FREE Things to Do

The real magic of New Orleans isn’t for sale. It’s absolutely free, in many instances.

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. Nothing (or nearly) is what you pay for some great times here.

Visitor Info
Stop by the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau Visitors Center at 2020 St. Charles Avenue, or the French Quarter location at 529 St. Ann Street. Find out what’s going on in the city and how to get around with brochures, such as our Official Visitors Guide, or simply call us at 1-800-503-NOLA. Another place to gain full information is in the 500 block of Basin Street.

Log onto our Web site for upcoming events and to download helpful info:

Bargain Transportation
The Big Easy is a way of life that includes getting around without blowing your budget. The colorful public transportation is cheap, simple to access and efficient.

Airport Service
Think the $20 Airport Shuttle (already a deal) is the best you can do from the Airport? Try the public Airport bus. It will get you from the terminal to Downtown for around $1.50. The shuttle is operated by Jefferson Transit (JeT) , and the public bus is a service of the Regional Transit Authority.

City Transport
For a measly $1.25 you can ride the historic trolleys in New Orleans. The St. Charles line will take you from downtown to uptown, along the glamorous avenue and to the Audubon Park, Tulane and Loyola Universities. Continue on, if you choose, and ride the streetcar into Carrollton. Take the Canal Streetcar all the way to the historic cemeteries, or choose the one that turns up Carrollton Avenue and drops you off at beautiful City Park and the grand Museum of Art. And all for just $1.25!

Fest Fever
You’re sure to catch it in New Orleans. Every month in the Crescent City you’ll find events where the fun (and often the music and art viewing) is free, such as the French Quarter Festival in April and the Satchmo Summer Fest, usually in August. In December, the holiday celebrations include mega freebies: concerts, cooking demonstrations by master chefs, holiday home tours, neighborhood light displays, a caroling concert in Jackson Square, and more.

Our web site: will lead you to some great happenings. There’s the Mardi Gras, of course, the Magazine Fest, Gumbo Fest, Art for Arts Sake, Fire and Ice….the list is long and the fun is free.

French Quarter
Aside from the Mardi Gras, the French Quarter itself is a wonderful free show.

Free French Quarter Guided Tour:
A National Historic Landmark, the French Quarter falls under the aegis of The National Park Service. Really nice Park Rangers will lead a daily tour for exactly 25 people at 9:30 a.m. Get there at 9 a.m. to get a place. One ticket per person, no absentee pick-ups. The address is 419 Decatur.

Prowl the French Market’s seven buildings, from the Bazaar and the Red stores to the Flea Market for souvenir bargains in local productions, tee-shirts, jewelry, masks and assorted oddities.

Window shop along Royal, Chartres, Bourbon and the narrow French Quarter streets for lots to look at including exceptional antiques and a wide variety of art galleries in addition to eccentric wares, strange cards, posters, clothes, Voodoo potions, jewelry and costumes.

Stroll around Jackson Square and look over the artists’ shoulders as they sketch and paint. Enjoy the street musicians and dancers, and mock the mimes. At the Café Du Monde, less than $5 will buy you a cup of great coffee and an order of beignets, along with a window onto the heart of the French Quarter.

See the Spanish-inspired architecture of historic St. Louis Cathedral. Many concerts in this great Basilica are also free. The former William Faulkner House at 624 Pirate’s Alley offers a stunning selection of books. The Pharmacy Museum at 514 Chartres is worth a visit and the admission is very low.

Learn how the French and Spanish got here and how the Creoles lived. The Louisiana State Museum at 751 Chartres (alongside the Cathedral) maintains five French Quarter sites – The Presbytere, The Cabildo, Madame John’s Legacy, The 1850’s House, and the U.S. Mint. Each is well worth a very reasonable admission price.

The changing exhibits at the Historic New Orleans Collection, 533 Royal, are free and it’s an unbelievable bargain. Other historic sites and museums, like Hermann Grima House, Beauregard-Keyes, Gallier House and the Old Ursuline Convent only charge in the $4.00 to $6.00 per person range.

River Walking Stroll
Walk the magnolia landscaped Woldenberg Park. See the vista in and from Spanish Plaza with its most refreshing fountain, pretty mosaics and a cinematic view of the great River. Window-shop upscale emporia at Riverwalk, the Jax Brewery and Canal Place.

Board the free ferry to Algiers’ and the Vantage Point at Riverwalk landing. At twilight, this 45-minute round trip cruise is spectacular. The panoramic view of the Vieux Carre from across the river is worth the expedition any time of day.

Eat a “Lucky Dog”
“A piece of bread, a hunk of meat, and all the mustard you can eat.” That’s what you get and it’s about what you might pay for half a muffuletta at Central Grocery. The ‘dogs’ are sold at several corners in the Quarter in weenie-shaped mobile carts.

Music, Music, Music
There’s something beyond the street musicians, frequent festivals and free concerts you can always count on: an admit price of $5.00 gets you into a performance by a jazz legend at Preservation Hall, 726 St. PeterMargaritaville, at 1104 Decatur, offers live music all day and into the night without a cover.

The Graveyard Shift
See the statuary in the famed “Cities of the Dead” for free. Marie Laveau spends her afterlife at St. Louis Cemetery #1, at St. Louis and Basin, just outside the Quarter. Anne Rice once staged her own funeral at the Lafayette Cemetery, where her vampire Lestat broods through his unlife in the Garden District at Prytania and Washington.

Be sure you check the cemetery hours before you go…they open late and close early.

The Metairie Cemetery, just west of the City, provides free audiocassette tours of the grounds that hold the remains of Confederate soldiers and the jazz great Louis prima. Metairie Cemetery’s grounds and statuary are magnificent testimonials to the deceased.

Central Business & Arts District
The SoHo of the South, the area on the uptown side of Canal Street, from St. Charles Avenue to the river, is a trove of free and low-cost entertainment and the heart of the arts in New Orleans.

Get the lay of the land with a visit to the Preservation Resource Center at 923 Tchoupitoulas in the Central Business District. Concise, informative vignettes cover the highlights of each historic neighborhood. Great free map with lots of pictures.

Bonus: hands-on course in New Orleans architecture using scale models of Creole and raised cottages and a shotgun house.

The stunning and cavernous Contemporary Arts Center at 900 Camp Street houses changing art exhibits. Free on Thursdays. Just a few bucks otherwise.

Just a block away is the exciting World War II Museum. This museum of our victory over the Nazis and the Japanese is a must-see, especially for the historians in your group.

The main arts thoroughfare is Julia Street, dotted with galleries like Simonne Stern and Arthur Rogers. While you’re gallery hopping, check out the Thirteen Sisters, a collection of 19th century row houses in the 600 block of Julia.

Street Savvy
Hop the Magazine Street public transit bus to explore an area so cool, only Greenwich Village could give it a run in a hipper-than-thou contest. The street name comes from French Magasin, for “shop” and you’ll see just about every trendy item around its six miles of art galleries, funky clothes, vintage accessories, wild costumes, wigs, masks and beaucoup antiques. There are over 80 shops of collectibles, used and original jewelry, bookstores and interesting restaurants.

Audubon Park
Known for its moss-hung oaks, ponds and laid-back ambiance, Audubon Park lies just before Magazine Street meets the river. Stroll, run, or bike along the avenue of Oaks, or hang out like the moss and picnic. Bring stale bread to feed the ducks and turtles. If you’ve got a bike, a great path runs for miles atop the levee, starting just to the right of the Zoo entrance. All free!

St.Charles Avenue & Garden District
Walk through Audubon Park from Magazine to St. Charles Avenue. At the park entrance take the streetcar back to Canal Street and Downtown...the 13-mile roundtrip passes a stunning array of Creole, Greek Revival and Victorian fantasies.

In the Garden District, a free National Historic Landmark, check out the many magnificent mansions along the charming streets lined with oaks and oleanders. The prices are low and include viewing the world’s largest live oak stand.

Experience heart-pounding excitement at the historic Fair Grounds Race Course at 1751 Gentilly Boulevard. Not far away is City Park, beginning at picturesque Bayou St. John and Esplanade Avenue, with hundreds of acres of lush oaks, a grand Museum of Art, golf, tennis and indescribable picnicking.

Swamp Tour
Take a walk on the wild side at the Barataria Preserve in the Jean Lafitte National Park. No charge except the one you get out of 8 miles of boardwalk and 20 miles of waterway set amid 20,000 acres of swamp, marsh, and old-growth cypress.

The nice people at the park service conduct a free daily tour at 1:30 p.m. You’ll see alligators, ibises, herons and lots of swamp flora and fauna. Also, check out the periodic moonlight strolls, morning and moonlight canoe treks, bird watching. All gratis.

Check, or call 504-689-3690, for schedule and directions.

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

Happy Times
Some of the best bargains at the “Happy Hours” where the drinks are cheap, and, sometimes, the food is free. Check out Donna’s at 800 North Rampart, famous for the Monday all-star jam. Igor’s at 2133 St. Charles Avenue is also famous for its beans-and-rice menu on Mondays. Tipitina’s, at 501 Napoleon, has a Sunday night music and food special, from 5 to 9 p.m.

In the end, New Orleans isn’t about what you can buy or how much things cost. It’s about lingering over good times and good company. This is The City that Care Forgot. We always remember that the point of life is living it. And, living it up. That’s the real magic. It isn’t for sale.

It’s absolutely free.

This material may be reproduced for editorial purposes of promoting New Orleans. Please attribute stories to New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. 2020 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130 504-566-5019. Revised 2009.