One of the best ways to get a feel for a city’s local culture is through its art. Art, like music, has a brilliant way of capturing the soul of a place and time—and New Orleans has a wide variety of cultural centers and artistic collections, ranging from the classic and revered to the bizarre and whimsical. These museums offer, not surprisingly, a pretty good snapshot of the lifestyle here. To properly visit a New Orleans museum, I would recommend not going while hungover. While this seems like pretty easy advice to follow, you would be shocked at how uncomfortable a museum visit can be during a full-fledged Bourbon Street-induced hangover. (That said, a number of my favorite museums in New Orleans actually feature bars, which perhaps could get you started on tomorrow's hangover.) One of my favorite methods for navigating New Orleans’ museums, if I'm not with a group of friends, is to listen to Rebirth Brass Band on my iPod while wandering through the galleries.
New Orleans Museum of Art
At the top of Esplanade Avenue is the biggest and most prestigious art museum in the city. Covering it often takes many hours, so make sure that you’ve set aside enough time to wander its beautiful halls. Scattered among the work are world-class pieces by Renoir, Jackson Pollack and Edgar Degas.
National World War II Museum
This museum is a must-see. The emotionally moving pieces will transport you to 1941 in a way you’ve never seen before. Make sure to catch “Beyond All Boundaries,” the 4-D film produced by Tom Hanks. Afterwards make sure to visit the museum’s on-site bar and restaurant, the American Sector, for a Spicy Paloma cocktail.
Musee Conti Wax Museum
Again, normally I would never recommend going to a museum after cocktails—but this is one exception. The Wax Museum is an otherworldly, educational and possibly bizarre place (even by the standards of other wax museums), which I recommend everyone see when visiting New Orleans. Don’t miss the glimpse of Napoleon in his bathtub!
Arnaud’s Mardi Gras Museum
Germaine Wells, one of the past owners of the famous Arnaud’s Restaurant, is immortalized in all of her Mardi Gras glory in a small museum that is free to the public. It’s just upstairs from the French 75 Bar, so make sure to stop in for a drink to take up with you.
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
The Ogden is one of the best local museums, and it’s totally dedicated to Southern Art. Located in the Central Business District, this museum is an easy walk from the French Quarter, and it has a fantastic gift shop. Afterward, walk the three blocks to Cochon for a late lunch.