When my husband and I first started dating, we took a trip to New Orleans. We loved the unique atmosphere and that every afternoon there would be a quick, pop up rain storm that would be gone in less than 30 minutes. Even better, for poor college students, adults and families that want to take a trip on the cheap, there are so many fun, free things to do in New Orleans.
Free Things to Do in New Orleans
Whether you want to listen to music, take a tour, or visit a museum, you can find a way to do it for free in New Orleans.
There are plenty of places in New Orleans where you can enjoy free music.
Jazz in the Park
If you’re visiting New Orleans between March and May or September and November, head to Louis Armstrong Park for free, family-friendly concerts every Thursday between 4 and 8 p.m. In addition to enjoying the local performers that change weekly, if you do want to spend some money, the park is filled with artists selling their wares. There’s also classic New Orleans food available if you get hungry.
Jazz Museum Free Courtyard Concert Series
The New Orleans Jazz Museum also offers a free concert series. Check their calendar to see who will be performing when. Even though these events are free, they are limited, so you may need to purchase tickets in advance.
New Orleans is an excellent place to wander around and people watch, but if you want a more structured experience, there are several free tours.
The GPSmyCity App offers six free New Orleans walking tours. Simply download the free app, and choose your preferred walk. Some you can choose from include:
- French Quarter,
- Historic Buildings Tour, and
- Garden District
Once you choose your destination, the app will give you a detailed map, photos of the location, and details about each place of interest along the way.
If you’d prefer guided tours for free, those are available, too.
National Park Service French Quarter Talk
The National Park Service offers a French Quarter Talk at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday. This includes a one hour walk around the French Quarter. The tour is free, but you must purchase tickets beforehand, and the group is limited to 25 attendees.
St. Louis Cathedral Tour
The St. Louis Cathedral is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is still a working church, so daily mass is offered at 12:05 every day. You can take a self-guided tour (the self-guided brochures are available for $1), or you can receive a free tour from volunteer docents when they are available.
New Orleans residents have worshipped at this location for over 300 years! The cathedral has a rich history, including visits by Andrew Jackson. Pope John Paul II even visited here in 1987. The cathedral has undergone several rebuilds, including a total rebuild when the church was destroyed by fire in 1788.
Free Tours by Foot in New Orleans
Free Tours by Foot offers several interesting tours that capture the New Orleans culture and life:
- Walking Tours,
- Ghost & Voodoo Tours,
- Cemetery Tours,
- Food & Cocktail Tours
These guided tours are advertised as free, but, of course, there is an assumption that after the tour you will pay something for the tour guide’s work.
You can also learn more about New Orleans through free museums.
New Orleans Museum of Art
The New Orleans Museum of Art opened 100 years ago with only nine works! Today, it houses over 40,000 objects permanently and has expanded to include a 12-acre sculpture garden.
The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. It is free for everyone under 19 years old, and on Wednesdays, it is free for all Louisiana residents.
Visit the Lower 9th Ward Living Museum
It’s easy to miss this gem, which is always free to visit. Set inside an actual house, you may want to pass it by, but don’t! The Lower 9th Ward Living Museum shares the struggles and the triumphs of 9th Ward residents since the 1700s, including Ruby Bridges and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Previously this location served as a colony for escaped slaves, and that oral history is documented in the museum’s Red Room. The museum contains five other rooms, each highlighting a different period of time for the Lower 9th Ward.
Other Events and Places
Visit Congo Square
Congo Square (now part of Louis Armstrong Park) has a rich tradition in New Orleans. Originally, it was a place for slaves to gather when they could have the day off and socialize. There, they were free to embrace their African roots and play the music of their culture. This is quite significant because African slaves elsewhere in the United States were not allowed to play drums as the New Orleans slaves could in Congo Square.
Today, Congo Square is paved with bricks and still serves as an important place for voodoo practitioners. You can visit and likely hear musicians playing there. Even if you don’t, Congo Square is a good place to visit because of its historical and cultural significance.
Of course, New Orleans is famous for Mardi Gras. Yes, you could spend a bundle on drinks and food, but you can also see many celebrations, including parades, during Mardi Gras for free. The best parades can be viewed for free beginning the Wednesday before Fat Tuesday through Fat Tuesday.
Halloween Krewe of Boo
New Orleans now also offers a Halloween parade, Krewe of Boo. Started in 2007 as a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina, this parade now happens annually. The event has grown from a single parade to a weekend full of activities. Watching the parade is free.
New Orleans can be a place where you can spend lots of money, but you don’t have to. You can explore this vibrant city’s rich history through the many free tours, museums, and events available. Whether you’re visiting the city with a large budget or a tiny one, I highly recommend that you do visit this city. New Orleans has an energy that you won’t find in any other city in the United States.
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