ALTHOUGH WE LOVE how wild it gets, New Orleans is not only about partying, downing Hurricanes, and throwing beads. It is a vibrant city filled with historical traditions, attractions, and beautiful architecture. Here’s how to enjoy New Orleans’ energy free and/or a budget.
1.Visit New Orleans’ national park.
Bring your bug repellent and bottle of water to enjoy the six sites of wildlife oasis at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserves. Remember to stay on the trails to view what the bayous and swamps have to offer. Keep an eye out for ornery nutria, snakes, birds, alligators, and other Louisiana natives. The visitor centers are closed on federal holidays and Mardi Gras.
Location: 419 Decatur Street (About 20 minutes outside of New Orleans’ city center)
2. NOLA Brewing Company
Want to support a company that helps the community and gives back in charitable donations? NOLA Brewing Company does just that and a little more. Have a beer and take a complimentary tour to learn about the brewing process. Tours are Fridays between 2:00 and 3:00 PM; Saturday and Sunday 2:00-4:00 PM. Show up early because they do not take reservations. For a nominal price, NOLA Brewing Company has a Tap Room where you can try their year-round and seasonal beers.
Locations: 3001 Tchoupitoulas Street.
3. Saint Louis Cathedral
This church is a beautiful landmark in Jackson Square. Since the 1700’s, New Orleans residents, and out-of-towners have admired the painted ceilings and stunning stained glass. Saint Louis Cathedral is open to the public from 8:30 AM until 4:00 PM, but we recommend that you buy the $1 brochure inside to get details on the artifacts and historical structures and take a self-guided tour. When available, volunteer docents give impromptu tours to visitors. The daily mass is held at 12:05 PM and open to all.
4. Glassblowing demonstrations
Watch professionals in action turn a glass blob into a work of art. Choose from New Orleans Glassworks & Printmaking Studio (727 Magazine Street), Rosetree Blown Glass Studio and Gallery (446 Vallette Street), or Studio Inferno (6601 Saint Claude Avenue). Learn techniques and options to process glass as a hobby. Please contact ahead to find the hours for the daily glass blowing demonstrations.
5. Visit the vendor markets.
These markets contain local artists’ original crafts and retail options. Bring cash for better sales negotiation. Many vendors also accept credit/debit cards.
- French Market District: It is six blocks of retail shopping from storefronts to vendor booths. There is food for purchase and samples of Louisiana favorites like alligator sausages, gumbo, various hot sauces, pralines, and jambalaya. The hours of operations are from 10 AM to 6 PM, daily. There are cooking demonstrations at the farmers’ market held on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Location: 1008 N Peters Street.
- Piety Street Market: The 50-vendor market is held on the second Saturday of each month. It has the largest selection of vintage and flea market treasures in the Bywater neighborhood.
Location: 612 Piety Street.
- Harrison Avenue Marketplace: Local vendors sell their homemade crafts, artworks, and foods. There are live music and activities appropriate for all ages. It is held the second Wednesday of the month between the hours of 5:00 PM to 8:30 PM.
Location: 801 Harrison Avenue.
- Secondline Arts and Antiques: Over 150 vendors selling eclectic furniture, sculptures, jewelry, costumes, and artwork. For a nominal fee, city walking and biking tours are available at the location.
Location: 1209 Decatur Street
6. Visit a historical cemetery.
The city of New Orleans is below sea levels, so all tombs are above ground instead of buried. Visit the resting places of local legends, New Orleans voodoo priests, and other historical luminaries. Many of the tombs provide historical details and stories about their residents. Self-guided day tours are available for Saint Patrick Cemetery No. 2 (5000 Canal Street), Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 (1416-1498 Washington Ave), and Saint Louis Cemetery No. 3 (3421 Esplanade Avenue). To tour the Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 (425 Basin Street), it is mandatory to have a licensed tour guide with you — and it is well worth the trip. There are night tours available but for a nominal fee.
7. Discover Saint Charles Avenue.
Saint Charles is known for its oak trees and 19th-Century grand mansions. Many of the mansions are converted into Bed and Breakfasts and the hosts are happy to share the history of their homes. The avenue is perfect for walking or biking to restaurants, historical churches, hotels, boutiques, Audubon Park, Loyola University, and Tulane University. When you need to rest, hop on the historic streetcar that runs along the avenue. Don’t miss the haunted home that was once owned by author Anne Rice (3711 St. Charles Ave).
8. Experience City Park.
City Park is a 1,300-acre self-supporting public park and it is one of the biggest and oldest parks in the country. Dating back to the 1850’s, its beautiful landscape includes 600-plus-year-old oak trees, ponds, and more. Stop by the Couterie Forest, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, New Orleans Botanical Gardens, and the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park. Visitors will need one or two days to enjoy everything in the park. Although concessions accept debit/credit, we recommend bringing cash to purchase from the vendors. Comfortable walking shoes are a must for the various terrains.
Location: 1 Palm Drive.
9. Check out the street performers on Jackson Square.
In front of Saint Louis Cathedral and across from Café Du Monde, is Jackson Square. It is home to artists showcasing their talents from artworks to music and is a never-ending stream of live entertainment. If interested, have your fortune told by a tarot reader.
10. Enjoy live music on Frenchmen Street.
This street is full of live music performances in the bars, clubs, and lounges. The best places to check out are The Spotted Cat, Apple Barrel, and Café Negril, and they do not have a cover fee. If the venues are full, the sounds can be enjoyed from the street.
11. Take a private tour of Antoine’s Restaurant.
Antoine’s is a French-Creole restaurant opened in 1840. This fine dining restaurant has 14 unique dining rooms, each with its own history. We recommend asking the waiter for a guided tour of the restaurant during slower hours. Don’t fight the urge to dine.
Location: 713 Saint Louis Street.
12. The Van Hanh Buddhist Temple
Located about 20 minutes from the city center, Van Hanh Buddhist Temple includes temples, statues, and water features. As a bonus, meet the Monks who reside there and learn how they contribute to the community.
Location: 13152 Chef Menteur Highway.
13. Experience Audubon Park.
Located in the historic uptown of New Orleans, Audubon Park is accessible by Magazine Street and Saint Charles Avenue public transportation. Bring your walking shoes and water for this day trip. The park has a 1.8-mile jogging path, a golf course, picnic areas, a lagoon, sporting activity facilities, pool, and other entertainment.
Location: 6500 St Charles Avenue.
14. Opera on Bourbon Street
Every second Wednesday of the month, there is a two-hour opera performance at the Four Points near the Sheraton in the French Quarter. It is by Bon Operatit!, an ensemble of seasoned classical singers. If you prefer to skip the high theater fees, contact the Bon Operatit! for their free concert schedule around New Orleans.
Location: 541 Bourbon Street.
15. Faulkner House Books
Not only does this French Quarter bookstore carry author William Faulkner’s collection, it also used to be his residence. Faulkner House Books is almost hidden in Jackson Square alley, and carries fine literature, selected signed hardback editions, and rare editions.
Location: 624 Pirates Alley
16. Experience Louis Armstrong Park.Louis Armstrong Park , also known as Congo Square, is a 32-acre park in the Tremé neighborhood. This historic site is where the slave population gathered on Sunday to sing, dance, and trade. Take the time to read the informative plaques along its river walk. We recommend that you visit in the daytime unless you are attending a special evening event. If in New Orleans during the week, check out Jazz in the Park on Thursday evenings.
Location: 901 North Rampart
17. Watch the sunset at The Fly.
This is the locals’ favorite spot to watch the sunset over the Mississippi River. The Fly is located along the waterfront behind the Audubon Zoo. On the weekends, be prepared to socialize with visitors or participate in a pickup game at the numerous fields. Sitting can be limited, so bring a blanket and a chair. It is a great location for a relaxing picnic, to read a book, and marvel at the big world.
18. Take a self-guided tour of New Orleans.
Visit the National Park Service’s French Quarter Visitors Center to pick up free tour guides. The guides have highlighted information about various neighborhoods and attractions around the city. Tour guides are available from Tuesday through Saturday at 9:30 AM, without reservations. Contact to confirm a time and come early to guarantee a spot.
19. Window shopping
There are shopping options in New Orleans other than Canal Street and the mass production souvenir shops. Put on your walking shoes and skip the gym to enjoy the local artists’ craftsmanship.
- Located near the French Quarter, Royal Street is known for antiques and art galleries. Don’t forget to ask for a guided tour and viewing of sword-canes at M.S. Rau Antiques.
- Locally known as Gallery Row, Julia Street is the place for fine and expensive art. Try participating in the art gallery hop for free every first Saturday of the month.
- Parallel to St Charles Ave, Ortha Castle Haley Boulevard is known for culturally diverse arts and crafts from local artists.
- Freret Street has high-quality merchandise from art galleries, upscale boutiques, and other specialty shops.
- Located between Poydras Street and Lafayette Street, Fulton Street has a pedestrian-only outdoor mall.
- Between Loyola and Tulane universities, Maple Street is known for consignment shops, affordable boutiques, and bookstores.
- Near the French Quarter, Chartres Street is known for art galleries, antiques, and boutiques. Don’t miss visiting Dr. Bob Art, an indoor and outdoor gallery run by the local self-taught folk artist himself.