If you're counting your vacation dollars closely, you've come to the right spot. They don't call Mardi Gras "the Greatest Free Show on Earth" or New Orleans "the Big Easy" for nothing. Each area of the city has it's own special offerings, features and adventures. Here are few for travelers on a budget.
Relax and take in the sights of Jackson Square, enjoy the delightful sounds of street musicians and artists or walk along the Mississippi at Woldenberg Park where you can hear the sounds of the Steamboat natchez and watch ships cruise on the river.
St Louis Cathedral: The oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States, the Saint Louis Cathedral is a pinnacle image of New Orleans and beautiful accent to the historic French Quarter. Visiting the cathedral is free and mass is held daily at 7:30 a.m., 4 and 5 p.m. on Saturday as well as 9 and 11 a.m. on Sunday. 615 Pere Antoine Alley www.stlouiscathedral.org
Beauregard-Keyes House: Named after two of its former residences, Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard and author Frances Parkinson Keyes, this 1826 mansion is a perfect example of a New Orleans raised center hall house. With a $10 admission fee, this tour will open the doors to one of the National Registry of Historic Places. 113 Charters St. www.bkhouse.org
The Cabildo: Built in 1795 as the seat of the Spanish municipal government, the Cabildo became the site of the Louisiana Purchase Transfer and the flagship building of the Louisiana State Museum. Admission is $6 to tour this famous building where the famous Slaughterhouse and Plessy vs. Ferguson cases were handed down. 701 Chartres St. lsm.crt.state.la.
Café Du Monde: Powdered sugar on top of warm crispy beignets. What could be better in the morning? How about some café au lait! For just $5 get an order of three beignets at the World Famous coffee house. 1039 Decatur St. www.cafedumonde.com
Faulkner House: Journey into the home once owned by literary genius, William Faulkner. Discover where "The Sound and the Fury," and "As I Lay Dying" was written. With free admission, there is time to discover a story in every room. 624 Pirate Alley www.faulknerhouse.net/
Cat's Meow: Who doesn't love belting out "I Will Survive" at the top of their lungs? Known as the "Worlds Greatest Karaoke Bar," the Cat's Meow on Bourbon is free for all those American Idol-wannabes. 701 Bourbon St. catskaraoke.com
Contemporary Arts Center: Come admire the 10,000 square feet of modern gallery space provided by the CAC. Just $5 will open up a world of cultural exhibits, performances and amazing programs! 900 Camp St. www.cacno.org
Dueling Pianos at Pat O's: Request your favorite song and watch the dueling pianos go at it! Admission is free, but it wouldn't be a trip to the Big Easy without Pat O'Brien's famous Hurricane drink! 728 St. Peter St. www.patobriens.com/patobriens/
French Market: Nearly three centuries of history, six blocks of unique Flea Market and Farmers Market is free for all to discover the district. Whatever it is you're looking for, you'll find it at the French Market!www.frenchmarket.org
Royal Street: Window shopping is always free, while the art and antiques you see are often priceless.
French Quarter Guided Tour: Tour the only European-style city in the U.S. at your own pace. Free French Quarter Guided Tour Brochures can be found at the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Armstrong Park: A park full of history, music and culture, located in one of the most historic and culturally rich nieghborhoods. Congo Square within the park was a popular location for slaves, free people of color as well as local French residents to gather to lay music and dance. Catch a Thursday concert during the Jazz in the Park concert series or check out the New Orleans African American Museum 701 N. Rampart St nola.gov
Wednesdays at the Square: This free Spring concert series is presented by the Young Leadership Council and features various local artists performing each week. Head on down to lafayette square, grab a bight from one of the local vendors, layout in the grass and soak up the relaxed atmosphere. wednesdayatthesquare.com/
When it's hot, grab a snoball! These frozen treats are a local favorite and won't break the bank.
Cities of the Dead: A symbol of our distinct culture, New Orleans burial practices are unique from most of the country. Here, we keep our deceased above ground in lavish tombs in part due to the high water table and the city's elevation being below sea-level. With 42 different cemetaries around the metropolitain area, you're sure to find a wealth of history, mystery and intrigue.
Festivals: New Orleanians celebrate everything. Festivals and crawfish boils are oue specialties. While not every festival in the city is free, these are some of our favorites:
Satchmo Summerfest: Celebrating the life and music of Louis Armstrong, one of New Orleans' most iconic and beloved musicians. fqfi.org/satchmo
French Quarter Festival: The largest free music festival in the South, this annual Spring festival brings some of the greatest local musicians, restuarants and artists out in to the streets. Locals and visitors flock to the French Quarter to eat, drink and be merry. fqfi.org/frenchquarter
Creole Tomato Festival: This two day festival, taking place the first weekend in June in the historic French Market, is free and open to the public. If you do purchase some local products, you can get a whole bag of creole tomatoes free!
Oak Street Po-Boy Festival: Explore the 8-block span of Oak Street and beyond. This festival features the best and most inventive po-boys from restaurants, food trucks and more around the city. Wash down those hefty sandwiches with a beer or other featured cocktails. www.poboyfest.com
Fair Grounds Race Course: Experience the thrill of live thoroughbred racing at the New Orleans Fair Grounds from early November to late March. Grand stand admission is free! 1751 Gentilly Blvd. www.fairgroundsracecourse.com/
Free Tours by Foot: Free Tours by Foot is pleased to present the only FREE, tip based walking tours of the French Quarter and Garden District. These interesting and informative sightseeing tours will take you through many of New Orleans's legendary neighborhoods and cemeteries. Reservations are required: (504) 222-2967 www.freetoursbyfoot.com/neworleans/default.asp
Nineteenth Century esteemed New Orleans architect, James Gallier, Jr, was one of the most prominent architects of his time. For only $10, enjoy a stroll though Gallier's Victorian home that captures the style of a successful urban designer in post-Civil War New Orleans.
1132 Royal St www.hgghh.org/
Stroll along New Orleans historic Garden District. Take a step back into time as you admire the unique culture, including Lafayette Cemetery #1, one of the most beautiful city cemeteries.
Hermann-Grima House: One of the most significant residences in New Orleans, the Hermann-Grima House accurately represents the fabulous lifestyle of a wealthy Creole family prior to the Civil War. For $10 walk through this elegant mansion, and experience the Golden Age of New Orleans. 820 Saint Louis St. http://www.hgghh.org/
Jackson Square Artists: What better way to capture the smile of the one you love than through the talents of a Jackson Square artist!
Live Music Stroll along Bourbon, Frenchmen and Fulton, where jazz pours into the street, or duck into a club for the full experience. Many clubs don't even charge a cover!
Magazine Street Whether you are looking for antiques, art work, the latest trends or even a wedding dress, Magazine Street is the perfect place to start your window-shopping! If you shop 'till you drop, grab a refreshment at one of the many restaurants and bars along the strip. www.magazinestreet.com/
New Orleans School of Glassworks and Printmaking Studio: As the south's largest studio of contemporary art, make time to take a glassblowing, stained glass, or even printmaking class! Stop in for daily free demonstrations and window shop for unique gifts! 727 Magazine St. www.neworleansglassworks.com/
Parks Walk among the centuries- old oaks of City Park, picnic in picturesque Audubon Park or enjoy views of the Mississippi River at Woldenberg Park.
Pharmacy Museum: For only $5 you can visit the very first pharmacy in the U.S. Learn how the Pharmacy Museum showcases its extensive collection and provides education to preserve the history of Louisiana pharmacy and healthcare. 541 Charter St. www.pharmacymuseum.org
The Presbytere: Discover part of the Louisiana State Museum. The Presbytere, designed in 1791, was initially used for commercial purpose, and then became a courthouse in 1847. Neighboring the Cabildo and Cathedral, for just $6, explore this once residence of the Capuchin monks. 751 Charters St. lsm.crt.state.la.us
Preservation Hall: Originally built as a private residence in 1750, Preservation Hall has become a World Famous musical venue in the French Quarter founded in 1961 to protect and honor New Orleans Jazz. For $12 watch jazz legends play on the stage that was once shared by Louis Armstrong. 726 St. Peter St. www.preservationhall.com/
Preservation Resource Center: Like what you see in New Orleans? Take a hands-on approach to preserve the history and rich culture through the Preservation Resource Center. It's free to volunteer your time to renovate houses, work on the PRC newspaper or help with Operation Comeback! 923 Tchoupitoulas St. www.prcno.org/
Roman Candy Wagon: For just .75, you can bite into a tasty bit of history. Roman Candy Wagons travel all over the city selling flavorful taffee on a stick. The horse drawn business has remained true to its roots since 1915.Street Performers: This is New Orleans! Of course we have street performers on almost every corner in the French Quarter! Check out Jackson Square, Royal, Frenchmen and Bourbon Streets for a foot-stomping good band! Don't forget to tip!
Be a "Voluntourist": It costs nothing but a big heart to volunteer in the Big Easy. Just a few hours of volunteering can make a lasting impact on New Orleans.