February 1, 2024

What to Do on Your First Trip to New Orleans

I’m a New Orleans native, and one of my very favorite things is to give solid advice to those making a trip to New Orleans. Whether it’s the first or 40th time, New Orleans never gets old. The city goes far and wide in regards to culture and fun. In this article, I will throw out my top ideas if it’s your first trip to New Orleans. Remember, you won’t be able to cover everything, but don't get trapped on Bourbon Street. If you do, you’re not seeing our city as we locals like it to be portrayed. Without further ado, I will give you my well thought-out and curated list.

Inside a Streetcar - the Green Line!

Ride the Streetcar (NOT the Trolley)

There is nothing more spectacular than riding a streetcar on a first trip to New Orleans. I highly recommend the green line, which will take you down St. Charles and Carrollton Avenues. These two streets are quintessential New Orleans, and a must-see for newcomers. The cars stop every couple of blocks, giving you a chance to hop off. My recommendation is to buy the 3-day Jazzy Pass, giving you the ability to also take the bus and ferry to Algiers Point if you so desire. This is the most popular pass. While you’re riding the streetcar line, take in the sights of magnificent homes, and be sure to make time for a delicious eatery.

Coffee with Chicory and Beignets

Devour Some Beignets

One of my favorite topics - beignets. For most first trips to New Orleans, visitors go for the most popular: Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter. However, as a local, I want to turn your attention to local favorites. My very favorite, Morning Call, is at the base of the red streetcar line. Use that Jazzy Pass to hit this one. The beignets are always hot and fluffy, and you get to add how much powdered sugar you like. Another favorite is The Vintage on Magazine Street. I love that they allow you to order one beignet at a time (other establishments give you quantities of three), and they have a special one that rotates. Last but not least is Cafe Beignet. They have four locations, all in the French Quarter. The cafes are cozy, and if you’re staying in the French Quarter it’s very convenient.

Delicious Food from The Chloe - on the Green Line

Eat Exceptional Food - It's What We're Known for!

Where do I even start? I do encourage you to read this article I wrote on the evolving food scene in New Orleans, where you’ll definitely find some delicious bites. It’s hard to go wrong at most of the New Orleans establishments, but do stay away from the tourist traps. If you see a long line, skip it. There are 50 other places worth eating that don’t involve waiting two hours. Trust me on this, skip the lines! Don’t spend your first trip to New Orleans waiting for mediocre and hyped up food. Your best bet is also to get out of the French Quarter for the most part to eat food that the locals eat. My friend Mark wrote a fabulous book/guide called Beyond Bourbon Street about things to do and where to eat in New Orleans. Consider purchasing that as well for outstanding suggestions.

Metairie Cemetery - Used to be a Racetrack

Stroll Through a Cemetery

You could take a tour, but I also recommend taking a relaxing walk through one or two of our cities of the dead. Because they are unique to most of the country, it’s worth the experience when on your first trip to New Orleans. I personally love walking through Metairie Cemetery, which is not too far from Morning Call at the end of the red line. Greenwood is a bit closer and large as well, and a great one to check out. The tombs look like mini houses, and some of them look as large as houses. My favorite thing to do is to find the oldest tombs and reflect on the generations that have lived in this rich cultural city. Again, you can choose a guided tour, but my opinion is that you don’t need one. They are easy enough to get to via public transportation, and you can stay as long as you’d like.

d.b.a. Club

Listen to Live Music on Frenchmen

Frenchmen used to be a locals haven, and then the world found out about it. It’s only fair to share, though, as the music couldn’t be better down there. It’s adjacent to the French Quarter, so you can walk across Esplanade Avenue and hear music pouring out of many of the establishments. Some of the favorites are d.b.a., Snug Harbor, and The Spotted Cat. You’ll find that you’re sitting or standing amongst locals and visitors alike, and your first trip to New Orleans will most certainly feel complete. There’s nothing like seeing live music in New Orleans, which is why so many people flock here for it. Grab a delicious Italian meal at The Italian Barrel and then walk it off to dance or sway the night away. It’s dreamy!

Opera Guild House in the Garden District 

Walk Around the Garden District

Put your walking shoes on, and hop on that green line streetcar to head to the gorgeous Garden District. Sometimes I forget just how peaceful it is to leisurely stroll the streets there, but I recently did that with my camera on a perfect-weather day. A valuable investment would be to take a tour, I will say. Every so often, I even take a tour because there is so much to take in and learn while walking around. It paints the picture of the early years of establishment in New Orleans. A great option for a tour company is Two Chicks Walking Tours, and they limit the number of people, only taking small groups. If you like them and want another tour, the French Quarter tours are also a great option. If you don’t have time for either, just enjoy yourself and read the plaques on the houses - they will give you some insight to the history of the Garden District.

Alice & Amelia - Best Shop on Magazine!

Magazine Street Delight

Take your credit card out because there are so many wonderful shops to peruse while shopping on Magazine Street. It’s a pastime that we locals do. We will typically take a section of a few blocks and hit all the shops along the way. You won’t be able to see the entire street by foot on your first trip to New Orleans, but you can see quite a bit. Some of my favorite shops that are down there are: Alice and Amelia, Zèle, and Swap Boutique (which I tell you about in this article). Some delicious bites along the way are Tito’s Ceviche & Pisco, Baru, the Bouligny Tavern, and the Rum House. You can’t go wrong with any of these, and you’ll need your fuel to shop till you drop.

Sculpture Garden

Visit City Park

My solace in the city is City Park. City Park is enormous - bigger than Central Park in NYC. Take your first trip to New Orleans in stride, and hit one or two of the more popular attractions. You’ll find me in the Botanical Gardens or New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) on Wednesdays when it’s free for Louisiana residents. During the warmer months, the gardens are hard to beat. For a couple of free and worth-while options that I also enjoy, take a walk around Big Lake, which sits to the right of NOMA if you’re looking at it. Directly next to NOMA is the Besthoff Sculpture Garden. Yes, it’s free! Take advantage, as it’s one of my absolute favorite spots in the entire city. Sit on one of the benches and relax on a beautiful day. There’s so much to do in that little area that you are set for your City Park visit with those suggestions.

Now, Come on Down!

New Orleanians love when people visit our city. As a local and a blogger, it gives me such joy to hear how much fun people have here. It’s especially wonderful when I’ve recommended something great to do. For your first trip to New Orleans, take it easy. After all, we are called the Big Easy. Don’t pack your days. It’s not how we live here and it’s not our culture. After all, we are confident that you first visit will soon turn into your second. Until then, laissez les bon temps rouler.

If you loved our city so much that you can’t fathom leaving, you’re in luck. I’m a real estate broker who owns my own company and my specialty is helping out-of-towners move here. My company is Liz Wood Realty, and we would love to have you stay. Let’s find you a house!

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