Tourists visiting New Orleans, Louisiana are likely familiar with locations like the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, but the city has an amazing array of other fascinating attractions that many people don’t realize they can visit. Here are a few places and activities that tend to be not as well known, but offer a truly memorable and in-depth immersion into New Orleans culture.
Mardi Gras World
Not everyone can make it down to New Orleans for the official Mardi Gras celebrations in late winter. The next best thing is a visit to Mardi Gras World, located near the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, on the east bank of the famous Mississippi River.
Take a tour and learn the fascinating history of the colorful Mardi Gras floats, try on one of the ostentatious costumes, and wear a few of the iconic shimmering masks donned during the annual pre-Lenten parade. Large groups can attend team-building and mask-making classes, and there’s even a shuttle available to pick you up for your Mardi Gras World visit.
Step back in time and enjoy the sights of New Orleans from the wooden seat of a vintage St. Charles-line streetcar that’s nearly 100 years old. There are 35 streetcars carrying passengers and tourists on five different lines that have run through town for over 150 years.
See the stately mansions and tree-canopied streets of the city while imagining what it was like to live in New Orleans, when streetcars were the main mode of modern transportation. Be sure to have some pocket change on hand to pay the nominal toll, since the old-fashioned cars still only take exact change.
Historic Voodoo Museum
This tiny museum located in the heart of the French Quarter houses an astounding array of creepy, yet fascinating voodoo artifacts. The practice of voodoo is intertwined with the history and culture of New Orleans, and the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum lets you share in some of the secrets, folklore, and rituals of the practice.
Learn about the Voodoo Queen and pick up some gris-gris (amulets) of your own. Take a walking tour of voodoo sites or ask the museum to arrange for a reading of your future by an authentic voodoo practitioner.
Music Box Village
The Music Box Village in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans is a place that only the artists of New Orleans could build. The village is actually one huge musical instrument mecca, as each house can be played to make melodies and percussive sounds.
This sculptural art installation also hosts world-class concerts and wedding ceremonies, in addition to being a great place to enjoy hands-on activities. You can even bring your leashed dog along to enjoy the tunes you create.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is part of the Audubon Nature Institute, which includes parks, a zoo, a golf course and more. See menacing sharks in their huge tank, and learn about the beautiful and abundant marine life of the world. On weekends, kids can snorkel dive into the aquarium’s Great Maya Reef and swim with the fishies and rays.
The National WWII Museum
You’ll hear a lot about tours, streets, and parks when it comes to New Orleans, but there are great museums to be found as well. The National WWII Museum was founded on D-Day in 2000 and displays vintage aircrafts, documents, uniforms and more.
A trip to New Orleans is not complete until you hear some jazz music in the French Quarter. Numerous venues and street musicians offer excellent jazz sets, but the best place to hear some live jazz is from your seat in Preservation Hall.
The event space offers live music concerts 350 nights a year, with multiple shows per evening. A collective of over 50 traditional jazz musicians provides the iconic brass, keyboard, and drum sounds of New Orleans jazz that make your heart swell and your hips shimmy.
Enjoy a jazz-filled dinner cruise on an authentic steam boat as it cruises the mighty Mississippi. The Grammy-nominated band Dukes of Dixieland provides the tunes for the dinner cruise. Savor traditional Creole food and take a tour of the steam engine room. Day cruises on the Steamboat Natchez are also available, and you can learn all about the passing river sites and their interesting history from your onboard professional guide.
St. Louis Cathedral
One of the most well-known landmarks in the city, St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in all of North America. Public tours are available through the cathedral and convent, and you are free to walk through the cathedral garden afterward.
New Orleans Museum of Art
If you love early 19th-century French paintings, the New Orleans Museum of Art is a must-see. Adjacent to the indoor galleries is the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which includes many famous French and American sculptures.
Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House
Sit down, have a drink and take a trip through history at Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House. This bar has been up and running for over 200 years; it played a central role in the War of 1812, was almost shut down during the Prohibition Era and has served many famous faces throughout the years.
See what remains of one of the city’s most imposing homes. Luling Mansion was once a grand stately home, and its exterior is still a wonderful example of New Orleans’ unique architecture. The building was divided into apartments in the early 20th century and most of these are uninhabited, giving the building an air of disrepair.
Fort Macomb played a pivotal role in many of the country’s most central conflicts. It originally served as a coastal defense point in the War of 1812 and later became a Confederate base during the Civil War. It closed in the late 19th century and you can’t go inside due to extensive damage, but you can still snap some cool pictures of its exterior.
Recently catapulted back into wider notoriety thanks to shows like “American Horror Story” and the “Lore” podcast, Delphine LaLaurie enjoys a dark reputation in New Orleans. She had a reputation for cruelty, and the LaLaurie Mansion is rumored to be haunted.
Carousel Piano Bar & Lounge
The Carousel Piano Bar & Lounge has served some famous guests over the years, including Anne Rice, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and Ernest Hemingway. Take a drink at the revolving bar as you enjoy some excellent live music.