Let the music be your guide: How to see New Orleans in less than 24 hours

(CNN)New Orleans is often associated with the festivities of Mardi Gras, but that celebratory spirit lives in the city's streets all year long.

Famous for its rich history, mouthwatering food and vibrant live music, this resilient metropolis -- which bore the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 -- is only growing in popularity. More than a decade after Katrina, New Orleans sees just over 10 million tourist visits each year as travelers flock to the uniquely vivacious city.
A big part of the Big Easy's allure, of course, is its music -- many of those tourists come to experience the city's music festivals throughout the year. Considered the birthplace of jazz and home to legends of the past and present, musical instrumentation is so vital to New Orleanians that you'll see bands leading the way through funeral processions.
So when you want to spend the perfect day in this melting pot of a city, you have to experience it through sight, taste and sound.
    Here's how to revel in some of the best of New Orleans and its classic music in under 24 hours.

    6 a.m.: Catch the sunrise

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    Wake up early and catch the sunrise along the Mississippi River. "It's majestic and serene," said Tim Williamson, a New Orleans native and president of NOLA Media Group.
    The horizon appears over a steamboat and paddle wheel on the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Louisiana.
    Not an early bird? No problem. The river flows through the city center, so you'll see it at different stops you'll make throughout the day. "New Orleans is like a walkabout," Williamson added. "Don't miss the journey."

    7:30 a.m.: Grab a bite

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    Just a 10-minute walk from the river, you'll find one of NOLA's many tasty breakfast spots: Horn's.
    Chicken and waffles are served up at Horn's, a local favorite outside of the French Quarter.
    A local favorite admired for its traditional Southern fare, the food is melt-in-your-mouth good. Plus, you won't be caught up in a tourist scene. Danielle Nava founded blog and Instagram account Show Me Your Nola after relocating to the city in her early 20s, and counts Horn's among the city's best offerings. "It's a hidden gem," Nava said. "They also have really good chicken and waffles!"

    9 a.m.: Wander the French Quarter

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    Stroll up and down the infamous Bourbon and Royal streets within the French Quarter, a short walk over from Horn's and the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans. Here you'll stumble upon street performers, unique gift shops, vintage clothing, art galleries, great restaurants and jazz shops.
    Live street music can be found in the French Quarter.
    Embrace the people, the culture and the balcony-lined streets of this quarter rich in its past. "I would take it slow," said Matt Kepnes, founder of travel blog NomadicMatt.com and author of New York Times best seller "How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter." "You won't gain anything by rushing around this city," he said.

    11:30 a.m.: Stroll through Jackson Square

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    Once you've soaked in the French Quarter, walk a couple of minutes over to Jackson Square, home to St. Louis Cathedral, a historic New Orleans landmark founded in the 1720s. Outside, you'll find street performers and buskers entertaining visitors from around the world. "Every day the local artists hang their art along the fences," Nava said.
    St. Louis Cathedral seen on a sunny day in Jackson Square.
    Jackson Square also happens to be across the street from Café Du Monde, famed for its delicious beignets.
    Waitresses prepare beignets by covering them with powdered sugar in the kitchen of Cafe du Monde.

    1:30 p.m.: Tour the Garden District

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    Take a streetcar (New Orleans' version of a trolley) uptown to explore the Garden District, where you'll find yourself amid gorgeous mansions and gardens.
    One of the many pristine homes within the Garden District.
    "To get something more I would do a free walking tour by 'Free Tours by Foot' -- that way you're not walking aimlessly and you can get a historical sense of what's going on," Kepnes said. Also check out Lafayette Cemetery #1 as you're making your way through the district. "New Orleans is famous for their aboveground graves because of possible flooding," Nava said. "It's a beautiful historical landmark."

    3:30 p.m.: Lunch on Magazine Street

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    Just a five-minute drive from Lafayette Cemetery #1 in the Lower Garden District is Lilly's Café. This cozy Vietnamese staple serves up some of the best pho in town. "New Orleans has a very large Vietnamese influence and lots of Vietnamese restaurants around the city," Nava said.
    Pho is the dish of choice at this quaint restaurant on Magazine Street.
    After you eat, browse the shops, galleries and eateries that line Magazine Street. Kepnes encourages visitors to not pack too much into one day, but if you're doing well on time, stop into The National WWII Museum.
    Antique stores and art galleries are plentiful along tree-lined Magazine Street.

    6 p.m.: All that jazz

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    You can't visit New Orleans without experiencing live jazz. Catch a 6 p.m. show at The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street and enjoy the sweet, original sounds of NOLA. "The whole street is filled with jazz clubs," Kepnes said. "Just follow your ears."
    Live jazz music can be found at The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street.

    8:30 p.m.: Dig into oysters

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    It's dinnertime in NOLA, so let the seafood adventure begin. Cap off your trip with Drago's -- a seafood hub praised for its charbroiled oysters. "They have it on an open grill with flames," said Larry Johnson, a retired church administrator at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church and lifelong resident. "It is really delicious."
    A New Orleans native recommends Drago's for charbroiled oysters and seafood cuisine.
    Jambalaya, po-boys, red beans -- the menu at Drago's offers that New Orleans cuisine you've been dreaming about. "Food is tradition here," Johnson said. "We don't eat out of necessity, we eat because we enjoy the food."

    10 p.m.: Get a nightcap

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    Dinner is over but the night is young. Head to Bacchanal on the Bywater for a truly unique New Orleans experience. Upon arriving, you can buy a bottle of wine and a selection of cheeses at the front of the store.
    Locals enjoy food, wine and entertainment in the courtyard of the Bacchanal.
    Then, head back to the courtyard area where you'll close out the night sipping and getting to know locals. "There's typically music playing," Williamson said. "It's like the secret garden." With a wealth of plant life, trees wrapped with lights and rod iron furniture, the Bacchanal is a place where people gather to truly enjoy their company. "It's my favorite place in the entire city," Nava added.