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If you were wondering why visit Louisiana? These road trips in the state will give you a taste for all your senses. Louisiana is so much more than New Orleans. It is a state of diverse culture all its own. Right here in the United States, in Louisiana, you get French culture from the formerly owned French territory. But you also get Acadian, Spanish, Native American, and Caribbean cultures and the critical history of people of color. Come to the deep south and take one of these exciting Louisiana road trips to discover a world of exotic flavors, original music, and stunning nature.
Where to go on a Louisiana Road Trip
I was fortunate to meet and travel through parts of Louisiana during a recent travel conference put on by TBEX. This is a combination of my experience and meeting many destination representatives in Louisiana. For your reference, a parish in Louisiana is the same as a county elsewhere. Many parishes have their distinct culture, arts, and food scene scattered among the small towns.
A Louisiana Road Trip Itinerary might look like this:Lousiana Road Trip on Roadtrippers
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For our Louisiana road trips, we’re going to start and stop in New Orleans. It’s the biggest city in Louisiana and therefore, home to the largest airport. New Orleans can be a full vacation. If you want to see my full list of what to do in New Orleans with teens, check out my article here. This Crescent City list includes visiting the French Quarter and the Garden District. And if you’re looking for Mardi Gras things to do, your first stop may be New Orleans. You can also find the best time to visit New Orleans here.
Surrounding New Orleans, the next stop on our Louisiana road trip is Jefferson Parish. If you’re looking for a family-friendly Mardi Gras, this is the place. Jefferson Parish is the largest parish in Louisiana, full of a variety of things to do. The parish covers everything from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Pontchartrain.
Located south of New Orleans, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is a diverse ecosystem. You will see alligators here! Since it is part of the National Park Service, if you have a National Park pass, your entrance is free. The park is named for the pirate Jean Lafitte, who called Louisiana home. You can just imagine the pirate ships moving stealthily through these bayou waters.
For more things to do, Visit Jefferson Parish here.
The River Parishes are also a short drive away to the west of New Orleans. Mostly known for Plantation Country, the River Parishes stretch along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Oak Alley Plantation is the most notable of 12 historic plantations along the river. Each is filled with incredible architecture, Spanish moss-draped oaks, and stories, both tragic and triumphant. These historic homes built their wealth upon sugarcane, producing up to half of all sugar consumed in the US. The sugar, however, was harvested by enslaved people.
As you visit the River Parishes, be sure to note the 1811 Slave Revolt that chronicles the 4-day journey of the enslaved people along these Mississippi plantations. From the 1811/Kid Ory Historic House to the Destrehan Plantation and the 1811 Slave Revolt Museum, the trail chronicles the march to New Orleans.
This area is also part of the Great River Road where you can see Louisiana’s Creole Heritage.
On your way to Lafayette, none of the Louisiana road trips would be complete without a stop at Avery Island. Here you’ll learn and taste the many flavors of Tabasco. The McIlhenny family has made Tabasco in Louisiana for over 5 generations. Take a factory tour and visit the museum. Stop in their restaurant 1868, a great place to sample many authentic, spicy cajun dishes. Visit Jungle Gardens to see the wildlife refuge. And of course, pick up your Tabasco supplies at the gift shop. I recommend the Tabasco puff, a corn puff flavored with tabasco seasoning.
The city of Lafayette hosted the 2022 TBEX North America conference. We had plenty of time to get a true taste of the cajun country here. Lafayette’s rich history stems from the Acadians fleeing Canada into the Louisiana territory. In fact, Acadiana and Acadian is where the word cajun comes from.
I can’t speak highly enough about the amount of good food we had while visiting Lafayette. We ate everything from fresh seafood and oysters to every kind of boudin imaginable. In fact, we even attended one of their many music festivals which it kicked off with a boudin “ribbon” cutting.
Speaking of festivals, Lafayette has a score of them in their many things to do. From zydeco to Festivals of the Acadians, there’s something going on every weekend. Check out my top unique choices for things to do in Lafayette.
On the southwestern side of our Louisiana road trips is Lake Charles. Nicknamed Louisiana’s playground, Lake Charles is home to a playground of nature and food. I can’t think of a better combination! the Louisiana Food and Wine Festival takes place here in mid-September. I’d also recommend a stop at the Panorama Music House for your retro music needs, along with a full stage for live music, food, and drinks!
The top nature site in Lake Charles and Southern Louisiana is the Creole Nature Trail, which includes the Pintail Wildlife Drive, and the Wetland Walkway. These sites will bring you deep into the mystical Louisiana Outback, as it’s called. The Creole Nature Trail is a 180-mile stretch along the gulf coast, filled with scenic views of marshlands, bursting sunsets, and loads of wildlife.
Heading up through central Louisiana, you’ll find Natchitoches. It is Louisiana’s oldest city, established in 1714. History buffs will enjoy the American Cemetary, considered the oldest in the Louisiana territory.
Steel Magnolias fans, however, will enjoy many of the filming sites seen throughout the movie. From Shelby’s wedding at St. Augustine Catholic Church to many of the homes depicted as the main characters’ residences, 17 places throughout Natchitoches served as the backdrop for this iconic film. This makes Natchitoches a special place to visit for many film lovers.
The El Camino Real National Historic Trail also begins in Natchitoches and marks the trail’s early missionaries traveled to Mexico
Located on the Red River in northwest Louisiana, Shreveport is an eclectic mix of art, culture, and of course, great food. My favorite part of the Shreveport Bossier area is that it is part of the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights. This holiday road trip includes Alexandira, Minden, Monroe-West Monroe, Natchitoches, Logansport, and Ruston. Shreveport-Bossier does Christmas up in grand style with the Rockets over the Red Fireworks Festival and Christmas on Caddo Fireworks Festival.
Shreveport-Bossier calls itself Louisiana’s other side. Some of Shreveport and Bossier City’s top things to do include eating stuffed shrimp, a Shreveport-style local delicacy that started in the historic Freeman and Harris Cafe. Unfortunately, this location, one of the oldest Black-owned restaurants in the United States is closed, but the stuffed shrimp live on.
Shreveport has many historic places to note, including the Louisiana Hayride radio program at the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium, where Elvis got his start. This auditorium is seen in the newest movie as well.
Monroe West Monroe
Monroe – West Monroe’s theme is “Outside the Lines.” This should be a part of all your Louisiana road trips! Fans of Duck Dynasty will know the area is rich in bayou wildlife.
However, the downtown Monroe and West Monroe areas are home to an Art Alley, murals, an antique alley, and dozens of boutique shops and arts and entertainment.
Here you can not only go outside the lines of nature with the Ouachita river and Bayou Desiard, but you can also go outside the limits of food, with over 100 locally owned restaurants. Go beyond what you might expect in having watched Duck Dynasty with a visit to the Masure Museum of Art and the treasure hunts of the unique antique stores and fashion boutiques.
St. Landry Parish
You haven’t had gumbo until you’ve visited St. Landry Parish, with their slogan, Gumbo for Your Soul. It’s the perfect stop on your road trip back to New Orleans. Defined by Cajun spirit and Creole soul, it’s also filled with the diverse history of African, French, German, Italian, and Spanish settlers.
My favorite of the suggested itineraries in St. Landry Parish is the Zydeco to Faid-do-do Music itinerary. Highlighting Cajun, zydeco, fiddle & bow jam sessions, and even a stop at the Bayou Teche Brewing, your ears and taste buds are in for a treat!
Mardi Gras In Louisiana
It’s no secret that Mardi Gras is big in New Orleans, but did you know it’s also celebrated throughout the state? Louisiana Travel has a comprehensive list of the Mardi Gras festivities through the north, central, and southern Louisiana parishes. Just about everyone I met through the conference told me how their Mardi Gras is family-friendly, so look to these locations above and beyond for a family adventure.
More Louisiana Road Trips
Just like New Orleans is more than Mardi Gras and Louisiana is more than New Orleans, there are more Louisiana road trips to take. Some of my favorites on Louisiana Travel include the film sites, as Louisiana has more than 2500 films that have been shot in the southern state. And since I love. a good paddling adventure, these lakes, bayous, and marshes make for great stops along the road.
You’ll never go wrong with visiting Louisiana. I can’t wait to go back!
Find a variety of places to stay in Louisana here.