Things to Do in Louisiana
Fun for all ages, the Louisiana Children’s Museum has got everything you need to entertain you and your young ones for hours on end. Over 30,000 square feet of fun with everything that might spark interest or creativity, in the Louisiana Children’s Museum not only do kids get to be kids, but adults get to have fun and partake as well. Play shop in the Little Winn-Dixie grocery store, pretend to captain a tug boat down the mighty Mississip’ with a working crane, launch ping-pong balls off of self-made rollercoaster ramps, take apart modern technology, or leave a lasting impression in the glow-in-the-dark booth. Arts and crafts are also encouraged, as the museum’s ethos is to educate as well as entertain.
So much can be said about the Mississippi that it almost defies belief. So much more than just the largest drainage system in North America, the might Mississippi is entrenched in the collective American psyche. From the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to Beasts of the Southern Wild, the grand idea of the muddy river delta and its great abundance stays with us. Beginning in the far reaches of Canada, the long arms of the mighty Mississippi reach across the United States and eddy down the flat belly of America and out through the Louisiana river delta. While in New Orleans you can stand on the banks of this muddy river and be intoxicated at its briny smell, the tugboats and tankers that regularly parade its banks, and get a sense of what it means to be standing at the beginning of something.
Famed for the ancient live oak trees that flank its main walkway, the Oak Alley Plantation might seem eerily familiar. Used as a site for several movie screenings including the popular Interview With A Vampire, the Oak Alley Plantation is, in real life, all the more beautiful and exciting. A sprawling plantation with over 1300 acres to its name and an interactive Civil War museum, visitors to Oak Alley enjoy the beauty of the grand antebellum plantations with a historical walking tour. A 17 ft-wide veranda and opposing doors and windows provide shade and cross-ventilation for the main house during hot summer days, but what makes a trip to Oak Alley memorable isn’t the beautiful architecture - it’s the lush grounds themselves, the mossy oak trees, and the stories of bygone days. These will have you imagining yourself sipping a mint julep and laughing as part of what was once the magnificent southern aristocracy.
Located just 25 miles upriver from New Orleans, Destrehan Plantation is not just the oldest plantation house in the Lower Mississippi Valley, but is an easy, accessible step back in to antebellum times. Built in 1787, the Destrehan Plantation retains its southern charm while keeping its ancient oak trees, its flat marshy lawns, its Old South antiques and a wonderful, quiet stillness. See architectural influences from the Spanish and French, listen to stories from costumed tour guides about the daily life of the people that ran Destrehan, and get a feel for the way things were in this little but remarkably old corner of the US.
Steeped in history far richer than the former plantation owners could have dreamed of owning, the Laura Plantation lies just beyond the reaches of the Greater New Orleans area. Originally built in 1804 by a French naval veteran of the American Revolution by the name of Guillaume Duparc, the plantation was erected on the site of an old Colapissa Indian village. A Creole-owned sugar plantation, the Laura Plantation differed from most plantations in its Code Noir ethics, its somewhat removed societal circumstances, and its beautiful sprawling sugar plantation landscape.
Touring this iconographic plantation, you’ll learn the difference between Creoles and Cajuns, hear chilling ghost stories, and see how a bygone way of life now heralds itself as one of the top Louisiana cultural attractions.
For those that want an authentic southern experience, a visit to the St. Joseph Plantation is a must. One of the few remaining fully intact sugar cane plantations in the south, St. Joseph plantation includes original slave cabins, a detached kitchen, blacksmith’s shop, carpenter’s shed, the main manor home, and a schoolhouse that fully rounds out the plantation experience.
Built in 1880, this amazing antebellum plantation and manicured gardens is appreciated by museum goers for providing one of the most opulent offerings of what life was like in the pre Civil War south when the sugar cane industry was booming. A unique look into a living past, a walk through the St. Joseph Plantation is a walk through time as you enjoy a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the many interesting people who have called this plantation "Home." Many tours are even guided by family members themselves.
In New Orleans’ French Quarter lies the Napoleon House, a monument to the city’s illustrious heritage and culinary tradition. Built in 1814 by former Mayor Nicholas Girod, the property is most famous for supposedly being offered by the mayor to Napoleon Bonaparte as a refuge after the Frenchman’s exile in 1821. Napoleon never made it to the house, but the name stuck and the building became one of the most famous bars and cafes in the city.
For the past 200 years, Napoleon House has been a frequent stop for numerous artists and writers, and today the National Historic Landmark is open for visitors to enjoy a signature muffaletta and Pimms Cup while absorbing both the architecture and atmosphere.
Locals call this beautiful plantation the Crown Jewel of Louisiana’s River Road, partly because of its rich history and partly because of its incredible old-world architecture. Established as a sugar farm around 1803, Houmas House was open to the public in 1963. The traditional southern plantation home has seen its share of generals, Union forces and colonels, too. The same gardens, mansion and peaceful grounds that drew men in search of respite in times of war, draw travelers today who are in search of a nearby escape from the energy and gluttony of the Big Easy.
Daily tours treat visitors with true Southern hospitality and welcome them to the grounds not as tourists, but as guests. Expert guides lead travelers through the elaborate halls of the plantation’s mansion, through galleries of antiques and art, and across the well-kept grounds of the Houmas Gardens. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that’s available only south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
More Things to Do in Louisiana
Renowned as one of the wildest and most unspoiled swamplands in the United States, the murky, algae-coated waters of the Honey Island Swamp are a prime habitat for native wildlife, including alligators, but if you believe the legends, the lake is home to an even more menacing resident. The notorious Honey Island Swamp monster has long been a figure of local legend, although the alleged sightings of the mysterious Big Foot like creature are yet to be proven.
Stretching for 18 miles (30 km) and surrounded by dense forest and overhanging cypress trees, the wetlands are best explored by boat, where you’ll paddle through the shallow backwaters and have the chance to spot wild boar, raccoon, mink, otters and turtles, along with a huge variety of birdlife.
The designation of being the most opulent plantation house in North America doesn’t come cheaply. Nor will you find the San Francisco Plantation mansion in any disrepair. A galleried house of the Creole open-suite style, this fabulous southern home’s riches aren’t just found on its sprawling property or wrapped up in its gorgeous architecture – the San Francisco Plantation has one of the finest and most extensive antique collections in the country. Reminiscent of Versailles and steeped in a history of rich antebellum living, slavery holdings, and sordid stories of love, wealth, death and honor, the San Francisco Plantation is not just a visit to any ordinary plantation home – it’s a surreal pastiche down history lane.
If you’re at the Port of New Orleans, you’re most like beginning or ending your cruise, so get there a day early or stick around afterward for a chance to explore the Big Easy.
The French Quarter is, of course, the main attraction, but if you’ve been there, done that, take a shore excursion into the countryside to see some of Louisiana’s grand plantation homes, or experience the swampy waterways on an airboat tour. You’ll dock downtown at either the Julia Street or Erato Street terminal. Both terminals are on the Riverfront Trolley Line, which will take you a mile up the Mississippi River to the French Quarter.
The Court of Two Sisters restaurant is a historic New Orleans institution. Named after sisters Emma and Bertha Camors, the three-story building is a piece of Louisiana history that sits on Governor’s Row, the 600-block of Royal Street. Emma and Bertha came from an aristocratic Creole family and exemplified New Orleans high society with their formal gowns, lace and perfumes all imported from Paris. The sisters were very close and even died within two months of each other in 1944.
The Court of Two Sisters has one of the largest courtyards in New Orleans and today welcomes visitors looking to enjoy authentic southern cuisine. One of the most popular options is the jazz buffet brunch; morning hot dishes include made-to-order omelets, eggs benedict, bacon, sausage, grits, shrimp pasta and more. Afternoon offerings are specialties like turtle soup, oysters Bienville, duck à l’Orange, Creole jambalaya and shrimp étouffée.
Things to do near Louisiana
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