Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

What To Do On A Layover In New Orleans


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Ilise Rosson



Welcome to New Orleans, a city known for its vibrant culture, rich history, and captivating music. If you find yourself with a layover in this enchanting city, fear not, as there are numerous ways to make the most of your time. Whether you have a few hours or a full day to spare, New Orleans offers a myriad of experiences that will leave you spellbound.


From the iconic French Quarter to the serene beauty of the Garden District, there's something for everyone in the Big Easy. Indulge in the tantalizing flavors of Creole and Cajun cuisine, immerse yourself in the soul-stirring melodies of jazz, and delve into the city's fascinating history at its world-class museums.


In this guide, we'll take you on a journey through the best ways to spend your layover in New Orleans. Whether you're a history buff, a food enthusiast, or a music lover, this captivating city has something special in store for you. So, let's dive in and discover the enchanting experiences that await you in the heart of Louisiana.


Explore the French Quarter

Stepping into the French Quarter is like entering a time capsule that encapsulates the essence of New Orleans. This historic neighborhood, with its iconic architecture, vibrant streets, and lively atmosphere, is a must-visit for anyone exploring the city. As you wander through the narrow cobblestone streets, you’ll encounter a sensory feast of sights, sounds, and aromas that define the unique charm of this iconic district.


Start your exploration at Jackson Square, a picturesque park that serves as the heart of the French Quarter. Admire the stunning St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the United States, and take in the talented street performers and local artists who add to the area’s lively ambiance. From there, meander along Royal Street, renowned for its antique shops, art galleries, and exquisite architecture. Don’t miss the chance to peek into the secluded courtyards that hide behind ornate iron gates, offering a glimpse of the Quarter’s hidden charms.


Of course, no visit to the French Quarter would be complete without immersing yourself in the world-famous cuisine. Indulge in beignets and café au lait at Café du Monde, savor traditional Creole dishes at renowned restaurants like Antoine’s or Arnaud’s, and sample an array of delectable treats at the bustling French Market. As the sun sets, the Quarter truly comes alive, with jazz music spilling out from intimate clubs and historic bars, inviting you to revel in the city’s legendary nightlife.


Whether you’re captivated by history, art, music, or culinary delights, the French Quarter offers an enchanting tapestry of experiences that will make your layover in New Orleans truly unforgettable.


Indulge in New Orleans Cuisine

One of the most enticing aspects of visiting New Orleans is the opportunity to savor its world-renowned cuisine. A layover in this culinary mecca presents a chance to tantalize your taste buds with an array of delectable dishes that reflect the city’s diverse cultural influences.


Start your gastronomic adventure with a visit to a traditional Creole or Cajun restaurant. Sample iconic dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, and étouffée, each brimming with a symphony of flavors that reflect the city’s rich culinary heritage. For a truly authentic experience, seek out beloved eateries like Commander’s Palace or Galatoire’s, where time-honored recipes are lovingly prepared to perfection.


No culinary journey through New Orleans would be complete without relishing the city’s signature beignets. Head to Café du Monde, a cherished institution renowned for serving these pillowy squares of fried dough dusted with powdered sugar. Paired with a steaming cup of café au lait, this indulgent treat is a quintessential part of the city’s culinary tapestry.


For those with a penchant for seafood, New Orleans offers a bounty of delights from the Gulf of Mexico. Delight in freshly shucked oysters, succulent shrimp, and flavorful crawfish prepared in a myriad of mouthwatering styles. Whether you opt for a classic po’boy sandwich or a sumptuous seafood platter, the city’s seafood offerings are a testament to its coastal heritage.


From upscale dining establishments to humble neighborhood joints, New Orleans’ culinary scene is as diverse as it is enticing. Embrace the opportunity to explore the city’s gastronomic treasures during your layover, and you’ll undoubtedly leave with a newfound appreciation for the art of Creole and Cajun cooking.


Visit the Garden District

Escape the bustling energy of the French Quarter and venture into the serene beauty of the Garden District, a neighborhood renowned for its stately mansions, lush greenery, and timeless charm. A stroll through this picturesque district offers a glimpse into the opulent history of New Orleans, with its tree-lined streets and impeccably preserved 19th-century homes.


Embark on a self-guided walking tour to admire the district’s stunning architecture, characterized by grand Greek Revival, Italianate, and Victorian-style residences. Marvel at the intricate wrought-iron fences, intricate cornices, and vibrant gardens that adorn these historic abodes, each exuding an air of elegance and refinement.


One of the most iconic landmarks in the Garden District is the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, a hauntingly beautiful resting place that dates back to the 19th century. Wander among the moss-draped oak trees and ornate tombs, and immerse yourself in the district’s rich history and gothic allure.


For a deeper understanding of the area’s heritage, consider visiting the historic Commander’s Palace, a culinary institution that has been serving elevated Creole cuisine since 1880. Indulge in a sumptuous meal at this revered restaurant, and savor the flavors of New Orleans in a setting that epitomizes Southern hospitality and refinement.


As you meander through the Garden District, you’ll encounter an array of charming boutiques, art galleries, and quaint cafes nestled among the grand residences. Take your time to explore these hidden gems, and perhaps find a unique souvenir to commemorate your layover in this captivating corner of New Orleans.


Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking a tranquil escape, the Garden District offers a delightful contrast to the vibrant energy of the French Quarter, making it a must-visit destination during your time in New Orleans.


Immerse Yourself in New Orleans Music

When it comes to music, New Orleans is a city like no other. From the soul-stirring melodies of jazz to the infectious rhythms of brass bands, the Big Easy pulsates with a musical heritage that has captivated audiences for generations. During your layover, take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant musical tapestry, experiencing firsthand the rhythms and melodies that define this iconic destination.


Begin your musical odyssey in the birthplace of jazz, the historic Treme neighborhood. Here, the streets resonate with the sounds of live music pouring from intimate clubs and spontaneous street performances. Venture into iconic venues such as Preservation Hall, where you can witness the timeless allure of traditional jazz in an intimate setting that harkens back to the genre’s early roots.


For a taste of New Orleans’ renowned brass band culture, head to the lively Frenchmen Street, a haven for live music enthusiasts. Here, you’ll encounter a diverse array of venues showcasing everything from high-energy brass ensembles to soulful blues bands, ensuring there’s something to suit every musical palate.


If you’re fortunate enough to have an evening layover, consider embarking on a jazz or blues club crawl, allowing you to savor the city’s legendary nightlife while reveling in the electrifying performances of local musicians. From the dimly lit ambiance of iconic clubs like The Spotted Cat and d.b.a. to the vibrant energy of the legendary Tipitina’s, the options for experiencing live music in New Orleans are as diverse as they are enthralling.


Moreover, if your layover happens to coincide with one of the city’s many music festivals or street parades, such as the vibrant second-line processions, seize the opportunity to join the jubilant crowds and become part of the city’s musical tapestry.


Whether you’re a dedicated music aficionado or simply seeking to soak up the city’s infectious rhythms, immersing yourself in New Orleans’ vibrant music scene is an essential part of any visit to this iconic destination.


Take a Swamp Tour

Escape the urban bustle and delve into the untamed beauty of Louisiana’s swamplands with a captivating swamp tour during your layover in New Orleans. Just a short drive from the city, these unique ecosystems offer a mesmerizing glimpse into a world teeming with wildlife, lush vegetation, and intriguing folklore.


Embark on a guided swamp tour, where you’ll board a flat-bottomed boat and navigate the meandering waterways that wind through the verdant marshes and cypress groves. As you glide through the tranquil waters, keep your eyes peeled for sightings of indigenous wildlife, including alligators, turtles, and an array of bird species. Your knowledgeable guide will regale you with fascinating insights into the swamp’s ecology, history, and the diverse creatures that call it home.


One of the highlights of the tour is the opportunity to witness the majestic beauty of Louisiana’s ancient cypress trees, some of which are centuries old and shrouded in ethereal Spanish moss. These towering sentinels lend an otherworldly ambiance to the swamp, creating a sense of timeless wonder that is sure to leave a lasting impression.


For those with an interest in Cajun culture and folklore, some tours offer the chance to visit a secluded Cajun village nestled deep within the swamplands. Here, you can gain insight into the traditional lifestyle of the region’s inhabitants, learning about their customs, cuisine, and the enduring connection they maintain with the natural world.


Whether you opt for a serene eco-tour or a high-speed airboat adventure, a swamp tour provides a refreshing change of pace and a chance to connect with the unspoiled wilderness that lies just beyond the city limits. It’s an experience that offers a captivating glimpse into the wild heart of Louisiana and provides a unique perspective on the natural wonders that abound in this captivating region.


Discover the City’s History at Museums

Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of New Orleans’ history by exploring its diverse array of museums, each offering a fascinating insight into the city’s cultural heritage, artistic achievements, and storied past. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an art aficionado, or simply curious about the city’s unique narrative, New Orleans’ museums provide an enriching and captivating way to spend your layover.


Begin your journey of discovery at The Historic New Orleans Collection, a renowned museum and research center dedicated to preserving the history and culture of the Gulf South. Here, you can delve into a treasure trove of artifacts, documents, and artworks that offer a compelling glimpse into the city’s evolution, from its colonial origins to the present day.


For those with an interest in the city’s multicultural heritage, a visit to the New Orleans Jazz Museum is a must. Housed in the historic Old U.S. Mint, this vibrant institution celebrates the enduring legacy of jazz, a quintessential component of the city’s cultural identity. Explore interactive exhibits, peruse a wealth of memorabilia, and immerse yourself in the captivating story of how jazz has shaped the soul of New Orleans.


Moreover, history enthusiasts will find a visit to The National WWII Museum to be a profoundly moving and enlightening experience. This world-class institution offers a poignant exploration of the global conflict, showcasing immersive exhibits, personal narratives, and an extensive collection of artifacts that vividly convey the human drama and enduring impact of World War II.


Art lovers, on the other hand, can revel in the masterpieces housed within the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA). From timeless works of European and American art to an impressive assemblage of African, Asian, and Native American pieces, NOMA’s diverse collection offers a captivating journey through the annals of artistic expression.


As you explore these museums, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the cultural, historical, and artistic legacies that have shaped New Orleans into the captivating city it is today. Whether you’re captivated by the city’s vibrant music scene, its culinary traditions, or its tumultuous history, these museums offer a compelling window into the soul of the Big Easy.


Relax in City Park

Amid the vibrant energy of New Orleans, City Park stands as a serene oasis, offering a tranquil retreat for visitors seeking respite and natural beauty. Spanning over 1,300 acres, this verdant expanse of greenery provides a peaceful escape from the city’s lively streets, making it an ideal destination to unwind and savor the laid-back ambiance of the Big Easy.


Begin your leisurely sojourn through City Park with a stroll along its picturesque pathways, where centuries-old oak trees draped in Spanish moss create a scene of timeless elegance. As you wander beneath the sprawling canopies, you’ll encounter enchanting lagoons, charming bridges, and lush gardens that evoke a sense of tranquility and natural splendor.


For art enthusiasts, a visit to the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) within the park offers a captivating opportunity to appreciate a diverse collection of fine art, including works by renowned artists such as Degas, Monet, and Picasso. The museum’s sculpture garden, with its captivating outdoor installations, provides an immersive artistic experience amidst the park’s idyllic surroundings.


Additionally, nature lovers will appreciate the park’s Botanical Garden, a haven of horticultural delights that showcases an array of indigenous and exotic plant species. Meander through themed gardens, discover vibrant floral displays, and revel in the tranquil ambiance that pervades this verdant sanctuary.


For those seeking a leisurely outdoor activity, consider renting a paddleboat and gliding across the serene waters of Big Lake, allowing you to soak in the park’s natural splendor from a unique vantage point. Alternatively, relax on the expansive lawns, enjoy a peaceful picnic, or simply find a secluded spot to immerse yourself in a good book, basking in the park’s serene ambiance.


Whether you’re in search of artistic inspiration, a tranquil natural setting, or a peaceful interlude amidst your travels, City Park offers a delightful respite that invites you to savor the simple pleasures of nature within the heart of New Orleans.


Shop at the French Market

For a quintessential New Orleans shopping experience, a visit to the historic French Market is an absolute must during your layover. Spanning several blocks in the heart of the French Quarter, this bustling marketplace has been a vibrant hub of commerce and culture for over two centuries, offering an eclectic array of goods, culinary delights, and local artisanal crafts that capture the essence of the city’s spirited charm.


As you meander through the market’s open-air stalls and covered pavilions, you’ll encounter a captivating assortment of wares, from colorful Mardi Gras masks and handcrafted jewelry to unique souvenirs and local artwork. Immerse yourself in the lively ambiance as you peruse a diverse selection of goods, each offering a glimpse into the city’s vibrant cultural heritage.


For food enthusiasts, the French Market presents an enticing array of culinary delights that reflect the city’s rich gastronomic traditions. Sample an assortment of Creole and Cajun spices, savor freshly prepared beignets and pralines, and indulge in a diverse selection of regional delicacies that showcase the flavors of New Orleans. Additionally, the market’s flea market section offers a treasure trove of vintage finds, quirky collectibles, and one-of-a-kind antiques, providing the perfect opportunity to unearth a unique memento of your time in the Big Easy.


Moreover, the French Market hosts a vibrant farmers’ market, where you can peruse an abundance of fresh produce, locally sourced goods, and artisanal products. Engage with local vendors, savor the scents of freshly harvested herbs and spices, and perhaps sample a selection of delectable treats that highlight the region’s agricultural bounty.


Throughout the market, you’ll encounter talented street performers, live music, and a convivial atmosphere that adds to the allure of this historic venue. Whether you’re seeking a unique souvenir, a culinary adventure, or simply wish to immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of the French Market, this iconic destination promises a memorable and authentic shopping experience that captures the heart and soul of New Orleans.


Enjoy the Nightlife

As the sun sets over the captivating city of New Orleans, a vibrant nightlife emerges, offering an array of entertainment options that cater to every taste and inclination. Whether you’re in the mood for live music, spirited dancing, or a leisurely evening of cocktails and conversation, the Big Easy presents an enticing tapestry of nocturnal delights to elevate your layover experience.


For those seeking an authentic immersion into the city’s legendary music scene, the pulsating rhythms of jazz, blues, and funk beckon from iconic venues scattered throughout the French Quarter and beyond. From the historic Preservation Hall, where traditional jazz reigns supreme, to the lively clubs on Frenchmen Street, you’ll find an eclectic mix of establishments that promise electrifying performances and an unforgettable night of musical revelry.


Moreover, New Orleans’ renowned cocktail culture invites you to embark on a spirited exploration of mixology, with a myriad of bars and lounges serving up classic libations and innovative concoctions. From the timeless elegance of the Sazerac Bar to the chic ambiance of contemporary cocktail dens, such as Cure or the Carousel Bar, the city’s cocktail scene offers a delightful journey through the art of libations.


For those with a penchant for revelry, the city’s lively dance clubs and late-night venues provide an electrifying backdrop for an evening of uninhibited fun. Whether you’re drawn to the infectious beats of electronic dance music, the sultry allure of Latin rhythms, or the high-energy ambiance of pulsating nightclubs, New Orleans’ nightlife caters to a diverse array of tastes and preferences.


Furthermore, the city’s atmospheric courtyards, speakeasies, and intimate wine bars offer a more laid-back yet equally captivating nightlife experience. Unwind amidst the enchanting ambiance of hidden courtyards, savor a glass of fine wine in a cozy wine bar, or seek out a speakeasy for a clandestine rendezvous that evokes the allure of a bygone era.


Whether you’re drawn to the sultry melodies of jazz, the pulsating energy of dance clubs, or the allure of a refined cocktail lounge, New Orleans’ nightlife promises an eclectic and unforgettable experience that will leave you enchanted by the city’s after-dark allure.