The Ultimate List of the Best, Free Things to do in New Orleans
The New Orleans Budget
One of the many reasons New Orleans is so awesome is the endless list of cheap (or even free) festivals, concerts, shows, and other cool things to do here. In fact, we have over 130 festivals that incites a constant low-grade gut-bubbling feeling of FOMO in most New Orleanians.
So, while it might seem expensive to tourists that get drawn into expensive traps in the Quarter, a savvy traveler can eat out and sightsee on a modest budget with some planning. So, without further ado, here's my best advice for living large on a small budget in the Big Easy.
What I suggest first when planning out a budget New Orleans trip is to check out NewOrleansOnline.com or local magazine like the Gambit to see what's going on and plan your trip. We have loads of free events and shows, but many of them are day specific, and it really sucks to miss a good one just because you didn't know about it. Wednesdays in particular (see below) is a big day with loads of free concerts like the concert held at the site of the Old French Opera House on the second Wednesday of every month.
But, once you have some must-see activities planned, there's a lot of New Orleans you can do, for free, at just about any time! Magazine street happy hour, for instance, is a good place to start for cheap (and delicious) food when you're traveling on a budget.
Happy Hour on Magazine
Spend an afternoon on Magazine and you'll recognize there must be a semi-hostile unspoken competition between Uptown restaurants. If you're eating on a Monday through Friday between around 3 and 7 PM and you're spending more than $10-15, it's because you're either a) eating or drinking to excess (good for you) or b) you're doing it at the wrong places.
Like sushi? How about $3.25 rolls and two for one sake at the Sake Cafe? Burgers? Bayou Burger has 1/2 off burgers on Wednesdays and drink specials the rest of the week. Tacos or pizza? Araña has half-priced tacos/drinks and Pizza Domenica has half priced pizzas and drinks!
You can check out even more options here.
Bonus tip: There's even a lot of places you can eat free (no seriously).
Other Free (Or Nearly Free) Activities
- Take a free tour of the Urban South or NOLA Brewing Facilities
- Check out some art galleries on Royal Street
- Listen to live brass music in Jackson Square or on Frenchmen (but please tip!)
- Keep in mind: most clubs on Frenchmen don't have a cover charge
- While you're in the quarter, you should take a tour of the St. Louis Cathedral (or just take a look inside)
- Sightsee by streetcar for $1.25
- Or try a self-guided tour of the Garden District
- Take a stroll down Magazine for some window shopping
- Check out the New Orleans Tattoo Museum & Studio -- free admission every day!
- Catch a game of trivia (and win prizes) at Bayou Beer Garden, Dat Dog, or Urban South Brewing
- Check out some of our historic above-ground cemeteries
- Soak up some sun in Audobon or City Park (and keep an eye out for our famous parakeets)
- Enjoy one of our oodles of free festivals
- Take a walk by the Mississippi and watch the steamboats
- Visit the New Orleans Museum of Art on a Wednesday for free admission
- Wednesdays are also great for:
- Wednesday at the Square
- Wednesdays at the Point
- Speaking of: ride the ferry to Algiers Point for two bucks and get a great view of the city (just like the featured image above)
- Visit any of the various haunted bars, restaurants, and shops of New Orleans
- Like May Bailey's Place, Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar, The Madame LaLaurie Mansion, Tujague's, Muriel's Restaurant, or The Jimani, for example
- Check the Crescent City Farmer's Market on Saturdays -- most weekends there's even live music
- Browse through our various art markets
- Friday-Sunday at Dat Dog
- Frenchmen Art Market
- See a glassblowing demonstration at Rosetree Glass Studio, Glassworks, or Studio Inferno
- Get out of the city and visit the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve, free of charge!
- See (or participate in) one of the many stand up comedy and open mic nights in New Orleans
- Go on a "Statue Scavenger Hunt" and take pictures with some of the many historical statues that decorate the city like our beloved Ignatius J. Reilly on Canal Street
- The Old US Mint is free and definitely worth a visit (and respite from the heat) while you're meandering around the corner.
So, Get Out There!
I genuinely hope you enjoy your time in New Orleans and are able to fit a few of these fun and free things into your itinerary. If you think I've missed anything or want to add an idea of your own, shoot me an email with your thoughts or add a comment below-- I'd love to hear from you!
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my favorite (super) cheap place to eat out. Now I need you to brace yourself.
Hanks Super Market:
- Open 24-hours
- The tastiest (and greasiest) fried chicken I've ever eaten
- $1.99 for TWO PIECES OF CHICKEN
You're welcome, folks.