Explore New Orleans

Little-Known New Orleans

15 secret spots and hidden gems worth seeking out

Sure, there’s Jackson Square, the French Market and Bourbon Street—local landmarks on every tourist map. But what about those oft-overlooked spots and tucked-away treasures? In many cases, they’re right out in the open…you just have to know where to look.

Windows Into NOLA

Pass in front of Brennan’s and, through a window to the far right of the entrance, you’ll see the kitchen staff preparing such signature dishes as eggs Hussarde and steak Diane. You can also peek in on the muffuletta-making action through a side window at the Napoleon House, while a small, barred window between 519 and 521 Royal Street affords views of Antoine’s legendary wine cellar. Love the beignets at Café Du Monde, but hate the long lines? Skip the table wait, grab a to-go order and take a seat along the wall in the back, where you can watch them being made through a rear window.

Cafe Du Monde New Orleans
Peek in the rear window at Café Du Monde and you’ll see a flurry of powdered sugar. (©Zack Smith/NewOrleans.com)

The Art of Discovery

With its covered-over windows, passersby might think A Gallery had long been shuttered. But the barrier actually serves as a sunshade, protecting the wealth of fine-art photography that lies within. Enter M.S. Rau and you’re greeted by a security guard, which makes sense given the $10-million blue diamond on display. Pass the silver pirate swords and gilt-bronze candelabras, hang a right at the Ice Age cave-bear skeleton and head for the faux bookshelf in the back. There you’ll find a secret door that leads to the really good stuff—three floors of fine art and furnishings from the 16ththrough 21stcenturies. Free tours are offered. 

M.S. Rau Antiques New Orleans
M.S. Rau is the city’s oldest antiques store and one of the nation’s largest. (©M.S. Rau)

Green-space Getaways

Until recently views the mighty Mississippi were limited to a small area of the French Quarter. That all changed with the opening of the riverfront Crescent Park, which connects the Quarter to the Bywater and offers sweeping skyline vistas. The Lafitte Greenway was once a canal linking Bayou St. John to the Quarter. It’s now a public promenade dotted with wildflowers, recreation fields and beer gardens. From his arrival in 1929 to his death in 1999, Enrique Alférez established himself as one of New Orleans’ most popular artists. The Enrique Alférez Sculpture Garden in City Park brings together 14 of his most important—and beautiful—pieces in one tranquil setting.

City Park New Orleans
In addition to City Park, Alférez’s works are found all over town, from University Medical Center to Lakefront Airport. (©Shawn Fink)

Mural, Mural on the Wall

It’s hard to miss the sunny exterior of Studio BE, but step inside to really be wowed. The sprawling space is the perfect fit for artist Brandan Odums’ massive, statement-making murals. For all of the destruction Hurricane Katrina wrought, there was one positive that followed in its wake: After five decades of being shrouded in sheetrock at the art deco Lakefront Airport, Xavier Gonzalez’s circa-1938 depictions of famous travel destinations have been uncovered, restored and returned to public view. At Union Passenger Terminal (1001 Loyola Ave.), you’ll discover Conrad Albrizio’s 1954 fresco, which traces 400 years of Louisiana history and ranks as one of the largest in the U.S. 

Lakefront Airport New Orleans
Each of Xavier Gonzalez’s aviation-inspirted murals at Lakefront Airport corresponds with a different location on the inlaid compass in the terminal’s terrazzo flooring. (©Shawn Fink)

Architectural Wonders

Despite its name, the majority of French Quarter architecture is actually from the city’s Spanish-ruling period. For a real piece of Paris, head to the Garden District, home to the Eiffel Society, an events space constructed from the famed tower’s former restaurant. A short streetcar ride away is the Milton H. Latter Memorial Library, a must-visit for bibliophiles, housed in a 1907 neo-Italianate mansion. It takes a car to access the Holy Cross neighborhood’s historic steamboat houses (400 and 503 Egania St.). But the twin ornamental beauties, built in the early 1900s for husband-and-wife riverboat pilots Milton and Mary Doullut and their son Paul, are worth going the distance for. 

New Orleans' steamboat houses
Tucked away in the Holy Cross neighborhood, the ornate steamboat houses feature pagoda-style roofs, a nod to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. (©Lori Monaghan Borden/Shutterstock)