City Park - You can spend a whole day getting lost amongst the biggest grouping of oak trees on Earth—some date back 600 years! In this 1,300 acre park that’s open all year, there is something for everyone to do. Enjoy the picturesque view of the water fountains, small lakes and lagoons as well as the beautiful oak trees; get some exercise on the walking and jogging trails; have fun with the family listening to one of the many musical concerts that are performed in the park. There are also two amusement parks, a golf course, boat and gondola rides, a botanical garden, bike rentals, a natural forest, fishing and, of course, the New Orleans Museum of Art. Take the miniature train ride around the park and listen to the intercom as it tells you about the points of interest in the park. There’s even a Storyland to visit which will be great fun for the entire family. Most of the activities in the park are free, but some, like the boat rides, do have small fees.
Museum of Art - Every Wednesday you’ll be able to get into the Besthoff Sculpture Garden and the main museum for free. This 100 year old museum contains about 40,000 pieces of impressive paintings, historical objects dating as far back as the pre-Christian age up to modern time, sculptures and often accepts mobile art pieces as well. This museum is one of the best Southern art museums and is well-known for its ever-growing American and French art, Japanese and African pieces, glass and photography. The Besthoff Sculpture Garden has over 60 sculptures among five acres of lavish landscape featuring wandering paths, magnolias, oak trees loaded with Spanish moss, camellias, old pines, shining lagoons and pedestrian bridges.
Mardi Gras for Families - If you’re a knowledgeable traveler, it shouldn’t be hard to find the festivities that aren’t X-rated because Mardi Gra isn’t supposed to be about how much you can drink before passing out or how many beads you can collect, it’s a cultural experience. The press always talks about Bourbon Street but families should avoid Bourbon Street entirely and head for St. Charles Avenue—that’s where the family-friendly celebration is. Parades and fun for all ages are in the area between Napoleon Avenue and Lee Circle. Each parade has their own theme and is filled with colorful floats, marching bands, people in fanciful costumes, masked riders and fire dancers. One of the favorite parades is called Krewe de Barkus where dogs are dressed in paraphernalia and perform themed shows for doggy pride and honor.
Algiers Ferry - Take the ferry and you’ll get a nice view of the most striking natural landmark, the Mississippi River. Anyone who loves to take pictures will love being able to see the city’s skyline as well as the city’s oldest areas. Once you’re on the other side, you will get to tour Algiers Point, one of the Westbank’s oldest regions. You’ll enjoy seeing homes that date back to the 1700’s and there are several different styles that are lined along the streets: Victorian, Greek Revival, Craftsman, Single Shotgun, Creole Cottage and French Colonial Plantation. All the locals meet at the collection of bars and restaurants which look like something out of a painting with their cobblestone back streets leading from one to the other. The friendly locals will be glad to share an exciting story or two as you wine and dine before heading to see the one-of-a-kind cut-out fence and open land of Confetti Park.
St. Louis Cathedral - This grand mixture of Old World design and Catholic treasures dates back to the 1700’s and possesses stained glass windows, exquisite sculptures and elaborate woodwork. They still hold mass in the church, but Wednesday through Saturday you’re allowed to tour the areas of worship as well as the beautiful grounds.
Farmer’s Market - French, Cajun, African, Creole and Spanish cuisine are what makes the unique taste of New Orleans food and the year-round Crescent City Farmer’s Market on a Saturday is the place to be. Most weekends inside the market, there are local musicians that play while you can shop rows upon rows of meats, homemade goods, produce and seafood. Local chefs are also on hand to give free cooking demonstrations.
Cities of the Dead - If it’s ghost stories you seek, then New Orleans is definitely the city to be in! Locals will be happy to share a spooky story with you; from a pirate navigating the Mississippi River to the very old, deserted slave mansions, you will get your dose of haunting stories. But it is said that the above-ground cemeteries in New Orleans are the place to go if you want to see a ghost. New Orleans is 12 feet in elevation and a very swampy city. Because of this, when it rained, anything buried used to rise to the surface and float away; it didn’t take the people of New Orleans long to realize that they couldn’t bury their dead but, instead, had to make an above-ground tomb. These cemeteries are known as “Cities of the Dead”. It’s believed that the Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, is sighted in the most haunted cemetery in New Orleans, St. Louis Cemetery. You can go through these cemeteries on your own or take a guided tour—either way you’ll be able to absorb the history of the most famous past citizens as well as the history of New Orleans.
Crescent City Blues and Barbecue Festival - This is a three-day festival that takes place in October when the weather is cooler and people venture out for the first time since the hot weather of summer. Many musicians perform at this festival including famous names such as Bettye LaVette, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Eric Lindell. After their performance, they mix with the crowd and sign autographs as well as talk to the fans which lets them get to know the musician better. Across the street from the festival, the musicians are interviewed about their life. Many Southern masters of the grill come to this festival to have a barbecue cook-off, so be sure to sample the ribs! If there’s a game playing you’ll want to see it because there’s a sports and beer garden for you to enjoy. You and your family are sure to have a great time at the eighth annual Crescent City Blues and Barbecue Festival.
It’s easy to spend money while in New Orleans but spending less money is always better and this city has lots of free activities to do that are just as good as the ones you have to pay for. So plan your vacation to New Orleans and save some of your money for your next one!
Author: Erich Roeseler