New Orleans is known for its world-class food and music, its seemingly endless run of festivals and special events, and its welcoming vibe and distinct cityscape. But it’s also a city where locals and visitors alike are exposed to a wealth of knowledge, encapsulated not only in the buildings that are hundreds of years old, but also in an active attempt to capture, record, and teach the history and culture of this city and beyond: in museums, tours, culinary classes, and more.
places to learn
New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) — To gain a good survey of New Orleans art as well as dynamic collections from around the rest of the country and the world, head to NOMA. The oldest fine art institute in New Orleans, the museum opened in 1911 with just 11 pieces in the collection—since those humble beginnings it has developed a national reputation, particularly for its French and American works, a wide range of photography, glass work, and Japanese and African work. With this diversity and quality, NOMA is firmly established as one of the top museums in the American South.
- Where? One Collins C. Diboll Circle, City Park
- When? Tuesday – Thursday, 10 a.m. -6 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. -9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Closed Mondays
Ogden Museum of Southern Art (The Ogden) — If you want to narrow your scope a little bit and focus on the rich artistic traditions of this region, head to The Ogden. It’s a beautiful, modern space fully committed to educating the public in the appreciation, theory (check out their awesome store), and practice (there are a whole lot of fantastic programs for children and educators throughout the year) of Southern art. Also, if you come during the week, you can swing by for the Ogden After Hours series, which combines the visual arts with live music on Thursday evenings.
- Where? 925 Camp St.
- When? Monday—Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Thursday open until 8 p.m. for Ogden After Hours)
The National WWII Museum — Quite simply, in a city teeming with phenomenal sensory experiences, The National WWII Museum is simply unmissable. And it’s designed in such a way that you can focus on just a few of the exhibits or put aside more time to get the full museum experience, including the various educational opportunities.
- Where? 945 Magazine St.
- When? Monday — Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (for the museum and shop—check here for the exhibition times)
Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans (CAC) — A multidisciplinary arts center that focuses on the “presentation, production, and promotion of the art of our time,” the CAC has been a mainstay in the New Orleans arts scene since a group of visual artists got together in 1976 and founded the center. From artist exchange field trips to summer arts camps, the CAC has a strong educational mission.
- Where? 900 Camp St.
- When? Wednesday–Monday, 11a.m. –5 p.m. (plus other times for the bookstore and cafe)
There are a number of tours and companies that cover the gamut of New Orleans history and culture.
Witches Brew Tours — The name of the tour company probably gives it away: Witches Brew Tours offer up the opportunity to learn about spooky New Orleans in all sorts of servings: from the “4-in-1 Ghosts, Voodoo, Vampires and Witchcraft Walking Tour” to the “Mystery Grab Bag Tour” to the “Private Haunted Carriage Tours.”
David G. Spielman Garden District Tours — While this list has a huge amount of tours to choose from—some of which get you out to the bayou and some of which focus exclusively on the Treme, Marigny, and French Quarter neighborhoods—this is a truly unique tour. One of New Orleans’ most accomplished chroniclers of this city, David Spielman has designed tours that go through one of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods—the Garden District.
Historic New Orleans Tours — A mid-sized company known for its affable and informative guides, this tour company offers education on all things New Orleans, from the film industry to swamp life to the city’s literary history. Check them out.
If you want to come to New Orleans and garner a tangible skill as well as memories for a lifetime, you might want to try get some formal and fun education.
Crescent City Cooks — There’s a class schedule at Crescent City Cooks! that covers all bases: Étouffée chicken and andouille gumbo, bananas foster, jambalaya, bread pudding.
New Orleans School of Cooking — Established in 1980 and employing the motto of “Fun, Food, and Folklore!”, the New Orleans School of Cooking provides energetic environment where there are four kinds of classes: open demonstration classes; open hands-on classes; group demonstrations; group hands-on classes.
The Mardi Gras School of Cooking — Want the opportunity to design your own menu and learn how to cook it? The Mardi Gras School of Cooking enables this to happen—all with fresh, local produce. If you’re unfamiliar with Louisiana cuisine, we advise you take the specialized “roux class first.”
With all the activity above, it’s probably time to wind down. Here are some ways to do so in New Orleans.
Spa Isbell — Located on one of the city’s most iconic streets, Magazine, Spa Isbell offers both respite and rejuvenation from a busy New Orleans schedule.
Spa Atlantis — With two locations right in the midst of the New Orleans hive (one Downtown, one in the French Quarter), Spa Atlantis provides a full education on relaxation.