New Orleans is a big city with a multitude of quarters to explore. There are tons of activities to get involved in, museums to wander around. There is a plethora of restaurants and bars to give your taste buds the groove. You could quite easily get lost in the place and never leave. If you are wondering how many days in New Orleans are a must, you should think about the kind of traveler you are, as well as what interests you most about the city.
Yes, you can get lost there, but that does not mean a short trip is not possible. For people wanting a city break getaway, a long weekend of three to four days is perfectly viable. If you are a slow traveler, adventure traveler or really want to get under the skin of “the Big Easy” I would recommend four to seven days.
Let’s consider what are the essential ingredients for any visit to New Orleans? Then we will give details of some extra sites and things to do if you allow yourself longer to settle in and explore
Also, New Orleans has many things to do, even when it rains. Don’t believe me? Then read What Is There To Do in New Orleans When it Rains?
Essential New Orleans – Three Days
Day One: French Quarter, Garden District and Cocktails
You can spend the morning exploring the interesting architecture of the French Quarter on foot. There are lots of free walking tours available in the mornings or you can discover the area in your own way. While most walking tours are free you are usually expected to give a tip.
After lunch in the afternoon, you could explore the cemeteries of New Orleans. After Lafayette Cemetery have a stroll around the haughty Garden District.
The evening can be spent joining in with the lively live Jazz music scene or at a bar sampling some of New Orleans peculiar cocktails. My favorite is the creamy, oh so frothy, Ramos Gin Fizz…
Day Two: Multicultural people, Art and History Maketh a Scene
Spend a morning flitting through the independent Art Galleries of New Orleans. Most of them are clustered in the Marigny/ Bywater quarter, so you can tick off another district from your list at the same time. My favorite has to be The Art Garage with its quirky interior artisan products and true bohemian vibe.
New Orleans has a truly multicultural foundation. The city has grown up while absorbing influxes of different people and cultures: African, Creole, Cajun, French, Spanish, German, Latino and Irish. Not too far from the art galleries, you will find Louis Armstrong Park and to the North of the Park in the oldest African American district (Treme), there’s the African American Museum of Art, Culture, and History. On the same theme not far from the Museum is St Augustine Catholic Church and here lies an iron cross made from medieval shackles. The cross is the Tomb for the Unknown Slave in memory of all the people who died during this barbaric time in history. Any visitor to America or any American exploring their own country should take the time to visit this museum and the Tomb. While there you will learn about and take some time to reflect on the history of African Americans and indeed the struggles they continue to face today.
Why not do something different with your evening and go to a show at the Marigny Opera House – Church of the Arts? The restored church now hosts modern performances and occasional performances by the Margi Gras crews. Who says you can’t get a taste of the Mardi Gras even if you can’t be there for the whole thing?
No trip to the Big Easy will be complete without at least one day set aside to explore the ghostly and voodoo goings on in the city.
Begin your day with a visit to the Historic Voodoo Museum and then spend the afternoon checking out the haunted buildings in New Orleans.
There are many tours you can join that will take you around all the buildings that claim to be haunted but you can also get your own list together and visit them independently. Personally, I think this is a good day to choose a tour because hearing the stories of the ghosts and paranormal from local tour guides is what will bring the day alive, so to speak.
Dinner can be “enjoyed” while you get the feeling you might just be being watched, at the Sèance room at Muriel’s Restaurant, Jackson Square.
Take your Time – Extra Big Easy Things to Do
If you are going anywhere in the world to take your time, then surely the Big Easy is the place to do so.
If you have spent three days in the city, why not take some extra time to catch an adventure at Honey Island Swamp? The Cajun Encounters tour group use small boats for up close and personal experiences meeting the swamp residents – the crocs. They even have a tour by night if you really want to get the adrenaline pumping.
If you have longer to spend in New Orleans then there are tons of community initiatives and organizations that hold workshops and events. What better way to get to know a place? One such organization based at City Park is the Grow Dat Youth Farm. The youth involved in the project grow 20,000 tons of produce every year which is sold to the New Orleans communities. Their mission is even more inspirational than that though:
The mission of Grow Dat Youth Farm is to nurture a diverse group of young leaders through the meaningful work of growing food.
After checking out one of the many workshops the GrowDat Youth Farm hold, stroll through the City Park to The Singing Oak. As you sit under the tree the many tuned chimes, hanging in the tree, ring out to soothe your ears with a tinkling tune.
If you enjoy walking or jogging there are many paths and routes that take you through the hidden corners of the cities. Take a morning or afternoon to walk, jog or bike around and see where your heart takes you.
If you are an adventurous risk-taking type then take a morning to illegally explore the crumbling Jazz Land (Disclaimer: do this at your own risk, it wasn’t my idea). Devastated by Hurricane Katrina and never rebuilt, the ruined park is a testament to the effects of the hurricane.
If you prefer a less risky way to explore then take a steamboat trip up the Mississippi.
New Orleans, New Orleans
New Orleans is a city with depth, a bustling metropolis of people, culture, and creativity. Taking three days to explore is the best way to see the city at its most essential. Taking a week or more is the way to start to get to know the city as a friend. The extra time gives you the opportunity to get under the skin of the more quirky sides and places of the city.
In short take at least three days, but four or more if you can!
What about you all? What do you think? Have you visited New Orleans? What did you like best about the city? How many days would you like to spend there? Let us know in the comments…