New Orleans. NOLA. The Big Easy. Whatever you choose to call Louisiana’s biggest city, there’s no way to deny that it’s one of the most fascinating cities in the United States, if not the world. Its unique culture combines elements of French, Spanish, Creole, and African populations, leading to a destination unlike any other.
New Orleans deserves its reputation as a great place to party. But the city has more to offer than bars and nightlife — even if it certainly has plenty of those, too. Spending four days in the city gives you long enough to see some different sides to New Orleans and gain a deeper understanding of what makes it so unique.
Day 1 in New Orleans
Where else can you start with New Orleans but the French quarter? This district has been the heart of the city since it was founded in 1718, and its narrow European-style streets are iconic of the city as a whole.
The French Market is always worth a visit, and can provide you with a place to save some money by picking up a picnic lunch. As well as grocery vendors and food stores, you’ll also find a fascinating fleamarket here which is a great place to pick up unique souvenirs.
If you find you buy a little too much, or you’re just tired of lugging heavy bags around with you as you explore this vibrant part of the city on foot,a luggage storage facility in New Orleans can look after your possessions for you while you enjoy yourself. Be aware that the French Quarter, though generally safe, has its share of pickpockets, so the less you carry with you, the better.
As day turns into night, the character of the French Quarter changes. Bourbon Street has historically been the heart of New Orleans’ nightlife, and it’s still a fascinating place to explore after sundown. Bourbon Street is within the French Quarter, so you can spend the whole day in this part of town. And if you’re up to it, you can go late into the night in the bars and clubs along Bourbon Street.
Day 2 in New Orleans
After your first day in New Orleans — and depending how late into the night you went — you might feel in need of something a little more relaxing. The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium could be just the place, especially if you’re visiting New Orleans with the kids.
This unusual museum has an exhibit that will shrink you down to the size of a bug to experience the life of insects. And in the garden where thousands of butterflies swarm, you’ll be able to recharge your batteries and savor a rare oasis of peace and quiet in this otherwise bustling city.
To keep the peaceful vibes going, consider spending the afternoon in City Park. One thousand three hundred acres of parkland once formed the backdrop for Southern gentlemen’s duels, but now offers an excellent place to relax. You can enjoy the botanical garden and the sculpture garden. And if you or the kids are in need of more excitement, the park also contains Carousel Gardens Amusement Park for some exciting rides.
Day 3 in New Orleans
Now that you’ve experienced the madness of Bourbon Street and the serenity of City Park, it’s time to delve a little deeper into the rich cultural life of the city. You can start with a visit to Whitney Plantation.
This restored plantation allows you to explore what life was like in the old antebellum South. Tours show you the slaves’ quarters and the house of the plantation owner to provide a glimpse of the different structures of New Orleans society. It’s a sometimes sobering but fascinating trip back in time.
The history of New Orleans is inexplicably tied to the history of slavery and the African-American community. After seeing the plantation, see the rest of the story of the Backstreet Cultural Museum. This museum is devoted to the cultural life of black people in New Orleans. You’ll get educated on fascinating traditions such as jazz funerals, carnival Indians, and the civil rights movement.
Of course, New Orleans is known around the world as the birthplace of jazz. When night falls, there are few more iconic places to be in a jazz club. For a taste of the kind of hole-in-the-wall venues where the art form was born, check out Sweet Lorraine’s for music and drinks in an atmospheric location.
Day 4 in New Orleans
On your final day in New Orleans, it’s time to head out of the city and into the swamp. New Orleans swamp tours get you up close and personal with the wildlife that inhabits the sprawling wetlands. Along with snakes, turtles, wild boar, and many different species of birds, you’re almost guaranteed to see some alligators.
Cajun Encounters is one of the many tour companies in New Orleans that can take you on the trip of a lifetime. To make things easy, they can pick you up from your hotel if it’s close to downtown and take you out to the wilderness. The bayous that surround New Orleans are what have inspired the city’s unique culinary scene over the centuries, and they are well worth seeing for yourself.
Once you return from the swamp, consider a visit to Frenchmen Street. Outside of the popular French Quarter, the street has a variety of bars and restaurants without the crowds — or high prices — of Bourbon Street. Spending the evening here will give you more of a taste of the real New Orleans instead of just the tourist version.
No matter what your idea of fun is, you can probably find it in New Orleans. This itinerary is just the starting point. Once you see New Orleans for yourself, chances are you’ll want to visit again and again. And each time you do, you’ll see a different side to this unique and enigmatic city.