One of the most fascinating and intriguing US cities, New Orleans is mostly known as the home of jazz, Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, and exotic creole dishes. Also known as the Big Easy, it is a city that has beautifully recovered since Hurricane Katrina, there’s more to see and explore in New Orleans and most of it are free! Plenty of concerts, a stroll through opulent neighborhoods, a park full of oak trees as well as museums that introduces you to this gorgeous city. Check out this list of free things to do in New Orleans and may you enjoy each one of them.
12 Free Things To Do in New Orleans, Louisiana
1. Concert at Lafayette Square
Lafayette Square in downtown New Orleans is just a 10-minute walk from the French Quarter, and one of the best free attractions in New Orleans. The place hosts free concerts that feature different band, including many of the wonderful local brass and blues bands based in the Big Easy.
These are held in a lovely park where you can bring your own blankets and folding chairs. Known as Wednesday at the Square, these concerts take place from 5 pm to 8 pm, usually starts in early March and ends in late May.
2. Garden District
When in New Orleans, it is a must to visit the Garden District. It is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city, and where you’ll find St. Charles Street. This street is lined with huge oak trees and large mansions that showcases the rich history and southern opulence. One of the best free things to do in New Orleans, the tour should also take you to Prytania Street, with its Greek Revival homes, and Camp Street, where you can stroll through the park and see beautiful statues. You can get free tour maps in the French Quarter Visitor Center, inside any streetcar, or in the Riverwalk Mall.
3. Ride the Algiers Ferry
Giving you a different perspective of the city sights, the five minute Algiers Ferry travel from the banks of the French Quarter to the neighborhood of Algiers. While onboard, you get an up-close view of the Mississippi River, one of the most impressive natural landmarks in the city. You also get to see both the oldest parts of the city and a view of the downtown skyline from the ferry. A free New Orleans activity that you must try, there’s more to it when you reach Algiers.
Stroll around Algiers Point, one of the oldest areas on the Westbank of New Orleans, and marvel at historic New Orleans homes, visit grocery stores stocked with local goodies, or check out English pubs for a pint or a meal.
4. City Park
The New Orleans Park is home to the largest collection of live oak trees in the world, with some of it over 600 years old. Spend a day here, it’s absolutely free. Get lost among the oaks, or explore the water fountains, lagoons, walking and jogging trails, and small lakes. There are playgrounds and green spaces to run around, a haven for those visiting New Orleans on a budget.
5. Check Out a Cooking Demonstration
A blend of French, Spanish, African, Cajun, and Creole traditions – New Orleans cuisine is quite extraordinary. If you’re in the city and looking for something unique to take home with you, then learning a dish or two via the many free cooking demos is something that’s worth your time. These are often held in farmer’s markets such as the Crescent City Farmers’ Market in downtown New Orleans. Local chefs give free cooking demonstrations then local bands play for free. Watch how treats like beignets or po’boys are made, as well as more complicated Creole dishes. You get to learn something new while you enjoy, all for free.
6. Saint Louis Cathedral
Located directly behind Jackson Square in the French Quarter, the Saint Louis Cathedral is worth a visit. The Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France dates back to the 1700s and is a stunning blend of Old World architecture and Catholic treasures. Step inside the church and admire the intricate woodwork, stained glass windows, and beautiful sculptures. Free to visit and look around in, you can tour both the grounds and worshiping areas of the Saint Louis Cathedral Wednesday to Saturday from 1 pm to 4 pm.
7. Street Performers at Jackson Square
A year-round hangout for street performers and artists, Jackson Square in the French Quarter is one of the best free attractions in New Orleans. A good part of the park is lined with painters and sketch artists creating and selling original work. You can also find street performers who do everything from tap dancing to creating living sculptures, while in the side streets while you can catch musicians and bands behind the square.
Jackson Square is located in front of Saint Louis Cathedral and across from the popular Cafe Du Monde, it is open every day, and is free for visitors to explore.
8. The Swamps
Most of these swamps are not really in the New Orleans area, but definitely worth this short day trips from New Orleans. The Bayou Sauvage, which is 25 minutes from the French Quarter, is free to visit and this is where you can enjoy activities such as fishing, and wildlife. There’s also the Jean Lafitte National Park where you could spy alligators and other swamp creatures. Both parks encourage guests to explore the grounds and experience all of the wonderful natural beauty for themselves.
9. Cities of the Dead
A trip to the cemetery is surely one of the more unique and exciting things to do in New Orleans, where they’re called the ‘cities of the dead’. These places are open to the public free of charge with most of them steeped in legend and history. Go there alone or bring a companion with you, and explore places such as the Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 in the French Quarter. This is where you can see what many believe is the grave of Voodoo queen Marie Laveau, where people still leave offerings. Meanwhile, the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in the Garden District is where you can see the final resting place of Judge Warren J. Ferguson, of “Plessy v. Ferguson” fame.
10. Historic New Orleans Collection
A must if you’re into art and history, the Historic New Orleans Collection offers certain exhibitions for free. Check out their Louisiana History Galleries, which is hailed as “the best introduction to the city that a visitor can get.” There’s also an exhibit detailing the events of Hurricane Katrina, and how the city slowly recovers after the devastation. It’s a must-visit and a free New Orleans activity that you should check out.
11. Local Markets
New Orleans is home to some pretty interesting markets that are free to visit. Check out fresh produce, local products as well as the city’s unique cuisine. Over 50 different vendors set up stalls on 4 different days in 4 different locations around the city, such as the French Market in the French Quarter, or the Crescent City Farmer’s Market. Get to meet local vendors and sample their treats, or simply enjoy the lively atmosphere, hanging out in one of the markets in New Orleans allows you to glimpse another side of this Southern city.
12. Window Shop on Magazine Street
Stretching from the Lower Garden all the way to Audubon Park, window shopping on Magazine Street takes you through shops as well as the city’s interesting architecture and landscape.
There are galleries, shops, bars, and restaurants here, which are usually housed in historic buildings, with most of it owned by locals. You’ll find designer clothing, arts and crafts, antique shops, and quirky home decor shops that you won’t find anywhere else. A worthwhile stroll that further introduces you to this gorgeous city, this is definitely one of the best free things to do in New Orleans.