New Orleans summer is here. You know this because your sweat-drenched shirt is sticking to your body, and all you did was walk outside.

Our challenging relationship with the summer months isn’t a new thing. As described in Richard Campanella's book, "Bienville's Dilemma," one observer looked at what was then back-of-town swampland and said, “This boiling fountain of death is one of the most dismal, low, and horrid places, on which the light of the sun ever shone.”

But we New Orleanians are a fun-loving people. We won’t be denied entertainment for a full quarter of the year! So we went on a quest to find some nice, cool fun in and around the Crescent City that won’t break the bank.

When we asked friends for suggestions, one said, “I work longer hours for fun during the summer, because my office has air conditioning.” Another said, “Just give up and go on vacation to Iceland.”

We won’t be defeated so easily, and neither will you. Here are our picks!

Laugh about it

New Orleans’ comedy scene is growing, and that’s not just because the venues are indoors and air-conditioned … but it helps. You can find a diverse set of shows all over the city.

At Sidney's Saloon, 1200 St. Bernard Ave., Benjamin Hoffman and Paul Oswell host free stand-up, with free ice cream, at 8 p.m. Thursdays.  The Hi-Ho Lounge, 2239 St. Claude Ave., hosts the open-mic NOLA Comedy Hour each Sunday at 8 p.m., but follow their Facebook page for a listing of the full mix of shows (comedy and music) going on each week.

"Comedy in the Kennel" at the Ugly Dog Saloon, 401 Andrew Higgins Blvd., features "some of the funniest people New Orleans has to offer," the club boasts. And it's free, at 11:30 p.m. on Tuesdays.

Twelve Mile Limit in Mid-City has their Bear w/ Me Comedy show every Monday night at 9 p.m., and it’s preceded by a free dinner at both 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. A recent meal included honey mustard garlic chicken and ginger rice, as well as jalapeno-pesto spaghetti. So … go there.

For a one-stop calendar of all the stand-up, sketch and improv shows happening around the city, check out the listings in this section or visit 504comedy.com.

Cool museums

Want proof God loves us? Art can be damaged by extreme temperature. That means museums have to be temperature-controlled! Combine that with the fact that museums often offer free or discounted entry once each week, and now we’re in business.

The New Orleans Museum of Art, for example, offers Louisiana residents free entry every Wednesday (bring your drivers license or a piece of mail proving you live here). The Ogden Museum of Southern Art does the same on Thursdays, and The Contemporary Arts Center follows suit on Sundays and offers free entry to children until grade 12 any day of the week.

The Historic New Orleans Collection offers free access to its many art and history-oriented exhibitions at both its Royal and Chartres streets campuses.

And the Audubon Nature Institute offers free admission — plus four guest passes — to a different Audubon attraction each Wednesday to anyone with a valid government-issued photo ID proving they live in New Orleans. Check the Institute’s Community Connect page to see whether it’s the Aquarium, Butterfly Garden, Insectarium, Planetarium or Zoo offering free admission that week.

Take a skate

Did you know you can ice skate in Louisiana all year long? The Esplanade Mall in Kenner is home to Penguin Ice Skating — the area’s only year-round synthetic ice rink.

It looks like ice, it feels like ice, and it’s inside a mall — which also happens to be kept famously frigid. Admission and skate rental is just $15 on the weekends (10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday), but the price drops to $10 from noon until 9 p.m. each weekday!

Perhaps you’d like to roller skate instead? Head over to Airline Skate Center and get on the floor for as low as $5 per person on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., or on Thursday nights from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sunday nights from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets are only $10 at other times (later in the evening is more adult-focused and often involves a DJ), so it’s still an affordable activity.

Catch a film

Not only is it air-conditioned inside a movie theater, but it’s one of the few places where moving around is generally frowned upon. So sit tight and catch a flick at one of New Orleans’ super-cool theaters.

The four-screen Broad Theater offers tickets for $8 before 5:30 p.m. The legendary Prytania Theatre has matinee pricing at $6. Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center shows three or four movies daily, and anything before 5 p.m. is $6 ($5 for children).

Heck, sometimes you don’t even have to go to a movie theater! Broad Street Cidery holds free screenings of cult classics and mockumentaries nearly every week. They’re usually on Wednesdays at 8 p.m., but check their Facebook page for exact times.

Come sail away

For years, between March and November, New Orleans' sailing community has met every Wednesday night on Lake Pontchartrain for a race that involves at least 30 competing boats.

Don’t have a sailboat? Well, you have two options. You can sit on the lake’s levee and watch the vessels race out and return. Or, you can leave your comfort zone and join a crew. No experience is required, and anyone interested in crewing — or racing their own boat — can fill out a short information form on the “Wednesday Night Racing” portion of the New Orleans Yacht Club website.

Whether you’re watching or racing, boat call takes place from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m., and the race usually finishes at about 8:30 p.m. Afterward, sailors and observers head to the New Orleans Yacht Club bar for beers, burgers, music and conversation. There’s no other experience like it in the city.

Shut up and dance

Dancing can be hard work, but you never said you wanted to stop exercising. You just didn’t want to be outside while you’re doing it.

The city is full of temperature-controlled studios offering dance and fitness. The Bywater nonprofit Dancing Grounds, 3705 St. Claude Ave., offers classes in hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, Latin, ballroom, tap, ballet, yoga, bounce and more. You can sign up for a month’s worth of unlimited classes for only $33. 

Check the Dancing Grounds website for a list of their upcoming classes, or head to The New Orleans Dance Network’s page for a daily calendar of more of what’s being offered at studios around the city.


FOLLOW MATT HAINES AT MATTHAINESWRITES.COM.