While in New Orleans, everyone should see Bourbon Street, walk the French Quarter, let the joy of jazz transport them and eat, eat, eat. Visitors can forget, however, the engaging pleasures that surround the city. Day trips are a perfect way to get away from its hustle and bustle, and get to know the rich culture of New Orleans’ surrounding areas.
The first phase of any successful day trip is renting a car, gassing it up, and getting some maps. Nifty Car Rental is a well-respected rental agency whose downtown location is near the Superdome and French Quarter. Take advantage of the local workers at Nifty for advice on where to go and what to see. Then hop in your cool new ride, let the good tires roll and head out for a Louisiana adventure.
Drive over the Causeway, the fifth-longest bridge in the world, over Lake Pontchartrain and into St. Tammany Parish to experience the Northshore. The 45-minute drive will leave plenty of time to enjoy the lush, green open spaces outside and the quaint, family-friendly galleries and shops indoors. Made up of historic, manicured towns with laid-back urban centers, St. Tammany accommodates foodies, golfers, cyclists, water sportsmen, wine-enthusiasts, and park and beach enthusiasts. But above all it showcases Creole- and Cajun-flavored Southern hospitality. TRAVELHOST recommends Covington, Mandeville, Ponchatoula and Lake Pontchartrain, for starters.
Also near New Orleans, but still a world of its own, the sportsmen’s paradise of St. Bernard Parish is two-thirds surrounded by water and perfect for a day of fishing, water-skiing, hunting and boating. Only minutes from the city, St. Bernard also houses a distinct culture—descendants of the area’s first settlers, Los Islenos of the Canary Islands. Drive through sprawling oak groves and a mossy bayou to see the Islenos Museum and the Chalmette Battlefield where Andrew Jackson defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans.
An hour drive west through swamps and bayous along Interstate 10 will take the curious to Louisiana’s capitol city of Baton Rouge. French for “red stick,” Baton Rouge is a lively metropolis steeped in the political and cultural importance to the state. Get your learn on at the Louisiana State Museum and then soak up some history at the Old State Capitol medieval fortress, a monstrously sized monument to power in the heart of the city. Further, escaping the zoo of Bourbon Street does not mean you cannot experience some wild life! The BREC Baton Rouge Zoo is located 15 minutes from downtown and is home to over 1,800 animals.
Another destination of French origin, Lafourche (“the fork”) Parish, is legitimate bayou country only 60 miles from New Orleans. This center of Cajun life is home to 40 buildings selected to the National Register of Historic Places, including the Edward Douglass Whitehouse and the Laurel Valley Sugar Plantation. Step back in time and see what small town southern living was like in the 18th century. Cajun culture is conserved in homes, schools, and at the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center, a part of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in Lafourche Parish’s county seat, Thibodaux. By the time you leave you will be family, and will probably have learned how to parlez a little of the local francais.
Refreshed and revived by the country, history and culture surrounding New Orleans, on their return visitors will be ready to dive back in to the city’s endless bon temps. Seems sometimes we can have our cake and eat it too.