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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

48 Hours of Fun On a Budget in New Orleans

In this blog series I show you how easy it is to budget travel anywhere and I also give you a quick overview of a new city each time in a brief 48-hour itinerary.

Hey guys! I'm back with a new post. I know I've been absent for a bit, but I've been sick and trying to catch up with things and motivate myself for the new year. With that, I've decided to bring back this series that I love, with the help of some friends and their suggestions for cities. If you have any suggestions as well, please drop it in the comments. 

how to spend 2 days in new orleans

In March, I'll be back in New Orleans for the Travel Goods Show, so I thought you might like to see how I would spend 48 hours there. As always, we will assume you're starting a new day, having flown in (or driven in) the night before and you've already found a fantastic place to stay. Luckily, New Orleans is very walkable, and has a great public transportation system, so you don't need a car. Clearly, you won't have time for something that is time consuming, like a plantation tour, as they are all far out of the city.

Day 1

Assuming you want to be where all the action is, we'll start our day in the French Quarter and a quick breakfast at Cafe Beignet. Cafe du Monde is quite popular, but also always has a really long line. Cafe Beignet is just as good, but also has food other than beignets, so you could grab a muffaletta sandwich or similar if doughnuts and coffee aren't substantial enough for you. Two could eat for $20, or less if beignets and coffee are fine for breakfast.

After you've eaten, walk to the Pharmacy Museum. This is the oldest apothecary in the country and is three floors of pharmacy history, including original medicines and medical instruments. It's one of the best things we visited while we were there, and if you're interested in history of any kind, this is a must. Admission is $5pp. 

Take the streetcar down to Lafeyette Cemetery No. 1 for a self-guided (and free) tour of the tombs. This is in the Garden District and a lovely ride. There are almost 500 vaults here, one of which is for the Mayfair Witches, created by Anne Rice, over 1,000 family tombs, and it's home to over 7,000 people. It covers one city block and is the oldest cemetery in the city. You could book a tour, but if you're going to spend money on a cemetery tour, save it for St. Louis. Here's a great self-guided tour. A day pass on the cable car will set you back $3pp.

Now that you've walked a bunch and worked up an appetite, you'll want to go back out and across the street to Commander's Palace. This is one of the more expensive restaurants in the city, but well worth it for traditional foods, like turtle soup, in a gorgeous historic mansion. It's been a landmark, serving award-winning dishes, since the late 1800s. A 3-course lunch will run you $39 + tip, so we'll call it $100 for two. You should make a reservation and also adhere to their dress code. 

<<I was still unable to get a reservation on my last trip, so I searched around for a place that had things I wanted to try from the CP menu and made a reservation for one that had availability when we could go. We visited Tableau, which had an excellent menu, lower prices, and a very chill & sunny outdoor courtyard. Lunch for 2 of us, without tip, was just about $50.>>

If you want to walk off some of your lunch calories, take a nice wander through the Garden District and check out some of the cool architecture and possibly walk or take the street car up to Audubon Park to take in some wonderful quiet and see some lovely plants and animals. There's a great big lake in the middle, which can make a for a nice walk around. Totally free, though I would advise you to bring a water bottle with you, especially if it's hot outside.

Afterward, hit up District Donuts for some really amazing combinations. You can take them to go for later or indulge in an affordable dinner here. They have awesome fried chicken sliders and Vietnamese coffee, but you can also get regular things here too, like burgers. District can get pretty popular, so don't be alarmed if you see a line. A lot of people go to order a box of doughnuts and take them home. You can also order online and get District offerings delivered to you. Plan for about $25 for two people.

Take the streetcar back and take in some live music on Bourbon Street or down on Frenchman Street if you like a more arty vibe. Whatever you spend on drinks.

Head to bed to rest your feet (and the rest of your body) for tomorrow.

Day 2

Want to try all the delicious creole food and then some?  Book a table at The Court of Two Sisters where you dine inside or outside while enjoying a massive brunch buffet and live jazz. We greatly enjoyed our meal with all the choices and the atmosphere. The staff are all very formal, making you feel fancy. It can make for a romantic dining experience. $35pp + gratuity, so we'll call it $90 for two.

Walk to Jackson Square, which is full of local artists, people milling about, fun shops, palm readers, and little fronts, like Faulkner Books. You can also visit a local lamp maker down one of the mini side alleys. You can watch him shape the wrought iron and also ask questions. If you love hot sauce, make sure to duck into one of the hot sauce "bars" to try some free samples and possibly find a new favorite. We shipped home a bunch for family gifts. Free, unless you make some purchases while exploring.

Take a walk along the waterfront and enjoy the view of the Mississippi River and statues and artwork along the trail. Less than 2 miles away from Jackson Square is Mardi Gras World, the place where every float for Mardi Gras is made and stored. The tour is guided, teaching you about the different way the floats are made, about the krewes, the history of Mardi Gras, and taking you through to see artists creating pieces for the floats for the next year's event. After your tour, it lasts about an hour, they turn you loose so you can peruse old props at your leisure. I would suggest booking tickets online, as you won't have to wait for a tour that isn't full. Tickets are $22pp, but you may be able to get a deal through Groupon, so you save a bit. 

Head to the French Market, where you can find souvenirs, along with locally made goods and foods. If the weather is nice, this is a great place to grab an affordable lunch. If you've been longing to actually hit up Cafe du Monde, this is your chance. I anticipate a decent entree for two people will run you around $25-30. 

Voodoo is an important part of Nola history, and if you're into learning more about it, I highly recommend hitting up the tiny, but informative Voodoo Museum. It's a short walk from the market and worth the visit (unless you're claustrophobic or low-lit places creep you out). There's so much packed into this place, you're easily caught up in the displays. Admission is $6pp.

If you haven't walked yourself to death by now, taking a walking tour should definitely be on your list. We took two, but the nighttime haunted tour had cool stories and took you all over the French Quarter. We went through Witches Brew Tours and were able to go for half-price because we, again, had a Groupon. Regular price is $25pp. 

You're probably ready for dinner now. If you would like to indulge in some local seafood, Oceana Grill was one of the best places we ate. We split an entree and an appetizer and were full, but they serve a wide array of dishes here, plus they're open late. Best crab cakes ever. I'd estimate $50 for two for dinner, less if you split something or visit during happy hour.

If you want to really cap off your Nola trip, walk down to Carousel Bar for a delicious specialty drink, where the bar is an actual carousel that spins. Drinks average $12-14, so add $30 for two beverages and tip.

If you have time in your schedule, I highly recommend hitting up The Sazarac House. It's free, though requires a reservation, takes you through the history of cocktails, with an emphasis on the Sazarac, in New Orleans and you get 3 drink samples. Click on that link above to see more and pics from my visit. The tour, and depending on how long you linger in the shop, takes about an hour.

New Orleans can be as relaxing or as packed and exciting as you want it to be. The city is so vibrant and cool, with little interesting alleyways everywhere you look, and colorful historic buildings/houses that make you feel like you've stepped back in time. You'll find many of the sidewalks broken and bulging, due to the old oak trees that can be several hundred years old. Their roots grow out of the ground and are strong enough to break up the cement. Bring excellent walking shoes, as some of your city walking will still be like hiking when navigating these sidewalks.

If you follow this itinerary, your food and activities will cost two people approximately $437. If you can find any deals on Groupon, this will save you a good chunk as well. We didn't have good luck with Groupon for restaurants. None of the places we had deals for were any good. I'd rather save money elsewhere and enjoy delicious food. Obviously, there are other places that are cheaper than those I've suggested, but I haven't eaten there. Make sure to check reviews when looking for places to eat.

If you've been to New Orleans, what were your favorite things to do, see, and eat? If you haven't been, what do you really want to see?

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