Wondering how to spend a weekend in New Orleans?
Then keep reading, because I'm sharing all of my favorite places to see, things to do, and food to eat (with vegetarian friendly options!) during short trip to NOLA!
New Orleans is one of my favorite cities. My husband and I got married in City Park under a huge, ancient oak tree, so the city holds many special memories for me.
Have you ever been to New Orleans? There is so much to love about this city—from gorgeous architecture to amazing food to awesome music. And despite the city's beauty, it's a little rough around the edges ... which I love! It's just a completely unique place to visit.
Recently, I tagged along on my husband's business trip, and spent the weekend in New Orleans. It was so fun getting to do whatever I wanted while my husband worked (ha), especially since I've been there before and knew the lay of the land.
So I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite tips for visiting this gorgeous city!
How to Spend a Weekend in New Orleans
Are you wondering how to spend a weekend in New Orleans? There are so many sights to see (not to mention, foods to eat) that it can be hard to know where to start. To help you out, I've rounded up all my favorite things to do in New Orleans on a weekend trip.
And speaking of food, New Orleans is definitely one of the trickier cities to eat in if you're a vegetarian. Most traditional New Orleans dishes are made with fish, sausage, or some other meat. It's really hard to just randomly walk around and find somewhere good to eat, especially in the French Quarter.
If you're a vegetarian or traveling one, then make sure to check out my favorite vegetarian friendly New Orleans restaurants, too. These are places that will satisfy both meat and veggie eaters, so there's something for everyone on your trip!
Let's get started ... grab a coffee, because there are lots of photos!
Want a quick snapshot of New Orleans? Just scroll to the end of the post for all of my recommendations!
DAY 1: Dinner in the French Quarter + Frenchmen Street
Backspace Bar & Kitchen
A quick trip to New Orleans often means an afternoon or evening arrival.
My advice? Check into your hotel (see the end of the post for my hotel recommendations). Then before you get too comfortable, ease your way into that NOLA life with a casual dinner, a cocktail (or three!), and a walk around the French Quarter or a trip to Frenchman Street.
The weather in Dallas on the day of my flight was horrible. My plane was parked on the runway for two hours before finally taking off ... we were this close to returning to the gate.
Dinner at Backspace
By the time I arrived in New Orleans, I was hungry and ready for a drink. We headed straight to Backspace Bar & Kitchen after checking in, one of my husband's favorite spots in the French Quarter. It's not touristy, which is rare in the Quarter, and they have great food and drinks.
I had the Grown Up Grilled Cheese (yum), and Joel had his usual, the Whitman Roast Beef. A couple Dark & Stormies later, and it was time for our walk!
Next stop: Frenchmen Street! Want to follow our path? Head down Iberville Street toward the Mississippi River, than make a left on Decatur Street.
A Building on Decatur Street
Grab a Go Cup At Molly's at the Market
One of the nice / dangerous (ha) things about New Orleans is that you can take your drinks with you!
As you walk along Decatur, make a pit stop at Molly's at the Market (another one of my husband's fave bars) for a go cup. It's kind of a dive, so stick to the basics.
Listen to Live Music on Frenchmen Street
Once you cross over Esplanade Avenue, Frenchmen Street will be your next left. This busy street is a great place to hear live music, and it's usually pretty crowded, even during the week. You'll find a mix of bars and clubs here, and most have live music nightly. Many (most?) places charge a cover.
It's also just fun to walk around Frenchmen, if you have a tolerance for crowds and drunks! So wander around a bit and take in the scene. Which is what we did.
After walking around Frenchmen for a bit, we turned back onto Decatur and headed into Balcony Music Club. It was a really cool space, and there was no cover (bonus). The bar was quiet when we arrived, but the crowd picked up as the night wore on.
A local brass band, the Slow Rollas, was playing during out visit.
They were pretty good! Check out my clip below from snapchat. It's definitely not the best quality, but you get the idea ... ha ha.
Dodging Drunks on Bourbon Street
There are a number of ways to get to Bourbon Street from Frenchmen Street. I'd recommend heading back down Decatur, then making a right on Saint Phillip Street. Once you spot Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, you've hit Bourbon Street.
Here are my thoughts on Bourbon Street: it's a total shit show. Sure, it's great if you've just turned 21. Or maybe if you're in town for a bachelor/bachelorette party. Need to sow some wild oats? Go for it. It's also worth seeing (briefly) if you've never been to New Orleans.
However, unless you like hanging out around huge crowds of super drunk people, check it out and move on. There are so many other places to hang out in the French Quarter, whether you are drinking or not.
That said, it is one of the stereotypical things you need to need on a weekend in New Orleans, so check it off your list now and get it over with.
Okay, you survived Bourbon Street. Head to bed, and let's pick up tomorrow!
DAY 2: French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny
Day two of this weekend in New Orleans itinerary is all about exploring the French Quarter ... and little bit of Faubourg Marigny, too.
Breakfast at Cafe Dumonde
Need something to help you recover from the hangover from the previous night's drinking? Or just need a morning pick-me-up? Warm, sugary beignets are sure to do the trick!
Once you drag yourself out of bed, I recommend heading going straight to Cafe Du Monde.
There are other places in New Orleans that serve beignets, but popular Cafe Du Monde is my favorite. Some things are a classic for a reason, and Cafe Du Monde has been around forever (the original stand was established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market).
Order a plate of beignets to share (or not!) and wash it all down with a cafe au lait. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!
Cafe Du Monde always seems to be crowded. They're open 24 hours a day, seven days a week though. So stop by in the off hours if your don't want to wait in line.
Snap a Pic of St. Louis Cathedral
Kitty corner from Cafe Du Monde, you'll find Jackson Square which has a beautiful view of St. Louis Cathedral in the background.
You can actually get a great photo of the cathedral if you stay on the Cafe Du Monde side of the street. Directly across from the square, you'll find a staircase with an overlook at the top. Head up there and snap a few pics before moving on.
I have a picture like this from every trip I take to New Orleans, but I can never resist taking another!
New Orleans Weather
As you can see from the sky above the cathedral, the skies were stormy during my visit in June.
It was super hot and humid on my trip, and overall, I'd say the weather was downright unpleasant. It also rained multiple times each day ... everything from quick showers to crazy downpours.
New Orleans summers are not very pleasant, so unless you enjoy sweating nonstop (I wish I was kidding!), I'd suggest visiting during one of the cooler months (late fall, winter, or early spring).
If you do visit in the summer, bring extra clothes since you'll probably want to change (at least once) before dinner. And make sure to check out my tips for things to do on a rainy day in New Orleans, too!
Exploring Faubourg Marigny
Alright, enough complaining about the weather (for now!) ... let's head to the Faubourg Marigny!
From the French Quarter, walk down Decatur until you hit Esplanade Avenue. You'll be following much of them same path that you did the night before.
I walked down Esplanade for a few blocks before heading veering off into the side streets. This neighborhood is filled with charming cottages and other historic buildings. It's really beautiful.
I didn't have a set destination, instead I wandered the streets, taking in all the gorgeous details.
I could move right in to any of these beautiful homes (provided there was plenty of air conditionning) ... aren't they gorgeous?
Another charming neighborhood to explore nearby is Bywater, but I headed in the opposite direction back to the French Quarter instead.
The French Quarter is full of tourists, so it's fun to explore the quieter streets and outer edges.
I love all the quaint details on these cute houses. All the color makes me super happy!
I think this was about the point where I got rained on for the first time. Thankfully, I had my not so trusty umbrella, and it passed quickly.
The Cornstalk Hotel and its much photographed fence is always worth a stop.
After wandering around for a while, I headed back over by Jackson Square and got rained on again. Now I know why everything is so lush and green!
I took a quick walk around the square and hid under a tree during the rain.
And of course, I had to snap another picture of St. Louis Cathedral!
At this point, I was wilting from the heat and humidity. Seriously, guys ... it was so hot! I have a new appreciation for Dallas weather after returning home!
It was time for a drink and some food. I grabbed a water and headed down St. Peter Street just off Jackson Square. Then, I took a detour and a quick meander through the Central Business District in hopes of finding some cheap veggie food ... no pics and no luck.
I was on my way back to the hotel to feast on a Kind bar when I stumbled across Killer Poboys back in the French Quarter. Talk about an awesome and much needed discovery ... a breakfast/lunch of beignets is not as nutritious nor sustaining as it sounds!!
Killer Poboys had three awesome vegetarian/vegan options. I got the Roasted Cauliflower Sandwich which was so yummy. I definitely plan to return on my next visit.
After my late lunch I returned to the hotel to cool off. I was planning to go out again later in the afternoon, but it poured rain for hours.
Joel returned late to find me relaxing cool as a cucumber on our hotel bed. The rain had finally slowed, so we went out to dinner at the Copper Monkey, a dive bar in the French Quarter.
Our meal would have been totally forgettable if it weren't for the group behind us, a table full of drunk European tourists who were upset that their chicken tenders were not served before the rest of the meal as an appetizer. Lots of yelling and craziness ensued, with opposing shouts of "I'm not paying!" and "This isn't Galatoire's!" Ha ... not exactly a relaxing dinner!
DAY 3: Warehouse and Garden Districts
The next day, I took my time getting ready ... are you sensing a theme here? My plan for the day was to check out the Warehouse District.
My first stop was lunch at Carmo. Everything sounded so good that I had a hard time deciding, but I finally settled on the Carmo Salad. I figured the namesake salad had to be a good bet, right?
Definitely a good call on my part ... yum! I have plans to recreate this salad for the blog; it was that good!
After lunch came coffee. I spotted Pulp and Grind on my phone's map app, and wandered over to get an iced coffee. What a cool discovery!
How cute are those floors? I may have taken one too many photos in there. They serve pastries and food, too, however I was too distracted by the awesome decor to notice much!
Fueled by iced coffee, I started walking around the Warehouse District. This area is full of cute shops, art galleries, and museum. There are lots of loft apartments, and I could totally see myself living here if I lived in New Orleans ... if I didn't move into a cute cottage first!
The last time I was in New Orleans this area seemed a lot quieter, so it was fun to see all the changes.
I stopped to take a selfie!
Guys, I am officially the worst at selfies ... here's a reel of my selfie fails! Ha ha.
I was so hot and sweaty and red faced the whole time I was there. Seriously, I turn into a tomato when overheated (#PaleGirlProblems). No wonder none of them turned out!
What an awesome little shop! It was a combination of letterpress cards and prints, plus fun pennants. You can shop their online store ... I am totally lusting after a New Orleans Streetcar Map. Love!
After leaving this cute shop, I decided to walk over to the Garden District, which is kind of a hike. I was definitely veering into meltdown territory at this point, so I probably should have taken the streetcar.
Ignoring my better judgement, I walked down St. Charles. I actually made it pretty far, before I started eyeing up bars, restaurants, and pretty much any place with a cold drink. Hello, heat stroke!
I'm not really one to go into bars alone, so McDonalds it was! One giant Mr. Pibb later, and I was somewhat refreshed.
From St. Charles, I decided I head to the nearby Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. I cut down to Prytania Street (home to lots of beautiful old homes) on the way.
I love how the streets in New Orleans are marked by beautiful tiles!
I'm fascinated by all the history and character found in beautiful New Orleans cemeteries.
I took a million photos, only a few of which appear here ... hard to believe, I know!
I could have walked around here forever, but it was closing, so I had to make it snappy.
After leaving the cemetery, it was time to head back to the hotel. I was all walked out and decided to take the St. Charles Streetcar.
The streetcar was a long time coming, and I got rained on again. When the streetcar finally arrived, it was so crowded. I squeezed in right behind the driver and got to enjoy a breeze from the open windows all the way back to the Quarter. Score!
Earlier in the day, I had walked by a restaurant, Rebellion, that looked promising. When Joel arrived back to the hotel, we headed back for dinner. Mmm ... it was another good choice!
We started off with a Rebellion Roll, then I had the B-Bop (bibimbap), and both were amazing. I am obsessed with Korean food right now, and that dish cured my craving. Joel had the Ramen Poutine Fries and the Udon Noodle Crawfish Monica and enjoyed both. I will definitely be back the next time we return!
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by Q & C Hotel | Bar for a drink. Joel and I have actually stayed at this hotel a number of times, but it got a makeover a couple years ago and looks totally different. My horrible iPhone photo doesn't do the bar justice!
It's located in the Central Business District, which is right by the French Quarter. I actually prefer staying in this area since it's a little quieter.
There was a crazy storm while we were there, so we ended up staying a little longer than planned before meeting up with a friend over at Backspace Bar again.
DAY 4: Magazine Street, Garden District, and Audobon + City Parks
If you've made it this far, you deserve a cookie ... er, doughnut! On my last day in New Orleans, I checked out of the hotel at the last possible moment, then headed over to Magazine Street on the bus. There is something about riding buses that I always find stressful, but it was a straight shoot, super quick and easy.
My destination: District: Donuts. Sliders. Brew. ... look at that doughnut! It was kind of crazy when I got there, and I almost didn't go in (single diner jitters), but I'm so glad I did.
There were almost too many creative doughnut options to choose from (decisions, decisions). I settled on a chocolate milk doughnut ... yum! District also serves food, and I got a delicious tofu slider, too. I was trying to fill my belly with something other than sugar and pastry, but between the slider and doughnut, it was a lot of food. Sadly, I couldn't finish my doughnut, but I gave it an honest try. 😉 The cold brew hit the spot, too!
Post sugar-fueled breakfast/lunch, I spent a little time walking down Magazine Street. This is the perfect place to do a little non-touristy shopping. You'll find everything from antiques to clothing to home decor in these fun shops.
After a little window shopping, I headed back into the Garden District and wound my way up and down the beautiful streets.
The amount of detail on these gorgeous old homes is simply stunning, and I filled up my camera roll with a ton of photos.
Depending on where you are the Garden District, the homes range from small cottages to huge mansions ... there's a little something for everyone!
Everything is so green and lush on these streets ... that hot, humid weather definitely helps.
I love this beautiful home with its iconic fence and ornate wrought iron details.
I could walk around these streets for hours.
I think the colorful cottages are my favorite though ... couldn't you just picture yourself sipping a sweet tea on that porch?
I spy a lazy puppy!
How cute are those chairs? I wanted to take them home with me!
After taking my time wandering through the Garden District, I hopped on the St. Charles Streetcar and headed to Audobon Park. The streetcar was much less crowded on Sunday afternoon than it was on Saturday, and I nabbed my own seat behind this lady with a pretty hat!
The houses along this stretch of St. Charles are beyond gorgeous and huge. I think I was too busy snapchatting to take any pic ... oops!
Audobon Park is a beautiful spot to relax and take in some nature.
There's not a whole lot going on there, but you can walk the path around the park, admire the enormous oak trees, or just sit for a spell.
I wasn't there too long before Joel came to pick me up.
We headed to City Park next. Joel and I were married under this very oak tree! We always make a point to visit when we're in the city.
They added a plaque since we were there last ... can you believe this tree is over 800 years old?
Here we are under that very tree on our wedding day ... check out the size of that trunk! It was a beautiful spot for a wedding.
Check out my Vintage Number Sign post for more pics from our wedding in New Orleans!
After spending some time under our tree, we walked around the grounds for a while.
It's such a beautiful park ... definitely worth a visit just to see the old oak trees alone, although you'll find many other sights and activities, too. You can take a streetcar there from the French Quarter if you don't have a car.
There was a sign that said Swimming near this swampy lagoon. I'm assuming it was a joke, but I guess you never know!
After leaving City Park, drove back to Magazine Street for dinner at Juan's Flying Burrito, one of my favorite vegetarian friendly New Orleans restaurants.
Juan's has lots of veggie options and a fun atmosphere which my crappy picture doesn't convey. I had the Green Goat Quesadilla, a special, and it was so good ... I definitely ate more than I should have!
Before heading to the airport, I brought Joel to District, which is right nearby, for round two on the doughnuts! Ha. We actually brought them home with us, and they made a yummy midnight snack.
Thanks for sticking around through this long post! Here's a quick roundup of some of my favorite places to visit in New Orleans:
Where we stayed:
- Crowne Plaza: we stayed in the Crowne Plaza this time, which is located right on Canal Street at Bourbon. This hotel is super convenient to everything you'll want to see in New Orleans. Given it's location, it's also very quiet. Pro tip: unless you want to face a long, hour+ wait, don't try to collect your car from valet right at 11 AM checkout time on Sunday. Thankfully, Joel was long gone by then!
- Queen & Crescent (now Q & C): on previous visits to New Orleans, we've stayed at the Q & C. It's gotten a hip makeover since our last trip, and I can't wait to check out the rooms on a future trip. This hotel is located in the Central Business District which is adjacent to the French Quarter. It's still very convenient, but less crazy than a French Quarter hotel.
Favorite places to explore:
- French Quarter (Vieux Carré): the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans is full of character and roving packs of drunks ... ha ha. It's mixture of charming architecture, history, and tourist traps. Get off the beaten path and explore the side streets and outer edges to avoid the crowds.
- Faubourg Marigny / Bywater: wander around these beautiful streets to check out the quaint architecture or grab a bite to eat in a local restaurant.
- Frenchmen Street: head to Frenchmen to catch live music and to get a bite to eat or a drink. It's located next to the French Quarter in the Marigny. Not sure which bar or club to hit first? Check out this block-by-block guide to Frenchmen Street.
- Warehouse District: wander through the shops and art galleries or museums. I didn't stop there on this trip, but Mardi Gras World is well worth a visit if you have the time. Check out my behind the scenes tour of Mardi Gras World to get a peek at the gorgeous floats and costumes.
- Mississippi River: walk along the riverfront near the French Quarter or take a riverboat cruise. We enjoyed a trip on the Steamboat Natchez on a previous visit. You can also take the Algiers Ferry across the river for just $2. I've never done it, but maybe next time!
- St. Charles Avenue: A $1.25 streetcar ride will take you out of the French Quarter and all the way up to Carollton Avenue. You'll pass beautiful mansions, Audobon Park, Loyola and Tulane Universities, and plenty of restaurants and shops along the way.
- Cemeteries: New Orleans is full of beautiful and historic cemeteries. I visited Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 on this trip and have visited others on previous trips. Metairie Cemetery is stunning and easy to visit by car.
- Magazine Street: escape the French Quarter and spend an afternoon exploring Magazine Street. It's the perfect place to enjoy a day of shopping and eating!
- Garden District: spend some time walking around the Garden District to check out beautiful historic homes. You'll find everything from quaint cottages to stunning mansions.
- City Park: drive or take the Canal Streetcar up to City Park for an afternoon surrounded by ancient oak trees, wandering the botanical garden, riding the carousel, and checking out the art museum.
My favorite vegetarian friendly New Orleans restaurants:
My biggest tip for vegetarians visiting New Orleans is to plan ahead. All those iconic New Orleans dishes are meat and seafood focused, and it can be hard to find decent vegetarian options (let alone vegan) just by wandering around.
Note: these are vegetarian friendly restaurants, but they're not totally vegetarian ... perfect if you're traveling with a group of people that have mixed eating preferences!
- Backspace Bar: escape the French Quarter crowds and head here for a low key bite and a delicious drink. There was one vegetarian sandwich on the menu (a yummy grilled cheese) when I was there, but a number of the others could have been made veg if you'd ask. Everything had cheese, so not very vegan friendly.
- Carmo: perfect for a light lunch or dinner, this cute cafe has lots of vegetarian and vegan options. I can't wait to eat my way through the menu on upcoming visits.
- Central Grocery: ask for a muffaletta without the meat ... yum! These sandwiches are huge so get the half size.
- Killer Poboys: I was super excited to discover this awesome sandwich shop. There were three vegetarian/vegan options on the menu. Killer Poboys has two locations, one on Dauphine (closes at 5 pm) and one in the Erin Rose Bar (open late, smaller menu).
- District: Donuts. Sliders. Brew.: come for the doughnuts or eat an actual meal. The tofu sliders are delicious, and don't even get me started on the doughnuts!
- Rebellion: I'm so happy to have stumbled upon this restaurant! The menu is a fusion of Asian, Latin, and Southern flavors, and everything we had (down to the cocktails) was amazing.
- Juan's Flying Burrito: head to Juan's for yummy vegetarian friendly Mexican food and a fun atmosphere. There are three locations, but I've only ever been to the one on Magazine Street.
- Domenica: stop by Domenica for amazing pizza, pasta, and more from one of New Orlean's top chefs.
- Green Goddess: you'll find lots of vegan and vegetarian options here, and the setting on Exchange Alley is really quaint. We enjoyed a great meal here on a previous visit.
- Bayona: my husband and I ate here after our wedding and it was a highlight of our trip. The food is top notch and from one of the city's best chefs, Susan Spicer. She also owns Mondo, which I haven't tried (yet).
- Cafe Degas: this French bistro was another place we ate at on our wedding trip and enjoyed immensely.
I hope you enjoyed this tour of my weekend in New Orleans! Have you ever been?