I haven’t been to New Orleans since shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.
I’ll never forget driving through the streets at night in complete darkness (other than the car’s headlights) and seeing how much damage there was – rows and rows of leveled homes and buildings laid in heaps of wood mixed with personal belongings. It was a humbling experience for sure, to see how quickly everything you cherish can be swept away at a moment’s notice – literally.
Thankfully, since the hurricane, New Orleans has recovered and the events it has become famous for – like Mardis Gras – have fully resumed. And let’s not forget that the Super Bowl XLVII just took place there with the Ravens playing (and winning!) against the 49ers. Although it’s been a long time since my visit, I definitely expect to go back soon as part of a road trip that my boyfriend and I are planning. We will be on the road for six months and want to find the coolest things to do in each state. The list below contains 10/26 great options for visitors – like us – to choose from. While I’m not sure which ones we will pick yet, it’s a great start!
1. New Orleans Museum of Art
Museum admission is free on Wednesdays, making this landmark a must-see midweek. You can spend the better part of the day perusing art and artifacts ranging from modern to impressionist, to downright puzzling. Click here to learn about current exhibitions and schedules.
2. Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum
It’s a shame to miss Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but thankfully you can soak up some of the magic by visiting the Germaine Cazenave Wells Mardi Gras Museum. Filled to the brim with masks, costumes, vintage photos and more, its collection is nearly as cumbersome as its name.
3. Crescent City Farmers Market
Though you can’t score fresh produce au gratis at the Crescent City Farmers’ Market, you can watch a cooking demonstration for free. Local chefs will share their secrets using local fare, making it almost impossible to avoid buying a few items for munching.
4. Jackson Square
Street performers often congregate at Jackson Square because the striking architecture of the St. Louis Cathedral provides a theatrical backdrop. Visitors can treat themselves to these impromptu performances or decide which of the three statues of Andrew Jackson is the best.
5. St. Charles Avenue
When people think of the South, visions of colonial-style mansions and porch swings inevitably arise. St. Charles Avenue is the place in New Orleans to see these 19th century homes “in the flesh,” and you can walk the area for free.
6. Bourbon Street
Though there’s more to New Orleans than this French Quarter staple, you can’t visit the city without strolling Bourbon Street at least once. Prepare yourself for hustlers, street performances and tempting pleas from store and bar owners. Keep your wallet close since the crowds create clever cover for pick-pockets.
7. New Orleans Voodoo Shop
Skip the pricey Voodoo Museum and browse the mysterious wares of the museum’s gift shop for free. The unusual assortment of dolls, ritual candles and potions is enough to keep you occupied for hours.
8. City Park
Though paid attractions abound within this 1,300 acre park, you can enjoy the outdoors for free and ogle the 800-year-old trees, tour the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, or treat your family to a few rounds of frisbee golf.
9. St. Louis Cemetery #1 on Basin Street
“The City of the Dead” is a popular reference for St. Louis Cemetery #1, the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. While formal tours are paid affairs, you can wander the site on your own for free. Don’t miss the tomb of Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau, the 19th-century mythical figure who inspires songs and stories to this day.
10. Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve
You can’t visit the Gulf without seeing an alligator or two. Head to Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve for free admission to bayous, swamps and marshes. Closures and construction are a reality for natural areas frequented by tourists, so check here for updated information before you go.
Visit this blog post from MrFreeStuff.com for 16 additional experiences to add to your New Orleans itinerary!