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Best Local Things to Do

Make It, Spend It, Save It: Things to Do for Every Budget

This itinerary is so money.

Vintage coins at the Old U.S. Mint. (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

Commerce is a central part of all major cities, and it’s as integral to New Orleans as it is to New York, San Francisco, or Chicago. Being a port city, New Orleans was indelibly shaped by both domestic and international financial networks; the movement of money is interwoven within the city’s fabric. Here are some of the ways to see and explore finance in New Orleans’ past and present.

The Old U.S. Mint (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)
The Old U.S. Mint (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

where MUCH money Was made

The Old U.S. Mint, located in the French Quarter, is a physical testament to the place of commerce in New Orleans’ history. Constructed in 1835, acclaimed architect William Strickland designed the Mint in the Greek Revival style (a particularly popular aesthetic approach at the time). By 1838, minting had begun, and President Andrew Jackson was able to use this to finance western expansion in North America.

As the only building in America to function as a mint for both the Confederate and the United States’ governments, the Mint is a reminder of New Orleans’ complex history. Today, the Mint is connected to the larger Louisiana State Museum system, and is home to not only art but the New Orleans Jazz Museum and the fabulous Music at the Mint events.

Just a few of the marvelous antiques at M.S. Rau. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)
Just a few of the marvelous antiques at M.S. Rau. (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

Where much money is spent

While the exchange of cash for delicious cocktails and food is a constant presence in New Orleans, there are other ways to spend your money—and, if you decide to do so, a lot of it. M.S. Rau Antiques has been providing exquisite objets d’art and antiques to French Quarter shoppers for 105 years, and they have an mind-blowing collection. From an extremely rare, eight-foot-tall Ice Age bear skeleton to paintings by the European masters (including a Van Gogh and three Monets) to the rarest colored diamonds—M.S. Rau has an incredible range of items. And, unlike a museum, which is really the feel of M.S. Rau, everything is for sale.

Now, if you’ve got the budget for it, you could indulge your inner child and purchase a dinosaur skeleton (I’m not making this up) or you could indulge your most decadent side by purchasing a Czarist Russian vodka and punch service set.

But M.S. Rau is not the only spot in New Orleans to engage in some lavish spending—there is a range of art galleries dotted around the French Quarter as well as fantastic galleries spread out over the city. If you’re going to indulge in a luxury item, why not do it here?

sneaky pickle
A vegan dish from Sneaky Pickle, a BYOB restaurant. (Photo: Rebecca Ratliff)

WHERE Much money is saved

It has been written about and said so many times that to broach the topic is to enter the realm of cliche: Yes, New Orleans is one of the great cities in which to imbibe alcohol. This city’s unique laws regarding alcohol allow one to save money, whether you are visiting for a weekend or live here. Spend money on the walking tour and save money by bringing a beer or glass of wine on the way (you are allowed to drink in public all over New Orleans, but make sure to use a plastic cup); hit up the plentiful and bountiful happy hours that are available from down in the Marigny to the Riverbend.

But this isn’t the only way to save money on drinks in New Orleans. There’s a fantastic range of restaurants in New Orleans that offer BYOB, where you can bring beer or wine of your choice to complement your meal. My personal favorite is Lebanon’s Cafe, whose stuffed grape leaves and lamb shish kabob pair well with a lighter red wine, and Pho Cam Ly, a Vietnamese restaurant with a tasty Bún Gà Nướng Xả (vermicelli with grilled lemon grass chicken) is enhanced by a glass of sauvignon blanc. But there are plenty of other BYOB options—and the subsequent savings on beer and wine—throughout New Orleans.

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