Inspiration Destinations USA Falling for New Orleans: Your Whirlwind Guide to a Weekend in the Big Easy

Falling for New Orleans: Your Whirlwind Guide to a Weekend in the Big Easy

October 4, 2023

From bewitching jazz clubs to vibrant markets and pillowy beignets, this three-day itinerary takes you to the beating heart of New Orleans.

Famed for its festivals, acclaimed for its cuisine and duly recognised as the birthplace of jazz… New Orleans’ cultural cup runneth over. Even with just a few days to give to this spectacular southern city, New Orleans has more to offer than most destinations could in a fortnight – delicious po’ boy in hand and the soulful strains of jazz in the air, of course.

Set yourself up for a weekend you won’t forget with our three-day New Orleans itinerary that takes you from creative Creole cooking to the city’s most beloved jazz haunts and all the charming stops between.

Friday Night

Feel the rhythm of the French Quarter

New Orleans & Company
Preservation Hall, courtesy of Zack Smith Photography.

Rolling into the Big Easy, there’s only one way to kick off the evening: dancing.

Follow the sounds of smooth saxophone and boisterous brass to Frenchmen Street, the centre of New Orleans’ legendary live music scene. Pass by charming Creole cottages and let your feet guide you into one of the city’s historic jazz clubs, from the unassuming Preservation Hall to late-night bebop joint Snug Harbor. Class it up at The Jazz Playhouse, a renowned retro lounge, then party on at the intimate Spotted Cat Music Club.

Saturday Morning

Greet the day with coffee and beignet at Café Du Monde

New Orleans is not just for the night owl. Early risers can mosey down to the French Quarter for a picturesque start to the day. Stop in at the incomparable Café Du Monde for a reviving cup of coffee and bite into a fluffy beignet – a cloud-like fried pastry made from sweet dough but just as likely derived from dreams.

While you’re in the neighbourhood, step into the colourful French Market to peruse the local crafts and plentiful oddities. Open from 10am to 6pm every day, this bustling hub has hosted local producers selling artisanal wares and offering superb dining in an ever-evolving history spanning over 200 years, welcoming locals and visitors alike.

Saturday Afternoon

Stroll the historic streets around Jackson Square

New Orleans & Company
Saint Louis Cathedral in the heart of the French Quarter.

Take the show on the road as you set off through the storied streets of the French Quarter. Founded in 1718, this famed district is bursting at the seams with cultural character, from centuries-old restaurants and notable antique shops to cemeteries and courtyard cafes. Start at the green hub of Jackson Square and take in the 18th-century Saint Louis Cathedral – the oldest of its kind in America. Stroll by the skilled street artists and talented performers, then peek into the art galleries of Royal Street on your way to Louis Armstrong Park at the edge of the Tremé. Wander the green paths to historic Congo Square, a significant site in African American history. Today, it hosts numerous musical celebrations and a drum circle on Sundays.

Of course, with a year-round calendar of festivals, you’ll want to check ahead to see if your afternoon will take you to French Quarter Fest, Satchmo Summerfest, or the kaleidoscopic Mardi Gras.

Saturday Night

Get a taste for culture and cuisine, then dance the night away

Thanks to its spicy Cajun and comforting Creole cuisine, New Orleans has rightly earned its reputation as a culinary capital. Tonight, sample the stuff of legends when you sit down to a sumptuous Creole spread at Dooky Chase, taste Cochon’s crackling Cajun pork or sink your teeth into a classic po’ boy at Parkway Bakery & Tavern. For fine dining, Emeril’s can’t be beaten, thanks to dishes like lobster paired with buttered leek and red wine gumbo. Don’t sleep on the city’s famed drinks either. Step into the luxurious Peacock Room and try the Washoku Marii, a ramen-themed take on the Bloody Mary.

Once you’ve filled up on flavour, take a turn around the open-air Palace Market to meet some of the local artisans and appreciate their skilled works. When you’re ready to pick up the tempo, you’re only steps away from Frenchmen Street’s best live music venues for another evening of bluesy tunes and carefree dancing.

Sunday Morning

Book a jazz brunch

Treat all of your senses with a jazz brunch at Arnaud's.

Sundays are for resting and a late breakfast is the order of the day – but you’ve never had a brunch quite like one in New Orleans.

Book ahead for a memorable meal at one of the city’s culinary institutions and tap your toes to the bounding double bass and soulful trumpet as you savour the city’s finest dishes. The sophisticated Arnaud’s is renowned for its Creole cuisine and turn-of-the-century decor. Favourites here include the signature shrimp cocktail entrée with remoulade sauce, and a beautifully buttery crepes Suzette.  
Over at the elegant Commander’s Palace, start with a Bloody Mary and Creole gumbo, then follow it up with a slice of Southern-style pecan pie a la mode.

Sunday Afternoon

Delve deeper into local history with a museum visit

Sazerac House unveils the story of the Sazerac cocktail, a New Orleans classic since the 1850s.

Before you bid farewell, take the opportunity to uncover New Orleans’ sprawling past. Whether you’re admiring the collection at New Orleans Museum of Art, mixing whiskey with history at the spectacular Sazerac House or studying the spirits at the Voodoo Spiritual Temple, the city’s cultural legacy is a journey you won’t want to skip. Learn about the rich timbres and sonic innovations explored in the New Orleans Jazz Museum, or lose yourself in a rainbow of towering floats at Mardi Gras World.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out Discover the Soul of the USA: 7 Unique Ways to Experience its Culture. 

About Finn
With an insatiable appetite for fine food, live music and the world's very best craft chocolate, Finn loves stumbling on the unexpected by taking the path less travelled (after meticulously planning the route, of course).

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