New Orleans is a beating heart of a culture that thrives on art, music, Cajun cuisine, and community. With its exceptional landscape of swamps, inland waterways, and thick forests. Referred to as the sportsman's paradise, Louisiana and New Orleans are a rare breed of city and state in the USA. We are here to tell you all about this unique region in the south.
With the statewide celebration of Mardi Gras, the booming French Quarter district in New Orleans, and the mighty Mississippi River flowing through it all, "Cajun country" presents endless opportunities for you to explore, dine, learn, and enjoy!
Family-Friendly Day Trips From New Orleans
However, today we are going to focus on the best day trips for the whole family. From small towns to state parks to wildlife refuges to airboat swamp tours in the swamps, this list has something for kids and adults of all ages to experience (because Bourbon Street is not for *most* babies).
A historical city located in the heart of the Creole and Cajun country, Lafayette is a wonderful option for a weekend getaway. Located just over a 2-hour drive from NOLA, Lafayette presents a mecca for educational and cultural affairs. This city is a perfect place to bring the family. This city features the LARC's Acadian Village that re-enacts 19th-century settler life, the Alexandre Mouton House (the Lafayette Museum), and a thriving downtown for touring the best gumbo and boudin in the state. For outdoor activities, Lafayette is surrounded by wetlands and swamps that are perfect for hiking, kayaking, birding, and guided tours of the marshes (look out for gators!)
2. Baton Rouge
Another excellent day trip option for a quick 80-minute road trip from the city is to the state capital city of Baton Rouge. Nestled on the Mississippi River, this city offers family-friendly activities such as touring the castle-esque Old Louisiana State Capitol, the LSU Rural Life Museum, and the USS Kidd (a retired WWII destroyer turned into a museum). Baton Rouge is ideal for trying the delectable dishes native to Louisiana, including boudin, crawfish, and gumbo.
3. Lake Charles
Located just over 3 hours west of the Big Easy, Lake Charles is the Festival Capital of Louisiana. It has over 75 fests annually (including the state's 2nd-biggest Mardi Gras). In addition to the many different celebrations throughout the year, Lake Charles is also home to the Sam Houston State Park, five National Wildlife Refuges, and a booming hub for live music (especially at the renovated 1912 Central School) and Cajun culture. Even more family-friend fun includes the Lake Charles Boudin Trail and the Creole Nature Trail, which boasts 26 miles of beautiful beaches on the Gulf coast.
4. Avery Island
Oak trees, Spanish moss, and the imaginative flora and fauna of the bayou cover the flat coastal marshes where Avery Island takes refuge. This 2,200-acre island is situated on top of a solid rock salt that is supposedly deeper than Mount Everest is tall. Located 140 miles from New Orleans in Iberia Parish, LA, Avery Island is the home of the world-famous Tabasco hot sauce and the Tabasco Factory. Other attractions on the island include Jungle Gardens and the Bird City wildfowl refuge.
5. Honey Island Swamp Tours
Perfect for a family adventure, Honey Island Swamp Tours offers incredible boat tours on one of the least touched river swamps in the USA. The 250-square-mile Honey Island Swamp offers almost 70,000 acres of permanently protected wildlife, including the elusive alligator. This getaway is less than an hour from the city, between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne near the Mississippi border.
Established in 1843 and used as a summer getaway for the elite of the area, this lakeside community became accessible to more visitors when the longest bridge in the world was constructed to connect the Causeway through the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. Just a 45-minute drive across the lake, Mandeville provides shopping, dining, and a plethora of outdoor recreation. Take the kids to Fontainebleau State Park or bike along Tammany Trace, a 31-mile cycling route along an abandoned railroad track.
7. The Great River Road
Last but not least on our favorite day trips from New Orleans is a scenic drive on the National Scenic Byway called the Great River Road. This legendary road travels along the Mississippi River through many small towns with considerable charm, including Baton Rouge, Tallulah, and Plaquemine. In the state of Louisiana alone, there are eight Great River Road Interpretative Centers, including one of St. Francisville, Pioneer, and New Orleans. Another history-enhancing stop is the Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie.
8. Atchafalaya Natural Heritage Area
A National Park protecting and preserving 150-square-miles of swamps, rivers, and marshland along the Gulf coast, the Atchafalaya Natural Heritage Area presents endless chances to hang out in nature. Favorite activities include biking, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, and swamp tours. Boat tours are run by third-party companies such as the Atchafalaya Experience and Cajun Country Swamp Tours.
Other Notable Destinations
- Abita Springs, Louisiana
- Gulf Shores, Alabama
- Pensacola, Florida
- Gulfport, Mississippi
- Covington, Louisiana
- DeSoto National Forest and Big Biloxi Recreation Area
- Houma, Louisiana
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