New Orleans is a history-lover’s paradise. Founded over 300 years ago, the story of New Orleans is full of drama, romance, tragedy and inspiration–one that can only be told by the city herself. History lovers will appreciate the many museums, restaurants, historic sites and traditions just waiting to be explored.
Frequently honored as a top museum in the country, the National WWII Museum is a must on any traveler’s list. Telling the story of the American experience during the war, the museum is home to both special and travelling exhibits, a variety of events and a 4D theater experience. The expansive campus includes a hotel and multiple restaurants.
Stepping into the Backstreet Cultural Museum takes you straight to the heart and soul of New Orleans. Flanked with hand-sewn Mardi Gras Indian costumes of every color, the museum was the dream of Sylvester “Hawk” Francis, who recently passed away. The museum chronicles the history of Black New Orleanians in life and death, from the great Mardi Gras Indian tradition to social aid & pleasure clubs to the tradition of a jazz funeral. Located in the historically Black Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans, Backstreet is off the beaten path but well worth the visit.
Situated within Armstrong Park, Congo Square was a gathering space for enslaved Africans and free people of color throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. On Sundays, the park would come alive with music and dance, which birthed and shaped New Orleans music as we know it today. Congo Square remains an important place for festivals, second lines, drum circles and other gatherings for locals (pro tip: visit on a Sunday afternoon and you won’t be disappointed).
You may wonder what the two buildings on either side of St. Louis Cathedral are. The Cabildo and The Presbytère were built in the late 1700s and functioned as spaces for Louisiana Supreme Court decisions, among other uses. Today, these museums showcase New Orleans history, including Mardi Gras artifacts, war paintings and other historical treasures.
For seven decades, Dooky Chase was led by the world-famous, “Queen of Creole Cuisine” Chef Leah Chase until her passing in 2019. Throughout those years, the restaurant served presidents, Civil Rights leaders, and travelers from every corner of the world. Stop in for the soul food, the fried chicken and gumbo, red beans and bread pudding—and stay for the history.
Celebrating jazz in the city where it was born, the New Orleans Jazz Museum sits quaintly on the edge of the French Quarter in the Old U.S. Mint building. The museum features dynamic interactive exhibits, multigenerational educational programming, research facilities and engaging musical performances. Great for all ages, the Jazz Museum is a must for history lovers, culture seekers, jazz enthusiasts and really anyone visiting New Orleans.
Located in historically Black Tremé, the New Orleans African American Museum is dedicated to protecting, preserving and promoting the history, art, contributions and culture of African Americans in New Orleans and the African diaspora. The museum features exhibits from Black artists and showcases Black-owned businesses at a monthly market.
Voodoo has been a significant part of New Orleans culture since the city was first established in the 1700s. The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum strives to preserve this aspect of NOLA history through education and entertainment, exploring the mysteries, legends and traditions of Voodoo. Located in the French Quarter between Bourbon and Royal streets, the museum is a great stop for anyone interested in the history and culture of New Orleans.
The Irish Cultural Museum is one of those hidden gems nestled in the French Quarter just waiting to be discovered. Stop by to learn the untold stories of Irish adventurers, soldiers, priests, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and public servants who made their mark on New Orleans. Step into the courtyard for an Irish Coffee or specialty cocktail after browsing the exhibit.
The Historic New Orleans Collection has a name that speaks for itself. Your go-to hub for all things New Orleans history, the museum features rotating exhibits, self-guided tours of New Orleans and historic architecture on their French Quarter campus. Take a few hours to explore everything that this museum has to offer.
Schedule a walking tour – For those who’d like to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, or for anyone looking for a guided experience: a tour is perfect for you. From neighborhood walking tours to culinary tours to haunted tours, we’ve got it all for you here.
There’s so much more to explore when it comes to NOLA history, like the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum’s chronicling of post-Katrina New Orleans and the Southern Food & Beverage Museum’s exhibits on New Orleans cuisine. Learn more about history in New Orleans here.