Louisiana Holiday Planning Guide
With a landscape of deltas, marshes, and swamps formed by the sediments of the Mississippi River, Louisiana is home to rich plant and animal life, including rare species of tree frogs, ibis, and egrets. The state's urban areas, most notably the historical city of New Orleans, are some of its most popular Louisiana attractions, boasting a varied multicultural and multilingual heritage, strongly influenced by a mix of French, Spanish, Native American, and African cultures. Native Louisianans proudly cling to their distinctive dialects and musical traditions, offering visitors a chance to explore one of the most culturally diverse areas in North America. Foodies on holiday in Louisiana will have plenty to write home about in this land of both Cajun and Creole cuisines, where a little indulgence is par for the course.
Places to Visit in LouisianaNew Orleans
: One of the oldest urban areas in the country, New Orleans has become world-famous for its distinctive multicultural and multilinguistic heritage, and a contemporary culture with a thriving music and arts scene, renowned cuisine, and access to some of the state's most interesting and diverse scenery.Baton Rouge
: The state capital, this city has a rich history and proud cultural heritage, with influences from around the globe evident in its interesting architectural sites, popular restaurants serving quintessentially Louisianan cuisine, and contemporary arts scene.Slidell
: A large urban area surrounded by great scenery, this city attracts visitors with its proximity to the swamplands, its wealth of activities, and a thriving downtown area, making it a good base for an adventurous outdoor Louisiana itinerary.Lafayette
: Possessing a strong Louisiana Cajun influence, this city offers some of the most historical places to visit in Louisiana, with impressive architecture, a developed heritage and museum sector, and a great contemporary food culture. Breaux Bridge
: Renowned for its crayfish, this small city attracts visitors with its ample surrounding scenery, traditional restaurants, and range of historical sites. Garyville
: Primarily known as the location of one of Louisiana's best-preserved plantations, Garyville offers tours of the antebellum house and grounds, now designated as a museum and heritage site.
Things to Do in Louisiana
Popular Louisiana Tourist AttractionsThe National WWII Museum
: One of the most frequented attractions in Louisiana, this museum introduces visitors to the D-Day landings and the courageousness of the soldiers that executed them, through innovative exhibits, a wealth of interesting artifacts, and audiovisual experiences.French Quarter
: An old, lively district in an old, lively city, this neighborhood boasts a cool, creative atmosphere and smart local businesses, and introduces visitors--with speed, wit, and charm--to the food, music, and people they can expect to find during their Louisiana vacation.Oak Alley Plantation
: An important reminder of the failings of a bygone era, this heritage site details the daily lives of the 200 slaves that worked here with exhibits and tours around the historical house and its well-maintained, impressive grounds.Jackson Square
: An exciting and bustling place in the heart of New Orleans, this park features lush, green lawns, the wandering sounds of street performers, excellent street food, and the bright colors of the works displayed by local artists. Frenchmen Street
: An accessible and enjoyable cultural hub, this street cum epicenter is lined with legendary nightclubs where local musicians gather to play and party through the night, plus a whole host of restaurants serving all the local cuisine classics.Laura Plantation
: Offering an important perspective on the slavery era, this historical site gives tours around the grounds and house, detailing the lives of both the slaves and plantation owners.RTA - Streetcars
: Running since 1835, St. Charles Streetcar is the oldest continually operating streetcar line in the world. Take a seat in one of the well-maintained vintage cars and trundle along through historical areas of the city, with many famous stops along the way. Royal Street
: Dating back to the French colonial era, this historical thoroughfare provides a great walking route, with excellent galleries, an abundance of street performers, and many traditional restaurants. Houmas House Plantation and Gardens
: An impressively well-preserved antebellum house and grounds, this historical site offers interesting and informative tours, period artifacts, and exhibits detailing the lives of those who worked here as slaves, and those that owned and managed the property.Garden District
: A neighborhood of fascinatingly designed mansions, this historical area evokes a bygone era, when well-heeled individuals sought to outdo one another with the extravagance of their homes and the gentle, ordered beauty of their English-style gardens.
Planning a Louisiana Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Louisiana with Kids
As a state with famous urban areas and a fascinating landscape, you will find a wealth of places to visit in Louisiana with kids. Start off in New Orleans
to take in the singular ambience of this creative, resilient, and proud city. The birthplace of jazz, this laid-back town is nicknamed "Big Easy," yet the city packs in a wealth of museums, attractions, and bustling restaurants that the kids will enjoy. Take a stroll out of the center with young explorers to see the surrounding swamps and the rich ecosystem supported there. Up in Baton Rouge
, the historical sites are on a grander scale, with government buildings creating a more formal, stately city that will impress younger visitors. Take a tour of the downtown area, visit the city's many museums, and introduce your children to an important part of the nation's history at one of the plantation houses here. For a little more direct access to the outdoors and the interesting scenery of the region, head to Slidell
, a city offering a great range of family-friendly outdoor activities, such as fishing, kayaking, and hiking.
Things to Do in Louisiana with Kids
With the culture so rich, exuberant, and proudly displayed throughout the state, it is easy to find attractions in Louisiana that will show off both the state's history and its contemporary culture, setting the imaginations of kids whiring. Take a trip through the French Quarter
on a main thoroughfare such as Frenchmen Street
to hear and see the city's street performers and be enticed by the food at local restaurants. For a different perspective on Louisiana's heritage, tour one of its plantation houses, such as Oak Alley Plantation
, where helpful guides introduce visitors to the history of the state during the slavery era, and the period architecture display the riches--and inequalities--of the past. Take the kids to a world-class museum at The National WWII Museum
, where they'll be impressed and engaged by the innovative exhibits and extensive collection.
Do get outdoors during your Louisiana vacation to take advantage of the good weather and intriguing topography. Consider a trip to Lake Martin
for a ride across for the water on a canoe. You'll spot an abundance of wildlife living there, and kids will enjoy the landscape's usual, mysterious appearance. An easy adventure into the wilderness is found at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve
, where the boardwalk takes you through the evocative swampland, catching views of a range of animals and vegetation.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Louisiana
New Orleans and Baton Rouge represent perhaps the best places to begin your family's tour of Louisiana. A range of ecotour groups operate here, providing a convenient way to explore the surrounding scenery on day trips: a good option for those traveling with children. The city centers are hubs of culture, commerce, and industry, meaning that a wide range of options exist for younger visitors interested in history, the arts, and hearty, fun cuisine. Explore these areas at your own pace and take advantage of the many city parks to cool off and relax. Different times of the day offer different vibes in each area of the state--Louisianans like to party long into the evening, for instance--so try and give kids the chance to see the nighttime economy start to unfold before returning to your accommodations.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Louisiana
Cuisine of Louisiana
With its idiosyncratic personality and flavors, local cuisine ranks high on the list of reasons why tourism in Louisiana has really taken off. Generally speaking, the food culture in the state revolves around Cajun and Creole cuisine, although the two have influenced one another over time. Head to New Orleans to sample Creole food, a cuisine taking cues from French, Spanish, West African, Native American, German, Italian, and Southern cooking. Many restaurants in New Orleans serve up quintessential Creole dishes such as jambalaya, eggs Sardou, and oysters Rockefeller, often with interesting twists and family recipes used by different chefs. For a particularly good introduction to the flavors of Cajun cuisine, take a trip to Lafayette
. With emphasis placed on seafood, such as crawfish, deep-fried meats, po' boys (submarine sandwiches), and one-pot dishes, the city has become popular for its excellent food tours.
Shopping in Louisiana
Generally speaking, modern shopping districts in urban areas provide a range of recognized brands, superstores, and other services. If you want to get deeper into local color during your trip to Louisiana, explore the number of independent stores offering traditional goods. In New Orleans you'll find a range of music stores and art galleries, particularly around the famous French Quarter, where trade in cultural products, often handmade locally, spills out into the streets with mobile vendors and market stalls. A good way to get a sense of Louisiana and its people is at local farmers markets; head to Baton Rouge for some of the most established ones in the state.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Louisiana
History of Louisiana
For many millennia, the territory now known as Louisiana was home to various tribes of Native Americans. Monumental mounds built in the area by different cultures during the Archaic period are among the oldest structures in the Americas. As the first complex culture, and perhaps the first true tribal culture in North America, the Poverty Point peoples reached their zenith in the state around 1500 BCE. Head to Poverty Point State Historic Site
to view a monumental mound, now a World Heritage Site. The museum here displays artifacts found by archeologists in the area, including carved and decorated jewelry, cooking stones, and spear points.
The first European expedition to reach Louisiana, under the authority of the Spanish Crown, arrived in 1528; yet it wasn't until the late 17th century that permanent settlements were established here by the French and French Canadians. Colonial rivalries flared up in the area, primarily between the French and the Spanish. Bloody and bitter contests and battles occurred, with areas of the state changing hands regularly. Under French control for the better part of a century, New Orleans was formally given to the Spanish following the Seven Years' War. The influence of the two European powers on the area is particularly prevalent on Bourbon Street
: though named after the ruling family of France, the street features a significant collection of Spanish architecture, built after a 1788 fire destroyed many earlier structures. Set in a historical area of the city, Bourbon Street is now renowned for its music, nightlife, and cuisine, making it a perennial favorite place to visit in Louisiana.
As in surrounding states, slavery became central to the Louisianan economy during the colonial era, particularly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 made the region the property of the U.S. Statehood was granted in 1812, making Louisiana the 18th state in the Union. So profitable was the slave trade and the work of enslaved people (making up nearly 47 percent of the state's population in 1860), that white landowners were prepared to go to war with their fellow countrymen to defend what they saw as a right of ownership and a vital economic tool. Louisiana declared secession from the Union in 1861, the year that the American Civil War began. To discover more about the era of slavery, pay a visit to Oak Alley Plantation
, a well-maintained antebellum property and grounds that now functions as a museum of slavery and the general history of the period. Louisiana's defeat in the Civil War was swift and bloody. See an important exposition of the war at Port Hudson State Historic Site
, a museum located on the site of one of its most famous battles. The nearby cemetery, the resting place of soldiers who fought on both sides during the war, serves as a vital reminder of the loss of life experienced by both armies during this tragic period in U.S. history.
In post-Civil War America, much of the African-American population left the southern states to escape the segregation, discrimination, poverty, and lynchings common in regions where racism and inequality was rife. Yet through the struggles of population loss, social discord, and economic strife, the culture of the state began to blossom and created one of the most famous and vibrant cultural scenes in the nation during the 20th century. Jazz and Delta Blues took off, and musicians and artists became dominant voices in the area, building a sense of community and hope that has attracted visitors, and new residents, ever since. Head to Frenchmen Street
to soak up the music, art, and atmosphere of one of the nation's liveliest and proudest neighborhoods.
The challenges facing Louisiana took on a new character when in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and surrounding areas, devastating infrastructure and communities, and causing a great loss of life. Great questions arose once more regarding social relations and inequality in the state, and the struggle to rebuild, recover, and reunite the area has been difficult, long, and costly. The resilience of the state's residents was tested to a deplorable level, but the vigor, innovation, and passion common to those who helped to rebuild have been instrumental in making Louisiana, once again, a popular destination in the United States.
Landscape of Louisiana
With so many of the state's urban areas built around the natural features that surround the Mississippi and the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico, you are never far away from the landscape during a holiday in Louisiana. Trips out of town will reveal greater areas of swampland and marshland, ripe to be explored by a range of transportation. Head to Lake Martin
for an example of Louisiana's swamps, taking a trip on a canoe and spotting the abundant wildlife as you pass through the dark and woody waters. For a slightly less wild trip into the landscape, visit Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center
for routes through scenery rich in plant and animal life on well-maintained walkways. Clearer waters and plants of a brighter green hue await at Fontainebleau State Park
, which boasts log cabins, picnic areas, and a secluded sandy beach.
Holidays & Festivals in Louisiana
Louisiana celebrates the same public holidays as the rest of the U.S., with the addition of Mardi Gras on February 17--one of the world's most famous parties and a major draw for tourism in Louisiana.
To take part in those festivities, head to New Orleans, where you can watch huge parades roll down the city's streets, with carnival krewes colorfully dressed and dancing to a blend of different instruments. If your trip to Louisiana doesn't fall in February, there are numerous other quality festivals and celebrations held throughout the year, with the spirited partying of the locals a common thread between them. State capital Baton Rouge also plays host to a number of cultural celebrations throughout the year, with renowned music and food events held around the city (with just a bit more restraint than its wild cousin, NOLA). Join the locals exploring the ways you can incorporate crawfish into a meal at Breaux Bridge
, when the town hosts a festival dedicated to the shellfish in early May, along with plenty of entertainment alongside.
Louisiana Travel Tips
Climate of Louisiana
Louisiana's weather is a standard example of a humid subtropical climate, with long, hot, and humid summers giving way eventually to short, cool winters. Expect rain throughout the year and pack accordingly; summer is generally the wettest season and the south the wettest region. Snow is uncommon, particularly in the south of the state. With a shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico, the region is frequently affected by adverse weather, such as tropical cyclones and major hurricanes. The southern areas of the state are especially prone to extreme weather fronts, particularly New Orleans and the surrounding lowlands. In the worst cases, the bayous, marshes, and inlets that cut in from the gulf can flood and wreak havoc throughout urban areas. During Hurricane Katrina (2005), 80 percent of the city of New Orleans flooded, leaving many homeless and causing tremendous loss of life. Wherever your trip to Louisiana takes you, be sure to check the weather reports and follow any extreme weather advisories.
Transportation in Louisiana
Numerous airports serve Louisiana, although the primary one for tourism is in New Orleans. Highways and more scenic byways represent popular options for visitors, whether traveling independently or on a bus trip from one of the main urban areas. However, roads throughout the state--particularly those in remoter areas--can be dangerous due to local wildlife running out in front of vehicles, overhanging vegetation, and, unfortunately, littering. Amtrak passenger rail service runs through the state, linking up main urban areas with those in surrounding states. Ferries provide peaceful and immersive routes between settlements, going up the river or around the areas of the coast. In the cities, you can use tram and bus routes to get from place to place, and the streetcars of New Orleans
are an attraction in and of themselves. When planning your Louisiana sightseeing, pay attention to extreme weather warnings when deciding your method of transportation on any given day.