Top 5 Historic Sites in New Orleans

Cajun cuisine, jazz and blues music, a thriving nightlife and Mardi Gras celebrations that fill the streets - it’s no surprise that New Orleans has been named "America's Most Interesting City." The unique culture of this Louisiana destination is formed by its rich history, dating all the way back to its Native American and French roots. From the French Quarter to City Park, you’ll find museums and landmarks that reveal the city’s past. Make your way to the Big Easy and explore the 5 historic buildings and sites in NOLA:

Laura: A Creole Plantation

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The plantations of New Orleans were once the homes of prominent families in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, many are open to the public for tours. One must-see is Laura: A Creole Plantation, situated in New Orleans Plantation Country on the banks of the Mississippi River. The land was used as a sugarcane farm more than 200 years ago, and dispersed throughout are three gorgeous gardens: BananaLand grove as well as kitchen and formal gardens. Sign up for a 70-minute tour that takes you through the manor house and the slave quarters, where you can explore the culture of the free and enslaved families that once resided here.

St. Louis Cemetery

While a cemetery may not seem like the ideal tourist attraction, New Orleans is known for its peculiar burial grounds - since it rests on swampland, the city must bury its deceased in above ground. These mausoleums and crypts with their beautifully decorated tombs eventually come to look like “Cities of the Dead.” St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, located on Basin Street, is by far the area’s most famous cemetery. Visit the tomb of legendary voodoo queen Marie Laveau or the tombs of many other iconic figures, like Homer Plessy (of the historic Plessy v. Ferguson case) and the family of French painter Edgar Degas.

Beauregard-Keyes House

Over on Chartres Street, you’ll find the Beauregard-Keyes House, former home to New Orleans native Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard. He’s famous for ordering the first shots in Fort Sumter in April 1861, the first engagement of the Civil War. Later, it was the winter home to famed author Frances Parkinson Keyes, who wrote classics like Blue Camellia and The Old Gray Homestead on these grounds. The home’s interior is a 19th century masterpiece, with a Tuscan portico, a ballroom, a parlor and dual curved staircases, not to mention the Beauregard Chamber with the general’s original furnishings. You can also browse through Keyes’ massive collections of teapots, antique dolls and folk costumes.

The Cabildo

Easily one of the best historic buildings in New Orleans! Once the governmental hub at the height of the Spanish colonial period, the Cabildo is among the country’s most significant historical structures. The three-story structure was erected in the 1790s as a replacement for a building that burned down in 1974. Inside, you’ll find the Sala Capitular, where Robert Livingston and James Monroe signed the Louisiana Purchase, kicking off the massive expansion of the United States westward. The Cabildo is now open to the public and houses a museum featuring more than 1,000 pieces of artwork and artifacts. Feast your eyes on the Eugene Louis Lami’s “The Battle of New Orleans,” which depicts the conclusive battle of the War of 1812, and check out rotating exhibits like “Freshly Brewed: The Coffee Trade and the Port of New Orleans.”

Old U.S. Mint

The French Quarter houses the only structure in the nation to have served as both a Confederate and a United States mint. The Greek Revival-style building was designed by noted architect William Strickland and erected in 1835. It’s now used as a museum, displaying a variety of artifacts detailing the city’s rich culture. The “Newcomb Pottery” exhibit shows you the metalwork, pottery and other artwork of students from the nearby university. Check out the “New Orleans Jazz” exhibit for a peek at instruments and sheet music used by prominent jazz musicians.

By Nicole Martinez