From creature-filled swamp tours aboard a breezy airboat to cultural walks through NOLA’s turn-of-the-century neighborhoods, and from perfectly-mixed cocktails to jazz-filled evenings along Bourbon Street, with a long weekend you can knock off NOLA’s iconic activities and still have time to go off-the-beaten path and out of town. Take a dive into the city’s past with a hard look at its historic plantations, explore the bends of the Mississippi on a paddlewheeler Mark Twain would approve of, and find out what kind of Voodoo traditions still dictate your journey into the afterlife as you uncover the best of things to do in New Orleans.
Spend your first day in the Big Easy getting a lay of the land, hopping on one of City Sightseeing’s big red buses to hop on and off at stops all around town. With a 3-day ticket, you can use the bus all weekend to pop between sights like the French Market, Bourbon Street, Spanish Plaza, and Jackson Square.
In the afternoon, stretch your legs with a guided walk past the picture-perfect mansions in the Garden District and team up with an expert guide from Gray Line New Orleans to learn about the famous owners of these Greek Revival and Victorian masterpieces.
Refuel in the afternoon by tucking into NOLA’s favorite sandwich at the Court Tavern, where po’boy artisans are happy to fill French bread rolls with everything from spicy shrimp remoulade to Andouille sausage courtesy of the Cajun and Creole kitchen behind the Court of Two Sisters.
Use your hop-on hop-off pass to head to Bourbon Street in the evening to explore bars that predate prohibition and the cocktails that put New Orleans at the center the cocktail universe. Sip a perfectly blended Sazerac or a refreshing mint julep, and don’t forget you can walk with your drink, so you can take your happy hour on a field trip through the French Quarter while you find the perfect spot for dinner.
Get out of town and see what New Orleans looked like hundreds of years ago with a trip to the bayous, swamps, and rivers of Louisiana’s backcountry. Spend the day soaring across grassy marshes on an airboat adventure with Gray Line New Orleans, put your paddling skills to the test on a canoe or kayak trip with Canoe and Trail, or brave creature interactions with a nighttime jaunt into Honey Island Swamp with Cajun Encounters if you’re looking for more adventurous things to do in New Orleans.
Look for toothy gators on muddy riverbanks, spot Great blue herons fishing in shallow waters, and learn about the area’s delicate and complex ecology as you ply waterways bordered by bald cypress trees wearing ghostly veils of Spanish moss.
At night, slip into the city’s spooky and spiritual side with Witches Brew Tours. Learn about the haunted happenings that still surface in historic hotels, get up-close looks at turn-of-the-century mausoleums and above-ground crypts, and find out the difference between voodoo and hoodoo as you explore the darker side of NOLA with an expert guide.
New Orleans’s cultural identity is deeply bound in the influences of its earliest African American residents. From the live jazz music that spills out of nearly every bar on Bourbon Street to the signature Creole cuisine that defines the city’s culinary profile—but these legacies came at a very real cost.
Get a glimpse of what life was like for the countless slaves who worked the sprawling plantations outside of town on a day trip with Tours by Isabelle. Walk through the 1840s cabins of slaves at the Laura Plantation, learn about daily life for indentured servants from experienced guides, and take a look inside the opulent interiors of massive estates at Oak Alley.
In the evening, continue your look back in time with a cruise along the mighty Mississippi with New Orleans Paddlewheels. Aboard the open-air decks of the steam-powered Creole Queen, listen to the brassy notes of Dixieland jazz and drift by settings pulled straight out of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Enjoy a delicious spread of Creole dishes like spicy jambalaya and sausage gumbo, and watch the sunset over the city’s skyline.
What would you do with a long weekend in the Big Easy?