Cheap Date Nights - Fun on $50 in New Orleans

The first time we were close to New Orleans we drove past it. We blamed the weather. We blamed the season - it was just before Mardis Gras.

The real reason we drove past it is that it scared us.

But we love New Orleans music. And we wanted to try the food. So we returned and got over our fear of the city. We figured it out. We explored. We enjoyed.

We want to give you our formula for a $50 New Orleans overnight stay including a date-night out on the town. We’ll make it easy with tips for parking and finding live music where you’ll feel safe.

Where to Stay

Our favorite place to stay is Bayou Segnette State Park.

The park is in Westwego, LA. It’s just across the Mississippi River from New Orleans proper. The campsites are large and paved. RV hookups include water and electric and there is a dump station.

The park offers wifi (unusual for a State Park). It worked for us on one visit, but most recently wasn’t usable. Our Verizon-based 4G aircard worked reasonably well.

Bayou Segnette offers free laundry. This is a definite way to lower the cost of your New Orleans visit. Traveling families take note!

Cost: $20/night

The state park gets you into the area. Now about that night out.

If you have a choice between “going-out shoes” and “comfy shoes” choose the latter. No one will will notice your feet and after a couple hours of walking, standing, and dancing along your feet will appreciate comfort more.

State Park Gate Code

The entrance to the state park is different after 9PM. Make sure you have the after-hours entrance location and gate code before heading out for the night.

Now let’s go!

Where to Park?

Finding parking in New Orleans can be stressful. Our parking requirements are:

  • Room (length-wise) for a fullsize truck
  • Clearance for a truck with a bike rack on top
  • Secure
  • Well-lit
  • Within walking distance of what we wanted to see
  • Away from Bourbon Street

We lucked into a little parking lot our first visit that met those requirements. We have continued to use it ever since. 

Here’s an address you can use in your GPS:
2124 Decatur St
New Orleans, LA 70116

Here’s a map to it:

We’ve been downtown New Orleans on holidays, weekends, and weekdays and there has always been room in this lot.

The best driving route we’ve found is to turn right heading out of the campground and take 90 around, over the bridge to I-10 (usually the “bottom route” in this Google Map). This route avoids taking you through the crazy French Market area - but if there are large events going on downtown or at the stadium there can be a lot of traffic getting over the bridge. We’ve found no good way to avoid that:

Parking Lot Entrance

Here’s what the entrance to the lot on Decatur looks like:

Parking Lot Entrance

Decatur Street Parking Lot Entrance

The payment at this lot is automated - just note your space number and find the kiosk near the entrance. You can pay via credit card. If you choose a shorter stay there is an option to get texted before your time expires. You can add time via text message as well.

Payment options

New Orleans Parking Costs and Options

Cost: $8 for 3hrs

You’re now downtown New Orleans, have your vehicle squared away and are ready for some fun. Our top pick for fun in New Orleans is music. We’re fans of traditional big-band jazz and blues especially.

Music on Frenchmen Street

The great thing about this parking lot is that it puts you just a short walk from a great place to find live New Orleans music: Frenchmen Street.

Frenchmen Street has a large concentration of music clubs, restaurants, street artists and art booths but doesn’t have the neon, drunken tawdriness of Bourbon Street.

To get to Frenchmen Street walk out of the parking lot and turn left. The next street is Frenchmen Street. Turn right and follow your ears.

If you are the “prepare in advance” type you can consult for the list of Frenchmen Street venues and bands.

Our advice?

Just go and keep your ears open to the sounds and your eyes open to the sights of New Orleans.

If you hear a band laying down a groove you like then Bob’s Your Uncle! Push through the crowd and head in.

Some of the acts will have a $5 - $10 cover charge. You’ll find clubs with a 1-drink minimum to listen (figure ~ $15 for two drinks). We also found places to enjoy the music without feeling compelled to buy a drink.

The clubs can be busy. Prepare to stand a lot. But that’s good - you’ll want to bop along to the music anyway! 

Cost: $18 (two drinks & tip)

Getting Home

The route home is almost the reverse of the route in. The only trick is getting back to Elysian Fields Avenue. The parking lot entrance is a on a one-way street.

Here’s your little “three lefts make a right” route to get out:

Getting out of New Orleans

The angled intersection might be a bit crazy with people.

The $50 New Orleans Date Night

$20 - Camping
$18 - drinks/tip
$8 - Parking
$46 Total

Plus free laundry -  whadda deal!

The Treme Brass Band played the d.b.a. club for $10 cover.

The Treme Brass Band played the d.b.a. club for $10 cover.

Tuba Skinny played the d.b.a. club for a one-drink cover charge.

Tuba Skinny played the d.b.a. club for a one-drink cover charge.

Other Sights?

Of course there’s more to New Orleans than Frenchmen Street music. Cafe Dumond (Beignets!), the St. Louis Cathedral & the French Quarter are all within walking distance of this parking lot.

Louis Armstrong Park/Congo Square and the historic cemeteries are a bit further away but still doable if you don’t mind a good walk.

Is It Family Friendly?

This is still New Orleans. You will see a great variety of people and lifestyles. Open carry of alcohol is legal.

What we like about the Frenchman Street area is the lack of strip clubs and balcony partying. We would feel comfortable bringing kids here.

Early Sunday evening is a good time as places like Bamboulas allow families and serve food with their live music.

There You Have It

There’s our formula for a $50 New Orleans experience. What have you done there? Have you found other ways to visit New Orleans without spending a ton of cash?

10 Comments Cheap Date Nights - Fun on $50 in New Orleans

  1. Picture of Mark Rodriguez Mark Rodriguez April 01, 2015

    Great post!  I want to head to New Orleans myself for a nice long weekend with the travel trailer.

  2. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink April 01, 2015

    Thanks Mark!

    If you go we’d be curious to hear what you find / hear / eat / do!

  3. Picture of Heather Gebbia Heather Gebbia April 01, 2015

    Oh my goodness, I could have used this info last week. We drove our dually truck into New Orleans last Saturday. Couldn’t find any place to park and it was so crowded. Also didn’t look very kid friendly, but if course we didn’t know what to look for or where to go. We ended up just driving right out of there and went back to the campground. I’ll have to keep this post in mind for next time we’re in the area. :-)

  4. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink April 01, 2015

    @Heather - oh no! What a bummer!

    Some of the spots in this parking lot would be tight for a dually - if you go there look spots against the building diagonally across from where you enter.  We saw some bigger trucks and vans in those spots.

  5. Picture of Jos Callinet Jos Callinet April 09, 2015

    Michael, the next time you and your family visit New Orleans, take a walk down Royal Street and explore some of the neat shops there. There are some amazing antiques shops which have been there since the late 19th Century, and they have remarkable antique furniture and other objects. I know you’re not likely to buy any of it but it’s worth seeing the beautiful French and British - as well as American antiques from a time when craftsmanship was truly outstanding.  Another great fun thing to do is go down to Canal Street at the corner of Carondelet and take a ride on the 1924-vintage streetcars which go out through the Garden District along Saint Charles Avenue. Riding the St. Charles streetcar is truly to experience New Orleans as it was in the 1920s. There are red-and-cream streetcars also on Canal Street, but the ones you want to ride are the dark olive-green ones with the deep red doors and windows which run exclusively on St. Charles Avenue. Well worth your time. These streetcars are NOT airconditioned like the modern replicas on Canal Street, and you get to see New Orleans through the tall open windows of the 1920s cars.
    These are just two of many things you can do. Another is take a walk along Magazine Street - another great taste of Old New Orleans - lots to see. The Garden District is likewise a very walkable area of the city, with many elegant old homes.

  6. Picture of Boyink Boyink April 09, 2015

    Thanks Jos! We like the music so much it might be hard to do anything else but wel’ll keep your list for next time we are there.

  7. Picture of Jos Callinet Jos Callinet April 09, 2015

    You’re welcome, Mike!  I want to add that these sights I’ve recommended are about as far as one can get from the dull suburbia which you have done such a superb job of escaping.  Also, interesting how you remembered the sound of the name of the grand old coffee and beignets place in the Quarter - you spelled it phonetically right. Its actual spelling is “Café du Monde” - which literally translated from the French is “coffee of the world”! The Café du Monde is one of my favorite places, and has been a New Orleans institution for well over one hundred years.

    Speaking to your love of music, and New Orleans music in particular, you MUST set aside time to go to Preservation Hall, which is located on St. Peter Street in the French Quarter ( ). There you get to hear traditional New Orleans Jazz played by old-time New Orleans jazz musicians in the true style of the era.  Their concerts are in the evenings, so you may want to arrange to spend a night in New Orleans so you don’t have to return to a campground that night.

  8. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink April 09, 2015

    We went to Preservation Hall last year..;)

    We were glad to see they had a mix of young ‘uns playing along with the old timers. We don’t want to see the classic Jazz sound disappear.

    No problems getting back to the campground afterwards. One of the biggest things we love about RV travel is getting to sleep in our own beds yet visit new places all the time.

  9. Picture of Mark Mark April 18, 2015

    Really great post for people interested in visiting New Orleans.  Both the state park you mention and the parking lot are great finds!  I agree with all of Jos’ suggestions as well. 

    The St. Charles streetcar is a great way to see the architecture of the city, and offers lots of fun hopping off points for a drink (I like the Columns Hotel, or Cooter Brown’s), a walk in Audubon Park, or a lunch break. 

    French Quarter Festival is the free cousin to Jazz Fest, and is held a couple weeks earlier.  Both are terrific, but FQ Fest focuses more on local artists with much of the same great food offerings as Jazz Fest, and of course, a FQ location.

    There are terrific places to take in live music throughout the city.  Two of my favorites for small artists, particularly singer songwriters, are Chickie Wah Wah and Carrollton Station.

    Mardi Gras is also far more family friendly than the news would have you believe.  Outside of the French Quarter, what you are most likely to find along the parade routes are families enjoying themselves.

    Lots of inexpensive and tasty food opportunities.  Some of my favorites include a sno-ball (and no, it is not the same as a snow cone!), a po-boy, beignets, and pralines. 

    Michael - thanks for sharing and providing the opportunity to offer a few additional ideas for visitors to New Orleans!

  10. Picture of Michael Boyink Michael Boyink April 19, 2015

    Thanks Mark!

    We heard the Chickie Wah Wah club mentioned on the WWOZ rundown of live music but never seemed to wander past it.

    We also saw a Sno-ball stand across on the North Shore and wondered what was up with that…we’ll have to try one next time we’re there.

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