When you visit southern Louisiana, you might feel like you’ve entered another country. The area features a spicy melange of cultures. Like gumbo simmering all day long, don’t hurry. Savor Louisiana and feed your soul.
New Orleans: The Cultural Heart Of Louisiana
For an overview of New Orleans, take the Creole Queen Historic Cruise. Especially in the summer, choose the morning cruise. For an extra charge, enjoy the traditional New Orleans buffet. The tour includes an hour at Chalmette Battlefield (pronounced shall-MET), where General Andrew Jackson led a diverse group to victory over the British on January 8, 1815.
Pro Tip: Receive five hours of discounted parking at the World Trade Center Garage with Creole Queen tickets. Present your parking tickets at the Creole Queen ticket booth for the discount.
Meet Fish And Bugs At The Audubon Nature Institute
After your cruise, head north to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. The aquarium is a comprehensive tour of warm-water aquatic life.
When you walk into the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, huge insect models dangle from the ceiling and crawl on the walls. Check out Boudreaux’s Bait Shop, an interactive exhibit on the bugs of Louisiana’s wetlands. Also check out the Love Bugs Insects of New Orleans exhibit. If you want to pump up the experience, try the cuisine at Bug Appetit.
Pro Tip: One of the three NOLA 300 (New Orleans Tricentennial) sculptures stands a short distance north of the aquarium entrance in Woldenberg Park’s Audubon Plaza.
Go Backstage At A Mardi Gras Parade
At Mardi Gras World, every day is Mardi Gras. The company builds and decorates over 500 floats each year. Watch artists create float decorations and see past creations. Tours begin every half hour and last for about an hour. Buy tickets in advance.
Pro Tip: Mardi Gras World will even pick you up. Look for their shuttle or call them to schedule your transportation.
Roam The French Quarter
The French Quarter is paradise for your senses, and it’s free. You’ll bask in live music and wonderful aromas from the restaurants. Your eyes will feast on the architecture. And when you stop to eat, your taste buds will thank you.
Relive Pharmacy’s History At The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
Louis J. Dufilho Jr. of New Orleans was America’s first licensed pharmacist. Before 1804, pharmacists only had a six-month apprenticeship. Today, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum is in Dufilho’s former home and apothecary. Especially in the summer, rest in the museum’s shaded loggia. Purchase tickets in advance.
Bring Home Souvenirs From The French Market
The open-air French Market is free to visit, but you’ll need supreme self-control to escape without a dent in your wallet. Ah, well, self-control is overrated here.
At the Farmers Market Pavilion, eat at full-service eateries or bring home fresh food. The aromas of home-grown spices are irresistible. You’ll always hear and see musicians performing. We love browsing — and buying — here. The vibe is very relaxed and friendly.
Pro Tip: Find information about parking and directions in advance.
Seek A Potential Saint In Jackson Square
Jackson Square is famous for Jackson’s statue and the St. Louis Cathedral. Behind the cathedral is a marker that honors Henriette Delille, a free woman of color who “served the slaves.” The Catholic church is investigating her case for canonization (sainthood).
Find Live Music At The French Quarter Visitor Center
Ask the visitor center staff about live concert locations (and read up on where to hear great jazz music in New Orleans). The park also sponsors its own concerts, history walks, and art exhibitions.
Where To Eat In New Orleans
These are some of our favorite food places:
- If you haven’t eaten pralines, you haven’t been to New Orleans. Try Southern Candymakers’ award-winning confections.
- The etouffee (AY-too-fay) and the Louisiana Crawfish Bread melts in your mouth while you’re sitting on the Chartres House balcony. Finish with their bread pudding. Yum, yum!
- Try the glorious turtle soup at Pier 424 Seafood Market. You’ll also enjoy the fried alligator and the frog legs. Drink the Hurricane or the Bourbon Street Punch.
- Oysters and po’boys are king at Acme Oyster House. Try the Fried Peace Maker Po-Boy. Finish your meal with Max’s Bananas Foster Cheesecake.
Pro Tip: Your server may ask if you want your po’boy dressed. “Dressed” means topped with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, and pickles.
Where To Stay In New Orleans
The Hotel Roosevelt is one of the city’s most famous hotels. Find Crescent City Books across the street for used books and antique prints. After visiting the bookstore, head to the hotel’s Sazerac Bar, where New Orleans’ signature Sazerac drink was invented.
Things To Know About New Orleans
- Interstate 10 has no exit sign that reads French Quarter. If you are driving, take Exit 235A, labeled Orleans Ave. and Vieux Carre (pronounced VOO kar-AY).
- Ride the streetcars.
- Allow at least three days to explore New Orleans before continuing on with your road trip.
Houma: Your Cajun Country Adventure Is Calling
After New Orleans, punch your ticket for Cajun Country. Head about an hour southwest to Houma (HOME-uh). After visiting Houma and its surroundings, head another 1.5 hours to New Iberia and its surrounding communities. Plan to spend at least two days in each community.
Dance To A Cajun Beat In Houma
Immerse yourself in Cajun culture in Houma. Local musicians play at the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum (BYE-you TARE-uh-bone) on Tuesdays from 1 to 4 p.m.
Learn how to dance to a Cajun beat at the Terrebonne Folklife Culture Center on Tuesdays and the first and third Wednesdays of the month. If you want to have dinner and put your dance lessons to work, Houma Travel has a list of live Cajun music options.
Where To Eat In Houma
Buy fresh seafood and produce at the South Louisiana Seed Market on Tuesdays from 3 to 5 p.m. For lunch, try Bayou Blue Po-Boys. Eat the boudin (BO-dan) po’boy. For supper, try my favorite, Boudreau and Thibodeau’s (BOOD-row and TIB-uh-doe) Seafood Restaurant. Start with the alligator bites. Then try the Little Bit of Cajun Sampler.
Where To Stay In Houma
Find your home away from home at Crochet House Bed and Breakfast. We promise that you’ll feel at home in Houma.
Relax On Grand Isle’s White Sand Beaches
A trip from Houma to Grand Isle takes about 1.5 hours. A toll bridge (PDF) on Louisiana 1 connects Grand Isle with the mainland. Unless you have a GeauxPass, use the right lane to pay. South of the bridge, turn left for the town of Grand Isle.
Enjoy Beaches And Birds At Grand Isle State Park
Grand Isle State Park is at the end of the road. You’ll enjoy seven miles of beaches and walking the Grand Isle Birding Trail (PDF). Read the park’s beach safety tips.
Grand Isle is a fishing hotspot with 280 species available during Louisiana’s various fishing seasons. The town offers three public fishing piers.
Chauvin And Cocodrie: A Perfect Day Trip From Houma
Head 45 minutes south of Houma on Highway 56 to Chauvin (SHOW-van) and Cocodrie (COH-coh-dree). In Chauvin, Kenny Hill began building Chauvin Sculpture Garden in 1990. Over the next decade, he constructed more than 100 sculptures to tell what he calls his story of salvation.
Grab a Coke and a snack at Cecil Lapeyrouse (LAP-ee-roose) Grocery in Cocodrie. The store celebrated its centennial in 2014. Relax on the porch or in their quirky garden.
Where To Eat In Cocodrie
At The Lighthouse, try the Wine Island Shrimp and the onion rings, made daily according to a special recipe. Drink their Bushwhacker, a frozen ice cream drink.
Further South: The LUMCON Walking Tour
Your next stop is Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), 14 miles south on Highway 56. LUMCON’s greatest gem is its walking tour. Climb the observation tower. Listen for the birds and the wind ruffling through the grasses. The trail is easy to walk.
Pro Tip: Your phone or GPS may list the Cocodrie attractions as being in Chauvin. Just in case, the marina offers these directions. Highway 56 is narrow. Because of this, you may wish to be back in Houma before dark.
Morgan City: Learn About The Oil Industry
Driving to New Iberia from Houma takes about 1.5 hours. Stop at Morgan City’s International Petroleum Museum. Learn about offshore oil drilling on Mr. Charlie, the museum’s vintage oil rig. The museum is the only place where ordinary people are able to explore an offshore drilling rig.
Pro Tip: The oil rig is not handicap accessible.
Eat Cajun Home Cooking In Morgan City
At Rita Mae’s Kitchen, try the legendary crab burgers. And ask about the day’s special.
Learn About Seasonings And Rice Production In New Iberia
Conrad Rice Mill is the oldest operating American rice mill. On their tour, sample some of their products, including gluten-free bread crumbs. The bread crumb process includes toasting, which smells delightful.
At the Bayou Teche (TESH) Museum, learn about salt and travel down a mine shaft. While you learned to dance in Houma, learn about the music at the museum. Rural jazz, swamp pop, zydeco, Cajun, and Creole music all emerged from the Bayou Teche region.
A sugar-planter family owned Shadows on the Teche mansion for four generations. Enjoy their magnificent gardens. Learn about the family and the enslaved people who served them.
Pro Tip: Purchase the New Iberia Historic District Pass for discounted admission to the rice mill, the museum, and the mansion.
Where To Eat In New Iberia
At Bon Creole, the building is plain, but the food is incredible. Everything is cooked from scratch. You can even get bowfin caviar. Yum! Try their daily plate lunches.
Enjoy authentic cuisine at Olympus Greek & Lebanese Restaurant. Try the Olympus Family Plate for Two.
Where To Stay In New Iberia
Get pampered at the Louisiana Cajun Mansion Bed and Breakfast. Or, for a more rustic feel, reserve your room at Bayou Chateau and Chateau Royale.
Gardens And Birds On Jefferson Island
Jefferson Island, 20 minutes west of New Iberia, is one of five salt domes that rise above the Louisiana delta. Rip van Winkle Gardens spans 15 acres of semi-tropical plants laid out under 350-year-old live oak trees. Rip’s Rookery welcomes over 260 bird species.
Where To Eat On Jefferson Island
At Cafe Jefferson, try the shrimp remoulade (REM-oh-laud) salad and the Seafood Heaven entree. Finish with the creme brulee cheesecake.
Avery Island: Home Of World-Famous Hot Sauce
The most famous salt dome in the delta is Avery Island, 20 minutes southwest of New Iberia. On Avery Island, join a Tabasco factory tour and visit the museum. Tabasco’s aroma saturates the air.
Pro Tip: Tabasco is made from hot red peppers. Some of the peppers’ capsaicin gets into the air. Bring some tissues to gently wipe your eyes, then discard the used tissue immediately.
While on the island, visit the 170-acre Jungle Gardens. Beautiful plants and flowers attract wildlife. The grounds hold a magnificent sculpture of Buddha in a beautiful shrine. The sculpture is said to be 900 years old. The garden contains over 60 bamboo varieties.
View flocks of egrets and other migratory birds at Bird City, a section of Jungle Gardens. At the turn of the last century, egrets were nearly extinct. E.A. McIlhenny, Tabasco’s third owner, built nesting areas and almost single-handedly revived Louisiana’s egret population.
Where To Eat On Avery Island
Eat Southern food infused with a Tabasco twist at Restaurant 1868!. Build your own Tabasco Bloody Mary and bring home a souvenir glass.
Things To Know About Traveling In Louisiana
- Wear flat, comfortable shoes.
- Especially when on or near water, wear a hat, dark sunglasses, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent.
- Always carry an umbrella.
- If you intend to fish, please remember that adults 17 and older need a Louisiana fishing license.
- If you are allergic to seafood, ask your server about your food’s ingredients before ordering.
- Every season is a good time to visit Louisiana, but summers are hot. If you come during the summer, be sure to remain hydrated.
- New Orleans’ Mardi Gras celebrations are world-famous, but Houma’s is one of Louisiana’s largest. New Iberia’s Mardi Gras is family oriented.
Looking for even more Louisiana travel options? Enjoy more of the best day trips from New Orleans.