Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in New Orleans, LA

  • Published 2022/10/13

New Orleans is famous for its extraordinary music, unique languages, and Creole cuisine, not to mention its colorful annual festivities and celebrations.

For example, its centerpiece is Mardi Gras, with over six million people joining the parade.

The city has somehow preserved an enthusiastic and liberated spirit, seen during Carnival season.

In the middle of the city lies French Quarter, famed for its French and Spanish Creole architecture and exciting nightlife across Bourbon Street.

Situated in southeastern Louisiana, New Orleans got its name from the Regent of France, Philip II, Duke of Orléans.

Would you believe there are so many free things to do in New Orleans, LA?

Try these activities and see a new side of New Orleans in Orleans Parish, Louisiana!

Take a Stroll in the French Quarter

Night scene at the French Quarter

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The French Quarter is one of New Orleans’ most historic communities.

Called the Crown Jewel of New Orleans, the region is like a portrait with many stories.

The butter-crème-colored walls of St. Louis Cathedral will keep you astonished as it reflects the flaming sunset.

Historic building at French Quarter

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Join the fun on Bourbon Street and check on old-world architecture.

Take a walk in the French Quarter, and you’ll meet spur-of-the-moment live music on the street and dance with all your heart.

Street musicians at French Quarter

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Unwind at the Woldenberg Riverfront Park

Welcome sign of Woldenberg Riverfront Park

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There is so much you can do at the Woldenberg Riverfront Park without spending money while enjoying the place at the same time.

The park got its name from philanthropist Malcolm Woldenberg and opened to the public before the 1984 World’s Fair.

For several decades the Woldenberg Riverfront Park became the venue for French Quarter Festivals, where you’ll see musical performances during April Festival and Jazz Fest.

Aerial view of Woldenberg Riverfront Park

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You can walk around the area, jog, ride a bike, or sit back and relax adjoining the Mississippi river.

You can bring food, enjoy a picnic on the grass, and rest on several benches.

Watch the Sun Rise and Set at Algiers Point

Skyline view from Algiers Point

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Algiers Point lies across the Mississippi River, neighbored downtown by one of the oldest ferry lines in the region.

The place is rich in history from the early and late 1800s, including The War of 1812, the Union occupation, and a fire that nearly leveled it.

You can watch the sunrise and hide in the waters at dusk in the neighborhood.

Street sign of Algiers Point

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Take a walk in the morning or a jog in the afternoon for good cardio or leg exercise, or you can also ride a bike to go around the place.

Algiers Point is famous for its city views, Confetti park, Jazz Walk of Fame, and Victorian cottages.

A cafe at Algiers Point

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Ride Your Bike Down Lafitte Greenway

Welcome sign of Lafitte Greenway

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The Lafitte Greenway lies in the center of New Orleans, drawing people to nature, their places, and each other.

The 2.6-mile linear park opened to the public in 2015 and became the city’s major bicycle and pedestrian route, connecting communities from the French Quarter to City Park.

Lafitte Greenway became the central artery of New Orleans’ growing bicycle network, stretching 20 miles and expanding.

A person riding a bicycle along Lafitte Greenway

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Biking is healthy for the body and nature since it doesn’t emit any gas that can cause air pollution.

Best of all, biking is free!

Admire the Rich History of Lower 9th Ward Living Museum

The Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum has a rich history.

Dr. Caroline Heldman and Ian Breckenridge-Jackson co-founded the community in 2011 to help restore the Lower Ninth Ward from the destruction of typhoon Katrina.

Collaborating with the residents, the Living Museum conveys Lower Ninth Ward’s history from the description and voices of those who lived in the area.

You’ll get a picture of what happened and learn how to appreciate the efforts of people in rebuilding their community as they share their stories.

The Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum features exhibits of significant events, cultural events that educate and entertain, and oral histories from community members.

Celebrate Halloween with Krewe of Boo

Dracula and the wolf man at Krewe of Boo parade

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Bring your scariest costume and start spooking people at the Krewe of Boo at the French Quarter’s Halloween parade.

Each year, the Krewe of Boo exhibits its extremely ghastly Halloween parade to make the Vieux Carre (French Quarter into the Boo Carre).

In 2007, Krewe of Boo became the official Halloween parade in New Orleans.

America’s exclusive float-building organization, Kern Studios, constructs the floats using 3-D paper mâché fiberglass props that resemble all of Halloween’s frightening creatures.

Everyone is welcome to join the ghoulish activities, partake in the much-awaited treats, and grab assorted collectibles.

Youngs and adults will love the items parade riders throw to onlookers, such as candies, pralines, chee wees, children’s toys, light-up medallion beads, and many more.

Unearth the Secrets of Congo Square

History marker of Congo Square

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On the edge of New Orleans’ French Quarter lies Congo Square, where African and Native Americans used to assemble in the past hundred years.

The place became the weekly meeting place of slaves, starting in 1740, where they could socialize, trade goods, and sing and dance to the beat of traditional drums.

Visit Congo Square every Sunday afternoon and hear the “Bamboula,” one of the most well-known drum beats and dances once played in Congo Square over 300 years ago.

Drum circle at Congo Square

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New Orleans musician, Luther Gray, helped arrange the Sunday drum circle.

If you like history and want to hear traditional music, you must go to Congo Square in Louis Armstrong Park, situated in the Tremé vicinity of New Orleans.

The grounds of Congo Square

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Enjoy Different Activities at Crescent Park

The iconic bridge of Crescent Park

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Located right of the Bywater riverfront is Crescent Park which stretches 1.4 miles along the Mississippi, offering unmatched views and passage to the water.

The city got its name from the sharp turn that large ships make when going to the ocean.

Flowers with vibrant colors cover the well-landscaped gardens, where also shade trees line most of the park trail.

It’s the best place for strolling, riding a bike, or watching the river float while you sit on its banks and watch the birds.

You can have an excellent workout for free without going to the gym because you can walk, jog, or ride a bicycle with a friend, a loved one, or your dog on a leash along the river.

Grab a quick snack on the benches or picnic tables when you get hungry after working up a sweat at Crescent Park.

Watch Free Holiday Concerts at St. Louis Cathedral

Exterior of the St. Louis Cathedral

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You don’t have to buy tickets to watch concerts because you can watch them for free at the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.

St. Louis Cathedral lies in the middle of the French Quarter in front of Jackson Square and hosts the yearly holiday tradition of presenting three concerts.

Celebrated New Orleans musicians, jazz singers, gospel, church choirs, pop genres, and classical singers will perform and entertain locals and tourists.

Interior of the St. Louis Cathedral

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St. Augustine Church is another wonder in the historic Tremé neighborhood and the whole city of New Orleans, with holiday concerts presenting jazz, gospel, soul, and other genres.

It’s heart-warming to sing along with the holiday and traditional songs while watching a concert for free.

The French Quarter Festivals, Inc. produces the FQFI Concert Series as part of the Holidays in New Orleans.

Cherub statue at the St. Louis Cathedral

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Roam the Garden District

Daytime view of Garden District

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The Garden District is famous for its grand mansions, universities, St. Charles Streetcar, and more, where a diverse mix of houses.

You can wander this beautiful place, though one day won’t be enough to roam the entire area.

Marvel at the grand historic mansions, including “The Vampire Chronicles” author Anne Rice’s homes, such as the 1857 Greek Revival-Italianate house on First Street.

Art house at Garden District

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If you have the guts, you can also visit Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, which has 7,000 people buried there.

Rice usually explored the cemetery when she was just a child.

This cemetery is famous for the figures interred there, such as Judge Ferguson, who ruled in the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson Supreme Court case.

Explore the Garden District!

Lafayette cemetery at Garden District

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Take a Stroll at the Big Lake in City Park

City Park’s Big Lake is one of the park’s most famous recreational spots.

Spanning 25 acres, the lake has art installations spread throughout the shoreline and diverse wildlife and wetlands.

It also has pathways for biking, jogging, and walking.

Visit the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Singing Oak, a huge oak tree near Big Lake close to the Lelong and Wisner intersection.

The set of wind chimes strung to the oak tree rings a pentatonic scale of five notes per octave.

Artist Jim Hart designed the chimes, with one measuring 14 feet long.

The music the Singing Oak creates will mesmerize you.

You’ll enter a different dimension without leaving Big Lake in City Park.

Try Free Oysters at Le Bon Temps Roule

Exterior of Le Bon Temps Roule

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Are you craving some seafood but don’t have enough money?

No problem, because Le Bon Temps Roule has got your back!

Located on Magazine Street in New Orleans, this local bar doesn’t offer specialty drinks, just beer, and liquor.

Store sign of Le Bon Temps Roule

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However, they offer free oysters every Friday you can indulge in while listening to local bands that play on stage named “House of Dues.”

Watch famous musicians play in this iconic bar featuring the Soul Rebels Brass Band, Anders Osborne, and Kermit Ruffins.

Discover Swamp Creatures at Bayou Sauvage Urban National Wildlife Refuge

Birds flocked at Bayou Sauvage Urban National Wildlife Refuge

Mr. Bill Lang, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Just 25 minutes from the French Quarter lies Bayou Sauvage Urban National Wildlife Refuge.

The biggest urban wildlife refuge in the US covers 23,000 acres of fresh and salty marshes in New Orleans.

Bayou Sauvage Urban National Wildlife Refuge is one of the last surviving marsh areas adjoining Borgne and Lakes Pontchartrain.

If you want to see animals for free without going to the zoo, this is the perfect place to spot white-tailed deer, raccoons, wild boars, turtles, frogs, birds, and more.

Additionally, you and your family can enjoy activities such as limited hunting, crabbing, fishing, wildlife viewing, and taking photos.

You can catch catfish, crappie, largemouth bass, and bluegill.

Wander the French Market

Exterior of French Market

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New Orleans boasts some of the loveliest markets you can visit and peruse for free.

The French Market originated as a Native American trading post across the Mississippi River in 1791, which evolved into a commercial and cultural capital for New Orleans.

This historic open-air market includes five blocks of specialty art, retail shopping, dining, handmade crafts, music, local tradition, and more.

Goods inside French Market

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Over 50 vendors offer services on four different days in four locations, including the French Market in the French Quarter.

You’ll also find Dutch Alley in the French Market, which features historical statues, a performance tent, the Dutch Alley Artist’s Co-op, and the New Orleans Jazz National Park visitor center.

Handmade crafts for sale at French Market

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Go Window Shopping at Magazine Street

The road of Magazine Street

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Visit Magazine Street and go window shopping at countless stores, including clothing shops, antique stores, art galleries, and much more.

On the other hand, you can also explore Royal Street to see the remarkable architecture of the buildings while checking out diverse shopping destinations.

Another place to visit where you can go window shopping is the Louisiana Loom Works.

A clothing store at Magazine Street

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If you’re lucky, you might see people weaving a rug.

Magazine Street stretches from Canal Street to Audubon Park, six miles alongside the Mississippi River.

A famous bar at Magazine Street

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Final Thoughts

You can still enjoy some things for free, like the places and activities in New Orleans.

It’s not a problem when you’re short or out of budget.

As long as you have your family with you, every minute is worth celebrating wherever you go and whatever you do.

Discover the free things to do in New Orleans, Louisiana!

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