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3 Days in New Orleans: A Taste of NOLA

Planning 3 days in New Orleans? Looking for things to do in The Big Easy outside of Bourbon Street. See what we did with less than 3 days in New Orleans to explore. This is our taste of NOLA.

Are you looking for a city break that’s full of culture, great food, and music? With just three days in this lively city, you can get a taste of all the best New Orleans has to offer. From visiting Jackson Square and the French Quarter to sampling some delicious local cuisine, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city.

This was our first time in New Orleans. The city has always been on our bucket list, we just never had the opportunity. Due to some last-minute change of plans, we booked a 9-day Western Caribbean cruise departing from New Orleans. Giving us the chance to get a taste of the Big Easy.

New Orleans is a city full of culture, history, and energy. We spent less than 3 days in New Orleans and got a small taste of what this city has to offer. It rained off and on, but we still managed to do a lot.

  • The French Quarter
  • Frenchman Street
  • Visit the French Market
  • Go on a Ghost Tour
  • Tour the oldest cemetery in New Orleans
  • The National WWII Museum
  • Ride the St. Charles Street Car
  • Explore the Garden District
  • Compare Beignets
  • Eat Muffaletta
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In this post, I share how we spent our 3 days in New Orleans and give you an idea of how to plan your time there.

For Covid restrictions, you can find further information here.

3 Days in New Orleans

Spend your 3 days in New Orleans in the hear of it: The French Quarter

Day 1 in New Orleans

  • Explore The French Quarter
  • Book a Ghost Tour
  • Stop by Cafe Du Monde for a snack

Explore The French Quarter

If this is your first time in New Orleans, the French Quarter is a must. It is the heart of the city! While touristy, it’s charming, full of history, and filled with amazing architecture that reminded me of Europe. Sometimes it transported me back to the lovely streets of Paris.

There are many boutiques, candy shops, cafes, and restaurants. You can spend the entire day walking the streets and taking all the details in. Don’t forget to look up!

Recognize the building on the right? The LaBranche House is one of the most photographed and filmed buildings in New Orleans. It’s a beautiful architectural icon located on Royal Street.

After we checked into our hotel, we went on the hunt for a late lunch and early dinner. On our way, we couldn’t help but window shop and gawk at all the antique stores we were surprised to find. We ended up eating at dinner The Original Pierre Maspero, more info below.

So, leave your luggage at the hotel and head on out to explore.

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Go on a Ghost Tour

We booked a Ghost Tour around the French Quarter for our first night. It’s spooky, informative and so much fun. I highly recommend doing one.

Learn about the paranormal activities, the haunted restaurants, and why Nicolas Cage has a tombstone in New Orlean’s oldest cemetery.

Try the Beignets at Café Du Monde

We opted to try Cafe Du Monde’s famous beignets and chickory coffee as a late snack. I’m glad we did because there were no lines and we were able to enjoy it without the crowds that surround it during the day.

Keep reading to see my Cafe Du Monde review below.

Delicious Spots for Beignets in New Orleans

Where to have the best beignets in New Orleans? The delicious, fluffy, and yummy beignets do not only come from Cafe du Monde. Check out our list of places for delicious beignets in Nola.

Day 2 in New Orleans

  • Book a guided tour of The French Quarter
  • Visit the French Market
  • Ride the St. Charles Street Car
  • Visit Frenchman Street

Take a Guided Tour of the French Quarter

View of Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral

On our 2nd day, on our very first morning, we booked a two-hour walking tour of the French Quarter with Free Tours by Foot. It was great to have a local to guide us and introduce us to their city.

There is a ton of history that one would miss on their own. It’s simply not the same reading it from the guidebook or just simply staring at things as you walk around.

See and learn more about Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, Bourbon St, Mardi Gras, visit the French Market, and more.

Whether you come here for Mardi Gras or not, the city is always in a festive spirit. You can find evidence of Mardi Gras beads hanging from trees, people dancing in the middle of Bourbon Street, and during the day street bands entertain us with their jazz favorites.

Mardi Gras beads hanging on tree branches in New Orleans

And, always follow the sound of the music…

Best Things to do in the French Quarter

Visiting New Orleans and staying in the French Quarter? Don’t miss these things to do in this vibrant historic neighborhood. Eat beignets, visit Jackson Square, take a ghost tour, and more.

Visit the French Market

The French Market is a must during your 3 days in New Orleans. It is a great open-air market that spans 6 blocks. You will find an array of local shops and foods. This is also a neat place to pick up some handcrafted souvenirs.

Enjoy a muffuletta at Alberto’s Wine and Cheese for lunch.

The French Market is open daily from 10 AM to 6 PM

Ride the St. Charles Street Car to the Garden District (the Green Line)

After lunch, we rode the St. Charles Street Car. It’s the green line that runs all the way to the Garden District. You can see the city for $1.25 each way. Remember, you MUST have the exact change. We rode it all the way to the end and then rode it back.

You have the option of hopping on and off in the Garden District to explore this beautiful neighborhood. We wish we had the time to see it properly.

We had a tour booked with Free Tours by Foot for day 3 and had to cancel because we were still at the War World II museum.

Visit Frenchman Street

In the evening, if you’re looking for some live music head on down to Frenchman Street. You will find a few jazz clubs with live music and restaurants. We enjoyed our night here walking and listening to live Jazz from right outside these clubs. There were lines for some to get in. So be prepared to wait or get there early.

Day 3 in New Orleans

  • Plan your day at the National World War II Musuem

The National World War II Museum

The national world world II musuem

Planning to visit the National World War II Museum during your 3 days in New Orleans? Expect to spend the majority of your day there.

Plan a good portion of your day at this museum. You’ll be able to enjoy an overload in history and emotional recounts from World War II, while browsing through the outstanding exhibits. Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a lot of walking.

I seriously thought that half a day at the World War II Museum would be enough. I was so wrong. I had the Garden District Tour with Lafayette Cemetery booked for the 2nd half of the day and I ended up canceling because we were still at the museum.

National World War II Museum | 945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Google Map It) | Website

Where to Eat In New Orleans

The Original Pierre Maspero

The staff at our hotel recommended The Original Pierre Maspero. This is where I had my first and only hurricane – I felt that the rest of the night! One was enough for me but it was delicious.

Their meat pie was amazing as well as their crab cakes. For hubby’s first shrimp po’boy, it met his expectations.

The Original Pierre Maspero | 440 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Google Map It) | Menu

The Ruby Slipper Cafe

This is a great breakfast spot with a southern-style menu. You do not go here for avocado toast (although I think that’s mostly a California thing). Order the biscuits with honey butter! That’s what you want to order. Trust me.

Obviously, I fell in love! And I wasn’t even feeling well. I was trying to eat simple that morning, but the moment I had a taste of the biscuit that came with hubby’s plate, I had to get my own.

Trust me… order the biscuit.

The Ruby Slipper Cafe | 200 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Google Map It) | Menu

Red Fish Grill

As we waited for a table at Red Fish Grill, we met a couple that used to live in New Orleans but had moved sometime after Katrina. After some conversation, a table became available and we invited them to sit with us.

They went on and on about the BBQ Oysters here, so of course, I had to try them. I do not like Oysters. I have tried them raw in the past and they are not for me. Never BBQed, and they were amazing!

If you have to have Oysters in New Orleans, definitely plan to get the BBQed Oysters at Red Fish Grill. Or you can try the Charbroiled Oysters at Felix’s.

I also tried their gumbo, which turned out to be my first time having anything with alligator meat in it. Highly recommend them.

Red Fish Grill | 115 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130 (Google Maple It) | Menu

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Alberto’s Cheese and Wine Bistro

Alberto’s is located in the French Market on N Peters St that is open daily. Our local guide was adamant that they served one of the best muffalettas. Alberto’s and Napoleon House, but we didn’t have a chance to go to Napoleon’s during this visit.

muffaletta and local new orleans beer

We had Central Grocery on the top of our list, but our guide didn’t have the best things to say about their sandwiches. We took on the challenge to make a comparison within hours on the same afternoon. And oh boy, Alberto’s without a doubt was a greater sandwich.

Not only does Alberto’s make their muffalettas fresh to order, but you also have the option to have it heated. It’s served with the cheese all melted and gooey. Place your order accordingly. The melted cheese and warm bread did make a huge difference. 

When we ordered at Central Grocery, they had the sandwiches wrapped and stacked behind them to go. Only one way to eat them, cold. I like options. Also, the filling was too salty for my taste.

I recommend Alberto’s… order a quarter, a half, or a whole muffuletta, heated or not.

Alberto’s | 1100 N Peters St, New Orleans, LA 70116 (Google Map It) | Menu

Café du Monde vs. Café Beignet

What would a trip to New Orleans be like without beignets? A waste of time! You definitely have to fit beignets into your 3 days in New Orleans itinerary.

Still stuffed from dinner, we managed to go to the famous Café du Monde on our first night. We ordered café au lait and beignets. I think I fell in love more with the coffee than the beignets.

The beignets were good, and obviously, I stuffed my face with the sugary French donuts. There wasn’t a crumb left after we were done. Truthfully, I was more wowed by the coffee. I found the beignets to be denser than expected.

Beignets covered in powered sugar from Cafe du Monde in New Orleans

On our last night, we decided to try Café Beignet, a few locals recommended we go there instead of Café du Monde. According to them, they were more authentic. I honestly do not know what an authentic beignet would taste like. Café du Monde seemed pretty legit, but I was ready to give another place a try.

Well, I have to admit, I loved the beignets at Cafe Beignet! They were airy, less dense than Café du Monde. Sadly, the coffee was just okay.

In my ideal world, I would pick up a coffee at Café du Monde and then beignets from Café Beignet. Have the best of both worlds. Ah, sounds so good right now.

I know food is subjective, so you may not agree with me, and that’s okay. What is your favorite spot for beignets in New Orleans? I’d love to try them next time.

– Don’t Miss: Amazing Places to Eat in New Orleans

Where to Stay in the French Quarter

Since this was our first time in New Orleans, we chose to stay in the French Quarter. At least within walking distance to everything in the French Quarter. We didn’t want to stay on Bourbon Street. I read it becomes loud at night and after experiencing it, it definitely is not our scene.

Marriott Courtyard New Orleans French Quarter/Iberville was our home for the first time in New Orleans. It’s a great location, not far from Bourbon St, and pretty central to everything.

The staff was wonderful and helpful. The room was spacious and the bed comfortable. My only complaint is cleanliness could have been a tad better.

Update: We did end up returning to New Orleans in 2021 and stayed at The Place d’Armes Hotel close to Jackson Square. Fantastic location. Great hotel – just make sure to ask for a renovated room!

New Orleans Tours to Book

1. Free Tours By Foot

This is the first time I ever booked with Free Tours by Foot and we had a great experience. They have tours in different cities across the US and they are almost all FREE, some may have a small surcharge upon booking. The guides work for tips. Whatever you can afford or feel the tour is worth at the end of it, please tip.

We did two tours with Free Tours by Foot:

  • New Orleans Ghost Tour
  • French Quarter Tour

Visit their site for other available tours.

Both guides did a great job. With any tour, a tour guide can make or break the experience.

2. Take a 2-hour Jazz Cruise on the Mississippi River

This is a great way to spend a nice afternoon. Cruise on an authentic steamboat on the lower Mississippi River. Take in the views. Visit the engine room. Have an optional creole lunch.

3. History Food Tour

New Orleans is one of the dining capitals of the United States. Take this afternoon food tour, consider it lunch as you will visit 6 locations and sample at least 10 different foods.

4. Hop-On & Hop-Off Bus

With limited time in a new city, a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus can be a lifesaver. You don’t have to worry about transportation, you will get information about the city and be dropped off at most points of interest. Get a pass for 1 or 2 days.

A few days is not enough to experience everything New Orleans has to offer. However, a taste is better than nothing at all. So if 3 days in New Orleans is all you have, you can absolutely experience some of the most influential parts this city has to offer as we did.

It was nice to stay in the French Quarter for our first visit. We loved our 3 days in New Orleans and can’t wait to return. There is still so much to explore and so much to eat.

What are you looking forward to the most during your 3 days in New Orleans? Is it the Beignets? The spooky ghost tour? If you have been to New Orleans before, what did you enjoy the most?

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