New Orleans has much more to offer visitors besides the French Quarter, which is an area of town that most locals choose to avoid. The city is full of museums, history, old homes, old bars, music clubs, and cemeteries.

Here’s a few our favorites things to do in New Orleans:

1. National World War II Museum

National WWII Museum

The National World War II Museum encompasses the whole of World War II and is very well done. There are several permanent galleries, including the Home Front, Planning for D-Day, The D-Day Beaches, and Pacific D-Days. The Louisiana Memorial Pavilion includes an observation deck for viewing the aircraft hanging from the ceiling, which include a Supermarine Spitfire, Messerschmitt Bf 109, Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber, B17, and a Douglas C-47 Skytrain. There’s also a Sherman Tank and a Higgins Landing Craft on display. History buffs and veterans may want to plan to spend a whole day here; others should plan on about 3 hours. Of particular note is the 4-D Beyond All Boundaries movie that is narrated by Tom Hanks – read more here (Photo by ctj71081)

2. Audubon Zoo

Audubon Zoo

Audubon Zoo is often cited as one of the best and most historic zoos in the United States. The zoo is part of Audubon Park and has over 2,000 animals on 58 scenic acres, and both the zoo and park are named in after famed artist and naturalist John James Audubon, who was a resident of New Orleans. Rare animals housed on the premises include a white tiger and some albino alligators. Popular animals include whooping cranes, Amur leopards and orangutans. Many of the structures at the Audubon trace their origins back to the early 20th century. A few of the original structures still remain, including the sea lion pool, a flight cage, and some of the buildings used to house reptiles. Monkey Hill was built by the WPA during the Great Depression to show kids in New Orleans what a real hill looks like – read more here (Photo by Mark Gstohl)

3. Three Muses

Three Muses

Three Muses is one of a bevy of music clubs and bars on New Orleans’ Frenchmen Street. What makes Three Muses special is that they manage to combine 3 of New Orleans’ passions – music, drink and food – in one small place, and they succeed all around. There’s great jazz, crafted cocktails, and excellent food. Three Muses is closed on Tuesdays, and they do not take reservations. See their web site for a schedule of shows – read more here (Photo by shu)

4. Jackson Square

Jackson Square

Jackson Square is the central public square of New Orleans, and no trip to the city would be complete without a visit. The Saint Louis Cathedral stands tall on one end of the block, and the Mississippi River flows seaward on the other end. The Cafe du Monde attracts both visitors and locals to the eastern corner. Scattered throughout is a lively mix of artists, street musicians, and street vendors. The Square was named for Andrew Jackson in honor of his victory in the Battle of New Orleans. The Square officially opened in 1815, and many of the original wrought iron fences and benches remain. It’s design is based on the famous 17th-century Place des Vosges in Paris, France, and the Square was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960 – read more here (Photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans)

5. Garden District

Garden District

The Garden District is a historic neighborhood full of mansions located southwest of New Orleans Central Business District. The boundaries are St. Charles to the north, Magazine Street to the south, Jackson Avenue on the east, and Toledano Street on the west. The District was originally developed between 1832 and 1900, which was a prosperous time in New Orleans. Most blocks have a couple of early 19th-century mansions, which originally had large “garden” lots, surrounded by slightly smaller “gingerbread” Victorian houses that were added later as the larger estates were subdivided. The historic mansions are well-maintained, and the sidewalks are shaded by huge live oaks and are wonderful for walking. From the French Quarter, it’s takes less than 15 minutes to get there on the St. Charles Streetcar. There’s great shopping along Magazine Street on the southern edge of the neighborhood. Notable residents include Sandra Bullock, Nicolas Cage, John Goodman, Drew Brees, and Anne Rice – read more here (Photo by Marit and Toomas Hinnosaar)

6. Arnaud’s French 75

Arnaud's French 75

Arnaud’s French 75 has been named €œOne of the 5 Best Bars in America€ by Esquire. It is located right next to Arnaud’s restaurant in the French Quarter. This is the place to order a Sazerac. Bartender Chris Hannah is considered to be one of the best bartenders in the country and has a reputation for reintroducing classic cocktails as well as inventing new drinks. The bar is smoky and woody; classy and timeless. It is adjacent to the main dining room of the restaurant and was originally a “gentlemen only” bar. Upon the sale of the restaurant from original owner Arnaud Cazenave to the Casbarian family in 1978, the bar was opened to women. It was renovated in 2003 and rechristened as Arnaud’s French 75 with an emphasis on cigars and classic cocktails. Both the restaurant and bar were damaged during Hurricane Katrina, but they reopened a scant 3 months later – read more here (Photo by Marilyn Cloe)

7. Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Ogden Museum of Southern Art opened in 2003 in the historic Warehouse Arts District and is home to the largest and most comprehensive collection of Southern art in the world. The Ogden showcases and celebrates the art, history and culture of the American South with a vast collection of paintings, watercolors, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, wood and craft. The original collection of 1,200 works was donated from the private collection of New Orleans businessman and philanthropist Roger H. Ogden. It has since expanded to over 4,000 works from across the southern states and dating from 1733 to present. Artists represented in the museum’s collection include John Alexander, Walter Anderson, Benny Andrews, Clementine Hunter, George Rodrigue, William Dunlap, Ida Kohlmeyer, Will Henry Stevens, Kendall Shaw, Hunt Slonem, and George Ohr – read more here (Photo by Jeffrey Schwartz)

8. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 opened in 1789 and is the oldest existing cemetery in New Orleans and is located one block from the French Quarter on the north side of Basin Street next to the Iberville housing project. All of the graves are above ground, which actually just as much to do with French and Spanish burials tradition than with New Orleans’ water table problems, and many people buried at the cemetery were victims of the Fire of 1788, Yellow Fever, or a flood that took place just after the cemetery was built. The cemetery was also featured in the movie Easy Rider, and it is the reputed final resting place of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, but it is not known if she is actually buried in her tomb. It is also the future final resting place of actor Nicholas Cage, who bought a giant pyramid tomb there. Tours of the cemetery are given by knowledgeable guides – read more here (Photo by Kathy Drasky)

9. French Quarter and Bourbon Street

French Quarter

The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, and it is also possibly the epicenter of fun and/or debauchery in the whole world. Tourists love it, and locals seek their fun elsewhere. Nevertheless, a trip to New Orleans would not really be complete without a visit. It’s all about fun and being happy and whatever it takes to feel that way. The place is loud, noisy, dirty and chaotic, but a must-see destination. The main thoroughfare of the French Quarter is Bourbon Street. Bars and restaurants line the street, and drinks and souvenirs are for sale everywhere. Popular spots along Bourbon Street include Acme Oyster House, Pat O-Brien’s, Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, and Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Besides Bourbon Street, the French Quarter is ripe for wandering around and exploring, especially during the day. The historic building and architecture are beautiful, and there’s shops, galleries, and restaurants around every corner – read more here (Photo by Michael Bentley)

10. Saint Louis Cathedral

Saint Louis Cathedral

Saint Louis Cathedral overlooks Jackson Square in the French Quarter and is the oldest continuously active cathedral in the United States. Every quarter hour, the bells of the church ring in response to the sound of street musicians playing in the plaza in front of the church. The original building was just a small wooden chapel in the center of town that was destroyed in the Great New Orleans Fire in 1788. A move to rebuilt it ensued, and the church reopened in 1794. A central tower with a clock and bell were added in 1819. Pope John Paul II visited in September of 1987, and the plaza in front of the church is named in his honor. The church contains the remains of eight New Orleans bishops. Visiting the Cathedral is free, and it features breathtaking architecture outside and stunning ceiling murals inside. Self-guided tours are the norm, but guided tours are available. There is a small gift shop – read more here (Photo by Prayitno/more than 2)

11. New Orleans Museum of Art

New Orleans Museum of Art

New Orleans Museum of Art is located in City Park and was established in 1911. NOMA contains over 40,000 works of art from the Italian Renaissance to the modern era and is considered to be one of the preeminent art museums in the South. The beautiful, Beaux Arts-style building was finaniced by a $150,000 gift from wealthy sugar broker Isaac Delgado, who wanted to build a “temple of art for rich and poor alike” in New Orleans’ City Park. Unfortunately, Delgado was too ill to attend the opening of the museum. However, when he died weeks later, he willed his aunt’s extensive art collection to the newly christened Isaac Delgado Museum of Art. Expansions were added to the building in both 1970 and 1993. Artists represented include Degas, Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, Pissarro, Rodin, Gauguin, Miró, Jackson Pollock, Mary Cassatt, and Georgia O’Keeffe. The New Orleans Museum of Art also houses a significant collection of Fabergé eggs. Behind the main building, the 5-acre Besthoff Sculpture Garden features fifty modern sculptures set among beautiful old trees. Dining is available at Café NOMA by Ralph Brennan – read more here (Photo by Frank Kovalchek)

12. City Park

City Park

City Park is a clean, beautiful, and very large urban park full of huge live oaks full of Spanish moss located due north of the French Quarter near Lake Ponchartrain. The various trails and walkways are great for a walk, bike, jog, and families will enjoy the playgrounds and bike and boat rentals. The 1,300 acre park opened in 1854, which makes it one of the oldest urban parks in the country. Much of the infrastructure of the park was constructed by the WPA during the Great Depression. City Park boasts the world€™s largest stand of mature live oaks, including one that dates back nearly 800 years. City Park lost over 1,000 trees and suffered significant damage from Hurricane Katrina, but the restorations have been extensive. Popular features of the park include the New Orleans Botanical Garden, Storyland, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, and the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park – read more here (Photo by Britt Reints)

13. St. Charles Streetcar

St. Charles Streetcar

The St. Charles Streetcar line is the oldest continuously operating streetcar system in the world. Along with the rest of the New Orleans streetcars, it dates back to the early 1800’s, but it is the only one that did not temporarily get replaced by bus service in the mid-20th century. Riding on the St. Charles Streetcar line is distinctly New Orleans. It’s charming, nostalgic, dirt cheap, and it’s not very fast. Visitors can catch it at the edge of the French Quarter and ride it down beautiful St. Charles Avenue past the beautiful homes and ancient live oaks of the Garden District. Other streetcar lines in New Orleans are the Canal Street Line, Riverfront Line, and the Loyola/UPT Line. The famous Po’Boy sandwiches were invented during a strike by the New Orleans transit workers in 1929 when supporters made the sandwiches to give to the “poor boys on strike” – read more here (Photo by hrvargas)

14. Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas brings over 15,000 sea creatures from nearly 600 species to a state-of-the-art facility in the city where the mighty Mississippi empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The aquarium was built in 1990 and is run by the Audubon Institute. It is considered to be one of the foremost aquariums in the world. It features an IMAX theatre, a viewing tunnel, shark and stingray touchpools, jellyfish and seahorse galleries, and playful sea otters and penguins. Some of the most popular exhibits include the Penguin Exhibit, Geaux Fish!, the Gulf of Mexico Exhibit, the Amazon Rain Forest, and the Mississippi River Gallery, which features a white alligator – read more here (Photo by Kelly McCarthy)

15. The Spotted Cat Music Club

Spotted Cat Music Club

The Spotted Cat Music Club offers some of the best and most authentic jazz in New Orleans. It is located in the Frenchman Street Corridor in the Marigny District just east of the French Quarter. The club is not too touristy, and the people are fun and friendly. In many ways, The Spotted Cat is just what you imagine New Orleans to be. There is never a cover charge, and there’s live music every night – usually two or three acts. The Spotted Cat is cash only, and smoking is allowed. Be sure to visit the ladies room to check out the piano – read more here (Photo by Michael Bentley)

16. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1

Lafayette Cemetery No.1

Lafayette Cemetery No.1 is located across the street from Commander’s Palace and a few blocks from Magazine Street in New Orleans’ Garden District. The famous cemetery is known for its ornate above-ground mausoleums and huge live oak trees that both provide shade and uproot the sidewalks and monuments. The cemetery was founded in 1833 and is the oldest of New Orleans’ city-owned cemeteries. Unlike St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which was Roman Catholic, Lafayette is non-denominational and non-segregated. It was listed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1972. Despite its historical significance, the cemetery has fallen into a bit of disrepair in recent decade. Efforts have and are still being made to improve the conditions of Lafayette Cemetery. Tours of Lafayette No. 1 are offered and give visitors a good chance to learn the rich history of the place. Don’t go after dark – things can get sketchy – read more here (Photo by Ed Bierman)

17. Preservation Hall

Preservation Hall

Preservation Hall is located in the French Quarter and allows visitors a chance to see live traditional New Orleans jazz. The legendary jazz venue has been open since 1961, and it is a favorite stop for visitors to New Orleans. The musicians are some of the best in New Orleans, and the setting is an intimate historic building built in 1750. There’s live music nightly, and the atmosphere is lively and happy. The Hall can get crowded, so consider buying tickets online in advance to avoid the line – read more here (Photo by papgaio-pirata)

18. d.b.a

d.b.a.

d.b.a. is a small, smoke-free, Frenchmen Street bar that features live music from local acts. The music ranges from brass bands to funk to indie rock. Bands that regularly play at d.b.a. include The Treme Brass Band, Tuba Skinny, and Los Po Boy Citos. There’s freindly bartenders, fun people, and a super-cool vibe. It has an eclectic collection whiskies, and over 20 beers on tap. Beer choices range from Guinness and Harp to craft beers like Nola Hurricane Saison, Hoegarden White Ale, and Rouge Dead Guy Ale. Check the d.b.a. web site for a list of bands performing. Tickets for all shows are sold on a first-come, first-served basis – there are no pre-sales or reservations – read more here (Photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans)

19. Louisiana State Museum

Louisiana State Museum

The Louisiana State Museum is actually a collection of museum and historical landmarks scattered across the state, but a good number of them are located in New Orleans. Parts of the Museum in the French Quarter house over 450,000 artifacts and works of art. Properties in the historic French Quarter include The Cabildo (the former home of the Spanish government in New Orleans and is where the transfer ceremonies for the Louisiana Purchase were held), The Presbytère (originally built to house Capuchin monks, this museum focuses on the more recent history and culture of Louisiana), The 1850 House (this home was built in 1850 and has been furnished to show what the home would have looked like during the mid-19th century), The Old U.S. Mint (built in 1835, the Mint was the only U.S. Mint to ever operate under a flag other than the United States. Inside are various rotating exhibits), Madame John’s Legacy (this house was built in 1788 and was one of the few buildings in New Orleans to escape the fire of 1794. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Colonial architecture in North America.) – read more here (Photo by Jared)

20. Confederacy of Cruisers Bike Tour

Confederacy of Cruisers Bicycle Tours

Confederacy of Cruisers Bicycle Tours offers in-depth, fun tours complete with many stories, history, drinks, and food on plush, single-speed, fat-tired cruiser bikes. The guides are fun, knowledgeable raconteurs. Much like the easy pace of the city, the bike tours are more about taking a leisurely ride through the neighborhood than about covering a lot of ground and burning lots of calories. There are 4 tours from which to choose: Creole New Orleans Bike Tour,  Cocktails in New Orleans Bike TourNew Orleans Culinary Bike Tour, and 9th Ward Tours – read more here (Photo by jodi0327)

21. Maple Leaf Bar

Maple Leaf Bar

Maple Leaf Bar opened in 1974 on Oak Street in the Carrollton neighborhood on New Orleans. It’s notable for having live music seven nights a week, cheap drinks, and a fun, non-touristy crowd. There’s a great patio out back, and dogs are welcome. The musical line-up features some of New Orleans best bands, including Papas Grow Funk and the Rebirth Brass Band. The Rebirth Brass Band has been playing on Tuesdays at the club for over two decades. Every Sunday the Maple Leaf hosts the Everette C. Maddox Memorial Prose and Poetry Reading, and it is reputedly the longest running poetry reading in North America. Check the web site for a schedule – read more here (Photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans)

22. Tipitina’s

Tipitina's

Tipitina’s is a legendary music club in New Orleans that opened in 1977. The name “Tipitina”  came from a song written by Professor Longhair, and one of the reasons the venue was opened was to give Professor Longhair a place to perform during his final years. He often performed there often until his death in 1980, and his musical legacy is honored at the club with both a large portrait of him and a bronze bust of his head. It has become a custom for visitors to the club to touch the bronze head upon entering for good luck. Tipitina’s is known for great sounds, a lively atmosphere, and not a bad seat (or place to stand) in the house. The live music is always good and usually local. The drinks are reasonably-priced – read more here (Photo by Infrogmation of New Orleans)

23. Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge

Snake and Jake's

Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge has been voted New Orleans’ “Best Dive Bar” many times, which is saying something considering the competition. It looks and acts the part. Outside, it looks like a shed or garage. Inside, the place is long and narrow, and the only lights are Christmas lights, and old Schlitz globe, and cigarettes. The drinks are cheap – especially the Schlitz and High Life. The signature drink is the Possum Drop, which is a shot of Jagermeister in a pint of Schlitz. It was named for the time when an actual opossum fell through the ceiling onto a patron’s head. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain is a fan of the bar, and other famous visitors include George Clooney, Tatum O’Neal, and Jude Law – read more here (Photo by Jason Lam)

 

24. Backstreet Cultural Museum

Backstreet Cultural Museum

The Backstreet Cultural Museum is located in a former funeral parlor and is dedicated to New Orleans€™ African American history and culture. It was founded in 1999 by Sylvester Francis, who wanted to preserve and display the culture of Mardi Gras, Second Line Parades, and jazz funerals. The museum is full of important memorabilia and is both fascinating and educational. The exhibits include elaborate Mardi Gras Indian costumes and photographs and vintage films of past Mardi Gras celebrations, jazz funerals, social aid and pleasure clubs, Baby Dolls, and Skull and Bone gangs. Check their web site for their hours – sometimes they are closed when they should be open, so it doesn’t hurt to call before going – read more here (Photo by Barry Solow)

25. Mardi Gras World

Mardi Gras World

Mardi Gras World offers a sneak peek into the behind-the-scenes world of the float building that goes on in preparation for the Mardi Gras parades. The man behind the attraction is Blaine Kern, who has been building floats since 1947, and he comes from a family of float-builders and has traveled to Europe to expand his knowledge of the tradition. The attraction is a working space – 80% of the floats that are used at Mardi Gras are built in the warehouse. It is actually the largest float-building facility in the world, and there are often artists there working. Knowledgeable guides lead the tours through the workshop. Before the tour, a short video explains the history of the parade and festivities. Guests are encouraged to try on authentic Mardi Gras costumes and pose for photos. At the end of the tour, guests get coffee with chicory and a piece of New Orleans’ famous King Cake. Mardi Gras World is located in a warehouse district near the river, and free shuttles are available from the French Quarter – read more here (Photo by Richard Martin)

Featured photo by Flavio~. All photos CC-BY-2.0.

See our list of the 49 best things to do in New Orleans here.

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