With approximate 52,000 square miles to explore and more than 20 state parks to choose from, you are guaranteed to find a Louisiana attraction to keep the family entertained on a road trip to the Pelican State.
In this Deep South family road trip guide, we’ve picked out the top seven attractions and activities to enjoy in the state of Louisiana; a state with a vivid history and a mix of Creole and Cajun cultures make this one of the most intriguing yet least visited states in the South, and indeed in the USA.
Attend a Festival
Louisiana is a state that likes to party! Pick a weekend, and there is bound to be a festival somewhere in Louisiana – far beyond just Mardi Gras. Every year there are hundreds of festivals, ranging from Alligator Day (Hammond) and Andouille Festival (LaPlace) to Zippity Zoo Days (Baton Rouge) and Zydeco Extravaganza (Opelousas).
Many of these festivals have hands-on experiences for children and food and music that appeal to almost anyone. The Center for Cultural and Ecotourism, based at Louisiana State University (Lafayette), is a good resource for finding some of the state’s most interesting festivals.
Whenever you plan to attend a festival, especially one held outdoors, it is best to have alternate plans in case of inclement weather or cancellation.
Experience Ghosts and the Supernatural
If your children like ghost stories, ghosts abound in the state of Louisiana! New Orleans offers several tours that cater to horror buffs, although you might want to ask the company you select if they think the tour is too intense for younger children.
Ghosts pop up outside New Orleans, too, even at bed and breakfasts with its resident ghost.
Louisiana has no shortage of battlefields and historical places, which are notorious for housing the occasional ghost. To add a bit of lagniappe (that’s a French term for “something extra” that you’ll see a lot in Louisiana), take a tour to see if you can spot the Honey Island Big Foot, or explore Louisiana’s southern regions to learn more about the loup-garou, Louisiana’s legendary half-man and half-wolf creature.
Some suggested spooky tours to try in Louisiana
Explore the National and State Parks
If your children like sandy beaches, wooded hiking and nature trails, and campsites with clean facilities and hot showers, try visiting some of Louisiana’s many beautiful campgrounds or parks. Most of them provide activities or host events periodically during the year. Not every park is an empty stretch of wilderness, marked only with nature trails and beaches.
Many state parks offer fishing and other activities. Even if you or your children don’t like to camp, most parks have day rates for visitors. If staying at the state park is appealing but you don’t have any camping equipment, many state parks have cabins available for rent, which hold up to eight people (pets are not allowed inside). Call the park in advance for reservations.
If you have older children, consider traveling to one of Louisiana’s many National Wildlife Refuges, parks, or sanctuaries to do some bird watching. It should not surprise that Louisiana is a prime location for bird watching.
From the little island bird preserve in New Orleans’ Audubon Park to the shorebirds that winter in its miles of coastline to the bird sanctuaries that dot the inland map, Louisiana is host to hundreds of fascinating species.
Louisiana is host to a dozen annual birding festivals, many with things for even small children to do. There is also a wetlands “birding trail” with 115 sites along I-10 between Texas and Mississippi.
If you plan to travel for any length of time along this stretch of highway, some of these stops make fun and interesting stops to break up your drive and for your children to work off some of their pent-up energy.
Take a Step Back in Time in Cajun Country
Bring a little of Cajun history to life for your children at Vermilionville, located in Lafayette. The park’s 23 acres contain 18 structures, forming a historic village. Events, projects, and workshops are sure to entertain the entire family. In addition to Vermilionville, your kids might be interested in seeing a plantation where rice and crawfish are grown.
Baton Rouge, the capital, offers an actual WWII destroyer and an accompanying nautical center. Kids might be interested in exploring a nineteenth-century paddlewheel riverboat pilothouse replica. The pilothouse is full-scale, allowing visitors to glimpse what Mississippi River pilots saw so many years ago. Baton Rouge also offers an outdoor rural life museum for a little more history.
Cajun Country is also the home of Tabasco Sauce and features a town that bills itself as the Crawfish Capital of the world. Add in the outdoorsy appeal of the bayous that lace the area, and you have something for everyone. Try searching the Internet for Cajun-related activities, attractions, and festivals to help you plan.
Plan a Plantation Tour
Drive along the famous “River Road,” a seventy-mile stretch along both sides of the Mississippi featuring quite a few antebellum plantation houses. Although some of the roads have been taken over by petrochemical plants and suburban housing developments, sweeping views of sugar cane fields and Greek Revival, architectural marvels remain.
If you’d rather that someone else do the driving, many companies offer plantation tours where you enjoy a ride in an air-conditioned van or bus to and from the plantation. Most tour companies will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel.
Look for extras from your tour company, such as dinner at the plantation, served in the grand dining room, and the style of its operating days. Some plantation tours are available in combination with swamp or city of New Orleans tours.
Try one of these plantation tours that leave from New Orleans
And Save Some Time For a Swamp Tour
Most kids love the swamp tours. The open-sided boats bring nature in, nearly close enough to touch, but hold the leaping alligators far enough away for comfort. Yes, leaping alligators!
In addition to the birds, wildlife, trees, and water that swamp tours provide, many tours will lure alligators in for “up close and personal” viewing.
Many swamp tours need to be pre-booked through online companies, but some have walk-up bookings or will take reservations over the phone or the Internet themselves.
Going through a tour group may be a good idea if you want to save yourself the driving or want a little extra for your money-some will serve lunch to people who book through a tour group, for example.
No matter how you book your tour, be prepared to bring a camera to capture some amazing scenery. One piece of advice: for the best experience, choose a tour with Cajun guides. These local guides know things about the swamp that are learned over a lifetime.
Try these tours to compliment your trip to Louisiana
We hope this guide to Louisiana has convinced you to add the unique sights, sounds and delights of the Pelican State to your Deep South road trip itinerary.
Before Your Louisiana Road Trip
Get prepared for your Louisiana road trip by noting the following important points:
- Louisiana is on Central Time and observes daylight savings from mid March to early November (if Congress pass federal law, the state will move to permanent DST).
- Louisiana’s subtropical climate on the Gulf Coast means much of the state is very hot and humid over summer. Mid-February to early May and October to December make the best months to plan your visit.
- Whilst Mardi Gras can be the most festive time to visit, we know this can be overwhelming with the kids and prices can be sky high, in which case avoid late February/early March.
- Any outdoor activities in Louisiana, particularly swamp tours, pack your bug spray!
- Before you go, download our road trip packing essentials checklist; never miss an important item again when packing for your family road trip!
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