New Orleans combines tradition with modernity in a unique way, which makes for some memorable sightseeing. As far as new arrivals are concerned, there is really no better way of getting acquainted with one’s new home than by checking out the city’s best attractions.
Starting life as a French colony and being ruled by Spain for some time, before finally becoming part of the USA with the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, it’s easy to see why New Orleans is a wonderful amalgamation of cultures. Many of the city’s attractions continue to retain characteristics from its French and Spanish past.
New Orleans is also known for its festivals and there is no doubt that new arrivals will have loads of fun exploring this city. Below are our picks of the Crescent City’s top attractions to get newcomers started.
Attractions in New Orleans
Not an attraction in the traditional sense, but exploring the streets of NOLA’s French Quarter is a must for anyone new to the city. Strolling by the quaint Creole townhouses will transport visitors to a bygone era. The Vieux Carre is full of top-notch restaurants, vibey bars, antique shops and eclectic clothing boutiques. For something a little different, be sure to explore the voodoo dens which are scattered throughout the area.
New Orleans Museum of Art
Located within City Park in the south of the city, the New Orleans Museum of Art houses extensive collections of French, American, Japanese and African art. With over 30,000 pieces on display, this museum is likely to require more than a single visit. Then there are almost 100 further pieces scattered around the outdoor Sydney and Walda Bestoff Sculpture Garden. Dating back to 1911, the imposing limestone building with its Grecian-influenced facade is quite the work of art in itself.
National WWII Museum
Established in 2000, the National WWII Museum draws international visitors from across the globe. Brilliantly curated exhibitions provide insights into WWII from a US perspective. The museum is located in New Orleans to recognise Andrew Higgins’ contribution to the Allied victory through the invention of the flat-bottomed boats. In addition to the insightful exhibit on allied boats, visitors can peruse documents, uniforms and weapons from the war. The state-of-the-art 4D theatre experience is something not to be missed.
Mardi Gras World
Mardi Gras World is the brainchild of Blaine Kern, or ‘Mr Mardi Gras’ as he is more fondly known, who has been building floats for the city’s famous Fat Tuesday parade for over 50 years. Located close to the NOLA Convention Center, visitors can take a tour that provides some interesting insights into the history behind the Mardi Gras experience. The vibrant displays are full of colour, and the venue provides a wonderful opportunity for new residents to get to grips with one of New Orleans’s signature festivals.
Until the rise of the automobile, New Orleans was the centre of the Mississippi River’s shipping and steamboat travel industry. Nowadays, Steamboat Natchex is the only steamboat in operation in the city. A ride aboard this historic vessel provides a chance for visitors to experience the past. The dinner jazz cruise is a particularly memorable experience, but day tours are also available.
New Orleans Jazz Museum
Naturally, as the home of jazz, New Orleans would be the place to find such a museum. With a wealth of artefacts dating back to the turn of the 20th century, the New Orleans Jazz Museum provides a wonderful opportunity to learn about a genre of music that lies at the heart of this city. As well as various kids programmes, the museum hosts a spectacular array of concerts throughout the year. It’s a great place to come and be inspired.
New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
Learn about gris-gris, amulets, zombies, charms and other aspects of the Voodoo religion that was once bought to New Orleans by African slaves. The New Orleans Historic Voodoo museum provides some excellent cultural insights into this fascinating aspect of the city’s make-up. The exhibit on Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau is particularly awe-inspiring. This is certainly the place to be for those who are looking for a truly unique experience.
New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
Perhaps at first glance, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum won’t seem like the most appealing attraction in the city but visitors won’t be disappointed. Located on Charles Street in the famous French Quarter, the museum is housed in the historic building where Louis J Dufilho Jr became the first licensed pharmacist in the USA. The curators have gone to great lengths to preserve the building and the museum provides a fascinating insight into the history of medicine.
Audubon Nature Institute
From Audubon Park which hosts a wonderful zoo, to the city’s aquarium and the insectarium on Canal Street, animal enthusiasts will be in their element by Audubon Nature Institute offerings in New Orleans. Family-friendly in every sense, these attractions are sure to open each visitor's eyes to the real beauty and diversity of nature so be sure to visit each of these in turn.
Cafe Du Monde
Since 1862, Cafe Du Monde has been something of a New Orleans institution. Dishing up the best doughnut and coffee pairing, it's a must for any new resident of the city. This iconic open-air coffee stand in the historic French Quarter has become world renowned for its hot beignets and signature chicory coffee. Cafe Du Monde operates around the clock, come rain or shine, so there is no excuse not to treat oneself.
►Learn more about the Crescent City's best annual events on our What's On in New Orleans page
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