YOU HAVE GOT TO GO ONCE IN YOUR LIFETIME! There are so many spots in New Orleans to do and see, it can be very overwhelming to know where to even begin. We only had 2 full days to make the magic happen and below is our compiled list of the TOP 10 THINGS you should have enough time to do and see in just 2 days. Hope this provides you some help in navigating your way through this wonderland.
When you're all done checking this list out, make some time to watch this show aired on Fox and posted on youtube. No matter what your beliefs are, you will be amazed and perhaps moved by all the great singing performances. Plus, you'll get to see some of the NOLA spots we've mentioned in this blog. FOX presented THE PASSION, a two-hour musical event live from New Orleans, that tells the story of the last hours of Jesus Christ’s life on earth. Hosted by actor Tyler Perry, a New Orleans native, this tv special featured a cast of today’s biggest stars (Seals, Trisha Yearwood, Chris Daughtry, etc...) performing a variety of popular music.
#1 Canal Street, Bourbon Street, Royal Street
- Canal Street marks the boundary of the city's oldest neighborhood, the French Quarter (Vieux Carré in French). It runs East and West ending at the Mississipi River and divides the line between the 18th-century city and the central business district. The street has three lanes of traffic in both directions, with a pair of streetcars tracks in the center and gorgeous palm trees planted on both sides (p.s.: I'm a sucker for palm trees and I was in heaven the moment I stepped on Canal). Those charming streetcars with a vintage appeal is the City's public transportation. Canal street is too grandiose in our opinion to be called a street. Should be renamed an avenue or boulevard.
- Bourbon Street is in the heart of the French Quarter and is known for its bars which come alive at night time. Each afternoon, blocks are closed to traffic to create a pedestrian zone that allows folks to walk freely from bars to bars and make room for street performers. We are by no means big drinkers but this street is a must-see. There were a few questionable individuals who became our source of entertainment.
- Royal Street is one of the original streets of the city and is known for its antique shops, art galleries, and hotels.
#2 Jackson Square
- Location: 700 Decatur Street in front of the St. Louis Cathedral
- About: The square is popular as a gathering place for open-air musicians and painters. It's one of New Orleans' most recognizable landmarks for its central role in the City's history.
- Our experience: We enjoyed a nice little break within the park eating some amazing beignets from Cafe du Monde (see #6). We then headed outside the iron fence to catch 2 amazing bands. If anyone recognizes them on our pictures and can share their band names with us, please do!!
#3 French Market
- Location: 1008 N. Peters Street
- About: This is a cool little flea market filled with food vendors and some unique art and craft sellers. I was just about to start taking a picture of a lady selling several colorful, perhaps ceramic skulls but before I got to click the button, she stopped me and said "Sorry no pictures!". Still unsure why I couldn't...If anyone has any idea, please share!
- Location: Adjacent to the French Quarter to its right
- About: It's one of the world's busiest rivers.
- Our experience: We sat on a bench along this riverfront and felt such a nice cool breeze. Indeed, we witnessed some pretty cool boat activities! There were cruise ships, freighters, long barges, and steamboats. All I could think of watching these amazing beasts was "How in the world do they not sink!"
#5 Listen to jazz music at the NOLA Musical Legends Park
- Location: 311 Bourbon Street
- Our experience: We had a snack and drinks while listening to some smooth local jazz musicians. Loved the atmosphere in this pretty courtyard decorated with statues of jazz legends. You can indulge on beignets (more on those below...) or other local favorites.
#6 Café du Monde
- Location: 800 Decatur Street
- Our experience: You can get 3 fresh beignets for a total of $3 including tax. They are puffy square French doughnuts covered in powdered sugar. Nothing goes better with their café au lait than these beignets!! We went there twice; first time, we did the line and picked up a set of 3 at their window as we wanted to cross the street over to Jackson Square to enjoy this yummy snack in the park. Second time was at night time; we decided to get our own set of 3 (no sharing fight) and experience sitting at a table to do some people watching. We loved the fun atmosphere the night offers! Beware: Do not talk while eating these powdery delights as this may cause some embarrassing coughing...Btw, you can buy their beignets mix (28 oz package) at their local Walgreens/CVS.
#7 St. Roch Market
- Location: 2381 St Claude Avenue (less than 5 minutes by car outside of the FQ)
- About: It's a cool food hall featuring a diverse lineup of food and beverage purveyors
- Our experience: We chose to go with Elysian Seafood. I got the gulf fish meal and he opted for the lox sandwich. I stole quite a few bites from his sandwich and lucky me he didn't mind. They were...delicieux!
#8 Riverwalk Marketplace Mall and Spanish Plaza
- Location: 500 Port of New Orleans (a few blocks behind the Harrah's Casino)
- Our experience: We think it's a lovely bright and clean mall with a lot of retail stores (way more than you think looking at it from the outside). It runs along the Mississippi River so it's pretty cool to look out the windows of the mall and see water. If you need some place to cool down and get some refreshments from a long hot day, that's your spot. By the way, this was a view from our hotel room! Oh, almost forgot to mention the Spanish plaza which is located next to the mall to its left. Its focal point is a fountain surrounded by the seals of the provinces of Spain. Very pretty to look at.
#9 St. Louis Cemetery No. 3
- Location: 3421 Esplanade Avenue (less than 15 minutes by car outside of the FQ)
- About: New Orleans is well-known for the above-ground tombs in its cemeteries. There are a number of magnificent tombs built by families with significant financial means. Since the city is built on a swamp, the deceased have to be buried above ground in elaborate stone crypts and mausoleums. Over time, the cemeteries with elaborate sculptures and other decorative artwork embellishing the tombs, have come to resemble small villages. They are known by the nickname of “Cities of the Dead.”
- Our experience: We picked this one over the other 2 cemeteries you may encounter in your search (St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1). The first one can only be toured with a guide ($20/person) and the second one was only opened until 3pm and is a little further from the FQ. Being the scared over nothing little girl that I am, I wouldn't go any further than about 1 block from the front entrance. These tombs are quite the sight but it felt a little eerie to me to walk past some of these majestic sculptures (that one above in the middle picture).
#10 City Park (less than 15 minutes by car outside of the FQ; passed the cemetery above)
- Location: 1 Palm Drive
- About: It's the 20th-most-visited urban public park in the US and is approximately 50% larger than Central Park in NY City. City Park holds the world's largest collection of mature live oak trees, some older than 600 years in age! This place is as magical and majestic as the FQ. You can hop on a little train that runs every half hour, starting at 11am (ride is 15 mins long).
- Our experience: Just splendid! I mean just look at these pictures.
Here are the places that made it on our "preparation list" which we didn't have enough time for :(. A third day would have taken care of it.
#11 Frenchmen Art Market (known for live music, arts, and food)
#12 Café Amelie (known for its 150 yr-old Princess of Monaco Courtyard)
#13 Jean Lafitte Barataria Preserve (amazing trails (Palmetto Trail), marshes (Marsh Overlook), boardwalks, bayous, swamps)
#14 Audubon Park (public park that also has a café and a zoo with admission)
#15 Plantations Tours (during the 30 yrs prior to the Civil War, more than half of America’s millionaires (sugar planters who removed juices from sugar cane) built mansions/planters between New Orleans and Natchez)
Our Hotel Stay
In case you were wondering, we stayed at the Loews New Orleans Hotel located at 300 Poydras St., New Orleans. In our opinion, it was a lovely, clean and customer service friendly hotel. We chose this spot as we preferred not staying in the heart of the French Quarter yet, with wanting to be just a few blocks away from it, this location was just right for us! See...that picture above with the Riverwalk Mall, that was our view.
Last Piece of Advice
Grab a map and a tourist brochure at one of those visitors center (we saw at least 2 of them in the FQ). This will save you time (if you study it before heading out) trying to figure out where all the streets are. As for the brochures, they are packed with coupons! :)
*Some worthy past events to know about NOLA*
- According to Wikipedia, "Given Bourbon Street's high-ground location in the French Quarter, it was mostly intact following 2005's Hurricane Katrina. A major tourist attraction, the Bourbon Street renovation was given high priority after the storm. However, New Orleans was still experiencing a decrease in visitors. In 2004, the year before Katrina, the city had 10.1 million visitors. The year after the storm, that number was 3.7 million. Efforts to draw visitors back to the city were initiated by the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation with the slogan, "Come fall In love with Louisiana all over again." One third of the city's operating budget, approximately $6 billion, came from visitors and conventions; officials saw the tourist draw as vital for post-disaster economic recovery. New Orleans has been working its way back to pre-Katrina tourist numbers as it attracted 7.9 million visitors in 2009 and 9.5 million in 2014."
- The French sold the US this NOLA territory known as the Louisiana Purchase for a fraction of what they were worth.
WELL WE HOPE THAT THIS GUIDE WILL BE HELPFUL TO YOU, SHOULD YOU CHOSE TO GO TO NOLA! Feel free to share this post with anyone who may find it helpful as well. We sure wished we could have found a list like this one before doing all the research ourselves. We can't wait to hear from you about your little fun adventure! What was your favorite spot to see, your favorite place to eat, your favorite things to do? Have you been to any of these unique places in NOLA? What do you think are the must-see places there?