Explore for Free: Top Free Things to Do in New Orleans for Every Traveler

May 24, 2024

Wondering what free things to do in New Orleans? Look no further. New Orleans bursts with complimentary delights, from jazz on Frenchmen Street to the scenic Garden District. This guide delivers a handpicked selection of zero-cost experiences that showcase the soul of the city. Get ready to explore these activities and more, ensuring your visit to the Big Easy is heavy on fun yet light on the wallet.

Key Takeaways

  • New Orleans is packed with free activities ranging from historical landmarks like the French Quarter to live jazz on Frenchmen Street and art markets.
  • The city’s rich culture can be enjoyed without spending money, including exploring parks like the City Park, attending jazz concerts at the New Orleans Jazz Museum, and visiting the St. Louis Cathedral.
  • From Mardi Gras celebrations to free family-friendly museums and local community events, there’s an array of free experiences for every type of traveler.

Exploring the Big Easy Without Spending a Dime

As the birthplace of jazz and a melting pot of diverse cultures, New Orleans is a city like no other. And the best part? You can experience the city’s vibrant culture and unique attractions without spending a dime! Here are some free activities you can enjoy in the Crescent City:

  • Strolling through the historic French Quarter
  • Uncovering treasures at the French Market
  • Exploring the beautiful Garden District
  • Visiting the St. Louis Cathedral
  • Taking a walk along the Mississippi River
  • Enjoying live music on Frenchmen Street

The opportunities for free things and fun in New Orleans are endless.

Let’s dive into the heart of New Orleans and start exploring!

Stroll Through the Historic French Quarter

Venture into the heart of the city and find yourself immersed in the historic French Quarter. The picturesque neighborhood, brimming with history and soul, offers a sensory feast. As you meander through its narrow lanes, you’ll be serenaded by street performers and serenely charmed by the small grassy walkways, all against a backdrop of historic structures, each with a story to tell.

Amid the hustle and bustle, Jackson Square stands as a dynamic hub for local artists and musicians, reflecting the creative spirit of New Orleans. This is where the city’s heart beats loudest, and the rhythm is contagiously captivating.

Uncover Treasures at the French Market

Just a stone’s throw away from Jackson Square, you’ll find the French Market, New Orleans’ oldest public market. Here, the spirit of the city comes alive in the form of local crafts, foods, and eclectic treasures. With its historical ambiance, the French Market offers an open-air market experience like no other.

Traverse the market’s diverse stalls, and you’ll stumble upon souvenirs and unique items that are perfect for remembering your journey. So, why not take a stroll and uncover some treasures of your own?

Enjoy the Scenic Beauty of Orleans City Park

After the hustle and bustle of the market, unwind amidst the serenity of New Orleans City Park, a haven for nature lovers. Spanning over 1,300 acres, the park provides a perfect backdrop for a leisurely stroll or a picnic. Walk along the park’s nature trails and you’ll be greeted with breathtaking natural ambiance and a chance to spot local wildlife, including over 280 species of birds at Audubon Park. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot the occasional alligator lurking in the Big Lake!

Musical Melodies: Free Live Music and Jazz Spots

When it comes to music, New Orleans doesn’t skip a beat. From jazz to blues, the city’s neighborhoods brim with venues that feature live music performances, completely free of charge. Whether it’s the lively beats on Frenchmen Street or the soulful melodies at the New Orleans Jazz Museum, there’s a rhythm for every soul in the city.

So, why not let the musical melodies of the Crescent City serenade you as you explore its vibrant culture?

Frenchmen Street Beats

Frenchmen Street, just a few steps from the French Quarter, is a musical haven where you can revel in the city’s vibrant music scene. The street comes alive with the sounds of jazz, blues, and a variety of other genres as musicians perform into the night. With music filling the air, the street becomes a spontaneous and lively hub of activity.

It’s here in the central city that you can truly feel the city’s heartbeat and dance to its rhythm.

Concerts at the New Orleans Jazz Museum

For a truly immersive jazz experience, head over to the New Orleans Jazz Museum. Located on the grounds of the historic U.S. Mint, the museum offers free courtyard concerts every Tuesday evening, showcasing local jazz talent. These concerts are more than just a performance - they’re a celebration of the city’s rich jazz heritage.

So, grab a bite from the surrounding booths, sit back, and let the soulful tunes of New Orleans jazz wash over you.

Artistic Expressions: Galleries and Gardens

New Orleans is a city that wears its art on its sleeve. Its vibrant art scene is as diverse as the city itself, with spaces and gardens offering free admission to celebrate an array of local and international artists. From the awe-inspiring sculptures at the Besthoff Sculpture Garden to the contemporary pieces at the Arts District, the city’s rich artistic expressions are waiting to be explored.

So why not let your artistic side loose and dive into the city’s creative soul?

Admire the Besthoff Sculpture Garden

Nestled within City Park, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden is an 11-acre outdoor attraction that houses over 90 sculptures by internationally acclaimed artists. Set amidst a serene landscape of shady walking trails, two lagoons, and a living forest of magnolia trees and live oaks, the garden offers a tranquil retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle.

Whether you’re an art enthusiast or simply seeking a peaceful escape, the Besthoff Sculpture Garden is a must-visit destination.

First Fridays on Julia Street

Looking for an evening of art appreciation? Julia Street is the place to be. Every first Friday of the month, numerous galleries along Julia Street open their doors for free, showcasing contemporary art, photography, and sculptures. But the artistic displays are just the beginning.

The event also features live music, food vendors, and street performances, making it a vibrant hub of activity and a true celebration of New Orleans’ artistic spirit.

Historical Havens: Museums and Landmarks

New Orleans is a city steeped in history. From iconic landmarks like the St. Louis Cathedral to captivating museums that tell the city’s story, there’s a wealth of historical havens waiting to be discovered. And the best part? Many of these gems offer free admission, ensuring that everyone can delve into the city’s rich past and cultural heritage.

So, let’s step back in time and explore the historical tapestry of New Orleans.

The Historic New Orleans Collection

The Historic New Orleans Collection, a renowned New Orleans museum, is located in the heart of the French Quarter. It is a museum and research center that is committed to preserving the history and culture of the Gulf South. Here, you can:

  • Explore extensive exhibits showcasing the region’s history, from its early days to the present
  • Visit the research center to delve deeper into the collection’s resources
  • Attend educational programs and events that bring the history and culture of the Gulf South to life

And the best part? Admission is free!

It’s a treasure trove of historical artifacts and stories that offer a fascinating insight into the city’s past.

National Historic Landmark Visits

No visit to New Orleans would be complete without a stop at the iconic St. Louis Cathedral. As the oldest Catholic cathedral in continuous use in the United States, this national historic landmark serves as a symbol of the city’s storied past. Whether you’re marveling at its stunning architecture or soaking in its serene ambiance, a visit to the St. Louis Cathedral is a journey back in time — and it’s available to the public without an entrance fee.

Outdoor Escapes: Parks and Riversides

After immersing yourself in the city’s rich culture and history, it’s time to step out and embrace the great outdoors. New Orleans offers scenic parks and riversides, perfect for picnics, leisure activities, or simply enjoying the city’s natural beauty.

Whether it’s picnicking by the mighty Mississippi or discovering the charm of the Garden District, there’s an outdoor escape for every traveler in the Crescent City.

Picnic by the Mighty Mississippi

Nothing beats a relaxing picnic by the Mississippi River. With stunning views and a serene atmosphere, Crescent Park and The Fly are popular destinations for locals and visitors alike. Whether you’re enjoying a quiet lunch, reading a book, or simply watching the river flow by, these locations offer a tranquil respite from the city’s hustle and bustle.

So pack a picnic basket, grab a blanket, and prepare for a leisurely afternoon by the mighty Mississippi.

Discover the Charm of the Garden District

Take a stroll through the picturesque Garden District, and you’ll quickly understand why it’s one of the city’s most beloved neighborhoods. Renowned for its historic mansions and iconic oak-lined streets, the Garden District is a feast for the eyes. As you wander through the district, you’ll be transported back in time, with every corner revealing a piece of the city’s history.

And after your stroll, why not relax at Coliseum Square Park, a serene picnic environment amidst historic houses and oak trees?

Cultural Celebrations: Festivals and Parades

New Orleans is a city that knows how to celebrate. From its iconic Mardi Gras parade to its lively French Quarter Festival, the city’s cultural celebrations are a feast for the senses. And the best part? Many of these festivals and parades are free to attend, making them accessible to everyone.

So why not join in the fun and experience the rich cultural tapestry of New Orleans?

Experience Mardi Gras Magic

Nothing encapsulates the spirit of New Orleans quite like Mardi Gras. Known as the greatest free show on Earth, this iconic celebration defines the city’s festive spirit with its vibrant parades and lively celebrations. From the elaborate floats and colorful costumes to the infectious music and high-energy atmosphere, Mardi Gras is a spectacle like no other.

So put on your dancing shoes, join the crowd, and experience the magic of Mardi Gras for yourself.

French Quarter Fest and Other Free Festivals

Aside from Mardi Gras, New Orleans boasts a calendar full of cultural festivals that are free to attend. From the French Quarter Festival to the Tremé Creole Gumbo Festival, these events offer a taste of the city’s rich culture and heritage. Featuring local food, live music, and plenty of festive fun, these festivals are a fantastic way to experience the city’s vibrant community spirit.

So mark your calendar and get ready to celebrate, New Orleans style!

Unique Urban Adventures: Off-the-Beaten-Path Activities

Looking for something a little different? New Orleans is full of unique urban adventures that take you off the beaten path. From canoeing down Bayou St. John to window shopping on Magazine Street, the city is full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

So why not stray from the tourist trail and see a different side of New Orleans?

Canoe Down Bayou St. John

For an off-the-beaten-path adventure, why not paddle down Bayou St. John? This serene waterway offers a unique perspective of the city, allowing you to explore New Orleans from a different angle. Whether you choose to canoe or kayak, you’ll be treated to picturesque views and a tranquil atmosphere.

And don’t forget to stop at Magnolia Bridge, a scenic locale for picnics and a popular spot for romantic dates.

Window Shop on Magazine Street

Magazine Street is a shopper’s paradise, even if you’re just window shopping. Stretching for six miles, this vibrant street is lined with a diverse range of shops and galleries, offering everything from:

  • antiques
  • art
  • clothing
  • unique gifts

As you wander down the street, you’ll discover a world of local treasures and unique boutiques, all set against a backdrop of historic homes and architecture.

It’s a shopping experience like no other, and it won’t cost you a dime.

NOLA Nightlife: Free Evening Attractions

When the sun goes down, New Orleans comes alive. The city’s nightlife is as vibrant as its culture, offering a range of free evening attractions to keep you entertained. From street performances on Bourbon Street to free concerts at Lafayette Square, there’s something for everyone.

So why not let loose and experience the city’s nightlife like a true local?

Bourbon Street After Dark

As night falls, Bourbon Street transforms into a lively hub of activity. Known for its vibrant nightlife, this iconic street is the perfect place to:

  • People-watch
  • Enjoy impromptu performances
  • Listen to musicians
  • Watch street performers
  • Soak in the diverse crowd of revelers

Bourbon Street offers a slice of New Orleans’ unique atmosphere.

And with no mandatory closing times, the party goes on into the early morning hours, making it a night to remember.

Light Up the Night at Lafayette Square

For a different kind of nightlife experience, head over to Lafayette Square. This historic park hosts a range of free evening events, including Luna Fête, a vibrant light show that transforms the square into a mesmerizing spectacle. On select nights, you can also catch free concerts at the square, featuring a diverse lineup of local music.

Whether you’re grooving to the music or basking in the glow of the light show, Lafayette Square guarantees a memorable night out.

Family Fun: Kid-Friendly Freebies

If you’re exploring New Orleans with the family, you’ll be glad to know that the city is packed with kid-friendly freebies. From educational museums to interactive play areas, there are plenty of free attractions that will keep the little ones entertained. So let’s dive into some family fun and discover what New Orleans has to offer for its youngest visitors.

Playtime at the Louisiana Children's Museum

Take your kids on a fun-filled adventure at the Louisiana Children’s Museum. Offering free admission on the second Sunday of every other month, the museum is a treasure trove of educational and interactive exhibits designed to engage young minds. Some highlights of the museum include:

  • Hands-on science experiments
  • Creative art projects
  • Interactive exhibits
  • Educational programs

There’s something to spark every child’s curiosity.

It’s a playtime experience that’s not only fun but also educational, making it a win-win for both parents and kids.

Educational Excursions at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve

For an educational outing that’s also fun for the kids, head over to the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. This free destination offers a wealth of natural beauty and historical sites, making it a perfect place for a family excursion. Whether you’re exploring the park’s nature trails or immersing yourself in its rich history, the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve promises an adventure for the whole family.

Local Life: Experience New Orleans Like a Resident

Want to experience New Orleans like a local? There’s no better way than to dive into the city’s local life. From community art markets to free fitness classes, there are plenty of ways to mingle with the locals and experience the city’s vibrant community spirit.

So why not step off the tourist trail and see what life in New Orleans is really like?

Join a Community Art Market

For a taste of local life, join one of the city’s community art markets. These vibrant markets are a great way to meet local artists, browse unique artworks, and soak in the city’s rich cultural ambiance.

One such market is the Arts Market New Orleans, a monthly open-air market that showcases the work of local and Gulf Coast artists. Whether you’re an art enthusiast or just a curious visitor, these markets offer a unique glimpse into the city’s thriving arts community.

Participate in Free Fitness Classes

If you’re looking to stay active during your trip, why not join one of the city’s free fitness classes? As part of the city’s Fit NOLA initiative, various workout sessions and runs are consistently held in public locations like City Park. Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or a beginner looking to try something new, these free classes offer a fun way to stay fit while experiencing the city like a local.


So there you have it – a plethora of free attractions and experiences that showcase the rich culture, vibrant community, and unique charm of New Orleans. Whether you’re a music lover, a history buff, an art enthusiast, or just a curious traveler, the Crescent City has something for everyone. And the best part? You can enjoy all these gems without spending a dime. So start planning your trip and get ready to discover the magic of New Orleans!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some free things to do in the French Quarter?

There are plenty of free things to do in the French Quarter, such as strolling through the historic area, watching street performers at Jackson Square, exploring the French Market, and visiting the Historic New Orleans Collection. Enjoy your time there!

Where can I listen to free live music in New Orleans?

You can enjoy free live music at different venues in New Orleans, such as Frenchmen Street and the New Orleans Jazz Museum. Check them out for some great tunes!

Are there any free art galleries and museums in New Orleans?

Yes, there are free art galleries and museums in New Orleans, such as the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Contemporary Arts Center. So you can enjoy artwork without spending a dime!

Can I visit any historical landmarks for free in New Orleans?

Yes, you can visit historical landmarks for free in New Orleans such as the St. Louis Cathedral and the Historic New Orleans Collection. Enjoy your visit!

What are some free family-friendly activities in New Orleans?

You can enjoy free family-friendly activities in New Orleans by visiting the Louisiana Children's Museum on select Sundays, exploring the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, or taking part in outdoor activities at City Park. So, there are plenty of options to have fun without spending a dime!