One of the really cool things about New Orleans is how much of the city you can explore for free. From wandering Jackson Square to listening to street performers there are so many free things to do in New Orleans! Every time we visit this beautiful city we are amazed at how many things there are to do. We find ourselves wishing for more time to explore the city.
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! Visit the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park to learn more about free live concerts in the area.
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 - Walkthrough 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.
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.
Additional Louisiana Travel Articles
French Quarter New Orleans Restaurants
Check out all of our Louisiana Travel Guides
Thank you to the New Orleans CVB for sharing some of these free things to do in New Orleans!
The Algiers Ferry is now $2 per person per way. Thanks for the great article!
I love this! When we went to New Orleans, I'm pretty sure everything we did was free except for the food we ate. But I'm not complaining about spending money on that! YUM! 😉
This is actually perfect timing as I am taking a week vacation to LA to June. I'm actually going to Baton Rouge, but as a whole if we have time. I hope to go there as well. I will also be visiting my friend, who we have been friends online for like 6-7 years now, so awesome!
New Orleans is on my list of places to visit, and my sweetie already visited there when our basketball team made it to and won the Final Four there. I would love to taste the food there. It's good to see there are so many freebies available to a tourist!
I would love to go on that Swamp Tour and Free Tour by Foot. I would love to see the big cypress trees and everything in the swamp. Learning about New Orleans legendary neighborhoods and cemeteries.
I have never been to New Orleans but it's somewhere I desperately want to go. I honestly don't even care about Mardi Gras. The architecture and history is just amazing!
I absolutely love New Orleans. I went there for the first time two years ago with my best friend and her husband (and of course mine too). So many of our fondest memories included the delicious food, but the free activities like people watching and enjoying the parks and local artisans were AMAZING.
Terri Ramsey Beavers
Thanks so much for the list of free things to do in New Orleans. I know that I would love to go on the tours by foot. I think it would be amazing to see the town and sights at my own pace instead of zipping through on a bus or car.
With all the world traveling I've done over the years, believe it or not New Oreans is one place I have never been!! I have always wanted to go though!!! I had no idea there were this many free things to do!!! Free is the best thing ever 😉
I went to New Orleans after I graduated high school with a couple friends. It's amazing how many things you can find to do for free! I was happy just walking around the French Quarter, the Garden District and, of course the cemeteries. We also did the park, so beautiful!
I've yet to make it over to New Orleans. You've got some great places named off for tourists to visit and have a look around at. Or even locals planning a staycation in their own city! That's what my husband and I did last weekend, it was really fun 🙂