New Orleans history: Mardi Gras, homes, lifestyle, and exhibits

13 places to visit in the city

So, you want to learn more about New Orleans? There is no better place to start than the city itself.

New Orleans is a living and breathing history book. For starters, the city has several intact 19th century homes that are for sale right now. Many of these are historic designs native to New Orleans, such as the shotgun and Creole cottage.

But beyond its unique and beautiful architecture, the city holds a long and deep history of its residents. In fact, several museums have dedicated exhibits that document lifestyles of New Orleanians dating as far aback at the 17th Century. From the humble developments of the Lower 9th Ward, to the elaborate artwork created in New Orleans during Carnival, every corner of the city has a story to tell.

Curbed NOLA created a growing list of several museums, sites, and exhibits to see to learn more about the culture of the city. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, there is something for everybody to see.

1) 1850 House

Maintained by the Louisiana State Museum, and furnished with antiques, this historic home encapsulates the lifestyle of upper-middle class New Orleanians in the 19th century.

2) Pitot House

Restored in the 1960s by the Louisiana Landmarks Society, this Bayou St John country home was owned by a plethora of affluent and renowned New Orleanians, including the first mayor of New Orleans James Pitot. Now the headquarters of the Louisiana Landmarks Society, residents can tour the home and view its preserved antiques from as early as the mid-1800s.

3) House of Broel

Known for being built and remodeled during both the Antebellum and High Victorian periods, this mansion preserves the lifestyle of a family of tobacco entrepreneurs. Inside is a grand ballroom, ornate chandeliers, and an operational gasolier.

4) Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum

This mmuseum chronicles the evolution of the Lower 9th Ward district from the 19th century to post-Katrina across five exhibits. The museum holds oral history presentations, presented by over 60 local residents.

5) Le Musée de F.P.C.

Right on Esplanade avenue, this Greek Revival house museum showcases art and history of free people of color in New Orleans as early as 1722.

6) New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum

If you’re interested in the story of Marie Laveau and other renowned voodooist, then check out this museum. The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum holds several pieces of art and relics that are representative of the Voodoo culture in the city. The museum also provides a Voodoo-centric cemetery tour.

7) New Orleans Museum of Art

Between June 23 and September 3, NOMA will hold the “Pride of Place” exhibit that showcases the evolution of contemporary art created in New Orleans.

8) The Presbytère

This museum has a selection of permanent exhibits that chronicle life in New Orleans throughout several periods. For starters, The Presbytère holds exhibits on life after hurricanes Betsy and Katrina.

If you’re interested in Mardi Gras, this State Museum has two Mardi Gras exhibits that explore the evolution of Carnival in New Orleans.

9) The Cabildo

This state museums has two permanent exhibits, chronicling the development of New Orleans. Here, you’ll find a documentation of the Battle of New Orleans, and its lasting effects on the city. The Cabildo also holds a three-story exhibit dedicated to the contributions of several diverse groups to the evolution of the city.

10) Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World

If you’re looking for an all-in-one place to experience Mardi Gras anytime of the year, check out Mardi Gras World and its broad selection of costumes, artifacts, and floats.

11) House of Dance and Feathers

This house museum holds a vast collection of Mardi Gras Indian books, costumes, and photos. Open by appointment, the tour guide, Ronald W. Lewis, has dedicated his life—and part of his home—to documenting the cultural phenomenon.

12) Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture

This museum highlights the development, craftsmanship, and importance of costuming during Carnival season. The exhibits, which pull from an extensive collection of Carl Mack, displays costumes related to Kings and Queens, Mardi Gras Indian, Social Aid and Pleasure Club members, and other costuming groups in New Orleans.

13) Backstreet Cultural Museum

Located in the heart of Treme, this Museum holds exhibits that traces the development of second lines, jazz funerals, Mardi Gras Indians, Baby Dolls, skull-and-bones gangs, and other African-American contributions to the New Orleans.

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