Off the Beaten Path in New Orleans: Smaller French Quarter AttractionsJune 10, 2011 No Comments
It would be easy to spend an entire vacation in New Orleans’ French Quarter just shopping, eating and catching the street performers. Bigger attractions like the Audubon Aquarium and Insectarium might grab your attention, or you might wander to the outskirts of the Quarter to visit St. Louis Cemetery Number One.
However, no trip to New Orleans would be complete without stopping by at least one or two of the French Quarter’s smaller attractions. Inexpensive, uncrowded and exceptionally friendly, these attractions are great places to decompress and learn a little more of New Orleans’ unique culture. On our Mardi Gras 2011 visit, Dad and I took in the Beauregard-Keyes House, the Historical Wax Museum and the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum.
While the majority of buildings in the French Quarter date to the 1800s, most have been modernized–cut up into apartments and shops with air-conditioning, cable and other modern amenities. The Beauregard-Keyes House allows visitors to see how wealthy New Orleanians lived in the early 1800s. The house was built in 1826 and is named for its two most famous residents. Confederate General P.T. Beauregard occupied the home from 1866-1868, while novelist Frances Parkinson Keyes lived there from 1944 until her death in 1970. The home is mostly decorated in 1800s style, though Keyes touches are evident throughout, particularly in the room that she used as a bedroom in later life.
The tour guide lives on the property and there is a wealth of fascinating information about both the home and the city as a whole. Our group consisted of a middle-aged woman, Dad and me. We sat with the guide for quite awhile before the official tour began, just sharing Hurricane Katrina stories and chatting about various topics. At the end of the tour, our guide gave everyone a strand of Mardi Gras beads. It’s a fun takeaway that is especially great for children.
The house is located at 1113 Chartres Street, across from the Old Ursulines Convent (the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley, also open for public tours). As of 2011, admission is $10 for adults, $9 for students and seniors, and $4 for kids aged 6-12. Children under 6 are free. Tours are conducted every hour on the hour every day except Sunday. The house is a featured stop on many ghost tours, but the current guide claims that he has never experienced anything unusual.
Historical Wax Museum
The Historical Wax Museum of New Orleans is, in our opinion, one of the best places to get a clear and concise history of the city. Opened in 1963, the museum’s 154 wax figures detail the story of New Orleans from its early days through the modern era. The Battle of New Orleans, the mystery of voodoo queen Marie Laveau and even the Storyville adult district and its effects on the invention of New Orleans jazz are covered in great detail. Yet the displays stay away from the tawdry or salacious, focusing instead on the historical facts. There is a traditional Haunted Dungeon at the end, which features horror movie villains, but it can easily be bypassed if desired.
The museum is located at 947 Conti in the Upper Quarter. As of 2011, it is open only Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is $7 for adults, $6.25 for seniors and $6 for kids aged 4 through 17. Children under 4 are free.
New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
In 1822, Louis J. Dufilho, Jr. purchased land at 514/516 Chartres Street. He constructed a modest home and opened an apothecary shop downstairs in 1823. Significant improvements were made on the house in 1837. The building was sold several times over the years and fell into neglect by 1937. It was purchased by then-mayor Maestri and donated to the city. The Pharmacy Museum opened in 1950.
Today the building is filled with artifacts dedicated to the practice of medicine and pharmacology in 1800s New Orleans. A self-guided tour pamphlet contains a great deal of information, and the exhibits are well-labeled. Although the museum is traditional rather than high-tech or interactive, most kids seem fascinated by it. Be prepared for questions, as many of the instruments are eye-catching and exotic by modern standards.
As of 2011, the museum is open limited hours Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students, and free for children under age 6.