New Orleans was once one of the most powerful cities in all the Southern United States. Located between turns of the massive Mississippi River, the city served as a major trade center and port. Pirates used to stop in to spend their loot on libations and ladies, while plantation owners would bid at slave auctions out on public streets.
When visiting the city, you will want to spend at least a day soaking up the historical importance of the great city of New Orleans. A great place to start is at the much revered National WWII Museum.
The WWII Museum, operating in partnership with the Smithsonian, is a massive campus spotlighting America's contribution to allied victory in the second world war. Highlights are the massive WWII era aircraft that hang suspended from the ceiling, and the 4-D movie presentation titled Beyond all Boundaries which the kids will surely enjoy.
You may wonder what significance New Orleans played in WWII in order to deserve this museum. The fact is, New Orleans residents invented, designed and built the amphibious craft that was used to storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
The museum has enough in it to keep a group occupied for at least three hours, meaning you will probably get hungry while browsing the exhibits. New Orleans wouldn't be where it is today without its food. Inside the museum are food options overseen by renowned chef John Besh. which will surely get you energized for your next historical site.
Walk or hop on the St. Charles streetcar to your next destination, Jackson Square. Jackson Square is a central city plaza, one with much European influence. Smack in the center of the Square is a giant equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson, one of the most recognizable symbols of the city. What was once a major site for public executions is a now a gathering spot for artists, musicians and performers who work around the clock to entertain city-walkers.
If you are viewing the Square from Decatur, you will notice a beautiful cathedral filling up the background behind Andrew Jackson. That is the St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest continually operating cathedral in the United States. Feel free to stop in and explore on your own, take a tour, or visit during one of the cathedral's daily masses.
From here, you have some choices. If you are with a more adult crowd, maybe strolling down to Bourbon Street and doing dinner at the famous Galatoire's and grabbing a Sazerac at the Old Absinthe House would suit you.
Bourbon Street, while enticing for it's late night charm, also has deep historical roots — Photo courtesy of Ken Lund
Galatoire's is a New Orleans staple, having operated in the same location since 1905. Jackets are required for men in order to preserve the early 20th century ambiance.
The Old Absinthe House has a storied history. Its building was rumored to be the meeting point of pirates and Andrew Jackson when they settled victory for the battle of New Orleans. It was also a hotly contested site during prohibition, and was scheduled to be demolished to send a message (the bar was snuck out under the cover of darkness and hid until the end of prohibition).
If you travel with a less rambunctious crowd, or with children, spend your evening aboard the SS Natchez. The Natchez is a steam boat with operating stern wheel that runs harbor tours and dinner cruises right across from Jackson Square on the Mississippi River. Kids will love the boats huge stern wheel turning water and the boat's bellowing foghorn (which the captain loves to blow). Cocktails, of course, are offered on board as well, making this the perfect cap to a day exploring the historical aspects of the city.