Before we had our son, my husband and I had many date nights. Because we were married for nearly 9 years before we became parents, it was no big deal for us to head out to dinner or a movie on a Saturday night. Now, it takes a lot of energy and planning on our part to have a date night and that isn’t including the money we have to spend! While we love to include our son in many of our adventures, we still like to have one on one time where we can connect with each other the way we did BEFORE we became Mom & Dad.
It is hard to carve out that extra time for one another on a regular basis, but it is necessary for a successful marriage. Probably one of the biggest issues we face (and I’m sure other couples do, too) when it comes to going on a date night is the COST. By the time you go to dinner and pay the babysitter, you are out at least a hundred dollars or more. Even heading to a movie can get pricey! I’m not sure about y’all, but we don’t always have an extra $100 laying around once a month for date nights!
Now that we have been parents for over 3 years, we have discovered the key to making date night work without spending a fortune, and the best part is that New Orleans is a great place for it! I’d like to share with you some of our favorite FREE, or ALMOST FREE, date ideas around New Orleans that will make it less painful to pay the babysitter.
Pack up your bikes and go for a ride!
1. City Park is one of the largest urban area parks and has a beautiful landscape (and bike paths) that are perfect for a nice ride. If you need a break, you can stop at Morning Call and grab some beignets and cafe au lait! All of this for under $10, you can’t beat that deal.
2. If you are on the Northshore, the Tammany Trace is another great option for bike riding. Our favorite ride starts at the Mandeville Trailhead and ends in Downtown Abita, which is also home to the Abita Brew Pub. Or, you could start in Abita and end at the Trailhead, where you can grab something delicious to eat at the Saturday Farmer’s Market.
3. Take a ride on the Mississippi River Levee! There is a paved path on the levee from the Bonnet Carre Spillway all the way to the city! On your ride, you can take in views of boats along the river, antebellum homes, Kenner’s Rivertown, and other sites along the way! Choose the length of your ride and maybe stop along the way for a drink or snack.
4. The Young Leadership Council of New Orleans sponsors weekly Wednesday at the Square/Harvest the Music concerts at Lafayette Square April through November every year. These concerts are awesome and FREE and can make for a great way to get through the rest of the week.
5. If you want to head to the Westbank, grab a daiquiri to go, hop on the Algiers Ferry and head to the Wednesdays on the Point Concert Series this summer.
6. The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra also offers classical music concerts at several area parks like Lafreniere, City Park, Boguefalaya Park and Slidell Heritage Park. All that is required is to bring a food donation for Second Harvest Food Bank!
7. City Park offers its Thursdays at Twilight music series that features music in the Pavilion of Two Sisters and in the Botanical Gardens. The cost is $10 per person, but it’s still a fantastic bargain for music from some wonderful local musicians.
8. The Old US Mint on Esplanade in the French Quarter also offers its Music at the Mint concerts which are low in cost and offer an education backdrop for listening to local musicians. Fees range from $5 to $10; another great bargain!
Visit a Museum
9. Located on Royal Street, the Historic New Orleans Collection is an amazing collection of historical documents and art of Louisiana and New Orleans. Visiting the collection and self guided tours are FREE; however, guided tours do require a small fee. Also, the collection is closed on Mondays.
10. Pack a picnic and take a walk around the Besthoff Sculpture Garden behind the New Orleans Museum of Art. Visiting the garden is FREE, but donations are kindly appreciated in the box at the entrance. Art includes a George Rodrigue Blue Dog, the LOVE sculpture like the one in Philadelphia, as well as many others. When you are done checking out the art, have a nice lunch under one of the many centuries old oak trees!
11. Speaking of the New Orleans Museum of Art, did you know that entrance into NOMA is 100% complimentary on Wednesdays? This is a perfect day date option while the kids are in school. Some of my favorite artwork includes the Impressionist collection and the Louisiana themed artwork.
12. Another wonderful art museum, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art offers free admission to Louisiana residents (with identification) on Thursdays. Hours are from 10am-5pm and would make another great day date while the kids are at school.
13. The Contemporary Arts Center offers free entry into their exhibits on Sundays for Louisiana residents with identification. The CAC is home to traveling exhibitions as well as artists’ work in painting, photography, and performing arts such as dance, music and theater. If you don’t go on a free day, admission is only $10.
14. Go visit the Old US Mint on Esplanade Ave, across from the French Market. Admission is FREE. The Old US Mint includes a great archives collection, as well as coin making memorabilia and presses. When you are done, you can walk right across the street and shop at the French Market for a snack!
Be a Tourist
15. Go to Central Grocery, grab a muffaletta, and split it with your honey. Then walk to the Moonwalk to picnic while watching the boats go by. When you are done, take a walk down Royal & Chartres to check out antiques and art along the way. We always like to stop in at George Rodrigue’s gallery, as well as that of Michalopoulous. You could also take a self guided walking tour of the French Quarter!
16. Park near Carrollton on St. Charles Avenue and hop on the streetcar for a nice ride and view. Rides on the streetcar are $1.25 each way and are especially nice on a breezy spring or fall day. You could pack a picnic lunch and dine at Audubon Park or get off at some point and take yourselves on a self guided walking tour of the Garden District.
17. Take a drive out to the Bonnet Carre Spillway for hiking, trail walking, bike riding, fishing, and bird watching. Because the spillway goes from the Mississippi River, you can see boats along the river OR have a spectacular view of the lake at the Wetland Watchers Park. If you have a boat, you can launch there and take a cruise through the canals and have you very own “swamp tour” where alligators, egrets, herons, fish, crabs, and other swamp creatures wander. In the spring, there are areas where blackberries are plentiful, and sometimes in the summer, there is a giant patch of sunflowers that grow and look like a field in Tuscany. Even if you want to go fishing but don’t have a boat, there are piers and banks to stocked ponds and canals where you can fish for bass, catfish, sacalait and more! There is a lot to do in this wildlife refuge!
18. If you can’t make it that far out, New Orleans City Park also boasts fishing ponds, hiking, and bird watching in Couturie Forest. You can enjoy nature’s finest in the heart of Mid City and also climb to the top of the highest elevation in New Orleans, Mount Laborde. Couturie Forest is an excellent place to escape from the hustle of every day city life while still being IN the city!
19. Right across the river from the city, we have Jean Lafitte National Park which is home to the Chalmette Battlefield, Chalmette National Cemetery, and the Barataria Preserve. Entrance into the park is 100% free, and there are many events and exhibits available as well. Check out their calendar for more details for what is offered.
20. Park on Lakeshore Drive with a bottle of wine and snacks. Enjoy the salty air, watch the sailboats race in, and take in the sunset over Lake Pontchartrain. It will be a romantic way to end your day!
21. While I’m not a fan of raw oysters (I know, bad NOLA girl), there are lots of great local restaurants that offer “happy hour” for raw oysters. Here is a list of the specials throughout the city, some that are as cheap as $.35 each! That’s $4.20 a dozen, and a great bargain for a nice little snack. Even better, Brisbi’s offers $.50 oysters — which means you can combine a lakefront view with a low cost dinner! Win-Win!
22. New Orleans has recently had a revolution of delicious food trucks making their way around the city. Pick one of the delicious mobile eateries that pepper our landscape and settle in for a food truck picnic at at a local park. Here’s a list of all of the trucks in the area. Some favorites include Taceaux Loceaux, St. Clair Pizza, and La Cocinita.
23. If you want to enjoy a little something sweet with your sweetheart, grab a snowball and head to the park or just sit under a tree to relish each bite of that delicious treat and have a great conversation. We have a great list of snowball favorites around New Orleans right here! Funny story, my husband and I went on our second date to Sal’s on Metairie Road and sat on those tree stumps for hours while we chatted over snowballs, so this is always one of my favorite dates.
24. If you (or your husband) is a fan of fast or classic cars, the New Orleans area has a large following of automobile collectors. Free for spectators, there are classic car shows across the metro area almost year round! The spring, summer and fall are the most popular times of year for these shows which feature vintage and classic cars spanning generations. I have seen some pretty amazing cars at these shows! Once I actually got to sit in a 1955 Porsche Spyder- the same kind of car James Dean had! It was one of only 90 produced, and extremely rare. Sometimes you can even see cars that aren’t very common in the United States at these shows! Check out the Custom Cruisers calendar for dates and locations for shows across the metro New Orleans region.
25. Go beer tasting!!! If you want to get few glasses of delicious and beer, head on over to Abita Brewery and go for a tasting one afternoon. Tours and tastings are 100% free and FUN and are offered on the weekends. They always have lots of delicious brews on tap, like my favorite Purple Haze, and if you are the designated driver, you can partake in their delicious root beer instead. Rumor also has it that NOLA Brewing offers free tastings and tours at 2:00 PM on Friday afternoons, so why not take a 1/2 day and meet your sweetheart for a date? Lastly, Covington Brewhouse, who has a delicious Strawberry Ale, offers up free brewery tours on Saturdays at 10:30 and 11:30 AM!
Hopefully, this list gave you and your partner some ideas for date night fun around the city that won’t make you want to cry when you go to pay the babysitter! Laissez les bon temps rouler!