Greetings, Internet Stranger! So you want to spend 24 hours in New Orleans? Then I suggest you get out of the quarter and visit one of the cooler neighborhoods. And in a city chock-full with cool neighborhoods, the Marigny and its neighbor the Bywater might be the coolest neighborhoods of them all. In what other spot in the country, nay the world, can you find: technicolor houses, drag queens, CATS, pepper jelly, grits, veggie pizza, DAT DOG, a very good park for stoners, and the greatest jazz to ever grace your ears? Only in NOLA.
And this wondrous location is not even difficult to locate. All you have to do is start in the French Quarter, head to Esplanade Ave, and then just keep going a few blocks. Voila! You are in the Marigny. If you keep walking, you are in the Bywater. Let the adventure begin!
Fair warning: these are really weekend neighborhoods and some of the things I suggest, like brunch at The Country Club, won’t be available on other days. So plan accordingly.
24 Hours in New Orleans
Where to Stay?
New Orleans is the kind of city where you want to splurge a little on your hotel. After all, the motto is “laissez les bons temps rouler”, and nothing makes the good times roll faster than a little luxury. Plus it’s easier to take advantage of the New Orleans nightlife if you’re in a centrally located hotel, and those are a bit pricey.
I recommend the Bourbon Orleans Hotel. It’s located right in the French Quarter, but it’s not crazy expensive. The rooms are comfortable and beautiful. Plus, the hotel is haunted! What more could you want?
24 Hours in New Orleans
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. It’s usually hot in New Orleans, though not always, so it’s smart to wear sandals. I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Also, don’t forget the sunscreen! The sun can get scorching! My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. You don’t want to sling a heavy bag all around NOLA. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
24 Hours in New Orleans
Morning: Drag Brunch at The Country Club
The Country Club is something of a misnomer for this fine dining establishment. I know that I would expect a country club to be full of balding WASPS named Chad who are married to their 9-irons, accompanied by ladies of a certain age with set hair named Muffy who are wearing Lilly Pulitzer sweater sets. But this country club is much better than that imaginary one because it has drag queens who sing Judy Garland and bottomless mimosas and GRITS!
Every Saturday, The Country Club serves up a drag brunch from 10-3. I recommend making the earliest possible reservation online here, so you have adequate time to complete the rest of the itinerary later in the day. You don’t have to pay anything extra for tickets to the show. Just sit down, order your food and your mimosa, and get ready for fun times.
24 hour treat: fried green tomatoes and grits
I always get the poached eggs on fried green tomatoes with cheesy grits because this is America. Fried green tomatoes make a delicious base to a standard Eggs Hollandaise. I honestly prefer this version to the English muffin.
At around 11 AM, the performance started. I was smart enough to be in NOLA around Christmastime, so there was a Christmas theme to the show. Various ladies came out and circulated among the diners. They everything from “Santa Baby” to my personal favorite, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.
Some of them changed up the lyrics to the songs so that they were rather raunchy. Be forewarned! This is not a child-friendly show. One of them said she was asking Santa for a boob job this Christmas, and I would pay money to see Santa’s reaction to getting that Christmas letter.
24 Hour Tip
Bring singles! It’s fun to tip the performers as they go around. They will spend a little extra time shimmying at your table if you give ’em something.
24 Hours in New Orleans
Afternoon: Walking Tour of the Marigny
At around noon, you’ll want to ask for your check and head to your next location. This will give you enough time to wander over to the meeting spot for your tour. Be there about 15 minutes early. Our Free Tour was led by a dapper young man named Sean who sported a rather natty cane.
He said he was a New Orleans native. I gathered that his family, like mine, came to New Orleans from Ireland originally. He proceeded to lead the group on an entertaining tour of New Orleans’ most colorful neighborhood. I will not spoil his entire tour for you, but just to give you a glimpse, here are:
THREE FUN FACTS ABOUT THE FAUBOURG MARIGNY
1) What’s with that name?
The Faubourg Marigny was unsurprisingly named after a man named Bernard de Marigny who was in charge of a plantation that used to be located on this spot. Though Marigny was born in New Orleans, his family was important in France, and he was accustomed to entertaining visiting French noblemen.
Legend has it that when the future King of France came to visit Marigny, he demonstrated his wealth by having gold dinner plates made. Since no one could dine on the plates after the future King had eaten on them, Marigny had all of the gold service thrown into the river after the meal.
2) What are the famous sights?
The most famous street in the Marigny is called Frenchmen St. because it is where all the best jazz clubs are. However, what I did not know was that this street was called Frenchmen in honor of some brave Gallic souls who died to defend their right to…drink French wine. That’s right, when Spain briefly took over Louisiana, they wanted the colonial French citizens to drink Spanish wine.
Naturally, this led to a French rebellion, the leaders of which were executed by the Spanish. The street is named after those Frenchmen who simply wanted the right to enjoy a glass of Bordeaux in the evenings. Or the afternoon. Or possibly on arising in the morning.
3) Any local celebrities?
The Marigny was also famous for being the home of a large community of free people of color. One of the most famous free persons of color was the notorious voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau.
Not much is known about her, but she was apparently very good at obtaining information about the wealthy Creoles in New Orleans. Sean said that this was because she was a hairdresser and learned all the rich women’s secrets by listening to the gossip as she did their hair.
24 Hour Treasure
As you take the tour, be sure to take many snaps of the fabulously painted houses all over the Marigny. We call them Creole cottages after the French colonists who settled New Orleans. Apparently the Creoles liked their houses a little sassier than the Anglo settlers of New Orleans did.
24 Hour Tip
The tour is pay-what-you-wish, but please give your guide a nice tip. Most “free tours” require the guide to pay the company a few bucks for each person who signs up for the tour. The guide is betting that the tips will more than make up what he has to pay the company. So I always tip 20 dollars for a free tour.
24 Hours in New Orleans
Late Afternoon: Explore the Marigny and Bywater
The tour should end around 3, 3:30 so you will have plenty of time to have adventures before dinner. I suggest taking the time to explore all sorts of fun things on your own! You can continue to walk around and take pictures of colorful houses.
You could take pictures of stray cats because there are about a flobbityjillion in this neighborhood. I was excited to find three cats hanging out by this car…
and I was even more excited when a fourth cat came to join them.
If you like shopping, there are so many choices and that’s not even factoring in the random garage sales where people will be selling books of Cajun folk tales and pepper jelly. Here are just a few of my favorites. You can head into the next neighborhood over, the Bywater, for some shops as well.
1) Louisiana Music Factory is possibly the best music store in New Orleans. They have every kind of jazz you have ever thought of, and some you definitely haven’t thought of. Also, they have a public toilet in the back.
2) Dr. Bob on 3027 Charters St. in the Bywater is a great place to go if you want to buy some New Orleans themed folk art or hang out with a statue of an alligator. I got a painted coffeepot that says “New Orleans Cafe Au Lait” to hang on my wall. The motto at Dr. Bob’s is “Be Nice or Leave”, so….be nice!
3) If you get snacky, head to the St. Roch Market on 2381 St. Claude Ave. for some raw oysters or fresh juice. Vietnamese food is really popular in NOLA too, so if uncooked bivalves aren’t your jam, you can just get a Banh Mi at T2 Streetfood in the Market.
You can also just explore and see if anything odd strikes your eye. For example, why aren’t penguins allowed in this establishment? Does this mean gators are allowed? Did someone actually try to bring a penguin into this place?
So many questions, no actual answers.
24 Hour Treasure
If it’s history you want, the plaque marking the spot where, in 1896, African-American Homer Plessy tried to protest segregation by getting on a Whites Only train car is on the corner of Press and Royal St.
There is a sweet little community garden nearby where you can sit and reflect afterwards, if you wish.
24 Hours in New Orleans
Evening: Frenchmen Street!
Now’s the part of the evening when it’s time to stop shopping and start to do what New Orleans does best: eat and listen to music! I suggest heading directly to Frenchmen St and seeing at least three shows in one evening. Let me get you started with…
The approximately top 5: Frenchmen St edition
1) Dinner at Three Muses
At Three Muses, you get to eat an excellent dinner while a local jazz band plays you and a handful of strangers some sweet tunes. Make an early dinner reservation and you should be able to catch the first show of the night, which will be around six. Do yourself a favor and snack on some blue cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped dates as you listen to the music.
PLEASE EAT THESE!!!!! The tempura shrimp are also very good. Eat both! And if you are veggie, don’t worry because they have plenty of meat-free options too. I am a fan of pairing the snacks with a Muse cocktail, which contains St. Germain, blueberry syrup, and GIN. Drinking it makes me feel like a naughty lady from the 1920s, which was definitely the best time to be a naughty lady.
2) Jazz at dba
AND THE NIGHT OF JAZZ RAGES ON! When you’ve finished up at Three Muses, make sure you get to the 8PM show at dba, on 618 Frenchmen. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see John Boutté while you drink an Abita. There’s a 10 dollar cover charge but it is definitely worth it. Boutté is a local treasure and whether he’s singing a jazz standard or one of his own original tunes, I guarantee his show is like nothing you’ll find outside of NOLA. (If you’re a TV fan, he also sang the theme song for the HBO show Treme.)
3) jazz at snug harbor
For the last show of the night, I insist you check out whatever is playing at Snug Harbor on 626 Frenchmen. This is the classiest jazz joint on Frenchmen, so buy your tickets in advance to the 10 o’clock show on line, show up about 15 minutes before the show starts to get your seat, order a cocktail (I prefer an Old Fashioned) and get ready for some Duke Silver.
I’ve never been disappointed with a band at Snug Harbor. My favorite was the late, great Ellis Marsalis, who played on many Fridays, but the last time I was there, I heard Herlin Riley, who bills himself as the Master Drummer, and he drummed…masterfully. But no matter who is playing, they will all talk to you before and after each song, to explain the history and meaning behind each piece. I know jazz fans get a bad rap for being pretentious, but my favorite thing about jazz is how all the jazz musicians I have seen are so passionate about connecting with the audience.
4) do some late night shopping!
If you get jazzed out, you can take a break by shopping at the artist market that operates on Frenchmen St every evening. The last time I was there, I bought a photograph of a cemetery sculpture of a crying angel by an artist named Jack Jackson. Mr. Jackson then gave me directions to the cemetery where he took the picture so I could see the statue for myself. New Orleanians love giving travel advice!
Or you can stop at the Faubourg Marigny Art and Books, which has everything from cookbooks to erotica. And if you’re still hungry, DAT DOG is open until midnight, for those who like creative weiners. Your 24 hours in New Orleans can go all night long!
Further Reading: 24 Hours in New Orleans!
Are you ready to start booking your hotel in New Orleans right now? Let me give you a few further reading suggestions to enjoy your trip even more. I like the Lonely Planet travel guide to New Orleans. The chapters are arranged according to neighborhood, which is very helpful.
So much great literature is set in New Orleans, it’s a little embarrassing. But a Must-Read is Confederacy of Dunces. This is really one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. And if you want to get used to the bizarre sense of humor we have around NOLA, you really have to read it.
I was literally named after a character in Streetcar Named Desire, so I have to recommend it. (True story, my parents actually knew Kim Stanley, the actress who played Stella in the movie, Kim Hunter, and she assumed I was named after her. But I wasn’t!) You can either read the play or watch the movie with a sexy, sexy young Marlon Brando.
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours in New Orleans.
If you want to add 24 hours in New Orleans with the French Quarter, try this. If you’d prefer 24 hours in New Orleans with the Garden District, I’ve got you covered here. If you’d like to add 24 hours on a full day tour with food and cocktails, click here. And if you’d rather add an itinerary with the historic Treme neighborhood, click here.