New Orleans is, by far, one of the most fun cities I’ve ever visited. There’s something that’s just so…easy…about it. Convenient, as its nickname IS the Big Easy. It’s laid back, unlike anywhere else I’ve been before or since, and the food is out-of-this-world awesome.
To save you valuable cash that can be spend on NOLA’s amazing food and luminous green Hand Grenade cocktails, I’m sharing some free things to do. Hooray! I’ve also included some paid-for ideas in case you’re looking to spend some of those dollars as well.
Enjoy free live music
New Orleans is ALL about the music, particularly jazz, and you’ll find live performers wherever you go. On the streets of the French Quarter, you’ll be met with the sounds of trumpets, trombones and pretty much any brass instrument you can think off. Dancing in the streets totally encouraged. If you can, do leave these guys a tip – obviously it’s not compulsory, but everyone’s gotta eat (especially here…).
Got some cash to splash? I mean, technically you could go into a bar without a cover charge and just enjoy the music. But um, I’m not advocating that…at all. Quite a few of the bars have a drink minimum (although it’s usually just one or two, which is easy). I had an awesome time at 30°/-90° on Frenchmen Street, and Snug Harbor is another popular spot there. On Bourbon Street, try Spotted Cat Music Club and Musical Legends Park.
Walk the garden district
The Garden District is as it sounds. Full of green, and very pretty. This neighbourhood has some of the most opulent and impressive homes and mansions in the city, and it’s a lovely place to just take a walk and soak up the architecture. You can find some awesome self-guided tour routes on the good ol’ internet, like this one, if you want to wander with purpose. Oh, and the New Orleans Fire Department Museum is also free to visit.
Got some cash to splash? Go shopping on Magazine Street, which cuts through the district.
Discover New Orleans voodoo
New Orleans’ voodoo history is something that fascinates me, and as soon as I popped my head into Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, my curiosity peaked. Packed with artefacts, art and spiritual messaging, it’s a really interesting place to discover the city’s voodoo culture. Although a popular tourist site to visit, Marie Leveau’s is perhaps one of the most ‘authentic’ in terms of representing the spirituality of voodoo as a religion.
Also worth a visit? Reverend Zombie’s Voodoo Shop and Voodo Authentica, both in the French Quarter. Photos aren’t usually allowed in many of the serious voodoo stores, but even the far tackier souvenir-shop voodoo sections can be fun to look around.
See some AMAZING houses
New Orleans architecture is just something a bit special, really. Balconies, shutters, all kinds of colours and styles can be found on a walk through the city’s streets. Your Instagram will love this. In the French Quarter, you’ll find lots of Creole townhouses and cottages (like the one pictured above), the garden district offers large American townhouses and the rest of the city is home to plenty of shotgun house and double-gallery properties.
If you want to explore a house without having to knock on doors or break and enter, try Madame John’s Legacy.
Street performers in Jackson Square
Not gonna lie, human statues scare the crap outta me. They are, however, pretty fun to watch (just don’t get too close…). And if they’re not your thing, Jackson Square is home to plenty more weird and wonderful street performer types. Again, if you do have a few coins rattling around, tipping them is totally recommended.
Got some cash to splash? Catch a show at Southern Rep Theatre or the Saenger Theatre. More of a movie fan? The Prytania Theatre is a single screen, historical wonder.
Explore a cemetery
On my first visit, I really wanted to check out Saint Louis Cemetery No.1, but found out that you’re only allowed in as part of a guided tour. Which cost money I didn’t have at that point. However, if you’re looking to visit a New Orleans cemetery, there are plenty more that’ll give you that spooky experience for not a penny. Lafayette Cemetery No.1, in the Garden District, is one of those open for the public to wander around in. It’s such an interesting spot, which I’ve actually posted about in full, and definitely worth a walk around if you’re in the Garden District.
Got some cash to splash? Take a tour of the famous Saint Louis Cemetery No.1, home to the alleged resting place of ‘voodoo queen’ Marie Leveau.
St Louis Cathedral
Aka that place that sort of looks like a Disney castle from afar. It’s equally lovely up close, FYI. If you want to look inside, the cathedral is open daily – and okay, not QUITE free, but you can also pick up a self-guided tour brochure for $1 donation.
Got some cash to splash? Take a tour of the Old Ursuline Convent Museum – the oldest building in the Mississippi River Valley.
See a parade
Okay, this one’s a bit time-specific, as you’ll need to be in town for Mardi Gras. But, if you are, you can catch one of it’s infamous parades for free. Just show up, catch some beads, and enjoy the party!
Got some cash to splash? Visit Mardi Gras World and see the next parade’s floats being constructed before your very eyes. Plus, get a taste of ‘King Cake’!
Try on some masks
Masks are a pretty big deal in New Orleans, thanks to the likes of Mardi Gras. So unurprisingly, you’ll find shops selling all kinds of extravagant face coverings. You don’t have to buy one yourself, but
Got some cash to splash? Buy a mask! Prices actually start quite low for some of the simpler, mass-produced masks, going up to much more on custom made ones..
Spice up your life with a taste of some hot sauce
For this post, I tried not to cop out with a general ‘browse the shops!’ point, and focus on specific places instead. So this is one that will probably take you a couple of minutes, max, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless. The New Orleans foodie scene likes to get on the sauce – the hot sauce, that is. Dip into one of the hot sauce stores, giggle at the names and see if they’ve got some tasting chips to have a dip with. We hung out in a whole store dedicated to Tabasco, testing our tastebuds with their lineup of sauces…
Got some cash to splash? Learn to cook up your own Deep South dishes at the New Orleans School of Cookery.
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Hopefully this post is a bit of help if you’re visiting with limited money in your pockets, or trying to stick to a budget! If you’ve visited yourself and have any tips or ideas on free things to do in New Orleans, please do share them in the comments section!
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