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Free Things to Do in New Orleans

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This post covers free things to do in New Orleans and includes, nighttime, family-friendly, as well as cheap options. 


There are quite a few free and affordable things to do in this city, but some are more interesting than others.

Taking this into account, we've decided to provide a list of our ten fun activities for both locals and visitors. 

Be sure to also check out our free walking tours and our master post on things to do in NOLA.

New Orleans Walking Tours

1. Hear the Music of New Orleans

As you can probably imagine, the city of New Orleans has a rich history of jazz and blues music.

Although these are undoubtedly two of the most popular genres in NOLA, this city actually attracts a wide variety of musicians and artists from around the world.

The best part is you can actually hear a lot of this music for free! 

In addition to hearing live street music, you can also enjoy events such as Wednesday at the Square (Mar-May) and Jazz in the Park (Sept-Nov).

Alternatively, you can enjoy a free drum circle on Sundays on Congo Square in Louie Armstrong Park or a free Opera performance from Bon Operatit once every month!

If these activities don't strike your fancy, we have a post providing a variety of tips on hearing live music in and around New Orleans.

We also offer a free tour that explores the musical and artistic history of the city.

2. Take a Trip to the Garden District

There are a lot of wonderful neighborhoods in and around New Orleans, but few are as beautiful and historic as the Garden District. 

Once known as the American sector, as it developed after the U.S. took control of the city in the early 19th century, it boasts the city's most spectacular residential architecture. 

It is entirely free to walk around this area and see all of the incredible houses for yourself.

Be sure to use our guide to the Garden District, which contains a self-guided tour, to make the most of your time there. 

Getting to the Garden District is often a good excuse to ride New Orleans' famed streetcars

Alternatively, you can always enjoy our pay-what-you-want professionally guided tour of this neighborhood.

We also offer a dozen different free self-guided tours in New Orleans that you might find interesting.

3. Discover the Swamps

Although most of the swamps in this area aren't actually in New Orleans, it's definitely worth a short drive to reach them. 

The one located in the city is Bayou Sauvage, just 25 minutes from the French Quarter.

It is free and where you can enjoy activities such as hunting, fishing, photography, and wildlife viewing.

In addition to this location, the Barataria Preserve in Jean Lafitte National Park is also free to visit as is City Park (right here in the city).

And in case you are wondering, you could spot alligators and other swamp creatures in all 3 places.  

If you are looking more for an organized tour with a boat cruise through a swamp, then take a look at our review of swamp tours available in and around New Orleans.

4. Visit a Cemetery

There are several historic cemeteries in New Orleans and all but one of them is entirely free to visit.

But just 4 or 5 get much attention from visitors.

Unfortunately, the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans no longer allows visitors to enter the St. Louis Cemetery #1, the most famous cemetery, without an organized tour. 

The good news is that we provide daily pay-what-you-want walking tours of 2 of the city's most popular cemeteries:

For more information, visit our guide to New Orleans Cemeteries.

5. Stop by the Historic New Orleans Collection

If you're a fan of art and history, the Historic New Orleans Collection is a must.

Throughout the year, this museum offers certain exhibitions for free. 

The Historic New Orleans Collection on Royal Street. Image Source: Wikimedia user Infrogmation on July 1st, 2009.

Their Louisiana History Galleries are permanent fixtures, and they have been described by some as "the best introduction to the city that a visitor can get."

While some of these galleries include artwork and artifacts that predate colonial history, others explore the events of Hurricane Katrina. 

6. Stroll through City Park

As you might imagine, there are several public parks in New Orleans that you can visit for free. 

The grandest of them all is City Park, which you could easily spend a day in and still not see it all. 

If you're near the Treme neighborhood, you might want to take a walk through Louis Armstrong Park.

Named after the legendary musician by the same name, this location includes sculptures, duck ponds, and the historic Congo Square – a meeting place for slaves in the 1800s.

It is also a stop on our Voodoo Tour.

Fans of Armstrong and his music should also consider visiting the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, where you can take an 11-stop tour of jazz history sites.

Alternatively, you can also check out Audubon Park and see some of the most beautiful oak trees in NOLA.

This is also the site of Audubon Zoo, which provides a lot of fun and family-friendly activities for guests of all ages.

7. Discover the Local Markets

There are a few very nice markets in New Orleans that are free to visit and peruse. 

Over 50 different vendors provide services on 4 different days in 4 different locations.

This includes the French Market in the French Quarter, ensuring a wide variety of different tasty treats.

Whether you're just looking for fun or you actually want to buy a few things for dinner, the Crescent City Farmer's Market is a fantastic place to find fresh food. Check out this video.

8. Go Window Shopping and Antiquing

There are a lot of wonderful shopping districts in New Orleans that are perfect for window shopping.

Even if you don't want to spend any money, chances are you'll find a lot of interesting stores to visit on Magazine Street.

Located just a few blocks from the Mississippi River, this road is filled with several different businesses including antique shops, clothing stores, art galleries, and more.

Alternatively, you can also check out Royal Street to see the historic architecture on display while looking at all of the different shopping locations.

You'll find another excellent window shopping opportunity at Louisiana Loom Works, where you might just catch them while they're weaving a rug.

9) People Watching

New Orleans is known for its eclectic and interesting neighborhoods.

And you can expect to see quite a few fascinating people either walking around or perhaps even performing in the street.

Whether you want to see people showing off their talents or hear some excellent music, we recommend visiting the following locations:

  • Royal Street
  • Frenchmen Street
  • Bourbon Street
  • Jackson Square
  • French Quarter

10) Get a Power Pass

Although the pass itself isn't free, some of the activities available with the Power Pass could be free if you use it effectively.

If you get this attraction pass and use it to take a bus tour, visit the Zoo and see the Aquarium, the service will already have paid for itself

After that point, every activity you take part in is entirely free.

You could take this opportunity to discover the history of Oak Alley Plantation or experience Mardis Gras World.

Whatever you choose to do, there are quite a few fun and family-friendly attractions included with this city pass. 

Honorable Mentions

New Orleans Travel Tips and Hacks


In addition to all the free activities and attractions already mentioned in our top 10 section, there are dozens of other attractions and museums you can visit for free (or by donation only).

We list our other favorites below.

St. Louis Cathedral 

This historic location is free to visit throughout the week.

During the winter months, this church also offers free concerts and other activities.

Wednesdays at the Square - Lafayette Square 

In addition to the parks we mentioned in our Top 10 list, you can also enjoy this public square.

Not only is this location historic, but it is also the site of a spring concert series called Wednesday at the Square which takes place every year.

Sculpture Garden

You'll find the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art.

There are over 60 pieces of art to enjoy and admission is free every day of the week.

You can also take advantage of a free audio tour provided by the museum!

Mardis Gras Museum

Located at Arnaud's Restaurant, the Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum includes more than two dozen historic costumes and other memorabilia.

Mardi Gras Museum Armands

Visitors are free to explore this museum during restaurant hours.

Fair Grounds

If you enjoy watching horse races, a visit to the Fair Grounds might be in order.

General admission is free on most days, and you are welcome to watch from the Grandstand.

Even when admission isn't free, tickets are still reasonably priced at between $5-$10 per person.

Madame John's Legacy 

This location is a must for history buffs and those with an interest in architecture.

Madame John's Legacy is an 18th-century building complex and an excellent example of the French Colonial style.

Admission is free for all visitors and they are open most days of the week.

Cigar Factory 

Although their products aren't free, you are welcome to visit the Cigar Factory and watch them roll cigars.

In addition, this business also houses a museum featuring incredible relics from the 19th century.

Visitors are welcome to see the museum and learn more about the business at their leisure.

The House of Dance & Feathers 

This museum features cultural artifacts related to the Mardis Gras Indians and other similar subjects.

Director Ronald W. Lewis welcomes visitors to experience a side of Mardis Gras history that brings the community together.

Although they do accept donations, general admission is entirely free. 

It is also a stop on our self-guided Hurricane Katrina Tour.

Musician's Village

This neighborhood was designed and constructed as a response to Hurricane Katrina.

The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music serves as a gathering place for the community which provides a plethora of entertainment and activities for visitors.

Needless to say, you're welcome to walk around and see the beautiful new houses in this area.

Tickets for events at the Ellis Marsalis Center are typically very affordable, so you might also want to see what they have to offer. 

It is also a stop on our self-guided Hurricane Katrina Tour.

New Orleans Museum of Art Free Wednesdays 

In addition to the Sculpture Garden, Louisiana residents are also welcome to visit this incredible museum for free every Wednesday.

This is a wonderful opportunity to see some of the most beautiful artwork in New Orleans.


Although there are quite a few interesting attractions you can visit for free in this city, you might be surprised to find out how much more you can experience with just a little pocket change.

These services make it easier to get around town in style and have fun without spending too much money.

Ride the Street Car

The streetcars in New Orleans drive right through the heart of the city, and they are very affordable.

Unlimited use for the entire day will cost only $3, while one-way rides are $1.25. 

Arguably the most popular ride is on the St. Charles Line from the French Quarter to the Garden District. We even offer a free audio tour of the ride. 

For more information, check out our post about the New Orlean Streetcars

Algiers Ferry

Much like the streetcar, this ferry is also very affordable.

It only costs $2 to ride each way, allowing travelers to easily cross the river without breaking the bank.

The Algiers Ferry runs 7 days a week with extended service hours on the weekends.

In addition to being a useful means of transportation, this is also a great way to see NOLA from the water. 

You will also depart the boat in Algiers, a quaint and historic neighborhood just across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter. 

If you want to see New Orleans without the tourists, explore this neighborhood for free. 

If you're looking for more fun on the Mississippi River, you might also want to consider one of the many riverboat cruises available in New Orleans.

Although a cruise will be more expensive, there are some services for as little as $28 per person.

For more information, check out our New Orleans Riverboat Cruise section. 

Free Comedy Show

New Orleans might be better known for its Jazz music, but there are quite a few hilarious comedians in this city as well.

As a matter of fact, stand-up comedy is big enough in NOLA that several establishments offer free comedy nights throughout the year.

Although you're welcome to come and enjoy the laughs for free, there may be a cover charge at certain locations and drinks will not be on the house.

Free and Cheap Oysters

New Orleans is a fantastic place to find delicious oysters. Some restaurants even offer oyster happy hours, and others even give them away for free!

Every Friday night, Le Bon Temps Roule serves free raw oysters starting at 7 pm and continuing until they run out.

If you can't make it out on Friday, the following restaurants serve oysters for less than $1 at various times throughout the week.

Check each menu for more information about their oyster deals.

NOLA Jitterbugs

Over the past decade, New Orleans has slowly been developing a swing dancing scene.

The musical history and style of this city have made it the perfect backdrop for professional swing dancers to both perform their routines and teach locals how they do it.

Every Sunday at 8 pm, the NOLA Jitterbugs provide a free drop-in class at the Allways Lounge.

Alternatively, you can also join them earlier in the day on Sunday for a Jitterbug Jazz Brunch at the Maison.

Although the food and drinks are not free, there is no cover charge for either event.


If you're looking for something fun and family-friendly in NOLA, there are quite a few awesome activities available.

As mentioned in our previous sections, visitors with an interest in nature can spend some time in one of the beautiful city parks, ride the streetcars, or take a trip to one of the nearby swamps.

Be sure to read our master post on visiting NOLA with kids.

Artists both young and old might also enjoy a trip through the Sculpture Garden or the Historic New Orleans Collection.

Music lovers will undoubtedly enjoy the chance to hear live Jazz both on the street and in special venues.

If none of these ideas seem like a hit, the following options could make for excellent alternatives. 

Stroll Along the Moonwalk

Although they call it the Moonwalk, this brick promenade running along the Mississippi River is easily accessible both day and night.

During the day, artists often line the sidewalk and perform either music or various routines for the passers-by.

In addition to the opportunity for a show, the Moonwalk also offers excellent views of both the river and the city.

This walk will take you right to the ferry, which you can then use to cross the river for a very low price. 

Take a Self-Guided Tour

The best way to take a tour with your family is by taking control of the entire experience.

A self-guided tour allows you to take breaks when necessary and skip or add locations depending on the interests of your clan.

Thankfully, we offer a number of free self-guided tours of New Orleans which you can use to provide a fun and educational experience for your family.

Many of these and more are available in an audio tour format.

Take the Kids to Storyland

If you're looking for a fun attraction that your kids will enjoy, Storyland is an absolute must.

Located in City Park, this location includes dozens of displays featuring classic fairy tale figures.

The best part about Storyland is that it's absolutely free for kids under 36" in height.

Adults and anyone taller will have to pay $4, but that's a very affordable price to pay for such an interesting activity.

As if that weren't good enough, paying customers are also granted admission to the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park for free! 

City Park itself is a great place to bring your kids for free activities.


There is a lot of fun and free events you can enjoy after dark in New Orleans.

As a matter of fact, we've already covered a lot of these opportunities in the sections above.

In addition to learning how to swing dance, enjoying live comedy, and eating some delicious oysters, you can also partake in one of the following activities.

Be sure to read our master post on things to do at night in NOLA.

Art Market

This is one of the most interesting locations on Frenchmen Street.

Known colloquially as the Art Garage, this market welcomes artists who wish to sell their work.

They also host several events and art shows at various times throughout the years. Needless to say, it's free to visit and look around! 

Join the Cats of Jackson Square

It might sound odd, but Jackson Square is known for more than just festivals and parades.

When the sun goes down, the cats come out and take over this public space.

Since the square never officially closes, you are free to come and spend some time with these cats whenever you wish.

Although these felines are technically wild, reports indicate that they are pretty calm and docile around most people.

Animal lovers will definitely want to consider this fun and interesting activity! 

Find out what else you can see at Jackson Square.

Dance Down Frenchmen Street

In addition to the live music you'll hear while walking up and down this street, there are also several clubs in the area that don't require a cover charge.

Although drinks and food won't be free, you are welcome to walk up and down Frenchmen Street and visit each of these locations at your leisure.

Even if you want to get refreshments at some point, chances are that you won't break the budget while dancing around New Orleans.  

Be sure to read our guide on live music on Frenchmen Street, which includes several free options.

Take a Free Ghost Tour

New Orleans is rich with around 300 years of history, so it probably shouldn't surprise anyone that several people report rather spooky experiences in the area.

Anyone interested in learning more about the creepy and sometimes disturbing tales of this city should consider taking one of our pay-what-you-want ghost tours.

Although we do recommend giving your tour guide a tip, it is not required to enjoy this outing. 


Depending on when you visit NOLA, there may be several free events related to holidays and celebrations.

As a matter of fact, there are so many seasonal activities available in New Orleans that we decided to provide information about them in separate posts.

If you want to learn more about free attractions leading up to Mardis Gras and Christmas, click one of the links below for additional information.

Other posts you might be interested in:

About The Author


Sarah first moved to New Orleans in 2001 to work for the American Red Cross of Southeast Louisiana. While working in the communities of New Orleans she fell in love with the unique culture of the Big Easy; it's food, music, architecture, wildlife, and most of all history. Sarah began her career with FTBF, first as a guide, then as an owner/operator. She believes every day is a good day if she gets to impart her love of her beloved New Orleans with Free Tours By Foot guests. She especially likes to convert new Who Dat Saints Fans!
Updated: January 11th, 2023
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