New Orleans’ vibrancy, history, and multicultural heritage are perhaps best encapsulated in its numerous museums and collections. With a culture that celebrates individuality and expression, the city offers much to take in. Here are some of our favorite must-see museums in the Big Easy.
National World War II Museum
The city’s National WWII Museum tells the story of the American soldiers who fought in the war that changed the world. Considered one of the top museums in the United States, this collection re-creates moments from World War II through vintage propaganda, weapons, personal items, short documentaries, and some 7,500 oral histories from the men and women involved. Visitors can feel what it’s like to be inside a submarine, see a replica of a Higgins landing craft, and learn about the German Enigma machine.
Just outside the city sits the Creole-style Whitney Plantation, home to the only plantation museum in Louisiana with a focus on slavery. A guided tour of this somber collection reveals what daily life was like for the men and women enslaved on the plantations of the South. You can combine a visit to the museum with a tour of nearby St. Joseph Plantation, a working sugar plantation and filming site of 12 Years a Slave.
Audubon Nature Institute
The Audubon Nature Institute comprises several museums in one. Explore the wild side of New Orleans with visits to the Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, and the Audubon Nature Center. Visit individual attractions à la carte or with a combo ticket for better value.
Mardi Gras World
If you can’t make it to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, the next best thing is a visit to Mardi Gras World. This quintessentially New Orleans museum gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at how the whimsical parade floats of the city’s biggest party are made. Sample king cake, see floats up close, and learn about the thousands of props and costumes that go into the annual celebration.
A historic tour of the French Quarter wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Cabildo on Jackson Square, the Spanish colonial building where the Louisiana Purchase was signed in 1803. This Louisiana State Museum’s historic New Orleans collection recounts Louisiana history through artifacts like Napoleon’s death mask and a self-portrait of Julien Hudson.