Planning a solo trip to New Orleans, Louisiana? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- The largest city in Louisiana, with a population of around 390,000.
- Founded in 1718 by the French Mississippi Company, New Orleans was originally part of the French colony (original name: La Nouvelle-Orléans).
- The word “Dixie” refers to a currency originally from a bank in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Called “dix” (French for “ten”), the bills were known as “Dixies” amongst the English-speaking population. The region became known as Dixieland.
- The first United States opera performance took place here, in 1796.
- Nicknames: The Big Easy, Crescent City, Fat City, Hollywood South.
- Currency: US Dollar (USD)
- Spoken languages: English.
- Best time to visit: from February to June (humid, subtropical climate).
- Arriving via airport: a taxi ride from the airport to downtown costs about $36. There is a shuttle that will take you downtown for $2.
WHERE TO STAY
- Best hostel for solo travelers: HI New Orleans. It’s clean, spacious, comfortable, safe (great security), and welcoming – a perfect oasis just steps from the legendary French Quarter. Spacious common rooms, big bathrooms… this is the one. Just book ahead, especially if going on the weekend or during one of the festivals!
- Most travelers base themselves in the French Quarter or Historic District (note that prices will spike considerably during Mardi Gras).
- Cheaper accommodation is available near the airport.
- The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (RTA) runs buses and streetcars throughout the city. Fares are $1.25 for buses and streetcars. You can buy a daily Jazzy Pass for $3, or a 3-day Pass for $8 (unlimited usage on RTA buses, streetcars, and ferries).
- There are a number of taxi services in New Orleans, and fares are pretty reasonable. Make sure to call ahead though during Mardi Gras to make sure you can get a cab!
- Before you spring for a taxi, get a quote from Uber (via the app).
- Tip: if you’re driving around the city, keep in mind that streets in downtown New Orleans are one-directional.
NEW ORLEANS NIGHTLIFE
- Drinking age is 21, and there is no official last call. Many bars are issued a liquor license that allows them to serve alcohol 24 hours a day.
- Main nightlife scene: the French Quarter, and especially Bourbon Street, attracts just about everybody. The party scene in the French Quarter is welcoming to all.
- Trendy bars are almost exclusively in: Uptown, Carrollton, and the Garden District.
- Hipster scene: Lawrence Square.
- Not sure which of the hundreds of bars to start with? See the handy New Orleans Bar Flowchart.
- Great bars in the French Quarter to start your night: Chart Room, Erin Rose, Bar Tonique, Ryan’s Irish Pub, The Carousel Bar ($$$), and Burgundy Bar.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- The Canal Street Ferry, in operation since 1827, connects the heart of New Orleans with Algiers Point (on the other side of the Mississippi). Take a trip on the ferry and you’ll see some of the best views of the city from the other side of the Mississippi River.
- Bounded by Canal Street, Rampart Street, Esplanade Avenue, and the Mississippi River, the French Quarter was the site of the original (old) city of New Orleans. Now known as the city’s main entertainment district, the area is a historical national landmark. A must visit, especially for jazz lovers – it contains some of the top jazz clubs in the country.
- Cafe du Monde opened in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market. The cafe is open 24 hours a day, and only closes for Christmas (or when a hurricane passes too close).
- The St. Louis Cathedral is one of the most popular landmarks in New Orleans. Constructed in 1789 and rebuilt in 1850, this is one of the oldest operational cathedrals in the country.
- Take a walk down Bourbon Street, one of the most famous streets in the world. The center of nightlife and entertainment in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Bourbon Street has a variety of restaurants, nightclubs, music halls, strip clubs, hotels, and gift shops. At night the street is pedestrian-only.
- Opened in 1789, the St. Louis Cemetery is perhaps the most famous cemetery in all of New Orleans. Located on the north side of Basin Street. Take a stroll through the cemetery and get transported back in time.
- Take a leisurely walk through St. John’s Bayou. Defined as the area between Bayou St. John to the west, North Broad Street to the east, Esplanade Avenue to the north, and St. Louis Street to the south, the St. John’s Bayou neighborhood looks almost the same as it did 100 years ago.
- Enjoy the Garden District. Originally a separate city from New Orleans called Lafayette, the Garden District is replete with stunning buildings. A peaceful break from the bustle of the French Quarter.
- New Orleans is the largest port in the Gulf of Mexico, and the third largest in the world (by volume of cargo processed). The port has been a source of livelihood for many generations of New Orleanians, and you may meet many locals who are fiercely proud of this.
- If you love music, New Orleans is the city to be in! The New Orleans music scene features zydeco, jazz, cajun, blues, funk, soul, the symphony, and even the opera.
- New Orleans is a city that loves its festivals! Around 40 festivals take place in New Orleans every year, including the Creole Tomato Festival, New Orleans Wine and Food, and the Satchmo Summer Fest.
- Great restaurants in the French Quarter for travelers: Sylvain, Crescent City Brewhouse, Port of Call (burgers), El Gato Negro (Mexican), and SoBou (Creole).
- Budget restaurant picks for the French Quarter: Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria, Yo Mama’s Bar and Grill, Vieux Carre Pizza, Venti Marte, Bennachin (African), Coop’s Place (Creole), and Johnny’s Po-Boys.
- Dangerous areas: as a tourist, you would be wise to avoid Bywater, Mid-City, 9th Ward, St. Bernard, Iberville, and Lafitte. While New Orleans does have a reputation of being a dangerous and seedy city, locals believe the city is so wonderful that it is worth the risk!
Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days