Must-See Museums Near The Brakeman Hotel

Photo courtesy of New Orleans Pharmacy Museum on Facebook

When you think of New Orleans, food, music and joie de vivre probably come to mind first. But think about it: A city with a history spanning over 300 years must have at least a few quality museums. More than that, New Orleans excels at visitor-friendly educational institutions that will surpass your expectations.

And if you are a history buff, a handful of our local museums should be on your must-visit list. Plus, visiting a museum might provide a much-needed break from the heat or will let you wait out one of our intense downpours.

Read on to find out what we consider must-see museums near the hotel. Most are located in the nearby French Quarter but don’t miss one gem in Tremé. We also have a couple of suggestions if you decide to venture farther from the hotel.

Must-See Museums in the French Quarter

In the French Quarter, most museums have a New Orleans, or at least Louisiana-based, focus. Note that we’re not including the Museum of Death and the Historic Voodoo Museum in this article. While both locales are undoubtedly fun to visit, they’re more tourist attractions than dedicated educational institutions.

Photo courtesy of Louisiana State Museum on Facebook

The Cabildo

Jackson Square

Once the seat of the Spanish colonial government in New Orleans, The Cabildo is now a part of the Louisiana State Museum system. The three floors of this grand structure contain exhibits on state history, ranging from Native American artifacts to profiles of different New Orleans immigrant groups to sober displays on the local slave trade. By dint of its possessions, infrastructure and display content, this is one of the top museums in the city.

The main hall of the building, the Sala Capitular (“Meeting Room”), is a gorgeous space in its own right, offering views out unto the Quarter and the Mississippi River. The room also once served as a courtroom and was the scene of many seminal court cases, including Plessy vs. Ferguson.

Photo courtesy of Louisiana State Museum on Facebook

The Presbytere

Jackson Square

Located almost adjacent to The Cabildo, The Presbytere — so named because it houses clergy members — is also a part of the Louisiana State Museum family. Here, the focus is less on Louisiana history and more on the culture and folkways of the Carnival season, from “krewes” (Mardi Gras parading societies) to the costumes associated with Courir de Mardi Gras in Cajun country. There is also a large permanent exhibition on the impact of Hurricane Katrina, and the city’s post-storm recovery, making a visit here a powerful hybrid experience of celebration, grief and resilience.

1850 House

Jackson Square

Located in the Lower Pontalba Building on Jackson Square, the 1850 house is a glimpse into the well-manicured living conditions of a middle-class 19th-century, free New Orleans family. The city was at the height of its economic power and influence at the time, and the free population enjoyed a standard of living unmatched in much of the United States.

Photo courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection on Facebook

The Historic New Orleans Collection

533 Royal Street

The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC), a non-profit dedicated to the study of the city, includes a network of historic structures that contain both permanent and temporary exhibitions on regional history. Visitors can explore the Royal Street campus for free or take tours of THNOC’s large collection of preserved properties; the experience speaks to both the historical events of the city and its architectural legacy. Note that THNOC also offers a smartphone app tour, and hosts a long and packed calendar of events and lectures.

Photo courtesy of New Orleans Pharmacy Museum on Facebook

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

514 Chartres Street

Long a favorite of locals, the Pharmacy Museum, located in an 1823-era drug store, is a peek into both the city’s history and the general medical oddities of the 19th century. Inside, visitors learn about questionable medical practices from back in the day — who wants some pills coated in lead paint? Or the insertion of a metal catheter? And don’t get us started on the forceps. The prescription book that old pharmacists once used to keep track of their patients’ medicine is a triumph of ingenuity and engineering in its own right.

New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint

400 Esplanade Avenue

A handsome example of Greek Revival architecture in its own right, the Old U.S. Mint produced gold and silver coinage for both the United and Confederate States during its long history as a currency production center. Today it houses the New Orleans Jazz Museum with its exhibitions on jazz music in New Orleans and special events, all under the auspices of the Louisiana State Museum.

Photo courtesy of Hermann-Grima House on Facebook

Hermann-Grima House and Gallier House

820 St Louis Street

These two historic homes and their attached slave quarters are some of the best-preserved historic structures in the French Quarter. Visitors can learn about the relative opulence enjoyed by the residents of these homes, as well as the conditions of the enslaved workforce that made their lives of comfort possible. A good chunk of the artifacts in both Hermann-Grima House and Gallier House can be traced to the 19th century. Of the many historical homes in the French Quarter, these two buildings are some of our favorites.

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park

916 N. Peters Street

While it’s not technically a museum (although it does contain some small exhibitions on-site), this branch of the National Park system includes knowledgeable ranger staff who lead tours and lectures that explore the long history of local music and culture. Check the Park’s website for information on live performances.

Image courtesy of Illustrated in Blue licensed under CC BY 2.0

Backstreet Cultural Museum in Tremé

1531 St. Philip Street

Located in Tremé, the Backstreet Cultural Museum must be the most unique museum in the city. Inside, local residents lead visitors through an exploration of the New Orleans “backstreet” — the unique cultural folkways of the city’s African-American population.

Because of its location at the edge of the Caribbean, and a French-Creole history that allowed for the observation of certain traditions, New Orleans’ African-American culture includes a plethora of practices — from second line parades to Mardi Gras Indians — that simply cannot be found anywhere else in the world. With that said, traces of West African heritage can be detected at many levels, from costuming beadwork to the syncopated beat of local parade chants.

Can’t get enough of museums? Check out our guide to the city’s Mardi Gras museums, from a lovingly curated collection at Arnaud’s to the sprawling Mardi Gras World.

Going Farther

We have two more recommendations, the National World War II Museum (located within the Warehouse District, and an easy walk from Canal Street) and the New Orleans Museum of Art (located in City Park, about 15 minutes from the French Quarter by car). Both of these museums are more universal in scope in terms of their respective fields of knowledge (World War II and fine art).

Are You Visiting New Orleans Soon?

We’d love for you to stay with us! And if you do, consider booking a guided tour of the famous St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 to experience the hauntingly beautiful past of New Orleans. And, for easy, informative sightseeing, we recommend the City Sightseeing New Orleans city tour on the open-top, double-decker bus. It runs every 30 minutes through the Garden District, French Quarter, and CBD. You can hop on and off anytime!

Take advantage of The Brakeman Hotel specials, group rates, and best-rate guarantee for greater savings to spend on New Orleans’ famous cuisine and enjoy everything this magnificent city has to offer. Reserve your room today!