One of America’s most unique cities, New Orleans is an easy place to spend 48 hours. In many ways, it doesn’t really feel like being in the United States — the food is different, the architecture looks more European than American, the people are a quirky mix — making it a fun place to explore over the course of a long weekend!
If you’re trying to make the most of a long weekend, you are probably going to arrive into Louis Armstrong Airport (code MSY) on Friday sometime so that you can have a full day on Saturday & Sunday out exploring the city. Given that assumption, here is how I would recommend spending 48 Hours in New Orleans, Louisiana!
Night: Relax at Baccanal
I would recommend taking it easy on your first night, since you are likely to spend the whole day on Saturday out and about (probably imbibing). A hip yet low-key place to enjoy the best of New Orleans without going crazy is Bacchanal Wine and Spirits in the Bywater.
With live music every night on the weekend and a delightful outdoor patio, this unique New Orleans venue is a must-visit. In fact, I went here three different times! When you walk in, you’ll enter the wine shop where you can buy bottles or glasses of a variety of different vino. The knowledgable staff will give you recommendations based on your preferences and they will uncork the bottles for you to drink out on the patio. You can also design your own cheese & charcuterie plate to pair with you drinks.
Take your number out to the patio and find a great spot. If it’s chilly, they’ve got heaters too! You can also order a meal at the outdoor window that they’ll bring out to your table. I personally loved the rigatoni with smoked cauliflower and confit chicken leg, but I also really enjoyed the simple bread & butter and olives! With the music changing every few hours, this is an easy place to watch the night go by while taking in a special New Orleans experience!
Morning: Brunch & French Quarter
In a city full of amazing brunch options, it can be hard to choose where the best place to start your day is. Creole brunches often feature local ingredients like crawfish, biscuits or andouille sausage which are hard to find at home, so I definitely got my fill while in the Big Easy. Brennan’s, Elizabeth’s, Horn’s or Cafe Du Monde are all excellent options for breakfast. As you may have read in my “What I Ate” post from New Orleans, Brennan’s would be my first choice and top recommendation. It’s expensive and over-the-top, but holy cow, is it memorable!
With a full belly and well-rested feet, it’s time to explore New Orleans most iconic neighborhood — the French Quarter. Start your walking tour of the French Quarter near Jackson Square Park, home to weekend art fairs, live jazz music and the famous Cafe Du Monde, this is a lively community space.
If you’re really into learning about the history, architecture and stories of NOLA’s colorful background, I would recommend doing a walking tour of the French Quarter. There is a lot to see and there are plenty of tour options out there. If you’re more of a wanderer, the French Quarter is easily appreciated on your own.
The whole quarter is only .5 square miles and can easily be done in a few hours. I personally avoided the rowdiness of Bourbon street, much preferring Royal Street and Chartres Street. As you wander, you can explore little shops, the beautiful wrought iron patios and colorful hanging plants.
Afternoon: Cocktail Crawl in French Quarter and Financial District
In the city that claims to have invented the cocktail, you should plan on doing lots of drinking. Plus the Big Easy has open carry laws, so you can wander with your drinks in hand without worry! There are plenty of amazing places to get a good cocktail, and this city specializes in a few different kinds. I wrote a whole separate blog post about creating your own bar crawl!
Basically, your morning in the Quarter can easily flow into your afternoon and night activities. This is a city where you can wander between various drinking establishments punctuated with occasional eating establishments too :)
Night: Live Music on Frenchmen Street
Skip the belligerent drunken night crowds on Bourbon Street, opting instead for the local favorite — Frenchmen Street. There is a 6 block stretch of Frenchman that offers multiple live music venues where you can catch some of the city’s best jazz and blues. Plus on certain nights, you might even catch some swing dancing!
Most bars only have a small cover charge ($5 or less) so it’s easy to bop around between a few different spots. I liked the Spotted Cat and Mother Tucker’s Lounge, but I doubt you can wrong with any choice on Frenchman.
Morning: Brunch & Bike Ride Down Magazine Street
Ready to wash, rinse, repeat on the eating, drinking and exploring of your previous day? It’s New Orleans after all — that’s what you do! Start your day at another lovely brunch spot (preferably one with good cocktails for your hangover), and once you’ve thoroughly worn off the day before, make your way over to Magazine Street.
Located southwest of the French Quarter, Magazine Street spans about 6 miles and is peppered with all sorts of cool establishments worth exploring. Personally, I think the best way to see this city is on a bike! NOLA is quite flat so even inexperienced bikers can bike along these streets and bikes make it really easy to take frequent stops without worrying about parking. There are plenty of places that offer daily bike rentals, but we used the adorable female owned Dashing Bicycles.
All along Magazine Street, there are boutiques, restaurants, bars, galleries and shops so if you see something interesting, just pull over! Your final destination of Audubon Park will be all the way at the end, but take your time, there’s lots to explore!
Afternoon: Relaxing in Audubon Park
Named after artist and naturalist John James Audubon who lived in New Orleans starting in 1821, Audubon Park is a sprawling park — it stretches nearly 350 acres. The park has a nice paved loop so you can just keep riding your bike around! Home to a zoo, golf course, aquarium, insectarium, and just open green space. Photographers love the massive oak trees especially the insanely ‘grammable Tree of Life. If you back a small picnic (with help from one of NOLA’s many takeaway restaurants and bars), relaxing in the natural ambiance is a nice way to spend an afternoon!
Night: Take a Haunted Tour
New Orleans natives have developed an affinity for the weird, scary and unusual, so it should come as no surprise that there are a bunch of interesting haunted or voodoo walking tours. New Orleans has MANY ghost stories that go all the way back to the founding of this historic city, and some of them will really get your spine crawling. Ever wondered about the myths of NOLA or the dark side of the city’s history? Curious to know more about the occult and voodoo traditions?
You can learn about them on a tour! There are some seriously creepy parts of the past, and it can be a fun and scary way to end your trip. Most of the tours will start in the French Quarter and then onward to the city’s cemeteries. Haunted History Tours or Voodoo Bone Lady Haunted Tours are two good ones!