Are you looking for a trip that will feel like you are not in the USA anymore? Traveling to Louisiana is just that. With a fantastic sub-culture, amazing food, and plenty of things to do, here is our Louisiana Bucket List!
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New Orleans Bucket List
New Orleans is one of those American cities that everyone should visit once in their lifetime. It’s all at once got that old-world charm, a sense of mystery, and some pretty unique things to do and places to see.
The best way to get a feel of New Orleans is to take a tour:
Exploring the Garden District
New Orleans has two famous neighborhoods, the French Quarter and the Garden District. Any trip to this incredible city wouldn’t be complete with out visiting both. The Garden District was where the wealthy folks of New Orleans moved to when trying to get away from the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter. Here they created their own haven away from the masses.
Originally, the mansions here were built on large plots of land with grandiose gardens taking up as much space, or more, than the massive buildings. Hence the name, Garden District. You can enjoy the massive live oaks lining the streets casting their leafy shade over the sidewalks which have been twisted and buckled by the trees’ massive roots.
The district has been historically home to the New Orleans elite, and the trend still continues today with such celebrity homeowners as Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, and, of course, Nicolas Cage. Taking a walking tour is a must to not only spot those interesting homes, but, more importantly, to learn the history and hear the fascinating stories of the Garden District.
The number one reason to do this activity: The Garden District is the most famous neighborhood in New Orleans. It is filled with the most amazing architecture and interesting characters from this colorful city’s history. Walking the shady streets is like taking a stroll into history.
When is the best time to visit? Visit the Garden District in the morning before the heat of the day makes it hard to enjoy the walk. Fall is a great time to come here as the weather is cooling off and the Halloween decorations add a spooky flavor to the district.
Is this recommended for families with children? Walking around the Garden District on a self-guided tour would be fine with kids. However, a guided tour would be difficult for them as there is a lot of standing and listening to the history and stories at the key locations.
One tip: It may be tempting to plan a walking tour of the Garden District in the morning and a French Quarter tour in the afternoon, but don’t. Your feet will thank you!
Take the tour:
Great tastes in the French Quarter
The French Quarter is one of the most unique locations in the entire United States. There really is no other place like it. From the architecture to the colorful characters in its history to the most incredible food experiences, the French Quarter really does have it all. And there’s no better way to get the most out of it than to take a food tour with a local chef.
Granted, there’s so much good food and fun times to be had in the French Quarter that you could almost go anywhere and not go wrong with the food. One great way to spend a day would be brunch in the garden at the Court of the Two Sisters, muffuletta for lunch in the French Market, beignets and coffee in the afternoon at Cafe du Monde, and dinner and live jazz at the Creole Cookery.
In between those tantalizing tastes, why not experience more of what the Quarter is known for? You can have your fortune told in Jackson Square, stop in for some prayer time at historic St. Louis Cathedral, or raise some hell while sipping on daiquiris on Bourbon Street.
The number one reason to do this activity: There’s so much more to the French Quarter than just good food, live music, and strong drinks. Take a food tour with a local chef to learn all about the history of the place and the food, your stomach will thank you!
When is the best time to visit? Plan a food tour for the early afternoon. Sure it will be a little warmer during that time of day, but you spend plenty of time indoors sampling some of the most amazing food you will ever have.
Is this recommended for families with children? Children will enjoy walking through the French Quarter, hearing fascinating stories, and trying different foods. But there are not really any kid-specific stops along the way, and if your child is a picky eater, then it’s probably not for them.
One tip: This one may seem obvious, but take the French Quarter Food Tour on an empty stomach.
Take a tour to get the most out of trying Cajun food:
I had no idea what to expect during my visit to the Sazerac House. Until my visit here, I was completely unaware that the Sazerac is the oldest cocktail, let alone what a Sazerac even is. Five parts Sazerac cognac or rye, one part absinthe, a sugar cube, and a splash or two of Peychaud’s Bitters, and there you have it, the official cocktail of New Orleans.
While it’s true I’m not much of a drinker, I have always been fascinated with history and culture, and who can pass up a free tour with a complimentary cocktail tasting? Not me. The Sazerac House presents the history of the company and the cocktail through three floors of intriguing interactive displays.
You can walk through the distillery, chat with the bartender whipping up Sazerac cocktails, or pull up a stool at the bar. You can order a cocktail at the bar, however, you won’t be able to drink it. Instead, the bar has an interactive bartender who goes through the process and history of the cocktail you’ve ordered. It’s very cool.
Of course, at end of the tour, you will walk through the ground-level gift shop. Here you can pick up your own antique-style cocktail construction kit, or a bottle or two of your favorite Sazerac rye whiskey or cognac.
The number one reason to do this activity: Did I mention it is free? You do need to book in advance on their website, but then just show up at your designated time.
When is the best time to visit? Unless you are planning on skipping the free tastings, I would plan on visiting in the afternoon or early evening. But hey, it’s got to be afternoon somewhere in the world, right?
Is this recommended for families with children? Even though Sazerac House is open to any age visitor, you have to be 21 to try the alcoholic samples. And, let’s face it, this isn’t really a children’s activity.
One tip: There may be quite a few people riding up the elevator to start the tour with you. If that’s the case, just hang back a little and let them move on. This way you’ll have most of the exhibits to yourself.
Take a tour to find out about all the great cocktails in NOLA:
- Sazerac House Complimentary Tours
- Early Evening Cocktail History Tour
- Frenchmen Street VIP Live Music Pub Crawl
Ride a Historic Street Car
New Orleans has been known for its streetcars for nearly two hundred years. In fact, it has the oldest, longest-running passenger rail system in the United States and one of the oldest in the world.
New Orleans still has four street car lines running through the city, but only one of them has the distinction of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Riding the streetcars in New Orleans is a great way to get around the city. The four lines connect outer neighborhoods with the downtown, with all of them intersecting on Canal Street on the edge of the French Quarter.
Riding on them is cheap, with single rides going for $1.25 (exact change please!), or use a one-day Jazzy Pass for $3.00 with unlimited rides on all city buses, streetcars, and ferries.
The number one reason to do this activity: Riding on one of the historic streetcars along St. Charles Street is a must. A typical weekend afternoon drive brings the rider through so much New Orleans culture, passing by interesting architecture, beautiful parks, and gardens, and, if you’re lucky, one or two colorful weddings.
When is the best time to visit? Riding the streetcars is great anytime, but for seeing as much New Orleans city life as possible, ride during a weekend afternoon.
Is this recommended for families with children? Children will love riding the clanky, crickety benches of the St. Charles Street line. Especially if one of the stops is at a cool city park with a playground like Audubon Park.
One tip: Our best tip for the streetcars is to buy the Jazzy Pass for one day of unlimited rides.
Get High at Vue Orleans
With most of the city at or below sea level, gaining some elevation for a good view is difficult to do in New Orleans. One way to get the best views of the city and have some serious fun while doing it is to spend some time at Vue Orleans.
Located on several floors of the Four Seasons Hotel at the beginning of Canal Street and right on the banks of the Mississippi river, Vue Orleans offers 360-degree views from its 34th-floor observation deck. But there’s so much more going on here than just your typical skyscraper viewing platform.
The museum uses interactive life-size displays presenting famous people from the past and present telling their stories to bring the history of the Crescent City to life.
The number one reason to do this activity: While the views of the city and the mighty Mississippi are incredible, the most fun I had was playing the barge simulator, trying to navigate a loaded cargo barge through the treacherous curves.
When is the best time to visit? The best time to visit Vue Orleans is late afternoon. Just be sure to get there early enough to enjoy the interactive museum before heading up for the sunset views of the city.
Is this recommended for families with children? Children of all ages are going to love the immersive, interactive displays. They’ll be having so much fun they won’t even know they’re learning something.
One tip: Take a moment to really soak in the view and grab a window seat at the Vue Orleans Café on the 34th floor. Enjoy a bag of Zappo’s Voodoo potato chips and a local brew before heading back down.
Take the tour: Purchase your tickets online at VueOrleans.com
Voodoo & Cemetery Tour
When in New Orleans, going on a Voodoo & St Louis Cemetery No.1 tour should be high on your list! Lasting around 1.5/2 hours, these extremely enjoyable and informative tours give you a great insight into New Orleans’ unique and colorful history.
Explore the oldest cemetery in New Orleans: St Louis Cemetery No.1, an extremely interesting cemetery as all the society tombs, family tombs, and wall vaults are above ground!
It is normal in New Orleans to bury people above ground as the majority of the city is below sea level. This cemetery has some of the most historic tombs in New Orleans, including that of Marie Laveau – the Queen of Voodoo who was regarded as the most feared, powerful, and influential woman of New Orleans in the 19th Century (this was my favorite part!).
It also hosts the 9-foot tall pyramid-shaped mausoleum Nicholas Cage purchased for his future burial! The St Louis Cemetery No.1 is located just one block from The French Quarter so it’s definitely worth doing this tour when you’re in the area, plus you’ll find plenty of hotels nearby.
A couple of blocks from the Cemetery are Louis Armstrong Park and Congo Square – where jazz was created and voodoo ceremonies were often performed!
Take this tour to get the most out of your excursion: Witches, Vampires, and Voodoo Walking Tour
The number one reason to do this activity: New Orleans is the most haunted city in America, so it’s only fitting to go on the Voodoo & St Louis Cemetery No.1 Tour to learn about New Orleans’ history!
When is the best time to visit? Whenever is convenient for you – although bear in mind New Orleans gets terribly hot and humid in the summer so it’s wise to not book your tour in the middle of the day when it’s sweltering!
Is this recommended for families with children? The tour is suitable for older children but young children may get a bit scared – it is a graveyard after all!
One tip: To enjoy the tour to the fullest just embrace it – whether or not you believe in the spirit world and superstitions. Spirits and voodoo play a big role in New Orleans and the tour will really help you to get a greater understanding of this special city.
Recommended by: Catrina of 24 Hours Layover
Paddlewheel Dinner Cruise on the Mississippi River
Before your dinner cruise, be sure to walk along the Riverwalk for great views of the Mississippi River. Then head to the Creole Queen to board the Paddlewheel! The entrance is at 1 Poydras Street in New Orleans.
On the cruise, guests will view the French Quarter and the Port of New Orleans from the river. The Captain narrates historic landmarks and tells stories of New Orleans’ history along the way. An authentic Louisiana meal is served as a “Creole Buffet”.
Spicy jambalaya, cajun baked chicken, sausage gumbo, and red beans with rice are just some of the offerings on the dinner cruise.
Of course, the entire trip is surrounded by the sounds of New Orleans, with jazz musicians playing lively and entertaining music during dinner. Afterward, step out on the dance floor and try a New Orleans cocktail!
The Creole Queen is a replication of the riverboat-era paddleboats that used to carry cargo up and down the Mississippi River. This 800-passenger boat has three dining areas plus an upper deck, perfect for sightseeing during the day and feeling the cool southern breezes at night.
Stay at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside for river views, while still being within walking distance to great local restaurants, shopping, and nightlife.
Take a tour:
The number one reason to do this activity: A dinner cruise along the Mississippi River is a great way to see parts of Louisiana that you can only see from the water!
When is the best time to visit? Spring is a great time to visit New Orleans because the weather is mild and the humidity has yet to set in.
Is this recommended for families with children? Yes, a New Orleans dinner cruise is a great experience for families! You will learn the history of the area and see the sites of the French Quarter from a new perspective while trying to spot wildlife in the water from the paddleboat.
One tip: Book your tickets in advance to be sure you get a spot on the boat.
Recommended by: Erin from Super Simple Salty Life
The Andouille Festival is a celebration of that scrumptious southern favorite, andouille sausage. Of course, the weekend is full of shows on the stage, like dancers, singers, and even impersonators.
While we were there, my favorite thing was tasting the various sausages and watching the parade. The Black Masking Indians of Gumbolia really put on a show with their amazing costumes.
Everyone will love a glimpse into Louisiana and cajun culture by attending this fest.
The number one reason to do this activity: It’s fun! From food to dancing, singing, and just enjoying a carnival atmosphere, it’s all fun!
When is the best time to visit? The Andouille Festival is held in La Place the second weekend in October each year.
Is this recommended for families with children? Absolutely. The kids will love the colorful costumes, the carnival rides, and games, and of course, the food.
One tip: It’s hot and sunny. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and bring water.
Acadiens et Creole Festival
This annual festival held every October in Lafayette has evolved into the premier festival celebrating all things Cajun and Creole. The festival begins with the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon, though in this case, the ribbon is a much more fitting string of boudin!
Local artisans, crafters, and cooks gather and present their wares on the grassy festival grounds. While on the other end of the park, the stage is jamming with the sounds of accordions and fiddles pumping out lively Cajun or Zydeco music. Make sure you arrive hungry and ready to dance.
The number one reason to do this activity: Cajun and Creole food! While the music is also a great reason to go, the food on offer here is incredible.
When is the best time to visit? You have to visit in mid-October when this annual festival takes place, other than that plan on being there in the late afternoon after the day has cooled off.
Is this recommended for families with children? The music is loud, and there are crowds and crowds of people having fun. Small children may be overwhelmed but the older kids will love it.
One tip: Bring a blanket and stake out a spot near the stage as soon as you can, but be sure and leave enough room between the stage and your blanket for all the folks dancing.
Rougarou Fest in Houma
The Rougarou is a Bayou creature that will cause mayhem and havoc if not taken care of. Local children are warned that the Rougarou will get them when they misbehave.
Like most Louisiana customs, Rougarou originates in France (Lougarou is French for werewolf) and has been adapted over the generations by Acadian and Cajun cultures.
Rougarou Fest shows its love for the Rougarou and its Bayou home in many ways. The Rougarou Fest is 100% run by volunteers, supported by countless individual and business donations, and all proceeds benefit the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center—which revolutionizes education, adaptation, and conservation of Louisiana’s disappearing coast.
Rougarou Fest highlights include a phenomenal costume contest (several categories), Krewe Ga Rou parade (featuring the Rougarou Queen), Cajun food, live music, craft vendors (superb souvenirs!), children’s activities, and much more.
There are many other fun things to do in Houma including eating authentic Cajun cuisine (try A-Bear’s Cafe) and incredible Louisiana seafood (try The Shack and 1921), visiting a gator farm (Greenwood Gator Farm), and several museums and historic sites.
The Courtyard by Marriott Houma is right next to the Houma Civic Center, which is the staging area before and after the Mardi Gras parades (a fantastic place to check out the parade floats and performers).
The number one reason to do this activity: Louisiana is all about festivals. And gumbo. Imagine a gumbo of Mardi Gras, Halloween, and Renaissance Faire and you have the eclectic, weird, fun, and wonderful Rougarou Fest.
When is the best time to visit? Rougarou Fest occurs on a late weekend every October.
Is this recommended for families with children? Rougarou Fest is family friendly with plenty of children’s activities, games, and a popular costume contest.
One tip: Plan to enjoy Rougarou Fest all day, or at least in the afternoon and evening. Dress up as a family or group and enjoy the costume contest followed later by the Krewe Ga Rou parade.
Recommended by: Charles McCool of US Gulf Coast Travel
The Rest of the Louisiana Bucket List
Take a Gator Tour
Taking a cajun swamp tour or gator tour is something you should definitely not miss when visiting Louisiana.
Check out these amazing swamp tours:
The number one reason to do this activity: To be able to see all kinds of wildlife but mainly those alligators!
When is the best time to visit? You can visit from March through October to have the best chance at seeing gators. They’re not visible during the winter.
Is this recommended for families with children? 100 percent yes! Kids will love riding on the boats, whether it’s an airboat, large patio boat, or private boat. It’s always fun and safe!
One tip: Take a good camera and keep your hands inside the boat at all times. We were out on a lake and an alligator came out of nowhere. It’s the reason you go, but you want to do it safely!
Kayak at Sunrise on Lake Martin
Lake Martin is a great little swampy area and lake not far from Lafayette. We took the opportunity to get up dark and early, before sunrise, and get out on the water in kayaks.
Seeing the sun come up on the lake, with the Spanish moss-laden trees, was something I’m not soon going to forget. The only sounds were a few birds squawking as they woke up to the day and the swish, swish of our paddles hitting the water.
Afterward, we went into town and had a fantastic breakfast at Tante Marie. Try the banana pudding…yes, even at breakfast.
Of all the things I’ve done in Louisiana, this might be my favorite.
The number one reason to do this activity: You get to be out on the water, seeing magnificent views, before the rest of the world wakes up.
When is the best time to visit? You can do this activity anytime during the year. You are getting up early and the hot weather hasn’t quite set in yet if you go during summer.
Is this recommended for families with children? Older children would absolutely love this. Kayaking is a great physical activity, and getting to see the birds is a bonus.
One tip: Take water and a good camera with you.
Listen to Zydeco Music
I’m not sure why the United States doesn’t have anything listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, but if we did, Zydeco music and dancing would be on it.
The term Zydeco is said to come from the Creole phrase “les haricots sont pas salés” meaning the snap beans aren’t salty (source) indicating its roots in the poverty-stricken rural corners of Louisiana. But there’s nothing but rich melody and fast beat music coming from the accordion, washboard, guitar, and drums of a Zydeco band.
Zydeco music is a blend of blues, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and African-Caribean music with its origins in southern Louisiana. While you might not hear Zydeco all around the USA, it’s almost impossible to go to Louisiana and not hear it spilling out onto the street from local bars and venues, enticing passersby in for some lively dancing.
The number one reason to do this activity: Enjoy the music, let yourself go and dance to your heart’s content, and just have fun!
When is the best time to visit? There are a number of festivals around Louisiana throughout the year where Zydeco can be found. Festivals Acadiens et Creoles in Lafayette (mid-October); New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (early May), and the Original Southwest Zydeco Music Festival near Plaisance, Louisiana (early September).
Is this recommended for families with children? Kids love music and dancing, so bring out the whole family.
One tip: Comfortable shoes are a must!
Check out Lafayette
Lafayette is the fourth largest city in the state, and what it’s really known for is its superb cajun cuisine! From homemade gumbo and jambalaya to the ever-popular bread pudding, you can’t go wrong when seeking out great food.
However, food is not the only reason to head to the cool city of Lafayette. There are so many things to do and see. Plus, getting out of the big city really shows you a glimpse of what life is really like in the state, along the prettiest bayous.
The number one reason to do this activity: Lafayette is often overlooked when planning a Louisiana itinerary, but it shouldn’t be. We spent the best week there and had plenty of fun.
When is the best time to visit? You can visit anytime, but I would say spring and fall are the most comfortable.
Is this recommended for families with children? Absolutely, the museums around the city are really geared towards explaining the history in a way that’s great for kids.
One tip: If you can stay downtown, like in the Blue Moon Guesthouse, you will be able to go next door on Wednesdays and listen to some great live music.
You can also check out our podcast which is all about the wonderful city of Lafayette right here:
Visit an Old Sugar Cane Plantation
While in Louisiana, I was lucky enough to visit three outstanding plantations. They were Houmas House, Laura Plantation, and the Destrehan Plantation.
You would think that the tours would all be the same, but I can honestly say they were all completely different. The histories are fascinating, the interiors spectacular, and the grounds well-kept and gorgeous.
Each plantation had a large parking lot, great toilet facilities, and a souvenir store, as well as the buildings they have preserved over the last 150 years or so.
Take a Louisiana plantation tour:
The number one reason to do this activity: The plantations are beautiful, and I was impressed with the tours because they didn’t skirt over any bad history. They told it like it was.
When is the best time to visit? You can visit any time of year!
Is this recommended for families with children? If you are just wandering around the sites on your own, children will be okay. But, if you are taking tours, they can be long. I think smaller kids might lose interest.
One tip: Take drinking water; you’ll be walking and standing quite a bit.
American Rose Center in Shreveport
We visited the American Rose Center during our time in Shreveport. We stayed at Sam’s Town, which is located right on the Red River, but we were eager to spend even more time outside.
A big, beautiful rose garden made for the perfect escape! My favorite spot in the American Rose Center is the small wooden chapel. I can only imagine how fabulous this would be for a wedding!
When you plan your own visit, wear comfortable shoes so you can get out and explore the gardens to their fullest extent!
The number one reason to do this activity: A visit to the American Rose Center is a must for anyone who loves luscious gardens, fabulous architecture, and, of course, a variety of roses!
When is the best time to visit? The best time to visit is either the second half of April or the first half of May, which is the peak rose season in Louisiana.
Is this recommended for families with children? The American Rose Center is the perfect stop for families with young children. You have a great place for them to run around and burn off some energy, while you get to appreciate the beauty of the gardens.
One tip: Dress for the weather. You will walk a lot as the gardens are expansive, so you want to be able to enjoy your time here without overheating.
Recommended by: Stephanie Craig of History Fangirl
Shreveport Municipal Auditorium
Shreveport Municipal Auditorium has been the home for a variety of shows and events since its construction after World War I. Even Elvis got his true professional start there performing every Saturday night for over a year.
Taking a tour not only highlights the many artists who have graced the stage, but it may include a deep dive into the architecture and racial history of the city.
I stayed downtown at the Hilton Shreveport where they have a large attached parking garage and was within walking distance to some nightlife options. It was a convenient home base for doing different activities around both Shreveport and Bossier City.
When is the best time to visit? They have designated tour times. If you have a large enough group (8+ people), you can set up a private tour.
Is this recommended for families with children? I attended a private tour and there was nothing objectionable for families. I would not recommend it for young children, though, as they may not have the attention span.
One tip: Wear comfortable shoes as you’ll be on your feet the whole time. When you are done, consider taking a short walk across the street to the cemetery if you are in a group.
Recommended by: Laura of Day by Day in Our World
Lake Charles and the Creole Nature Trail
My kids and I spent two days in Lake Charles as part of a month-long road trip through the Southeast United States. We visited during the summer, so most of our trip was focused on indoor activities or staying in the pool.
We stayed at L’Auberge Casino and Resort, which is a fantastic place to stay with kids. This is a casino resort and has a few adults-only areas but the pool, lazy river, and other amenities, such as a fun hot dog restaurant and lakefront beach areas, make it appropriate for families.
The Creole Nature Trail and getting to see so many alligators up close (don’t get out of your car) was such a great experience.
Alligators slow their breathing when it gets cold outside and stay near the bottom, so your chances of seeing gators will dramatically decrease during winter.
The trail is a loop that will take you 30-45 minutes to drive very slowly. You’ll see most of the alligators after the first left turn, so roll your windows down and be on the lookout.
There are no bathrooms or services on the trail so make sure to take a comfort break before you set out.
The number one reason to do this activity: The opportunity to learn about wildlife by seeing alligators and birds from the safety of your car.
When is the best time to visit? Anytime but between November and February when the alligators are not visible.
Is this recommended for families with children? Visiting Lake Charles with kids is a must as long as you make sure you’re staying in the car because alligators move fast. The free interpretive center (on Ruth Street in Sulphur) has lots of educational, hands-on activities.
One tip: Read up on alligators (safety, why they’re necessary for the ecosystem) before you set out.
Recommended by: Jill Robbins of Ripped Jeans and Bifocals
Hiking at Jean Lafitte National Historical Center
Hiking at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park is a great thing to do when you are visiting New Orleans but want to get out of the city. The boardwalk through the historical park makes this hike easy and takes you through different landscapes such as swamp lands, grassy fields, and along a river.
The best part of the hike is spotting wildlife such as crocodiles, frogs, and different species of birds. If you want to spot wildlife, make sure to go either really early in the morning before other people arrive or stay until dusk. This is when the animals are the most active and you will have your best bet at spotting them.
While visiting, we RV camped at St. Bernard State Park, which is pretty close to Jean Lafitte but you do have to either take a ferry across the river to get there or drive around which can make the trip pretty far. Make sure you look up the ferry schedule in advance so you aren’t waiting around for too long.
The number one reason to do this activity: You get to see all kinds of animals and beautiful landscapes.
When is the best time to visit? Spring or fall is the best time to visit because the weather is not too hot and the animals are active.
Is this recommended for families with children? It’s great for kids because the walk is easy and not too long.
One tip: Go early in the morning when there aren’t too many people around so you can have your best chance at spotting wildlife.
Recommended by: Jessica of Unearth The Voyage
Touring Jungle Gardens on Avery Island
It’s difficult not to be awe-stricken as you visit the 170-acre Jungle Gardens. Home to a wide range of wildlife, the semi-tropical garden is also the site of one of the oldest timber bamboo groves in America, varieties of camellias, a 900-year-old Buddha statue and more. While I enjoyed everything at Jungle Garden, Bird City, the bird sanctuary, is not to be missed and is my favorite if I had to choose.
Explore the three-mile trail by car (highly recommended during the summer and for iffy weather, it is Louisiana, so you never know), on bike, or on foot. Plan for about two hours for your visit. Your first stop will be the gift shop, where you can pick up a map and pay admission, which as of Feb. 2023, is $9.50 per adult, $6.50 per child, ages 5-12, and free for children four and under.
While self-guided tours are the way to go, especially if you are on a schedule, there are guided tours for those who have a deep interest in the history of the land or botany. There’s even a tour for bird lovers. These are extra costs and may require pre-reservations.
Jungle Gardens is about 40 minutes from Lafayette and around 15 minutes from New Iberia. You can stay at either destination, depending on what you want to see and do during your time here.
The number one reason to do this activity: The picturesque garden is a must-do while visiting Lafayette, and not just because of its beauty, but also because of its history and importance to the area’s ecosystem.
When is the best time to visit? While anytime is a good time to visit, just stay informed of the weather for any chances of rain or thunderstorms, and in the summer, you want to visit early to beat the heat.
Is this recommended for families with children? All ages will find something to enjoy in Jungle Gardens, whether it’s spotting wildlife, seeing Bird City, or just soaking in the surroundings, there’s plenty to keep everyone engaged.
One tip: Don’t rush. In this day and age, it’s easy to rush through things. It’s worth taking your time exploring Jungle Gardens because you never know what you might spot when you slow down.
Recommended by: Apryl Chapman Thomas of Southern Hospitality Magazine
The Orphan Train Museum in Opelousas
The Orphan Train museum is located in the historic Le Vieux Village in Opelousas, Louisiana, in an old train depot. Once inside there is a video you can watch along with several displays. There are also numerous photos on the walls of the orphans that came to this area, and tells their story about what happened to them after arriving and what became of them.
The number one reason to do this activity: This museum tells the story of a little-known and forgotten episode of American history.
When is the best time to visit? Saturdays are best since during the week there are often school trip visits.
Is this recommended for families with children? Yes, It is very educational and teaches a part of history that many do not know about.
One tip: Take the time to read the stories of those that are memorialized in the Orphan Train museum and talk to the staff on hand. The people at the museum are volunteers and many are family members of those that experienced this part of history.
Recommended by: Bob Bales of The Traveling Fool
The Biedenharn Museum & Gardens in Monroe
The Biedenharn Museum & Gardens pays homage to Joseph Biedenharn, the first bottler of Coca-Cola, as well as his daughter, Emy Lou Biedenharn.
As you make your way through the facility, beginning with the Coca-Cola Museum and ending with Emy Lou’s lavish English garden, you will unravel the history of one of Louisiana’s most fascinating families. It’s a brilliant combination of interactive exhibits offering the curious at heart an opportunity to explore, learn, and have a good time.
If you don’t know much about The Biedenharn Museum and Gardens, you’ll probably be surprised by what you find. What is most interesting is how it all pieces together. You might wonder what Coca-Cola has to do with a Bible collection or why a coke bottler is a big deal anyway, but those are things you will learn and that is what makes this museum so unique.
Outside of an antique collection of all things Coca-Cola and an impressive assortment of rare Bibles and artifacts, what you mind find most captivating is the home. It’s not often you find a historical home fully furnished in its original state.
Joseph Biedenharn built the home in 1914, so it has been a few years since its heyday. Nonetheless, the home and contents have been beautifully preserved. There is even a beautiful set of Tiffany plates and an antique music box once used for entertaining guests. If you’re lucky, it may even play for you during your visit.
As if Coca-Cola, Bibles, art, and a historical home aren’t enough, the cherry on top is Emy Lou’s beloved garden space. In fact, she loved it so much that she bought the home next door just to expand it.
The garden is beautiful year-round with water features, statues, and a carefully selected variety of flora. However, if you really want to be there when colors pop, visit in the spring while the azaleas are blooming.
The Bidenharn Museum is located in Monroe, which is about a 1.5 drive from Shreveport.
The number one reason to do this activity: The museum is a unique ensemble of exhibits that dives into the history of Coca-Cola and the Biedenharn family.
When is the best time to visit? You can visit any time of year and enjoy both the museum and garden space; however, my personal recommendation would be to visit in the Spring when the azaleas are in bloom.
Is this recommended for families with children? It’s perfect for families! Kids will love interacting with a real soda jerk at the replica soda fountain and the chance to buy a glass bottle of Coca-Cola for a nickel from a vintage Coke machine.
Adults will appreciate the historical value of the Biedenharn home as well as the exhibit dedicated to rare Bibles, ancient artifacts, and priceless art. You can even see a Salvador Dali piece!
One tip: Give yourself plenty of time to explore the museum. It seems small, but there is so much to learn and enjoy.
Recommended by: Jenna Walker of Travels of Jenna
Poverty Point National Monument
Poverty Point National Monument tells the story of an ancient culture. More than 3,000 years ago, a complex society built massive earthworks that were a trading hub and an engineering marvel.
I was visiting Ridgeland, Mississippi, when I learned I was less than two hours from a UNESCO World Heritage site, so I jumped in the car and drove into eastern Louisiana.
I arrived shortly before they closed, but I had enough time to grab the audio tour brochure, drive to one of the significant mounds, and climb to the summit.
It was a phenomenal, humbling experience, especially knowing the earthworks had been built in a period of about ninety days. These monuments were built by hand, without the aid of domesticated animals.
Even more incredible was learning that this society was made up of hunter-gatherers. Agrarian communities wouldn’t build anything similar for another 2,000 years.
Visitors can hike the 2.6-mile trail and participate in guided tours, demonstrations, and programs. There are also artifacts on display inside the visitor center.
The closest accommodation to Poverty Point is Champions Black Bear Lodge, and there are several hotels in Monroe, about an hour to the west.
The number one reason to do this activity: Poverty Point National Monument is one of 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the USA.
When is the best time to visit? Because it’s outdoors, you can visit Poverty Point year-round.
Is this recommended for families with children? Families who like history and being outdoors will enjoy Poverty Point.
One tip: Take your time in the visitor center to learn the story behind the earthworks. Be sure to pick up a copy of the driving guide before you take the auto tour.
Recommended by: Theresa Goodrich of The Local Tourist
Whether you fly and drive or take tours, you will want to spend some time exploring the Bayou State, Louisiana. Taking a swamp tour, spotting wildlife and the abundance of birds, plus indulging in the best cuisine in the South, you can’t go wrong.
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.