There is plenty to do and see in Louisiana, but if you’re not looking for a week-long stay somewhere or spending a ton on gas, try planning a day trip instead. With a little planning, you can have a fun day of activities the whole family can enjoy or a little romantic escape you won’t soon forget.
1. The National World War II Museum
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans is a behemoth, and visitors can easily spend an entire day, or longer, viewing all the exhibits. The museum tells the American experience in the war, and does an impressive job of including all Americans. When you first start your tour, you are randomly assigned a real person from the war, and your pass can interact with many of the exhibits to see how your person spent the years during the war. This personal connection helps provide context and empathy to visitors as they explore seven huge exhibits, three interactive experiences, as well as several smaller temporary or traveling exhibits and galleries housed within five interconnected buildings.
Visitors can grab a bite to eat while watching live matinée or evening performances inside BB’s Stage Door Canteen, which recreates the environment of the original Stage Door Canteen, which offered soldiers live entertainment before they shipped off to the front lines. Guests can also eat at the American Sector Restaurant and Bar (also open to the public) or at Jeri Nim’s Soda Shop.
2. Lake Charles
Located about a half hour from the Texas border and an hour from the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Charles is equal parts country and rock ‘n roll. This resort town has three casinos, restaurants with live music, and tons of water activities. There is plenty of paddling, rafting, and fishing to do on the lake, or you can float on the Golden Nugget Casino’s lazy river, which is open to the public. Kids will also enjoy the Spar Waterpark, with a fun splash play area and several thrilling waterslides. There are also river rafting and pontoon boat tours going up the river.
Lake Charles is also part of the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road, a 180-mile walking and driving trail, where you can drive the whole loop and walk along paths, beaches, and boardwalks to see alligators and plenty of bird species while experiencing the sights and sounds of what has become known as “Louisiana’s Outback.”
3. Abita Springs
In the 19th Century, travelers came to Abita Springs to soak in the healing waters drawn from deep artesian wells. Today, visitors travel to the historic small town to relax and play. The main attraction in the town is the Abita Brewing Company, which offers tastings and tours of their nationally recognized beer, drawing on the same waters that initially attracted visitors more than 100 years earlier.
Good beer isn’t the only attraction in Abita Springs, however. They are home to several fun festivals, including a Whole-Town Garage Sale and the Louisiana Bicycle Festival. They also pay homage to Louisiana’s musical roots with the Abita Springs Busker Festival.
Abita Springs is also an access point for the Tammany Trace trail, a 31-mile rails-to-trails conversion that follows an old corridor of the Illinois Central Railroad. The paved trail and accompanying equestrian trail was inducted into the Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame in 2017. The Tammany Trace also serves as a wildlife conservation corridor, linking parks and preserving historic landmarks and wetlands. 31 bridges built on the original railroad trestles allow you to observe bayous, streams, rivers, and wildlife in their natural habitat.
Finally, no visit to Abita Springs would be complete without a visit to the Abita Mystery House, voted the fourth best attraction in Louisiana by USA Today. This roadside attraction is a folk art environment filled with literally thousands of found objects and home-made inventions. A vintage gas station serves as the entrance to a labyrinth of buildings filled with memorabilia, humor, old arcade machines, and plain old junk.
4. Avery Island
Known as the birthplace of TABASCO® brand pepper sauce, Avery Island is a privately owned 2,200 acre geographical oddity. The “island” is pushed up above the coastal marshes in Southern Louisiana by a giant formation of rock salt that geologists believe could be deeper than Mount Everest is high.
Visitors can tour the family-owned Tabasco factory and museum, and then dine at TABASCO® Restaurant 1868!, though you had better be prepared for spicy Cajun food liberally seasoned with Tabasco sauce.
For a less spicy experience, you can visit the Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre bird sanctuary and wildlife refuge decorated with exotic botanical specimens. Trails wander through 11 different garden areas: Live Oak Trees, Marsh Trail, Long Lagoons, Buddha’s Temple, Wisteria Arch, Palm Garden, Camellia Garden, Bird City, Timber Bamboo, McIlhenny’s House, and the Sunken Gardens.
5. Baton Rouge
As the capital city and nestled up against the Mississippi River, Baton Rouge is the perfect place to explore the diverse culture of Louisiana. The city is also home to Louisiana State University, whose lakes provide a hub for water activities like kayaking and paddleboarding, as well as parks and boardwalks for peaceful walkers and runners.
There are also many acres of hiking trails in Baton Rouge parks, as well as at Burden Gardens, a collection of specialty gardens and woodlands with five miles of walking trails nestled in the middle of the city.
There are several tours and museums for history buffs to enjoy. The new State Capitol building is the highest capital building in the United States, with 34 floors. A free trip up to the observation deck on the 24th floor offers incredible views of the city. The nearby Capitol Park Museum provides hours worth of entertaining exhibits and history of Baton Rouge and Louisiana.
Like all of Louisiana, the state’s historical love of music is on full display. In addition to live entertainment at larger venues and music festivals, Baton Rouge has a number of smaller, more intimate listening rooms and juke joints. In particular, Teddy’s Juke Joint has been showcasing blues artists in an intimate setting for more than 40 years.
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