Ultimate Guide to New Orleans French Quarter in One Day
If you follow me on snapchat (if you aren’t you should, it’s a hoot over there) you’ll know that a couple weekends ago, Dustin and I hopped into our car and drove down to New Orleans to spend a short weekend exploring the French Quarter. We originally didn’t think we were going to try to make a trip down there because I’m always nervous about planning trips that require a lot of walking. But after a rather rough week of work, I realized that a weekend away was exactly what we needed and that I shouldn’t let my fear get in the way of experiencing one of the liveliest cities in America. This is my second chance at a vibrant life, right?
Since we had never been down to ‘Nawlin’s before, I spent a few days reading through some blog posts I found on Pinterest to get an idea of what to see and what to do. We planned to only stay one night, and it was clear that we should spend most of our time in the French Quarter because that is where a lot of history and culture is! The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, founded in 1718, with most of the buildings being built in the 18th century. The district as a whole has been designated as a national historical landmark and there is a really fun mix of French, Spanish and African-American cultures throughout the streets of the Quarter.
Where to Stay:
NOLA is about two hours away from where we are living in Louisiana and we didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg to stay downtown. We opted to stay at the La Quinta in Boutte, LA, which is about 25 minutes outside of New Orleans. It was clean, close to the freeway to get into the city, and most importantly, quite. NOLA can get really rowdy, so I’m really glad that we decided to stay just outside of the city where we could get a quiet night of rest. This hotel was also recently built in 2014, so it’s really new and has a pool and hot tub!
Where to Park in the New Orleans French Quarter:
We drove around the French Quarter for a few minutes, looking at the different parking options, and decided to park in the lot at the end of Conti Street. It was 2o dollars to park for 2 hours, or 30 dollars to park for 10 hours, which was the biggest bang for our buck that we found. Plus, it was on the quieter side of the Quarter, so it was easy for us to get out when we were leaving.
More Parking Info Here
What to See in the French Quarter:
Bourbon Street: We started off by walking from our parking lot down to Bourbon Street, which is basically like the Freemont Street of Las Vegas. We started our adventure in the early afternoon, so it wasn’t super crazy when we got there. We walked down the street, popping into shops to buy magnets and beads and stopped into some of the bars that had live music playing. There is a lot of strip clubs along parts of Bourbon Street, so just be aware of that if you are younger kids with you. Also, parts of the street smelled like vomit, so that wasn’t pleasant either.
St. Louis Cathedral: This church is on the edge of the Quarter, facing the Mississippi River and it is breathtaking. I’ve never seen a building that qualifies as a Cathedral before, and this one did not disappoint as my first one. It was huge and had such intricate and detailed glass windows and paintings. It is open for touring, so Dustin and I were able to wander around inside and look at the murals on the ceiling and the statues and carvings along the walls. Even if you are not religious, this church has a lot of history to it, so it’s definitely worth stopping and looking.
Jackson Square: Across from the Cathedral is Jackson Square, a little park that some fountains and benches. Around the square gates are a ton of street performers and artists! We got to catch a magic show, listen to some live Jazz and look at some cool art! It definitely was a mix of cultures and the live jazz was awesome! Also, there are usually carts with ice cream and water, so if it’s a hot day, make sure you grab a cool treat!
French Market: If you walk across the square towards the Mississippi River, you’ll run into Decatur Street. If you follow this street up, it will take you right to the French Market, which is like the Boston version of Quincy Market. It’s full of little food booths, trinket stands and has some fleamarket-type stalls as well. Dustin and I got to try some really unique food there and watched a fun competition they were holding!
Walk Up Governor Nicholls Street: After going through the French Market, we decided to walk up one of the quieter streets at the edge of the Quarter. It was so much fun to take in the scenery up this street and to stop and take some pictures and not be surrounded by people! I highly recommend doing this if you want to experience some of the quieter aspects of the Quarter and take in the architecture.
Bourbon Street (again): By the time we got back to Bourbon Street, it was starting to get really lively. There were a ton of street performers coming out and we got to listen to some more live Jazz, watch an acrobatics show and interact with some “statues.” The hours of 5 and 7 are the best time to catch these types of shows without worrying about people getting too drunk and crazy.
Catch a Street Car to Garden District: You can drive, too, but the Street Cars are only 3 bucks and a fun experience! The Garden District in a quick ride out of the Quarter, but it’s where huge and beautiful historic mansions are, along with some really old cemeteries. It was fun to wander around and look at the houses and the dates on the graves for a little bit, before catching the streetcar back to the Quarter.
What to Eat in the French Quarter:
Cafe Du Monde: This is like the Voodoo Donuts of Portland or the Mike’s Pastries of Boston. If you go to New Orleans, you HAVE to stop at Cafe Du Monde for fresh beignets. And yes, they are as amazing as everyone says they are. You just walk in and find an empty table and sit. The waiters will come to you. The beignets were surprisingly affordable, it was 4 dollars for a plate (3 beignets to a plate) and they come fresh, warm, and HEAPED with powdered sugar. Make sure you order a water bottle to help wash it down! Also, it’s cash only, so make sure you have some cash.
French Market: Dustin and I got to try some Gator on a Stick at the French Market and it was really, really good. It was tail meat in a sausage casing, mixed with cajun spices and really did kind of taste like chicken!
The Jambalaya Shop: Dustin and I didn’t get to eat here because it was too busy, but we heard really good things about it, so I wanted to put it out there as an option.
The Hard Rock Cafe: Since we couldn’t get into the Jambalaya Shop, we decided to go sit down at the bar at the Hard Rock Cafe for some drinks and to see if we could get something somewhat authentic there. We ended up ordering the Jambalaya there and it was some of the best Jambalaya ever! It tasted really authentic, with andouille sausage and shrimp, but it wasn’t too spicy at the same time.
What to Wear while Touring the French Quarter:
We were lucky that the day we spent in NOLA (in mid-July) was overcast and only in the high 80’s. It was still SUPER humid, so I opted to wear a blue wrap dress with a handkerchief hem because I wanted something that was light and had movement, so I could feel airy! This dress was perfect for the day! I didn’t feel hot and the hem helped keep air moving around me as I walked! It’s made out of a jersey matieral, so it was stretchy and comfortable and didn’t wrinkle i the backpack I had packed for the trip. And the best part? I got it at Burlington Coat Factory for 12 bucks. GOOD DEALS ARE OUT THERE!
Have you been to New Orleans or anywhere in the Deep South? What would you want to do if you were visiting there?