Want to skip the tourist traps and see how the locals live? Exploring New Orleans off the beaten path is a great way to experience the city at its most authentic.
Ready to travel today? Plan your NOLA travel with Fora and unlock access to all sorts of VIP hotel and travel perks at no extra cost. Your Fora Advisor knows how to get off the beaten path in New Orleans, and can build you the perfect vacation with A+ perks and more.
Read on for 16 hidden gems and unique things to do in New Orleans.
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First, what’s the most famous section of New Orleans? How do I know I’m getting off New Orleans’ beaten path?
The French Quarter and the Central Business District (aka Downtown NOLA) are by far the most popular places to visit in New Orleans — the French Quarter for its vibrant and historic architecture, and the Central Business District for its plethora of dining and entertainment options.
Bourbon Street in the French Quarter is also the city’s most iconic hangout spot, well known for its party vibe, nightlife and famous restaurants.
These are exceptional places to visit, filled with fun, excitement and mystery — so it only makes sense that there would be hidden gems both in and outside of these popular destinations to explore.
New Orleans off the beaten path: 16 things to do, places to see & more
Ready to explore New Orleans off the beaten path? Read on to discover strange museums, historical areas, neat tours and cool neighborhoods.
Quirky, strange and fun New Orleans museums & historic places
With a city as eccentric as New Orleans, it only makes sense that there would be plenty of museums and historic places to celebrate the city’s unique culture. We’ve listed a few of our favorites below.
And remember, it’s easiest to get off the beaten path in New Orleans when you connect with Fora to plan your trip. Plus, you can enjoy hotel perks at no extra cost.
1. Pharmacy Museum
Found within the Vieux Carré Historic District, a subsection of the French Quarter, the Pharmacy Museum displays treatments from a period of medical history when regulations on pharmaceuticals were only in their infancy. Strange concoctions (many of which would be highly illegal to serve as medicine today), unusual herbs and much more line the shelves of this unique 19th-century pharmacy.
Fun fact: the museum also occasionally hosts live-music acts.
2. New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
There’s no place in the United States more associated with Voodoo than New Orleans, and the Historic Voodoo Museum explores that unique connection. Here, you’ll find an extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits that explore Voodoo practitioners’ beliefs and practices.
The Historic Voodoo Museum is located on the east side of the French Quarter.
3. The House of Broel
The House of Broel is definitely a place to get off New Orleans’ beaten path. Aside from the mansion’s stunning architecture, which displays classic Southern decorum and styles, the House of Broel is also home to both a dollhouse museum and a fashion museum — the latter of which houses a collection of designer clothes worn by New Orleans socialites.
The House of Broel can be found in New Orleans’ Garden District, on the western end of the city.
4. Museum of Death
Not for the faint of heart (or those with a weak stomach), the Central Business District’s Museum of Death features a dark and eclectic mix of true-crime exhibits, mortuary equipment and macabre art.
Some words of caution: the Museum of Death doesn’t hold back and has been the source of controversy since its sister location opened in San Diego back in the 1990s. That being said, the museum owners have long contended that the experience is meant to be educational and respectful.
5. The Southern Food and Beverage Museum
Just because you’re getting off the beaten path in New Orleans doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the city’s fundamental relationship with food. The Southern Food and Beverage Museum (or SoFAB) hosts a variety of exhibits and classes on Southern cuisine and its cultural influences.
Also, what other museum lets you eat while browsing?
More NOLA museums off the beaten track
From the colossal National World War II Museum to the tiny Backstreet Cultural Museum, there are tons of museums covering all sorts of different aspects of New Orleans’ history (and more). Book with Fora, and your advisor can give you intel on all the coolest museums in the city, whether they’re mainstream or a bit off New Orleans’ beaten path.
Cool & bizarre places to visit off NOLA’s beaten path
New Orleans’ less-traveled destinations aren’t limited to museums — here are a few more eccentric locales to explore.
6. New Orleans cemeteries
New Orleans’ unusual relationship with all things death-related may stem from its similarly unusual cemeteries.
Because the city was built on a swamp, the water table is very high, making underground burials virtually impossible. As such, the city’s cemeteries only include above-ground tombs, many of which are ornately decorated.
Visitors are welcome to explore the city’s original cemeteries, provided they remain respectful (these are actual people’s tombs, after all).
JAMNOLA, or Joy, Arts & Music New Orleans, isn’t quite a museum so much as it is an interactive art gallery. Each exhibit is delightfully vibrant and eclectic, much like the city itself. All of the works here are created by local artists.
The experience is a fun way to explore New Orleans off the beaten track while soaking up art and culture.
8. Studio BE
Studio BE is an art gallery celebrating Black culture in the United States, with murals dedicated to revered figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman. Equality, advocacy and community are major themes of this powerful studio founded by local artist Brandon “Bmike” Odums.
Interested in more Black travel destinations? Check in with Fora.
9. Music Box Village
Music Box Village is a unique art installation offering an immersive experience for all ages. Without giving away too much, each of the small “musical houses” includes a variety of instruments for guests to experiment with.
10. New Orleans’ natural spaces (to see alligators)
Many of the swamps and waterways near New Orleans are home to hundreds, if not thousands of reptiles (including alligators), turtles and other interesting critters. There are all sorts of excursions, including zip lines and kayak tours, that allow you to (safely) observe these “swamp puppies” in their natural habitat.
Fun fact: alligators less than seven feet long won’t attack people unless they’re cornered and provoked. Even larger alligators almost never attack humans. However, it’s wise to exercise caution any time you’re in nature.
Our guide on the best time to go to New Orleans covers the weather in detail, but generally, spring and summer are the best times to see alligators in the wild.
More strange & wonderful places in New Orleans, off the beaten path
These are by no means the only cool places to explore off New Orleans’ beaten path. There are plenty more places, like the Ruins of Fort Pike or Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo, that are worth exploring.
A New Orleans trip planner (aka Fora Advisor) can give you the lowdown on more neat places. And if you’re curious about off-the-beaten-path travel in general, you can always connect with Fora for more ideas.
Fun & esoteric tours off New Orleans’ beaten track
If you’re limited on time (see our guide to how many days in New Orleans are needed), tours can be a good way to see a destination’s highlights. In line with the city’s eccentric side, here are a few interesting tours you can enjoy.
11. Swamp tours (by boat or on foot)
Swamp tours provide a convenient way to access New Orleans’ natural scenery without worrying about getting lost in the bayou. While there are plenty of tours that stick to the shoreline, the best tours explore the city’s many surrounding waterways and swamps.
Alligators, wild pigs (which are actually a serious problem, as most tour guides will tell you), turtles, exotic birds and more are all common sights on these tours.
12. Ghost, Voodoo & vampire walking tour
Occult tours focusing on ghosts, vampires and other creatures of the night are very popular nightlife attractions in New Orleans. The best tours will take you through the city’s many haunts, alleged or otherwise. Some tours explore the more historical aspects of the occult’s influences on NOLA culture, while others are simply intended to be fun.
Voodoo tours shine light on one of New Orleans’ most influential subcultures, with highlights including Marie Laveou’s final resting place as well as the salon where she first honed her unique talents. If you want to tour New Orleans on foot while still staying a bit off the beaten path, this is a great way to do it.
13. River cruises and tours
There are many connected and isolated waterways throughout the Greater New Orleans Area, and many offer riverboat cruises and tours.
Both a great way to get off the beaten path in New Orleans and enjoy the scenery, most cruises embark right from the city’s river walk.
More tours off New Orleans’ beaten path
As with museums and other places of interest, there are many more tours to choose from in New Orleans. Book your trip with Fora and an advisor can connect you with the best options in town.
Exciting NOLA neighborhoods off the beaten path
There are a ton of unique places to stay in New Orleans (or just to visit). Here are a few areas that get less attention than the French Quarter or downtown.
14. Marigny & Frenchman Street
Bourbon Street might be synonymous with New Orleans nightlife from a top-down perspective, but Marigny’s Frenchmen Street is where locals tend to hang out. Most notably, the Spotted Cat Music Club is probably the most exciting place to get off the beaten path in New Orleans, with awesome live music and an authentic atmosphere that pays homage to the city’s storied culture.
On a more risqué front, the AllWays Lounge & Cabaret is another fun destination, with a huge slate of performances ranging from comedies to classic burlesque acts.
15. City Park (to see The Singing Oak)
City Park doesn’t get as much love from travelers because it’s fairly removed from downtown and the French Quarter, but it’s still worth seeing. There are museums, scenic trails and a number of unique attractions, like The Singing Oak, a living tree doubling as an art installation with whimsical melodies.
16. Garden District
The Garden District is one of the best areas to stay in New Orleans, but it’s not nearly as popular as the French Quarter or downtown, so it still counts as “off the beaten path.”
This area is best known for its 18th- and 19th-century homes, which display a variety of styles ranging from old Victorian to Gothic Revival. However, there are also many hidden-gem cafés, restaurants and boutiques on the district’s Magazine Street.
New Orleans off the beaten path: FAQs
What street in New Orleans do locals visit often?
Canal Street in the Central Business District likely sees the most traffic, but Bourbon Street in the French Quarter is probably the most popular. Both are walkable, offering tons of restaurants, bars and entertainment attractions.
Is staying off the beaten path in NOLA safe?
Generally, yes. But there is some risk to exploring New Orleans off the beaten traveler track.
Some parts of New Orleans are much safer than others, and it’s wise to stick to popular districts (like those mentioned above). We also recommend avoiding poorly lit areas and residential areas not commonly traversed by travelers.
Where should you stay in New Orleans off the beaten path?
There are so many unique boutique hotels in New Orleans, and many of them are off the beaten path. For example, the Hotel Peter and Paul is a super romantic and historic hotel in Marigny.
And if you’re looking for the best family hotels in NOLA or even the most romantic hotels in New Orleans, there are many options in the French Quarter, Central Business District and Garden District that a Fora Advisor would be happy to recommend.
Explore New Orleans off the beaten path with Fora
Getting off New Orleans’ beaten path is easy when you plan your travel with Fora. Your advisor can supply you with tons of expert recommendations on hidden gems, local hangouts and more all throughout the city. Plus, when you book accommodations with us, your Fora Advisor can unlock all sorts of exciting hotel perks and upgrades.
Not sure New Orleans is for you? Perhaps a guide to the best places to visit in Costa Rica for first-timers is calling your name, or one to the most unique places to stay in Colorado. How about staying at the coolest hotels in Vegas? No matter the destination, your Fora Advisor is ready to help.
Ready to travel? Connect with Fora to plan and book your getaway today.