10 Free Things to Do in New Orleans

New Orleans

Atlantide Phototravel / Getty Images

Laissez les bons temps rouler, Cajun French for "let the good times roll," isn't just a fun thing to say in New Orleans—it's a way of life. Whether you're cheering alongside the locals at citywide festivals like Mardi Gras or wandering the architecturally appealing streets of the French Quarter and the Garden District, there's something for every taste, style, and budget in the Crescent City, and that includes plenty of free things to see and do. Here's how to make the most of your time in New Orleans without breaking the bank, whether you're up for free jazz and opera, self-guided tours, and Sazerac sampling, or prefer to zen out in City Park.

01 of 10

Listen to Free Jazz in the Place It Was Born

Wednesday Concert at the Square in New Orleans

Visit New Orleans

701 N Rampart St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
Phone +1 504-658-3200

Nothing says New Orleans like jazz—it was born here, after all—and you can catch plenty of it for free throughout the city depending on when you're in town. You'll generally be able to hear it along Frenchmen Street, Royal Street, and in Jackson Square, while Congo Square is another go-to spot, especially on Sundays. For a real treat, visit Lafayette Square in springtime for Wednesday at the Square, a weekly concert that's typically held in the evening from mid-March to early June.

02 of 10

Chill Out in City Park

City Park in New Orleans

Laura Ragsdale / Getty Images

City Park, New Orleans, LA, USA

Just a 10-minute drive from downtown New Orleans, 1,300-acre City Park provides a welcome break from the hustle and bustle, with plenty of space to stretch out and get some fresh air. Open since 1854, the park is home to several popular NOLA attractions, including the New Orleans Museum of Art and its outstanding (and free!) sculpture garden, the Louisiana Children's Museum, New Orleans Botanical Garden, Big Lake, Pan-American Stadium, and the Bayou Oaks at City Park golf course.

03 of 10

Appreciate Art in the NOMA Sculpture Garden

The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at New Orleans Museum of Art

The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at New Orleans Museum of Art

1 Collins Diboll Cir, New Orleans, LA 70124-4603, USA
Phone +1 504-658-4100

Open daily and free to the public, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art is a wonderful place to take a breather—or recover after a wild night out on the town—in peaceful, art-filled surroundings. Situated in City Park, the 11-acre garden shows off more than 90 works of art, including popular pieces like Robert Indiana's giant "LOVE" block letters, Jeppe Hein's "Mirror Labyrinth," and Ursula Rydingsvard's "Dunma," among other impressive sculptures.

04 of 10

Enjoy Free Tours and Tastings at The Sazerac House

The Sazerac House in New Orleans

The Sazerac House

101 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Phone +1 504-910-0100

While The Sazerac House offers several guided tours, tastings packages and experiences for a fee, you can take a complimentary 90-minute self-guided tour for a behind-the-scenes look at how the popular New Orleans cocktail is made. Learn about the history of this tasty concoction, and see how Sazerac Rye is distilled and Peychaud's Bitters are handcrafted. Guests ages 21 and up can also enjoy samples throughout the tour.

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05 of 10

Check Out Jackson Square

Jackson Square and Cathedral in New Orleans's French Quarter

TripSavvy / Mariah Tyler

New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
Phone +1 504-658-3200

Start your search for free things to do with a visit to Jackson Square, located immediately in front of St. Louis Cathedral—it might just be the most photographed spot in all of New Orleans. When large sporting events are hosted here, it's the place network producers often pick as a backdrop to show their anchor teams are in the heart of the Crescent City. Take a stroll and check out the open-air artist colony. You can also see the attraction for which the square is named: A huge bronze statue of Andrew Jackson.

06 of 10

Go for a Scenic Stroll Through the French Quarter

Bourbon Street

TripSavvy / Vincent Mercer

French Quarter, New Orleans, LA, USA

The French Quarter will hold your interest at every turn. Rich period architecture, the aroma of local cuisine, and packed taverns along Bourbon Street are all images you'd associate with this part of the city, roughly defined as the area within Canal, Esplanade, and Rampart Streets that's bordered by the Mississippi River.

A word of caution: Some visitors get so caught up in the French Quarter atmosphere that they fail to see anything else the city has to offer. Be sure to budget your time properly so you can experience all of New Orleans. Also, take care to stay in well-lit, high traffic areas, especially at night, as it's possible to wander a few blocks from the French Quarter and wind up in potentially dangerous areas.

07 of 10

Wander Through the French Market

Entrance to the French Market

TripSavvy / Vincent Mercer

1008 N Peters St, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
Phone +1 504-636-6400

The French Market has a fascinating history, but many of the tourists who browse the stalls here have no knowledge of that colorful past. You might not want to buy a thing and it's fun and free to wander the market and imagine what it once meant to New Orleans.

Indigenous Choctaw merchants were the first people to trade on this site. Later, immigrants set up stalls here, selling their wares within a few feet of someone else speaking an entirely different language—diversity and entrepreneurial spirit ruled the day. Joseph Abeilard, one of the first African American architects, designed the original center, which was later destroyed in a hurricane. The market was later restored in the 1970s, with its rather precarious spot now protected by a nearby flood wall.

08 of 10

Visit the Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum

Clothing exhibit in the Mardi Gras Museum

TripSavvy / Vincent Mercer

813 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA
Phone +1 504-523-5433

Many visitors crowd into New Orleans during its annual Mardi Gras festival, but you don't have to miss out on the spectacle completely if you're arriving at another time of the year. Above Arnaud's Restaurant, the Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum shows off elaborate gowns, masks, and other memorabilia that are associated with the city's most famous celebration.

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09 of 10

Stroll Through the Picturesque Garden District

Architecture in the Garden District

TripSavvy / Vincent Mercer

Garden District, New Orleans, LA, USA

The Garden District is what some might consider to be "uptown" New Orleans, with plenty of homes that are well-established and well-landscaped. The historic significance of each neighborhood comes more into focus the more you explore.

The St. Charles street car line offers an inexpensive way to visit this area, although it is free to walk from wherever you're staying in New Orleans. Along the shaded streets, you'll encounter shops, restaurants, and cemeteries that are sure to capture your attention. This part of the city is far more quiet and subtle than the bustling French Quarter, and is an important part of New Orleans that, unfortunately, some visitors never find time to experience.

10 of 10

Investigate Local Cemeteries


TripSavvy / Vincent Mercer

1427 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Phone +1 504-658-3781

New Orleans cemeteries are characterized by their above-ground vaults because the water table here is so close to the surface. For safety's sake, it is best to tour cemeteries in high-traffic neighborhoods during daylight hours. While there are a number of guided walking tours available, which are great for families with older children and can be arranged for a fee, it costs nothing to wander the rows and read the inscriptions on your own. Some are humorous, while others bear witness to stark tragedy. For a memorable experience, stop by Lafayette Cemetery in New Orleans' Garden District.

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10 Free Things to Do in New Orleans