Best museums in New Orleans that are worth your time

From the history of jazz to a celebration of Mardi Gras, New Orleans' best museums showcase the city's heritage. Here are 15 of the best.

If you're an art lover or culture vulture, New Orleans is an ideal destination. This vibrant southern city is home to a great selection of museums and immersive cultural experiences to make your trip special.

You can go on a journey through New Orleans’ rich cultural heritage, from the National World War II Museum to incredible art museums like NOMA. If you’re all about fun things to do in NOLA, you can celebrate Mardi Gras any time of year at Mardi Gras World or vibe out at the New Orleans Jazz Museum. Draw up a stellar itinerary with these top museums in New Orleans.

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1. New Orleans Jazz Museum

Music museum

Jazz is integral to New Orleans' history with music breathing life to all corners of the city. Learn of this deep heritage at the New Orleans Jazz Museum. The venue's exhibits tell the story of jazz's most famous legends, from Louis Armstrong to Thelonious Monk. Get up close to Armstrong's first cornet and experience live jazz at the museum's own Performance Center.

Highlights:

Live music shows at the Performance Center are free, but access is on a first-come-first-served basis, so check the Events Calendar on the museum's website to get specific times and dates.

Address and opening hours:

400 Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70116. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 AM-4:00 PM. Closed on Mondays.

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2. The Cabildo

Art museum

Once the seat of the local colonial government, the Cabildo is an astonishing Baroque-style building that now operates as an elegant museum. Home to countless treasures spanning Spanish, French, and indigenous origin, you'll learn all about the city through its artifacts and art.

Highlights:

Get access to the museum, among other highlights, with the Go City All-Inclusive Pass. Simply show your pass for convenient entry on-site and enjoy some of the finest views out across Jackson Square.

Address and opening hours:

701 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 AM- 4:00 PM, but make sure you get your ticket by 3:30 PM. Closed on Mondays.

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3. National WWII Museum

War museum

Jump into an immersive experience that puts the war that changed the world into perspective at the National World War II Museum. This museum's compelling exhibits outline the crucial role of New Orleans in the creation of D-Day boats.

Highlights:

The National World War II Museum ticket gets you guided tours of key exhibits so you capture the venue's essence and don't get lost in its five buildings.

Address and opening hours:

945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130. Open daily 9:00 AM-5:00 PM. Get in before 3:00 PM, so you have time to enjoy the full experience. Closed on official holidays, including Mardi Gras.

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4. New Orleans Museum of Art

Art museum

Enjoy a sprawling collection of artworks spanning 5,000 years. NOMA boasts an impressive selection of works from French Impressionist masterpieces to Native American art. The museum is complemented by the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden outside, where art and nature live side by side.

Highlights:

Grab a bite at Cafe NOMA inside the museum building. You can get a free entry sticker at the front desk. Or even better, try the cocktail and food history tour.

Address and opening hours:

One Collins Diboll Circle, City Park, New Orleans, LA 70124. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM. Closed on Mondays.

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5. McKenna Museum of African American Art

Art museum

This treat of an art museum occupies a gorgeous two-story mansion along St Andrew St. Dedicated to the cultural heritage of African Americans, the McKenna Museum boasts local and international works to peruse.

Highlights:

Explore one of the finest private collections in the city with the private tours available. Complement your visit with the African American Heritage tour.

Address and opening hours:

2003 Carondelet St, New Orleans, LA 70130. Open Thursday-Saturday 9:00 AM-5:00 PM.

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6. Whitney Plantation

House museum

The Whitney Plantation was built from 1752 as a sugar plantation. The current grounds now pay tribute to its past with memorials and monuments to the enslaved people that died maintaining the estate. It's a sobering history that's made all the more poignant by its restored buildings and moving modern sculptures.

Highlights:

Book the Whitney Plantation ticket with transportation for access to the grounds and a 1.5-hour tour. View significant Creole cottages and artworks, and hear first-person narratives in the on-site museum.

Address and opening hours:

5099 LA-18, Edgard, LA 70049. Open Wednesday-Monday 9:30 AM-4:15 PM. Tour times vary.

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7. Louisiana State Museum

History museum

Renowned for its lively floats and spectacular costumes, Mardi Gras has become synonymous with New Orleans. Learn all about this colorful event by viewing historic artifacts at the Louisiana State Museum.

Highlights:

With the Mardi Gras Experience, you'll get behind-the-scenes access to the Louisiana State Museum plus a tour of Mardi Gras World.

Address and opening hours:

751 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70116. Open Tuesday-Sunday 9:00 AM-4:00 PM. Tour times and dates vary.

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8. Voodoo Museum

Alternative museum

Dare to step into the intriguing world of voodoo and explore this aspect of Southern culture. Bring your camera and your curiosity because the Voodoo Museum is one of the few New Orleans cultural venues that allow photos and video.

Highlights:

If the visit has you craving more spookiness, combine it with a vampire tour of the French Quarter.

Address and opening hours:

724 Dumaine St, New Orleans, LA 70116. Open daily, 10:00 AM-6:00 PM.

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9. Houmas House

House museum

First built in the 1800s, the Houmas House Estate was a sprawling sugarcane plantation on the banks of the Mississippi. Today, you'll be transported back in time with period costumes and manicured gardens to learn about 19th-century Louisiana living

Highlights:

The back-in-time experience of the Houmas House Plantation tour offers full access to the delightful 38 acres of grounds. Take your time exploring the impeccably preserved and restored Greek-revival architecture that was used as a setting in the Oscar-winning movie, Green Book.

Address and opening hours:

40136 LA-942, Darrow, LA 70725. Open daily, 9:00 AM-8:00 PM.

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10. Laura Creole Plantation

House museum

The Louisiana Creole Heritage Site transports you back to the early 19th century. This former plantation now houses a vast estate museum that tells the story of slavery, Louisiana, and its Creole heritage.

Highlights:

You'll gain access to this important cultural heritage site as part of a Laura Creole Plantation guided tour. Explore over 12 nationally-recognized buildings and homesteads.

Address and opening hours:

2247 LA-18, Vacherie, LA 70090. Open daily, 9:30 AM-3:20 PM.

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11. Tremé's Petit Jazz Museum

Music museum

Get a closer look at the history of jazz in the hands of a local Tremé music expert. If the museum isn't busy, you may even get a one-on-one tour and a private jazz performance.

Highlights:

While in the neighborhood, go deep into its history with the Tremé African American and Creole history tour.

Address and opening hours:

1500 Governor Nicholls St, New Orleans, LA 70116. Open Wednesday to Saturday, 10:30 AM-3:00 PM.

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12. New Canal Lighthouse

Maritime museum

Learn about the significance of the Gulf Coast's maritime heritage and enjoy great views of Lake Pontchartrain. At the New Canal Lighthouse Museum, you'll gain a new appreciation for the local waterways.

Highlights:

Combine a visit to the lighthouse with the Destrehan Plantation and Airboat combo tour.

Address and opening hours:

8001 Lakeshore Dr, New Orleans, LA 70124. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 AM-4:00 PM.

13. Oak Alley Plantation

House museum

Oak Alley Plantation’s picturesque ancient oaks and stunning Greco mansion frontage preserved from the 19th century give way to a sobering reminder of its slave-built origin, which is recognized throughout the plantation grounds and buildings.

Highlights:

Combine a tour of Oak Alley Plantation with a Bayou cruise to explore the nearby swamps and wildlife and learn the history of the wider area surrounding NOLA.

Address and opening hours:

3645 LA-18, Vacherie, LA 70090. Open daily, 8:30 AM-5:00 PM. Tour times and dates vary.

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14. Southern Food and Beverage Museum

Ever wondered what makes Southern cuisine so special? Go deep into the culinary traditions of Louisiana at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

Highlights:

Live cooking demos, tastings, and cooking classes are on offer at the museum, and if you work up an appetite during your visit, a French Quarter food tour is a convenient next step.

Address and opening hours:

1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70113. Open Thursday to Monday from 11:00 AM-5:00 PM.

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15. House of Dance and Feathers

Located in a private home, the House of Dance and Feathers offers unique insights into the musical culture of Mardi Gras and documents the role of dance in keeping communities together.

Highlights:

The museum has many eye-catching artifacts and exhibits that bring Mardi Gras to life at any time of year. If you feel inspired by the colorful exhibits at this museum, dance the night away with the nightlife of Frenchmen Street tour.

Address and opening hours:

1317 Tupelo St, New Orleans, LA 70117. Open by appointment only.

FAQs

What are the must-visit museums in New Orleans?

The most visited museums in this city are the New Orleans Jazz Museum, the National World War II Museum, and NOMA. Of course, you don't have to follow the crowd, so make the Upside Down Museum a must-see and immerse yourself in this upside-down social media experience.

Are there any free museums in New Orleans?

NOMA and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art each offer free entry to Lousiana residents on specific days of the week. The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden offers free admission to all visitors. During one month every year, some of the top local museums drop their admission fee.

Are there any museums in New Orleans that are suitable for children and families?

Families with children will love a tour of Mardi Gras World. Other family-friendly museums include Louisiana Children's Museum and The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.

For which museums in New Orleans are guided tours recommended?

Get a guided tour of the city's largest museums, like the National World War II Museum and NOMA. Both expert and self-guided tours are useful because they ensure you see the highlights of each museum without missing anything important.

Are there any museum passes or discount cards available for visiting multiple museums in New Orleans?

Yes, the Go City All-Inclusive Pass gives you discounted access to some of the city's most popular museums, including the National WWII Museum, Mardi Gras World, Cabildo, the Jazz Museum, and more.