New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in the U.S., and last month marked my 4th visit there. I had been three times during college: twice to volunteer at an animal shelter that had been damaged (and overwhelmed with stray pups) following Hurricane Katrina, and once before departing for a spring break cruise. I was particularly excited for this trip as it was the first time I was able to spend quality time actually exploring the city.
72 Hours in New Orleans in August?! Are You Crazy?
Not crazy, just willing to break a sweat to save some money! While you can certainly expect high heat and humidity in NOLA in August, you’ll also save a ton since it’s “low season.” We stayed at Le Meridien New Orleans, a four-star hotel just a few minutes walking from the historic French Quarter, for around $100 per night. We were also able to take advantage of deals at local restaurants (most of them offer special menus to lure guests during the hottest month of the year) and even got a discount on a kayaking tour. While most visitors prefer to descend upon the city during Mardi Gras, it wasn’t like things were dead in August. Bourbon Street was still filled with bachelorette parties!
If a little heat and the occasional short downpour won’t bother you, summer is actually the ideal time to spend 72 hours in New Orleans.
Things to do in New Orleans
Explore the French Quarter with a Haunted History Tour
The oldest neighborhood in the city, the French Quarter, is an amazing place to simply wander around and snap photos of the colorful buildings and ironwork balconies. The entire district has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, and many of the buildings date back to the late 1700s when New Orleans was under Spanish rule. The Quarter’s history is long and quite interesting, and the best way to learn about it is through a Haunted History Tour. The tours take place in the evening for an extra spooky effect, and are lead by actors who tell ghost stories, recount bloody tales, and even go into the history of voodoo.
Drink on Bourbon Street and Frenchmen Street
Two very different (but equally lively) nightlife experiences await in NOLA: Bourbon Street and Frenchmen Street. On Bourbon Street and the surrounding area, you’ll find bachelor and bachelorette parties, creepy groups of men offering to throw beads off balconies to girls if they show some skin, and general rowdiness. It’s pretty tacky, but also really fun (and it’s something you have to experience at least once).
On Frenchmen Street, you’ll find a number of jazz clubs and a slightly more refined crowd. Only slightly. They may be sipping wine and listening to jazz, but don’t let that fool you: they’re just as buzzed as the Bourbon Street crowd.
New Orleans is known for its delicious cajun food. Traditional meals include red beans and rice, jambalaya, and gumbo. You’ll also see quite a bit of alligator on the menu down here. Just beware: there are plenty of tourist trap restaurants where you’ll overpay for mediocre food. Two of my favorite places were Kingfish for a nice sit-down meal (get the alligator wings!), and Dat Dog for a late-night feast.
You also can’t spend 72 hours in New Orleans without having a po-boy – the local version of a sub, typically made with French bread and incorporating some type of meat or seafood (like fried shrimp). We stopped at a spot called Mahoney’s Po-Boys while wandering down Magazine Street.
Shop on Magazine Street
Speaking of Magazine Street, another must is a visit to the Garden District. It’s my favorite neighborhood in the city, with the perfect mix of beautiful old homes and unique shops and restaurants to explore.
Escape the City with a Swamp Tour
After all that booze and food, you’re due for some nature and exercise. Sign up for the Honey Island Swamp Tour with New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours and you’ll get both. The experience included transportation from the French Quarter and a guided kayak trip down a river, past abandoned house boats, and through a cypress grove.
We even stopped in the middle to swing into the river via a rope hanging from a tree – simultaneously refreshing on an incredibly humid day and terrifying, as we’d kayaked by two gators earlier. As I swung into the river, I thought that it would be pretty ironic if I was eaten by a gator since I had eaten gator wings less than 24 hours before. Luckily, it didn’t happen.