a day in New Orleans
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One Day in New Orleans : Itinerary + Things to do

Are you traveling to the Deep South? No trip is complete without spending at least one day in New Orleans. You may have heard about the famous Mardi Gras festival celebrations, and New Orleans (NOLA it is affectionately known) is considered one of the most famous destinations in the USA.

Are you visiting New Orleans for the first time and having a very short time in the city? But still, there are so many things you can do with just 1 day in New Orleans! While it may be a power-packed 1 day NOLA Itinerary but its so worth it! You can see most of the places and eat the best food during your 24 hrs in New Orleans.

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Practical Information to Spend One Day in New Orleans

How to get to New Orleans

If you are flying from the East Coast or the West Coast of the USA, you will fly to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY), the main airport in New Orleans. It is well connected to all the major cities of the USA.

From the airport, you can use ride-sharing like Lyft or UBER to reach downtown. You can also hop on the RTA’s 202 Airport Express, which travels from the airport terminals to Elk Place at Canal Street in Downtown New Orleans. The fare is $1.50 and the bus makes 9 daily trips to New Orleans.

If you’re driving and road-tripping, it is a 6-7 hour drive from Georgia, North Florida, or Alabama. There are so many Paid Parking lots near the French Quarter for the parking. Also, street-metered parking is free on certain holidays, so if you’re visiting New Orleans during holidays, it’s a bonus!

How to Get Around for one day in New Orleans Itinerary

One of the best ways to get around New Orleans is walking! Yes, No car no problem! You can pretty much get around NOLA without a car. You can wander the French Quarter and surrounding area by Walking. It is a great way to explore the city’s unique architecture, shops, and street performances.

For a visit to the Garden District, you can hop on a historic St Charles Streetcar, the iconic brown and green or red and yellow carts follow tracks across the city. It runs along St. Charles Avenue, Canal Street, and the Riverfront.

24 hrs in New Orleans

If you don’t want to use Public transport and want to give rest to your feet, choose the Tours! You can book this Hop-on-hop-off bus tour(highly rated on Viator) and hop off at any of the stops including Jackson Square and the French Market.

You can also check out this French Quarter & Marigny Neighborhood Carriage Ride tour to gain insight into the city’s history, culture, and must-see attractions. If you’re traveling in a group, it’s the best option.

Where to stay with 24 hours in New Orleans

If you’re visiting New Orleans for a day, the best area to stay in New Orleans is in and around the French Quarter. It is close to all the actions and attractions of the city! Also, most of the best hotels in the city are located here.

You can also opt to stay in a nice B&B in the Garden district if you want to stay away from the noisy French Quarter. Here are some of our top hotel choices in the Big Easy:

  • Luxury: Hotel Mazarin — This is a luxurious boutique hotel with a blend of old-world charm and modern amenities with beautiful original architecture and details, is located near Royal Street in the French Quarter. Rooms are spacious with views of the French Quarter and it has an onsite speakeasy-themed bar. If you love staying at historical places, this is the best place to stay in NOLA. Check availability and rates here.
  • Mid Range: Hotel Monteleone — This charming, historic hotel is located near to famous Bourbon Street. It has an onsite Criollo restaurant, the Carousel Bar, and a heated rooftop swimming pool. You’ll also get amazing river views from its suite rooms! Check availability and rates here.
  • Budget: Best Western Plus French Quarter Courtyard Hotel — Just a 10-minute walk from Bourbon Street, this hotel features French Quarter décor, spacious rooms, and an outdoor Pool. Check availability and rates here.
  • If you are traveling with family, check out this Airbnb with amazing views and is located near the French Quarter. Check availability and rates here.

Best Time to Visit New Orleans

You can visit New Orleans any time of the year if you want to attend the famous Mardi Gras festival, The weekend before Fat Tuesday is the prime time to visit New Orleans. Keep in mind this is the most expensive option!

But the most popular time to visit NOLA is during the fall (September to November) when the weather is pleasant. You can also enjoy the festivals like the New Orleans Film Festival and Voodoo Music + Arts Experience. Visiting New Orleans during Halloween is an altogether different experience.

Spring (March to May) is also a good time with mild temperatures, but it can be busy due to events like the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

If you prefer avoiding crowds and want more budget-friendly options, consider visiting during the summer (June to August) despite the hot and humid weather. Winter (December to February) is cooler, but it’s the low season, offering lower hotel rates with less crowd.

Quick One Day trip to New Orleans

New Orleans has been at the top of my US travel bucket list for the past few years. It is one of the coolest cities in the USA, you’ll not get bored whenever you visit! I finally moved to Georgia last year and decided to visit it for the first time in May 2023.

There is so much to love about New Orleans from nonstop music, bars, epic Mardi Gras celebrations, and a delicious food scene! And the best thing is you can experience all of it in this electric city in just one day!

If you’re visiting New Orleans for a day and wondering what to do in NOLA during the day if you’re short on time, I’ve got you covered with my New Orleans one-day itinerary. I also including other suggestions if you have more time in NOLA!

How to Spend 1 Day in New Orleans: Quick Overview

New Orleans is one of the biggest cities in the state of Louisiana, which boasts over 300 years of history. Of course, with 24 hours in New Orleans, you can’t experience everything but that can’t stop you from visiting New Orleans for a short time.

In this 1 day New Orleans Itinerary, you will discover the vibrant French Quarter, beautiful architecture, and cafe scenes of NOLA. You’ll taste the city’s unique Creole and Cajun cuisine. And you’ll sip cocktails on Bourbon Street or listen to jazz bands on Frenchmen Street. Looks exciting right? Then, read this One Day New Orleans Itinerary and how to maximize your time!

One Day in New Orleans: Complete 1 day NOLA Itinerary

Have a breakfast with Coffee & beignets at Cafe du Monde

Start your one day in New Orleans with a very early wake-up call! This way you can maximize your time in the city!

Start your day with breakfast at Cafe Du Monde. This historical landmark serving coffee since 1862. The original coffee shop is located in the French Quarter on Decatur Street, across from Jackson Square.

Trying a beignet was on my New Orleans bucket list and there’s no better place than Cafe du Monde. Grab an order of their famous beignets and a café au lait to start your one day New Orleans itinerary.

The café is open 24 hours daily but it’s insanely popular and I recommend being here before it opens, you’ll be among the first in the line at this breakfast spot.

Fun Fact:  Beignets are Louisiana’s state donut!

But if you are in the downtown area and you need coffee, then stop by the Breads on Oak or French Truck Coffee! Both the places are amazing and serve the best pastries in the town.

Stroll around Jackson Square

The Heart of New Orleans’s French Quarter — The Jackson River that faces the Mississippi River. The famous square dates back to 1721, and is surrounded by the Cabildo and the Presbytère, both of which now house museums. These buildings add to the cultural and historical significance of the area and you must have seen them in the photos of New Orleans!

The square is a hub for artists, musicians, and street performers. You’ll find local artists displaying their work, and musicians creating a lively atmosphere throughout the day! You’ll also come across so many street performers!

On the north of the square, you’ll see the St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest continuously active Roman Catholic cathedral in the United States and a notable landmark of New Orleans. If you’re an architecture lover like me, visit it from the inside and marvel at its Rococo-style gilded altar, stained glass windows, and magnificent religious artwork.

Shop along the Decatur Street & French market

Exit Jackson Square and walk along Decatur Street towards the north. The street is filled with so many souvenir shops, boutiques, cafés, and some of the finest restaurants in New Orleans.

Walk along the Decatur street till you reach French Market- Shops of the Colonnade. This 18th-century historic market has been a focal point of the city’s commerce and culture for centuries. Though many things have changed over time still it is one of the best places to visit in New Orleans in one day. It’s an interesting place to shop and dine.

The market consists of covered open-air stalls and shops that offer a variety of goods and it’s the best place to pick up local handicrafts, souvenirs, or a quick snack. Also, numerous food stands and eateries are serving traditional New Orleans dishes such as beignets, gumbo, po’boys, and more.

Also Read: Best Beaches to Visit in Florida 30A

Explore the French Quarter

Continue your one day in New Orleans by making your way to the most famous place in NOLA — the French Quarter. If you are visiting New Orleans for the first time, you must visit the French Quarter at least once even if you aren’t a party lover.

When people think of New Orleans, two things come to their mind: the French Quarter and Garden District. The French Quarter, also known as Vieux Carré, is the oldest and most iconic neighborhoods in New Orleans and considered as heart and soul of the city! The area dates back to the city’s founding in 1718.

NOLA One Day Itinerary
What to do in New Orleans in one day – explore Royal Street

The best way to experience the French Quarter is to simply wander. Start your exploration with the popular Royal Street, northwest of the French Market.

As you walk, you’ll come across distinct architecture known as the Creole style. It houses the finest colonial architecture with houses featuring wrought-iron balconies, colorful facades, and courtyards. It’s just beautiful everywhere you look around!

Don’t forget to sneak peek into Pirates Alley- the smallest alley in NOLA with cobblestone pavement and, historic buildings.

The area is also home to numerous art galleries and shops. If you’re looking for something more unusual, check out the curious shops selling everything from antiques to voodoo items.

If you’re interested in learning more about this historic part of town, consider booking a walking tour. Many tours also pass by or visit neighboring cemeteries that narrate NOLA’s history.

Experience the best of the city on a New Orleans French Quarter Walking Tour. This popular walking tour takes in all the highlights of NOLA’s most interesting neighborhood. Check the Rates and Availability here.

Of course, you must add Bourbon Street to your 1 day in New Orleans itinerary! This lively hot spot is famous for partying. Live music is a significant part of the French Quarter’s culture. The glittering neon lights, crazy cocktails, and enjoy the party at various bars and clubs! But I will recommend to visit here in the evening! so it would be best if you got back here in the evening…

Enjoy some local NOLA cuisine

If you are hungry by now, discover some of the food New Orleans is famous for! There are so many great places for lunch in the French Quarter! Be sure to try some of the best food New Orleans is famous for like Po’Boys, jambalaya, and gumbo.

You can enjoy lunch at the historical Napolean House – A popular joint that serves up Creole dishes and some of NOLA’s finest po’boys. They have a few vegetarian options too! So I recommend to visit during your 24 hours in New Orleans.

Wander Through the Garden District: must in NOLA One Day Itinerary

After Lunch, it’s time to head to the Garden District. The Garden District is located outside the downtown. This picturesque neighborhood is home to towering oak trees that line the streets with opulent mansions and distinctive architecture. The Garden District is the central neighborhood most worth exploring when you visit New Orleans in one day.

Hop on the St. Charles Streetcar at the corner of Canal Street, pay only $1.25, and ride one of the oldest continuously operating streetcars in the world!

New Orleans Day Trip- best things to do

There’s plenty to do and see in the Garden District! But first, grab some coffee and wander the streets of the Garden District. You’ll see the most impressive houses on the St. Charles Avenue and Prytania Street.

You can admire various architectural styles, including Greek, Italianate, and Victorian mansions with elaborate ironwork, front porches, and lush gardens. The notable landmarks in the Garden District include the Buckner Mansion, Manning House, and the historic Commander’s Palace restaurant.

Don’t be surprised if you run into a celebrity — from movie stars to authors; as they have called this neighborhood home.

one day in New Orleans
Lafayette Cemetery No.1 New Orleans

The district is also home to the famous Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, an above-ground cemetery with elaborate tombs. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is one of the city’s oldest city cemeteries and a favorite stop for New Orleans ghost tours! The cemetery has pure gothic vibes, and creeper vines, and is home to nearly 500 wall vaults. This is truly one of the spookiest things to do in New Orleans for sure!

Want to experience NOLA’s “darker” past? Explore beyond the tourist sites on the New Orleans French Quarter, Ghost, Voodoo & Vampire Tour.

After admiring the architecture of the beautiful homes, head to Magazine Street for shopping. Magazine Street is lined with boutiques, antique shops, cafés, and restaurants. 

Spend some time at the gift shops and stop at the cool cafes for refreshments. While wandering the street make sure to get the Photo with Greetings from NOLA mural (2014 magazine street).

If you feel hungry, eat at District Donuts or have Coffee at the Vintage on Magazine Street. You can also grab some happy hour cocktails at the Rum House. There is so much to do in Garden District!!

To learn more about the garden district and its history, consider booking the walking tour!

Evening: Take a Haunted Ghost and Voodoo Tour

New Orleans is renowned for its haunted buildings and history and it is the perfect place to take a haunted ghost tour!

On this tour, you’ll see famous New Orleans attractions such as the LaLaurie Mansion and the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum and how these places became some of the city’s most notoriously creepy spots. 

The tour includes a local guide who will inform you about each of the places and its history and you will also get to know more about the history of Voodoo in New Orleans, as well as some stories about vampires. Click here to check tour rates and availability

Option 2: Take River Cruise – Steamboat Natchez

Take this 2-hour riverboat cruise by day along the Mississippi. You can relax and soak in the views or enjoy the live music aboard. Take in incredible views of the city skyline and you can also add a creole-inspired dinner. Check the Rates and Availability here.

Get a Sazerac Drink at The Carousel Bar

I had seen many videos on social media about this New Orleans Carousel Bar and it has been on my NOLA bucket list ever since. The Carousel Bar is located inside the Hotel Monteleone on Royal Street in the French Quarter.

It’s exactly what it sounds like – a revolving bar built on the carousel. You’ll sit around the bar and it moves very slowly! If drinking and rotating in a circle isn’t your thing, they also have plenty of lounge seating.

1 day in New Orleans - Carousel Bar

Their cocktail menu has something for everyone but make sure to try a Sazerac- a cocktail originally from New Orleans!

Even more, If you have time, you can pay a visit to Sazerac House at the corner of Magazine Street and Canal Street. You’ll learn about the history of different types of alcohol and of course the Sazerac. The tour is free for everyone and at the end, you can try the free samples. But make sure to book the tour slot in advance.

Dinner in the French Quarter

Head back to end your one day in New Orleans! Sounds crazy right as you are about to end your day in NOLA. Enjoy the dinner with good creole food if you didn’t taste it in the lunch. For an incredible fine-dining experience, head to Brennan’s. This landmark restaurant serves classic Creole cuisine which you must try. They are famous for their banana Foster for dessert.

For vegetarian options, head to the Olde NOLA Cookery or Breads on Oak for good food.

Experience the nightlife of Bourbon Street

There is no better way to wrap up your day in New Orleans than with a stroll down Bourbon Street. If there’s one thing New Orleans is famous for, it’s nightlife. And no place in NOLA is more renowned for its Partying than Bourbon Street.

Whether you love it or hate it, Bourbon Street is a must-see while visiting New Orleans.

In the evening, Bourbon Street gets wild! Just get inside any bar or restaurant that interests you, grab a drink, or enjoy some live music. Even if you decide not to spend your evening drinking out of go-cups, it’s worth walking at night for all the vibes!

Fun Fact: In New Orleans, you’re legally allowed to consume alcohol on the street! So on Bourbon, you’ll see vendors selling drinks of all kinds in plastic cups called “go-cups” in the French Quarter. try Tropical Isle’s famous Hand Grenades drink that comes in cups shaped like, hand grenades! If you’re looking for a souvenir, check first how your beverage is being served.

If Bourbon is just a bit too much, Frenchmen’s Street is also famous with jazz clubs and live music venues.

If both of the above options aren’t for you, there is something more! You can see the spooky side of New Orleans at night with drinks! This Haunted Pub Crawl Tour includes bar-hopping which focuses on the haunted side of the city. You’ll visit allegedly haunted bars with a local licensed guide and hear ghost stories as you hop from bar to bar!! This sounds interesting, right?

More Than One Day in New Orleans??

If you have more than 1 day in New Orleans, you will find plenty of things to do to keep occupied! Whether you’re into history or more of a foodie, there’s something for you. Here are a few things I didn’t get the chance to do but would love to do on the next trip.

If you have more than 2 days in New Orleans, you can check out the following attractions.

Visit the National World War II Museum

Located on Magazine Street, this museum features a wide range of exhibits that cover various aspects of World War II, including the war in the Pacific, the European Theater, the Home Front, and more. There are artifacts, interactive displays, and multimedia presentations that provide a comprehensive look at the events and people involved in the war.

Notable exhibits include the Boeing Center, showcasing large artifacts such as aircraft and tanks. If you’re interested in World War II history, the National World War II Museum in New Orleans is a must-visit destination.

Also Read: Best Beaches to Visit in Destin, Florida

Learn about the Mardi Gras at Mardi Gras World

If you have more than one day in New Orleans, you must visit the magical Mardi Gras World. All of you know about the festival of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The festival happens in February but its preparations happen throughout the year!

At Mardi Gras World, you can see a behind-the-scenes look at the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into creating the iconic Mardi Gras floats that bring the city’s carnival celebration to life. The tour starts with a bit of history to help visitors understand how Mardi Gras was started and why it’s so important to the culture and spirit of New Orleans.

Afterward, you get to explore their 30,000 sq. ft. warehouse and get up close and personal with giant floats and costumes from past parades. This is an amazing activity for kids!

If you’re lucky, You might get the opportunity to see skilled artists and craftsmen working on to design the elaborate floats used in the annual Mardi Gras parades.

Visit the Plantation around New Orleans

One of the best things to do in New Orleans is visit the Plantations. It tells the story of Slavery. And I think if you’re going to be traveling through the South, whether it’s just New Orleans or other destinations like Savannah, Georgia, learning and respecting this history is important. 

You can visit Whitney Plantation or Oak Alley Plantation near New Orleans as a half-day trip. If you don’t have a car, there are so many tours that include transportation and a guide.

This half-day Oak Alley Plantation Tour with Transportation from New Orleans includes the tour of the plantation, transport, and lunch. This 2-hr Whitney Plantation Tour with transportation is also an excellent option.

Take a Food Walking Tour of the French Quarter

I have mentioned so many places to eat in and around the French Quarter, But the best way to learn about the NOLA Cuisine history is to take a food tour. A great way to explore the French Quarter is through your stomach! 

On this 3-hour walking tour, you’ll stop at some of the most popular restaurants in New Orleans. Learn about Louisiana cuisine while tasting its best dishes like beignets, gumbo, drink renowned cocktails, and more. Click here to check tour rates and availability.

Half-day Swamp and Bayou Tour from New Orleans

I have done a Swamp tour in Charleston, so this is something you should opt for if you haven’t done it before! These bayou tours are the perfect thing to do if you have kids and more than just one day in New Orleans!

This airboat tour through a cypress swamp gives you a chance to watch for alligators, snakes, egrets, birds, and more wildlife! Plus, you’ll be regaled by entertaining commentary from a local guide. Transportation in an air-conditioned vehicle is included and you’ll meet on the Mississippi River for this 2-hour tour. Click here to check tour rates and availability.

If you want to combine a Swamp tour with Oak Alley Plantation, this Swamp Boat Ride and Oak Alley Plantation Tour from New Orleans is an excellent option. It’s highly reviewed and includes a guide, transportation, and lunch with drinks.

Cocktail and Food History Tour

Eat and drink your way through the city on this 4-hour walking tour that’s ideal for foodies! Wander the iconic Bourbon Street, along the French Market area, and more while learning about the city’s culinary scene. You’ll stop at numerous locations that range from pre-Civil War bars to sandwich shops. This is one of the best ways to learn about history and food when you’re in New Orleans.

This is all about my guide on a one-day in New Orleans itinerary. Hope this helps. Have you been to New Orleans? What was your favorite thing to do? Let me know.

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