If it’s your first time in New Orleans, lucky you! This enchanting Louisiana city is a joy to experience, with hidden treasures around every corner. I’m still spellbound from my first visit, and I keep going back for more.
I recommend adding some of my favorite spots to your itinerary while you explore this unique city, with its beautiful architecture and lilting oak trees. There is as much to discover in New Orleans in the daylight hours as there is at night, with the city's famed jazz clubs and bustling music scene.
Pack lots of light layers and rain gear, just in case.
If you only have time for one thing, make it the French Quarter.
Let the good times roll in The Big Easy with a visit to the French Quarter. This melting pot of French and African influences is home to picturesque 18th century-style buildings. A brunch crawl hits the right notes and lets you sample Creole and Cajun dishes.
Begin with a lazy morning coffee near the river. Who Dat Coffee Cafe and Envie Espresso Bar & Cafe are my recommendations. Afterwards, take a walk on the wild side with an airboat tour. You'll see the bayou—home to alligators, snakes, turtles, and egrets—and learn more about the pirate heritage of the swamps.
Once you're back on land, a private city tour with a local guide helps you to familiarize yourself with the city beyond the French Quarter. After dark, the voodoo and vampire lore of the city makes for a spooky and suspenseful mystery tour under the moonlight.
You must sample beignets for breakfast. I recommend them from Cafe du Monde or Cafe Beignet on Royal Street. Then head to Oak Alley Plantation, about an hour's drive west of the city. Step back in time to the grandeur of New Orleans’ antebellum South and learn the somber history of the region. It's one of the most photographed plantations, and its gardens and oak-lined esplanades offer a break from the city bustle.
Finally, board a steamboat and have a Creole-style dinner on the Mississippi River. Enjoy the jazz for which the city is famous, with views too.