I live in NOLA. AirBnB is a great way to go, especially for a large group. Though you might still have to split up and rent a few units. In fact, I've occasionally rented out the other side of my double as a vacation rental on AirBnB.
Word to the wise. There are not any legit AirBnB places in the French Quarter. AirBnBs are not allowed there. It's been my experience that a lot of places "claiming" to be in the FQ, are actually just nearby. Or even "sort of" nearby. There are sometimes places that are actually in the FQ, but they are probably going to be small and an illegal rental anyway.
The FQ borders are the Mississippi River, Canal St., N. Rampart St., and Esplanade Ave. I hope that helps, when looking at a map of the city to determine where a unit is.
I'd suspect the Uptown area will have larger houses to rent out. It's not really within walking distance to the FQ. But, if it is near St. Charles Ave., there is a streetcar line that will take you to down to Canal St. (a FQ border). It's also at least close enough to be a cheap cab ride.
There are a lot of AirBnBs in an area called the Marigny. The Marigny is next to the FQ and bordered by Esplanade Ave., the Mississippi River, Poland Ave. and St. Claude Ave.
Depending on how far away the unit is from Esplanade Ave., those houses can be walking distance.
I cannot say this more strongly. Do NOT rent a place that is on the "other" side of St. Claude Ave. Only places on the River side. Past St. Claude coming from the River, is one of the highest crime and sketchiest places in NOLA.
For more general safety, keep your wits about you and be aware of your surroundings. Only travel in groups after dark and, even then, avoid desolate looking areas. I don't want to make it sound like a "scary" city. I like living here and go out at night, with never any problems. But it is a high crime city and in many areas the neighborhoods turn from great to bad within 1-2 blocks.
Once you narrow down your AirBnB choices, feel free to PM me a link to the listings. I'd be happy to give you feedback on their safety/convenience factors.
As for what to do? You mean other than crazy blow outs at the bars on Bourbon Street ?
There's a Harrah's casino right outside the FQ.
There are all kinds of walking tours with different themes. I think those are a good way to get a glimpse of the city and gather a bit of history.
There is a steamboat tour up the MS River. I think that's awesome, just don't get the ticket that includes "dinner", lol. It's something like $30 extra and SO not worth it.
Take the streetcar up St. Charles Ave. Overall, it's a beautiful avenue lined with large trees and gorgeous houses. Plus it is just fun to ride the streetcar. An all-day pass is only $3 and you can hop on and off it.
There's a place called Mardi Gras World, it's the place where Mardi Gras floats are created, but is open to the public and has tours. Definitely something different and fun to see. It is about 1-2 miles from the bottom of the FQ.
Beignets at Café Du Monde are a must. Just don't wear dark clothing because you will get that powdered sugar all over you, lol.
Have fun! Let me know if you have any questions.