Just because you're treating yourself to a vacation doesn't mean you need to empty your wallet to have a good time once you get here. In a city known for great food, you're probably expecting to spend lots of money on expensive meals, then head out to bars with pricey drinks, and hefty covers for live music, NOT SO! It's not only possible to do New Orleans on a budget, it's effortless! So put on your walking shoes, and get ready to experience the rich culture of New Orleans for the least amount of money possible. If you only have one day to spend in the Crescent City, stick to the first day of the itinerary; if not, enjoy this action packed, dollar-conscious guide to New Orleans.
Day 1 : French Quarter
Sure the French Quarter has its fair-share of expensive restaurants, fancy boutiques, and pricy cocktail bars, but not only will you not be missing out if you don't have the extra cash, you're about to experience the French Quarter the way its supposed to be experienced. Start off your morning with a light breakfast, there will be plenty of stops along the way for cheap treats, so you don't want to fill up too early. Swing by Croissant D'Or Patisserie for a scrumptious pastry and some strong coffee to get you going on your day's adventure. Once you leave breakfast, its time to start exploring. Take a look around, the French Quarter's architecture is absolutely breathtaking. It's impossible not to feel like you've woken up and wandered into old-world Europe, so take some time and really get to know the streets of the French Quarter. Start off by heading over to Chartres Street, where you'll see the beautiful Old Ursuline Convent, the oldest building in the Mississippi River Valley. For a few dollars admission, you can go inside and explore the rich history of the building.
From there, keep on heading down Chartres to Barracks Street at the edge of the Quarter; take a left and head over to Dauphine Street. Take a left of Dauphine, walk up one more block, and snake back on Governor Nicholls Street, paying close attention to the beautiful homes that line this historic street. When you get to Royal Street, take a right and spend an hour or so exploring the art galleries. While purchasing a painting would cost you big bucks, you can take a look around for free! And with so many different types of artwork, spending a day visiting Royal Street galleries is like visiting an extensive art museum spread out across different buildings over several blocks.
Pretty soon you'll see the back of St. Louis Cathedral, take a left and walk down Pirate's Alley. Here you'll see Faulkner House Books, a fascinating new and used bookstore named after the famous writer. It's a must for any bibliophile! Take a look inside the Cathedral, its architecture and artwork is absolutely stunning. From there you can explore Jackson Square. It's beautiful to wander around inside the park, and if you're up for it, take a seat on a bench and do a little people watching.
Take a left down Decatur and spend some time poking around the French Market. This historic outdoor marketplace is a great place to pick up some spices, sauces, and mixes for recreating classic New Orleans cuisine when you get home, plus it's a fun place to people watch. It's definitely an experience not to be missed! Getting hungry for lunch? Head back up Decatur towards Jackson Square and stop off at Central Grocery for a famous Muffaletta. This delicious Italian sandwich was born and bred in this classic New Orleans grocery store and deli. Pick up a Barq's Rootbeer, or perhaps an Abita or Dixie, get your sandwich to go and head over to the River.
The best way to get up to the Moonwalk is across the street from Jackson Square. Head up behind the massive stairs and you'll find yourself at the mighty Mississippi. Either plop down on a bench or continue right along the river to Woldenberg Park, where you can sit and enjoy your sandwich while taking in the beautiful view of the river. If you brought a book along (or picked one up at Faulkner House or any other neat French Quarter Bookstore), this is a great place to sit and read.
Another fun way to see the River is to take the Algiers Ferry. Feeling the river's breeze from atop a ferry boat is a truly unique experience. To get to the ferry, keep walking along the river towards the Aquarium of the Americas. Beyond that, you will see the ferry terminal, with the entrance located on Canal. The ferry runs until midnight and is free for pedestrians.
When you get back to the Downtown side of the river, walk up Canal Street and turn left onto St. Peters. Head up to Julia Street and take a right. Here you will find another gem of galleries that make up the Warehouse/Arts District. Explore the different galleries until you hit Camp Street. Take a left to get to the cluster of museums including the Ogden Museum of Art, the National World War II Museum, the Confederate Museum, and the Contemporary Arts Centre. Although all of these Museums charge admission (except for the Contemporary Arts Centre, which operates off of optional donations), the ticket price is well worth the experience. If you're not in the mood for more art, spend the rest of the afternoon getting "lost" in the French Quarter. You'll run into interesting bars, coffee shops, shops, and historical homes. Some of the most famous historical homes offer tours for a small admission fee, such as the Beauregard-Keyes House, the Gallier House and the Hermann Grima House. You've been looking at the outside of French Quarter homes all day, so why not treat yourself to a peek inside?
You'll probably need a quick rest before heading out the door again to dinner. Make your way back to your hotel, freshen up or take a quick nap, and get ready for some delicious New Orleans cuisine!
You can't be in New Orleans and not treat yourself to scrumptious seafood! Swing by Acme Oyster House and have a po-boy or a fried seafood dinner platter. If you've never had a raw oyster and feel up to the challenge (and trust us, its worth it!), Acme is the place to go. Don't worry, even if you're not a seafood fan, there is something for everyone at this low-key French Quarter spot.
Looking for some after dinner entertainment? Stop by Frenchman Street in the Marigny where you'll find bars like Café Brasil, Snug Harbor, d.b.a., and the Spotted Cat. These bars offer great live music every night of the week and best of all, they don't charge a cover fee so you can hop from place to place without having to worry about spending too much money.
Once the day is over, return back to your room and rest easy knowing you had a fabulous and inexpensive day in New Orleans.
Day Two : Uptown and Garden District
For today's "on-a-budget adventure", fuel up with a big plate of Café Du Monde beignets and some strong coffee - you can't come to New Orleans without having this delicious (and inexpensive) treat!
Head to the Aquarium where you can catch the Riverboat John James Audubon, while roundtrip tickets cost about $17.50 a person ($8.75 for children under 12), its well worth it to get to watch the city float by from the deck of a Riverboat. The boat will drop you off at The Butterfly, or what locals call "The Fly". Walk through this riverfront park to Magazine Street, and you'll see beautiful Audubon Park across the street. Take some time to stroll through this picturesque park under the shade of oak trees. Keep walking and you'll reach historic Saint Charles Avenue. Check out our self-guided tour of the Avenue's most stunning and historic mansions.
Walk on down the Avenue until you reach the scenic Garden District. Either join up with a tour or spend some time on your own exploring the oak-covered streets lined with magnificent mansions and lush gardens. The Garden District begins at Louisiana Avenue, a bit of a hike if you're not used to walking, but it's really beautiful, so it passes by quickly. You need to check out one of our unique and beautiful cemeteries while in New Orleans, lucky for you there is one on Washington and Prytania! Make sure you take a few minutes and have a look around!
Eventually make your way over to Magazine Street where you'll find galleries, antique shops, boutiques, coffeehouses and restaurants. Spend the day wandering back towards Uptown, stopping at a coffee shop along the way to refuel. There are a bunch of restaurants to choose from for lunch including Café Rani for sandwiches and salads, Ignatius for a great cup of gumbo, or Slim Goodies Diner for great lunch or delayed breakfast food. You can also opt for a picnic, cab it up to Whole Foods Market or St. James Cheese Company and pick up some goodies-to-go for a picnic back in the park.
With all of this walking around, you're sure to need a rest before heading out again for the evening. Hop back on the Riverboat John James Audubon at "The Fly" and float down-river to the Quarter. If you don't end up taking the boat back downtown, or opt to linger Uptown a little while longer, there are great options for dinner such as Juan's Flying Burrito. Either way, you'll need to take cabs to get from your dinner destinations back downtown.
If you end up still Uptown after the sun has gone down and want to treat yourself to a drink, check out St. Joe's Bar for cheap mojitos or the Columns Hotel Bar for just slightly more expensive cocktails (no more than $8) sipped from a huge porch overlooking Saint Charles Avenue.
Day 3 : Mid-City
Head up to Canal Street and hop on a historic New Orleans Streetcar out towards the Museum of Art. If you're in the mood for a big, hearty breakfast, get off at Rocheblave Street and head into Betsy's Pancake House. Here you'll get huge stacks of delicious pancakes (or other breakfast favourites) to get you going for the day.
Hop back onto the Streetcar and ride it all the way out to the very end at City Park (Carrolton at Esplanade)\. Here you'll find the city's largest park filled with lagoons, oak trees and plenty of green space. Stop into the New Orleans Museum of Art where admission is free for Louisiana residents and $8 for out-of-towners ($4 for children).
After you finish up at the Museum, walk outside and you'll find the Besthoff Sculpture Garden. More than 50 sculptures rest on five acres of lush green-space under the shade of impressive oaks. Bring a book along and relax in this beautiful outdoor space.
Once you've explored the Park, exit out from the drive leading up to the Museum and you'll see Bayou St. John straight ahead. Walk along this serene Bayou and stop in at the Pitot House for a fascinating tour of this historical home.
From there, you can also check out the Edgar Degas House, where the artist lived from 1872-73. Across the street, treat yourself to a lunch at Café Degas. This delicious French restaurant is slightly more expensive for dinner, but lunch entrees range from $8.50 to $15. The food is amazing and with all the money you've been saving, you deserve a slight splurge for a great meal in a beautiful setting.
Walk back to the Streetcar tracks at Carrolton Avenue. If you have a bit of a sweet-tooth, either keep walking or hop on board to Carrolton at Canal St., where you'll find Angelo Brocato's, the classic New Orleans Italian gelato parlour. It's defiantly worth the trip, and the extra-full stomach. Catch the streetcar and head back downtown to the French Quarter.
Rest up and then head out for an amazing hamburger at Port Of Call, one of New Orleans' favourite hamburger joints. This place is famous for juicy burgers served with delicious baked potatoes. If you feel like unwinding with a tropical drink, order yourself a Monsoon, the restaurant's signature cocktail. Be careful, these fruity drinks may taste sweet but they really pack a strong, rum-based punch in the end.
Continue to enjoy your last night out on the town or head back to your room and get some sleep. Either way, you should pat yourself on the back, you've experienced the very best of the city and your wallet is only slightly less full than your stomach, and for that, you should be proud!
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