Free Things to do in New Orleans
French Quarter – Aside from the Mardi Gras, the French Quarter itself is a wonderful free show.
Free French Quarter Guided Tour –A National Historic Landmark, the French Quarter falls under the aegis of The National Park Service. Really nice Park Rangers will lead a daily tour for exactly 25 people at 9:30 a.m. Get there at 9 a.m. to get a place. One ticket per person, no absentee pick-ups. The address is 419 Decatur.
Prowl the French Market’s seven buildings, from the Bazaar and the Red stores to the Flea Market for souvenir bargains in local productions, tee-shirts, jewelry, masks and assorted oddities.
Window shop along Royal, Chartres, Bourbon and the narrow French Quarter streets for lots to look at including exceptional antiques and a wide variety of art galleries in addition to eccentric wares, strange cards, posters, clothes, Voodoo potions, jewelry and costumes.
Stroll around Jackson Square and look over the artists’ shoulders as they sketch and paint. Enjoy the street musicians and dancers, and mock the mimes. At the Café Du Monde, less than $5 will buy you a cup of great coffee and an order of beignets, along with a window onto the heart of the French Quarter.
See the Spanish-inspired architecture of historic St. Louis Cathedral. Many concerts in this great Basilica are also free.
The former William Faulkner House at 624 Pirate’s Alley offers a stunning selection of books.
The changing exhibits at the Historic New Orleans Collection, 533 Royal, are free and it’s an unbelievable bargain.
River Walking Stroll –Walk the magnolia landscaped Woldenberg Park. See the vista in and from Spanish Plaza with its most refreshing fountain, pretty mosaics and a cinematic view of the great River.
Window-shop upscale emporia at Riverwalk, the Jax Brewery and Canal Place.
Board the free ferry to Algiers’ and the Vantage Point at Riverwalk landing. At twilight, this 45-minute round trip cruise is spectacular. The panoramic view of the Vieux Carre from across the river is worth the expedition any time of day.
Music, Music, Music – Street musicians, frequent festivals and free concerts you can always count on
The Graveyard Shift – See the statuary in the famed “Cities of the Dead” for free. Marie Laveau spends her afterlife at St. Louis Cemetery #1, at St. Louis and Basin, just outside the Quarter. Anne Rice once staged her own funeral at the Lafayette Cemetery, where her vampire Lestat broods through his unlife in the Garden District at Prytania and Washington. Be sure you check the cemetery hours before you go…they open late and close early.
The Metairie Cemetery, just west of the City, provides free audiocassette tours of the grounds that hold the remains of Confederate soldiers and the jazz great Louis prima. Metairie Cemetery’s grounds and statuary are magnificent testimonials to the deceased.
Central Business & Arts District – The SoHo of the South, the area on the uptown side of Canal Street, from St. Charles Avenue to the river, is a trove of free and low-cost entertainment and the heart of the arts in New Orleans.
Get the lay of the land with a visit to the Preservation Resource Center at 923 Tchoupitoulas in the Central Business District. Concise, informative vignettes cover the highlights of each historic neighborhood. Great free map with lots of pictures.
The stunning and cavernous Contemporary Arts Center at 900 Camp Street houses changing art exhibits. Free on Thursdays. Just a few bucks otherwise.
The main arts thoroughfare is Julia Street, dotted with galleries like Simonne Stern and Arthur Rogers. While you’re gallery hopping, check out the Thirteen Sisters, a collection of 19th century row houses in the 600 block of Julia.
Street Savvy – Hop the Magazine Street public transit bus to explore an area so cool, only Greenwich Village could give it a run in a hipper-than-thou contest. The street name comes from French Magasin, for “shop” and you’ll see just about every trendy item around its six miles of art galleries, funky clothes, vintage accessories, wild costumes, wigs, masks and beaucoup antiques. There are over 80 shops of collectibles, used and original jewelry, bookstores and interesting restaurants.
Audubon Park – Known for its moss-hung oaks, ponds and laid-back ambiance, Audubon Park lies just before Magazine Street meets the river. Stroll, run, or bike along the avenue of Oaks, or hang out like the moss and picnic. Bring stale bread to feed the ducks and turtles. If you’ve got a bike, a great path runs for miles atop the levee, starting just to the right of the Zoo entrance. All free!
St.Charles Avenue & Garden District – Walk through Audubon Park from Magazine to St. Charles Avenue. At the park entrance take the streetcar back to Canal Street and Downtown…the 13-mile roundtrip passes a stunning array of Creole, Greek Revival and Victorian fantasies.
In the Garden District, a free National Historic Landmark, check out the many magnificent mansions along the charming streets lined with oaks and oleanders. The prices are low and include viewing the world’s largest live oak stand.
Mid-City – Experience heart-pounding excitement at the historic Fair Grounds Race Course at 1751 Gentilly Boulevard. Not far away is City Park, beginning at picturesque Bayou St. John and Esplanade Avenue, with hundreds of acres of lush oaks, a grand Museum of Art, golf, tennis and indescribable picnicking.
Swamp Tour – Take a walk on the wild side at the Barataria Preserve in the Jean Lafitte National Park. No charge except the one you get out of 8 miles of boardwalk and 20 miles of waterway set amid 20,000 acres of swamp, marsh, and old-growth cypress. The nice people at the park service conduct a free daily tour at 1:30 p.m. You’ll see alligators, ibises, herons and lots of swamp flora and fauna. Also, check out the periodic moonlight strolls, morning and moonlight canoe treks, bird watching. Check www.nps.gov/jela, or call 504-689-3690, for schedule and directions.
Free Tours by Foot – Free Tours by Foot is pleased to present the only FREE, tip based walking tours of the French Quarter and Garden District. These interesting and informative sightseeing tours will take you through many of New Orleans’s legendary neighborhoods and cemeteries. Reservations are required: (504) 222-2967 www.freetoursbyfoot.com
In the end, New Orleans isn’t about what you can buy or how much things cost. It’s about lingering over good times and good company. This is The City that Care Forgot. We always remember that the point of life is living it. And, living it up. That’s the real magic. It isn’t for sale.
It’s absolutely free.
Thank you to the New Orleans CVB for sharing some of these free things to do in New Orleans!