New Orleans, Louisiana is fairly easy to get to and one day in New Orleans is a do-able day trip. Recently we celebrated The Gardener’s birthday there with our daughter “Agnes”, his sister, and niece. We picked his favorite things to do in the French Quarter, and you might like them too!
French Quarter attractions
New Orleans is a historic, multicultural city with so much to do, but with one day, we limited ourselves to the French Quarter.
The French Market was established in 1791 between Jackson Square and the river. This is the home of Café du Monde, the 24-hour spot for café-au-lait and sugary beignets. There are small shops and a farmer’s market section with crafts and local produce (sugarcane, seafood, pralines, and Satsuma oranges.) Almost always, there are musicians. Street musicians in New Orleans are incredibly good.
Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis is a Catholic cathedral on Jackson Square. Over 150 years old, it’s an icon of the city. The cathedral is an operating church and you might get lucky and see a wedding there.
The Presbytère is part of the Louisiana State Museum alongside the cathedral. It has a fantastic interactive Mardi Gras exhibit. You can learn about the krewes, the parades, the balls, and how “Fat Tuesday” is celebrated out in the country parishes. There is a very moving exhibit on the first floor to tell the story of Katrina. The museum is closed on Mondays and has a $6 admission fee.
Next, it’s time to stroll on Royal Street. On the way, stop at Maskarade on St. Ann Street. This store features carnival masks made by artists. They are fantastic and inspire wonder at the creativity.
Fleur de Paris is a millinery and dress shop on Royal Street. You can’t take pictures in here because of the custom creations. The hats are made the old-fashioned way, with straws and pelts formed on hat blocks and then trimmed with an amazing array of vintage ribbons, feathers, and flowers. Women and men will find plenty to try on and perhaps purchase!
You can enjoy many antique stores and boutiques along Royal Street (and maybe spot locales from “NCIS: New Orleans”!)
Food and drink
The Palace Café on Canal Street is a great place for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. The building used to be a music store and it has a lovely art deco-style atmosphere, with a gorgeous spiral staircase up the center. You can find many New Orleans favorites such as remoulade sauce and jambalaya. A drink to try is the Sazerac (absinthe, Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters, and rye whiskey.) The dessert Bananas Foster is beautifully done tableside here.
Stanley Restaurant on Jackson Square has breakfast all day along with simple entrees. Their house-made ice creams and sorbets hit the spot during a break from a long walking tour of the French Quarter.
Pat O’Brien’s on St. Peter Street is famous for inventing the Hurricane (passion fruit juice and rum.) It can be wild and crazy, but take the time to enter and go back to the courtyard around the fountain. Also, one of the rooms is a fun piano bar where people actually sing along!
The Omni Royal Orleans hotel is a beautiful, luxurious space. The Touché Bar is a cool, quiet place to stop during a walking tour. The bartenders are expert drink makers – try the Moscow Mule.
The Royal House Oyster Bar at the corner of Royal and St. Louis is a lively casual place. You can sit at the marble raw bar or get table service. I love their chargrilled oysters, but they have lots of local favorites on the menu and a good selection of local beers.
A must-stop is the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone. The hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been a hangout for many literary stars. The center bar is decorated as an old-fashioned carousel and actually rotates. Also, a seat in a window on Royal Street is fun for people watching. Many drinks have been invented here. Try the Vieux Carré (cognac and rye whiskey.)
Fifty-four airlines fly into Louis Armstrong International Airport with non-stop flights to 45 cities. If you rent a car, you will need to figure out parking in the French Quarter. There is on-street parking, but you will have to be patient to find a spot and read parking signs very carefully. For one day in New Orleans, we took advantage of a French Quarter commercial lot and paid to park for 8 hours. There are 4 Premium Parking lots along N. Peters and Decatur Streets. You can go to their website and reserve a parking spot!
There’s more to do in New Orleans
You may want to check out the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, the Audubon Zoo, the Garden District (Commander’s Palace, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, lovely homes, shopping in the old skating rink), Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World, Louis Armstrong Park and Congo Square, New Orleans African American Museum, the Cabildo, and the Old Ursuline Convent. And of course, there are so many historic and fabulous restaurants at every price range!
- The French Market
- New Orleans official guide
- New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation
- Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis
- The Presbytère from Louisiana State Museum
- Fleur de Paris millinery
- Stanley Restaurant
- Royal House Oyster Bar
- Palace Café
- Carousel Bar
- History of Bananas Foster from Brennan’s
Let’s talk story
I lived in New Orleans when I was a toddler. My first memories are of Mardi Gras and my father dressing up as a Pierrot-type clown. My mother loved to take me to the beach at Lake Pontchartrain and we met Florence Chadwick, the Channel swimmer. The Gardener lived there during high school and first began dating at the restaurant in the Omni Royal and Café du Monde. We love visiting the Crescent City and making new memories together. If you come to Raleigh during Mardi Gras, you’ll have to stop by the King Cake party at Casa Bouquet and “laissez les bon temp rouler!”