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NOLA on $30: Summer Edition

Food, drinks, and entertainment all while keeping cool – and staying on budget.

Hansens snowball
A Creambow snowball from Hansen's Sno-Bliz (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Sometimes, staying inside on a summer day is exactly what you need to relax and recharge. But between indoor shopping, museums, movies theaters, and water activities like Cool Zoo, staying cool and staying on budget can have an inverse relationship. I decided to see if I could plan a full day of refreshing activities for just $30.

What I Did

Surrey's Cafe and Juice Bar
Surrey’s Cafe and Juice Bar. (Photo: Ann Marshall Tilton)

This was a typical lazy summer day, so I got out of bed around 10:30 a.m. to head to Hey! Cafe, one of my favorite Uptown coffee shops. I opted for a small iced tea, which got me caffeinated and cooled off for $2.75. I also love that Hey! Cafe offers “pasta straws,” as an alternative to plastic straws, since I’m trying to be conscious of my carbon footprint. One of my favorite things about summer days in New Orleans is that the whole city seems to slow down. So I decided to relax for a bit and read my book.  (Note: If you order coffee at Hey! Cafe, you get a refill for $1.) Running Total: $2.75 ($27.25 remaining) 

Afterwards, I walked a few blocks further Uptown for a late breakfast at Surrey’s Cafe and Juice Bar. I ordered the “Surrey’s Egg Plate,” opting for hash browns and a biscuit to go with my scrambled eggs. The plate ran me $7.00. I could have added bacon, sausage, or ham to my order for $2.50 extra, but I chose to go meatless to shave a little off my bill. The total came to $8.00 after tip. Running Total: $10.75 ($19.25 remaining)

“One of my favorite things about summer days in New Orleans is that the whole city seems to slow down.

After Surrey’s, I hopped on the Magazine Street bus and headed further Uptown toward Audubon Park for a dip in the Whitney Young Pool, a free public swimming pool made possible by the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission. Though the streetcar is historic and a definite must-do, it can get a little toasty during the summer. I love the air-conditioned buses when I’m trying to stay cool. I bought a $3 Jazzy Pass so that I could ride the bus several times that day. Running Total: $13.75 ($16.25 remaining)

Whitney Young Pool at Audubon Park
Whitney Young Pool at Audubon Park. (Photo: Ann Marshall Tilton)

When I got to the pool, I put on my suit in the changing room and hopped right in! The mid-day dip felt so refreshing, and I was even able to stay out of the water long enough to read my book (Note: The pool is open seven days a week from June 2 to September 2. When school is back in session in New Orleans, the Whitney Young Pool is open only on Saturdays and Sundays).

Hansens snowball
A Creambow snowball from Hansen’s Sno-Bliz. (Photo: Paul Broussard)

After drying off and changing, I hopped back on the Magazine Street bus, got off again at Bordeaux Street, and walked a few blocks to Hansen’s Sno-Bliz. I opted for a cool, classic strawberry snowball, which ran me $1.50Running Total: $15.25 ($14.75 remaining)

I got back on the bus and took it down to Jackson Avenue. I was meeting some friends for happy hour at 5, but I decided to stop in the Lower Garden District along Magazine Street for some window shopping. I knew my budget wouldn’t allow me to buy anything, but I still stopped by some of my favorite area stores for a look, including Grandmother’s Buttons, Century Girl, and Trashy Diva (Note: all three had powerful AC!).

Grandmother's Buttons
Grandmother’s Buttons on Magazine Street. (Photo: Ann Marshall Tilton)

After “shopping,” I got back on the bus and headed to Emeril’s Delmonico for happy hour which lasts from 5 to 7 p.m. daily and offers $5 small plates and half-priced well cocktails and wine. My friends and I split the total three ways, and mine came to $12.25 with tip. Running Total: $27.50 ($2.50 remaining)

Happy Hour at Emeril's Delmonico
Happy hour at Emeril’s Delmonico. (Photo: Ann Marshall Tilton)

We left Delmonico around 6:30 p.m. and walked to Circle Bar to catch the tail end of their daily happy hour, which also lasts until 7 p.m. I ordered a draft beer, which was $3 during happy hour, and ended the night with with some great music and company. Most nights, Circle Bar features free live music from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. (Note: Circle Bar also features daily live music shows that start at 10 p.m. The price to stay on for the evening show is usually just $5). Running Total: $30.50 (-$0.50 remaining)

What I Learned

When money is no object, beating the NOLA heat is a no-brainer, but I proved that it can be done on a mere $30 (and some spare change). The key is to look for happy hour specials and keep your eyes peeled for free activities and festivals. While I could have saved money by walking to some of my destinations, paying $3 for a Jazzy Pass and taking the bus helped me stay cool and collected.

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