When you’re a college student with 50 dollars in your bank account, it may be difficult to experience everything New Orleans has to offer.
In a city where there is a festival every three days and a vibrant culture that celebrates music, art and food, there is never a shortage of fun things that aren’t too expensive to enjoy.
This is where the Facebook group “Free Stuff To Do in New Orleans” can provide help.
Its purpose, as explained on the page, is to provide “An open group to help keep tabs on all the cool, free stuff going on around town.” Any one of the more than 25,000 members can post on the condition the event is free and might interest people.
Greg Cartwright founded the group in 2014 to alert close friends about free events in the area. Mutual friends continued to add other people until it went from a small page for friends to a citywide network of people promoting and searching for free events.
Together, group administrators Greg Cartwright, Margie Cartwright and Kira Chung work together to keep the group running efficiently. They vet new members to check that they’re not spam bots, make sure people don’t over-post and ensure that events are actually free.
The events can range from Botanical Garden visits to “Erotic Open Mic Nights” at the Candy Shop. The diverse assortment of activities draws in people at various stages of life, be they parents or senior citizens. The group helps showcase the city’s culture without breaking people’s budgets.
“The whole point of the group was you could entertain yourself for free in this city, you could find something to do that’s fairly inexpensive so you’re not just sitting at home,” Chung said.
The organization is constantly growing and changing. There are the usual influxes of holiday-related posts during Halloween and Christmas but also trends that vary over time.
“I think what changes is the type of events being offered, depending on what is popular during that time,” Chung said. “I’ve noticed in the last year [that] there are way more yoga events … About a year ago, free Pilates classes weren’t a thing. Now, the New Orleans Rec Department offers them.”
The fact that everything is free is an exceptionally attractive aspect for college kids. Sophomore Nicole Roca finds the group helpful for planning activities and excursions.
“Ever since I came to Tulane I wanted to explore New Orleans,” Roca said. “I saw this group as a suggested group on Facebook. The name ‘Free Stuff to Do in New Orleans’ sounded like the perfect group for someone living on a college budget but who wants to explore this unique city.”
Other students use the group to find out about events off campus. Sophomore Alyssa Clune has been in the group since her freshman year and peruses the Facebook page for these opportunities.
“I joined it because I wanted to get off campus more and explore the city beyond what an average Tulane student normally sees or goes to,” Clune said.
A less obvious purpose of the group is to help connect people. Those looking for a way to get into a specific activity can look for postings about it.
“People would ask, ‘I want to find out where the open mics are, I want to find out where the comedy is,'” Chung said. “And so it was their way to expand their group and also find more comedians for stuff …”
With 50-100 new members added everyday, the group is growing rapidly. In the past week alone there have been posts advertising candle-making, music shows, rock-climbing and costume contests. For anyone looking to experience a taste of New Orleans without breaking the bank, this group can provide just that.