Let’s be super honest here – there’s no shortage of weird things to do in New Orleans. New Orleans is perfect for those looking to seek out the haunted, the unique, the creepy, and the amazingly strange. There’s an infinite amount of history here – some fascinating, some disturbing, but all important and worthy of attention.
You’ll find out Voodoo isn’t really what you thought it was, you’ll visit above-ground cemeteries, see some amazing sculptures in a park that is bigger than Central Park in New York City, and so much more.
Weird Things to Do in New Orleans
Singing Tree in City Park
Let’s start with something not creepy but still really cool and one of the best weird things to do in New Orleans if you aren’t into the morbid and taboo things. If you head to City Park (take the Canal St streetcar all the way to the end and get off at the last stop) and head inside where you get off the streetcar. You won’t have to go far to stumble across the ‘Singing Tree.’ The tree is full of windchimes – some small and some rather large. It’s a super relaxing spot to relax, read a book, have a picnic or whatever else you may decide.
Sculpture Garden in City Park
While you’re in City Park, make sure to check out the sculpture garden! I’ve been to several sculpture gardens and this was probably the best I’ve ever seen. Also, it is absolutely huge. You could easily spend several hours walking around just this tiny portion of City Park. Trust me – once you see some of the sculptures you’ll see why it’s one of the best weird things to do in New Orleans.
Crystal of Wandering Crystal
Voodoo has always been portrayed as a terrifying form of black magic in the movies and should be feared at all costs. It’s depicted as a dark magic ritual involving sticking sharp needles into a voodoo doll to cause harm to others.
The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum is the place to visit in New Orleans to dispel the myths and learn the truth about voodoo. Located on Dumaine Street, just a 5-minute walk from Bourbon Street in the French Quarter, the museum offers a true insight into the misunderstood religion.
Entry to the museum is $7 and gives you the chance to take a self-guided tour throughout the unique space, jam-packed from floor-to-ceiling with voodoo history, relics, paintings, and temples to past voodoo queens. As you walk into the first room, you’ll be bombarded with wooden statues, animal skeletons, and human skulls decorated with coins, fabrics and voodoo symbolism. The walls are lined with information designed to draw you in and teach you all about the significance of each relic. The second room features a wall dedicated to aged voodoo dolls. Many of them have a frightening appearance which, without context, encourages the imagination to run wild with negative thoughts. However, contrary to what many people think, voodoo dolls are actually used to help people. For example, if someone’s trying to get pregnant, a voodoo doll is created for them to help promote fertility.
Be sure to visit the unusual museum and discover the truth about the mysterious religion on your next trip to New Orleans.
Backstreet Cultural Museum
Stella of Around the World in 24 Hours
Everyone knows about the famous traditions in New Orleans, like Mardi Gras parades. But if you want to know about the obscure parts of New Orleans culture, head to the Backstreet Cultural Museum, a short walk from the French Quarter. Admission is ten dollars.
Many museums are founded by wealthy organizations and philanthropists. But the Backstreet Cultural Museum was entirely founded by a local man named Sylvester Francis. Mr. Francis and his daughter are still in charge of the museum, and if you’re lucky you’ll meet one of them when you visit.
Mr. Francis spent decades photographing and filming New Orlean’s second-line parades and jazz funerals. Sometimes people would pay him in costumes or other special items. Eventually, Mr. Francis had such an amazing collection of New Orleans artifacts that he decided to open up a museum in the “back streets” of the historically African-American neighborhood, the Treme.
The highlight of Mr. Francis’s collection is the Mardi Gras Indian costumes. When African-Americans were enslaved in New Orleans, some escaped captivity and hid in the Louisiana swamps with local Native American tribes. After slavery ended, out of gratitude, many local African-Americans wore gorgeous beaded “Mardi Gras Indian” costumes as a thanks to the Native Americans for saving their lives. The tradition continues to this day. Some people spend all year sewing and beading just one of these elaborate costumes. So forget Bourbon Street. Real locals know that the heart of Mardi Gras is in the Treme at the Backstreet Cultural Museum.
Museum of Death
The Museum of Death houses as many different forms of “death” as it can including items from serial killers, autopsy videos, taxidermy and more.
The museum was originally opened in California in 1995, but the founders moved it to New Orleans twenty years later. The museum is not for the faint of heart and is suggested for mature audiences only as there are plenty of graphic exhibits and items including pieces on terrorism, cannibalism, lots of items sent in from serial killers themselves,
Nick of Wandering Wheatleys
The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum consists of two floors crammed full of dusty old medical equipment; ranging from bloodletting tools and opium paraphernalia to voodoo potions.
It was first opened as America’s first licensed pharmacy back in 1823 by Louis J. Dufilho, Jr. That fact alone would probably make this eclectic museum worth a stop while you’re visiting the Big Easy; but what truly makes the Pharmacy Museums one of the best things to do in New Orleans are the controversial medical practices of its second owner, Dr. Joseph Dupas.
Dr, Dupas was a rather deranged doctor who just as likely to kill his patients as to heal them. Some people say that Dupas performed gruesome experiments on pregnant slaves, while others believe that he was practicing voodoo on the property. And legend has it that numerous bodies of his “patients” were found on the grounds of the pharmacy after his death in 1867.
The ghost of Dr. Dupas still haunts the Pharmacy Museum; moving objects, throwing books, and tripping the fire alarm. Perhaps you’ll spot him in his brown suit and top hat during your trip to the museum.
Getting to the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum is easy as it’s located in the heart of the French Quarter less than 2 blocks from Jackson Square. Tickets are $5 for adults; kids under 6 years old are free. The museum is open from Tuesday – Saturday from 10 am-4 pm, but to truly experience the Pharmacy Museum at it’s best, plan to visit at 1 pm for the daily free tour.
Theresa of Fueled by Wanderlust
One of the creepiest, yet most interesting things to do in New Orleans is touring its very old cemeteries filled with beautiful above-ground graves. These unusually designed cemeteries feature rows upon rows of vaults and intricately designed family crypts. Some of them are so large, that the cemeteries actually resemble small “Cities of the Dead”.
This unusual setup all has to do with New Orleans’ unique location on a swampy bayou. Waterlogged soil does not make good conditions for below ground graves. Early settlers of the area learned the hard way when tombs of buried loved ones would eerily float back up to the surface. Thankfully, they found a solution to this.
When the Spanish controlled New Orleans for a period, they implemented their cultural method of burying the dead in above-ground graves. Many families share a tomb, and space is managed in a very interesting way. Basically, after a deceased family member has been laid to rest for two years, their remains are put into a “burial bag” and moved to the back of the tomb. That means multiple generations can fit inside of one of these structures, and things get rather cozy.
The oldest and most popular cemetery to visit is St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which is located right on the outskirts of the French Quarter. Thanks to vandals, it can only be entered with a licensed tour guide, such as Free Tours by Foot for $2 or Get Your Guide for $25. For $3, you could also take the streetcar to the Garden District for Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, where entry is free. Either way, you’ll have the unique and creepy New Orleans experience that you seek!
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