18 Must-Visit Museums in New Orleans

New Orleans is a city of unbridled cultural richness. It resonates with a je ne sais quoi that’s deeply saturated with history, vibrancy, and an enthusiasm for the arts. One of the clearest conduits into New Orleans’ ethos is through its many museums. Each is a microcosm, carefully curated to enlighten visitors to the peculiar beauty and multifaceted heritage that shapes the city. Here’s a curated list of the 10 must-visit museums in New Orleans – an essential guide for any culture seeker or history enthusiast you’ll momentarily find wandering its mysterious cobblestones.

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The Louisiana State Museum – Cabildo

The Louisiana State Museum is located in the heart of the French Quarter adjacent to Jackson Square. Built in 1795, the Cabildo was the seat of the Spanish government in Louisiana and later acted as the home of the Louisiana State Supreme Court..

Today, it forms a part of the Louisiana State Museum complex and is the site of the famous Louisiana Purchase transfer ceremonies. The museum houses a collection of artifacts that tell the story of Louisiana history, from its Native American roots to its French and Spanish colonial periods.

Visitors can also learn about the city’s unique architecture, as well as its role in the American Revolution and the Civil War. The Cabildo is a great place to spend an afternoon, and it provides a fascinating glimpse into the past of one of America’s most unique cities.

The Presbytere

Adjacent to The Cabildo on historic Jackson Square, The Presbytère was originally intended to serve as a religious building before later operating as the city’s courthouse. Today, it functions as a museum dedicated to the history and culture of Louisiana. The Presbytere has three floors of exhibit space, and it features a variety of permanent and temporary exhibits.

It houses two distinct exhibits: “Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana” and “Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond”. The former delves deep into the most famous festival in the city, offering a glimpse into the lavish celebrations, while the latter provides a somber yet critical look at the city’s resilience in the face of natural disasters.

There is also an exhibit on the history of the Louisiana State Capitol and an exhibit on the Great Storm of 1965. The Presbytere is a great experience for all ages.

The National WWII Museum

This museum dedicated to World War II is a must for military enthusiasts. Through interactive exhibits, documents, informative films, first-hand accounts from veterans, and personal artifacts, the museum brings the war to life for its visitors.

With evocative exhibits, films, and artifacts, it offers a comprehensive narrative of the second World War. Take a ride through the landing in Normandy, or stroll through the various pavilions to deepen your understanding of this monumental chapter in history.

The museum is also home to a research center and library, making it an invaluable resource for scholars and historians. With its commitment to educating the public about one of the most pivotal periods in American history, the National WWII Museum is one of New Orleans’ most important cultural institutions.

The New Orleans Museum of Art

The New Orleans Museum of Art is one of the most visited museums in the city, and it’s easy to see why. The museum houses an impressive collection of art that spans thousands of years and includes works from around the world, from classic paintings to contemporary sculptures.

The nearly 40,000 objects, the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) is a cornerstone of the city’s art scene. It’s home to French and American art, photography, glass, and silver, as well as an extensive African and Japanese exhibits. The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden adds an extra layer to the visitor experience, fusing centuries of human creativity with the serenity of the natural world.

New Orleans Jazz Museum

One of the most iconic and celebrated facets of New Orleans is its jazz heritage, and you can’t explore this without a visit to The New Orleans Jazz Museum. Housed in the historic Old U.S. Mint, the museum is a visual and aural journey through the evolution of jazz, from its African antecedents to the present day.

The museum traces the roots of the genre back to its African origins and explores the various styles that emerged in the early 20th century. Visitors can see instruments, listen to recordings, and watch videos of some of the genre’s most influential performers.

Historic New Orleans Collection

For those seeking a comprehensive understanding of New Orleans’ storied past, The Historic New Orleans Collection serves as a veritable treasure trove. Housed in several historic buildings in the heart of the French Quarter in an 18th-century townhouse, it offers a mosaic of the city’s growth, architectural styles, and cross-cultural significance.

From fine art to everyday artifacts and documents, this collection is a firsthand look into the heart of New Orleans. You will find several exhibits on the city’s French and Spanish roots. Others focus on topics like music, cuisine, and art.

Ogden Museum of Southern Art

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art is a mecca for those enamored with the art and culture of the American South. The mission of the Museum is to promote understanding and appreciation of the Deep South through its art, culture, and history.

The Museum houses a permanent collection of over 4,000 works of art by Southern artists, as well as temporary exhibitions featuring both emerging and established artists.

With a focus on the visual and cultural legacy of the region, its collections showcase a diverse array of styles, from folk to contemporary. Boasting the largest and most comprehensive collection of Southern art, this museum celebrates the diversity and vitality of the region’s art and storytelling.

The Contemporary Arts Center

Embracing the avant-garde, The Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) is a non-collecting museum dedicated to the presentation and promotion of contemporary visual and performing arts. Housed in a striking, warehouse-style building in the New Orleans Warehouse District, it has been pivotal in supporting local, regional, and national artists. CAC is where the traditional boundaries of art are constantly expanded, promising a thought-provoking experience for all who enter.

Backstreet Cultural Museum

Backstreet Cultural Museum is dedicated to the Mardi Gras Indian Culture. It is located in Treme, which is one of the oldest African American neighborhoods in America. The Museum’s mission is to document, preserve, and present the history, traditions, and culture of African Americans in New Orleans Mardi Gras festivities.

The Backstreet Cultural Museum is a local treasure that plays a significant role in documenting the African American experience in New Orleans. It focuses on the city’s community-based traditions, boasting an extensive collection of Mardi Gras Indian costumes, second-line parade umbrellas, and photographs that encapsulate the spirit of the neighborhood.

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum tells the story of pharmacy in the city from its beginnings in the 18th century to the present day. Visitors can see how drugs were made and dispensed in the past, and learn about the changing role of pharmacists over time. The museum also has a very impressive collection of historic medical equipment, which is sure to fascinate any visitor.

New Orleans African American Museum of Art

The museum is dedicated to displaying the works of African American artists from around the world. Visitors can see paintings, sculptures, and other pieces of art that showcase the talent and creativity of black artists.

Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World

Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World is the place to go if you want to learn about Mardi Gras. It is a museum, workshop, and studio all in one, and it is run by the man who has been making Mardi Gras floats for over 50 years.

Visitors can see how floats are made, learn about the history of Mardi Gras, and even take a workshop to make their own float. This is a great place for anyone who wants to learn more about Mardi Gras or just see some amazing floats.

Southern Food & Beverage Museum

The Southern Food & Beverage Museum is dedicated to the history and culture of food in the American South. Visitors can learn about the origins of Southern cuisine, see how food is made, and even taste some traditional Southern dishes. The museum also has a gift shop where visitors can buy souvenirs and local food products.

Sazerac House Museum

The Sazerac House Museum is one of the newest museums in New Orleans, and it is dedicated to the history of cocktails. Visitors can learn about the origins of cocktails, see how they are made, and even taste some traditional cocktails. The museum also has a gift shop where visitors can buy souvenirs and cocktail-related products.

Lower 9th Ward Living Museum

The Lower 9th Ward Living Museum is dedicated to preserving the culture and history of the Lower 9th Ward. Visitors can also see how the residents of the Lower 9th Ward are rebuilding their community after Hurricane Katrina. The museum has a collection of artifacts, photographs, and other items that tell the story of the immense devastation as well as historic events including the desegregation of public schools.

Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience

The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience is dedicated to documenting and preserving the history and culture of Southern Jews.

Visitors can learn about the experience of Southern Jews, and see how they lived their lives through a variety of artifacts.

Louisiana Children’s Museum

The Louisiana Children’s Museum is a great place for kids to learn about the history and culture of Louisiana. The museum has exhibits on topics like Mardi Gras, hurricanes, and the Louisiana bayou.

Kids can also explore the museum’s art studio, science lab, and theater. This is a great place for kids to learn about Louisiana culture and have some fun too.

The Voodoo Museum

The Voodoo Museum is dedicated to the history and culture of voodoo in New Orleans. Visitors can learn about the origins of voodoo, see how it is practiced today, and even buy souvenirs. The museum also has a gift shop where visitors can buy books, statues, and other items related to voodoo.

On your next visit to New Orleans, be sure to immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant cultural tapestry by exploring these ten extraordinary museums. Each offers a unique perspective, a chance to learn, and an unforgettable experience

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