Though one never needs an excuse to travel to New Orleans and there is always something to do and see, festivities combined with local attractions can get costly quick. Happily, there are a number of ways to experience the culture and energy of this great city without spending a dime. There are dozens of free things to see and do in New Orleans, but we pulled our top 10 favorites to share with you. Enjoy and let the good times roll!
1. New Orleans Museum of Art. Free admission is offered on Wednesdays. However, if a mid-week visit doesn't fit your travel schedule, make sure to walk through the museum's fantastic sculpture garden. The garden is massive and the art works throughout are amazing. If you don't feel like walking the grounds you can enjoy a snapshot of the works on a gondola. Whether in the Museum or walking through the sculpture garden, you may spend a good part of your day perusing art and artifacts ranging from modern to impressionist, to downright puzzling. Click here to learn about current exhibitions and schedules.
2. Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum. Mardi Gras is an event that is worth experiecing at least once. However, for those that may miss the festivities there is a museum that offers a chance to enjoy some of the magic-- the Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum. This museum is a quick cab ride or a long walk from the French Quarter. It is packed with masks, costumes, including those for Mardi Gras Indians, vintage photos and much more.
3. Crescent City Farmers Market. Walking through the market is free, of course, the produce is not. But, you won't have to pay for a cooking class. Cooking demonstrations are given by local chefs who offer lessons and culinary secrets. Although you'll probably be tempted to purchase some items to snack on or cook with, the secrets that local chefs offer is priceless.
4. Jackson Square. There is no better place to go for free entertainment than Jackson Square. In April, Jackson Square is a central location for French Quarter Festival festivities. At all other times of the year, you'll find street performers and artists who congregate there. The St. Louis Cathedral provides a striking backdrop for the impromptu performances. There are also three statues of Andrew Jackson at Jackson Square. One stands out prominently. But you can decide which one is the best.
5. St. Charles Avenue. A walk or streetcar ride ($1.25) is worth the trip into the 19th century. St. Charles Avenue is aligned with gorgeous colonial-style mansions, including The ‘Wedding Cake House’, 5807 St. Charles Ave. - a Victorian colonial-revival home dating back to l896. Although walking along St. Charles Avenue is free, we prefer to travel on the St. Charles streetcar. A ride on the famous St. Charles streetcar offers a leisurely and unique way to enjoy the giant oak trees and mansions that you'll pass. The cost of riding the streetcar will only set you back $1.25 per person, but you can enjoy a ride from the monument at Lee Circle to its end point in the old town of Carrollton upriver. Plus, the streetcar takes you past the New Orleans Museum of Art.
6. Bourbon Street. Admittedly, we tend to stay away from Bourbon Street but it is worth a quick stroll just once during your trip. Street performers can also be found along Bourbon Street. There are some bars that showcase local bands, food and famous drinks like The Hurricane. However, Bourbon Street also has its share of hustlers, pick-pockets, rebel rousers and unsavory establishments. Hang on to your wallet and maintain an awareness of your surroundings, especially at night.
7. New Orleans Voodoo Shop. Entrance into the Voodoo Museum is a bit pricey but it costs nothing to browse the mysterious wares of the museum's gift shop. The unusual assortment of potions, voodoo dolls, ritual candles and other items used by practioners will keep you occupied for hours.
8. City Park. Though the 1,300 acre park has paid attractions throughout, a walk through the park to enjoy its 800-year-old trees, is free. We suggest you tour the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, or enjoy a few rounds of frisbee golf for a great time .
9. St. Louis Cemetery #1 on Basin Street. "The City of the Dead" is the nick-name given to St. Louis Cemetery #1, the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. While you'll have to pay for a guided tour, entrance to the cemetery is free so you can wander the grounds on your own (if you dare). One of the most popular tombs is that of Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau, the 19th-century figure who inspires songs and mythical stories to this day.
10. Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve. The Gulf is full of wildlife, including its famous residents, the alligator. If your looking for a close encounter with a gator, you'll find it at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve where admission is free to bayous, swamps and marshes. Closures and construction are a reality for natural areas frequented by tourists, so check here for updated information before you go.