From its colorful history -- filled with pirates, voodoo, and romantic architecture -- to its vibrant nightlife, southeastern Louisiana is a land that's unique unto itself. With remnants of European culture still in evidence, this hot-bed of jazz and blues music is a place that just shouldn't be missed. While clean-up from 2005's Hurricane Katrina is still on-going, you'll be amazed by how much the region has rebounded. The fantastic restaurants and tourist attractions that Baton Rouge and New Orleans are known for are back in business, ready to tempt you with their special magic. So why not plan a trip to the Big Easy this year and see how the resilient spirit has made this area into a jewel once again!
At Camping.com, we've designed a route for you that soaks up the best of Louisiana. You can start your tour in Baton Rouge, the state capital, then head 82 miles southeast to famous New Orleans. From there, stop off to do some fishing on Lake Pontchartrain, visit plantation homes, and go bike riding at Fontainebleau State Park, taking in the beauty of this amazing region.
Filled with 'joie de vivre' and a rich history, beautiful Baton Rouge is a jambalaya of cultures and cuisines. As the story goes, two Native American tribes decided to define their boundary by placing a red stick in the ground. When a French trading population settled here in the 1700s, they used the name Red Stick, or Baton Rouge, to describe their fort city. Today Baton Rouge offers warm weather for sports like golf and tennis in addition to lively zydeco music, amazing southern food, and the stunning campus at Louisiana State University.
For outdoor adventures, you can take a stroll through the Afton Villa Gardens, head to the Baton Rouge beach on the LSU lake, or wander through the 16-acre Cohn Memorial Arboretum. You'll find antebellum plantations like the 1790s Butler Greenwood Plantation, the 1830s Greek Revival Greenwood Plantation, and the Evergreen Plantation with its alligator-filled swamp. Spend some time shopping or visiting art galleries, then swing by the African American Museum, the Iberville Museum with its Mardi Gras artifacts, and the LSU Rural Life Museum & Windrush Gardens that gives an insight into the lifestyles and cultures of pre-industrial Louisiana. And you certainly won't want to miss tea at the Enchanted Mansion or a night out, dining on fresh seafood and sizzling steaks.
After your stay in Baton Rouge, head southeast on Interstate 10 to New Orleans. Set on Lake Pontchartrain, this special city underwent devastation when water breached the levees during the massive hurricane of 2005. The lower parts of the city, many of which were built below sea-level, flooded. However, the parts of the city that were on higher land remained relatively secure -- it was the survival of these areas, along with the determination of New Orleans residents, that has helped the city recover. Today it is, once again, a thrilling place for visitors to explore. So as they say in New Orleans, 'laisez les bons temps rouler' (let the good times roll)!
No visit to New Orleans is complete without a stop in the French Quarter, also known as the Vieux CarrÈ or the 'Quarter' to locals. Located on some of the highest ground in the city, this area offers architecture in a mix of Spanish, French, Creole, and American styles. Not only is this the city's center, but it's also the place to go for fantastic dining or shopping in boutique shops. The French Quarter is a great place to wander, admiring the wrought-iron balconies, pastel plaster walls, and Gallier House, where you can take a tour of an 1800s home.
For outdoor adventures in the New Orleans area, plan a side trip to the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge where you can walk the boardwalk through 23,000 acres of swamps, marshes, and forests. This is a phenomenal spot for bird watching, wildlife viewing, boating, fishing, and biking. Free, guided tours are also available on weekends. You can take a Louisiana swamp tour in a covered boat, explore the Honey Island swamp, looking for alligators, bears, deer, raccoons, nutria, herons, and owls. Just thirty minutes from New Orleans, across the Mississippi River, you'll find Bayou Segnette State Park where you can enjoy both saltwater and freshwater fishing for bass, catfish, bream, perch, redfish and trout. Make use of the boat launch, go swimming in the wave pool, or enjoy a picnic lunch.
New Orleans is known for Mardi Gras, the outlandish, free-wheeling festival that takes place 47 days before Easter each year (generally in February or early March). But the city also celebrates a number of other events, from the August White Linen Nights arts festival to the April and May New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. And of course the city is known for its incredible nightlife. With jazz clubs, Harrah's Casino, and the attractions of Bourbon Street and Frenchmen Street all right here, you won't have to go far to find a good time. Many bars stay open all night, and the streets are often filled with fun-loving visitors, taking in the New Orleans experience. You can stop in the Old Absinthe House, Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, and the famous Galatoire's Restaurant in Bourbon Street, then head to one of the many jazz clubs for a night of live music.
As you leave New Orleans, you can head across Lake Pontchartrain to Fairview-Riverside State Park with its canopy of oak trees. Spend some time fishing the Tchefuncte River for bass, bluegill, white perch, and bream or visit Otis House, an 1880s mansion that was built by sawmill owner William Theodore Jay. Nearby, you'll find 2,800-acre Fontainebleau State Park, set on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. Because hurricane reconstruction is still going on at this park, call ahead to see if the sandy beach and boat ramp will be open for your visit. At this park you can tour the ruins of an 1829 sugar mill, follow the Tammany Trace bicycle trail, or watch for the more than 400 bird species that call this area home.