With its imposing, slate-gray façade, the 170-year-old U.S. Custom House may be the last building in which you’d expect to hear the delighted squeals of children. But behind the steely columns, the building erupts into 23,000 square feet of colorful displays and fluttering, scuttling insects, courtesy of the Audubon Society and Insectarium. In the Asian garden, hundreds of butterflies dodge shafts of sunlight to alight on tropical ferns and the shoulders of young visitors. And at the Insects of New Orleans gallery, visitors can ogle the pink katydids, cockroaches, and lovebugs that contribute to the city’s heritage.
These bug-filled displays are all part of the insectarium’s mission to conserve Louisiana’s indigenous species and inspire stewardship in its visitors. While adults can sate their curiosity with the vast array of exotic species, curators gear many displays toward young guests by making them lighthearted and interactive: the Field Camp’s entomologist answers questions about how to collect bugs or break up flea-circus strikes, and at Bug Appétit, chefs dole out insect-filled delicacies to adventurous palates.
Preservation is as much a priority as presentation at LeMieux Galleries, which is why the displays that the shop crafts from thousands of frames and acid-free mats often involve leaving a buffer of air between delicate paintings and glass. Framers there ensure that stolen copies of the Declaration of Independence can be secretly enjoyed for generations to come with their careful framing techniques, which can preserve the natural edge of paper and safeguard the stitches of antique needlework. In more than a quarter century in the business, the store has displayed everything from souvenir magazines to jerseys within their frames, the styles of which range from sleek contemporary to the ornate gold moulding that grows unbidden in French palaces. LeMieux Galleries also exhibits sculptures, paintings, and ceramics by artists from the Gulf South.
During the two-day Winter Art & Antiques Show, avid antiquarians can stare down their fill of stone-faced 19th-century cameos inside the stately Greek Revival edifice of the Old U.S. Mint, where 18 dealers will hawk art and antiquities from the 17th through mid-20th century. An auction gives bargain hunters ample opportunity to pick up an ornate silver tea service for a beloved Earl-Grey-sipping aunt or Starfleet captain, while connoisseurs of antique knowledge can absorb free lectures on restoration or native Louisiana art. Since most objets d'art are inedible, the classic Southern fare at Café Reconcile will quiet rumbling stomachs before their reverberations crack any delicate china.
Starting at the elegant white columns at the New Orleans African American Museum, the Tremé walking tour shepherds groups of up to 23 wanderers through the culturally significant neighborhood. For two hours every Monday, Friday, and Saturday, guests traipse through 300 years of richly saturated history, learning more effectively than sipping the contents of a blender full of history textbooks. Patrons tread across original handmade bricks that cover the ground in parts of one of the oldest African American communities. They also meander through Congo Square and St. Augustine Church as the knowledgeable guide sprinkles in anecdotes about the rise of jazz, creole architecture, and the New Orleans civil-rights movement.
Landmarks is the oldest non-profit preservation advocacy organization in New Orleans, and was founded by some of the city's leading preservationists, including Samuel Wilson Jr, Pie Dufour, Angela Gregory and Martha G. Robinson. The organization saved the Pitot House from destruction in 1964.
As the self-proclaimed oldest operating premium rum distillery in the United States, Old New Orleans Rum Distillery has accumulated an arsenal of accolades. Your approximately 45-minute tour will give you a glimpse into the distilling process of the best liquor to emerge since mint Scope. First, you'll learn how Louisiana sugarcane is mashed and mixed with water and yeast to create the primordial soup from which baby rums are born. If you're the type of person who likes to read the book before you see the movie, check out the rummery's website for a detailed explanation of the distillery process. Once the tour concludes, the group will head to the rum tasting room, where you can sample the distillery's four signature rums, and the friendly staff may elicit your opinion of new, yet-to-be-marketed blends. You'll also get a signature cocktail made with New Orleans Rum and stirred with swizzle sticks of love.