Riding the St. Charles streetcar, visiting St. Louis Cathedral, and eating beignets at Cafe du Monde (and spilling powdered sugar on your clothes) are rights of passage for any visitor to New Orleans, or really any local. The city, though, is much more expansive than this and deserves a deeper, more thorough exploration. Unfurl your figurative (or literal) map and take a step off the beaten path.
The Music Box Village
Wedged on the edge of the Bywater on a wooded parcel near the Inner Harbor Navigation (commonly called the Industrial Canal), this “musical architectural” is a land of wonder for children and adults alike. Exploring a conglomeration of offbeat little structures, visitors can immerse themselves in a tactile musical experience. Walk across floor boards that act like piano keys. Open a window for a melodious response. The Music Box is open for concerts, events like dinners under the stars, pop-ups, and for open play.
Brandan “Bmike” Odums is a visual artist from New Orleans, and his murals have steadily appeared all over the city. The large-scale exhibit at Studio BE, the final installation of Bmike’s “BE” series and his first solo exhibit, is called “Ephemeral Eternal.” The multimedia production spans an entire warehouse, with murals, three-dimensional sets like a classroom and a basketball court, and immersive experiences. The exhibit speaks generally to the artist’s fascination with time as well as more specifically to the Black experience in the American South. Themes of strength and revolution are interwoven throughout.
Experts advise at least two hours of nature communion per week. Packing a day bag, lacing up your hiking boots, and driving to a remote trail may often be out of the question. Couturie Forest, in New Orleans City Park, is a nearby nature oasis. Right off of Harrison Avenue, disappear into the trees for a walk along the water or a trek to the highest point in New Orleans—Laborde Mountain, 43 feet above sea level. Eight different ecosystems constitute the Couturie Forest, helping to make it one of the city’s top bird-watching destinations.
Broad Theater or Prytania Theatre
Sometimes, settling in for a movie, popcorn in hand, is the best way to decompress from an active itinerary. The Prytania Theatre, an old school, single-screen neighborhood movie theater, is a local favorite, and showings include both new releases and classics. The Broad Theater is a newer addition with a bar, four movie screens, and food from local restaurant Milkfish (Tuesday-Saturday, 3:00-10:00 p.m.).
Society of Sin Burlesque & Variety
One of the most active local burlesque troupes, the Society of Sin puts on a wide range of performances. Their weekly “Talk Nerdy to Me” is a nerdlesque revue with new material every Saturday night at Dragon’s Den. Their newer “The Opulence Hour” on Sunday nights at Maison features a neoclassical style revue. Stripped into Submission is a regularly occurring, though less frequent, BDSM/burlesque mash-up that is not for the prudish (or early-to-bed) among us. Society of Sin has also been known to produce full-on nerdlesque plays, including “A Thong of Ice & Fire” (a Game of Thrones parody) and “Harry Potter & the Bedchamber of Secrets.”
Historic New Orleans Collection
The Historic New Orleans Collection, a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South, recently expanded its museum complex. The museum’s permanent collection includes the Louisiana History Galleries (533 Royal Street), a comprehensive overview of the state’s history from precolonial times through Hurricane Katrina with rare artifacts and unique objects. The museum also features a continuous rotation of exhibitions.
Tea Witch Cafe
The best tea shops are the cozy ones, especially as the days grow darker and colder. The Tea Witch Cafe, a relatively new local spot, is perfect to post up with a piping hot cup of tea—all of which are original creations formulated by the owner, Tru, and made with 100% certified organic ingredients. However, this magical corner is more than just a place to sip tea and daydream. The cafe also hosts events like Edgar Allen Poe poetry nights, séances, and full moon ritual circles.
Audubon Louisiana Nature Center
The Audubon Nature Institute is an impressive collection of conservation and education focused museums and parks, including the Audubon Zoo, Aquarium, and Insectarium. The Audubon Louisiana Nature Center in New Orleans East was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, but the Nature Center opened in the fall of 2017. Visitors can explore the interpretive center, 1.6 miles of nature trails, a planetarium, botany center, and more.
New Orleans Lakefront Airport
The New Orleans Lakefront Airport dates to 1929, when construction began, and opened in 1934. It operated as the city’s main airport until 1946 when the Louis Armstrong International Airport opened. In the 1960s, a poorly thought out renovation concealed not only some of the building’s Art Deco architectural features but also murals by Spanish-born American artist Xavier Gonzalez. Luckily, the majority of the murals were recently restored as part of repairs following Hurricane Katrina. Created using the marouflage technique (in which a work is painted on another surface and then adhered to its permanent location), the murals depict “exotic” locations around the globe, like Mexico and Egypt.
A section of the Gert Town neighborhood has embraced its industrial character, dubbing itself Maker’s Mile. A number of food and beverage processing facilities are clustered in this area and are open to the public for tours and tastings. Big Easy Bucha, a local kombucha brewery, and the largest in the Gulf South, provides tastings and tours Monday to Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at its taproom. Broad Street Cider & Ale, just down the street, is a small-batch cidery. In addition to offering its ciders at the taproom and cider garden, Broad Street Cider & Ale is also open for events like movie nights and trivia. Roulaison Distilling Co. is a small rum distillery that crafts its rum with local ingredients and without caramel coloring or added flavors. Roulaison’s tasting room is open for tours and tastings.