The Perfect Day in New Orleans

If you only have a day in New Orleans, here’s how to make it perfect. Explore New Orleans’ architecturally rich French Quarter and take in the spontaneous sounds of street music. Take a mid-day stop in at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, feast on a po’ boy at Killer PoBoys, and tour Mardi Gras World. Then, take a break in your perfect day to relax at the Sazerac Bar. Complete your day in the Big Easy with a sublime dinner at Brennan’s.

French Quarter, New Orleans, LA, USA
You don’t need to work hard to explore New Orleans’ diverse architecture. Take a walk around the French Quarter and you’ll see Creole cottages and pre-Civil War townhouses with wrought-iron balconies. Hop on a street car and take in the antebellum mansions that line St. Charles Avenue, then wander along the side streets to catch examples of shotgun homes that can be found throughout the city. In the Garden District, you can find urban versions of French Colonial plantations (known as Centerhall houses) and double gallery homes (similar to townhouses, but with deeper porches and more space between the house and the sidewalk). Lace up your most comfortable shoes and get walking...
800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
Café Du Monde is always open; it’s the clientele that changes—from visiting families and local pensioners early in the morning, to couples in the evening, to Bourbon Street refugees looking for coffee and ballast in the night’s thinnest hours. This huge coffee stop is a rarity—a tourist trap that locals actually love (although they will rarely wait when lines are long). It’s been around for more than a century, and basically serves two items: beignets and café au lait. The beignets are similar to Spanish buñuelos, fried fritters of dough, and are one of those French traditions that’s survived here more durably than in France. While probably not on anyone’s diet list—they come piled with powdered sugar—they’re surprisingly light, and an order (which equals three beignets) disappears with unusual haste.
1113 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
The Beauregard-Keyes House stands out in a neighborhood—the French Quarter—already filled with standout buildings. Built in 1826, it’s a superb example of the then-newly-popular Greek Revival style, with its bossy pediment and sweeping granite stairs, which displaced the more austere Creole style. It’s been home to an illustrious roster of residents, including legendary 19th-century chess player Paul Morphy (born here in 1837 and world champion before he turned 20) and Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard after the Civil War. Next door and visible even if you don’t take the guided tour is a small, walled parterre garden, restored to the formal style of the middle 19th century.
718 St Peter, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
No trip to New Orleans would be complete without a visit to Pat O’Briens for a Hurricane. The story goes that in the 1940s, because it was difficult to import scotch during WWII, bar owners were forced to buy large amounts of rum and the bartenders at Pat O’Brien’s came up with this cocktail, served in a glass shaped like a hurricane lamp. It’s a huge tourist attraction so get there early and enjoy the quiet of the courtyard before things get too rowdy!
533 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Anyone interested in the city’s complex and vivid past—and if you’re still breathing, that should include you—would do well to make a stop at the Historic New Orleans Collection. This is a private entity with a public purpose: It was founded to both preserve French Quarter buildings and to amass and display some of the key documents and artifacts covering the city’s three centuries of history. The collection is housed in the impressive Merieult House, which dates back to 1792 and which underwent a Greek Revival makeover in the 1830s. Self-guided tours of the Williams Gallery downstairs and the Louisiana History Galleries upstairs are free; be sure to check out their exhibits on Louisiana’s culture and legacy.
514 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Little-known fact: New Orleans was the first place in North America to license pharmacists (starting in 1769, when the city was still under Spanish rule). After Louisiana became a territory, the U.S. governor extended the requirement, also decreeing that pharmacists take a three-hour licensing exam in order to practice. And no wonder illness got such attention—the city was arguably the least healthy place to live on the continent; it was riddled with yellow fever, malaria, and dysentery. This dark but fascinating history is explored in this atmospheric 1822 town house, which was once the home and shop of Louis J. Dufilho, the first licensed pharmacist in the city—and hence in the country. Exhibits include apothecary jars, tools of the trade, and leeches. (Yes. Leeches.)
Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA, USA
Some find this narrow, neon-lit French Quarter street appealing, others appalling. But it’s worth a stroll either way. It’s as if all the sins of mankind and then some were rounded up and corralled here—tawdry strip shows, cheap and potent drinks, the coveting of neighbors’ wives, petty larceny, big-ass beers, bad cover bands, and so on. (Bad cover bands were not technically mentioned in the Old Testament, but to many they’re the street’s most shameful sin.) The heart of the party zone stretches eight blocks from Iberville Street to St. Philip Street, with the thickest concentration of bars on the Iberville end. New Orleans allows alcoholic drinks outside, as long as they’re in plastic cups, or “go-cups"—meaning you can roam the length of Bourbon Street with your beer or hurricane in hand.
417 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Owen Brennan founded a fine-dining restaurant empire in 1946, when the proprietor of Arnaud’s taunted him by saying that no Irishman could succeed with anything other than a hamburger joint. Brennan got his revenge at this French-and-Creole restaurant located in a sprawling pink 1795 Spanish-era structure that’s become iconic. After some slouching in recent years, Brennan’s is back on culinary maps following a change in ownership (from one branch of Brennan descendants to another). Pro tip: It’s more famous for breakfast than dinner. Among the more noted dishes is eggs Hussarde, involving poached eggs and Canadian bacon served with both Marchand de Vin and hollandaise sauces.
811 Conti Street
Po’boys are on just about every New Orleans visitor’s list of must-eats. They’re a longtime local favorite—built on long, thin-crusted bread that is satisfyingly audible on first bite. Killer Poboys embraces tradition and then adds to it, with inventive fillings that go beyond the traditional roast-beef-and-fried-oyster, like rum-glazed pork belly with lime coleslaw, or roasted sweet potato with a black-eyed-peas-and-pecan spread. Two locations are around the corner from one another in the French Quarter; one of them operates in the back of the Erin Rose bar. If it’s not too busy, order your sandwich there and enjoy it with a frozen Irish coffee.
214 Royal St
What a trippy and unique experience. Tourists and locals alike are crowded shoulder to shoulder on this revolving carnival ride, ordering drinks with exotic names like Vieux Carré, London Fairy, and Corpse Reviver. And Sazeracs, of course. Installed way back in 1949 inside New Orleans’ famous 5-star Monteleone Hotel in the heart of the French Quarter, the carousel revolves at a slow enough pace to prevent anyone from getting dizzy. The powerful cocktails are meant to do that! If you’re lucky enough to find a seat at the carousel, the novelty just doesn’t wear off. The bartenders are attentive and focused. The carousel is beautiful and lovingly maintained, certain to make you feel like a kid again. Just make sure you have your ID!
923 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
The fragrant, pleasingly cluttered Central Grocery is a holdover from an era when Italian-run groceries occupied storefronts throughout the city. This timeworn shop across from the French Market still boasts an old-world charm, filled with tall shelves crowded with imported goods and various whatnots, mostly Italian. But that’s not why you’ll see lines out the doors. The crowds are clamoring for muffulettas, classic New Orleans sandwiches that originated here about a century ago. (Slogan: “Imitated by many, but never duplicated.”) A muffuletta comes on a type of round, flattish loaf (not unlike a focaccia) that originated in Sicily. The details may vary, but it typically includes cured meats (capicola, salami) and cheese (provolone). What distinguishes it from a hubcap-shaped hoagie is the topping—a tangy marinated-olive salad. Know this: You don’t need to order a whole one; a quarter-sandwich is still plenty filling for one person.
813 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA
The French 75 is attached to historic Arnaud’s Restaurant, founded in 1918 and located just off Bourbon Street. Once you get through the doors, you’ll feel miles away from the crass college-age drinkers and luridly colored beverages a few steps down the block. With its elegant tile floor, imposing wood backbar, and French cabaret music wafting throughout, the place is both refined and relaxed. Head bartender Chris Hannah is among the city’s best compounders of traditional drinks. (He scored the French 75 a 2017 James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program.) The list is built around the classics, with some subtle feints into modernity. Ask about his Bywater cocktail.
New Orleans, LA, USA
Frenchmen Street is, more or less, the local-music version of Bourbon Street. It also has its share of tourists trundling about with go-cups in hand, but they’re drawn more by the music than the drink. Plan to spend an evening (things start to pick up around 8 p.m., earlier on weekends) along a three-block stretch of small, informal clubs where there’s often no cover (give generously and give often when the bucket comes around), or at most $5 or $10. Notable clubs include the Spotted Cat, the Maison, Blue Nile, D.B.A., the Apple Barrel, and Snug Harbor. Earlier in the evenings, there’s often an impromptu brass band at the corner of Chartres and Frenchmen. Between sets, take a moment to browse the night art markets, the largest of which is next to the Spotted Cat.
536 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
The amazing music and cool vibe on Frenchman Street is irresistible. Some of the world’s best musicians are playing there every night of the week—just one of the many extraordinary things about New Orleans. While you are feeding your soul, don’t forget to feed your body, too. This is a foodie town, and Frenchman Street offers some delightful choices for dinner as well as dancing. Three Muses café (pictured above) serves up delicious small plates: Tapas, New Orleans style. A table at Three Muses promises to push all your buttons: food, drink, music & fun!
1201 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
Verti Marte is at heart a cramped, bare-bones deli. But any effort the owners have failed to expend on stocking the shelves or sprucing up the decor they’ve put into making excellent food. Head to the small counter in the back and make your request; while your sandwich is being assembled, forage for chips or soda. Verti Marte is known for its oversize po’boy sandwiches (shrimp, dressed, is among the more popular), along with muffulettas and tasty side dishes, like smothered cabbage and Brussels-sprout salad. Still hungry? Nobody has gone wrong by ordering the bread pudding and pecan pie.
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