For the longest time, I (mistakenly) only associated New Orleans with Mardi Gras and the notoriously dirty Bourbon Street.
My husband needed a little convincing to spend a long weekend in New Orleans celebrating our first wedding anniversary. He visited once (years ago) for a bachelor party and lets just say they didn’t see much beyond Bourbon Street.
But there is so. much. more. than Bourbon Street and my hope is to convince you that you really can have a classy, and even romantic, trip to this unique city!
Just as a disclaimer, I’m not a travel blogger and this was my first time visiting New Orleans!
However, I did a ton of research leading up to this trip and truly feel we had the perfect weekend getaway in New Orleans.
I’m beyond excited to share our 3 day itinerary with you!
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Day 1: The French Quarter
Our first day ended up being a few hours shorter than planned due to flight troubles, but we weren’t going to let that rain on our parade!
First we checked into The Saint hotel in the heart of the French Quarter!
Aesthetically, this hotel was nothing to brag about, especially in comparison to other New Orleans hotels, but we knew we wouldn’t be spending much time there anyway and figured it was in a great spot that was walking distance from most places!
However, if we were to go back to New Orleans, we would opt to stay in the Warehouse or Garden District! They felt safer and just less sloppy than Canal Street.
The Carousel Bar
Our first stop!! The carousel bar is one of those places you just need to experience!
This bar is located within the beautiful and historic Hotel Monteleone and is New Orleans first and only rotating bar! I was very inspired by the architecture and design in this hotel too ????
This was my first experience at a rotating bar and I have to say, it makes getting the bartender’s attention even harder than usual since the bar is moving????
I wasn’t feeling hopeful we would find a seat at the actual bar but we did! If you’re patient and hang out for a bit people are always coming and going.
We had one delicious cocktail here (I got the Oaxacan midnight and it was a great way to start my cocktail experience in New Orleans) and decided to move on!
You can’t come to The Big Easy for the first time and not at least walk down Bourbon Street!
We didn’t want to spend a lot of time in this area, but walking down it was fun! To get the full experience, we joined the crowd and got a frozen drink to sip on.
Unbeknownst to us, we got the strongest drink in New Orleans… The Hand Grenade. I asked the bartender what the liquor was in this drink and he said “it’s a grain liquor”. Enough said! We could tell just a few sips in ????
It was a perfect evening to walk over to Jackson Square!
You’ll see beautiful views of the Mississippi River and the Natchez steamboat.
It’s also where you’ll see this breathtaking view of the St. Louis cathedral!
Expect to see street performers and plenty of restaurants to choose from! Walk around and explore the French Market!
We got an outside table at Market Cafe, which is right in the action, while listening to an awesome live band! We each got a Po’ boy (catfish was our favorite) and alligator bites (they were so good!).
Frenchmen Street is the perfect place to go if you want to enjoy some nightlife that’s not as aggressive as Bourbon Street!
It’s a street full of live jazz bars and you just have to let your ear guide you! We found ourselves enjoying latin jazz musicians at 30/90 bar!
Day 2: The Bayou & Warehouse District
We had two tours planned on this day so I was a little nervous they would completely take our full day, but they really didn’t! Plus the tours were both top notch!
We got up early to beat the line at Cafe Beignet on Royal Street. I recommend getting there before 8:30 if you want to do that!
How charming is this place?!
Croissant breakfast sandwich with a side of beignets?
Sign???????? me???????? up????????
After breakfast you can walk off your beignets and go see the Lalaurie Mansion!
The Lalaurie mansion has a gruesome history. You might be familiar with the story of serial killer Marie Laveau from season 3 of American Horror Story!
Did you know this was also home to Nicolas Cage for a short time? Learn more here!
If you have enough time, check out some of the souvenir shops too! Dan and I stopped at a Christmas store and got the cutest little saxophone ornament to remember our first anniversary trip to New Orleans!
Dan booked us a swamp tour and it was definitely one of my favorite things we did during our weekend in New Orleans!!
This was the tour we booked (I highly recommend it!)
Note: We did the small fan boat and got the bus pickup. I recommend both! The bus picks you up and drops you off. They pickup at certain hotels but you can just find the one closest to you!
Dan was kind enough to take this very flattering photo of me enjoying my frozen hurricane drink, which is one of New Orleans (many) signature cocktails????
This was my first time on an airboat and that in itself was really exciting for me!
But the views were everything. It all felt so surreal.
Especially when I got to watch our guide kiss an alligator (on the lips!!) and feed it marshmallows! Our guide was brave and also very knowledgeable about the swamp. We learned a lot!
After freshening up at the hotel, we were starving and ready for some good New Orleans cuisine!
We decided to try Napolean House for an Italian Muffaletta and it did not disappoint!
The inside was adorable! But we were lucky enough to snag a table in the little courtyard out back. It was SO cute!
What’s an Italian Muffaletta?
We were wondering the same!
Muffaletta is a type of (insanely delicious) round sesame bread originating in Sicily. It then became a popular sandwich due to Italian immigrants in New Orleans.
The Italian Muffaletta sandwich is layered with meats, cheese, and the signature olive salad. It can be served warm or cold, but the traditional is served warm!
The sandwich is huge so you can order a quarter or a half. 2-4 people could split a whole one. We each just got a quarter and a side!
I actually hate olives but they didn’t judge me at all when I asked for no olive salad ???? It was still one of the best sandwiches i’ve ever had!
This entire meal was so delicious and the perfect amount to hold us over until we got late night pizza????
Try a Pimm’s cup while you’re here- it’s their signature drink! I got the Englishman Pimm’s cup and we liked them so much we got a round to go for our walk to Warehouse District!
We really loved the this trendy part of New Orleans and would even recommend staying in this area! It’s walkable from the French Quarter and it has a more sophisticated feel to it.
I’m big into the speakeasy-type cocktail bars so Bar Marilou was on my list to visit!
This bar is part of the Maison de la Luz hotel (Look how gorgeous their rooms are!) and has this cute hidden entrance of the side of the building.
Have you ever been in a room drenched in the color red? Talk about a bold design choice!
Between the tiger carpet, the moody lighting, and all the curvy lines, it’s an absolute vibe. I could have spent hours admiring the interior details and drinking their beautifully crafted cocktails.
We had a little more time to kill before our ghost tour, so we stopped at Alto Rooftop bar, which is on the 9th floor of Ace Hotel, to check out the view!
If you’re looking for a pool party with a DJ, frozen drinks, etc. this would be a good place to go during the day!
Cocktail Ghost Tour
There’s endless options for ghost tours in New Orleans, and a lot of them are cheesy, but this cocktail ghost tour I found on airbnb is the only one you need to know about!
Our tour guide John was a great story teller and so passionate about New Orleans. He truly just wants you to fall in love with the city. He keeps the tour small (10 max) so we even made some friends!
This walking tour was the best because you got to learn about cocktail history and hear ghost stories as you walk through the streets with your drinks!
I don’t want to give away all the tour details, but one place we did stop was the Old Absinthe House.
John shared some interesting facts about absinthe and I learned its hard to drink and tastes like black jelly beans???? But the experience was awesome and definitely loosened us up for the rest of the tour!
Day 3: The Garden District & Magazine Street
This was our actual anniversary and we wanted to spend the entire day exploring the Garden District area of New Orleans!
Café du Monde/City Park
Getting the famous beignets from Café du Monde is of course a must when visiting New Orleans. I’ll be dreaming of these pillowy soft beignets piled high with powdered sugar for years to come.
There’s multiple locations for this popular place, but I recommend taking streetcar (or uber) to the Café du Monde in City Park! It’s not as crowded and happens to be in one of the most beautiful parks i’ve ever been to!
Walk through the Walda Besthoff sculpture garden or the botanical garden with your cafe au lait 🙂
The Garden District is known for its charming, tree-lined streets with gorgeous homes. It’s a must for a long weekend in New Orleans!
We recommend taking the St. Charles streetcar to Jackson Avenue and going from there! Jackson Avenue is where you’ll find the Buckner Mansion, which is famous for all of it’s ghost stories.
Take your time strolling this neighborhood and admiring these opulent homes.
This would also be a great time to visit the Lafayette No. 1 Cemetery! We were so bummed to hear it was temporarily closed while we were visiting, but if you get the chance I would absolutely go!
While you’re by the cemetery, you can grab brunch at the iconic Commander’s Palace.
They’re most known for their jazz brunch and 25 cent martinis during lunch. The only reason we didn’t go is because they have a dress code which wasn’t compatible with our day of walking around in this area.
For more information and recommendations when visiting the Garden District, this post was so helpful!
Magazine Street is a great place to just spend the day snacking and exploring so that’s exactly what we did!
On our first stop, we got a couple sliders and of course, a donut, from District Donuts.
Everything we got was delicious! The sliders were layered with flavor, the waffle fries were crisp to perfection, and don’t even get me started on the warm glazed donut! If there’s a line, it’s worth it, I promise!
Check out the shops
Walk around and check out the cute shops and boutiques in this area! I’m big into thrifting and there were some seriously awesome vintage and antique shops too!
This adorably chic cafe is the perfect stop for your next snack!!
We got a seat at their bar and ordered a cocktail and some crawfish queso! We hung out here for a while and then got some frozen rosés to go for our walk to the brewery.
Dan and I love breweries and this one was about a 10 minute walk from Magazine Street!
The beer was great, they had live music, and they even had a crawfish boil going on! Everyone was just eating piles of crawfish and it just felt right????
We had dinner reservations so we sadly didn’t partake in the crawfish boil, but next time we would! It would have been the best time of year to try them too, since crawfish season is from March to June in New Orleans.
If you’re into craft beer and a great environment, be sure to add Miel Brewery to your list of places to stop!
This is the place I found for our anniversary dinner and oh my gosh!!!
It’s modern Israeli cuisine and it was the best meal we had all weekend. (Which says a lot because everything we ate was phenomenal!)
They give you this puffy, warm pita bread with an olive oil dipping sauce to start.
We ordered the fried chicken hummus as an appetizer. I know it sounds weird but it was wildly delicious. I even convinced the table next to us to get it and they thanked me before leaving????
For dinner, we split the slow-cooked lamb which is served over whipped feta and i’m not kidding when I say it melted in your mouth!
For cocktails, I recommend The Road to Kfar and the Shaloma!
Do yourself a favor and book a reservation here! You won’t regret it! They also have a cute patio area too!
Day 4: Departure
I was definitely sad to be ending such a perfect weekend in New Orleans, but we had to enjoy one more meal before our noon flight.
We got up early and went to breakfast at Ruby Slipper Cafe on Decatur Street. They’re famous for their variety of New Orleans style eggs Benedict, which Dan tried two versions of and loved both!
I ordered french toast, a biscuit, and a side of gravy. All of which were just so good. Their biscuits are perfection and make sure to try that sausage gravy! I’ve never been a gravy person, but now I am!
New Orleans Weekend Trip FAQ
New Orleans packing list
Here’s some essential items we packed while visiting New Orleans in May:
- Cash (since it’s an older city, some bars and restaurants that only accept cash! You’ll also want to have cash to tip your tour guides, servers, street performers, etc!)
- Hat (I brought a straw hat, Dan brought a baseball hat)
- Comfortable shoes (you’ll be doing a lot of walking)
- At least one pair of sneakers or closed-toe shoes
- A light jacket (a rain jacket is a great idea!)
- Breathable fabrics (it’s humid in the summer months)
- A fanny pack or crossbody bag
- Formal attire if you plan to go to upscale restaurants (some have dress codes!)
- Your favorite comfortable pair of shorts
- Tank tops
- Loose fitting dresses and skirts
- A big sweatshirt to put on in the cold hotel!
- Vibrant colors for a vibrant city!
- Ear plugs (if you’re a light sleeper and you’re staying in a bustling area)
- Liquid IVs (If you enjoy the cocktails like we do, it’s a good idea to pack some Liquid IVs. I had one every night before bed and didn’t have one hangover!)
Note: I didn’t bring any high heels because I just didn’t want to have to end a night early due to my feet hurting! If you do bring a pair of heels, block heels or wedges would be best!
What to wear in New Orleans in May?
The average temperatures for New Orleans in May are in the mid-80s After this, it starts getting pretty hot there!
New Orleans is known for it’s humid weather, so keep it light and comfortable! Here’s a few outfit ideas:
Shorts and a tank top
Shorts, a bodysuit, and sneakers was my go to outfit most of the time. I don’t recommend wearing white sneakers that you care about because they’ll definitely get dirty in the streets and dive bars!
Another idea for an outfit is a loose fitting maxi dress (like the one I’m wearing) or maxi skirt with a tank!
A little black dress
You can never go wrong with a little black dress! Wear it with flats or sneakers.
This evening I brought my jean jacket too, but honestly probably didn’t need it! I ended up tying it around my waist for most of the night.
Here’s the link to a very similar black dress. I actually have the red one and wore it the morning of Day 2!
How do you get around in New Orleans?
Depending on where you stay, many areas will likely be in walking distance!
If not, take advantage of the public transportation.
The streetcar is perfect for traveling from the French Quarter to/from the Garden District and even to City Park as well. It’s also the oldest functioning streetcar in the world which I think is so cool!
Otherwise, there’s always ubers readily available!
Is New Orleans safe to visit?
In any city, you of course need to have your guard up!
But there’s a lot of going on in the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, so just be aware of your surroundings.
We made it a point to avoid streets that didn’t have many people. The best thing you can do is simply ignore someone trying to get your attention (it will happen) and don’t accept beads from strangers????
Lastly, don’t flaunt any expensive jewelry. Dan also kept his wallet in his front pocket!
What are the best areas to stay in New Orleans?
If you want to be right in the heart of all the nightlife, stay in the French Quarter or Bourbon Street. These will also be the best places to people watch????
Next time we visit, we would stay in Warehouse District (part of the Central Business District) or Garden District! They felt safer and more our speed, yet still easy enough to get to all the other areas!
What can couples do for fun in New Orleans
In addition to our itinerary, here’s some other activities couples can do in New Orleans:
- Take a cooking class at the New Orleans School of Cooking
- Bowling at this luxurious bowling alley
- River Jazz Brunch
- Cemetery Tour
- Learn to make four popular New Orleans cocktails at this mixology class!
- Play disc golf
- Rent a bike or an evening swan boat
- Big Easy Bayou Kayaking Tour
- Visit the Sazerac House Cocktail Museum
- Get tickets to a jazz show at Preservation Hall
- Check out the New Orleans Museum of Art
Here’s a few other blog posts I referred to often when planning our weekend trip to New Orleans:
- 3 Days in New Orleans Itinerary
- Perfect Itinerary for 3 Days in New Orleans
- The Ultimate Couple’s Weekend in New Orleans
Even though this was a short trip, we fit a lot into our weekend in New Orleans!! The Big Easy is such a unique place that’s full of culture, historic neighborhoods, and the best food i’ve ever had!
There’s no city like it in the United States, so be sure to see it for yourself! Tell me your favorite spots if you do!