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15 Free Things to Do in New Orleans

Everyone loves finding a great deal, especially when traveling! New Orleans has a whole host of cheap things to do, but why spend anything when you don’t have to? There are so many free activities in NOLA to enjoy, whether you’re with family, traveling solo, or spending time with friends.

Save your money for New Orleans’ splurge-worthy meals, world-class cocktails, and downtown accommodations. With this list of free things to do in New Orleans, you’ll have no trouble mapping out your entire trip while staying under budget.

Relax at Woldenberg Riverfront Park.

Stroll the 16 acres of green space from the French Quarter to the banks of the Mississippi River. From the riverside jogging path to the sculptures and live music, you’ll have no trouble relaxing and enjoying the scenery in this beautiful park.

Visit the Lower 9th Ward Living Museum.

Museum admission can be expensive in big cities, but the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum is always free to enter! Learn about the history of the Lower Ninth Ward dating back to the 1700s, when it was a community for escaped slaves. You’ll also see firsthand how this community has been rebuilding following Hurricane Katrina.

Stroll City Park.

You could spend the entire day in New Orleans’ City Park and never run out of things to do. This 1,300-acre park is full of attractions, including a botanical garden, lake, amusement park, walking trails, and more. Sit in the shade of a 200-year-old oak tree or go for a walk around the lake.

Get a front-row spot at a Mardi Gras parade.

If you’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras, you might be worried about the price tag. While staying in the city during the event can certainly be pricey, it costs nothing to watch the Mardi Gras parades in all their splendor. Read more about them here.

Catch a sunset over Lake Pontchartrain.

Pack a picnic and visit the southern banks of Lake Pontchartrain just as the sun is setting. This free New Orleans activity is a great date night idea! Head to the end of Bonnabel Boulevard and Williams Boulevard to find benches and a pier where you can sit and enjoy the sights.

Browse art on Julia Street.

Julia Street is the main hub of New Orleans’ Arts District. On the first Saturday of every month, the Arts District holds an open gallery event with free gallery receptions along Julia Street. This is a fantastic way to meet new people, see beautiful artwork, and enjoy the vibrancy of NOLA’s art community. 

a person riding a bicycle on a bridge over a body of water

Tour the city by bike.

It might not look like it at first glance, but New Orleans is a very bike-friendly city, with over 100 miles of bikeways in and around the city. If you’re taking a road trip to NOLA, throw your bike on the car and spend some time getting to know the city on two wheels.

Visit a famous cemetery.

Cemetery tours are one of the most popular things to do in New Orleans, but if you want to visit the most famous graveyard, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, you’ll have to pay for a guided tour. However, there are many less-visited cemeteries that are just as hauntingly beautiful as St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Try exploring St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, and St. Roch Cemetery. 

Go window shopping at the French Market.

The French Market is New Orleans’ charming open-air market near Jackson Square. It features shopping, music, dining, and more. Walking through the market is a real treat. Browse local produce, handmade local art, and traditional wares. Merely walking through the attraction is a fun free activity, but you might just end up opening your wallet!

Visit St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square.

The best part of finding free things to do in New Orleans is that so many historic sites are free to visit. St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square are must-see attractions in the Crescent City. The cathedral is the oldest in North America, founded in 1720. You can enter for free and marvel at the incredible Gothic architecture and triple steeples. The cathedral overlooks Jackson Square, named for the bronze statue of Andrew Jackson located in the center of the square. Here, many artists display their work, and there are often live performers. 

Attend a free concert at Musical Legends Park.

New Orleans is known for its music scene, but you don’t have to spend big bucks to enjoy the local talent. Musical Legends Park is a small park off Bourbon Street with life-size bronze statues of famous musicians from New Orleans, like Fats Domino and Allen Toussaint. Live jazz is performed daily for your enjoyment. Admission is free, and you can always grab a drink or snack at nearby Cafe Beignet. 

Visit nearby swamps.

If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, a swamp visit offers a scenic escape. Get in touch with nature and enjoy views of mangroves, old-growth trees, and wildlife. Manchac Swamp and Honey Island are two areas near the city with gorgeous scenery.

Walk around the sculpture garden.

Located in the courtyard at the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden is free to the public. It’s home to more than 90 sculptures created by artists from around the world. Covering 11 acres, there’s so much to see, like a stunning glass bridge, huge murals, and a giant skull, to name a few.

Plan your visit during free festivals.

New Orleans is a city that loves to celebrate, no matter the occasion. It also hosts dozens of free festivals throughout the year, giving you a glimpse of the local culture, performing arts, and entertainment. Check out all of the best NOLA festivals here. 

Go people watching on Bourbon Street.

Bourbon Street is a New Orleans legend and one of the best spots in the city to watch all the local characters. Bars, restaurants, and music venues make it a popular street with a unique atmosphere. Start at Canal Street and walk north on Bourbon Street to take in all the splendor. You might even be tempted to visit one of the bars for a delicious New Orleans cocktail.

These free things to do in New Orleans should keep you entertained throughout your visit. But if you’re looking for an insider’s guide to the city, consider booking a tour or activity to see NOLA through the eyes of a local.