11 Incredible Museums in New Orleans [You Need to SEE to Believe]
September 10th 2021
New Orleans is a vibrant city known for its famed food, drinks, and diverse music scene. You can tour the beautiful Garden District or soak in the scenery of the French Quarter. There’s no doubt that there’s plenty to do when visiting New Orleans. The city is also known for its iconic museums which all have their set of unique offerings.
Deciding on the best museum to visit while in town can come with challenges, especially when there are so many museums in New Orleans. Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of 11 Incredible Museums in New Orleans so that choosing the best museum that suits your interests is simplified.
Table of Contents
- Plantation Country Plantations
- The National World War 2 Museum
- Mardi Gras World
- Steamboat Natchez
- Southern Food & Beverage Museum
- The Backstreet Cultural Museum
- New Orleans African American Museum
- New Orleans Jazz Museum
- The Cabildo
- Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
- The Audubon Nature Center
1. Plantation Country Plantations
With the amount of history in New Orleans, it’s no question that a visit to some of the most iconic plantations is a must. New Orleans is filled with spectacular historic NOLA plantations, and with so many plantations to explore, it can be overwhelming when planning your trip. Check out the list below to find out which plantations you should be visiting.
Houmas House Plantation
40136 LA-942, Darrow, LA 70725
2247 Highway 18, Vacherie, LA 70090
Oak Alley Plantation
3645 Highway 18, Vacherie, LA 70090
The Houmas House Plantation offers beautiful views and has top-rated restaurants located on-site such as Cafe Burnside. You will experience life on a sugar cane plantation in the 1800s. If you would like an overnight plantation experience, check out the plush cottages that are available. The Laura Plantation is 200 years old and was named after its owner Laura Locoul. At one point, the plantation was 12,000 acres. At the Laura Plantation, you will see displays that illustrate how the lives of the enslaved were linked to their owners.
At Oak Alley Plantation, you will get to explore the lives of the slaves who were housed at the plantation. Get an inside look into their living conditions and life after emancipation. You will see the Sugarcane Theatre, the East & West Gardens, and The Blacksmith Shop.
2. The National World War 2 Museum
If you’re a history buff, the National World War 2 Museum is the place for you. The National World War 2 Museum landed in our recent article covering What to do in Downtown New Orleans-10 Best Activities. As one of the top museums in New Orleans, it attracts almost 2 million visitors each year and was designated as America’s official WWII museum by the U.S. Congress. The museum features a remarkable collection of artifacts and mesmerizing exhibits that bring to life the sacrifice and teamwork of men and women who changed the world.
3. Mardi Gras World
Image by mardigrasworld.com
When you’re looking for museums in New Orleans, Mardi Gras World is something you can’t pass up. Mardi Gras World is certainly an incredible museum, perfect for solo travelers, couples, and even families with toddlers visiting the city. See the hub where more than 500 floats are built and designed each year. You will get a firsthand look at what it takes behind the scenes to bring this massive event to life. Beyond the magnificent floats, you will gain a deeper understanding of the real Mardi Gras. If you’re traveling with kids, this tour is a great fit for all ages.
4. Steamboat Natchez
What’s a trip to New Orleans without a river jazz cruise? Steamboat Natchez is like a museum on water and is the last authentic steamboat on the Mississippi River. On this two-hour cruise, you will explore the steam engine room, enjoy craft cocktails, taste delicious Creole cuisine, and of course, hear some of the best traditional live jazz. Steamboat Natchez stays true to tradition in every aspect and when you climb on board, you will feel like you traveled into another era.
5. Southern Food & Beverage Museum
Get an inside look into the origins of Southern food culture with a tour at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. The museum features demonstrations, special exhibits, and provides tastings that highlight the food and drinks of the South. With its comfortable and distinctive space, you’ll feel like you’re in your mother’s kitchen. View exhibits for each of the Southern states such as Galerie d’Absinthe, which is a first-class demonstration kitchen, and the Museum of the American Cocktail.
6. The Backstreet Cultural Museum
Once home to the Blandin Funeral Home, the Backstreet Cultural Museum has the largest collection of Mardi Gras Indian costumes in New Orleans. Each elaborate costume is embedded with thousands of sequins, rhinestones, feathers, and beads, which is no wonder why the cost is $10,000 a piece. Mardi Gras Indians have played an essential part in Mardi Gras history for generations.
At the museum, you will also find a wide variety of video footage and still photos of jazz funerals, second lines, and Mardi Gras Indians. On a guided tour of the Backstreet Cultural Museum, you will discover why processional traditions in New Orleans are so pivotal.
7. New Orleans African American Museum
After being on hiatus for 6 years and going through a multimillion-dollar renovation, the New Orleans African American Museum reopened in 2019. At the core of the exhibits is a vast collection of African costumes, masks, musical instruments, beadwork, and more. Enjoy the tranquil and magnificently landscaped gardens surrounding the villa, which is situated on the site of a former plantation.
8. New Orleans Jazz Museum
New Orleans Jazz Museum features leading interactive exhibits, captivating musical performances, and research facilities. Located at the intersection of the Frenchmen Street Live Music Corridor and the French Quarter, the museum is in the center of a resounding music scene. The performance center of the museum further enhances the museum’s goal to celebrate the history of jazz in all its forms.
9. The Cabildo
Built between 1795 and 1799, the Cabildo is a majestic Spanish colonial building situated next to St. Louis Cathedral and served as the seat of government in the Spanish colonial period. This building’s wayward past is reason enough to check it out. The Cabildo displays the rich and vibrant history of New Orleans which is reflected in a variety of exhibits.
Inside the Cabildo, you will find over 500 artifacts and artwork including the mold for Napoleon’s death mask created by Dr. Francesco Antommarchi, and an 1839 painting by Eugene Louis Lami illustrating the final battle in the War of 1812.
10. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Voted as one of the top five in the country in USA Today and dubbed as one of the 10 Best Aquariums in the U.S by Travel + Leisure, Audubon Aquarium is a museum in New Orleans you need to see. Explore the 13,000-gallon shark and ray touchpool with a gigantic interactive LED screen featuring a variety of rays, sharks, and other fish.
The underwater oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exhibit is where you will see aquatic animals thrive in their underwater universe. As the largest exhibit in the aquarium, it’s filled with sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, and schools of fish.
11. The Audubon Nature Center
The Audubon Nature Center offers a hands-on learning experience that’s great for all ages. Labeled as one of the top 5 urban nature centers in America, the nature center blends interactive fun with first-class environmental education. Situated on 86 acres of hardwood bottomland forest, you can explore the nature trails and take in a true wilderness experience.
At the interpretive Center, you will see a variety of live swamp critters and exciting wildlife exhibits while the Judith W. Freeman Astronomy Center features the biggest planetarium New Orleans has to offer. The Astronomy Center takes guests on an extraordinary journey through the nighttime skies.
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