Is New Orleans Worth Visiting?
Yes, New Orleans is worth visiting. When we told our families we would be visiting New Orleans for our birthdays, they immediately said Bourbon Street is not a great place to visit during the pandemic. They said it’s a party scene, and there’s nothing else to do in New Orleans. It was our first time there and we proved our families wrong…thankfully! We learned so much and so much fun was had in New Orleans that we would definitely return!
What Should First Time Visitors do in New Orleans?
First time visitors should definitely acquire tickets for the National WWII Museum, The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, The Riverboat City of New Orleans Jazz Harbor Cruise, and Bloody Mary’s Dead & Famous Walking Tour tickets in advance before coming to New Orleans. We recommend looking at the forecast ahead of time, and going to the two museums on possible rainy days or dreaded heat days. Both museums should be scheduled in the morning.
How You Can Spend 3 Days in New Orleans
We decided to fly in the early morning to New Orleans to avoid arriving late at night and paying for a hotel stay that was not necessary! This also allowed us to “check-in early”, which means you have a place to set your suitcases and freshen up for your planned activities. Our first stop was Café Du Monde. It’s located near Jackson Square. It’s open 24 hours and is cash only! They serve the world-famous beignet and coffee with chicory or cafe au lait. Its open-air concept is helpful during this time, as it’s all outdoor seating. We have had many pastries, and we love our coffee. But unfortunately, we did not like the beignet nor the coffee. But when in Rome… We recommend visiting during the weekday, and sometime in the morning, as the place gets very crowded. There are street musicians who play here, which is really nice.
Our next stop and one you don’t want to miss is Bloody Mary’s Dead & Famous Walking Tour. It is listed as the 10 Best New Orleans Cemetery Tours by Travel and News. During Covid, it’s free as the cemetery itself is not open, so the tour is all outside. But Juliet is a wonderful guide, and we learned a lot from her. She teaches you all about the famous Marie Laveau.
New Orleans Marie Laveau
Marie Laveau was a good witch, one who healed people in New Orleans in the 1800s. She practiced voodoo and herbal remedies. The cemetery that is currently closed for Covid is called the St. Louis Cemetery #1, and Juliet walks you to this cemetery to show you where Marie Laveau was buried. After her death, she continued to help those in need. Families who did not have money for their loved ones’ burial sites were continuously buried in the same crypt as Marie Laveau. New Orleans is such a hot place and the crypts are above ground. So all the bodies decomposed much quicker than normal, which allowed other bodies to be buried in the same crypt. It is estimated that there are 100s of bodies buried in Marie Laveau’s crypt.
Bloody Mary’s Dead & Famous Walking Tour is filled with more interesting information about New Orleans so we won’t spoil it for you. As for some tips…wear comfortable shoes as the tour is about an hour of walking. There is no shelter from the environment, so dress accordingly as it gets toasty and bring some water! The Walking Tour also takes you into the Louis Armstrong Park briefly and specifically into Congo Square. It also takes you into what was once the Red Light District of New Orleans. Much history is to be learned!
What is Louis Armstrong Park?
Louis Armstrong Park is a park in New Orleans that you must visit while you are here. It’s opened 7 days a week from 8-6 p.m. in the winter and 8-7 p.m. during Daylight Savings. The park is dedicated to jazz and its favorite and most famous musician, Louis Armstrong! There is no playground, but it’s beautifully landscaped. There are small bridges and ponds. You’ll see some birds here as well. It’s peaceful here on a Sunday morning. Attached to this park is Congo Square.
What is Congo Square?
Congo Square is historic in that it commemorates a time when slaves gathered there on Sundays to enjoy their day off. A lot of weddings, filming, and other major events and celebrations take place at this park.
You can spend the rest of your day strolling around the French Quarters! The architecture is unique with many melting pots of style, but one that is beautiful as most mutts are! Most homes and places of business have cast-iron balconies which are truly unique to New Orleans. Dine your hearts away in one of the best seafood restaurant cities in the U.S. More on the best of the best in our food blogs. And try and eat on the balconies if you get a chance. It drizzled a little for us, so we missed an opportunity!
How You Can Spend 3 Days in New Orleans
Start your second day with a glass of Kombucha on tap, a banana muffin, and a glazed twist from Nesbit’s Julia Street Market on your way to the WWII Museum. The Kombucha on tap is called Jazz Juice tea (a combination of pineapple and elderflower) and was inspired by New Orleans! You won’t regret your quick breakfast as it will be the freshest and tastiest finds in New Orleans and gives the beignet and their famous coffee a run for their money.
Where is the National WWII Museum?
The National WWII Museum is located at 945 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 for your GPS. You want to arrive at the WWII Museum when it first opens at 9 a.m. They are only open until 5 p.m. but they are open 7 days a week. Expect to spend 4 hours here if you want to see everything.
WWII National Museum, New Orleans
The WWII National Museum in New Orleans has 5 buildings. The place is colossal and very well designed! Building 1 is the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion. Building 2 is the Solomon Victory Theatre. Building 3 is the Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters. Building 4 is the Hall of Democracy. Building 5 is the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. There is a 6th building currently being built which will be the John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion.
As you enter the museum you will be greeted by veteran volunteers who escort you on a replica train that will take you on a 5-minute train journey. You will also get an individualized dog tag that you place on a monitor on the train that tells you which veteran you will follow along your WWII journey. At different stations throughout the museum, you can use this dog tag and put it up against a monitor to learn more about your veteran. Due to the pandemic, they give you a small stylus so you can click on monitors with the stylus rather than your hands.
The WWII museum is Trip Advisor’s number 1 attraction in New Orleans, and we would strongly agree. The amount of care and effort that went into every detail sharing WWII’s experience is impeccable. There are hand sanitizers everywhere. There are bathrooms everywhere. And there are places to sit everywhere. All helpful if you are concerned about the length of time that you will spend here. There is also a wonderful cafe that opens at lunchtime. They serve warm cooked food and were even thoughtful during Lent to provide some extra options. We would highly recommend this place.
We spent mid-morning going to Bourbon street while the place was quiet. If you are not into the party scene, we would highly recommend going there during the day without being hassled by the loud and drinking party life. There are many good restaurants on Bourbon Street, so definitely take advantage of them in the daytime.
French Quarter, Jackson Square
Our afternoon was spent going to the French Quarter, Jackson Square. Jackson Square is named after Andrew Jackson who was both the 7th President of the United States but also the Major General in charge of the U.S. Army in the Battle of New Orleans. He led a defeat of the British just 5 miles southeast of the French Quarter in New Orleans. As such, there is a dedicated statue of him in the center of the square. In the winter, Jackson Square is opened from 8-6 p.m. In the summer, it’s open from 8-7 p.m. A lot of tourists spent time in this 2.5-acre park taking photos and marveling at the landscape.
St Louis Cathedral New Orleans
Behind Jackson Square is the famous St. Louis Cathedral. St. Louis Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Church. It was built in 1724, and then rebuilt again after 2 hurricanes and a fire! Pope John Paul II, who is now a Saint, visited St. Louis Cathedral in 2017. The inside of the church is just beautiful, but all cathedrals tend to be. Unfortunately, the Archdiocese of New Orleans has limited the number of masses on the weekend due to Covid. They only have an 11 a.m mass on Sunday if you happen to be Catholic. The church was open on weekdays for general visitors.
How You Can Spend 3 Days in New Orleans
Day 3 in New Orleans, make it count! As we did not participate in the party scene, we always woke up early and slept early. So today, our cup of Joe was experienced at PJ’s Coffee on 300 Canal Street. This was close to Harrah’s Casino. They had great coffee and plenty of options. They are known for their direct trade of coffee from farm to cup. They help our planet by purchasing their coffee directly from farmers.
Is there Casino in New Orleans, Louisiana?
Before you head to the Aquarium, take a tour of Harrah’s Casino in New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s nice to get up in the early morning when the place is pretty empty. We were impressed that they took your temperature before you walked in. I also got carded on my birthday before walking in. 🙂 Masks were required to be worn and the place was very clean. While we did not gamble, it was a nice place to gamble. They have a Starbucks inside for all of you Starbucks lovers. And of course, the hotel is attached for those who get invited to play. Now on to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas!
When is the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas Open?
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is opened from Tuesday thru Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s closed on Mardi Gras Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day so plan accordingly. Get there earlier than 10 as the line gets long quickly. Even if you have a ticket in advance, you still have to wait in line. We did this on a Saturday, but choosing a weekday would have been a better option as it was plenty busy in the aquarium.
We love aquariums and have been to many, but this one is definitely one of the best. Some highlights of the aquarium:
- They have an underwater aquarium tunnel with glass ceilings and walls where you can see all the fish, sharks, and stingrays around you as you walk. When you come in the morning, you can see the scuba diver trainer feeding the fish and stingray.
- There were many different kinds of jellyfish which were really neat to see. They even had upside-down Jellyfish and Moon Jelly which many have not heard of.
- There were African Penguins here. About 15 of them. And they too were being fed. And they were swimming and enjoying themselves. There was a clear thick glass between us, but it was really nice experience.
- There is a Backstage Penguin Pass where you get to be one on one with penguins in groups of 4 minimum, 6 maximum, but if you had less than 4 people in your group, you still had to pay for 4 people, unfortunately. Party of 4 costs $400. Party of 5 costs $500, and Party of 6 costs $600. If you don’t choose this option, the free option is plenty enough for your enjoyment.
- Because it’s an Audubon Aquarium, they had really neat birds here, in particular, the Barred Owl and Red-Tailed Hawk.
- The Aquarium has an Amazon section where they have a giant Anaconda.
- You’ll also find an albino alligator which is common in the South but an interesting animal to see.
- And finally, our last highlight was the Paddlefish. A Paddlefish looks like a Swordfish but it has a paddle mouth. And the interesting thing is, most of the time, its mouth stays open. And when the mouth opens, the view inside is like looking at its X-ray. It’s completely transparent.
You can easily spend 2 hours at the aquarium, so grab some lunch before your scheduled boat ride on the Riverboat “City of New Orleans” Jazz Harbor Cruise.
Where is the Steamboat in New Orleans?
The Steamboat in New Orleans is located at 400 Toulouse Street. The Riverboat offers a meal and or drinks if you like, but you don’t have to purchase it. Instead, the close to 2-hour cruise will give you a tour along the Mississippi River. A big tip—>when it says boarding time, come when it says, as you’ll have to line up at the lighthouse to get your tickets even though you booked it in advance. It’s very inefficient. And then you have to stand in the line to enter the boat. They also take photos in front of the boat which makes the line drag longer. If you want that photo, they will develop and print it, and charge you $27.50 for it. I would recommend the good old selfie with the camera you have in hand instead! 🙂
The Riverboat has a full bar, so the drinks are good. We cannot account for their meals. The jazz is good, but they don’t play the whole time, which is a little disappointing. The captain’s tour is okay. It’s hard to hear him if you are near the top. But it’s the best place to be so you can see everything and be close to the jazz musicians. The view is not very scenic as it’s an active industrial port. But we always love a good boat ride, and that’s what we got! It’s a pretty nice Riverboat, so we would definitely recommend going your first time. We would recommend going on the Riverboat on a Saturday because the city is busiest during that time, so you can avoid a lot of the street traffic.
So now that you have your 3 day Itinerary….where should you stay?
Where to Stay in New Orleans
We would highly recommend staying at the One 11 Hotel in New Orleans. It’s one of the newest hotels in the French Quarter which means you won’t have the cockroaches that people tend to complain about at other hotels in New Orleans. It’s the South where it gets toasty hot. With that kind of heat, roaches don’t die but multiply. It’s also near the Mississippi River. So the view is nicer. The customer service at this hotel was exceptional and the rooms were plenty big with a french/Chicagoan style.
Is New Orleans Dangerous for Tourists?
Like many big cities, New Orleans “can” be dangerous for tourists, but you just have to be smart and safe about your whereabouts. Where you stay is important. One 11 Hotel is in a safe area, and you can even go for a walk along the river. It’s also close to the high-end shops. It’s away from Bourbon Street. It is very important to choose a place away from Bourbon Street. While you may enjoy walking to your place after partying hard, it can get very noisy and dirty. We walked Bourbon Street on Sunday morning before our flight….and there was massive street cleaning, but this is what it looked like.
Also, wake up early and enjoy New Orleans, but go back to your hotel by 7 p.m. Eat dinner early. Check out Bourbon Street while party goers are recuperating. Walk where others are walking, and change direction if necessary. New Orleans does have a fairly moderate amount of vagrants and you definitely want to avoid them while walking. If you stick to our itinerary, you too will likely enjoy New Orleans like we did. We would even come back as the food was absolutely delicious!
What is the Best Time to go to New Orleans
Speaking of returning, the best time to go to New Orleans is at the end of February after Mardi Gras week! The weather is perfect. Highs are in the 80s, You don’t have to wear a jacket. It still gets toasty but bearable. We would highly discourage you from going to New Orleans in the summer. The weather easily gets into the 100s. And the humidity is 100%. It is very little to no air conditioning in many shops. And there are not many trees in New Orleans which means no shelter.
We would definitely recommend New Orleans, but definitely stick to an itinerary like ours so you get the best of New Orleans without the craziness of the city!