New Orleans is an amazing and unique city rich with food, culture, and history. We spent a weekend in New Orleans and didn’t feel like we missed out on anything! On a budget? No worries – this itinerary includes many free or cheap things to do and see, as well as how to get around, where to eat, and areas to stay.
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A Perfect Weekend In New Orleans
Our first stop was the garden district. It’s easily accessible by street cars and/or buses, and is close to the french quarter. We decided to use Free Tours By Foot, which provided free tours of major cities, including New Orleans. We paid $1.99 to get the audio tour of the garden district. The audio tour directs you where to walk, a map of the houses on the tour, and insight on the houses you visit, including pointing out some that belong to celebrities.
Keep in mind, the sidewalks in the garden district are uneven. Please be careful when walking.
After visiting the garden district, we took a quick street car to the french quarter. With its unique architecture, interesting people, and amazing food, it was definitely a memorable experience. Luckily, things within the french quarter are close to each other so you can spend the afternoon just walking around its streets. Highlights include:
- Jackson Square
- St. Louis Cathedral
- Bourbon Street
- The Presbytère Museum. This museum is $6/person and has rotating rotating exhibits, so be sure to check the website first. The two exhibits during our visit were Mardi Gras and hurricane Katrina, so we were interested in learning more about these two events
- Preservation Hall for jazz music. This is a famous and icon thing to do, however it has a $20/person cover charge and a long line. We didn’t feel this was worth it with limited time and other places available for for jazz music
- Right next to the french quarter is Frenchman Street. The Spotted Cat Music Club is a cute little bar with live jazz music. It has limited seating, so chances are you’ll be standing. There’s no cover charge, but a 1 drink minimum is recommended
- Another museum is the 1850 house which showed how life in New Orleans was during that time period. Tickets are $3/adult
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Day two of the New Orleans itinerary starts with visiting the St. Louis Cemetery #1. It can only be seen with a licensed tour guide in order to prevent vandalism. Free Tours By Foot is definitely the most budget way to visit. It costs $2/person for their tour (which is the mandatory fee charged by the cemetery). The tour took about 1.5 hours and was very informative on New Orleans history. If you’re not interested or don’t have time, St. Louis Cemetery #2 doesn’t require a tour guide or entrance fee to visit.
In the afternoon, do a bayou tour and visit a swamp! There are many options available on Groupon. The one we found was $30/person, which included transportation to and from the french quarter. You’ll see lots of alligators and maybe even hold a baby alligator.
We thought about saving money by not doing this tour, but we don’t live near a swamp, so it was an experience we didn’t want to miss. Retail prices were close to $100/person, so Groupon made the choice much easier by providing us cheaper options. They also offer bayou and plantation combo tours as well.
Where And What To Eat
Eating in the french quarter can be expensive because of its prime location. In order to save money, we brought protein bars to eat for breakfast. In general, the portions are big enough where you can share an appetizer and entree instead of getting two entrees. We got more food than necessary only because I wanted to try a bunch ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Foods To Try
- Crawfish Etouffee
- Bread pudding
- Po’ Boy
Restaurants To Try
- The Gumbo Shop is insanely popular so expect to wait (we got there at 2pm and still waited for 30 minutes)
- Parkway Bakery and Tavern for po’ boy sandwiches
- Napoleon House is in the middle of the french quarter but has an outdoor patio area that’s quiet from the noise outside
- Café du Monde for beignets (be prepared to wait). Otherwise, Café Beignet isn’t as famous but had a significantly shorter line
- Pralines are everywhere, but we got some at Leah’s Pralines
- Blue Oak BBQ in Mid City, since that’s where our Airbnb was
Where To Stay
We stayed in Mid City. This was a safe and quiet area that was more budget friendly than staying in the middle of the french quarter. We were a short 20 minute street car and/or bus ride away, and our Airbnb was right next to the bus stop. If you’re not staying in the french quarter, check out Google Maps first to see if your hotel or Airbnb is close to public transit.
How To Get Around
Getting around is easy with buses and street cars, so no need for a rental car. Fares are $1.25 one way and $0.25 for transfers. You can also buy a Jazzy Pass when you first get on the street car or bus, or at nearby vendors (we got ours at Walgreens). Passes are $3/day for unlimited trips.
Note: bus passes are based on the time you buy them, so if you buy one at 3pm, it will expire at 3pm the next day.
Getting to and from the airport can be an issue with public transit – it can take up to 2 hours using the bus while driving is only 20 minutes. Unless you’re staying at a hotel that offers a shuttle, the only option is Uber or Lyft (which unfortunately, cost us around $30 one way).
At night, take the bus and not the street car. Street cars sometimes stop running whenever there’s a parade (which is common). We were waiting at the stop for a while before someone told us that information.
When To Visit
Weather can be unpredictable in the South. I wouldn’t recommend going in the summer, because of heat and humidity. We went in March and I thought the weather was pretty good. It was warm, but not hot (from an LA resident perspective). In the early morning and in the evening, it got pretty chilly, so keep a jacket or sweater with you. However, the rain is unpredictable. Bring an umbrella or poncho for random showers. For us, one day was perfect, but the other had random 15 minute showers every hour.
Cost For Two People
- Flight: 322.96. We ended up only paying 202.98 after travel credit and a voucher for a delayed flight
- Airbnb: 246.04. This was for 3 nights – arrived late Friday night, left early Monday morning. It’d be possible to cut a day of lodging by leaving late on Sunday night. Bagbnb can store your bags for you for the day
- Bus pass: 12
- Garden tour: 1.99
- Swamp tour: 67
- Presbytère museum: 12.36
- Uber: 74.07. Total for both to and from airport. We tried using the bus going to the airport, but it never showed up after waiting for half an hour
- Food: 142.45
Ultimately New Orleans can be a budget or expensive destination. There’s lots to of free things to do just by walking around. I hope this itinerary helps you plan your own weekend in New Orleans!