been reports of serious paranormal activity coming from the LaLaurie Mansion.

A ghost tour during a first time trip to New Orleans

After hearing the gruesome story behind the LaLaurie Mansion, we all needed a drink. Our next stop on the ghost tour was to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, the oldest and most haunted bar in the United States.

Located on the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Phillip Street, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop went through two big fires and the building is known to be the base for Jean Lafitte and brother Piere’s Barataria smuggling operation. While you are on the tour, you can grab a drink and sit down.

A woman sitting at the Ghost Table at Muriel's

We toured a few other smaller places before ending at Muriel’s restaurant in Jackson Square. Prior to Muriel’s becoming a fine-dining restaurant, this house held slaves before going up for auction.

Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan ended up purchasing the home. He later lost the house in a poker game and committed suicide on the second floor that once served as the slave quarters. This area is where Muriel’s Séance Lounge is situated today. It is said that Pierre is still with the restaurant today in spirit. The Séance Lounge is where he spends the majority of his time.

There are other spirits roaming around the restaurant, but Pierre is the restaurant’s main resident. The ghosts are harmless and you can even pay $50 to eat at the “ghost” table. Our tour guide informed us that when you eat at that table, the spirit makes sure you have the best meal of your life!

A cemetery ghost tour during a first-time trip to New Orleans

Another spooky, but fun adventure in New Orleans is participating in a haunted cemetery tour. We did this tour during Stacey’s bachelorette weekend.

The cemeteries in New Orleans play a big significance in the history of the city and it is cool to learn about them during your first time in the city.

Hauntingly in New Orleans, there are more dead people than individuals who are alive. That is because the city unfortunately has a history of slavery, conflict, hurricanes and illnesses.

Since New Orleans is built on a swamp, it is almost impossible to bury a deceased person. Because of this, all of the dead people need to be buried above ground. That is why the graves in a typical New Orleans cemetery or graveyard looks different than anywhere else.

Admire the Adorable Homes on Magazine Street:

As I have mentioned a few times throughout this blog post, Magazine Street in the Garden District is full of colorful and charming homes that you will want to admire for days!

Magazine Street in New Orleans

In addition, Magazine Street also has cute shops to buy souvenirs, adorable outfits and even Mardi Gras beads!

Get Lost or Have a Picnic in Audubon Park:

Situated at the end of the Garden District is the famous Audubon Park. It is here where you could take a stroll through beautiful Spanish moss or enjoy a glass of wine with a picnic on the lawn.

Spanish moss in the South

There is also a golf course, zoo, aquarium and botanical gardens. Across from the park is Tulane University and Loyola University of New Orleans. They are both beautiful universities that you could also take tours through.

Enjoy a Steamboat Ride Along the Mississippi River:
A steamboat experience during a first time trip to New Orleans

If you are walking on Decatur Street during your first time in New Orleans, definitely head over to the waterfront to enjoy the view of the steamboats sailing by.

If you have the time, definitely take a steamboat tour or even enjoy a jazz brunch or dinner cruise along the Mississippi!

Take the City Streetcar:
A streetcar in New Orleans

Another fun thing to do in New Orleans is take the tram (streetcar) around the city. It is a great way to see New Orleans and it is definitely the most affordable way to get around.

There are three different lines for the streetcars (St. Charles, Canal Street and the Riverfront). Each will take you through the most charming areas of New Orleans.


I hope you all enjoyed reading about my time in New Orleans and discovering the perfect things to do during your first time there.

If you have any questions about my time in New Orleans, please feel free to email me at [email protected] Other great Southern cities to visit that are similar to New Orleans are Charleston and Savannah.

Make sure to pin this post if you find it useful!

Everything to Enjoy in New Orleans, Louisiana during a first time getaway

Basic Facts of the United States:

Currency: United States Dollar, Capital: Washington D.C., LA State Capital: Baton Rouge, Time Zone: Central Standard Time

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24 Comments

  1. Cosette on February 6, 2021 at 8:27 am

    Oh, I’ve only spend a few hours in New Orleans, but it was definitely not enough seeing your guide!

    • Taylor Deer on February 6, 2021 at 8:15 pm

      You definitely have to go back and explore more. It is such a wonderful city. 🙂

  2. Megan on February 6, 2021 at 11:29 am

    I’ve never been to New Orleans, but it seems like such a fun place with so much going on!

    • Taylor Deer on February 6, 2021 at 8:18 pm

      Yes, it is so great Megan! You would love it. 🙂

  3. Krista on February 6, 2021 at 5:35 pm

    I haven’t been to New Orleans yet, but it’s one of the top cities in the states I want to visit. Saving your guide for my trip planning!

    • Taylor Deer on February 6, 2021 at 8:20 pm

      It is so much fun Krista and I know you would love it so much. 🙂

  4. Agnes on February 6, 2021 at 7:58 pm

    I haven’t been out to New Orleans since before Hurricane Katrina, which is way too long in between visits. I’m definitely loving the idea of a jazz brunch once it’s safe to do stuff like that!

    • Taylor Deer on February 6, 2021 at 8:21 pm

      Yes, New Orleans offers a lot for so many different types of travelers. 🙂

  5. Ashlee Fechino on February 6, 2021 at 8:41 pm

    What a fun trip! We just love NOLA too! The FOOOOD, history, culture… There are so many things to see, do, and taste! Loved this.

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:35 am

      It really was a lot of fun Ashlee! The culture there really is incredible. 🙂

  6. Jamie Sharpe on February 6, 2021 at 9:24 pm

    Oh this makes me miss the food of New Orleans so much. The area has been hit hard by the pandemic and I really hope some of the small shops survive. I will be back supporting them ASAP!

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:36 am

      Right?! The food really is incredible Jamie! I will be back supporting them too. Thinking of bringing my mom at some point this year since she’s never been.

  7. Rachel Hall on February 7, 2021 at 9:18 am

    I have always wanted to visit New Orleans and this article is so helpful. I had no ideas there was that many dead people in the city due to the harrowing history. I really want to go on the cemetary tour and educate myself about it!

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:37 am

      New Orleans is so much fun and yes, sadly there has been a lot of devastation in the city. The ghost tours are very educational!

  8. Carley on February 7, 2021 at 11:36 am

    Great post and lovely photos as always. Thanks for sharing! I’d love to plan a trip soon 🙂

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:38 am

      Thank you Carley! New Orleans really is a great city. 🙂

  9. Julia on February 7, 2021 at 1:30 pm

    Love the post! New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the US. It keeps me coming back time and time again because there are so many wonderful things to do there! (Not to mention of course the music and the food!)

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:38 am

      Thank you so much Julia! I’m so happy you love Nola just as much as me. 🙂

  10. Taylor on February 9, 2021 at 1:10 pm

    I definitely want to visit New Orleans, it looks like so much fun! Thanks for the guide, it’s a great resource to have!

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:39 am

      It really is such a blast Taylor! I’m so happy you found this guide useful. 🙂

  11. Catherine on February 9, 2021 at 2:24 pm

    I would totally do a haunted cemetery tour in New Orleans! I’ve still never been but can’t wait to visit. I’d definitely go on an off season or shoulder season to avoid the Mardi Gras craziness — and clearly there’s plenty to do in New Orleans any time of year!

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:40 am

      It is so much fun Catherine! I highly recommend it. Also yes, off season is the best time to visit Nola. There is always something to do. 🙂

  12. sydney on February 10, 2021 at 8:09 pm

    I loveee New Orleans! Cafe Du Monde is the best! I wish Mardi Gras was happening this year

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:41 am

      Yes, the food in Nola is incredible! 🙂

Leave a Comment





New Orleans

A First Time Guide to New Orleans, Jackson Square

For anyone traveling to New Orleans for the first time, the city makes it possible to go to both Europe and the Caribbean without ever leaving the United States. This is something that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said many years ago and I couldn’t agree more.

New Orleans, Louisiana is a city filled with an expanse history, rich culture, jazz music, beautiful architecture, amazing food, charming courtyards and adventure.

Home to see in New Orleans during a first time trip to the city

During President’s Day Weekend in 2015, my friend and I did a long-weekend girls’ trip to “The Big Easy” since it had been one of my top bucket list cities for the United States.

We traveled to New Orleans in late February to escape the cold Northeastern weather and avoid the humidity the Gulf area tends to carry during the summer months. It was also a perfect time to go there as the famous Mardi Gras celebrations were coming to an end and the rise of St. Patrick’s Day parties were commencing.

A bachelorette party in New Orleans

I also revisited New Orleans in April 2019 for my friend Stacey’s bachelorette weekend. Stacey’s family is originally from the New Orleans area so we had a nice time and it was awesome visiting new and authentic restaurants and sites that her parents recommended.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans

I always love reminiscing on past trips that I loved! Get ready to discover all of the best things to do during a long weekend getaway to New Orleans for the first time!

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like.


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Everything to Enjoy during a First Time Trip to New Orleans

Traveling to New Orleans:

Shotgut houses in New Orleans

New Orleans is the perfect city to visit if you are traveling through the United States; looking for a southern escape or are celebrating a special event.

If you are traveling domestically to New Orleans, you can find decently-priced flights through Skyscanner! The airport in New Orleans is called Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. (I flew there from Newark Airport in New Jersey and it is around a three-hour flight.)

You could also do a road trip to New Orleans, but it is recommended that you rent a car so that you don’t use up miles on your own vehicle.

Looking for an RV for your next trip, reserve here!

An orange building in New Orleans

Where to Stay in New Orleans:

There are a plethora of different hotels to choose from in New Orleans. In addition, there are also a wonderful selection of Airbnb as well as Vrbo options.

If you are planning a trip to New Orleans for the first time, I highly recommend staying in the French Quarter, Business District, Warehouse District or Garden District because they are the safest and offer the best dining options and adventure.

Below are my hotel recommendations for each budget range:

Luxury Hotel: Audubon Cottages

Boutique Hotel: Maison de la Luz

Mid-Budget Hotel: Bourbon Orleans Hotel

Budget Hotel: Hotel Vinache

Best Places to Go Out:

Bourbon Street at night

The Columns Hotel (Garden District): The Columns Hotel is the perfect place to begin your night in New Orleans.

Located in an elegant Victorian house that was built in the 19th century, you could sip your favorite drinks on the outside porch that overlooks the famous St. Charles Street or enjoy your beverage inside at The Victorian Lounge.

The Spotted Cat Music Club on Frenchmen Street in New Orleans

The Spotted Cat (Faubourg Marigny): During your time in New Orleans, you HAVE to go to a jazz bar on Frenchmen Street.

Located east of the French Quarter, this three-block section of New Orleans features some of the city’s most popular live jazz music venues. You could even enjoy music on the streets (what I love most about New Orleans). The Spotted Cat is a great place to go and everyone is so friendly!

Pat O’Brien’s Bar (French Quarter): Located in the heart of the French Quarter, Pat O’Brien’s is one of New Orleans’ most popular bars. It has a heavy Irish influence and features five bars, a piano lounge and a courtyard restaurant.

A first time visit to Pat O’Brien’s Bar or New Orleans in general is not complete without trying the famous Hurricane drink. This delicious concoction features Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Rum, their secret Hurricane Mix, crushed ice and is garnished with an orange and cherry.

While we were at Pat O’Brien’s, their staff were super friendly and even offered to give us the famous Hurricane glass that we drank in to take home as a souvenir.

Le Bon Temps Roule (Garden District): Located in New Orleans’ Garden District is the famous Magazine Street that is filled with colorful homes, cute shops, great cafés and restaurants as well as fun bars.

My friend and I stopped at a neighborhood bar called Le Bon Temps Roule, where we were able to enjoy local music, delicious craft beer and the company of people’s dogs! (Yes, it is a pet-friendly bar.)

Frenchmen Street live jazz music show during a first time trip to New Orleans

Bourbon Bandstand (French Quarter): This fun Bourbon Street bar is the perfect place to go if you want to dance to 90s music as well as songs from the early 2000s. We had such a great time dancing to Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears as well as Justin Bieber at this spot.

Famous Door (French Quarter): Another great place to listen to New Orleans’ best cover bands is Famous Door located on Bourbon Street. It is here where you could listen to Top 100 music as well as alternative and rock music.

Bourbon Pub Parade (French Quarter): During my friend’s Stacey’s bachelorette weekend, we had a blast singing with talented drag queens at Bourbon Pub Parade – a fun gay bar located in the French Quarter off of Bourbon Street.

This is the perfect thing to do during a bachelorette party and also for a regular girls’ weekend. We had so much fun and enjoyed great laughs. (PS. Make sure you don’t forget those dollar bills LOL.) We danced to Cher, Donna Summers, Adele, Beyoncé, Celine Dion, Kelly Clarkson and more!

Best Places to Eat in New Orleans:

A woman on her first time trip to New Orleans

Café Amelie (French Quarter): Located on the charming Royal Street in the French Quarter is Café Amelie.

This beautiful courtyard restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy a weekend brunch. I savored a delicious breakfast Po’ boy, a traditional Louisiana sandwich that usually consists of fried seafood on a French baguette.

Café du Monde (French Quarter): If you are looking for a mid-afternoon snack, I highly recommend making your way to Café du Monde – the original French Market coffee stand since 1862.

Beignets and coffee from Cafe du Monde during a first time trip to New Orleans

This famous New Orleans café is known for its beignets, which are a French donut (similar to an Italian zeppole that you get at street fairs and carnivals); café au lait; freshly-brewed coffee and live jazz music.

You can either sit in the café and leisurely enjoy your treats or take it to go. The line to actually sit in Café du Monde is fairly long, but it goes quick!

Bacchanal Wine (Bywater District): During an evening in New Orleans, you cannot miss out on the experience that Bacchanal Wine offers.

This hidden gem is a laboratory and garden where food, music and culture collide to create one of the most magical nights you will experience when you are visiting New Orleans.

(Please note that Bacchanal Wine is further east and located in a more secluded area than the main New Orleans’ attractions, but it is totally worth the adventure there.)

When we arrived, we walked through the wine shop to the beautiful courtyard in the back. Christmas lights surrounded us and the best live jazz music was playing in the background.

When we sat down, an amazing jazz band called The Roamin’ Jasmine started to play. I have to say that they were probably one of the best jazz bands I heard during my time in Louisiana. During your first time trip to New Orleans, make sure to check out The Roamin’ Jasmine’s schedule and catch them playing. You will not be disappointed!

Not only was the wine at Bacchanal amazing, but so was the food too! I had clams in a potato leak parsley sauce with a fresh piece of French baguette on the side. It was delicious!

Remoulade (French Quarter): When you are in New Orleans, you definitely need to try some authentic Cajun and Creole food.

(Cajuns were French colonists who settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Canada and made their way down to Louisiana. Creoles were individuals born in New Orleans with French, Spanish, African and/or Caribbean ancestry.)

For lunch one day, we stopped at Remoulade on Bourbon Street. I had delicious seafood gumbo as an appetizer and then a traditional jambalaya with chicken, gulf shrimp, honey ham and Andouille sausage. On the side, I tried crawfish pie (a New Orleans staple). It was the best!

Muriel's Seance Lounge in New Orleans

Muriel’s (French Quarter): If you are looking to enjoy a fancy dinner during your first time in New Orleans, Muriel’s is the place for you!

Located in Jackson Square, embrace the history at Muriel’s and savor award-winning contemporary Creole food! (If you are looking to be even more adventurous, book your table with Muriel’s ghost. I go more into this below when I talk about the ghost tour I did in the city.)

Duck jambalaya from Muriel's in New Orleans

During my second time in New Orleans on my friend’s bachelorette weekend, I enjoyed a delicious duck jambalaya dish at Muriel’s and it was by far my favorite meal in the city!

We also visited Muriel’s Séance Lounge afterwards, which is a cool place to chill with a drink. This room is filled with haunted history as well.

Surrey’s Café and Juice Bar (Garden District): Located on Magazine Street, in the heart of the Garden District, is Surrey’s Café and Juice Bar. It is here where you could enjoy a lovely Cajun breakfast on the porch and get wonderful views of the colorful homes on Magazine Street.

Arnaud’s (French Quarter): Another wonderful restaurant to eat at during your time in New Orleans is Arnaud’s.

Fried catfish from New Orleans

Celebrating over 100 years on Bourbon Street, Arnaud’s is a beautiful restaurant offering classic Creole cuisine that will leave you dreaming for days. Besides offering great food, Arnaud’s also has Dixieland Jazz, romantic dinners and craft cocktails.

Desire Oyster Bar (French Quarter): Located right off of Bourbon Street is an oyster house with some of New Orlean’s best seafood! It was here where I enjoyed a delicious shrimp po boy after having some fun on Bourbon Street. It was amazing!

Shrimp po boys from New Orleans

Palace Café (French Quarter): Situated on the French Quarter side of Canal Street is Palace Café. This modern Creole restaurant is the perfect place to go for a lovely jazz brunch. Every Sunday, they have a live New Orleans jazz band that comes in and plays for guests.

In addition, Palace Café has a mimosa and Bloody Mary bar and they serve other amazing drinks such as the famous banana foster cocktail to enjoy with your meal.

Seafood gumbo, a meal one must have during a first time trip to New Orleans

At this gorgeous brasserie, I savored seafood gumbo with their signature blue crab cheesecake that included a pecan crust. It was all to die for!

Blue crab cheesecake from Palace Café in New Orleans

Commander’s Palace (Garden District): A notable and elegant Creole restaurant located in the beautiful Garden District is Commander’s Palace. It is a gorgeous blue building with stunning chandeliers and flowers inside.

A bachelorette party at Commander's Palace in New Orleans

We enjoyed lunch here during Stacey’s bachelorette. I savored the soup du jour, which was a crawfish tomato bisque alongside crawfish gnocchi. It sure was delicious!

Crawfish gnocchi from Commander's Palace in New Orleans

For dessert, we shared their signature Creole bread pudding soufflé, strawberry shortcake and the praline parfait. They were all amazing!

Haydel’s Bakery (Garden District): As you walk through the Garden District, don’t forget to stop at Haydel’s Bakery to enjoy a cup of coffee along with New Orlean’s King Cake!

This adorable café located on Magazine Street has outdoor seating so that you could enjoy your treats on a nice day.

Café Beignet (French Quarter): During my second time in New Orleans for my friend’s bachelorette, I made my way to Café Beignet, the local recommendation for beignets.

Beignets from Cafe Beignet - a must visit during a first time trip to New Orleans

Even though it was raining during my time here, I still savored these amazing powdery donuts and even got to listen to a live jazz band play on the patio. It was a lovely morning.

(Personally, if I had to choose between Café du Monde and Café Beignet, I would definitely choose Café Beignet. It is a little less crowded than Café du Monde and I enjoyed the atmosphere more.)

What to do During Your First Time in New Orleans:

A woman on her first time trip to New Orleans
Stroll through Jackson Square:

As you are exploring New Orleans, head over to the historic Jackson Square, which is located in the heart of the French Quarter.

A woman enjoying her first time trip to New Orleans in Jackson Square

Jackson Square faces the iconic Mississippi River and is surrounded by historic buildings, including the St. Louis Cathedral, Louisiana State Museums and the Lower and Upper Pontalba Apartments (the oldest apartment buildings in the United States).

Artwork in Jackson Square

In addition, Jackson Square has been a place where local artists tend to gravitate and create beautiful paintings, portraits and caricatures. They display their work on the square’s iron fence. What is awesome is that you can even purchase these colorful paintings to display in your own home!

Grab a Drink at a Piano Bar on Bourbon Street:

No matter what time of the day it is, the bars on Bourbon Street are always open!

A Piano Bar experience during a first time trip to New Orleans

With New Orleans’ liberal policy on open containers, you could grab a drink at a bar and stroll the streets with your cup or bottle.

As you are making your way around Bourbon Street, make sure to stop in one of the piano bars! Not only could you listen to beautiful music played by professional pianists, you could also enjoy a voodoo daiquiri.

You heard that right! Since daiquiris and voodoo are big staples in New Orleans, I wanted to make sure I got one when I was in the city. There have been many misunderstandings of the practice behind voodoo.

Most people think voodoo is bad, but it actually isn’t! Originated in Haiti by West African slaves who were forced to convert to Roman Catholicism, voodoo refers to an assortment of cultural elements: personal creeds, folk medical practices, stories and songs.

Mardi Gras mask
Visit the Mardi Gras Museum:

Right around the corner from Bourbon Street is the Germaine Cazenave Wells New Orleans Mardi Gras Museum.

It is free and you can walk through and view lavish Mardi Gras costumes. The museum also features vintage photographs, Carnival masks, jewelry and more.

A first time trip to New Orleans
Get Some Goodies at the French Market:

Spanning six blocks in the French Quarter of New Orleans is the famous French Market. Founded as a Native American trading post, it is the oldest market of its kind in the United States.

It is at the French Market where you could get fresh produce, beautiful flowers, clothing, jewelry, home décor and so much more. There are also food stands and a farmers market where you could buy delicious King Cake!

Say Hello to the Alligators:

One of the most fun and thrilling adventures during my time in New Orleans was the bayou tour where we had the chance to see alligators.

My friend and I found a great tour where they picked us up on a bus at our hotel and took us to the bayous of Eastern Louisiana/Western Mississippi.

A first time trip to New Orleans' bayous

During the month of February, Louisiana is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is the perfect time to head to the bayous.

After you arrive at the bayou, there will be an airboat waiting for you. The tour was approximately two hours and we rode all throughout the beautiful bayous that feature Spanish moss and exotic wildlife.

As we got deeper into the bayou, we started to see the alligators! They were either chilling in the water or hanging out in the brush. We were able to get close enough to take a few pictures, but not too close!

A woman on an alligator tour during her first time trip to New Orleans

There was even a point where our tour guide grabbed a baby alligator from the brush and we were able to pet it. I was obviously freaked out at first, but then realized that the babies don’t bite… yet!

Get Spooked Out by Doing a Ghost Tour:
Haunted New Orleans

During my first time in New Orleans in 2015, my friend and I signed up to do a ghost tour around the French Quarter. The tour was around two hours long and we got to see some of the most haunted places in the United States.

The first stop on the tour was the Old Ursuline Convent, which is the oldest building on the Mississippi River.

Catholicism is deeply rooted in New Orleans and it was the Ursuline Nuns who were the first women to brave the New World. They turned the Convent to a place where young girls from France would come over to become wives to men who had settled in the area.

The girls would reside in the convent before finding their husband. There have been folklore stories of these girls arriving in caskets and becoming vampires. Some of the girls have boarded the ships and did not arrive in the New World. It is unknown what happened to them.

Our next stop on the ghost tour was to the LaLaurie Mansion, otherwise known as one of the most haunted houses in America. The origin of the ghostly tale dates back to the early 1800’s when Dr. Louis LaLaurie and his wife Delphine moved into their Creole mansion on Royal Street in the French Quarter.

This horrifying house recounts the brutal execution of slavery by Madame LaLaurie. For close to 200 years, there have been reports of serious paranormal activity coming from the LaLaurie Mansion.

A ghost tour during a first time trip to New Orleans

After hearing the gruesome story behind the LaLaurie Mansion, we all needed a drink. Our next stop on the ghost tour was to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, the oldest and most haunted bar in the United States.

Located on the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Phillip Street, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop went through two big fires and the building is known to be the base for Jean Lafitte and brother Piere’s Barataria smuggling operation. While you are on the tour, you can grab a drink and sit down.

A woman sitting at the Ghost Table at Muriel's

We toured a few other smaller places before ending at Muriel’s restaurant in Jackson Square. Prior to Muriel’s becoming a fine-dining restaurant, this house held slaves before going up for auction.

Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan ended up purchasing the home. He later lost the house in a poker game and committed suicide on the second floor that once served as the slave quarters. This area is where Muriel’s Séance Lounge is situated today. It is said that Pierre is still with the restaurant today in spirit. The Séance Lounge is where he spends the majority of his time.

There are other spirits roaming around the restaurant, but Pierre is the restaurant’s main resident. The ghosts are harmless and you can even pay $50 to eat at the “ghost” table. Our tour guide informed us that when you eat at that table, the spirit makes sure you have the best meal of your life!

A cemetery ghost tour during a first-time trip to New Orleans

Another spooky, but fun adventure in New Orleans is participating in a haunted cemetery tour. We did this tour during Stacey’s bachelorette weekend.

The cemeteries in New Orleans play a big significance in the history of the city and it is cool to learn about them during your first time in the city.

Hauntingly in New Orleans, there are more dead people than individuals who are alive. That is because the city unfortunately has a history of slavery, conflict, hurricanes and illnesses.

Since New Orleans is built on a swamp, it is almost impossible to bury a deceased person. Because of this, all of the dead people need to be buried above ground. That is why the graves in a typical New Orleans cemetery or graveyard looks different than anywhere else.

Admire the Adorable Homes on Magazine Street:

As I have mentioned a few times throughout this blog post, Magazine Street in the Garden District is full of colorful and charming homes that you will want to admire for days!

Magazine Street in New Orleans

In addition, Magazine Street also has cute shops to buy souvenirs, adorable outfits and even Mardi Gras beads!

Get Lost or Have a Picnic in Audubon Park:

Situated at the end of the Garden District is the famous Audubon Park. It is here where you could take a stroll through beautiful Spanish moss or enjoy a glass of wine with a picnic on the lawn.

Spanish moss in the South

There is also a golf course, zoo, aquarium and botanical gardens. Across from the park is Tulane University and Loyola University of New Orleans. They are both beautiful universities that you could also take tours through.

Enjoy a Steamboat Ride Along the Mississippi River:
A steamboat experience during a first time trip to New Orleans

If you are walking on Decatur Street during your first time in New Orleans, definitely head over to the waterfront to enjoy the view of the steamboats sailing by.

If you have the time, definitely take a steamboat tour or even enjoy a jazz brunch or dinner cruise along the Mississippi!

Take the City Streetcar:
A streetcar in New Orleans

Another fun thing to do in New Orleans is take the tram (streetcar) around the city. It is a great way to see New Orleans and it is definitely the most affordable way to get around.

There are three different lines for the streetcars (St. Charles, Canal Street and the Riverfront). Each will take you through the most charming areas of New Orleans.


I hope you all enjoyed reading about my time in New Orleans and discovering the perfect things to do during your first time there.

If you have any questions about my time in New Orleans, please feel free to email me at [email protected] Other great Southern cities to visit that are similar to New Orleans are Charleston and Savannah.

Make sure to pin this post if you find it useful!

Everything to Enjoy in New Orleans, Louisiana during a first time getaway

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24 Comments

  1. Cosette on February 6, 2021 at 8:27 am

    Oh, I’ve only spend a few hours in New Orleans, but it was definitely not enough seeing your guide!

    • Taylor Deer on February 6, 2021 at 8:15 pm

      You definitely have to go back and explore more. It is such a wonderful city. 🙂

  2. Megan on February 6, 2021 at 11:29 am

    I’ve never been to New Orleans, but it seems like such a fun place with so much going on!

    • Taylor Deer on February 6, 2021 at 8:18 pm

      Yes, it is so great Megan! You would love it. 🙂

  3. Krista on February 6, 2021 at 5:35 pm

    I haven’t been to New Orleans yet, but it’s one of the top cities in the states I want to visit. Saving your guide for my trip planning!

    • Taylor Deer on February 6, 2021 at 8:20 pm

      It is so much fun Krista and I know you would love it so much. 🙂

  4. Agnes on February 6, 2021 at 7:58 pm

    I haven’t been out to New Orleans since before Hurricane Katrina, which is way too long in between visits. I’m definitely loving the idea of a jazz brunch once it’s safe to do stuff like that!

    • Taylor Deer on February 6, 2021 at 8:21 pm

      Yes, New Orleans offers a lot for so many different types of travelers. 🙂

  5. Ashlee Fechino on February 6, 2021 at 8:41 pm

    What a fun trip! We just love NOLA too! The FOOOOD, history, culture… There are so many things to see, do, and taste! Loved this.

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:35 am

      It really was a lot of fun Ashlee! The culture there really is incredible. 🙂

  6. Jamie Sharpe on February 6, 2021 at 9:24 pm

    Oh this makes me miss the food of New Orleans so much. The area has been hit hard by the pandemic and I really hope some of the small shops survive. I will be back supporting them ASAP!

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:36 am

      Right?! The food really is incredible Jamie! I will be back supporting them too. Thinking of bringing my mom at some point this year since she’s never been.

  7. Rachel Hall on February 7, 2021 at 9:18 am

    I have always wanted to visit New Orleans and this article is so helpful. I had no ideas there was that many dead people in the city due to the harrowing history. I really want to go on the cemetary tour and educate myself about it!

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:37 am

      New Orleans is so much fun and yes, sadly there has been a lot of devastation in the city. The ghost tours are very educational!

  8. Carley on February 7, 2021 at 11:36 am

    Great post and lovely photos as always. Thanks for sharing! I’d love to plan a trip soon 🙂

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:38 am

      Thank you Carley! New Orleans really is a great city. 🙂

  9. Julia on February 7, 2021 at 1:30 pm

    Love the post! New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the US. It keeps me coming back time and time again because there are so many wonderful things to do there! (Not to mention of course the music and the food!)

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:38 am

      Thank you so much Julia! I’m so happy you love Nola just as much as me. 🙂

  10. Taylor on February 9, 2021 at 1:10 pm

    I definitely want to visit New Orleans, it looks like so much fun! Thanks for the guide, it’s a great resource to have!

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:39 am

      It really is such a blast Taylor! I’m so happy you found this guide useful. 🙂

  11. Catherine on February 9, 2021 at 2:24 pm

    I would totally do a haunted cemetery tour in New Orleans! I’ve still never been but can’t wait to visit. I’d definitely go on an off season or shoulder season to avoid the Mardi Gras craziness — and clearly there’s plenty to do in New Orleans any time of year!

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:40 am

      It is so much fun Catherine! I highly recommend it. Also yes, off season is the best time to visit Nola. There is always something to do. 🙂

  12. sydney on February 10, 2021 at 8:09 pm

    I loveee New Orleans! Cafe Du Monde is the best! I wish Mardi Gras was happening this year

    • Taylor Deer on February 12, 2021 at 12:41 am

      Yes, the food in Nola is incredible! 🙂

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