City break (noun): a short holiday spent in a city, such as when on business travel.
Before there was bleisure travel, there was the city break—the short space of leisure time that grants you access to the cultural and culinary amenities that big cities offer. In this series from TripIt, we explore some of the world's best cities for planning a quick getaway or extending a work trip.
Here are our tips for making the most of your city break in New Orleans.
Where to fly in
The New Orleans metro area is served by Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY), located just 15 miles west of New Orleans in the city of Kenner, Louisiana. In late 2019, MSY airport opened its new terminal, which features three concourses, 35 gates, and more than 40 concessions. All commercial airlines now operate from the new terminal.
Once on the ground at MSY, travelers can catch a city bus to head Downtown via the Jefferson Transit Authority (JeT) or the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). JeT bus fare costs $2.00 and the RTA Airport Express bus costs $1.25; both serve multiple stops in Downtown New Orleans.
Alternatively, cabs and ride shares are also available from the airport. If you plan to book via a ride share app, be sure to familiarize yourself with the specific instructions for matching with an Uber or Lyft at MSY.
Where to stay during your city break
In short, the Central Business District (CBD). Home to both newcomers, like the Ace Hotel New Orleans, and iconic hotels, like The Roosevelt New Orleans Waldorf Astoria—and a plethora of others in between—the CBD offers visitors a glimpse of New Orleans sans Mardi Gras beads. Not that there’s anything wrong with staying in the colorful French Quarter; the CBD simply suits those going beyond the guidebook.
If you’re attending an event at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, you can’t beat the convenience of the Hampton Inn & Suites New Orleans Convention Center. Located just a couple minutes’ walk from the convention center, the business traveler-friendly hotel offers a 24-hour business center, complimentary newspapers in the lobby, and dry cleaning/laundry services.
If a hotel located in the heart of the city is what you’re after, look no further than the Crowne Plaza New Orleans French Quarter. Steps away from iconic Bourbon Street, this hotel also offers more than 32,000 square feet of conference space for hosting meetings and events.
How to get around
Part of NOLA’s charm is its easy walkability. Plan accordingly by packing comfortable shoes for walking from place to place. When walking isn’t feasible, catch the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) bus. One-way bus fare costs $1.25 and can be purchased from the bus driver. Alternatively, travelers can opt for a 1-day Jazzy Pass for $3.00, a 3-day pass for $9.00, and so on. Download the GoMobile app to purchase your Jazzy Pass, view maps and schedules, and plan your route.
Your Jazzy Pass also grants you unlimited access to the city's iconic streetcars. Four streetcar lines traverse the city, offering local commuters and visitors alike a fun and convenient alternative to the city buses. Didn’t opt for a day pass? One-way streetcar rides also cost just $1.25 and can be paid for upon boarding.
Looking to go the eco-friendly (and heart-healthy) route? Try New Orleans's bike share program, aptly named Blue Bikes. After a one-time sign-up fee of $1.00, Blue Bike rides cost $.15 per minute. Download the Blue Bikes app to sign up, find and reserve a bike, and more.
Of course, if you need to get to your destination in a jiffy, both Uber and Lyft are available in New Orleans.
Pro tip: Use TripIt’s Navigator feature to search transportation options available to you. It will show you the estimated costs and travel times for each option, so you can decide which works best. You can find Navigator within your flight, hotel and rental car details screens. Plus, if you add a restaurant reservation to your itinerary (more on where to eat below), Navigator also helps you find the best transportation options for getting to your table.
Where to eat
If you only have time for one meal during your trip to New Orleans, make it at Patois. It’s impossible to go wrong with any dish on this Uptown eatery’s menu, touted as "Louisiana cuisine with a French accent." But, if you do need a recommendation, opt for the Bone-in Pork Chop Milanese. You’ll never think of pork chops the same way again.
In pursuit of late night bites? Seaworthy, located just a few doors down from the Ace Hotel, serves food from its late night menu and oyster/raw bar until 1 AM each day.
Have breakfast on the brain? You have plenty of options in New Orleans. Head to the Court of Two Sisters for their Jazz Brunch Buffet, served daily. When you book your reservation, request an outdoor patio table. Then, sit back, sip a mimosa, and listen to live jazz music in this canopied, French Quarter oasis. Prefer to start your day away from the busy French Quarter? Atchafalaya in the Irish Channel and Willa Jean in the CBD serve up classic Cajun and creative contemporary dishes, respectively.
Just need to clear the cobwebs before you think about food? We feel you. Get your caffeine fix at HEY Coffee Co. on the Lafitte Greenway. Order a cup for now and a freshly baked pastry to go—and leave knowing you’re not only supporting local, you’re patronizing businesses that believe in doing the same.
What to do on your city break
Speaking of the Lafitte Greenway, this once-abandoned railroad line has been transformed into a welcoming public space, thanks to a partnership led by Friends of Lafitte Greenway—a community-driven nonprofit—and the City of New Orleans. Opened in 2015, Lafitte Greenway features a 2.6-mile bike and running trail, recreational fields and playgrounds, and more. Visitors can explore the Greenway via Blue Bikes, with stations conveniently located at several points along the bike path.
Our suggested itinerary for seeing NOLA by bike? After you’ve had your morning joe at HEY Coffee Co., scoop a Blue Bike at the North Galvez Street station. Follow the bike trail northwest until you reach the Alexander Street Trailhead. Turn right. A handful of city blocks later, you’ll reach City Park. Here, you can traverse the park’s grounds by bike or disembark (there are two stations inside the park) and explore on foot. What’s there to see at the park? For starters, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art doubled in size in 2019; the six-acre addition showcases 27 new works. And best of all? Entry to the sculpture garden is free, and it’s open year-round.
Once you’ve had your fill of art, pop over to the Café du Monde located inside City Park. We know what you’re thinking: Avoiding the crowds of the French Quarter and getting your beignet fix? What could be better? Okay, maybe a café au lait to wash all that sugary goodness down.
Adults only? By day, be sure to visit Magazine Street and pop into its many vintage, antique, and local artisan shops. By night, head to Frenchman Street to experience the local nightlife scene or make your way to the swanky Ace Hotel for a night of DJ-led dancing and libations.
Note: As cities reopen around the world, be sure to consult and adhere to all local guidelines and travel restrictions, as they vary widely and will continue to change. One way to stay on top of changing guidelines is to consult the COVID-19 travel guidance feature in the TripIt app for destination-specific information, including current infection rates, quarantine rules upon arrival, testing requirements, and other information you need to know before visiting the area.