Things to do on a budget in New Orleans this summer


Famous for its unique mixing-pot of cultures, music, and poignant history, New Orleans is often held up as representing American diversity at its very best. As vibrant by day as it is by night, this magnificent city offers something to satisfy every taste and budget, whether it’s in the buzzing French Quarter, Bourbon Street, or beyond.

A colourful parade during New Orleans’ Mardi Gras (Photo: Sergey Galyonkin via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

During the summer months New Orleans comes alive with numerous cultural activities and live music events being held across the city – many of which are free of charge to enter. For those keen to get a taste of summertime New Orleans-style, but don’t want to break the bank, we’ve picked out 12 budget-friendly things to see and do here in peak season.

New Orleans Voodoo Museum

Voodoo is a notorious part of New Orleans culture. Situated between Bourbon Street and Royal Street, New Orleans Voodoo Museum offers those with curious minds all they wish to know about the dark arts. After a visit, you’ll understand how the beliefs and practices are drastically different from what you’ve come to know through pop culture. The museum offers walkthroughs, cemetery tours, readings and academic research.

LOCATION 724 Dumaine Street HOURS Mon-Sun 10am-6pm

(Photo: Jennifer Boyer via Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0)

Mardi Gras

When people think of New Orleans they think of the flamboyance of the Kings and Queens of the Mardi Gras parades. Even though the season ends in February, you can immerse yourself in the colourful world all year round. Standing opposite St. Louis Cathedral, The Presbytere is one such place that offers this opportunity. The museum tells more than just the celebratory story of the Mardi Gras – it tells the story of tragedy and the resilience that comes with living with hurricanes. For just $7 you can learn two such compelling tales.

LOCATION 751 Chartres Street

(Photo: denisbin via Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0)

Free People of Color Museum

Le Musée de f.p.c., (“Free People of Color Museum”) is a historic house museum dedicated exclusively to preserving the material culture and telling the story of free people of color. The founders strive through their collection of documents, paintings and decorative arts to present, interpret and preserve the history and culture shared by so many free people of African descent in New Orleans and throughout the country. This remarkable community of enterprising people produced artists, artisans, entrepreneurs, educators, physicians, journalists, and countless business owners and professionals prior to the Civil War. Visitors can learn more about this history by booking private or group tours.

LOCATION 2336 Esplanade Avenue

(Photo: Free People of Color Museum)

Steamboat NATCHEZ

Cruise on the last authentic steamboat on that Mississippi. Enjoy sightseeing with narration, live traditional jazz, visits to the steam engine room, and Food and Beverage options. See the 100yr+ Domino Sugar Factory, the performing arts school that produced famous musicians like the Marsalis Brothers and Harry Connick Jr. A view of the city and surroundings that you can get no other place. Wonderful for families as children can walk the decks, watch the ships in the harbor and enjoy the sunshine in the safe and comfortable surroundings. Adults will enjoy the traditional jazz and perhaps a tall cool cocktail.

(Photo: Steamboat NATCHEZ)

Port Orleans Brewing Co.

Nestled in the heart of the Big Easy, Port Orleans Brewing Company is the collaboration of business-minded New Orleanians who love nothing more than a great-tasting beer. This is a city that doesn’t stop at one or two pints, and its fondness for a great session of beers is rivaled only by an appreciation for the rich and inspiring history of New Orleans. Their vision is to be the brewery of choice for locals and visitors alike that love great-tasting, local craft beer.

LOCATION 4124 Tchoupitoulas Street

(Photo: Port Orleans Brewing Co.)

Marigny & Bywater

Just northeast of the French Quarter, Marigny and Bywater are two adjoining neighbourhoods full to the brim with a variety of markets and street food. For those wanting to get a more hip and artisan slice of Louisiana Life, there is no need to look further. The buildings of every colour of the rainbow are alone a treat to the eye – but these vibrant neighbourhoods also offer delectable food and art markets catering to a range of budgets. Even without spending a dime, it is highly recommended to just browse the area to get a feel for the buzz.

The Maple Leaf

No trip to New Orleans is complete without feasting your eyes and ears on some live jazz music. The Maple Leaf is a budget-friendly dive bar that will keep the drinks flowing as you enjoy the electrifying atmosphere of one of their jazz nights. The brass band Rebirth are their most popular regular performers and are definitely one to check out. The dance floor is always alive with people jumping to the beat of New-Orleans style music. For those wanting a break from the intensity of the French Quarter and to explore the off-the-beaten-track, this urban venue is one to check out.

LOCATION 8316 Oak Street HOURS Mon-Sun 3pm-4am

(Photo: Stephen Kennedy via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

The Camellia Grill

It is not uncommon to see lines outside The Camellia Grill by early evening, which is a favourite haunt among New Orleanians. Easy to reach by following the St. Charles Streetcar line, it offers everything a hungry traveller is looking for. The lively and entertaining staff provide swift service – you won’t have to wait long to fill up on their simple but delicious meals. The ambience pays tribute to tradition with vintage counter seating and classic American staples, including burgers, omelettes, and pecan waffles.

LOCATION 626 South Carrollton Avenue HOURS Sun-Thurs 8am-12pam Fri-Sat 8am-2pm

Cafe Du Monde

Many New Orleanians grew up on the mouth-watering taste of beignets. For those who have never had one, they are a hot powdery and fluffy pastry and can be found all over the city. Cafe Du Monde is one of the most popular places to grab yourself a taste of this famous New-Orleans style treat. As well as serving these delicious beignets, the cafe is known for its French tasting blend of chicory coffee. There is outside seating so you can soak up the Louisiana sun at the same time.

LOCATION 800 Decator Street HOURS 24/7

(Photo: Steven Guzzardi via Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0)

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve

Just a 20-minute drive from downtown New Orleans, the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is free to enter and a must-see for all nature lovers. As well as providing a serene walk, as the name suggests, visitors can learn a lot about the murky history of New Orleans from battles to the Civil War and beyond. The park protects the resources of the Mississippi River Delta and is made up of six separate sites. The thriving swamps are home to alligators, snakes and other swamp dwellers. Walking through the park offers a tranquil experience as you connect with the beauty of the bayou.

LOCATION 1419 Marrero

City Park

New Orleans’ second-largest park is often described as 1,300 acres of paradise. The park opened in 1854 and is one of the oldest urban parks in the country. After the tragic events of 2005, it was severely damaged, but the public-funded repairs mean the park is now better than ever. From the Besthoff Sculpture Garden to the Botanical Garden, there is something for everyone. It is free to enter too, and offers an array of family-friendly activities, with the antique wooden carousel a must-see for those travelling with excitable little ones.

LOCATION 1 Palm Drive HOURS Mon-Sun 9am-5pm

(Photo: Infrogmation of New Orleans via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

For fans of the unusual, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum is a must-see whilst you’re in the French Quarter. The building itself is part of the National Register of Historic Places and for $5 you can learn about the macabre history of 19th-century medicine in the United States. Despite being small in size, there is a wide variety of things to see and learn. The museum is full of artefacts and medical devices, and you can learn about everything from optometry to deformity.

LOCATION 514 Chartres Street HOURS Tue-Sat 10am-4pm Closed Sun-Mon

(Photo: Jeremy Thompson via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Garden District

One could spend hours walking around the picturesque Garden District. For just $1.25 you can ride into the neighbourhood from the Quarter or Uptown aboard a streetcar. It is a novel experience and provides insight into the past. The neighbourhood is full of historic landmarks such as the Women’s Opera Guild Home and Lafayette Cemetery. After hours of exploring, there is a range of budget-friendly cosy cafes to find refreshments – many of which have outdoor seating so you can soak up the summer heat at the same

(Photo: Bernard Spragg. NZ via Flickr / CC0 1.0)

The Country Club

A day in paradise is certainly worth $15. A day pass at the oasis that is The Country Club is well worth it. The 200-year-old house is just 1.2 miles away from the French Quarter and is a favourite of both locals and tourists and offers them the chance to escape the heat and relax. The tropical green landscapes surrounding the pool are perfect for those wanting to experience tranquility. As well as the luscious pool there are hot tubs, heated saltwater pools, a sauna and free WiFi.

LOCATION LOCATION 634 Louisa Street HOURS Mon-Sat 10am-1am Sun 10am-12am

By Paul Joseph