Louisiana Has Everything

Wed February 20, 2013 10:45 pm
Northlake Nature Center
Courtesy LouisianaNorthshore.com

Louisiana has everything from big-city pleasures like gaming and gallery tours to remarkable natural attractions ranging from pristine Gulf beaches to mysterious swamps and bayous alive with ’gators and all kinds of birds.

Plus spring is the perfect time to visit as plantation gardens bloom with bright azaleas and myriad festivals celebrate birding, crawfish, music, and the Cajun and Creole traditions that set this state apart. You’ll also find unique places to stay—historic hotels in New Orleans’ French Quarter, luxurious casino resorts on the shores of Lake Ponchartrain, quaint bed-and-breakfasts in small towns, and camping areas in the midst of spectacular natural scenery. Don’t wait too long to plan one of your best trips ever.

St. Martin Parish
Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival
Parc Hardy in Breaux Bridge

Louisiana is famous for throwing fabulous parties with fabulous food, and both these traditions are at their best when the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival gets under way. Held during the first full weekend in May (May 3-5) in the town of Breaux Bridge, this lavish celebration of the crayfish—l’écrevisse in French—offers crawfish cooked every way imaginable, including fried, boiled, in spicy étouffée, and in creamy bisque. The festivities include crawfish cooking demonstrations, a crawfish-eating contest with 45 minutes to devour the most boiled crawfish, a Crawfish Étouffée Cook-Off in which amateur chefs from around the area fiercely compete for the Étouffée Champion title, and the World-Famous Crawfish Races.
Attracting thousands of visitors from around the world, this zesty fête was born in 1960, a year after the Louisiana legislature declared Breaux Bridge La Capitale Mondiale de L’Écrevisse—Crawfish Capital of the World. Along with crawfish, visitors can sample dozens of other Cajun and Creole delicacies. Located in St. Martin Parish, Breaux Bridge is a town of 7,800 nestled on the banks of the Bayou Teche.
This three-day extravaganza is also a celebration of music. Thirty Cajun and zydeco bands play on three stages as patrons dance from the opening notes to the encores at closing time. Folks experienced in the local dance traditions can compete in Cajun and zydeco dance contests, while beginners can take lessons in these arts. Rounding out the festival scene is a shopping area with arts, crafts, and souvenir booths.
Of course, even when it’s not crawfish festival time, visitors find myriad ways to have fun in St. Martin Parish. There are other historic towns to visit in Louisiana’s Cajun Country, offering picturesque hotels, quaint bed and breakfasts, and appealing shopping districts with antiques emporia and specialty boutiques. Visitors can learn about Cajun traditions at the Museum of the Acadian Memorial Festival in St. Martinville, where a commemorative quilt illustrates the Acadian people’s odyssey from Novia Scotia to Louisiana in the 1700s. St. Martin Parish is also home to the scenic and vast Atchafalaya Basin, so nature beckons with swamp tours, birding trails, hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and boating. You’ll also discover beautiful places for camping as well as houseboats for overnight stays. Wherever you go, the friendliness, warmth, and genuine hospitality of the people of St. Martin Parish will make you feel welcome and make sure you have a great time.

St. Tammany Parish/The Northshore

Just 45 minutes from New Orleans, St. Tammany Parish sits on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. This once-rural area began as the summer playground of wealthy New Orleanians, who crossed the lake in ferries. Accessible today via the 24-mile-long Causeway Bridge (one of the world’s longest), Louisiana’s Northshore is a popular getaway for Texans and others in search of outdoor adventure, cultural pleasures, and first-class accommodations and amenities.
The Northshore’s inviting small cities and towns offer all these, including upscale dining, eclectic shopping, relaxing spas, and cultural attractions such as art gallery walks and fun-filled events like the Abita Springs Opry, Slidell Antique District Street Fair, and the Jazz’n the Vines outdoor concerts. Famous chefs such as Food Network’s John Besh call the Northshore home.
Natural beauty is also close at hand as visitors canoe and kayak, cycle and sail, or go fishing, golfing, or even skydiving. Among the other ecological attractions are swamp tours, an alligator ranch, and the nation’s largest wildlife park. Avid birders flock to the Northlake Nature Center’s annual Great Louisiana Bird Fest, April 12-14. A great way to experience both green spaces and charming small towns is the Tammany Trace, a 31-mile rails-to-trails conversion for cyclists and hikers.

Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana

Old Cajun flavors, glittering casinos, and natural beauty await visitors in Southwest Louisiana. From the shores of Lake Charles to long Gulf Coast beaches, you’ll find fun comes in many different forms here. Your home base could be a luxurious casino resort, complete with pools, spas, shops, and gourmet dining. So whether you settle in at L’Auberge Casino Resort, the Isle of Capri Hotel, or Delta Downs Racetrack, Casino & Hotel, get ready to let the good times roll.
Nature enthusiasts won’t want to miss a side trip on the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. Wintering and migrating birds are often seen along this scenic route encompassing pristine beaches and four wildlife refuges and sanctuaries. Plus there are plenty of appealing places along the way to try zesty Cajun dishes like gumbo and crawfish étouffée. Good fishing spots, with expert guides to show you where they are, also abound along this trail. Foodies will enjoy exploring the Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail to sample one of Louisiana’s most delicious specialties and even watch it being made. Like exceptional food, festivals are a big draw in this region, too. Spring celebrations include the Southwest Louisiana Garden Festival in March, Railroad Days Festival in April, and Contraband Days in May.

Baton Rouge

Uncover the secrets of one of America’s fastest growing cities and immerse yourself in the many landscapes that define Louisiana’s capital city of Baton Rouge. Here you can tour famous antebellum gems like The Myrtles or Nottoway Plantation, or the Old Governor’s Mansion, where the legendary Governor Huey P. Long held court. And,


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