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The Big Easy on a Small Budget 

How to make the most of $20 a day

Everyone knows there's plenty to do in this city, but fun, food and leisure activities can be costly. Knowing the ins and outs of New Orleans can help you sail through a full day's worth of entertainment and sustenance, even if you only have one Andrew Jackson in your pocket.

Art gallery openings on the first Saturdays of every month rarely charge admission and offer snacks and drinks to go with the cool art. Check the art listings in Gambit Weekly (another great freebie!) for events.

Here's music to the ears: The Louisiana Music Factory (210 Decatur St., 586-1094) holds free in-store concerts every Saturday, usually around 2 p.m. And this fall, the city's Office of Music Development and the French Market will host a free concert series called Seafood and Soul. Performers and times are yet to be announced, but for now, the dates are Oct. 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29, and the concerts will be held at the French Market (1008 N. Peters St., 596-3420).

Bacchanal (600 Poland Ave., 948-9111) also offers free wine tastings from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday, and free live music beginning at 5:30 p.m. every Sunday. In addition, wine connoisseurs can buy wines by the glass ($3.50) or the bottle ($7.50). The 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday night beer tastings here are all-you-can-taste for just $5.

And there's always free music at Jackson Square, compliments of the diverse street musicians who hang out there. The Square alone, with its artsy, eclectic ambience, is a great place to go without spending a dime because it's dotted with caricature artists, fortune tellers, mimes, shops and a spectacular view of the historic St. Louis Cathedral.

Speaking of the Cathedral (615 Pere Antoine Alley, 525-9585), free tours are offered from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Keep an eye out for free organ and choir concerts year-round, too,

The Milton H. Latter Memorial Library (5120 St. Charles Ave., 596-2625) is another remarkable historic site, and it's great for exploring, studying and reading. Built in 1907 by a wealthy family, this mansion was converted into a library and made free and open to the public in 1948.

The Bonnabel Boat Launch in Metairie and the University of New Orleans' parking lot at Elysian Fields, both at the Lakefront, offer free romantic experiences. Bring a camera, a friend or a significant other and go to one of those places at dusk or dawn to watch the sailboats under blazing skies.

Outdoorsy types will enjoy walking, running, bike riding or rollerblading on the paved path near the Boat Launch. Audubon Park and the paved bike path on the levee along River Road are great places for those activities, too. The Jean Lafitte National Park in Marrero (6588 Barataria Blvd., 589-2330) also offers a chance to stroll along tranquil paths to swampy sites, and explore the wildlife that lurks in and around murky waters.

The Canal Street Ferry is another cool outdoor experience, particularly on a sunny, breezy day. For as long as you want and for free, pedestrians can climb aboard this ferry to gaze at the river, catch up on reading or do homework. If you want to take your car, it's just $1.

Igor's Lounge and Game Room (2133 St. Charles Ave., 522-6602) has free red beans and rice every Monday starting at 7 p.m., with a one-drink minimum, and Le Bon Temps Roule (4801 Magazine St., 895-8117) has free oysters every Friday night during oyster season.

The Crescent City Farmer's Market (check for locations) offers amazing specials on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. "Free" is the word here, from free admission to free food during free cooking demonstrations and other events.

Public transportation around New Orleans is cheap too, with one-way RTA streetcar and bus fares only $1.25. Students can hop on a streetcar or bus to City Park and roam through the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art (1 Collins Diboll Circle, 488-2631) for free during museum hours. The museum is also free for students with a Tulane University, Loyola University, Delgado Community College or University of New Orleans I.D. On Thursdays, Louisiana residents can get in free from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with a state I.D. or driver's license.

The Mardi Gras Museum above Arnaud's Restaurant (813 Bienville St., 523-5433) is another fascinating venue open every day with free admission. Students can see and learn about Carnival through costumes, parade memorabilia and vintage photos from 1937-1968.

Joining in second-line parades is a fun way to understand a part of New Orleans culture at no cost. Traditionally, these street parades consist of grand marshals and a jazz band, with folks marching behind waving handkerchiefs, umbrellas, tambourines or just clapping hands. Visit for information and a parade schedule. That site belongs to the Backstreet Cultural Museum (1116 St. Claude St., 522-4806). This cool place features parade, Mardi Gras and jazz-funeral paraphernalia illustrating local African-American history and culture, all for $3 admission.

The Old U.S. Mint (400 Esplanade Ave., 568-6968), The Cabildo (701 Chartres St., 568-6968), Presbytere (751 Chartres St., 568-6968), Madame John's Legacy (632 Dumaine St., 568- 6968) and 1850 House (523 St. Ann St., 568-6968) are museum affiliates which offer great deals on admission prices. When buying a ticket at one spot, students receive a 20 percent discount off admission at the other locations. And for $6.75, the Musee Conti Wax Museum (917 Conti St., 525-2605) is another economically feasible outing.

Ogden Museum of Southern Art (925 Camp St., 539-9600) is worth visiting, especially on Thursday nights for Ogden After Hours (6 p.m. to 8 p.m.). Tickets are not the cheapest, but they're still a bargain, especially for UNO students who only pay $5. For $8, other college students can enjoy free white wine, live performances from acclaimed musicians and extraordinary artwork in the museum, which stays open until 8:30 p.m. And the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra (225 Baronne St., 523-6530) sells $9 tickets to students with an ID at the box office the day of a concert.

McAllister Auditorium at Tulane offers cheap entertainment to area students. Movies are $2 with a Tulane ID and $3 without (though some movies, such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, do cost $3 with a Tulane I.D.) Cinema passes for the semester are available for $30 or $50 for the year. Visit for information on events.

The fais do do at Tipitina's (501 Napoleon Ave., 895-8477) is another affordably fun way to get immersed in Louisiana's party culture. From 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Sunday (and for only $7), you can partake in this tradition of Cajun dancing and dance lessons.

It's nice to cool off whenever possible during the long, hot summer, and places like Hansen's Sno-Bliz (4801 Tchoupitoulas St., 891-9788) or Plum Street Snowball (1300 Burdette St., 866-7996) are just the ticket. Although snowballs are a seasonal treat, stands in the area stay open for at least half the year. Prices start at less than a dollar at most locations, and extras like condensed milk cost a little more. If you're interested in adding your own "extras," the party-sized freezer buckets at Plum Street are $7.90.

Which brings up another major topic: nightlife.

Happy hours are a great way to get an early start on a late night. Superior Grill (3636 St. Charles Ave., 899-4200) offers a two-for-one margarita happy hour at 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for $5.25. Compliment your drinks with free chips and salsa and you've practically got a meal. And it's happy hour 24/7 at The Club/Ms. Mae's (4336 Magazine St., 895-9401), which offers a $1 well-drink special all day, every day.

Le Bon Temps Roule (4801 Magazine St., 895-8117), mentioned earlier, offers two-for-one well drinks during happy hour from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 75-cent Miller High Lifes on Thursdays and 151 screwdrivers and Bloody Marys for $1.50 all day on Sundays.

The Boot (1039 Broadway St., 866-9008) has three-for-one drinks offered every Wednesday after 4 p.m., and every Friday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday's 50-cent night (10 p.m. to 1 a.m.), which applies to any cocktail and beer, is a huge draw. Nacho Mama's (3242 Magazine St., 899-0031) has $5 pitchers of margaritas on the rocks all day on Mondays, with a purchase of an entree. And Tuesday through Sunday, there's a two-for-one drink special.

From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, Lucy's (5961 Magazine St., 895-0240) has $3 well drinks and margaritas and $2.50 domestics. On Saturdays, Bloody Marys are $3 during brunch, and cosmopolitans are $3 and Abita Beer pints are $2 all day. But Taco Tuesdays are the best deal because it's $1 beef, turkey or bean tacos with the works.

For early morning or late-night eye-openers, Cafe du Monde (813 Decatur St., 581-2914) gives you some bang for your buck. Three beignets are only $1.37, and so is a cup of coffee, hot chocolate or chocolate milk. And cheap, farm-fresh produce can be found at two notable Uptown fruit stands: near the Nashville Avenue and Claiborne Avenue intersection and on Carrollton Avenue in front of the Notre Dame Seminary. Prices vary by the type of fruit and quantity.

If you're the kind of person who likes leftovers and prefers to order a lunch that will last through dinner, here are some places to keep in mind:

Every Tuesday, Rocky's Old New Orleans Bar and Pizza Joint (3222 Magazine St., 891-5152) has two-for-one small and large pizzas. Check the lunch specials, particularly on Fridays, where patrons can order a large pizza, two drinks and two salads for $12.99. The Blue Tomato (4401 Jefferson Highway, 734-3000) offers a three-quarter-pound burger with all the works, including guacamole and hickory sauce, for $4.95.

Bud's Broiler is another affordable local chain restaurant. With 12 locations, this burger joint offers a value meal for $5.40 that includes a dressed hamburger, fries and a soft drink.

Bluebird Cafe (3625 Prytania St., 895-7166) serves full plates with healthy options and prices ranging from $2.95 (waffle or pancake breakfast) to $5.75 (salmon and cream cheese on a bagel). And if you still have more than half of your $20 for the day, The Dock (1926 West End Park, 284-3625) is a great place to hang out, watch the sunset and feast on lobster that's available every Thursday night for $12.95. Who says you can't get a little luxury for just 20 bucks?

click to enlarge Free entertainment doesn't get better than a second-line parade, especially one led by such local favorites as the Treme Brass Band. - MICHAEL TERRANOVA
  • Michael Terranova
  • Free entertainment doesn't get better than a second-line parade, especially one led by such local favorites as the Treme Brass Band.
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