In re the St Charles streetcar, I recommend buying a guidebook and walking the route on foot to the end of the line, and then riding back in to town. Some of the architecture you encounter on the way is simply amazing, especially the antebellum stuff. It’s a great way to spend an entire afternoon.
You’re lucky to be going now, when the weather is mild. I hear it gets unbelievably hot in the summer.
Word of caution: Unless things have changed, avoid McDonald’s. IIRC, the food there is very salty, probably because of the climate. (This is assuming you’d want to go to McD’s, of course. I can’t imagine why anyone would in a city with cuisine like New Orleans’.)
The Old New Orleans Rum Distillery is my favorite! They show you how they make the spirit (and ginger beer) and then let you sample everything! Tour isn’t very expensive at all, and when I went, there was a complementary shuttle from the French Market (but driving isn’t far at all either).
Bayona for a fancyish meal.
Coop’s place for good cheap food in a divey bar.
Get the crab cakes at Meals from the Heart in the French Market.
I second Clover Grill for burgers or omeletes with amazing hash browns.
I know the OP already has a place to stay. But for future travelers possibly reading this thread, here is a tip: I have spent most of my trips to New Orleans staying at the Maison DuPuy. It is at 1001 Toulouse St. in the French Quarter and is a **fabulous **joint with oodles of local color. I am not affiliated with it in any way, but I am a huge fan. Just sayin’!!!
Clover Grill is fantastic. Fun place, good food, and interesting waiters. If you’re in the least bit homophobic, I wouldn’t recommend it though.
The Old Coffeepot on St. Peter next to Pat O’Brien’s does a terrific brunch as well. Johnny’s on St. Louis near Decatur has great po-boys as well. Don’t bother with Mother’s on Poydras (in the business district) though; not nearly as good.
There are dozens of great places to drink… but I’d avoid Bourbon St. if you want somewhere not obnoxiously touristy or the 24/7 Mardi Gras atmosphere. Arnaud’s French 75 bar is pretty cool in a very classic old-school way. The Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone is pretty neat as well, and Mr. B’s across the street is a tasty place to eat.
Magazine street is kind of where the newer style restaurants are located, while the French Quarter is where the very old classic ones and the touristy ones are located.
No need for a ferry to see Mardi Gras World – it changed locations a few years ago, and is now on the same side of the river as the French Quarter, etc. It’s very close to the New Orleans Convention Center, right on the river.
Maybe it was just the days of the week or the hours we went last time, but I didn’t get a gay vibe at all. I know it’s known for that, and it was on display my first couple of trips; but as of three years ago it was just a diner with good burgers.
When [Now-]Mrs. L.A. and I went, we ended up at Lafitte’s more often than not. We went in the middle of December then, and it wasn’t obnoxiously touristy and didn’t have a Mardi Gras atmosphere. It barely had any people in it. (Note again the time of year.) It was just a nice, historical bar with no electric lights except at the bar, where we could hang out and drink.