New Orleans has been a city I’ve been looking to tick off my list for years, and I really wanted to incorporate it into my most recent trip to the US. It’s notorious for being on the pricey side, but we managed to head there fairly cheaply, and we kept to a pretty good budget while we were there.
If you’re thinking of heading to this magical city, Here are some ideas of how you can spend three days in NOLA and keep it cheap!
If you’re travelling from the UK, it is possible to get a direct flight to New Orleans with British Airways or American Airlines, and it’ll set you back upwards of £500. If you’re on a bigger trip like the one that we did, it might be worth splitting your journey. For instance, we paid around £250 to fly to New York (return with Norwegian), and paid for a separate internal flight which cost just £90 with JetBlue.
When I was researching accommodation in New Orleans, a lot of the hotels in the centre of town were VERY expensive. We stayed for four nights and some of the prices were upwards of £700, which was way out of our budget.
Instead, we opted for self-catering with Booking and our flat ended up being about £340 in total. It was great because it meant we could make our own breakfast, or if we wanted to bring food back at night we could prepare something there. Being a little out of town was good too as it was a lot quieter! Do of course research areas to make sure they’re safe, but we stayed in Broadmoor and I would for sure recommend the Garden District.
( A little FYI that we had arrived in New Orleans the evening before, but we were super tired and stayed in!)
Breakfast at French Truck Coffee
After a wee lie-in post-flight, we decided to grab some breakfast to fuel up for a day of sightseeing! There are a number of French Truck Coffee‘s dotted around the city, but we opted for the one on Dryades Street. The filter coffee is great and I thoroughly enjoyed their waffle sandwich.
Cost: $9 for waffles
Explore the Garden District
The Garden District is an area synonymous with pristine historic mansions of all colours, shaded by oak trees and palms. It was a half hour walk from our accommodation, so we headed there on foot after we ate and it was beautifully serene.
Wander aimlessly around the streets, make a stop at Buckner Mansion if you’re a fan of American Horror Story (it’s one of the places they filmed season three’s Coven) and this area is also home to Lafayette Cemetery no.1 too! We weren’t able to head in as it was temporarily closed, but it’s well worth a look or taking a tour.
Grab Lunch at Stein’s Deli
If you’re peckish, Stein’s Deli is a great option. The Jewish-Italian market is a haven for meat eaters, but I was feeling something a little lighter, so I opted for one of their honey and nut bagels. A little more New York than New Orleans but it was super tasty!
Cost: My bagel was only $3
Find the Greetings From NOLA Sign
On the corner of Josephine Street and Magazine Street, you’ll find a kaleidoscopic ‘Greetings from NOLA’ mural. Get snap-happy here!
Discover the Boutiques of Magazine Street
Magazine Street is perfect for gift shopping or simply wandering in and out of the shops if you fancy a browse. We went inside a few but my favourite by far was Miette, a cute and quirky boutique with everything from taxidermy to tank tops, horror pins to holographic skirts.
Cost: Well, it’ll be tempting not to buy something, that’s all I’m saying
Party at Mardi Gras World
If you visit New Orleans around Mardi Gras, lucky lucky you, you’re in for a treat! If you don’t visit during Mardi Gras, head to Mardi Gras World, which goes behind the scenes of how to the show is run and how the floats are made. It’s fascinating!
After a guided tour, King Cake and a video that delves into the history of Mardi Gras, you have all the time you want to wander around the floats and take as many pictures as you want.
Cost: Tickets will set you back about $20, but that includes a guided tour and King Cake, so it’s well worth your money!
Grab Dinner in Town or Make Your own
This bit of the itinerary is totally up to you, but because we were in self-catering accomodation, we went to Walmart to grab some provisions before getting a Lyft back to our apartment. If you’re staying in the French Quarter in the centre of town there are tonnes of options!
Cost: Name your price really. We did a four-day supermarket shop for around $50 (this included dinner, dessert, breakfast bits and snacks)
Head to the swamps!
New Orleans isn’t that big as US cities go, so the centre can be explored in a couple of days I would say. That’s why at the beginning of day two we opted for a boat tour of Jean Lafitte National Park, aka the swamps of Louisiana.
We were able to get transport via bus from one of the major hotels (just a 10-minute Lyft from our apartment), and from there it was around a half-an-hour to 45-minute ride out to the national park. The experience was around four hours in total, including the 90-minute boat tour which was super fun.
I would definitely recommend this traditional boat tour as oppose to the airboat tour as it’s more chilled, quieter and gives you more chance to spot the wildlife. We saw turtles, birds of prey and of course alligators! Our tour guide also had a baby alligator that we could hold too.
A little note on this as I do like to think I’m a responsible animal person: I’d researched this tour and it was amongst the most eco-friendly, or as eco-friendly as you can get in Louisiana. Alligators are protected on 80% of Louisiana land, and only 12% of baby alligators live past five due to predators eating them, so organisations like this rear them before releasing them – hence why we were able to handle a wee one!
Cost: This experience was kindly gifted to me by Ice Lolly but for the tour and combined return bus it was £75 for two people.
Go for Lunch at Willie Mae’s
Veggies and vegans, this one’s not for you. Willie Mae’s Scotch House has been dubbed one of the best places in the US to get fried chicken, and it didn’t disappoint quite frankly. There was a queue outside, which blew my mind but it’s really not unusual for this clucky joint – there’s always a queue (with a bouncer who will take your name and party number). I did panic a bit but when we got inside, the atmosphere was chilled and the food was great.
Cost: Two pieces of chicken and a side will set you back around $15 which is on the more pricey side as it doesn’t include drinks, but this was definitely our treat meal of the trip!
Take a Cemetery Tour
We opted for a more relaxing early evening in the centre of town, but if you’re still raring to go why not include a cemetary visit to your itinerary? There are 45 of historic significance in the city, with five under the National Register of Historic Places.
Cost: Check online first as you may need a guide to take you round some of the cemeteries, but these start at around $10, so they don’t break the bank.
Grab Dessert at Cafe Beignet
Okay so if you love sweet stuffs like me, beignets should be top of your must-try list cos dayum! Here’s a little hack for you though – a lot of people recommend heading to a cafe in the morning for beignets and coffee but honestly? just go in the evening and enjoy beignets with iced coffee and live music – Cafe Beignet was lovely and it was so quiet!
Cost: three beignets will set you back $3.99
Sip Cocktails on Bourbon and Listen to Live Music
After we had our beignets the sun had only just set, and to be honest we hadn’t ventured to Bourbon Street yet so we decided to have a wander down. It. was. crazy. We were not ready! haha. The atmosphere is like nowhere I’ve been. The heavy concentration of bars means you’ll find something that matches your taste in no time.
For our second night we headed to the quiet Bourbon O Bar to try some signature NOLA cocktails: The Grasshopper, a Sazarac and a Scarlet O’Hara… all so tasty, and make you feel a little toasty!
Cost: A grasshopper cocktail at Bourbon O was $8 and a Sazarac was $14
Head to the French Quarter
The historic heart of New Orleans, the French Quarter dates back to the 1700s and is dotted with a spectrum of impossibly pretty buildings, all lined with those signature wrought iron balconies. It’s romantic, it’s timeless – and of course unmissable. We headed there on the third day, so we had all morning to wander around and there’s plenty to see – mosey around galleries, discover trinkets in boutiques or grab a drink and just soak in the atmosphere.
Spot some American Horror Story Filming Locations
If you love American Horror Story (like meeee) then there’s plenty to see in New Orleans from season three, Coven. Here’s your guide:
– The Lalaurie Mansion – the infamous horror house! although the season wasn’t filmed here, it’s still worth a look.
– Gallier House – this served as the exterior of the Lalaurie Mansion in the series
– Hermann-Grima House – interior shots for the Lalaurie Mansion took place here
Immerse Yourself in Voodoo
Voodoo is big in New Orleans, and it was brought to Louisiana by enslaved West Africans, who merged their beliefs with those of the Catholic community to form Voodoo-Catholicism. What really appealed to me was their driving belief that one God does not interfere in daily lives, but spirits do.
There are a few essential stores you must visit, my favourites were Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo (and Reverend Zombie’s House of Voodoo), and Boutique du Vampyre, although there are around nine essential spots to discover.
Cost: Free if you’re not into it, but I bought out most of the shops here because I’m obsessed with this stuff! $$$$$$
Grab a Drink to Go
One element of New Orleans I found weird then totally embraced was the whole ‘go cup’ idea. Basically you can walk into any bar, and take your drink away (provided it’s not glass). You’re then free to totally roam the street sipping on your slurpy. I know, amazing.
We headed to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar as it’s one of the oldest bars in the country, and I got a ‘purple drank’ which is basically a frozen daquiri, nearby.
Cost: Prices vary, although cocktails set you back around $8-10.
Chill in Jackson Square
I kinda see Jackson Square as the centrepoint of New Orleans because it felt like it’s beating heart. Groups of friends chilled on the grass with their go-cups while vendors sold their art on the peripheries – it’s definitely a place to stop and take in the atmosphere (and a few pics too).
Try a Po’Boys
If your third day is your last day, then you have to make sure you try some of the local cuisine. Gumbo, red beans and rice, jumbalaya… whatever takes your fancy. We opted for a Po’Boy because we needed something stodgy after all that drinking, and it’s a traditional Louisiana sandwich essentially. I recommend Johnny’s Po’Boys, I really enjoyed their shrimp variety.
Cost: A shrimp Po’Boy will set you back around $11
Spend An Evening on Bourbon Street
You. Must. Do. This. On my second night when I saw the mad crowd and the general craziness, I had reservations about a night on Bourbon, but it was our favourite evening of our whole two-week trip in America, if that says anything!
One thing I will warn you is that the drinks in NOLA are very. strong. I’m not a super regular drinker, so some of the tasty cocktails hit differently… so I would say pace yourself! The main thing is the music though. There is so much live music to be enjoyed here, and for a lot of bars, there’s music all day and admission is simply gained by buying a drink at the bar.
We headed to Tropical Isle, drawn in by the radioactive green yard cups that hold their signature drink, the ‘hand grenade’. I can confirm it was tasty (AF, especially frozen), and their ‘shark attack’ was equally good. Just next door they had a band playing cajun music which we thoroughly enjoyed, and at intervals shots of Fireball were just $2 so you can imagine we had a good time that night!
Drink until you’re merry, enjoy the music, wander from bar to bar. This is New Orleans at it’s best.
Cost: This is between you and your drunken wallet.