While New Orleans is mostly famous for its cajun food and jazz clubs, there’s even more to it than that. The Big Easy is home to some of the best museums in the South, no matter your art or history preference. Plus, thanks to its own long and patchy history, there’s much to be explored. That’s why we rounded up the best museums in New Orleans to add to your NOLA itinerary.
7 Must-Visit Museums in New Orleans
Set smack dab in City Park among the Spanish moss-draped oaks complete with Greco-Roman columns and a charming sculpture garden, the grounds alone warrant a visit to this NOLA institution that’s oozing with grandeur. It’s the city’s oldest fine arts institution and boasts a permanent collection of nearly 40,000 pieces. Not only that, but it’s one of the most impressive and revered fine art collections in the whole of the south. The cherry on top? There are near-constant exhibitions ranging from fashion to digital media and beyond.
Head to the Warehouse Arts District in downtown and you’ll find the Ogden Museum of Southern Arts. As the name suggests, Ogden showcases the very best of Southern artists. In fact, it boasts the largest and most comprehensive collection of Southern art. Complete with more than 4,000 pieces spanning across 15 states and dating back nearly 300 years, this museum celebrates the culture and art of all things The South. Their calendar also stays pretty full with exhibitions showcasing contemporary artists whose mediums range from painting to photography and sculpture.
Just a quick few steps away from the French Market, you’ll find one of New Orleans’ most storied buildings and is the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley. Dating to 1752, the Old Ursuline Convent Museum is one of New Orleans’ biggest claims to fame with French architecture. The convent got its start as an Ursuline nunnery and has since evolved into everything from a schoolhouse, an Archbishop residence, city legislature seat and more. Nowadays, though it functions as one of NOLA’s best cultural heritage museums.
This sprawling complex of modern buildings in the Central Business District is one of the best narrative displays of WWII in the country. From detailed accounts from eyewitnesses to enormous exhibitions of D-Day, it’s hard to wrap up a massive event like World War 2, but the National WWII Museum comes pretty close. Inside you’ll find countless galleries and exhibits depicting the worldwide catastrophe all the way from Normandy to the sands of Iwo Jima.
Set in one of the oldest African American neighbourhoods in the country, Treme, Backstreet Cultural Museum is a beautiful tribute to the traditions and culture of the community. You’ll learn about all things NOLA soul like jazz funerals, elaborately sequined Mardi Gras costumes and pleasure clubs. While it was opened in 1999, its roots can be traced back to Sylvester Francis who envisioned it and began curating New Orleans culture three decades earlier.
The Museum of Death located on Dauphine is every bit as morbid as it sounds. Not at all for the faint of heart, this eerie museum focuses on death in every aspect imaginable. However, they don’t aim for fear; the Museum of Death aims to spur a conversation around death and ease the fear of dying. Inside you’ll find many oddities from shrunken heads to paintings by John Wayne Gacy and even assassination exhibits.
Set on a beautifully manicured campus in the heart of the French Quarter, you’ll find the Historic New Orleans Collection. This series of historical buildings dates to the late 18th century. It focuses on the culture of New Orleans ranging from the War of 1812 to the jazz age. Not only that, but it boasts an enormous exhibition on Louisiana history which spans across 13 galleries.