New Orleans is one of the most popular cities in the U.S., hosting more than ten million tourists and conventioneers a year. So you often need to reserve your hotel well in advance and make reservations at those famous restaurants that are worth the splurge. You can soak up the magic of the city without spending a fortune on the ground, however, with these free—or very inexpensive—things to do and see in the city. We teamed up with Expedia.com to bring you our top picks of free things to do while visiting this great city. To prepare you in advance, click here to see great images of New Orleans at Expedia.com.
Visit the Above-ground Graves
You can’t step into the best-known St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 without being on an organized history tour unless you have a loved one buried inside. There are plenty of other spots though where you can wander through the lands of the dead in a place where nobody can be buried because the city is at sea level. Two of the easiest ones to get to are Lafayette Cemeteries 1 and 2 or Gates of Prayer Cemetery, all in the Garden District just off the St. Charles streetcar line.
Listen to Local Musicians
A big reason to hit the Big Easy is the music, right? Many of the clubs on Frenchmen Street don’t have a cover charge, though you will have to budget for drinks. The other option is in the open air. The street musicians in Jackson Park may not be headliners, but that doesn’t mean they’re not talented. Plus here it’s BYOB—you can legally drink in public in this city. From mid-March to mid-May, there’s a free concert series Wednesday nights at Lafayette Park. In Spring and Fall there’s a free outdoor concert every Thursday at Louis Armstrong Park.
Have a Picnic in a Park
One of the oldest and largest city parks in the USA is in New Orleans: City Park was founded in 1854 and stretches out over 13,000 acres. It also hosts the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. Closer to the tourist zones are Woldenberg Park by the river near the French Quarter and Audubon Park Uptown, near Tulane University.
Ride a Bike Along the Levee
If you’ve got a friend with a bike or your hotel has loaners, you can ride from Audubon Park for up to 27 miles heading north on the Mississippi River Trail. Much of the time you’ll be riding on top the actual levees that keep the Mississippi River from flooding the city. For something shorter, there’s a two-mile path in Audubon Park and a four-mile one in City Park. New Orleans has been late to jump on the public bike share trend, but a pilot went well and a full program should be in place by the time you read this, with stations around the city.
Go Sightseeing and Give Your Shoes a Workout
New Orleans is a great walking city and what you’ll see is unlike what’s on display in most other cities when you go sightseeing. You can walk along the Mississippi River Delta and see the ships going by, then stroll through the French Quarter after getting a free history lesson from the National Park Service at the French Quarter Visitors Center, located at Jean Lafitte Park. Check their calendar for free talks, films, and events.
The New Orleans Streetcar Rides
This isn’t free, but riding the historic New Orleans trolley cars is one of the best values in the city for soaking up the scenery. You can ride from Canal Street nine stops on the St. Charles line to S. Carrollton and S. Claiborne for just $1.25. The Canal Street line goes to City Park. The best value is an all-day pass for $3 though, which will allow you to hop off and go sightseeing around the Garden District and the park district both.
This being America’s best-known party city, there’s usually some kind of festival or parade going on as well. Check the calendar of events at the New Orleans Tourism site for the dates you’ll be there.