Other than drink, cause havoc, and lose your keys, what to do in New Orleans in two short days?
Well, for one: Don’t get mugged or killed. Blue sky and warm-fuzzies aside, this is not a town that dawdles with fools. And not only are rough and psychotic looking individuals part of the downtown scenery, but the sidewalks are jacked and cars appear from thin air.
This is a hell of a way to begin an article. So let’s take a step back. Hello! We’re the Hoffmann’s and this is a family travel blog that takes ourselves half serious. If you’ve never read one of our articles, we like to do it right and we like to keep it honest. New Orleans of all places deserves an honest review.
We imagine you’re probably not coming to die or break your leg tripping over a sidewalk grate that buckled six inches off the concrete because of a tree root.
You’re probably in New Orleans to do something fun. Maybe you’re here to get married or throw-down with hell-eager friends. If that is the case… Welcome to the big easy beatdown.
We found New Orleans to be a mixture of Key West, Savannah, and Vegas — The vibe of Key West; the historical impression of Savannah; and the filthy, drunken, broke-ass milieu of modern Las Vegas.
We gave Nola two full days and the town did not disappoint. We had a lot of fun, a little fear, and the spectacle was pretty much as advertised.
Nonetheless, 48 hours is not a lot of time and New Orleans is a big town. Other than drink on Bourbon Street, what to do in New Orleans?
This is the question we’re going to answer. We hope you enjoy what you read and your incredibly dangerous venture to New Orleans.
In the immortal words of Monica Hoffmann, “Ugh. Another boring museum?”
The New Orleans WWII Museum is not just another boring museum. It is one of the finest museums in the United States — A state-of-the-art experience that will educate and surprise anyone who likes to learn.
What’s wrong, Monica? Don’t you like to learn?
Anything you want to know about WWII is here. All the events that led up to the war, the US reluctance to enter the war, how the US citizenry supported the war, the European front, the Pacific front, etc., all of it is artfully illustrated and recreated at the WWII Museum.
I thought I knew a little something about our second world war — I knew practically nothing.
The experience is 2nd-to-none. The crowds are workable. The museum is in a clean part of town. I consider this the very best of what to do in New Orleans.
Plan to spend at least 4 hours if you don’t watch the movie (watch the movie). There is an incredible amount to see. You can read placards until your eyes roll back and your stomach groans in symphony with your feet.
WWII Museum Address (link): 945 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
Admission: $32.50 for adults. $7 more to include the film, Beyond All Boundaries.
After a half-day of packing your brain with knowledge, it’s time to head over to Jackson Square and the French Quarter. Here you can forget everything you’ve just learned — a couple of daiquiris and a head injury should do the trick. We joke, but… watch your friggin’ step in the French Quarter.
You’re going to want to spend some time in the popular Jackson Square. At the center of the park is the famous St. Louis Cathedral (above). This is a great place to see live music and buy a painting. The park is picturesque, but small. Grab a bench and take in the vibe.
Across Decatur street is Washington Artillery Park and the Riverview Steps. Definitely worth a peep.
The streets around St. Michaels and Jackson Square make for prime street performer viewing. We spent two nights in town and were fortunate to catch live music both nights. You’ll also find an assortment of vendors peddling their wares, as well as shops and restaurants galore.
Just across Decatur Street from Jackson Square is Cafe du Monde, the most popular cafe in town. Look for the green and white awning — you can’t miss it. Here you can indulge the famous powdered-sugar smothered beignet (a right of passage when visiting The Big Easy Beatdown). It’s about $5 for a plate of three.
Head east on Decatur and the road will split and form N. Peters Street to the right. Between Decatur and N. Peters you will find the French Market. Here you can buy local artwork and handmade items (as well as imported junk that appears locally made) from vendors in an outdoor setting.
The streets on both sides of the market have interesting stores and restaurants. At the end of the French Market you’ll find the New Orleans Jazz Museum, something to consider if you’re looking for what to do in New Orleans.
A crowd should be brewing on Royal and Bourbon Streets as the French Market is closing up their booths at 6pm. Stroll a couple of blocks north of Decatur St. you’ll be in the heart of the French Quarter.
You should have no trouble finding a wonderful place to eat. Keep in mind that many of the restaurants will be packed in the evening. Don’t go looking for the Outback Steakhouse, either. You’ll have to chance it on some random bistro.
If you love to travel, or love the idea of traveling more, better, or different, we have something we would like to give you. It is our professionally designed e-book and it is FREE of charge. We think it’s pretty great, and we’re pretty sure you’ll like it, too. It’s called, “Cultivating a Lifetime of Travel”. Click HERE. and we’ll send it on over!
The French Quarter is buzzing with energy and packed with architectural interest. However, it’s definitely not for everyone. We’re told some folks are turned off by the smell of marijuana and urine on the air.
Don’t be shocked to see significant dereliction on the streets, either. We saw a few dudes who looked like they might be dead, flopped face-down like a sack of rice.
And perhaps you’re more fearless than we are, but some nefarious-looking individuals can be spotted holding up the walls. They look like hyenas, watching for the weakest to separate from the herd.
We found the French Quarter has the amazing capacity to A). Pique our interest. B). Hit the gage reflex. C). Raise the hair on the back of our necks. It’s an uncommon combination.
So you’re back for more, eh? We are surprised you didn’t spend half of the day sleeping off your a wicked, margarita hangover.
Again, we will start the day outside of the French Quarter. This time it’s the Garden District, one of the less-explored, what to do in New Orleans gems.
Catch the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar at Canal and St. Charles on the West side of the French Quarter (MAP). From here you’ll head west toward the Garden District.
Here are all the details on how to ride the historic streetcar, including the route, cost, etc. You can drive here instead, but don’t walk it. Too far and too sketch.
Get off the streetcar on Washington St. and head S.E. into the Garden District.
Pro Tip: A walking tour of the Garden District is a great idea!
The first thing you’ll notice in the Garden District is the splendid architecture of the houses. You’ll see it from the street car all along St. Charles. Back in the neighborhood you’ll be treated to historic homes, some incredibly grand and some pretty far from grand.
The Lafayette Cemetery is on the corner of Washington and Prytania, one block from St. Charles. The cemetery is locked, but still looks fantastic behind the bars.
This neighborhood is a place to get lost wandering. It doesn’t really matter where you stroll, you’re going to see beautiful homes on some burnt-out streets. Historic Savannah or Charleston wouldn’t be caught dead running roads of this *caliber, but that’s part of Nola’s *charm. *emphasis for sarcasm
Five blocks SE of St. Charles Avenue is Magazine Street. This is a very cool street packed with galleries and eclectic stores. Plan to spend 1-2 hours on Magazine St.
You may want to ride the trolly further down the line to Tulane University and Audubon Park. Spend an hour or so wandering the Tulane campus.
When you’ve had enough of historic homes, cemeteries, and shopping, head back to the French Quarter to take in the nightly music and mayhem.
Music and Mayhem would be the name of my Bourbon Street Bar because mayhem goes with just about everything. Allow me to illustrate my point:
Marriage and Mayhem (Las Vegas wedding chapel)
Molecules and Mayhem (science lab)
Mullets and Mayhem (band name)
Mariachis and Mayhem (Mexican restaurant serving extreme foods)
There really is something magical wandering the French Quarter streets. Flower baskets hang from the balconies above the storefronts, creating an ambience I haven’t seen anywhere else in the nation. Well, maybe a few places (Pensacola, for one, is similar).
Add in the roaming Hobo Gadget Junk Band flooding the milieu with groovy music and it’s easy to see why people like to come here. Throw a few drinks down the hatch, hit your head on the curb after tripping over an uplifted brick, and the rest is history, (this works on so many levels).
OK, first timers. This is the honest conclusion. My mother always said if you can’t say something nice about someone, write it on the internet. I’m just kidding. She demented long before the internet went Ron Burgundy and became a big deal.
We believe there is a better vacation available than the Bourbon Street experience. It’s gross and a little bit stupid to be herded into a loud, dark, urine-soaked pit and surround yourself with scary people.
That said, two days is not enough time for New Orleans, as you will run yourself haggard with all the museums, streets, and shops. If two days is all you have then by all means, exhaust yourselves. That’s what we did and we don’t regret it.
The Garden District is several miles away. It might not seem like a priority but we strongly recommend it. It is the nicest area of New Orleans we found and there is enough to keep you busy an entire day.
Please be careful on the streets at night. The French Quarter is basically safe, but a few steps into the surrounding neighborhoods can get violent. We’re talking about broken glass from car windows, garbage strewn on the sidewalk, the dank odor of marijuana, and people sitting in their cars during the day doing nothing but watching you walk past.
We asked a police officer if it was safe to walk back to our RV park after dark — which was three blocks from the French Quarter. He cut us off mid-sentence, “No! Don’t go that way after dark! It is not safe!”
There are so many ways to be murdered in New Orleans. The statistics are real.
But I’m sure you’ll be fine. Have a great vacation! 🙂
Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!
Learn our skills for traveling as a family. Get our free e-book PDF and jumpstart your family's journey.