With its unique culture and culinary delights, New Orleans, Louisiana, is a must-visit destination. The city is filled with sights, sounds, and flavors that will tantalize your senses. From jazz music in the streets to the iconic beignets at Cafe Du Monde, a single day in New Orleans can be filled with unforgettable experiences. Whether you want to take an architecture tour of the city or get your groove on in a jazz club, one day in Louisiana’s most vibrant city will leave you wanting more!
To get there, many will cross the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway – the world’s longest bridge measuring 24 miles long. A small toll is collected on the North Shore (Mandeville) side of the bridge.
New Orleans History
New Orleans has a rich history dating back to its founding in 1718. It is one of the oldest and most interesting cities in America – a vibrant mix of cultures, music, food, and traditions. From the early colonial period through its more recent fame as “The Big Easy,” New Orleans has shaped American culture in many ways.
The French originally founded the city in 1718 as part of their colonial Louisiana territory. In 1763, Spain took control of New Orleans as a payment from France for war debt and held it until 1803. Spain returned the area to France and then in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson bought the territory from France, making New Orleans a part of the United States. (This is known as the Louisiana Purchase.) From then on, the city became an important trading hub, as well as a gateway to the American West.
The cultural heritage of New Orleans is truly unique – a mix of French, Spanish, and African influences. Jazz music originated here in the early 1900s and blues and gospel followed soon after. The city is also home to Mardi Gras, a vibrant festival full of music and celebration. Today, New Orleans continues to be known for its colorful festivals, delicious food, and lively nightlife scene. It’s no wonder that this incredible city has earned the nickname “The Big Easy!”
If you look closely you will see evidence of the Spanish influence in some of the architecture, street names, and courtyards.
The French Quarter
The French Quarter is a must-see destination in New Orleans. With its narrow streets, historic buildings, and lively atmosphere, it’s easy to spend hours wandering around this iconic neighborhood. Be sure to visit Jackson Square, where you can see the iconic St. Louis Cathedral and watch street performers entertain crowds. The square is also home to the Cabildo Museum and the Presbytère Museum, which showcase the city’s history and culture.
One of the best ways to explore New Orleans is by foot. Take a stroll down Bourbon Street and experience the lively atmosphere filled with music, street performers, and colorful buildings. Make your way to Jackson Square, a historic park in the heart of the French Quarter where you can see street artists and musicians performing.
St. Louis Cathedral
The 18th-century cathedral fronts Jackson Square, which was named in honor of President Andrew Jackson. Three Roman Catholic churches have stood on that spot since 1718.
The first was a wooden structure that was destroyed in the Great New Orleans Fire in 1788 (856 out of 1,100 structures were destroyed in the event). The second church was going to be enlarged to accommodate a growing congregation. During the expansion, it was determined that rather than leaving the lateral walls and a lower portion, everything would have to be demolished. The third version of St. Louis Cathedral is what we see today.
Not only has Roman Catholicism been a part of New Orleans since the 1700s, but so has voodoo. According to early census reports, there were nearly 2 enslaved Africans to each European settler. Many of the slaves preserved their West African culture, including their religious beliefs rooted in spirit and ancestor worship.
There are several voodoo shops in the city, among them Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo on Bourbon Street. The shop contains religious artifacts and souvenirs from around the world. (I would have loved to have taken some photos and shared them with you, but out of respect, I put my camera down while in the store.)
Speaking of cameras – did you know that over 200 films have been shot in New Orleans? In 2013, more films were produced in Louisiana than in California. The street scene below reminds me of old New York.
Louisiana native George Rodrigue (1944 – 2013) is notable for his Blue Dog paintings. The now-famous pooch represents New Orleans and is part of its culture. When you are in New Orleans, look around and see how many you can spot.
Café du Monde
Of course, no trip to New Orleans and the French Quarter would be complete without a stop at Café Du Monde. Established in 1862 in the French Quarter, the cafe is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It closes only on Christmas and when the occasional hurricane gets too close to New Orleans.
Cafe Du Monde is a traditional coffee shop serving coffee, hot chocolate, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and the famed beignet. (Beignets are French-style square doughnuts covered in powdered sugar. Be sure not to inhale when you take a bite!)
There are so many things to see and do in New Orleans. You could easily spend a few days exploring all of the streets and alleys.
New Orleans Weather
The weather is hot and humid. I went in early-to-mid October and the temperature was in the mid 80’s and we had light showers off and on the day we were in the city. Before you go, be sure to check the weather forecast.
Most of all, if you visit New Orleans, Laissez les bon temps roulez – Let the good times roll!
If you find that you have more than 24 hours in New Orleans and are looking for somewhere to stay, the Royal Sonesta Hotel is located on the corner of Bourbon Street and Conti Street across from New Orleans Musical Legends Park.
Below is an interactive guide to help you find accommodations in New Orleans
Silver Sun Seeker is an affiliate with Get Your Guide. Get Your Guide offers guided tours of the city and its attractions. Some of the fun things you can book include Ghost Tours, Jazz Cruises, Cemetery Tours, Court of Two Sisters’ Jazz Brunch Buffet, Bayou Tours, carriage rides, and more!
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