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, 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.
1. Wander along Woldenberg Riverfront Park
From Canal Street to the Moon Walk along the French Quarter, stroll down the riverfront and watch ships of all kinds ply the Mighty Mississippi. Also on the riverfront, Crescent Park offers stellar city views, accessed just past the French Market at Elysian Fields. You can go all the way to Bywater.
2. Window shop
Wander down Royal and Chartres streets to admire art, antiques and oddities. Wander Magazine Street, famous for its eclectic shops and cozy eateries.
3. Visit the Lower 9th Ward Living Museum
Explore the history of New Orleans' historic Lower 9th Ward pre, during, and post Hurricane Katrina. Admission is always free.
4. Catch street music, live
Take a stroll of the French Quarter and you’re bound to run into spontaneous live music on the street. The show is free, but tipping a few dollars is encouraged.
5. Attend a Mardi Gras Parade
Catch beads and other throws during Carnival season at dozens of Mardi Gras parades all over town.
6. Watch the sunrise from Algiers Point
Just across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter is historic Old Algiers. Wake up extra early to catch the sunrise from the levees of Algiers Point.
7. Gallery hop in the Arts and Warehouse District
Check out Julia Street on the first Saturday evening of every month.
8. Check out the Jazz Museum's free courtyard concert series
The New Orleans Jazz Museum chronicles the history of jazz in the city and is located right on the edge of the French Quarter. Grab a blanket and head to the museum’s courtyard on Tuesday evenings for free live jazz.
9. Take a bike ride down Lafitte Greenway
Enjoy a scenic bike ride on the greenway, which spans multiple neighborhoods and has several cafes, breweries and hangout spots along the way.
10. Celebrate Halloween
Halloween in New Orleans is one-of-a-kind, and isn't complete without Krewe of Boo-- the Halloween parade in the French Quarter.
11. Browse the shops on Oak Street
Stop into the eclectic mix of shops on quiet Oak Street, including a comic book shop, a guitar repair shop and a used book store.
12. Learn about the historic New Orleans cocktail: the Sazerac
Sazerac House opened in 2019 and is a state-of-the-art experience: for free! Learn about the history of cocktail culture in New Orleans and how the famous drink is made
13. Support Black-owned businesses at these markets
Both the New Orleans African American Museum and the Ashé Cultural Arts Center host monthly pop-up markets featuring Black vendors and artisans, plus music and more. Check their websites for more details.
14. Take a Free Tour by Foot
For tours of the French Quarter, including ghost and voodoo tours, check out Free Tours by Foot.
15. Walk around the lake in City Park
The Big Lake at City Park is full of activity and walking paths. You just might sneak up on a dozing turtle or surprise a yellow-footed egret into flight.
16. Familiarize yourself with New Orleans history
Read the historic plaques that are scattered on noteworthy buildings and public art all over the city.
17. Take the kiddos to the Louisiana Children's Museum
On the second Saturday of each month, Louisiana residents receive free admission to the Louisiana Children’s Museum courtesy of the Helis Foundation.
18. People watch along Jackson Square
Mule-drawn buggies line up, artists sell their creations and tarot card readers tell you your future throughout Jackson Square.
19. Visit Congo Square on a Sunday afternoon
Congo Square is a historic site in New Orleans where enslaved people and free people of color would come to celebrate music, dance and culture throughout the centuries. Visit the square on Sunday afternoons for drumming, music and dance.
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.
21. Watch the “greasing of the poles” at the Royal Sonesta Hotel
On the Friday before Fat Tuesday, the greasing of the poles draws hundreds of viewers, a tradition that was started to discourage revelers from climbing onto balconies but now is just a sassy good time.
22. Relax on the banks of Bayou St. John
Watch canoes and other non-motorized water crafts float along the bayou.
23. Rollerblade at Crescent Park
Enjoy the afternoon sun and head to Crescent Park for rollerblading. The linear path provides plenty of room for skating, and you’re bound to meet friends while you hit your stride.
24. Hang out at Champions Square before a Saints game
Revel in the pre-game excitement. Get to the Dome early to watch the fans roll in, many of whom will be in costume.
25. Head to Paradigm Gardens for a plant sale
Visit Paradigm Gardens every Sunday morning for a plant sale and live music. A similar plant sale is held on the weekends at City Park’s Botanical Gardens, as well.
26. Wander through the Garden District
Admire the beautiful mansions and wrought iron fences and balconies throughout the Garden District neighborhood.
27. Dance down Frenchmen Street
Any night of the week, music fills the air from the many clubs that rock till the wee hours.
28. Access the Historic New Orleans Collection
Learn about the history of the Crescent City. Visits and self-guided tours of the museum galleries are always free.
29. Watch the Running of the Bulls, New Orleans style
Every July, this Warehouse District event pits the Big Easy Rollergirls roller-derby squad against a gaggle of runners in a hilarious race for charity.
30. Slurp free oysters
Oysters and music can be found for free every Friday night at Le Bon Temps Roule on Magazine Street.
31. Enjoy free Zumba in City Park
Get fit with Zumba in the park, offered every Saturday morning free of charge at 8 a.m.
32. Visit a cemetery
Explore the above-ground cemeteries that are so famous in New Orleans, including St. Patrick Cemetery No. 2 and St. Louis No. 3. Feel thankful in the chapel in the back of St. Roch Cemetery, a shrine filled with ex-votos.
33. Visit Milton H. Latter Memorial Library
The New Orleans Public Library is in a stately mansion on St. Charles Avenue that once belonged to silent film star Marguerite Clark.
34. Peruse the French Market
Browse stalls of souvenirs and clever baubles at the French Market.
35. Take a tour of Saint Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square.
The historic church is open to the public and is beautiful.
36. Visit Longue Vue House & Gardens on Free Family Day
Check out the beautiful grounds of Longue Vue on the first Sunday of every month. Louisiana families can stroll the gardens free of charge.
37. If you live in Louisiana, get in free to various museums
Thanks to the Helis Foundation, visit the Contemporary Arts Center on Sundays, the Botanical Garden on Wednesdays, and the New Orleans Museum of Art and Ogden Museum of Southern Art on Thursdays.
38. Learn how to saber champagne
Every Friday, head to the Brennan’s courtyard at 5 p.m. for champagne sabering.
39. Ogle art at one of the many art markets around town
Check out the Art Garage on St. Claude Avenue as well as Saturday art markets such as one in City Park that pops up monthly.
40. Relax at The Fly
The Fly is a swathe of green space behind Audubon Zoo on the Mississippi River. Sunsets there are lovely.
41. Enjoy free live music at Faubourg Brewing
Head to Faubourg Brewing in New Orleans East for free outdoor live music all weekend long.
42. Explore Mardi Gras Collections at restaurants
Go upstairs at Arnaud’s for a tour of Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum, or check out the collections at Antoine’s and Brennan’s.
43. See a light show
Every December, Luna Fete transforms a New Orleans landmark into a 30 minute artistic light show.
44. Enjoy live music at Music Legends Park
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.
45. Sit under century-old Live Oak trees
Audubon Park or City Park are great options. Admire the Spanish Moss that hangs down.
46. Watch the sunset from Lakeshore Drive
Benches look out over beautiful Lake Pontchartrain in the Lakeview neighborhood.
47. Get into the holiday mood
Cathedral concerts, bonfires and more take place for free during Christmas New Orleans Style, the month of December.
48. Watch the crowds on Bourbon Street
You’re liable to see just about anything.
49. Watch artists demonstrate glass blowing
Rosetree Blown Glass Studio, Studio Inferno or New Orleans Glassworks all create beautiful pieces.
50. Meander around one of the city’s farmers markets
The Crescent City Farmers Market hosts multiple markets each week in different parts of the city.
Coming to New Orleans with the kids? Check out our Free Things for Kids in New Orleans page.
For even more ideas of what to do in New Orleans, visit our things to do page-- you’re sure to have a good time. Start planning your trip here.