New Orleans has some of the country’s most highly-rated museums and galleries. Due to it’s location, many disctint cultures have grown and blended in Southern Louisiana to create the vibrant New Orleans we know today. Some museums are large enough to spend an entire day at, while other smaller attractions can be paired together on your tour around each neighborhood. But each museum and cultural experience features exhibitions and artifacts, that you can’t find anywhere else in the South, delving deep into exciting, dark, or interesting events that shaped the Crescent City. Here are the best museums in New Orleans to visit.
PS: Consider staying at one of these gorgeous boutique hotels in New Orleans, on your upcoming trip! They may offer transportation and discounts to certain museums.
Very Best Museums in New Orleans
Le Musée de f.p.c. (Free People of Color Museum)
The Le Musée de f.p.c is a history museum built within a stunning Downtown historic home dating back to the 1850s. It’s one of the few attractions in the country dedicated to preserving artifacts and stories depicting the contributions of free people of color. New Orleans was home to the largest population of free blacks across the South before the Civil War. Le Musee provides only guided tours of the facility to educate visitors on each exhibit and tell the stories of black individuals who shaped history in Louisiana and across the country. Additionally, you can visit the second location associated with Le Musée, The McKenna Museum of African American Art, to explore historical and modern pieces connected to the black community.
*You must book a tour for both attractions, available only on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Price: $25 for regular tours; $150 for private; $100 for group tours of 4 or more
- Neighborhood: Upper Tremé
- Hours: Fridays at 1 pm and Saturdays at 11 am
Backstreet Cultural Museum
You can learn all about New Orleans traditions at this museum, including the colorful celebrations, costumes, and music the city is so well-known for. The Backstreet Cultural Museum is a smaller attraction that offers a very personalized atmosphere and a dense history of the Tremé neighborhood and Mardi Gras history. It’s not uncommon for designers and artists of some exhibits to stop by and answer questions from guests about their design and creation process. Favorite exhibits you have to see are the permanent collections of Mardi Gras Indian costumes and costumes/objects related to the North Side Skull and Bone gang, one of the oldest and processional African American traditions in New Orleans. Photographs and films are also available to learn about the history of Jazz Funerals–an African American tradition dating back to the start of the twentieth century honoring prominent figures in the community.
- Price: $20 for adults; $15 for seniors and veterans; $10 for children 12 and under
- Neighborhood: Treme
- Hours: 10 am-4 pm, Tuesday to Saturday
StudioBE Art Gallary
StudioBE is a spectacular Black-owned gallery that offers powerful collections and exhibitions depicting the history of the Black community in New Orleans. The first pieces of work you’ll see are the beautiful murals on the sides of the massive warehouse building. Inside, StudioBE is a cultural experience and community space, with walls filled with colorful artwork and powerful exhibits focusing on Black History, activism, and inclusion. You can take a piece of the gallery home with you by visiting the StudioBE shop featuring products with original works in print and n merchandise. Self-guided tours take an hour and must be booked online prior to your visit, with the option for a guided tour to learn more about each piece more in-depth.
- Price: $15 general admission; $10 student/teacher, seniors, first responders; $5 children 12 and under.
- Neighborhood: Bywater District
- Hours: 2 pm to 8 pm, Wednesday to Sunday
New Orleans African American Museum
The cultural exhibits at the New Orleans African American Museum (NOAAM) span multiple historical buildings on the grounds and include a walking tour of the Tremé community. The Tremé neighborhood is one of the best neighborhoods in New Orleans, with the oldest-surviving Black community in the country and the former home to many free persons of color. The museum overall is a mix of photographs, artwork, artifacts, and special events that include live music to celebrate the deep roots of the African American heritage and history. Powerful permanent exhibitions at NOAAM that are worth seeing include Tremé Heroes–a contemporary mural project in the historic garden across the street from the main building–and Everywhere We Are, Everywhere We Go, exploring Black spaces and geographies.
- Price: $20 for adults; $10 for students and children under 12; $35 for admission with a guided tour
- Neighborhood: Treme
- Hours: 11 am to 4 pm, Thursday to Sunday
New Orleans Museum of Art
As the oldest fine arts museum in the city, the New Orleans Museum of Art showcases more than 40,000 permanent pieces of art from around the world and several other rotating exhibitions. The expansive galleries are spread over three floors in the massive marble building. Each section is diverse, illustrating the impressive history and talent of French, American, African American, Japanese, and artists of many other cultures. Behind the museum is the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden–one of the country’s most important installations–offering over 90 sculptures, lagoons, 200-year-old oaks, footpaths, and bridges. Make sure to grab a bite at Cafe Noma, serving amazing paninis, veggie bowls, artisanal flatbreads, and many other elegant dishes.
- Price: $15 general admission; $10 military, senior; Free for children and teens under 19
- Neighborhood: City Park
- Hours: 10 am to 5 pm, Tuesday to Sunday
The Sydney & Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at NOMA
On the grounds of NOMA (listed above) is the spectacular Sydney & Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, open seven days a week from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Visitors will marvel over twelve acres with over 90 sculptures. The landscape here is beautiful, with footpaths, Spanish moss-laden oaks (over 200 years old!), reflecting lagoons, and more. Pedestrian bridges on the property are perfect for taking a snapshot of your group. While connected to the museum, the sculpture garden is free, but no food, pets, bikes, or picnicking is permitted.
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art offers five floors of paintings, glasswork, photography, and mixed art genres encompassing Southern culture and traditions. You’ll find the largest collection of Southern art in the country here, with more than 4,000 permanent works in the collection. The Ralph Eugene Meatyard is a permanent collection that features haunting (yet beautiful) black-and-white photographs of people, portraits, and experiments with abstract art. The Patrick E. Taylor Library is also part of the museum, designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, a renowned architect. If you want to hang out at the museum at night, the Ogden After Hours offers live music, food & drinks, crafts, and more.
- Price: $10 adults; $5 children; $8 seniors, students; Free for children under 5
- Neighborhood: Warehouse Arts District
- Hours: 10 am to 5 pm every day
World War II Museum
The National WWII Museum (formerly the National D-Day Museum) sits right on the popular Magazine Street and provides interactive historical exhibits about the ‘the war that changed the world.’ It’s one of the best museums in the United States and a must-add to your New Orleans itinerary, sharing stories of the war from a personal perspective with floor-to-ceiling exhibits that pull you right back in time.
You start off your visit in the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion before exploring permanent and rotating exhibits across four other buildings: Solomon Victory Theatres, Hall of Democracy, US Freedom Pavillion, and Campaigns of Courage. The 4D theatre is a popular attraction showing the Beyond All Boundaries film narrated by Tom Hanks. A new Liberation Pavilion was recently added in 2022 to depict the closing of the great war and its effects on our lives today.
*This is a great experience to pair with the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, only a 7-minute walk away.
- Price: $19 – $31.50 for general admission; $7- $38.50 for Museum Campus Pass Package
- Neighborhood: Central Business District
- Hours: 9 am to 5 pm, every day
Free Walking Tour Voodoo Tour with Robbie
Voodoo, also known as hoodoo or Louisiana Voodoo, has played an important role in the spirituality, culture, and history of New Orleans. The spirituality was originally brought to New Orleans by enslaved West Africans and today combines elements of West African, Native American, and Catholic beliefs and practices. Visitors can learn more about the history and practice of voodoo by visiting the museums or by taking a guided voodoo or hoodoo tour of the city. Skip the haunted ghost tours and do this instead!
I did this tour led by Robbie and it was amazing! To learn more about this experience, I think this article summarizes it perfectly.
Millions of enslaved people served on plantations across the South before the Civil War, and each one had a story to tell. While most plantation museums focus on the history of the land and owners, the Whitney Plantation is the only museum focused on the legacies and lives of the slaves who lived and worked there. The complex contains 12 historic structures, including an 1815 colonial home and eleven historic outbuildings where enslaved individuals lived; one building is believed to be the oldest detached kitchen in Louisiana! The self-guided tour has an audio program that you can listen to while you explore, while the guided tour is narrated by staff from a slave’s perspective about what it was truly like on a Southern plantation. This museum is about 50 minutes from the city and takes about 2 hours to explore, making it one of the greatest day trips from New Orleans.
- Price: $25 self-guided tours; $32 guided tour
- Location: Wallace, LA
- Hours: 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, Wednesday through Monday
The Presbytère is an iconic building in the French Quarter, facing Jackson Square near the St. Louis Cathedral. Built within a former 1813 courthouse, it’s one of the most architecturally important buildings in New Orleans, designed to look like the Cabildo as a reminder of the state’s vibrant past and present. The Presbytère is part of the Louisiana State Museum with two amazing permanent exhibits, Hurricane Katrina and Mardi Gras, both beautiful displays of the city’s history and lively culture. The building was actually built on the original site where the Capuchin monks, who traveled with the early French settlers.
- Price: $7 adults; $6 seniors, military; Free for children under 6
- Neighborhood: French Quarter
- Hours: 9 am to 4 pm, Tuesdays through Sundays
Irish Cultural Museum
You don’t often think of Irish heritage when you think of New Orleans, but the Irish Cultural Museum shares a unique perspective of the Irish ancestors who lived and thrived in the South. This attraction will unveil the untold stories of Irish public servants, adventures, entrepreneurs, mercenaries, and more, whose spirit contributed to the birth of New Orleans and some of the traditions we see today. The museum is small and located in front of the St. Pat’s Coffee House, serving coffee and classic Irish whiskey. It’s a wonderful gathering place to continue your historical tour of the French Quarter and grab a brew of your choice, with a beautiful courtyard to relax in.
- Price: Free admission
- Neighborhood: French Quarter
- Hours: 8 am to 8 pm, Monday to Friday; 8 am to 11 pm, Saturday and Sunday
New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
Ever wonder what medicines and treatments were used in 1823? You can view all the classic, experimental, and simply strange cures at the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, only a 4-minute walk from Jackson Square. The museum was a former apothecary in the French Quarter transformed into a museum to teach visitors about the history of medicine and pharmaceuticals. Behind the counter is a range of early 19th-century medications and voodoo potions offered by the original owner, who was the first licensed pharmacist in the country. The building is small, but there is a ton of information to cover that will easily take some time to digest.
- Price: $10 adults; $7 seniors, students, military; Free for chidlren under 6
- Neighborhood: French Quarter
- Hours: depends on the season (check website)
New Orleans Jazz Museum
The New Orleans Jazz Museum hosts dynamic interactive exhibits about the history of jazz in all its forms. Jazz music is iconic to the culture of southern Louisiana, born in the streets of New Orleans and later spreading around the world. The museum is located in the heart of the city’s music scene in the historic Old U.S. Mint building, showcasing 25,000 artifacts (the largest of its kind worldwide) and hosting over 365 concerts a year. Visitors can peruse a series of rotating exhibits on jazz history and culture, including features like listening stations, films, instruments, dance floors, and other attributes to pull you in. If you’re in the area around December, check out the New Orleans Jazz Museum Gala, an annual music festival in its fifth year of amazing performances spread throughout the grounds.
- Price: $8 adults; $6 students, seniors, military; Free children 6 and under
- Neighborhood: St. Bernard
- Hours: 9 am to 4 pm, Tuesday through Sunday
The Historic New Orleans Collection
This museum is a research center, publisher, and collection all in one, dedicated to preserving the culture and history of New Orleans and the Gulf Shore region. The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) operates in three locations, with a complex of renovated buildings depicting the stories of the Crescent City. The museum is located at 520 Royal Street, with many pieces from the colonial era and an extensive Andrew Jackson exhibit for the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans. You can schedule a self-guided or guided walking tour through the free French Quarter Tours app that will allow you to see all the buildings restored by the THNOC on Royal Street (533 and 520 Museum) and Chartres Street (The Williams Research Center). In November 2022, the museum featured the first augmented exhibition illustrating a 360-degree immersion into the history of the Notre Dame Cathedral.
- Price: Free museum admission, tickets available for special exhibitions
- Neighborhood: French Quarter
- Hours: 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, Tuesday to Saturday; 10:30 am to 4:30 pm, Sunday
The Music Box Village
The Music Box Village is an artist-driven project full of music, food and drinks, and performances among a small neighborhood of buildings and structures. It’s the flagship project of the New Orleans Airlift, inclusive to all individuals and life experiences. Visitors can expect an experience outside of the box, with exhibitions meant to inspire play, imagination, and community brought to life after the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The village started with a collapsed Creole cottage in the Bywater district that transformed into a village of art and a performance space highlighting the city’s musicians and inventors. Bring a blanket to sit on to enjoy food and a craft beer in a picnic setting, and refer to the calendar for open hours, musician guides, workshops, festivals, and other special events going on.
- Price: $15 adults; $5 children 5 to 17
- Neighborhood: Bywater
- Hours: Check the calendar for available Open Hours
Day Trip to the Vermilionville Historic Village
If you’re looking for day trips from New Orleans, consider visiting the Lafayette, Louisiana. Here you can check out the incredible Vermilionville Historic Village, a unique living history museum with restored 18th and 19th-century homes that showcase the past connections of the Native American, Creole, Acadian, and African cultures. You’ll tour the 23-acre village along the banks of the Bayou Vermilion with dozens of attractions that feature original structures, exhibits, and costumed artisans reenacting historic daily life.
The grounds have an extensive permanent collection of artifacts, seven original homes, a gift shop, a boutique, and an excellent cafe serving traditional Acadian dishes. Each house in the village represents a different time period to give visitors a comprehensive view of Louisiana’s history over the centuries, making Vermilionville one of the top special things to do in Lafayette for history lovers.
- Price: $10 adults; $8 seniors; $6 students; Free for children under 5
- Location: Bayou Vermilion District
- Hours: 10 am to 4 pm, Tuesday through Sunday