Day 1: Getting to New Orleans, Swamp and Bayou Tour, Bourbon and Frenchmen Streets
One reason New Orleans is a popular spot is that it’s easy to get to! Cheap flights pop up pretty frequently so make sure to compare flight prices before booking. Our particular flights had us landing Friday morning and leaving Monday night, giving us a full 4 days to plan activities.
Our first stop was to check into our hostel. We stayed at India House, which we loved so much we actually stayed there again on another trip! This hostel is in a great location, with a beautiful pool and kitchen, and the atmosphere is SUPER inviting. After checking in, we decided to check out Bourbon Street for lunch.
Bourbon Street was just a short streetcar ride away. (Note: in New Orleans, they call the trolleys streetcars). Passes can be purchased on the streetcar with EXACT change only.
After getting off at Bourbon Street, we walked around a bit before stopping for some authentic New Orleans food. There are plenty of restaurant options, but we stopped at the Olde Nola Cookery and we recommend it. The food was delicious and prices were reasonable. Of course we had to order the po-boys, the traditional New Orleans sandwich served on French bread.
After lunch, it was time to return to the hostel and be picked up for our Swamp and Bayou tour! This tour takes you on a pontoon ride through the quiet swamps of Louisiana. We saw a lot of alligators and were given the opportunity to feed them (using a long stick of course).
Not only did we learn about alligators, but also about the original inhabitants of these protected wetlands. It was an entertaining and informative tour that we recommend to anybody!
We returned to the hostel, made dinner and got ready for a night out on the town. We made some friends at the hostel so we went out with them. Once arriving on Bourbon Street, we quickly learned that we were there for Southern Decadence, New Orleans’ “Gay Mardi Gras”! It was certainly an experience!
We hopped around from bar to bar, but notably we had to make a stop at Preservation Hall. This music venue is known for it’s intimate live jazz performances and we highly recommend a stop (but get there early, tickets are first come first served!).
After we had our fill of Bourbon Street, we headed towards Frenchman Street, known for it’s bars with live music. We enjoyed this area more than Bourbon Street, as it was a little more classy and we always love good live music. We ended up at The Spotted Cat and had a great time dancing the night away!
Day 2: Exploring New Orleans
Today was meant to be a full day of exploring New Orleans. Unfortunately we woke up a bit later than expected so we decided to not purchase the Hop-on Hop-off tour and instead just make up our own little tour.
Our first stop was Steamboat Natchez. This boat offers cruising and dining options, but we just stopped by to see the steamboat in action. There was a man playing the steam pipes on top of the ship, so we watched that for a little bit before moving on.
Next we walked to St. Louis Cathedral. This is the oldest continuously active church in the US! You can go inside for free, although donations are accepted.
Located right outside of St. Louis Cathedral is Jackson Square. Here you can find a wide variety of entertainers, from artists to jugglers to musicians. This is a great spot to pick up a souvenir as well!
After all of that walking, it was time for a stop at Pat O’Brien’s. This is one of the most famous bars and restaurants in all of New Orleans, known for their outdoor seating, dueling pianos and delicious hurricanes (a MUST for any visitor to New Orleans). We enjoyed some dinner while watching the dueling pianos and then journeyed back to our hostel.
We relaxed for a bit before heading back with our hostel friends to Frenchmen Street. This night we tried a different live music venue, The Maison, and had a great time! I think it’s pretty hard to go wrong with live music in New Orleans.
Day 3: Plantation Tours
We wanted to experience some history on our trip, so this day we booked a tour to see two plantations: Laura Plantation and Oak Alley Plantation. The tour guide picked us up at our hostel and we were off first to Laura Plantation. Laura Plantation is a restored historic Louisiana Creole plantation. Walk through the grounds with a tour guide and explore the lives of the people that once lived there, both free and enslaved.
Our next stop on the tour was Oak Alley Plantation. This plantation is known for it’s double row of oak trees that line the entrance to the plantation. The house is also very beautiful, inside and out, and thus several movies have been filmed there. Take your time exploring the grounds and taking in the history that surrounds you.
After the plantation tours, we were brought back to our hostel. The rest of the night was spent using the hostel pool and relaxing with the other guests.
Day 4: Cafe Du Monde, Cemetery Tour and Journey Home
A trip to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without a beignet from Cafe Du Monde! Beignets are fried pieces of dough covered in powdered sugar and Cafe Du Monde is known as the best place to get these in New Orleans. The line will likely be long, but service is quick, so wait it out – it’s worth it!
Another thing New Orleans is known for is it’s voodoo culture. There is a Voodoo museum, as well as various Voodoo tours. However, we opted for a tour that included a historic walk through a cemetery. Cemeteries in New Orleans are unique in that they are “above-ground” cemeteries, and thus are known as “Cities of the Dead”. This particular tour took us through St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, the oldest of the cemeteries in New Orleans.
Everything about this tour was very interesting, but perhaps the two most notable sites: Nicolas Cage’s tomb and Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau’s tomb. Although not dead yet, Nicolas Cage bought his final resting place in 2010 and built a 10ft tall pyramid tomb (nobody knows the significance of this). Marie Laveau was a powerful voodoo priestess and many occultists still leave her gifts in hopes that their wishes will be granted.
After our tour, it was time to head back to the hostel, pack up and head to the airport. Our time in New Orleans had come to end, but with so much to see and do, we will definitely be back!