What to See and Do near the New Orleans Smoothie King Center

Photo courtesy of Ogden Museum of Southern Art
By Beth D'Addono, New Orleans Local Expert

One of New Orleans' many charms is its central location and walkability. Whether you're in town for a convention, a pre or post cruise visit or a Pelican's game, you're never far from the action. The newly renamed Smoothie King Center, formerly the New Orleans Arena, draws a loyal crowd of fans for NBA games as well as concerts spotlighting the likes of Paul McCartney and Katy Perry.  Choose to stay at one of the full service hotels nearby, or overnight closer to Canal Street, the Riverwalk and the French Quarter, and you're still only 10 minutes from most attractions. From touring the Saints' home at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to exploring museums and galleries in the Warehouse District to heading into the Quarter, the SKC is central to all. Before or after your game or concert, take a stroll over the nearby Champions Square, a 113,000 square foot outdoor festival venue that plays host to thousands of exuberant Saints fans prior to each home game. THe space includes public restrooms (always good to know), large video screens and a killer sound system - all features that keep fans whipped into an appropriate frenzy. Best to leave the car parked and plan to walk (don't forget comfortable shoes!), cab, streetcar or pedi-cab to where you need to go.

10. Harrah's New Orleans Hotel and Casino

Roll the dice and let the good times roll at Harrah's New Orleans. Located near the French Quarter, this heralded landmark and its incredible selection of more than 3,800 slots and 100 table games make Harrah's the perfect place to play the odds in New Orleans. After raising the stakes in the world-class poker room, guests can savor delectable dishes at Besh Steak or Mannings before having a drink in one of the casino bars or clubs. In 1992, the Louisiana Legislature voted to allow a single, land-based casino to operate in New Orleans near the French Quarter, but it took until 2000 for Harrahs New Orleans to finally open its doors.

9. Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium
Photo courtesy of angela n.

The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium is located inside the U.S. Custom House on Canal Street. It is the largest North American museum dedicated to insects. Adults and children alike will enjoy learning about the insect's contributions the the earth's diversity. The butterfly garden is an enclosed area where thousands of butterflies flutter around your head. One of the most interesting stops is the gift shop area, where you can purchase bug-based snacks. You won't spend as much time here as you will at the zoo or aquarium, but the venue provides a solid hour or two of learning and excitement.

8. Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Photo courtesy of Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Named for businessman and philanthropist Roger H. Ogden, whose 1,200 donated pieces form its core collection, the Ogden is more than just a museum. Instead, the Ogden celebrates the vivid Southern spirit and patchwork of culture, using film, visual arts, glass, photography and crafts. Housed in a light-filled geometric L-shaped space, the Ogden's dramatic, four-story atrium and floating staircase prepares the way for a truly engaging experience. The museum's 20 galleries explore themes including the importance of landscape, place, spirit, family and celebration. Presented chronologically and thematically, the exhibits charts major trends in the development of Southern art since 1890. The Ogden is always interesting - case in point Arthur Kern: The Surreal Work of a Reclusive Sculptor, on view through July 17,2016. Curated by John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, this assemblage of surreal pieces has never been seen before - Kern has never had much interest in exhibiting or selling his sculptures, and as a result they have accumulated on shelves and table tops in the Uptown New Orleans home. It's a dazzling debut. In addition to visual art, the museum hosts regular weekend events like movie screenings, live music and performing arts.

7. Louisiana Children's Museum
Photo courtesy of Kiawah Confectionery

An impressive Italian Palazzo design, complete with arched windows and entryways, makes the Louisiana Children's Museum a unique learning environment. More than 100 exhibits are interactive and hands-on, allowing both kids and adults to simultaneously learn and have a blast. Favorites include a display in which patrons surround themselves with a giant bubble and a bicycle ride that teaches participants the functions of the human skeleton. The Little Port of New Orleans exhibit features an interactive global map to track a barge's cargo, with tugboats and cruise ships vying for space on the make believe river. The mission is to engage toddlers through 12 year olds.

6. Woldenberg Riverfront Park
Photo courtesy of Mary Witzig

A 16-acre haven of green located between the French Quarter and the Mississippi, Woldenberg Riverfront Park is a perfect place to unwind after a jaunt in the Quarter. Its arresting artwork, riverside promenade and frequent strolling bands and festivals offer visitors a truly unforgettable New Orleans experience. Named after philanthropist Malcolm Woldenber, the park includes Moonwalk path for stunning views of the busy port, the Crescent City Connection to the West Bank and the Toulouse Street Wharf. From here, you can take one of the many city tours offered or jump aboard the Natchez, a river tour with live music on a Mississippi steamboat.

5. Bourbon Street

Avoided by most locals like the plague, Bourbon Street's tawdry patina of glitter will start to look a lot better after you have a few cocktails. Think of it as the ultimate reality TV show, and jump right in. Highlights of Bourbon's 14-block stretch include Patout's Cajun Cabin for Cajun music, Galatoire's restaurant, and Oz near the corner of St. Ann, one Quarter's best gay discos. For out of towners, Bourbon Street is the pulse of the party and nightlife scene in New Orleans. Famous drinks such as Pat O'Briens Hurricane, and the Hand Grenade are staples here. Whether it's Mardi Gras season or a regular mid summer week, the porch balconies are stuffed with party-goers ready to toss beads below.

4. The National World War II Museum
Photo courtesy of media3.washingtonpost.com

Located in the Central Business District, the National World War II Museum places an emphasis on the American experience of World War II with moving tributes to the everyday heroes of World War II. Housing large wartime aircraft and permanent galleries, the museum outlines the Allied strategy. In addition to the permanent and special exhibits, the museum also offers a multimedia experience. There are always great movies/documentaries showing at the museum. Currently, "Beyond all Boundaries", a 4-D movie narrated by Tom Hanks is screening. Allow three hours for a full tour, longer if you want to really take your time with the exhibits.

3. New Orleans Streetcars
Photo courtesy of ianloic

The New Orleans Streetcar is the preeminent mode of transportation in the Crescent City. Traveling through the middle of major streets such as St. Charles, Canal and Carrollton, the streetcar is an affordable mode of transportation that allows you to soak in the sights as you move closer to your end destination. $1.25 gets you aboard, and if lucky, you'll have a street car operator that will act as a pseudo tour guide, pointing out important landmarks. The streetcar itself is of historical significance to the city. It is the oldest continually operating street railway system in the entire world, moving city-goers around since the 19th century.

2. French Quarter
Photo courtesy of Numinosity (by Gary J Wood)

The French Quarter is the beating heart of New Orleans. From its Old World spirit to its infinitely varied architecture and faded elegance, the Quarter is truly a place like no other. In a world of Disney-esque attractions, the French Quarter is unfailingly authentic; it's not an interpreted historic attraction, it is 120 blocks of the real deal. In New Orleans, there are more than 35,000 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, more than any other city in America. From the sounds of jazz wafting on the sultry air down Bourbon Street to the fleeting pleasure of lush courtyards glimpsed through wrought iron gates; from the magnolia and jasmine scented air to the bold flavors of some of the world's finest restaurants - the French Quarter offers unforgettable and endless experiences to the traveler with an open heart and a healthy appetite for the fantastic.

1. Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Photo courtesy of Infrogmation

The Mercedez-Benz Superdome is the highlight of the New Orleans skyline, with its intriguing design suggesting that an alien spaceship just landed downtown. Although public tours aren't offered, it's fun to just walk around this venue,home to the much loved Saints. With seating for more than 70,000 and no bad seat in the house, the Superdome has hosted 10 Super Bowls including Super Bowl XLVII in 2013. A dynamic litany of concerts, expos and festivals are hosted here, with tickets often at a premium. Located in the heart of the Central Business District, the Superdome is easily accessible by foot, taxi and streetcar from all the major hotels. Thanks to a $336 million redo, the arena made infamous as a hellish refuge of last resort during Katrina is now, a decade later, a promising symbol of the city's return from disaster.