Planning a trip to New Orleans and looking for the perfect Weekend in New Orleans itinerary?
New Orleans is one of the most unique as well as interesting cities in the United States.
There’s something unique about the energetic atmosphere of the city that can be hardly found anywhere else in America.
New Orleans is a city where the past and present collide.
From its French roots to its vibrant music scene and also from its delicious food to its rich history, New Orleans makes the ultimate weekend getaway.
New Orleans is colorful, bold, and beautiful. You will love it!
Whether you want to enjoy the vibrant culture during Mardi Gras or party on Bourbon Street or enjoy a spring break with the kids in Crescent City, there’s something for everyone to enjoy here.
Trust us, once you visit, you’ll be hooked!
Also Read: Chicago to New Orleans Road trip
Best New Orleans Tours
New Orleans is a city steeped in history and culture, and the best way to experience it is on a walking tour.
Whether you’re exploring the French Quarter on walking tours or strolling through the Garden District, a guided walk through New Orleans is the best way to see everything this fascinating city has to offer.
Or take a Mississippi River Cruise to enjoy the sights as well as sounds of the city from the water.
How many days to spend in New Orleans?
New Orleans has several amazing attractions but then how many days should you spend in New Orleans?
We recommend spending anywhere from a weekend to 3 days to visit New Orleans.
Spend a day exploring the city’s essential tourist attractions including Jackson Square, French Quarter, cemeteries, and more.
Also, enjoy the nightlife: visit a jazz club, go bar hopping, or enjoy a romantic meal.
Then take a day to tour the Louisiana swamps from an airboat or tour a historic Antebellum plantation.
Also Read: 3 Day New Orleans Itinerary.
Planning New Orleans Family Vacation
Most visitors are surprised to know that they can plan a family trip to New Orleans.
The party reputation of New Orleans is limited to two blocks of Bourbon Street.
New Orleans has charming architecture, unique urban attractions, as well as great outdoor spaces, making it very kid-friendly.
The city has many parks, play areas, interesting museums, and also a zoo which we have included in this 3 Days in New Orleans itinerary.
The Crescent City is especially great for those interested in cultural travel, culinary experiences, nature, and wildlife.
New Orleans is always full of surprises, you never know what you will find
New Orleans has beautiful architecture, lots of atmosphere, and great open spaces
Weekend in New Orleans Itinerary Ideas
New Orleans Itinerary is perfect for everyone: families and couples, friends as well as solo travelers!
If you’re in New Orleans and plan to party on Bourbon Street in French Quarter, then you can easily customize this itinerary.
Families can use it to explore the city’s unique culture and popular attractions like museums and nature areas.
2 Days in New Orleans Itinerary
If you have only 2 Days to spend in New Orleans, then stick to the most popular attractions.
Here is an itinerary if you have a weekend in New Orleans.
Day 1: French Quarter Attractions
Devote a whole day to exploring the Crescent City’s most famous neighborhood – the French Quarter.
Spend the morning exploring the unique architecture. Admire the wrought iron balconies as well as the ornate details.
Visit the St Louis Cathedral and people watch at Jackson Square. Eat some beignets and also drink the famed Cafe Au Lait as you enjoy amazing New Orleans foods.
Stroll along the Mississippi riverwalk at Woldenberg Park at sunset or take a jazz brunch cruise.
Party or visit Bourbon Street at night or enjoy a meal of seafood in the French Quarter to end your day.
New Orleans French Quarter
The iconic French Quarter is New Orleans’s most famous attraction.
With its centuries-old architecture, abundant culture, as well as lively atmosphere, this eclectic district charms most visitors on their very first visit.
Most visitors consider the French Quarter small and spread around the primary attractions of Jackson Square, Cafe du Monde, St. Louis Cathedral, and also the vast French Market.
However, the neighborhood is vast and extends as far as the Iberville Street (where the famed Acme Oyster House is located) and Esplanade Ave (where you will find the New Orleans Jazz Museum).
The French Quarter comprises of several pretty streets which are perfect Instagram spots with their colorful flowers, seasonal decorations, overflowing ferns, as well as intricate elements.
You’ll also find an endless amounts of restaurants, bars, and shops to visit in the French Quarter.
Enjoy Breakfast in the Quarter
Early morning strolls in the French Quarter are our favorite parts of our New Orleans trip.
Around 8 am, the French Quarter is sleepy and silent.
The usual hordes of tourists, horse carriages, segway tours are nowhere to be seen.
Early risers can sit in a charming cafe and watch the streets come to life while enjoying breakfast.
Famous breakfast places in the French Quarter include The Ruby Slipper Cafe, Stanley, the famous Cafe du Monde, and the Crepe Cart located inside the French Market.
Hidden Gem: Croissant D’Or
Looking for our insider recommendation?
Begin your day with breakfast in the French Quarter at our favorite Croissant D’Or Patisserie!
This French bakery has a charming courtyard, delicious pastries and sandwiches, as well as strong coffee.
The glass windows are filled with spinach quiche, chocolate or almond croissants, smoked salmon sandwiches, tartlets, pastries, and macaroons.
They also have King Cake during Mardi Gras season.
The cafe is really a hidden gem in the French Quarter and worth a visit.
Croissant d’Or Patisserie is located at 617 Ursulines Ave New Orleans, LA and opens at 6:30 am in the morning.
Our table laden with goodies at Croissant d’Or
Stroll the beautiful streets of the French Quarter
The French Quarter is brimming with quaint architecture, lots of history and a bevy of eclectic shops from famous art galleries to voodoo stores.
Explore the French Quarter on foot and photograph the sights: wrought iron balconies, pretty planters, flickering gas-lit street lamps, and the horse-head hitching posts.
Fun fact: You can also see many literary sights in the French Quarter.
Many prominent writers have found inspiration in its charming streets including Mark Twain, John James Audubon, and Anne Rice.
The French Quarter has also been a long favorite of artists, sculptors, and creatives.
Probably the most famous thing about the French Quarter is its unique architecture.
As New Orleans oldest neighborhood, the French Quarter is famous for its unique blend of Spanish, French, and Creole styles.
Some of its defining features are the multi-story Creole townhouses, wrap around wrought-iron balconies with ornate details, and open-air walled courtyards – like the one at Croissant D’Or.
Walk to Jackson Square
Take a self-guided walking tour of the French Quarter, absorb the little details, and gradually make your way to Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral.
On the way, step inside the shops and art galleries.
Pick up a souvenir or two: you can take back home the statue of a jazz musician or a magnet of the famous trams.
The French Quarter also has many boutique stores selling pretty dresses and accessories.
The French Quarter is brimming with beautiful Creole, French, and Spanish architecture
Enjoy the vibe of Jackson Square
Historic Jackson Square in the French Quarter is one of New Orleans most famous attractions.
The square is named after Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the US.
He led American forces to a victory against the British in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.
Jackson Square is flanked by famous landmarks on all sides.
The bright red colored apartment buildings located on the side of Jackson Square are the Pontalba Apartments – the ‘oldest apartment building in the US’.
These architecturally significant structures are a National Historic Landmark.
Jackson Square is filled with artists, musicians, street performers, and buskers and is the best place to people watch in New Orleans.
Things to do in Jackson Square
Here you will find everything from painters sketching the French Quarter, jazz musicians, talented drummers, group dancers, henna tattoo artists, fortune-tellers, tarot card readers, and even palm readers.
Henna artists, fortune tellers, and tarot card readers setting up their stalls in Jackson Square
One of our favorite activities here is looking at paintings depicting life in the French Quarter on a variety of mediums including oil paintings, rhinestone paintings, printed canvases, and more.
You can see tourists spontaneously dancing to rhythm of the talented musicians while the crowd appreciates the performance.
And if lucky enough, you can also see a wedding ceremony in Jackson Square!
Beautiful French Quarter balconies with ferns and intricate ironwork
Try Some Of The Famous Gulf Oysters At Acme Oyster House
New Orleans is famous for a variety of oyster dishes including raw oysters, chargrilled/charbroiled oysters, oysters stuffed in Po boys, and Oyster Rockefeller.
When it comes to the charbroiled oysters, the two most famous spots are Drago’s and Acme Oyster House.
Other places in the French Quarter where you will get great oysters, include Bourbon House, Royal House, and Antoine’s.
We prefer Acme Oyster House for its French Quarter location, delicious taste, and also for their Oyster shooters.
This is a drink of vodka, cocktail sauce, and raw oyster made to be drowned as a shot!
Acme Oyster House is located at 724 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA
Best Things to eat in New Orleans
Don’t like oysters? You are in luck.
The city is famous for its Cajun and Creole cuisine, which is a mix of French, Spanish, African and Caribbean flavors.
There are endless options when it comes to eating in New Orleans.
From iconic dishes like gumbo and jambalaya, to unique specialties like muffulettas and po’ boys, there’s plenty of delicious food in the city.
If you are vegan or vegetarian, you can visit some of the famous Vegan Restaurants in the French Quarter.
Visit the St. Louis Cathedral
The historic Saint Louis Cathedral is the oldest Cathedral in North America.
Located along the banks of the Mississippi in Jackson Square, it is NOLA’s most recognizable and iconic structures.
The Cathedral has a storied history…
…the original church building was destroyed by the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788 and the rebuilt church was the site of a bombing in 1909!
…the Pope visited the Cathedral in 1987 and it is designated a minor Basilica.
The towering spires of the Cathedral as seen from Jackson Square have been the subject of many paintings.
New Orleans Cathedral with the Cabildo on the left, the Presbytere on the left and Jackson Square in the front
Take a peek inside the icon
You should definitely check out this impressive building and its architecture on your New Orleans visit.
Inside the Cathedral are beautiful stained glass windows depicting the life of Saint Louis, the former King of France.
The painted ceiling with its floral motifs and biblical scenes is an incredible work of art.
The elaborate ornamental altar with the King announcing his 7th Crusade mural is another striking feature.
The flags of France and Spain are nostalgic reminders of New Orleans colonial heritage.
St Louis Cathedral is located at 615 Pere Antoine Alley, New Orleans, LA
The beautiful painted ceiling of the historic St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans
Optional: Visit the Cabildo and the Presbytere
There are lots of things to do surrounding the St. Louis Cathedral.
The St Louis Cathedral is between two historic New Orleans buildings, the Cabildo on the right and the Presbytere on the left.
Built in the Spanish Colonial style of architecture, the buildings feature elliptical arches, multi-pane windows, and roof gables.
The Cabildo was originally the Spanish Colonial City Hall and now houses the New Orleans History Museum.
Here you will find over three stories of exhibits narrating the state’s history.
The Cabildo is where the historic Louisiana purchase was signed.
The Presbytere is built exactly similar to the Cabildo and once housed the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Today, the Presbytere contains exhibits devoted to Mardi Gras and Hurricane Katrina.
The two museums are great to visit for history lovers.
Eat beignets and drink Cafe Au Lait at Cafe Du Monde
Located diagonally outside Jackson Square, is Cafe du Monde.
The green and white canopy of this Crescent City institution is a social media hotspot!
Eating beignets and drinking Cafe Au Lait at Cafe du Monde is a New Orleans must.
Open 24/7, the cafe sells only beignets and coffee (and accepts only cash) – and yet the waiting lines here defy expectations!
The combination of the fluffy dough and the sweet powdered sugar that coats them, makes the beignets absolutely irresistible.
They’re a quintessential New Orleans treat and one for the bucket list!
Cafe Au Lait is the perfect accompaniment to these doughnuts.
This chicory blended coffee has an interesting history that goes back to the Civil War.
When the supply of New Orleans imports including coffee was cut off due to blockades, the locals began adding roasted and ground chicory root to the coffee.
The tradition continues and the subtle flavor of chicory is a delicious addition to the coffee.
Too hot for coffee? You can also get a iced or frozen Cafe Au Lait at Cafe du Monde.
The other popular location to try these treats is Cafe Beignet.
Cafe du Monde is located at 800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA
Cafe du Monde’s beignets with powdered sugar are one of New Orleans must eat foods
Have a birds eye view of the city
Next, admire the views from Washington Artillery Park located opposite Jackson Square.
The park has a Civil War cannon that is a favorite with kids and has great views of Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral.
This is also a great spot to watch parades, horse carriages, and the general bustle of activity.
On the way to the park, as you cross Decatur Street, you can take a picture with the Tricentennial sign placed to celebrate New Orleans 300th birthday in 2018.
Next, walk up to Woldenberg Park along the river bank.
New Orleans celebrated its tricentennial in 2018
Enjoy sunset on the Mississippi
Seeing the sunset on the Mississippi at Woldenberg Riverfront Park is our favorite way to wrap a relaxed day in the French Quarter.
You can spend hours here….
See the boats on the Mississippi and the tourists lined up to take a cruise of Steamboat Natchez.
Watch the streetcars running along the Riverfront line, see the slow-moving freight trains that close the railway crossing for half an hour, and explore the many sculptures along the riverfront path.
The park has several benches and steps to sit.
The park is also great for biking, walking, or running; you will also spot locals fishing here.
The Riverwalk connects French Quarter to the Audubon Aquarium and the shopping malls at Canal Place – so go for an evening walk if you will!
Great views of the Mississippi River from the Riverfront Park
Optional: Audubon Butterfly Garden or Aquarium of the Americas
Families love ending their day by checking out these two attractions.
The Audubon Butterfly Garden and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is located along the Riverfront Park.
Kids can enjoy seeing colorful butterflies flutter by and admire the marine life.
You will find splash pads in front of the entrance.
Kids enjoy running through the water jets and getting soaked in this play area on hot summer days.
Optional: Visit Algiers
Visitors can take the Canal Street – Algiers Point ferry from Woldenberg Park to Algiers.
The ferry drops visitors to the opposite bank of the river at the historic Algiers Neighborhood.
Jazz music originated here and the area was home to many African American Jazz artists of the 19th century.
You can stay for half an hour before taking the return ferry or take more time to explore the neighborhood and its historic buildings.
The views of New Orleans from the ferry are great and kids love the ferry ride.
You can check out the ferry schedule here.
Amazing views of New Orleans from the ferry
Try famous New Orleans foods
Spend some time checking out famous restaurants in the French Quarter and trying some classic New Orleans dishes.
From classic Creole dishes like gumbo and jambalaya, to more unique options like alligator sausage, there is something for everyone in New Orleans.
You can also take a New Orleans food tour that explores the culinary heritage of the city.
Enjoy nightlife in the French Quarter
As night begins to settle in, you have a couple of choices.
The most obvious one is to check out Nola’s famous nightlife!
French Quarter at night, especially on weekends and during festivals, is a crazy party place.
Most of the action is concentrated around Bourbon Street.
There is on trendy music, dancing and alcohol flowing through the night – the balconies of the French Quarter are full of revelers.
Sample French Quarter Cocktails
The New Orleans French Quarter is renowned for its cocktails.
Signature cocktails include Sazerac, the Hand Grenade, Ramos Gin Fizz, the Hurricane, and more!
Each drink is a carefully crafted work of art that reflects the city’s personality.
The French Quarter has an open container drinking policy and most bars will be happy to serve you a glass of your favorite drink in a plastic cup.
Visiting New Orleans with kids?
New Orleans is probably the only city where can walk with a drink in one hand and pushing the stroller with the other without fear of being judged!
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas located along the riverfront
Other Things to do in the French Quarter
French Quarter offers many other attractions for visitors.
Feel free to customize your itinerary with these attractions as per your interests.
New Orleans Voodoo Museum is located near the Bourbon Street and is a great place to learn about the unique practice.
The Museum is filled with artifacts and exhibits that explore city’s Voodoo history including the life of priestess Marie Laveau.
Royal Street in the French Quarter is home to many art galleries and often has street musicians performing at the corners.
The St. Louis Cathedral has a big statue of Jesus at the back in St. Anthony’s Garden which is illuminated at night.
The New Orleans Jazz Museum is located inside the Old US Mint Building and has many memorabilia along with sheet music and instruments.
Bourbon Street parties and celebrations during Gay Pride month
Travel Tip: French Quarter for families
Bourbon Street of French Quarter is home to bars, pubs, loud music, partying, and drinking, especially at night.
We recommend staying away from this area at night if you’re traveling with kids or don’t want to participate in the revelry.
Travel Tip: French Quarter Parking
Our favorite places to park the car is the riverside parking lot located behind Cafe Du Monde / French Market.
From here you can explore the French Quarter on foot or take a bike / segway / horse carriage tour.
Day 2: Garden District and Magazine Street
Located 3 miles away from the French Quarter, the Garden District is the city’s grand old neighborhood.
It is easily accessible via the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar that begins at Canal Street.
We recommend riding the St. Charles Streetcar to the Garden District and then exploring it on foot.
Take a stroll to admire the elegant and majestic historic mansions in the area.
Explore the many attractions of the Garden District and its surroundings including the Lafayette Cemetery No 1.
Eat Po boys at Mahony’s and explore trendy Magazine Street.
Ride the iconic streetcars
The Streetcars of New Orleans are a historic tourist attraction.
These street trolleys or trams once ran throughout the city and became famous due to Tennessee Williams play, ‘A streetcar named Desire’.
The St. Charles Avenue Streetcar connects the city’s major attractions including the Garden District to the French Quarter and is popular with tourists.
This historic line is the longest route in New Orleans.
The line also has the honor of being the oldest streetcar system in the world.
The streetcars on this line are vintage with open windows, have old style seats and brass fittings, and are on the National Register of Historic Places.
St. Charles Avenue Streetcar is vintage with original seats and open windows
Not only is the streetcar convenient – but it is also cheap way to get around New Orleans.
Kids love riding the streetcars – carry exact change for the ticket ($1.25 per ride per person) or get a pass before your trip!
Visit Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
New Orleans cemeteries are an unusual tourist attraction.
The constant hurricanes and flooding prevalent in the city and its location on swamps and marshy land necessitated the practice of above-ground cemeteries.
These above ground tombs slowly started becoming more elaborate and ornate mausoleums – and have become today’s dark tourist attraction!
The St. Louis Cemetery No 1 in the French Quarter, located less than a mile away from the St. Louis Cathedral, is by far the most popular cemetery in New Orleans.
It is home to the burial tomb of the Voodoo priestess, Marie Laveau.
Other prominent New Orleans citizens are also buried here.
However, this cemetery can be viewed by only guided tours that get full days in advance.
New Orleans above ground cemeteries are an attraction in themselves
A great alternative to the cemetery tour is Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in Garden District.
It is free to visit and a popular area attraction.
Established in 1833, the cemetery is filled with mature, shade trees and has beautiful 19th-century tombstones.
It has many tombs for children who died during the Yellow Fever Epidemic in New Orleans, a poignant reminded of life before yellow fever immunizations.
Many of the tombs here contain remains of over 20-30 family members.
The cemetery has been featured in films, TV series, as well as documentaries.
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is located at 1498 Washington Avenue New Orleans LA
Visit The Garden District Book Shop
A must for all book lovers and literary travelers!
The Garden District Book Shop is located in a historic building known as the Rink.
The building was once home to New Orleans’s large skating rink built for the 1884 World Fair held in New Orleans.
The Garden District Book Store holds many events and book signings including those for famous New Orleans author, Anne Rice.
Garden District bookstore is one of New Orleans best bookstores
The Garden District Book Store is one of the best independently owned bookstores in the South.
On a visit, you can spot many signed 1st editions as well as several regional books including great Cajun books for kids such as the ‘Three Little Cajun Pigs’ and ‘Cendrillon: A Cajun Cinderella’!
The Garden District Bookstore is located at 2727 Prytania St, New Orleans, LA
Tour The Mansions Of Garden District
The Garden District is popular for its grand historic mansions and beautifully manicured lawns and gardens.
The mansions are very well-preserved and many of them are still the homes of its first residents.
The streets of Garden District are lined with shady trees including live oaks, crape myrtles, and magnolias.
The mansions are built in various architectural styles including Gothic Revival, Italianate, Greek Revival, Creole, and Queen Anne.
There are many ornate details to be found in these houses including cornstalk fences, exquisite metalwork, large columns, gas lights on front porches, etc.
The Garden District is full of grand old mansions
Try Turtle Soup at Commander’s Palace
To end your Garden District exploration, arrive at the famous sky blue building of the Commander’s Palace Restaurant.
This restaurant is one of the most famous in the country and has excellent food.
They require a strict dress code and advance reservations.
Their weekday martini lunches and weekend jazz brunches are quite popular.
However, they are most renowned for the classic turtle soup.
The Commander’s Palace is located at 1403 Washington Avenue, New Orleans, LA
The famous teal building of Commander’s Palace
Explore Magazine Street
Another reason we have never quite eaten at Commander’s Palace in Garden District is that we love eating out on the nearby Magazine Street.
Magazine Street, located near the Garden District, is filled with eateries, cafes, restaurants, bakeries, and bars!
Visit Dat Dog for its hot dogs and Mahony’s for Po boys!
Po boy – the traditional New Orleans sandwich with lots of meat on a crusty French Bread – is delicious and must eat when in the city.
One of New Orleans famous restaurants, Shaya, known for its Israeli cuisine, is also located on Magazine Street.
Mahony’s is located at 3454 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA while Guy’s Po Boys is located at 5259 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA
Posters inside Guys Po Boys
Apart from eateries, Magazine Street is also full of fun and eclectic shops.
You can shop for jewelry, clothing, antiques, shoes, vintage jackets, masks, stationery, tattoos, porcelain, sculptures, books, and more.
This street also has an inspiring architecture with short single-story homes, colorful gingerbread houses, and brick facades.
Almost every house on Magazine Street has some sort of Mardi Gras decoration throughout the year in the forms of beads, masks or flags.
La Boulangerie is a French Bakery with delicious pastries, bread, sandwiches, and icecreams.
Try some French pastries
After finishing your Po boy and exploring Magazine Street, we recommend going to either La Boulangerie or Sucre to satisfy your sugar cravings.
La Boulangerie is a French Bakery with delicious bread and pastries.
We also love their ice creams and sorbets.
Sucre is the place to go if you are craving gelatos or macaroons and delicious sundaes.
La Boulangerie is located at 1518, 4600 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA while Sucre is located at 3025 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA
Optional: Audubon Park and Zoo
At the far end of Magazine Street, you will find the Audubon Park and Zoo.
The Audubon Zoo has many exotic animals including giraffes, zebras, cougars, and tigers.
It is also a perfect place to cool off in the summer with a separate ‘Cool Zoo’ – a large waterpark with plenty of splash pads and the long lazy river known as Gator Run.
The Cool Zoo is especially popular with kids.
The nearby Audubon Park is a great place to relax under the shady oak trees.
Entrance to the park is free and there are many things to do inside the park including play areas, biking and walking trails, and a bird rookery.
Audubon Park and Zoo is located at 6500, Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA
Flowering trees and mansions in Garden District are worth a long stroll
Listen to Jazz on Frenchmen Street
Your trip to New Orleans cannot be complete without listening to jazz music.
You can easily see the jazz musicians playing everywhere in the city: in the French Quarter, in front of Jackson Square, in Woldenberg Park, and in restaurants!
However the best way to attend an excellent jazz performance is by visiting Frenchmen Street.
Frenchmen Street is located a short walk away from the French Quarter.
It is full of all kinds of music venues including blues and soul music.
The music on Frenchmen Street is not limited to the night, many of these clubs also host jazz brunches and luncheons.
Duck inside any of the live music clubs to listen to extraordinary, soul numbing performances.
The ambiance of these clubs is legendary and you can listen to rising stars of the New Orleans music scene.
You need not even step feet inside a club; you will find street musicians and artists playing to an appreciative audience at every street corner.
Steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi
Optional: Jazz Cruise on Steamboat Natchez
If you do not want to spend time on Frenchmen Street in music clubs, you can also end this day by going on the Natchez Steamboat Dinner Jazz Cruise at sunset.
Natchez Steam Boat is an authentic steamboat that also offers jazz music and sightseeing with delicious food.
You will also find lunch and weekend brunch cruises down the Mississippi River.
Listening to the music as you slowly cruise down the great Mississippi and admire New Orleans skyline is an incredibly romantic experience.
The cruises are also kid-friendly with highly discounted prices for children under 6.
3 Days in New Orleans Itinerary
New Orleans is undoubtedly about jazz music, Cajun food, and incredible architecture.
It makes for an exciting urban escape as well as a great weekend trip.
However, it is also about the swamps and marshes of Louisiana and the incredible wildlife that lives there.
Equally worthy of your time are the Antebellum mansions and the practice of slavery that lurks beneath their foundations.
On a tour of the plantations, you will learn about this dark chapter in American history and the lives of the enslaved people.
Experience the other side of life in New Orleans by venturing beyond the city limits if you have 3 days in New Orleans.
Day 3: Day Trips from New Orleans
Hike the trails at Barataria Preserve to see Louisiana’s famous gators or see them up close on an airboat swamp tour.
History lovers should opt for the plantation tours.
Day trip to Barataria Preserve
Located just half an hour away (~20 miles) from the French Quarter, Barataria Preserve is a part of the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve.
The Preserve extends over 23,000+ acres of the Mississippi Delta and has many boardwalk trails over the swamp as well as bird blinds.
This is our favorite place to experience Louisiana’s wetlands and the native wildlife.
The preserve also has canoe trails, dirt trails and grass trails suitable for a variety of fitness levels.
Some of the animals found in the preserve include alligators, swamp rabbits, deer, armadillos, as well as variety of birds.
Also, the entry to this preserve is free making it more affordable than the swamp tours.
We recommend starting your trip at the Barataria Preserve Visitor Center.
The staff has always been helpful with maps and pointed us to trails where there have been gators and also other wildlife sightings in the past.
They will also suggest trails depending on how much time you have and your fitness level.
The exhibits at the Visitor Center do a great job of explaining the process of formation of the Mississippi River delta and details how it has been shrinking due to climate change.
Hike to see Louisiana’s wildlife
We also recommend the short boardwalk trail that starts from the Visitor Center.
We have done this trail on various occasions and seen gators, otters, egrets, turtles, lizards, frogs, as well as lots of dragonflies.
The trees in Barataria Preserve look beautiful with long trailing Spanish moss draped over them.
All the trails in the preserve make a great nature walk for kids of all ages.
If you are visiting in summer, you will need a bug spray as well as long sleeve clothes as the mosquitoes are abundant in Louisiana’s marshes.
The Barataria Preserve Visitor Center is located at 6588 Barataria Boulevard, Marrero, LA
Turtles in the preserve
Louisiana Airboat Swamp Tour
Another cool way of exploring the marshes and wetlands is by taking an airboat swamp tour.
This might be a better option for if you do not want to hike or drive a car out to the Preserve.
Many of the airboat tours have pickup and drop-off in the French Quarter and are certainly very convenient for travelers staying in French Quarter hotels.
Or you can do both, hike in Barataria Preserve and then do the close by Jean Lafitte Swamp and Airboat Tours.
We often see many other swamp tours on our way to Barataria as well – they are perfect to add to the New Orleans itinerary.
Airboat swamp tours are the best way to spot alligators
We recommend choosing an eco-friendly tour operator that preserves the wildlife habitats and marshes.
The tours usually last a couple of hours long and are perfect for even restless young kids.
Your tour guide should ideally be able to knowledgeably guide you through the marsh ecosystem as well as show you various native plants and explain more about animals that you come across.
Also do not feel alligators, as it is dangerous and unethical.
Also, holding a baby alligator is also a strict no-no as it is abusive towards the animals.
Many tour operators also offer night-time swamp tours, these are very exciting and offer an opportunity to see the wetlands from a different point of view.
New Orleans Antebellum Plantations
Louisiana, undoubtedly, has a rich antebellum plantation history.
When we think of plantations, we often think of the antebellum South and the large tracts of land used to grow cotton and other crops.
But the history of plantations is much more complex than that.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, plantation economies thrived on the backs of enslaved Africans.
Slavery played a prominent role in the development of plantations, both in terms of labor and as a source of profits.
Though slavery was abolished in 1865, the legacy of this dark chapter in American history persists today.
Why Visit the Plantations on your New Orleans Itinerary?
Through personal stories of enslaved people and historical perspective, the plantation tours explore the impact of slavery – some more in depth than the others.
We recommend everyone to visit at least one New Orleans plantation.
The plantation tours are great to understand how life on plantations worked.
But most importantly, you will learn about the overlooked aspect of plantation life – slavery.
Many of the plantations feature stories of owners and slaves that worked on the plantations.
Many of them highlight contributions by both enslaved and free African Americans including the development of the Creole customs.
River Road Plantations Road Trip
While most of the Southern states including Georgia and Virginia produced cotton, Louisiana plantations grew sugarcane.
They produced sugar which made the plantation owners wealthy.
The most famous of Louisiana Plantations are located near New Orleans on the River Road.
They make an excellent way to round off your New Orleans 3 day itinerary.
The antebellum mansions of the plantations feature unique architectural aspects and have elaborate landscaping.
They transport visitors back in time to the pre Civil war era.
Their interiors are left intact and well-preserved with antique furniture and display life in the old days.
However, the tours also offer a window into the lives of the people who lived there.
In the heart of Louisiana lies a historic plantation that tells the story of America’s complicated past.
Laura Plantation is one of the many plantations that line the Mississippi River.
It is unique in its focus on the lives of the people who lived and worked there.
It was run for over 4 generations by Creole women.
Visitors to Laura Plantation can take a step back in time and learn about the plantation’s history through guided tours, exhibits, and demonstrations.
The plantation was once home to slaves, free people of color, and white colonists, all of whom left their mark on this special place.
Today, Laura Plantation is a National Historic Landmark that offers visitors a rare glimpse into America’s complex past.
Oak Alley Plantation
Oak Alley Plantation is the most photographed plantation in the country.
It features 28 live oak trees prominently flanking the entrance of the imposing Greek Revival plantation home.
Oak Alley Plantation was once the center of life on a large sugarcane plantation. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The focus of the tour is more on the opulence and architecture than on the complex history of slavery.
For a more honest and brutal account of the impact of slavery – one that doesn’t gloss over history – visit the Whitney Plantation.
This former sugarcane plantation gives visitors a unique and harrowing look at slavery in the United States.
The Whitney Plantation tells the story of the people forced to work on the plantation –
….both the slaves and the slave owners – through guided tours, exhibits, and interactive displays.
It’s a powerful experience that leaves visitors with a better understanding of our past and our present.
It also emphasizes how much still remains to be done in the fight for racial equality.
Where to Stay in New Orleans
We recommend staying in the French Quarter of the Central business District to be close to major attractions.
Besides these, New Orleans has many other attractions.
You can visit the City Park, museums, Preservation Hall jazz performances, and Louis Armstrong Park on your trip.
It also hosts several festivals including the Jazz festival, Creole Tomato fetsival, and off course the famosu Mardi Gras parades.
Experiencing New Orleans is incomplete without a trip during Mardi Gras season; we definitely recommend it for visitors!
Whether you’re visiting for Mardi Gras or simply taking a stroll down Bourbon Street….
….New Orleans is sure to leave a lasting impression!
Did you like or New Orleans itinerary? Let us know in the comments.