8 Off-the-Beaten Path Attractions

Whether you've already seen all the mainstream tourist attractions or just want to skip the crowds on Bourbon Street, New Orleans has plenty of unique - and unusual - places to sightsee. Try some of these unexpected attractions and discover an entirely different side of the Big Easy.

1. Urban Kayaking
It may seem a bit unusual to spend a day kayaking through New Orleans, but the historic Bayou St. John provides an ideal trail for seeing the sights and getting a feel for the city. Paddle through a number of neighborhoods and past the Spanish Custom House, the historic Pitot House, City Park and St. Louis Cemetery No. 3. Each tour lasts an average of four hours and gives visitors a fun way to explore, exercise and enjoy New Orleans' serene setting among waterways.

2. Besthoff Sculpture Garden
Art aficionados might flock to the New Orleans Museum of Art, but they often miss out on the nearby sculpture garden, located in scenic City Park. Spend the afternoon in this urban sanctuary, and walk among towering pines, mossy oaks and blooming magnolia trees while viewing more than 57 sculptures created by artists from across the globe. If you're planning to spend the afternoon, pack a picnic and sit on one of the grassy banks or benches near the City Park Lagoon or Cascade Garden Pool.

3. Southern Food and Beverage Museum
With exhibits chronicling the culture of food and drink in the American South, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum is the perfect way to get a taste for regional specialties. Stop in at the Museum of the American Cocktail for demonstrations, or have a seat at restaurant Purloo for Southern fare with an emphasis on local farming. 

4. Island of Salvation Botanica
With its Afro-Caribbean heritage, mysterious swamplands and prevalence of voodoo culture, New Orleans is steeped in magic and lore. Visit this voodoo shop in the Bywater neighborhood, where you can shop for potion oils and chicken feet as well as get a reading from renowned Voodoo Priestess Sallie Ann Glassman.

5. Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots
If live gaming sounds exciting, don't miss the action at the Fair Grounds, located about 10 minutes from the French Quarter and downtown New Orleans. Place your bets on sleek, muscular horses, and watch with anticipation as they careen down the racetrack. If playing slots sounds more appealing, take your pick from more than 600 slot machines, as well as Wheel of Fortune games.

6. Insta-Gator Alligator Rancy & Hatchery
If you've ever wanted to get up close and personal with one of Louisiana's swamp-dwelling reptiles, Insta-Gator is your chance. With more than 2,000 gators in this conservation facility, you can view full-sized gators in crystal-clear water and even play with baby alligators in the hatchery's touch pool.

7. Celebration Distillation
For a taste of New Orleans, head over to Celebration Distillation, producer of Old New Orleans Rum, for a tour and tasting. Distilled with locally-sourced molasses, Old New Orleans Rum was founded by renowned artist James Michalopoulos, who even designs the labels on the bottles. You'll learn about the distillation process while sipping on a cocktail before heading into the Tasting Room to experience the varied flavors of the spirit. 

8. Longue Vue House and Gardens
Tucked away on the western edge of the city is New Orleans' best kept secret garden. Longue Vue boasts eight-acres of stunning gardens that include extensive plant collections of camellia, the Louisiana iris, native plants and other horticultural delights. Open year-round, Longue Vue is the perfect treasure for garden enthusiasts and casual visitors to discover.

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