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New Orleans Travel Guide

What's the first thing you'll notice on your trip to New Orleans? A city draped in vibrant colors and people dancing in the streets? The sounds of BB King, Winston Marsalis and Ella Fitzgerald making their way through the Big Easy as people pack the open-air restaurants and cafes in the French Quarter? It can only be New Orleans, and the journey to the most "unique city in America" starts after your cheap flight to New Orleans, Louisiana.

With many nicknames - the City that Care Forgot, the Crescent City, the Big Easy - New Orleans has a style all its own. It is famous for its cuisine, architecture, music (the birthplace of jazz) and its laidback residents. The annual Mardi Gras and the other celebrations and festivals that dot the city's events calendar bring travelers on cheap flights to New Orleans from around the world.

The oldest, most visited, part of New Orleans is the French Quarter. This is the place to sample Creole food, listen to music, visit museums and antique shops, and drink a hurricane - a red rum mixture. Nearby is the Central Business District, an area of hotels, restaurants, museums and galleries. Faubourg Marigny, a hip, Bohemian neighborhood, offers a taste of non-touristy nightlife.

New Orleans was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but its spirit never wavered. The historic, cultural and business districts, as they were on higher ground, came through in good shape and things have gotten mostly back to normal, but lower-lying residential areas suffered greatly. Beyond the depths of destruction was the music that for centuries kept this city alive. Today, tourists book flights to New Orleans to continue participating in the revival of one America’s most beloved cities.

Book airline tickets to New Orleans to see the beautiful architecture that still remains in the French Quarter of the city. Or, visit for a taste of the Cajun cuisine that makes this city famous. Finally, take a trip to New Orleans to support the people – they stayed, they survived and they continue to provide the music, food and festivities that keep people traveling to New Orleans every year. No matter what your reason for visiting is, or how long you are planning to stay in the city, here are some tips to help you plan and enjoy the smoothest possible trip.

What’s the weather like in New Orleans?

New Orleans can be hot and muggy in the summer. Summer temperatures are well into the 90’s, the humidity oppressive, and there are occasional thunderstorms. July and August are the hottest months in the city. September and October often have clear, mild days. Winter is short, overcast, and cooler, with January being the coldest month. Temperatures are usually in the 50’s, but can drop and, combined with the dampness, make for a cold day. Spring is delightful with sunny, mild days. The city gets plenty of rain, about 60 inches a year, with the summer and winter months being the wettest. The hurricane season is June to September.

When is the best time to fly to New Orleans?

Peak Season:

Spring – which generally runs from February through April - is the peak season with the best weather and the city’s two biggest events, Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. Book your New Orleans flights and hotel reservations at least six months in advance.

Off Season:

The oppressive heat and humidity of summer (June through September), and the risk of hurricanes, tends to drive some of the residents away from the city, and you can sometimes find cheap hotels and flights to New Orleans if you are willing to brave the hot temps and unpredictable weather. The temperatures don’t begin to cool down until late September. The damp cold of winter does not attract many visitors, and low rates can be found.

Shoulder Season:

Early fall is a good time to visit. The summer crowds have melted away and the weather is generally mild.

When is the best time to book a flight to New Orleans?

You’ll usually see very little variance in the price of flight tickets from late May all the way up to late September. August is theoretically the month which provides the cheapest flights to New Orleans, however the savings are usually only a couple of dollars cheaper than other months of the year. Make sure you aim to book your flight tickets 2 months in advance at a minimum, but even further ahead if you want to visit during Mardi Gras. Flexibility will help you find the cheapest flights to New Orleans, so if you have the luxury to be flexible, make sure to use it to your advantage when searching for flight tickets.

How long is the flight to New Orleans?

Your French Quarter experience is just a flight away. Jet from San Diego to the Big Easy in just under four hours. Change your scenery in under two hours with a flight from Kansas City to New Orleans. Flying from Portland takes almost five hours, and a trip from Newark takes just under three hours.

Which airlines fly to New Orleans?

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport continues growing in the number of passengers served, as its now well over ten million per year. Southwest ranks as the primary carrier at the airport, but other airlines provide service to New Orleans as well. Options include Delta, American, United, Spirit, JetBlue, Frontier, Allegiant and Alaska Airlines.

What should you pack for a flight to New Orleans?

Pack the most colorful clothes you own, no matter what time of year you visit New Orleans. It's a vibrant city full of colorful outfits and colorful personalities. Spring and fall bring mild temperatures. Pack a mix of clothes, so you can layer as needed. Summer demands clothes that keep you cool. Temperatures soar into the 90’s, and the humidity makes the city muggy and uncomfortable. If you visit during winter, pack warm clothes. Rain and general dampness make the city feel cold. It's a good idea to pack an umbrella any time of year. New Orleans gets a lot of rain. Another must is a good pair of walking shoes. You'll spend plenty of time on your feet. Insect repellent is another item you'll be glad you pack.

Getting to and around the city of New Orleans

From Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, you can take a public airport bus from directly outside the airport to get into the center. This is the easiest and cheapest method, however, you could also decide to hail a taxi. Make sure you agree on the price before you get into the taxi to ensure you don’t get ripped off. Once you’ve booked your flights to New Orleans you can arrange your transportation in advance. You can also ride the Airport shuttle for a little over 20 dollars a person one way. Rental cars are also readily available if you decide to drive.

Once you’ve settled in to your hotel, you are probably ready to explore the city. New Orleans has a great public bus system and the oldest streetcar service in the country, which has been designated a National Historic Monument. The buses are the cheapest way to get around, but they can be slow. Vintage St Charles streetcars can take you uptown while the Riverfront streetcar runs along the Mississippi River for two miles. Make sure you have exact change for the buses and streetcars. You can also get VisiTour passes that offer one to three days of unlimited rides on the streetcars and buses.

The best way to get around at night is by hailing or calling for a cab. There are plenty of taxis to be found, and a metered ride won’t cost you much. If you want to take a tour of New Orleans, try hiring a cab to take you and up to four of your friends around the city. It’s easy to drive in the city if you decide to rent a car, but parking is another story.

You can also head out on the water aboard the Canal Street Ferry for a great view of New Orleans’ skyline. The ferry is free for pedestrians and will take you out to suburban Algiers.

What are some things to do in New Orleans?

Spring in New Orleans focuses around two things: Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. If you don't like crowds, avoid these times. If you're looking for a true New Orleans experience, add these two events to your bucket list. Even if you don't visit during the official events, you can still experience the music and the Mardi Gras vibe. Head to the French Quarter to immerse yourself in the true spirit of the city. Cobblestone streets, lush courtyards, fountains and French street names ooze with the French heritage of the area. Visit during the day if you want to avoid the party-like atmosphere that defines Bourbon Street after dark. However, every visitor to New Orleans should experience a night on Bourbon just to experience it at least once. You’ll also want to visit St. Louis Cathedral, located near Jackson Square and facing the Mississippi River; the first church on the site you see today was built in the late 1700’s, though none if it remains now as it was destroyed in the Great New Orleans Fire in 1788. The current church you see was mainly built in the mid-1800’s. Jackson Square itself is worthy of a visit too, as this park has played a central role in the city’s history and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960.

The history of the Big Easy extends beyond the French Quarter. Take a cemetery tour to explore the above-ground tombs, full of ornate details. Visit the Chalmette Battlefield and Jean Lafitte National Park. If you want to see beautiful architecture and amazing homes, walk through the Garden District. Wander on your own, or take a guided tour. Take a ride on a historic streetcar to take a load off while seeing the city. If you're a museum person, New Orleans has you covered. Some of the most popular museums include the New Orleans Museum of Art, National World War II Museum, Louisiana's Civil War Museum and Mardi Gras World, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the festival with floats, costumes and props.

The Audubon Nature Institute includes a zoo, aquarium, insectarium, IMAX theater and golf course. Get even closer to nature with a swamp tour in the bayou. Several tour companies take visitors through the swamps on airboats and flatboats. City Park is another popular way to enjoy the outdoors. Here you'll find the New Orleans Botanical Garden and many sculptures, along with various sports facilities. Fish or boat in the park's lagoons and lakes.

Tips for your stay in New Orleans

  • The French Market is a farmer's market which sells everything from canned alligator and chocolates to hot sauce. It’s a good place to pick up souvenirs.
  • Julia Street is a well-kept secret. The 600 block has 13 mid-19th-century townhouses called Julia Row or the Thirteen Sisters. It has great art galleries, and the Contemporary Arts Center is here too.
  • Friday Lunch is a New Orleans tradition. The meal starts about midday and - lubricated by several drinks - and lasts all day. Galatoire’s on Bourbon Street is the place to lunch for those lucky enough to get a reservation, although tables in the first floor dining room are first-come, first-served.
  • Mardi Gras celebrations are world famous. The festivities start officially on January 6 (Twelfth Night or Little Christmas) and last until Fat Tuesday – the day before Ash Wednesday - and feature parties and parades. For visitors at other times of the year, there is Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World, where you can take a tour and see the props and giant figures. The tour includes coffee and King Cake, a Mardi Gras tradition, which is a ring cake like a brioche decorated with green, purple and gold sugar with a small figure of the baby Jesus baked inside.
  • Take a swamp tour of Bayou Segnette, a Cajun fishing village, twenty minutes from the center of New Orleans with Westwego Swamp Adventures. Included in the tour is an ecology/naturalist presentation. The nesting grounds of alligators, egrets, raccoons and many types of snakes can be spotted along the way.
  • For a glimpse of the other side (perhaps), visit an above-ground cemetery. Saint Louis Cemetery No 1. is the oldest cemetery in the city, and boasts (it is said) several ghostly apparitions including an old man and most famously Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans.

Finding Flights from New Orleans

Had enough of the Big Easy? Find great deals on flights heading out of New Orleans with the help of Cheapflights. With carriers such as American, Delta, Southwest, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines flying out of the airport, you can fly as far as you want.

Here are some trip ideas to get you started:

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Cheap flights from New Orleans to New York

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Cheap flights from New Orleans to Seattle

Catch the bus for a quick and easy trip to the airport. Jefferson Transit Authority and Regional Transit Authority offer airport express buses. While the airport is usually easy to navigate, peak New Orleans travel times cause some congestion. If you travel during Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest, plan to fight through crowds at the airport.

Once you choose a destination, be sure to check out our New Orleans airport guides for more detailed travel information and helpful tips.

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