I wrote this in November of 2017 while getting excited about our trip to New Orleans, Louisiana over News Years. I couldn’t wait to visit and share my post. However, I never got around to publishing this post, so I decided to do it now. Several years before this trip we were in Tallahassee Florida to see their State Capitol and then spent a week in the Panhandle area. While there we decided to take a day trip to check out NOLA. Sadly we weren’t there long enough to get any kind of feel for the city. This time I was hoping to come back with a better appreciation of their amazing jazz, and a full belly of their tasty gumbo 🙂 Now that we have back a couple of times, we have done a few of these free attractions on this post. As always, I try to find some free or cheaper things to do in new cities. With that in mind, here is my list of 8 FREE things we hope to do while in the colorful city of New Orleans.
See a Parade
New Orleans hosts several parades throughout the year, culminating in the largest free party on Earth: Mardi Gras. The Mardi Gras season in New Orleans starts every year on January 6th and ends when Easter falls. Every parade in the city is free to attend. I am excited, as we will be there until the 7th so we should be able to see the beginning of Mardi Gars. So cool. We were actually able to see the Joan of Arc parade and it was so fun. Here is some interesting information: Founded in 2008, Joan of Arc is an annual walking parade honoring our unofficial patron saint, “The Maid of Orleans”. The event melds medieval revelry with the traditions of Mardi Gras. It’s a celebration of the city’s French culture and heritage as well as St Joan of Arc’s birthday which coincides with Twelfth Night. We had a blast and everyone was in a very festive mood.
Take a Free Tour of the French Quarter
Want to get to know the city’s oldest and most historic neighborhood? You can do it for no cost, either with a tour guide (Tues-Sat at 9:30 am) or a self-guided tour, via the National Park Service’s French Quarter Visitors Center. While we didn’t actually take a guided tour of the French Quarter, we did do a lot of walking and saw a lot of the area. It is an amazing area even if there were a lot of tourists, lol.
Visit the New Orleans Museum of Art
The 100-year-old New Orleans Museum of Art sits inside the 1,300-acre City Park in the Mid-City area of town. The museum has a collection of fine paintings, sculptures, and historical objects ranging from the pre-Christian era to the modern. It also receives frequent traveling exhibitions. An outdoor sculpture garden displays dozens of installations.
The Algiers Ferry gives you some of the best things you can find in New Orleans as you travel from the banks of the French Quarter to the neighborhood of Algiers. First, you get an up-close view of the Mississippi River, one of the most impressive natural landmarks in the city. Second, photography enthusiasts love the opportunities to see both the oldest parts of the city and a view of the downtown skyline from the ferry. While the ferry isn’t exactly free (it’s $2.00 at the time of my post), if you buy a 1 or 5 Day Integrated Pass, it won’t cost you any more. 🙂 We actually did take the ferry over and it was $2.00. Unfortunately, we decided to go on a Sunday and the buses had stopped running by the time we got there. Oh well, it was a nice boat ride and we walked about a little taking a few pictures. I was just hoping to hop on a bus and take a little ride around their little town. Maybe next time.
Take a Self-Guided Tour of the Garden District
Founded in 1806, the Garden District is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in New Orleans. St. Charles Street is lined with huge oak trees and large mansions that boast a rich history and exemplify southern grandeur. Free tour maps are available in the French Quarter Visitor Center, inside any streetcar, or in the Riverwalk Mall. We did check out this area and it was nice, but it was November so a lot of the beautiful flowers and trees were dormant. We will have to go back in the spring sometime to really enjoy this area of the city.
Catch the Street Performers at Jackson Square
The French Quarter’s Jackson Square is a year-round hangout for street performers and artists. The perimeter of the park is lined with painters and sketch artists creating and selling original work. On the square’s two side streets, street performers do everything from tap dancing to creating living sculptures. We here this is the place to be to watch fireworks on New Year’s Eve! Jackson Square was a lot of fun. We did get to see quite a few street performers as well as people selling art. It was also crowded, but we did enjoy the beautiful and peaceful square. Make sure to visit Cafe du Monde while in the area.
Tour the Cities of the Dead
Large above-ground cemeteries scattered around New Orleans known as the Cities of the Dead are a must-see for any visitor. You can pay for a guided tour of many of them, but they’re also open to the public free of charge. Two of the more popular ones are Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 and Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. A note of interest, the Lafayette Cemetery No 1 is the final resting place of Judge Warren J. Ferguson, of “Plessy v. Ferguson” fame.
Tour Saint Louis Cathedral
Dating back to the 1700s, Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France is an impressive blend of Old World architecture and Catholic treasures. The church features ornate woodwork, stained glass windows, and beautiful sculptures. While masses are still held inside the church, you can tour both the grounds and worshiping areas Wednesday through Saturday from 1 pm to 4 pm. We were lucky enough to be able to see inside the church for a few minutes before they closed one afternoon. It was still decked out for Christmas and was so beautiful. I am not Catholic but would have enjoyed attending a service. It was breathtaking and I would have loved to have heard the pipe organ playing. We did hear the bells though, and that is always nice.
As I said earlier, we were very excited about our trip and couldn’t wait to explore and really get a feel for New Orleans. While not in NOLA, if you are into capitol buildings, make sure to visit the State Capitol Building in Baton Rouge. It is not that far and worth the trip. Also, make sure to see Mike the Tiger at LSU. If you are from the area or have been there a bit, please make a quick comment and let us know some of the dos and don’ts of visiting NOLA. Other than that I will end my saying, laissez le bon temps rouler!
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