If you were to say that New Orleans is one of the United States’ most unique, most vibrant, most entertaining cities, you won’t get much argument. This Louisiana city is legendary for its street festivals, party culture, and music. Eighteen million visitors a year can’t all be wrong.That’s why we’ve compiled this list of 10 New Orleans off the beaten path you cannot miss.
But there’s more to the Big Easy than beads, Mardi Gras, and spring break. The history of the city, named after Orleans in France, has made it the center of a unique culture within the United States. A melting pot of French and Spanish and American influences, New Orleans is unlike anywhere else on earth.
So if you find yourself in this unforgettable city, the hardest part won’t be finding things to do. The toughest task may be deciding what to leave out.
10 New Orleans off the beaten path
Yes, it may be a cliché. Nowadays, Bourbon Street has fully embraced its identity as a tourist attraction, leading to stores filled with cheap souvenirs and crowds of visitors that can quickly get frustrating. But Bourbon Street was once the heart of New Orleans, and it’s still true that if you don’t visit this iconic location at least once, you can hardly say you’ve really been to NOLA.
Plus, if you do find Bourbon Street too touristy, you can head away from the crowds and aim for Frenchmen Street instead. This area has the same vibrant mix of bars and restaurants as Bourbon Street, but is more popular with locals and offers a more authentic New Orleans experience.
The French Quarter
The French Quarter is the historic heart of New Orleans. Also known as the Vieux Carre, the French Quarter was founded in 1718 and has been designated a National Historic Landmark. As popular as this area has become with tourists, it still retains the nightlife, food, and architecture the city is famous for.
The best way to experience the vibrant culture of the French Quarter is on foot. While this area of the city is generally safe, its popularity means there is a greater chance of encountering pickpockets and other thieves. To make things both easier and safer for yourself, drop off your bags at a luggage storage shop in New Orleans before you go exploring.
New Orleans Voodoo Museum
This quirky museum is unlike any other you’ll ever visit. Voodoo is a spiritual practice that traces its origins back to Africa. Brought to the New World by the slave trade, these ancient African beliefs merged with French and Spanish Catholicism to create an entirely new belief system.
The Voodoo Museum tells the story of the evolution of voodoo through artifacts and exhibits. At times, this makes for a spooky visit, but it’s most definitely an entertaining one.
St Roch Market
This is more than just a farmer’s market. The St Roch market is where New Orleans’ best chefs come to shop and source new products. This impressive food hall, recently renovated after damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, may well be the best place to eat in the whole city.
While you’re there, check out The Mayhaw cocktail bar and sample the work of some of the city’s top mixologists. After all, in a city like New Orleans, there’s always time for a drink.
Audubon Butterfly Garden
The Next New Orleans off the beaten path is Audubon Butterfly Garden New Orleans is a legendary place to party. But the city has more to offer than its thousands of bars. If you’re looking for something a bit more tranquil, check out the Audubon butterfly garden.
This is the largest museum in the country devoted to insects and the crucial role they play in the ecosystem. The exhibits here will shrink you down so you can experience a bug’s eye view of the world and take you through a reconstructed Louisiana swamp.
You’ll also be swarmed by thousands of butterflies in the garden. In a city not known for its child-friendly attractions, this is a great place to bring the kids.
The history of Louisiana has made New Orleans what it is. And some chapters of this history are quite dark. At the Whitney plantation, for example, you can learn more about the history of slavery in the South.
Guided tours of the plantation will show you the slave quarters, a church, the owner’s house, and the memorials that honor the slaves who lived here. The truth is, New Orleans would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for the Africans brought over as part of the slave trade. It’s a part of the city’s history that’s vital to understand, if only to see how far we’ve come.
Backstreet Cultural Museum
French and Creole culture continue to influence life in New Orleans. But a huge part of what makes New Orleans so distinctive is the culture of its black community. African-Americans have shaped New Orleans from its earliest days, and the Backstreet Cultural Museum pays homage to this unique culture.
Exhibits cover Mardi Gras, slavery and its repercussions, jazz funerals, and other aspects of life in New Orleans’ black community. To understand both the past and the future of this city, the Backstreet Cultural Museum is something you simply must do in New Orleans.
New Orleans is enough to wear out just about anyone after a while. For a quick trip out of the city to reengage with nature and recharge your batteries, try a New Orleans swamp tour.
The bayous and swamps of New Orleans have had a significant impact on life ever since the city was founded. Wild boar, snakes, raccoons, and birds of prey all call these wetlands home, but most people come to see the alligators. And there are plenty of them. This is a true must-do when visiting New Orleans.
Mardi Gras World
Mardi Gras is a world-famous event that brings millions of tourists to New Orleans every year. But if you’re not lucky enough to visit during spring, the next best thing is to visit Mardi Gras World.
Open seven days a week year-round, Mardi Gras World enables you to see the year-long process of constructing parade floats for the annual festival. You’ll learn about the rich history and traditions of Mardi Gras and come away with a deeper understanding of this renowned event.
National World War II Museum
Next New Orleans off the beaten path is National World War II Museum Many people are unaware that the National World War II Museum is in New Orleans. This is due to the Louisiana origins of the Higgins boat, the amphibious watercraft that carried soldiers on the beaches of Europe during the battle against fascism.
The National World War II Museum tells the story of the American involvement in the greatest war the world has ever seen. Through stories of the men and women who fought on the front lines as well as those who worked to support the war effort at home, you’ll come away with a new appreciation for the price of freedom.
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