The one (or maybe two) hour guide to the French Quarter
If you are in New Orleans for some reason, and only have an hour or two to look around, here is the route I would suggest.
Start on Bourbon street at Canal street, and follow Bourbon into the Quarter. I don’t advise this because it is the best part of the French Quarter, but because it is probably where you will start no matter what I advise. Besides, It is what your friends will probably ask you about when you get home, so you might was well be able to talk about it.
Bourbon street is predominantly a theme park for drunks. There are a lot of bars, a few strip clubs, and a lot of cheesy souvenir shops. The bars are full of cover bands playing the same songs you’d hear from cover bands wherever you call home. I think there is a law requiring at least one band on Bourbon street to to play “Sweet Home Alabama” and another to play “play that funky music”at all times. There are a few places which aren’t horrible on Bourbon, but if you only have an hour, you won’t have time to properly enjoy them.
So, start on bourbon, pick a bar at random, or go to one of the famous ones, and get a potent beverage in a go cup. In the French Quarter, you aren’t allowed to drink from glass containers on the streets, but any bar will happily serve you a drink you can take with you. And yes, they call them “go cups,” because apparently, “to go,” is too hard to say.
If you don’t drink, I would seriously advise you to stay off of Bourbon Street.
One of the more popular drinks is called a Hurricane, and it was invented on Bourbon Street, not long after prohibition ended. Rum was in such bountiful supply, (but with such little demand) that the liquor distributors would require bars to buy a certain number of cases of rum when they bought the other more fashionable liquors. So bars embarked on a quest to make rum cocktails which people would drink, and the Hurricane was born.
Anyway,once you have a potent and hopefully flavorful beverage in hand, you might want to continue a bit further down Bourbon, just so you can say you’ve properly seen the spectacle. How far you should go depends on how much you like what you see. Some times of the year, (or even some times of the day) Bourbon can be crowded to the point of being impassable. Other times it can be fairly dead. If you make it as far as St Ann Street, you have run out of most of the entertainment potential. At that intersection though, you’ll find Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, which is worth a couple of minutes of browsing, especially if you are looking for a relatively unique gift or two.
In any case, when you have had your fill of Bourbon Street, whether it was after one block or several, Head toward the river. (This will probably mean turning right off Bourbon.) The next street over is Royal St. If you you find Dauphine St, you are heading the wrong way.
Some times, depending on time of day and time of year Royal St. is full of a wide variety of street performers. Many of their acts are quite good. (Some are quite ridiculously not.) If you are not too pressed for time, and there are performers, it may be worth your while to hang out for a while and watch an act or two. Royal St, is also home to a huge number of art galleries and antique stores, the window shopping potential is huge, and if you have money, the sky is the limit on what you can spend.
From Royal you’ll want to head over to Jackson Square. Pirate’s Alley, Pere Antoine Alley, St Peter St. or St Ann St. will all take you directly there. Of those routes, Pirate’s alley is probably the most scenic. Basically though, when you see the back of Saint Louis Cathedral, find your way to the front of it, and you’ll be in Jackson Square.
In and around Jackson Square, you’ll find artists, fortune tellers, street performers, shops, and restaurants. For as much of the full tourist experience as possible in your short time frame, I’d suggest getting your fortune told. It’s not very expensive, it’s fun and is a good story when you get home.
Top it off with an order of Beignets from Cafe Du Monde, and you’ve covered enough of the highlights to be able to make it sound like you had more than an hour.