Want to visit America's Most Interesting City but worry about expenses? Here's some tips to seeing my hometown of New Orleans without spending a lot.
1. Visit in the Summer. Yes, it's hot and humid and thunderstorms happen in the afternoons, but prices are lower, you can pack lighter and most hotels offer umbrellas in your room. Visit NewOrleansOnline.com for hotel specials or ask your favorite hotel for their summer rates.
2. Visit during Museum Month. In August, you can visit one museum and then get two free tickets to another. The city is home to 45 museums, including the world famous National World War II Museum, the Historic New Orleans Collection and several art museums.
3. Visit two awesome parks. New Orleans is home to City Park and Audubon Park, both gorgeous acreage full of fun attractions and activities. City Park offers the New Orleans Museum of Art, botanical gardens, children's activities such as train rides and carousel and so much more. You can even enjoy beignets at Morning Call while looking at on the world's largest collection of live oak trees. Audubon Park is located uptown and includes the Audubon Zoo.
4. Visit a Cemetery. New Orleans' Cities of the Dead are like no other, featuring tombs built above ground because of the city's low water table. Visitors are allowed inside but tours of some of the city's oldest cemeteries may be best. Save Our Cemeteries is an organization working to preserve the burial sites and they offer walking tours. Be sure to look for the interesting way people decorate their tombs. We wrote a blog post about that.
5. Visit during a festival. Summer festivals include Satchmo Summerfest honoring Louis Armstrong and the city's jazz origins, White Linen Night art gallery openings on Julia Street in the Warehouse District and Dirty Linen Night art gallery openings on Royal Street in the French Quarter. Once the fall arrives, festivals really kick in.
6. Eat cheaply with Coolinary New Orleans. August means specials at area restaurants, part of a citywide promotion. Check out the restaurants and specials here. Also, Restaurant Week is Sept. 11-17.
7. Stroll the Quarter. You can spend your 401K shopping through the French Quarter, but you can also enjoy the ancient city spending zilch. There's Jackson Square with its artists and performers, the riverwalk where you can view the world's third largest river and there's live music everywhere. So much to see and experience so don't shy away if you don't have the funds. Only thing to consider is parking. One option is visit City Park, then take the streetcar to the Quarter and enjoy the view of Canal Street along the way.
8. Speaking of Streetcars. One of the best rides in the country is the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar, which travels from Canal Street all the way uptown and back. You will see the avenue mansions, Audubon Park, Tulane and Loyola universities and much more for $1.25 one way.
9. Take the Ferry. The ferry that crosses the Mighty Mississippi from downtown New Orleans to Algiers on the other side costs $2 but the view is priceless.
10. Check out the neighborhoods. On the other end of New Orleans is Lake Pontchartrain. You can walk along the lakefront, enjoy fresh seafood at Bucktown and West End and roll down the levees. Magazine Street runs the length of the river from downtown to uptown and features wonderful boutiques, antique shops, restaurants and bars. Marigny, Bywater and the St. Roch neighborhoods are located downriver and include great restaurants, the awesome St. Roch Market and the amazing Crescent Park with another great view of the river and skyline.
Cherie Claire is the author of the Cajun Series of historical romances, the Cajun Embassy contemporary series and the Viola Valentine mystery series featuring New Orleans ghost sleuth Viola Valentine.