Visitors to the Big Easy flock to the historic French Quarter, and rightly so. The Quarter has some incredible things to do, and some amazing things to eat! But there is so much more to New Orleans. Here are just a couple of my favorite things to do outside of the French Quarter.

Visit the National World War II Museum

When I first heard that the National World War II Museum was in New Orleans, I was shocked. After all, what does New Orleans really have to do with the War? The answer is actually really amazing.

Andrew Higgins was the owner of a boat company in New Orleans. When the war broke out, he redesigned his boats made for swamps and marshes. They were able to navigate fairly shallow water, hold a number of people and/or vehicles, and had a ramp for beach landings. General Eisenhower credited the Higgins landing craft as the reason the war was able to be won. It is in tribute to this that New Orleans has the Museum, and has a Higgins boat in the main atrium.

The atrium of the WW2 Museum.

The Museum is fairly America-centric, barely skimming the events leading up to Pearl Harbor, and hardly mentioning the Eastern Front. However, the exhibits are very well designed and interactive, featuring video footage, interviews, and personal stories. Each visitor receives a digital dog-tag of a WW2 participant, and can follow along that person’s journey throughout the exhibitions.

You’ll be introduced to “your” person on your dog-tag in this interactive train exhibit.

It is also important to note that while some aspects of the War seem to be ignored – the Holocaust jumped out at me – the Museum is still expanding, with new buildings set to open all the way to 2020. I will definitely be back to see those expansions!

Among the highlights for me were the incredible “Road to Tokyo” and “Road to Berlin” exhibits, in depth explorations of each major engagement – and the decisions leading up to it – in those campaigns.

The Guadalcanal room in “Road to Tokyo”

While visitors can spend as much or as little time in the Museum as they desire, it is definitely at least a half-day activity to do right.

Explore the Bayou on a Swamp Tour

Unless you hail from the Deep South and are familiar with swamps, this is a really fun outing. Tours run in all shapes and sizes, and at a variety of prices, but all are designed to show off the diversity of the bayous, rivers, and swamps of South Louisiana.

Cruising along the Pearl River

This trip, I took a tour recommended to me by my hotel run by Cajun Encounters. A bus picked me up at the hotel, and after gathering the other participants, took us on a 45-minute drive across Lake Ponchartrain to Slidell and the Lower Pearl River. There we checked in and were divided onto small boats for a two-hour swamp tour.

Our guide, Captain Jacob, was very knowledgeable about the local flora and fauna, pointing out the diversity in vegetation, and spotting critters for us to gaze at and photograph. The guides even bring food with them to entice some of the local animals nearer to the boat. We saw turtles, raccoons, a great blue heron, a swamp pig named Oreo, and two small alligators – the true prize.

Ok, how cute is this?

Unfortunately the day was cold so the alligators were largely hibernating, but the tour was wonderful nonetheless.

Gator!!

Some visitors to New Orleans will also delight in Mississippi River cruises, a visit to Mardi Gras World – where the floats are kept – or take a more somber tour of the Lower Ninth Ward, where Hurricane Katrina was most devastating. There is so much to do in this city!

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