24 Hours in New Orleans
Last weekend, my brother, dad, and I drove down to New Orleans from South Carolina, the main reason for our visit being to watch the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day. I was super excited, though, to get to experience the city while we were down there!! It's been on my list for a while, and for many reasons - the food, the art, the history. We only had about a day and a half, really, to see everything, but I enjoyed every second.
If you've only got one day in the Big Easy, here's some tips and itinerary suggestions that you may find useful!
This post was originally published by Anna en Route on January 9, 2018.
Get to Cafe du Monde early
Yes, you have to go to Cafe du Monde. It may seem overrated or cliché, but you just have to go. The most iconic cafe in the city, du Monde has been known for its beignets and coffee since 1862. The lines can get very long during the day, but you won't wait very long. There is plenty of seating, and the beignets live up to expectations - light, fluffy, and very sweet!!
After you devour some beignets, take your time in the French Quarter
Sure, there are plenty of neighborhoods and districts in NOLA, and they all offer something great, but the French Quarter is just the quintessential New Orleans experience! Take a nice stroll around. Walk inside the St. Louis Cathedral. And don't forget to get some nice pictures in Jackson Square!
Grab some lunch on Bourbon Street, but don't stay on Bourbon.
It's cool to see it, but there are plenty of better streets in the French Quarter. I personally enjoyed perusing the fancy hotels and art galleries of Royal Street. (Check out the awesome hotel lobby that we stumbled into below)
Make your way to the Garden District
St. Charles Avenue is home to some of the most stately mansions in the south. There is a streetcar line that runs along here, but we did a combination of walking and driving in order to take our time.
I would recommend parking your car near Magazine Street in the Garden District first and just wandering around the area, checking out the houses and gardens, heading towards Lafayette Cemetery. There are plenty of pretty homes not on St. Charles that are definitely worth seeing!! Check out the cemetery before heading back to the car. Then, take a drive down St. Charles and gawk at the even more impressive houses that line the road!
Take in the nightlife downtown to finish up your day
Our evening in NOLA was spent watching the Sugar Bowl at the Superdome, which was an experience all in itself! The downtown area is so lively and has so many restaurants, bars, and hotels to choose from. It's a stark contrast from the historical atmosphere of the French Quarter and Garden District but just as interesting.
Parking & Transportation
1. Book a hotel in the suburbs
We stayed at a Comfort Inn & Suites about 15 minutes outside of New Orleans in Metairie. It was much cheaper than staying within the city and, honestly, much more convenient. We had free parking in the garage connected to the hotel, and it was very quiet (even on New Year's Eve weekend).
2. Be mindful of where you park
There's plenty of parking options in New Orleans, as we quickly found out. The city has a lot of Premium Parking lots, which let you pay for a certain number of hours either at the kiosk or on your phone. These lots are great if you're looking for convenience and don't want to risk any fines, but they are also very expensive! A whole day could end up costing you $60 or more.
Street parking can be kind of stressful. No one wants to get a parking ticket, but if you read all the posted signs and all the fine print, you should be okay. If you're still unsure whether or not you're parked legally, just ask a local! We were able to park on the street for free in each district we visited.
Most importantly, use your brain! If you don't feel safe parking somewhere, don't do it. Sometimes, the parking lot rates are worth your peace of mind.
Pro-tip: If you're going on a Sunday, look for freight zones. Any other day of the week, these spots are restricted, but it's fair game on Sundays. If you get into the city early enough, you're sure to find one.
3. Take the streetcar
There are four streetcar lines that run in New Orleans, and they're a great way to see the city! The fare is only $1.25 per ride, or you can opt for a one, three, or 31-day "Jazzy Pass" that gives you unlimited rides for that amount of time. This website has a great overview of all the lines and where they can take you.
4. Break out the walking shoes
Honestly, the best way to see New Orleans is by foot. It's not as big as you might think, so once you park the car (or get off the streetcar) just get to walking. NOLA has a surprise waiting around every corner. Street performers. Quirky shops. Palm readers. You name it - New Orleans has got it.
With only a day to explore and the game on our agenda (and the fact that it was less than 30 degrees outside), there was only time to hit the highlights. I would go back in a heartbeat to see more!
What are your NOLA must-sees? I'd love to know!