New Orleans museums may not be something you consider when traveling to this rich cultural city, but they should be.
New Orleans’ artistic heritage, historical significance, musical roots, and delectable food culture combine to make it one of the most exciting places to visit in the United States.
I recently visited during August, which was Museum Month in New Orleans. By purchasing a membership to any participating museum in the city, we could gain free access for two people to all the museums on the list.
We took advantage of the promotion and were able to visit 9 museums in the course of 3 and ½ days. Overall we saved $163.00 in admission ticket prices so I’d say that was a steal!
Not every museum we visited was a participant but that was not the only requirement we used when we selected.
Our plan was just to beat the heat. We would cool down in a museum as we navigated through the restaurants, music venues, and bars. We never felt rushed or like we were squeezing too much in. We just stopped for refreshments whenever we needed to.
By doing so, we discovered the fascinating cultural, social, and economic layers that developed New Orleans into what it is today. Yet we barely scratched the surface of what New Orleans museums have to offer.
Here is the list of where we visited this trip and what we hope to see on our next trip.
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Quick Tips for Planning New Orleans Museum Visits
- August is a great month to visit thanks to Museum Month
- The museums are less crowded on weekdays and mornings
- Many are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
- Hours can vary widely- even day to day for the same museum
- Many offer free guided tours with admission- highly recommend taking advantage of this
Visual Art in New Orleans Museums
2941 Royal Street
Open Wednesday – Sundays 2pm -8pm.
The studio is located in a huge warehouse space in the Bywater neighborhood. (which is a great neighborhood to grab some lunch by the way) It is under a 10 minute walk from Frenchman St.
It showcases the work of local artist Brandon Odums (also known as BMike). He specializes in large-scale murals and paintings illustrating scenes from black culture in the city and black cultural leaders and icons.
The murals and exhibits inside are huge and colorful. They are not only moving, but emotionally raw at times.
The space is not air conditioned. They offered fans as you entered and I was grateful to have it. It was hot!
Somehow the oppressive heat seemed to set the right mood for the exhibits. It forces you to slow down and really absorb the reality of the subject.
Studio Be offers powerful messages about social justice in the community.
Brandon Odums showcases the beauty of street art in the studio.
It is an inspiration for artists and activists of all ages. Don’t miss it.
Watch the interview with Brandon Odums here:
2832 Royal St.
Just a short walk down the road from Studio Be is JAMNOLA.
Although closely located in the city, the two art spaces are worlds apart. I am not even sure I would recommend doing both on the same day (we did not), because they are just that different. It would be difficult to flip your mindset.
JAMNOLA is an acronym that stands for Joy Art Music NOLA. It is meant to be a lighthearted and playful way to appreciate the art and music culture of New Orleans.
It is basically an Instagramming selfie-lover’s paradise.
It is made up of a dozen immersive and interactive rooms created by local artists.
This space is a great spot for groups visiting New Orleans with children because they are able to explore and touch everything.
After a brief introduction by a guide, you are free to wander, touch, and photograph everything around you. Actually, it’s encouraged. There are even props in each room to enhance your photos and fun.
Notice the quirky themes and unusual materials used to create each room and be sure to appreciate the wallpaper.
When planning your visit pay attention to the hours on the website because they are different every day.
Blaine Kerns Mardi Gras World
1380 Port of New Orleans Place
Located in a warehouse along the Mississippi, Blaine Kerns Mardis Gras World is a dynamic workshop where the magic of New Orleans parades unfolds all year long.
The studio is filled with lavish parade floats and larger-than-life props. A tour here provides a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes.
You will see artists at work and hear tales of the monumental effort and expense that goes into a Mardi Gras celebration.
Learn exactly what it means to be on a parade Krewe while observing the preparations and works in progress.
Mardis Gras World is located at 1380 Port of New Orleans Place, on the south end of the Convention Center.
They also offer a free shuttle ride to the warehouse from Canal St. Just call 504-361-7821 to schedule.
Our New Orleans Art Museum Picks for Next Visit
NOMA– New Orleans’ Museum of Art
The oldest art museum in New Orleans with a collection of over 40,000 pieces.
It’s a great choice when spending time in the area of New Orleans City Park.
Wandering the outdoor sculpture garden is a particularly fun activity for families visiting New Orleans with children.
It was exceptionally hot the week we visited so we decided to save this museum for another time when we could linger longer outside.
925 Camp Street
Located in New Orleans, the Ogden Museum holds the largest and most comprehensive collection of Southern art.
The museum is open 7 days a week from 10 to 5pm. In person guided tours are given every second Thursday at 1pm.
McKenna Museum of African American Art
2003 Carondelet St.
To view the collection you must schedule a guided tour. Complete the form on the museum website or call (504) 323-5074. Tours are $20 per person and just about an hour in length.
History in New Orleans Museums
The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
514 Chartres St.
The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It has an extensive collection and provides interpretive educational programs telling the rich history of pharmacy and healthcare in Louisiana.
Tours are offered each Friday morning at 10 a.m. You must make your reservation in advance. Visit their website to reserve. We bought our museum membership here and the cost of the tour was included for free.
Our tour was guided by a skilled storyteller. She weaved tales about New Orleans’ history and society that were fascinating, making us cringe and laugh at the same time.
Discovering the multi-faceted role of the pharmacist in the time period was eye-opening.
The collection inside the shop is enormous, and the tour truly contextualizes everything you see.
This is a must-do museum in New Orleans.
The National WWII Museum
945 Magazine St.
The National World War II Museum is a not to be missed attraction in New Orleans. While a visit here is obviously not New Orleans specific, it provides an unforgettable look into world history.
This is a heavy topic to cover and almost seems at odds with the “laissez les bon temps rouler”, let the good times roll, motto of the city of New Orleans.
However, the museum is so well-done in its ability to engage visitors, the gravity of what unfolds is easier to handle.
The experience is humanized by the many “ambassadors” who guide you through the linear experience of this dark time in human history. They are truly a treasure trove of information.
We spent over 2 hours here but easily could have spent 2 days and still not have seen it all. Comprised of multiple buildings, theaters, and restaurants it is a lot to take in.
If you are someone who loves learning about this historical time period you may want to consider more than one day.
There is an official hotel of the museum, Higgins Hotel by Hilton, located just next door.
Interested in a guided tour to help fully appreciate the museum? Try these offerings listed below.
1132 Royal St.
Completed in 1860, Gallier House was designed by famed Crescent City architect, James Gallier, Jr. Tours of the family home use the original household inventory as a guide.
This comfortable lifestyle was made possible through the work of enslaved people, and later domestic servants, whose work and lives are also interpreted on tours.
We saw the home in its “summer dress” as is typical in New Orleans in August. As a result, we learned of the particular challenges local residents faced in the hot summer months before air conditioning, and how they dealt with them.
As luck would have it, we were the only ones signed up for our guided tour time slot.
The docent who guided us was so knowledgeable about the house and the time period in New Orleans. The time flew as we walked from room to room discovering what life was like for the people who lived there.
Our tour included diverse topics such as the lives of the houses’ owners and enslaved people, free people of color, mourning rituals, and the entrepreneurial pursuits of women.
Visiting the historic Gallier House in New Orleans offers unique experiences depending on which season you visit.
- Summer Dress Exhibition all summer
- Creole Death & Mourning during October and November
- Christmas Exhibition during the holiday season.
Our New Orleans History Museum Picks for Next Visit
820 St. Louis Street
This historic mansion is owned and operated by The Women’s Exchange, as is the Gallier House mentioned above.
A philanthropic organization, the oldest women-led non-profit in the South, who has preserved the homes to share the history of New Orleans during the time period of 1830 -1860.
This home looks at the urban enslavement experienced by people of color in New Orleans. Learn the history of through a tour of the open air kitchen, stables, and living quarters of the residents.
Top on our list for next visit is this highly praised history tour:
Just waiting for the cooler weather!
1418 Governor Nicholls St.
They are only accepting tours on a waiting list at the moment. Contact the museum to request a spot. firstname.lastname@example.org.
The mission of the New Orleans African American Museum is to preserve the history and elevate the art, culture, and contributions of African Americans in New Orleans and the African Diaspora.
Le Musée de f.p.c.
2336 Esplanade Ave.
A house museum honoring the legacy of New Orleans Free People of Color.
Tours available Fridays at 1pm & Saturdays at 11am. Must be booked in advance. Schedule house tour appointment.
New Orleans Museum of Death
227 Dauphine St.
This museum is for true crime fans and lovers of the morbid and macabre. Learn facts about famous serial killers and funeral procedures. Read letters, see photos, and jars of objects floating in formaldehyde.
October is the perfect month to visit The Museum of Death in New Orleans. They are open daily from 10am to 6pm.
If you appreciate all things spooky and gory then visit this list of creepy New Orleans tours.
Music in New Orleans Museums
New Orleans Jazz Museum
400 Esplanade Ave.
The New Orleans Jazz Museum celebrates the history of jazz, in all its forms, through dynamic interactive exhibits, multi-generational educational programming, research facilities, and engaging musical performances.
The museum is owned and operated by the state of Louisiana and housed in a former U.S. Mint building.
The first floor has several rooms displaying the history of the building when in use by the U.S. government to create money. This is a bonus for those interested in this part of history as well. The rooms showcase the minting equipment and coins.
Live performances are offered throughout the week so check the event calendar on the museum’s website for days and times.
The New Orleans Jazz Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 9am – 4pm.
726 St. Peter St.
While Preservation Hall is not technically a museum it sure comes close. Jazz in its purest form that transforms you back in time to its beginnings.
The history and tradition of Jazz music in New Orleans has been solidly established much in part to Preservation Hall.
Treat yourself to an experience unlike any other in the quarter and see a performance here. The raw emotion will move you and transport you back in history. It’s one you are not likely to forget.
There are typically 4 performances a day and tickets can be purchased directly from their website.
Our New Orleans Music Museum Picks for Next Visit
Treme’s Petit Jazz Museum
1500 Governor Nicholls St
Open Wednesday – Saturday, 10:30 – 3pm.
Treme’s Petit Jazz Museum, founded by Al Jackson, offers a guided audiovisual tour that explores the origins and development of jazz, influenced by various international musical styles.
Established in 2017, the museum also houses unique materials rescued by Jackson from the former union hall of American Federation of Musicians Local 496, a renowned black musicians’ union in segregated New Orleans.
Visitors from around the world can discover the fusion of African, Afro-Caribbean, and European influences that gave rise to jazz in New Orleans, often described as a musical “gumbo” by Jackson.
Jackson’s captivating storytelling is complemented by recorded music clips, making for an enriching experience.
A must-visit for the true jazz lover.
Food and Cocktails in New Orleans Museums
101 Magazine St.
The Sazerac is the official cocktail of New Orleans and it is a must try drink when you visit The Big Easy.
The Sazerac House provides an entertaining and immersive tour of the cocktail culture of New Orleans.
It is easy to get to, located at the edge of the French Quarter on Canal and Magazine St. They are open 7 days a week from 11am to 6pm.
You are greeted and welcomed as an important guest as you enter the building.
The tour itself is self-directed. It is masterfully set up to be engaging and interactive as you follow a path through each room.
The tour is free, you need only to make an appointment online before you arrive, but that is not even the best part.
The best part is the interaction between yourself and the bartenders giving out free samples along the way.
They were wonderfully friendly and happy to chat and answer questions about the drinks and local history. One bartender even told us how we should order certain drinks in the local bars to get exactly what we wanted.
Towards the end of the tour you are able to walk through the distillery itself to witness the rye making in progress.
Our New Orleans Food Museum Picks for Next Visit
Also houses the Museum of the American Cocktail
1504 Oretha C. Haley Blvd
Open Thursday – Monday, 11am – 5pm.
Take a cooking class and choose from the Creole or Cajun offerings.
Discover the American cocktail culture and its influence.
Learn more about the amazing city of New Orleans with this “Best Books” list.