Many people associate Louisiana with the non-stop party atmosphere of New Orleans, but there are plenty of other things to see and do as well. What is Louisiana best known for? There are a number of educational museums, stunning lakes, beautiful gardens, art galleries, and historic buildings that ensure that the state is still an extremely family-friendly destination.
1. Royal Street, Louisiana
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Situated right next to Bourbon Street, Royal Street is New Orleans' local art hub. Some of the city's most historic architecture can be found on this street, making it an excellent destination for photographers. There are also quite a few art galleries where visitors can find everything from sculptures to paintings to mixed media.
The street is an excellent place to go shopping for antiques as well; many elegant items from the area's most luxurious 19th and 20th century estates have ended up for sale here. Visitors can also choose from a wide selection of boutiques, restaurants, and accommodation options.
2. LSU Rural Life Museum, Louisiana
© LSU Rural Life Museum
Located on a 40-acre agricultural research station in Baton Rouge, the LSU Rural Life Museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing various materials from 18th- and 19th-century rural Louisiana. The museum offers the largest collection of such artifacts in the world, most of which can be seen in safe outdoor displays.
The main portion of the museum is divided into three areas: a replica of a working plantation, a Southern-themed section that is home to various buildings, and a section that includes two Acadian homes. Guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more people if booked in advance.
4560 Essen Ln, Baton Rouge, LA 70808, Phone: 225-765-2437
3. Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Louisiana
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The beautiful Rip Van Winkle Gardens are located on top of a salt dome on Lake Peigneur, 75 feet above sea level. The semi-tropical gardens are 20 acres in size and surround the historic Joseph Jefferson Mansion that dates back to 1870. The gorgeous home has 22 rooms, and it is decorated with a rich variety of period furnishings.
Tours are offered at certain times. Visitors can also enjoy lunch at the on-site cafe or spend the night in one of the garden's cottages.
5505 Rip Van Winkle Rd, New Iberia, LA 70560, Phone: 337-359-8525
4. Laura Plantation: Louisiana's Creole Heritage Site
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Located on the Mississippi River, the Laura Plantation is a sugarcane plantation that includes 12 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The property is home to a recently restored 19th century Creole-style main house as well as several outbuildings, including six slave cabins that were built in 1840. There is also a 200-year-old sugar plantation homestead that has three gardens.
A guided tour of the house and grounds is included in the admission, and tours are offered at certain times. Reservations are required for groups of 20 or more people.
2247 LA-18, Vacherie, LA 70090, Phone: 888-799-7690
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5. Mike the Tiger Habitat, Louisiana
© Mike the Tiger Habitat
Mike the Tiger is the official mascot of Louisiana State University, and the university has had a live tiger on campus since 1936. In 2005, a $3 million habitat was built to give Mike a luxurious 15,000 square feet of living space that includes lush vegetation, rocky plateaus, and a number of beautiful water features.
The backdrop of the space is an Italian-style tower, which was built to visually link the habitat with the architecture on the rest of the campus. Overall, the habitat is one of the largest and best tiger preserves in the United States.
6. Houmas House and Gardens, Louisiana
© Houmas House Plantation and Gardens
Houmas House and Gardens was established in the late 1700s. The main house is known as the "Sugar Palace" and consists of 16 rooms filled with period furnishings and Louisiana artwork.
Outside, visitors can enjoy 38 acres of gardens, several ponds, and an elegant lane lined with magnificent old oak trees. Guided tours of the house and grounds are available, and guests can arrange to be picked up in the French Quarter for an additional fee. The plantation is open 7 days a week and is closed only on Christmas and New Year's Day.
40136 LA-942, Darrow, LA 70725, Phone: 225-473-9380
7. Things to Do in Louisiana: Frenchmen Street
© Frenchmen Street
Located within walking distance of the French Quarter in New Orleans, Frenchmen Street is where the locals go to listen to live music. The street is also home to the Frenchmen Art Market, which is an excellent place to find authentic local art. The music clubs here are some of the best in the city, and they play almost every genre imaginable.
Admission to the clubs is typically cheap or even free, but it's a good idea to give the bands a generous tip. There are also plenty of restaurants on the street, many of which are open late.
8. RTA - Streetcars, Louisiana
© RTA - Streetcars
Streetcars are part of the history of New Orleans, and today they offer a great way to see and experience the charm of the city. There are three lines: the St. Charles line, the Canal Street line, and the Riverfront line.
The St. Charles line is particularly popular with visitors as it begins at the edge of the French Quarter and offers views of leafy green streets, historic buildings, and a number of restaurants and boutiques. The one-way fare for any destination is only $1.25, and exact change is required unless using a day pass or month pass.
9. Preservation Hall, Louisiana
© Preservation Hall
Established in 1961, Preservation Hall is a cornerstone of the New Orleans music scene that was created to preserve and protect traditional New Orleans Jazz. Every night, the hall hosts acoustic jazz concerts that offer visitors and locals some of the best music in the city.
Tickets can be purchased at the door, and guests are advised to arrive 30-45 minutes in advance to ensure they get a seat. A limited number of reserved tickets are also available that guarantee the best seats in the house. The performances are open to people of all ages.
726 St Peter St, New Orleans, LA 70116, Phone: 504-522-2841
10. Whitney Plantation, Louisiana
© Whitney Plantation
Originally called the Haydel Plantation, the Whitney Plantation is the only plantation museum in Louisiana with a focus on slavery. The French-Creole Big House is one of the best-preserved Creole plantation houses in the area, and the detached kitchen on the property is the oldest in Louisiana.
There are a number of other buildings on the property as well, including a barn, a blacksmith shop, a church, a pigeon roosting house, and seven slave cabins. Other points of interest include a memorial dedicated to the people who were enslaved on the plantation and there are 40 statues of slave children.
5099 LA-18, Edgard, LA 70049, Phone: 225-265-3300
11. Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana
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The 25-acre Oak Alley Plantation was originally established to grow sugarcane, and today it provides visitors with the chance to experience what plantation life was like during the 1800s. The plantation was named for its 800-foot-long alley lined with gorgeous oak trees that are more than 300 years old.
Other highlights of the plantation include reconstructed slave quarters, the tent of the Confederate Commanding Officer, and a blacksmith shop that includes the plantation's original forge. Visitors typically take around two hours to explore the house and grounds, and guided tours of the Big House are available every half hour.
3645 LA-18, Vacherie, LA 70090, Phone: 225-265-2151
12. Historic New Orleans Collection
© Historic New Orleans Collection
Located in the French Quarter, the Historic New Orleans Collection is a museum and research center dedicated to studying and preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the surrounding area. The collection is made up of several buildings, including the Merieult House, where visitors can go to learn about the city's 300 years of history.
Various temporary exhibits can be found in the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries, the Williams Gallery, and in the public areas of the research center as well. For those interested in architecture, guided architectural tours of the collection's various buildings are available.
13. Things to Do in Louisiana: Audubon Zoo
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As part of the Audubon Nature Institute, the Audubon Zoo is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving nature and the environment. The zoo is located on a 58-acre piece of land in New Orleans and is home to more than 2,000 animals spread out over a number of themed exhibits.
Some of the most popular include the award-winning Louisiana swamp exhibit, the African Savanna exhibit, and the reptile encounter where visitors can see a Komodo dragon as well as a rare white alligator with blue eyes. The zoo is open all year round, but hours vary according to the season.
6500 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70118, Phone: 504-861-2537
14. The National WWII Museum, Louisiana
© The National WWII Museum
Formerly known as the D-Day Museum, the National WWII Museum is a military history museum dedicated to sharing the American experience during the second World War.
The permanent collections are housed inside a five-building complex, and highlights include a collection of restored WWII artifacts and an immersive exhibit known as the "Dog Tag Experience" that allows visitors to experience the emotions and sensations of going to war. There is also a theater in which visitors can view a 4D film for an additional fee. The museum is open 7 days a week, but is closed on all major holidays.
945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130, Phone: 504-528-1944
15. Louisiana State Capitol
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Located in downtown Baton Rouge, the Louisiana State Capitol was inaugurated in 1932 and is the seat of government for the state of Louisiana. With 34 stories that total 450 feet, it is the highest building in the city and the tallest capitol in America.
The building sits on 30 acres of gardens and there is an observation deck on the 27th floor that can be accessed via an elevator. Information about the architecture and the history of the building can be obtained from the Capitol Park Visitor Center; this also is where the guided and self-guided tours begin.
900 N 3rd St, Baton Rouge, LA 70802, Phone: 225-342-7317
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16. The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at NOMA
© The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at NOMA
Set on roughly 5 acres in the New Orleans city park, the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden is home to more than 60 sculptures. A lagoon divides the garden into two sections: an area filled with ancient moss-laden oak trees and a grove of pine and magnolia trees.
The sculptures are scattered throughout this landscape, and they can be viewed by strolling along the garden's walking path. The garden is open 7 days a week, but is closed on all official holidays. There is no admission charge and a free self-guided audio tour is available.
One Collins C. Diboll Circle, City Park, New Orleans, LA 70124, Phone: 504-658-4100
17. Things to Do in Louisiana: USS KIDD Veterans Museum
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The USS KIDD Veterans Museum is located on the USS KIDD itself, a Fletcher-class destroyer named after war hero Isaac C. Kidd. The ship was never modernized, and it is the only destroyer from World War II to retain its original appearance.
Visitors can walk the decks of the ship, explore the many exhibits found here, and visit the Louisiana Veterans Hall of Honor, which is dedicated to the Louisiana veterans who had an outstanding or unique military career. The museum is open 7 days a week, and the space can also be booked for birthday parties, overnight stays, and other special events.
305 S River Rd, Baton Rouge, LA 70802, Phone: 225-342-1942
18. Things to Do: Louisiana State Museum Baton Rouge
© Louisiana State Museum Baton Rouge
Founded in 1906, the Louisiana State Museum was created to protect and preserve the state's many historic treasures and buildings. The museum houses thousands of artifacts that reflect Louisiana's history and cultural diversity; these items are displayed in more than 10 buildings throughout the state, many of which can be found in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Exhibits cover a variety of topics, including music, the achievements of Louisiana athletes, and the history of aviation in the area. The museum also offers a variety of lectures, live music performances, and even occasional guided walking tours. Phone: 504-568-6968
19. 1850 House, Louisiana
© 1850 House
Part of the Louisiana State Museum, the 1850 House is an antebellum row house furnished and decorated to represent the typical life of a middle-class New Orleans family during the mid-19th century. A number of antiques can be found in the house, including a set of John Slidell’s china, antique porcelain from Paris, and a variety of authentic New Orleans paintings.
There is a small admission fee to enter the museum, but discounts are offered for groups of more than 15 people. Admission is free for visitors who take a walking tour of the French Quarter.
523 St Ann St #3318, New Orleans, LA 70116, Phone: 504-524-9118
20. LA Things to Do: Musical Legends Park
© Musical Legends Park
Located in the heart of the French Quarter of New Orleans, the Musical Legends Park is a small park dedicated to showcasing the rich cultural and musical heritage of the city. Life-sized bronze statues of famous New Orleans musicians can be found throughout the park, and tables and chairs are provided.
Music starts at 10 am every day and plays until closing time, which varies according to the day of the week. Cafe Beignet is located in the park as well; it is an excellent place for visitors to get a cup of coffee or a snack while listening to the music.
311 Bourbon St, New Orleans, LA 70130, Phone: 504-888-7608
21. Global Wildlife Center, Louisiana
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The Global Wildlife Center is a preserve that was created to give threatened and endangered wildlife a place to live and thrive. At 900 acres, it is the largest preserve of this kind in America. Safari wagon tours are available, providing guests with the chance to come face-to-face with giraffes, zebra, camels, and many other types of animals.
The animals roam freely through the park, and visitors can feed them for an additional fee. Safaris occur several times a day and last approximately 1.5 hours. Tickets are sold only on a first-come, first-served basis.
26389 Louisiana 40, Folsom, LA 70437, Phone: 985-796-3585
22. Romantic Things to Do in Louisiana: Jungle Gardens
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Located on 170 acres of land on Avery Island, Jungle Gardens is a semi-tropical botanical garden and bird sanctuary created by the son of the man who invented Tabasco sauce. The gardens include a number of walking paths and are planted with a wide variety of flowers, including azaleas, bamboo, Japanese camellias, and hydrangeas.
Other highlights include a 900-year-old Buddha statue set in an Asian garden and Bird City, a sanctuary that provides roosts for thousands of snowy egrets and other types of birds. The gardens are open 7 days a week, but are closed on major holidays.
LA-329 & Main Rd, Avery Island, LA 70513, Phone: 337-369-6243
23. LA Things to Do: Mardi Gras
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Every spring, southern Louisiana throws a giant two-week-long party that ends on the Christian holiday of Ash Wednesday. The celebration is the largest in New Orleans; there is always at least one large parade per day.
The major parades follow the same schedule every year, and the largest and most elaborate ones are always held on the last five days of the celebration. Attendees typically dress up in costumes and masks and an event known as the 'Meeting of the Courts' is held on Shrove Tuesday to elect the 'King of the Festival' and wrap up the celebrations.
Attraction Spotlight: Louisiana Art and Science Museum
Located right by the water in Baton Rouge, Louisiana Art and Science Museum is an educational and entertaining trip. While there are rotating galleries and traveling art exhibits, the Museum’s permanent exhibits are the big draw. Marvel at a show in the Planetarium, discover Ancient Egypt or get up close and personal with works by Louisiana’s best artists.
The impressive permanent collection includes notable works of photography and local contemporary art. Many of the exhibits are aimed at children, making this an excellent day out for those with young kids as well as the young-at-heart.
The permanent exhibitions are split into two halves: Art and science. The science galleries span much of the museum, and aim to impart new knowledge onto visitors. Exhibits take in the entire universe in the Universe Gallery, then focus somewhat closer to home with the Solar System and Planet Tower exhibitions. Finally, the Ancient Egypt gallery provides a fascinating insight into one of our planet’s most interesting civilizations.
The Universe Gallery features stunning photographs from space, as collected from the Hubble Space Telescope, JPL Spacecraft and NASA. Exhibits are updated regularly to reflect new cosmic discoveries and to stay up to date with the latest astronomical news. Also of note are the collection of meteorites which the museum owns, such as the Campo del Cielo iron meteorite, which weighs more than 250 pounds and is more than a billion years older than any natural rock found on earth. It was discovered in 1576, and is slightly larger than the Gibeon iron meteorite also on display, which was founded in 1836 and weighs around 239 pounds.
Standing in the center of one gallery is the Planet Tower, an architectural feat which spans over two floors and is prominently displayed in the Museum’s windows. The tower features scale models of the planets in the solar system, while the planetarium dome is used to represent the sun. Saturn’s rings stretch over fourteen feet wide and, in comparison, Earth is the size of a bowling ball.
The Solar System space contains both of these striking exhibits, as well as galleries of its own and two hands-on interactive stations: The Discovery Depot and the Science Station. The Discovery Depot is aimed at children up to nine years old to help them connect with art and science through play and creation. The Science Station is designed for kids aged seven to twelve, and offers interactive exhibits and games focused on science and math. Puzzles are designed to tease and stretch their minds while they learn about everything from calorie contents to the ethics of nanoscience and engineering.
The most interesting exhibit currently on display may be the Museum’s new triceratops skull. It’s more than 65 million years old, 86 inches long, weighs over 1,500 pounds and was unearthed in Montana. Many triceratops fossils have been found in America, as North and South America had split off from the historic land mass of Pangaea and started to become its own continent. Triceratops were larger than even African elephants are, and the skull serves as a reminder of just how far life on Earth has come.
Compared to the cosmos, the Ancient Egypt gallery is a somewhat different tone and seems more suited to a history museum than a science and art gallery. However, the focus on the Ptolemaic period (322 to 30 BC) adds to the overall vibe of the museum in reminding visitors of the past in order to better engage with the present. Timelines and world maps help to contextualize the displays.
The back room of the gallery is dedicated to Egyptian funerary practices and their belief in the afterlife. The centerpiece is an Egyptian mummy, who has been at the Museum since 1964, and is considered a rarity among mummies. Rather than being embalmed, his body dried out naturally in a hot environment and was then wrapped in bandages so he still has his internal organs. Many elements of thisLouisiana Art and Science Museum mummy are unusual, and there are displays about his life and death as well as the continuing research into him.
The permanent collection of art has three main strata: The American and European Art retrospective that tracks art through history, the locally-inspired Louisiana Modern and Contemporary Art section, and the diverse collection of Photography.
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Works of art are displayed in the small Soupçon and Colonnade Galleries, one on each floor of the museum. Additionally, sculptures by famed Croatian artist Ivan Meštrovic are found year-round in the Bert S. Turner Family Atrium. Overall, the Museum has over 4,000 works of art and artifacts in its permanent collection.
American and European art on offer dates back to the eighteenth century through to the present day, taking in a range of styles and schools. American artists include Dale Chihuly, Hunt Slonem and Rob Erdle, as well as John Marin’s intriguingly geometric mountain paintings. European artists of note in the collection include Jean Victor Bertin, Jean-Joseph-Elenore-Antoine Ansiaux and Alexandre-Evariste Fragonard.
The local collection of Louisiana Modern and Contemporary Art is dedicated to artists who were born or have worked in Louisiana since 1900. Once again, a wide range of styles are represented through the objects on display, many of which were acquired through charitable funds. Prominent folk artist Clementine Hunter is well represented in the collection, and others included are Ed Whiteman, Caroline Durieux and KnuteHeldner. Works of art range from Fritz Bultman’s colorful cubist canvases to Frank Hayden’s geometric sculptures.
The Irene W. Pennington Planetarium is another attraction which brings visitors to the museum, as it hosts fascinating movies and sky shows in a high-tech, 60-foot domed theater. Shows on offer are varied, and give visitors the chance to traverse the night sky and the universe beyond as well as participate in more down-to-earth activities, such as journeys of American pioneers or mysterious migration routes of insects. Shows change with the seasons and are suitable for ages three and up; for little ones aged two or younger, there are special Family Hour shows on Saturdays.
Besides these regular exhibits, much of the Museum’s appeal comes from its rotating and temporary exhibitions. Louisiana Art and Science Museum is worth visiting again and again, as most of the inside galleries will have completely changed between visits. Exhibits on show often reflect something of Baton Rouge’s local economies, whether its displays of port history or exhibitions on the South’s motion picture industry.
Louisiana Art and Science Museum’s building was once a railway station, first built in 1925 in downtown Baton Rouge on the banks of the Mississippi River. The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and is a popular site for area schools to visit; students contribute to around 85,000 of the 175,000 total annual visitors.
Mission and Philosophy
The Louisiana Art and Science Museum aims to aid in the understanding and enjoyment of art and science for both the general public as well as students. The exhibits are designed to be unique and educational experiences which promote active discovery and encourage visitors to pursue further knowledge. The Museum’s interdisciplinary approach to art and science – and belief that the two areas inform and reflect each other – means that its content aims to work in tandem, with each side elucidating the other.
Ongoing Programs & Education
Exhibits in the Museum are constantly changing, as are the events which are put on. There are many differently monthly events aimed at getting children into science, engineering or art, which usually run on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Museum also serves the community through a regular program of workshops, lectures, classes, camps and teacher in-services. As a member of the Association of Science and Technology Centers, it works to promote and teach these subjects to a wider audience. Programs run every summer to engage children in productive and educational pursuits, from teaching them about science to helping them learn to create animated art.
Coming straight out of the doors of Louisiana Art and Science Museum, visitors are met with the rolling Mississippi River which creates a pleasant backdrop to a stroll around Baton Rouge’s downtown. Across the River Road to the east lies the Old State Capitol, and many other interesting local landmarks are within walking distance of the Museum.
100 River Road South Baton Rouge, LA 70802, Phone: 225-344-5272
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