New Orleans is a city that is brimming with interesting things to see, activities to become a part of and some of the best foods on the planet. If you’re looking or good music, the opportunity to meet some wonderful people and a cultural immersion in their diverse southern collection of exotic and down home people, then this is one of the best places to visit. If you’re planning a trip to New Orleans, even if you’re on a tight budget, there are some amazing things to do, see and experience to get the most out of your time there, and here are 20 that are absolutely free.
1. Visit the Mardis Gras Museum
The Mardis Gras Museum is found at Arnaud’s Restaurant in New Orleans. Visitors are welcome to stroll through the museum at their leisure and there is no charge to get in. While inside you can expect to find a ton of memorabilia as well as over two dozen costumes with historic value. The museum maintains the same hours as the restaurant.
2. Eat some oysters for free
There aren’t many places that you can go to get free seafood, but there are a few spots in New Orleans where you can find oysters for free. If you happen to be at Le Bon Temps Roule on a Friday night at 7:00 pm, that’s when they serve oysters for free, but they’re raw. It’s important to get there at 7 sharp because they’re given away on a first come first served basis until they’re all gone. You can also find several restaurants that offer oysters for between 50 cents to a buck on various nights of the week. For cheap oysters you’ll want to scope out Superior Seafood & Oyster bar, Red Fish Grill, Basin Seafood, Grand isle, Elysian Seafood, Luke Trenasse and Kenton’s.
3. Go on a Ghost Tour
With its rich history, New Orleans has a spooky side and there have been multiple legends about specters and spirits that haunt certain areas. If you’re into the paranormal and investigating haunted sites, then you’ll love taking one of the many ghost tours. These tours can be taken for free because they re offered on a pay what you want basis, so it’s really more like tipping the tour guide but if you can’t afford to pay it’s okay, you can go anyway.
4. Visit the art market
There is an art market that is located on Frenchman Street. This is known as the Art market or the Art garage, by the locals and it’s a place where artists gather to display and sell their work. In addition to seeing some very interesting and unique pieces of local art, you can also get in on the art shows and other types of events that are held on Frenchman Street. It doesn’t cost you a penny to look around and view the exhibits.
5. Take a free dance class
New Orleans is known for its swing dancing. The NOLA Jitterbugs are so kind and courteous that they offer regular dance classes on Saturdays at 8 pm for whoever wants to drop in at the Allways lounge. The swing dancing lesson is absolutely free and it’s a chance for you or you and a partner to come and join in the fun and learn a few new moves for free. There is food and beverage options at the lounge, but these are not complimentary so if you want to partake, you’ll have to pay for these.
6. Watch a comedy show for free
New Orleans is packed with all kinds of entertainment including music, art and even stand up comedians. They have some pretty funny comics who are thrilled to entertain you with their free shows. While some lounges enforce a cover charge, there are also those that will let you in for free. You can find free comedy shows almost every day of the week so it’s a good idea to get online and check out the schedules at the various lounges and bars so you’ll know the dates, times and locations to plan your itinerary of free stuff to do while you’re in New Orleans.
7. Tour the New Orleans Museum of Art
The New Orleans Museum of Art will let tourists in every Wednesday for free, so it’s important to note this on your itinerary if you don’t want to pay for the tour. They offer some amazing artwork and sculptures that you won’t want to miss seeing.
8. Tour the Cigar Factory
Another popular tourist attraction in New Orleans is the Cigar Factory. It’s totally free to take the tour and discover how they roll the cigars which they also sell. There are two interesting and free things that you can do while you’re there. You can also tour the museum that is housed on the same premises and observe the 19th century relics which are housed there. It’s a great way to get a two-fer when you’re on a budget and looking for some fun activities that won’t cost you a cent.
9. Visit the House of Dance and Feathers
The House of Dance and Feathers is a popular tourist attraction for locals and well as the tourists who visit New Orleans. This is a museum that maintains an impressive collection of tribal and cultural artifacts from the Mardis Gras Indians. There are also two tours in one at this location as there is also a self guided Hurricane Katrina tour. There is no charge for general admission for either.
10. Check out Madame John’s Legacy
Madame John’s Legacy is a free tour that is something right up the alley of history buffs. It is housed in an 18th century building with amazing architecture which is built in French Colonial styling. It’s a good idea to look up the schedule to check on which days they’re open in advance, but this building is open for tours almost every day of the week with just a few exceptions.
11. Visit the Sculpture Garden
The Sculpture Garden is actually called the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. It is located within the new Orleans museum of Art, so you can spend an afternoon and catch two free activities on the same day. You’ll find about five dozen unique pieces of sculpture at the garden as well as enjoying a tour of the museum which is audio based and totally free of charge.
12. Take a yoga clas
Stroll on down to the French Market at about 10 in the morning and you’ll be more than welcome to participate in a yoga class. This is a complimentary class with no charge and anyone is welcome to join in on this free activity to start the weekend out right. There is also a jazz pianist performing during the class so you can exercise and meditate to some amazing music, all for free.
13. Tour St. Louis Cathedral
St. Louis Cathedral is another free tour that is offered for visitors to New Orleans. There are a few interesting facts about the tour. The first is that the tour is totally free and the second is the historical and architectural value of the cathedral. You might want to check it out in advance to see if they’re going to sponsor any free concerts or other types of activities during your stay.
14. Go to Musician’s Village
This is an area you might want to visit when you’re on a self guided Hurricane Katrina tour. Musician’s Village is teeming with events including entertainment, community gatherings of all types, the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music and this is the area where there are several new homes which have been built after Katrina. There are some events at the center that do charge a small admission fee, but there are also free things to do.
15. Stop by the Historic New Orleans Collection
This is a must see if you appreciate art as well as the history behind it. The New Orleans Collection is a museum that is continually changing with new exhibits added every few months. Some of the displays are more permanent, but there is always something new so even if you’ve been there before, you’re likely to see a lot of new art displays and it’s always an educational experience. There i no charge for touring the new Orleans Collection, so this is yet another great thing to do in New Orleans for free. You’ll come away from this museum with an increased knowledge and appreciation for the city of New Orleans as well as the state of Louisiana.
16. Take your camera and visit the swamps
Just outside of New Orleans lies the swamp lands. Although the are outside of the city limits in the city of bayou Sauvage, it’s not far from the French Quarter and the landscape is mystical and beautiful. There is also a lot of wildlife to view while you’re there. Plan on taking your camera along because there are going to be a lot of special images that you’ll want to capture, including alligators and other swamp creatures. Swamp tours are available but you can also walk around on your own, so long as you don’t wander too far away from the path.
17. Tour the NOLA Brewing Company
Another popular tourist attraction in New Orleans is the NOLA Brewing Company. There is no charge for the tour and they’re offered Fridays at 2 pm. You get to watch the process and see for yourself how they brew and make the beer that they sell. If you’re an amateur brewer, you might even pick up some great tips to try for yourself. The beer, however, isn’t free, so if you plan on trying a few samples of their brews, plan on bringing a little cash along with you.
18. Spend the day at Woldenberg Park
Woldenberg Park is located at 1 Canal Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans. This is a great place to take a picnic lunch and plan on viewing the amazing sculptures that are placed throughout the park. When you’re through looking at the artwork, you can kick back and relax while you watch the ships make their way down the Mississippi River. Woldenberg Park is a great place to visit for singles, couples or for a family experience and you can even take a frisbee along and play games. The park is also located near the local aquarium so if you want to tour this attraction you’ll be in the vicinity, but there is an admission charge for the latter.
19. Take a walking tour for Jazz history
The National Park Service offers a Jazz History Walking tour at the Jazz History National Historical Park. This is a self guided tour and there are no charges so it’s yet another really interesting thing to do when you’re in New Orleans. The park is located at 916 N. Peters Street. This is an excellent opportunity for anyone who is interested in jazz music or in learning more about the rich history of this genre. It’s guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience.
20. Visit the Southern Candymakers shop
Southern Candymakers is one of the premiere candy making shops to tour. Of course, they sell their goods, but they also give out free samples. The shop is located at 332 Decatur Street in New Orleans, in the French Quarter. You might just find your new favorite treat at the shop. In addition, it’s a great place to pick up a souvenir gift for friends and family back home because the confections are one of a kind and this is the only shop in the world that you’ll be able to find some of the items.
- Stroll up and down St Charles
- Check out Audubon Park
- Hang out at the Levy
- Hang out outside the Columns hotel
- Stroll up and down Bourbon Street
- Hang out in Jackson Square
- Check out Tulane University campus
- Hang out on Frenchman Street
- Window shop on Tchoupitoulas