While New Orleans doesn’t exactly enjoy a family friendly reputation, many travel guides seek to find things that every member of the family can enjoy. That’s great if you’ve got little ones, but what if you plan to leave them at home? What if you also want to see an iconic Southern city without breaking the bank? Turns out you can do both those things. Check out some of our favorite free things to do in New Orleans.
1. Grab free oysters and music every Friday.
If you feel like finding a live music venue but not spending on food, Le Bon Temps Roule Music Club has you covered. This local casual bar offers free oyster happy hour on Friday, and features local bands undiscovered by the mainstream (yet). The stage has been dubbed “House of Dues” in honor of how many bands got their start at Le Bon Temps Roule. Saints fans rejoice, because they also offer dollar beers during games. If you’re looking for fancy tourist drinks, this bar won’t deliver, but if you’re looking for local New Orleans atmosphere, free food, and emerging bands, this is the place to be.
2. Go on a “Cities of the Dead” tour.
New Orleans is famous for its cemeteries, an attraction that would hardly exist in other cities around the nation. The swampy Louisiana ground and tendency for flooding forced New Orleans residents to bury their dead above the ground in mausoleums and stone crypts. In major cemeteries, the monuments have come to resemble small cities, receiving the nickname “Cities of the Dead”. If you’re hoping to see some of the more famous ones, they’re open to the public during the daytime (like most cemeteries). Some offer guided tours, and St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is within walking distance of the French Quarter, making it an easy stop to pay homage to New Orleans culture and history.
3. Learn a trade.
Like any large city, New Orleans is home to a number of artisans. At New Orleans Glassworks and Printmaking Studio, you can take 2-hour courses in wine design glassblowing, printmaking, and copper enameling. This place boasts the South’s largest collection of handblown glass, among other things. If you’re not brave enough to try it yourself, you can watch at some of New Orleans’ famous glassblowing studios like Rosetree Glass Studio, Studio Inferno, or Glassworks work their magic. It’s an easy way to while away the afternoon, and maybe learn something in the process.
4. Watch a comedy show.
New Orleans hasn’t always been a site for good comedy shows. A few years ago you had the scour the city to find something outside of tourist venues or casinos. In recent years, however, New Orleans has become a ripe venue for open mic shows in venues across the city. Many of these shows have free admission and you can find one almost every night of the week. Whether you enjoy local stand-up or open mic, there’s something for nearly every brand of humor in the city.
5. People watch on Bourbon Street.
Bourbon street enjoys a lucrative reputation as the place where tourists go to burn money– and that isn’t far from the truth. But you don’t have to spend insane amounts of money just to have a good time in the French Quarter, and you also don’t have to buy expensive cocktails or party favors to hang out on Bourbon Street. Buy something simple that will last you awhile, and sip on it while you watch people pass by. A balcony is preferable for this activity, as it keeps you away from the mass of people, but also gives you a good view. The weird things that happen will keep you entertained for hours to come (have you ever watched “Cops,” Mardi Gras edition? I mean come on).