Itinerary for a Weekend Getaway in New Orleans
Food & Wine
Arts & Culture
New Orleans is a magical place with something for everyone, but it really shines when it comes to its historical significance, local cuisines and world class live music scene. The city plays an important role in keeping the tradition of jazz alive and making it more accessible. Vibrant and teeming with energy, New Orleans is perfect for a quick weekend getaway, bachelorette party or family trip. Come hungry and it’s impossible to leave without a deeper understanding of New Orleans’ unique food traditions and a desire to return.
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Where to stay
Maison de la Luz
Refined and romantic, this boutique charmer is Southern hospitality defined.
$100 food / beverage credit.
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The Eliza Jane
A uniquely charming boutique hotel in New Orleans, seamlessly fusing historic elegance with modern luxury.
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Kimpton Hotel Fontenot
Elegant property located in the Central Business District with sleek rooms and suites.
$50 hotel / resort credit.
Upgrade & late check-out whenever possible.
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Day 1: Get oriented with a historical walking tour
Drop your bags off at the hotel, throw on your sneakers and head out the door to discover historic New Orleans by foot. I recommend starting with a guided tour of the French Quarter to get your bearings. For the budget-minded or solo travelers, there are plenty of free walking tours available that operate on a pay-what-you-want basis (suggested minimum donation $10-15) to freshen up your knowledge of the Louisiana Purchase and learn about the complex blend of cultures in the South that culminated in Creole cuisine and Voodoo-Catholicism. Visit Jackson Square named after General Andrew Jackson, whose troops successfully defended the city in the War of 1812, the St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral to be continuously operated in the U.S. since 1794, and confront New Orleans’ painful history as the nexus of the slave trade and home to the largest slave market in the United States during the antebellum period. On the corner of Chartres Street and Esplanade Avenue in the Marigny, you can see the former site of the slave pen and showroom owned by Theophilus Freeman. The story of Solomon Northup, a free man sold into slavery in 1841 at this location, is recounted in his 1853 memoir “12 Years a Slave,” which was turned into a critically-acclaimed screenplay and film.
After taking a look through the Shops of the Colonnade – The French Market and perhaps even trying your hand at shucking your own oysters, pay a visit to the NOLA institution Cafe du Monde, if only so that you can participate in the great debate of who makes the best beignets (pronounced ben-yay) – warm, deep-fried doughy goodness topped with plenty of powdered sugar and in this case, sold in threes. If you’re deterred by the long lines, you can try the take-out window or their City Park location. Once sold on this French fritter, you’ll probably have to try the delicious variations found at La Petite Grocery and Morning Call during the remainder of your stay, so you can really be informed.
SEE A JAZZ SHOW
In the evening, catch a traditional New Orleans jazz show at Preservation Hall on Saint Peter Street, an iconic venue that still hosts multiple 45-minute concerts almost every night of the year (reserve tickets online). Set up like a living room with bench-style seating ($50 first row, $40 general admission) and a standing room section ($25), enjoy the intimate setting and let the syncopated sounds of New Orleans Brass, Swing, Dixieland and Stomp take you back in time in the birthplace of jazz and its son, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong.
DINNER AND DRINKS
Skip Bourbon Street and head straight to Cane and Table, an elegant tiki spot with an extensive cocktail menu, rum collection and enough small plates for a proper dinner. Although the menu changes seasonally, if you can, try the pork skins, sweet plantains, grilled octopus and zarzuela de mariscos, a rich Spanish seafood stew served with clams and shrimp. Pair this with a Hurricane & Table, their take on the classic cocktail, the Hurricane, invented during WWII just a stone’s throw away at Pat O’Brien’s.
If you’re looking for more live music, Frenchman Street is littered with great jazz spots like the Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro and Spotted Cat Music Club, but you will also find so much more, including d.b.a., a fun venue with a large dance floor where rock ‘n roll and funk will also be on the menu.
Before turning in, have an absinthe-rinsed nightcap at the Sazerac Bar in the Grand Roosevelt Hotel. With its masterful Art Deco design, signature murals and plush old-world feel, it’s the perfect setting for nostalgia-drenched conversations among old friends and, given its popularity among cocktail aficionados, you may even make some new ones.
Day 2: Art history lesson & nightlife
BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS
Start the day with a hearty breakfast at the charming Horn’s Eatery, where you can feast on buttermilk pancakes, fried chicken and waffles or one of the many vegetarian or vegan options, such as tofu scramble with grilled veggies. If you’re like me, you’ll need some good coffee before you get going and a tasty snack for later – modern bakery Ayu Bakehouse has you covered and they’re not leaving anyone behind, not even your gluten-free friend. For something sweet, try the Kayo bun or cinnamon roll but if you’re leaning toward savory, the parm and chive biscuit and muffaletta breadstick are delicious.
ART HISTORY 101
Next, whether you’re in the market for art or merely perusing, drop by the Art Garden & Floating Gallery or the Frenchman Art Bazaar to meet some members of New Orleans’ artistic community before making your way to the New Orleans Museum of Art, tucked inside the expansive City Park, which is also worth a visit. The museum boasts an impressive and diverse collection spanning from pre-Columbian Native American art to works by contemporary artists such as pop artist Andy Warhol. History buffs shouldn’t miss the early American portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, one of the most recognizable paintings of the president and the basis for the image on the U.S. one dollar bill. Leave time to explore the museum’s remarkable sculpture garden, which is free to the public and open seven days a week.
TRY A PO’BOY
For lunch, a po’boy sandwich and a crisp beer from the experts at Parkway Bakery & Tavern will hit the spot and be easy on the wallet. With seafood options of fried shrimp, oysters and catfish, as well as the house specialty roast beef with gravy, Parkway Tavern has been serving classic-style po’boys topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayo since 1911. To indulge in this New Orleans tradition like a local, grab a seat at the bar.
PAY TRIBUTE TO BACCHUS
Walk it off and when you’re ready, take a 10-minute cab to Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits, a wine and cheese shop in Bywater with a large backyard and one of the best atmospheres in town. Long before the pandemic had traditional wine shops pivoting to sell bottles for consumption on-premise, you could buy a bottle from Bacchanal, take it around back and enjoy it with the perfect accoutrement — live music and a killer cheese and charcuterie board.
EXPERIENCE NEW ORLEANS NIGHTLIFE
After a sumptuous dinner at Coquette (New American/Southern cuisine) or Atchafalaya (contemporary Louisiana fare), finish the night at 24-hour dive bar Le Bon Temps Roule. It’s no frills but you can catch a stellar band most nights of the week and remember to make noise, cheer and clap whenever you hear something you like, particularly after a soloist finishes improvising.
Day 3: Garden district & Magazine Street
LADIES WHO BRUNCH
On your last day, sleep in and enjoy a relaxed brunch at Shaya, an Israeli power house that has all the classics down pat. To start, get the baba ganoush, smoked labneh and kale tabbouleh (all three for $15) and one of their hummus plates with your topping of choice and plenty of pillowy pita. Follow with the lamb kofta, crispy halloumi, falafel and fattoush salad. Everything is made to share and trust me, as someone who has eaten here alone and ordered enough food for three, you are going to want to bring your friends. Libation lovers will be happy to see an inventive cocktail menu with house specialties that invoke memories of the Mediterranean (think pomegranate). The only problem is deciding what to get!
EXPLORE THE GARDEN DISTRICT
Explore the Garden District, with its opulent mansions and gorgeous oak-lined streets by streetcar. On St. Charles Avenue, you can see architectural examples of Greek Revival, Italianate and the Victorian Era.
SHOP MAGAZINE STREET
Finally, take a leisurely stroll down Magazine Street, a six-mile stretch of restaurants, bars, gift shops, home goods stores and boutiques, many with offerings by local designers. If you’re parched from all the shopping, pop into Rendezvous Tavern, a favorite among locals, on the way back to the hotel. And if you don’t find the perfect souvenir on Magazine Street, I recommend bringing home a bit of what you’ve learned about the laid-back lifestyle and vibrancy of the Big Easy.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Jay Ducote’s guide, A Beer (and Food!) Lover's Guide to New Orleans.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to New Orleans.