It doesn’t take a lot of money to dive into the real New Orleans, a place with deep culture, proud neighborhoods, vibrant street music, and art, and a history unlike any other city in America. Here are 50 ways you can experience your own New Orleans without spending a penny.
Wander along Woldenberg Riverfront Park from Canal Street to the Moon Walk along the French Quarter and watch ships of all kinds ply the Mighty Mississippi.
Walk through Crescent Park on the riverfront, with its stellar city views, accessed just past the French Market at Elysian Fields. You can go all the way to Bywater.
Window shop on Royal and Chartres streets for art, antiques and oddities.
Listen to the calliope steam organ that serenades from the deck of the steamboat Natchez when it’s docked on the Mississippi River in the French Quarter.
Join a second line parade, a homegrown celebration with music and dancing that happens most Sundays in neighborhoods around the city.
Catch beads and other throws during Carnival season at dozens of Mardi Gras parades all over town.
Stroll the St. Claude Arts District during the Second Saturday Art Walk in the funky Bywater and Marigny neighborhoods.
Gallery hop in the Arts District along Julia Street on the first Saturday evening of every month.
Listen to great New Orleans bands during Wednesdays at the Square, a free 12-week concert series in Lafayette Square starting in March and running through summer or during Wednesdays on the Point in Algiers during June and July.
Hear more free music every Thursday at Jazz in the Park, with bands performing in Louis Armstrong Park in spring and fall.
Attend one of our many free festivals on just about any weekend. There is the French Quarter Festival in mid-April, the South’s largest free music festival that transforms the French Quarter into one big performance venue; the Satchmo Summer Festival in August; the Louisiana Seafood Festival in September; the Blues and Barbecue Festival in October and so many more.
Take a free tour of the Nola Brewing Company and dip into the local craft beer scene. Tours are Friday and Saturday afternoons.
Swing dance every Sunday at the AllWays Lounge with the NOLA Jitterbugs Dance School.
Walk around the lake in City Park, where you just might sneak up on a dozing turtle or surprise a yellow-footed egret into flight.
Read the historic plaques that are scattered on noteworthy buildings and public art all over the city.
People watch along Jackson Square, where mule-drawn buggies line up, artists sell their creations and tarot card readers tell you your future.
Get with your Zen in free yoga classes held Saturdays at 10 a.m. at New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park at the Esplande Avenue end of the French Market.
Volunteer and connect with locals through one of the many grassroots organizations helping to improve and rebuild New Orleans’ neighborhoods. Check out www.HandsOnNewOrleans.org for some ideas.
Watch the “greasing of the poles” at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on the Friday before Fat Tuesday, a tradition that was started to discourage revelers from climbing onto balconies but now is just a sassy good time.
Relax on the banks of Bayou St. John and watch canoes and other non-motorized water crafts float along the bayou.
Yell “Stella!” during the Stella and Stanley Shouting Contest at the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival in the spring.
Hang out at Champions Square before a Saints game and revel in the pre-game excitement. There are always free performances on stage before all home games.
March along in the French Quarter Easter Parade, the one led by the legendary one-woman show Chris Owens.
Watch the famed meeting of the Mardi Gras Indian tribes on Super Sunday, the third Sunday in March, in Central City.
Spend some time walking around the Garden District and admiring the beautiful mansions and wrought iron fences and balconies.
Dance down Frenchmen Street any night of the week, where music fills the air from the many clubs that rock till the wee hours.
Access the Historic New Orleans Collection and learn about the history of the Crescent City. Visits and self-guided tours of the museum galleries are always free.
Watch the Running of the Bulls, New Orleans style, a July Warehouse District event that pits the Big Easy Rollergirls roller-derby squad against a gaggle of runners in a hilarious race for charity.
Slurp free oysters and music every Friday night at Le Bon Temps Roule on Magazine Street.
Feel thankful in the chapel in the back of St. Roch Cemetery, a shrine filled with ex-votos.
Visit Milton H. Latter Memorial Library, a New Orleans Public Library in a stately mansion on St. Charles Avenue.
Browse stalls of souvenirs and clever baubles at the French Market.
Take a tour of Saint Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square.
Take a walking tour with a park ranger from the French Quarter Visitor Center, part of the National Park Service. Tuesdays through Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. rangers lead a group of 25 on an hour-long history walk.
If you live in Louisiana, get in free on Thursdays at the New Orleans Museum of Art and Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
Ogle art at one of the many art markets around town. There is the Frenchmen Art Market on Frenchmen Street, the Art Garage on St. Claude Avenue as well as Saturday art markets such as one in on Freret Street the first Saturday of the month and another in Palmer Park the last Saturday of the month.
Explore the above-ground cemeteries that are so famous in New Orleans, including St. Patrick Cemetery No. 2, Lafayette Cemetery and St. Louis No. 3.
Head Uptown and find The Fly, a swathe of green space behind Audubon Zoo on the Mississippi River. Sunsets there are lovely.
Listen to free opera and show tunes by Bon Operatit! on the second Wednesday of the month at the Four Points by Sheraton, the site of the Old French Opera House.
Go upstairs at Arnaud’s for a tour of Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum.
Listen to Doreen play jazz. She’s on Royal Street in front of Rouse’s most days, just one of the many talented street performers who fill the city with music.
Watch the crowds on Bourbon Street, where you’re liable to see just about anything.
Take a selfie with Fats Domino, Pete Fountain, or Al Hirt at Music Legends Park on Bourbon Street while enjoying some of the daily free concerts. Music starts at 10 a.m.
Sit under century-old Live Oak trees in Audubon Park or City Park and admire the Spanish Moss that hangs down.
Wander Magazine Street, famous for its eclectic shops and cozy eateries.
Watch the sunset from Lakeshore Drive, where benches look out over beautiful Lake Pontchartrain.
Get into the holiday mood with Cathedral concerts, cooking demonstrations and more during Christmas New Orleans Style, the month of December.
Say a prayer at altars of food on St. Joseph’s Day, a Sicilian tradition observed at Catholic churches around town.
Watch artists demonstrate glass blowing at Rosetree Blown Glass Studio, Studio Inferno or New Orleans Glassworks.
Meander around one of the city’s many farmers markets and take in a cooking demonstration or two. There is the Crescent City Farmers Market and the Hollygrove Market and Farm among others.