Louisiana has much more to offer than New Orleans at Mardi Gras. The state is home to a wealth of cultural history, and a unique landscape of Cypress swamps, inland waterways and forests. Explore the arts and culture in places like Baton Rouge and Shreveport.

Learn about history and heritage in Lafayette, the Cajun Corridor Byway, and the Great River Road. With coastal wetlands, birding trails, and twenty-one state parks, it’s no wonder Louisiana is referred to as a sportsman’s paradise.

1. Lake Charles

Lake Charles
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Lake Charles is located in southwest Louisiana, and is filled with culture, history, excellent food, music and things to do outdoors.

In downtown Lake Charles, you’ll find a hot spot for local artists and musicians, many of whom work out of the renovated 1912 Central School, now a center for the Arts & Humanities.

Live music abounds at downtown’s Panorama Music House, and the Luna Bar and Grill. Experience the traditional Lousiana sausage, boudin, along the Lake Charles Boudin trail.

One of the best outdoor attractions in Lake Charles is the Creole Nature Trail, a scenic byway which parallels 26 miles of beaches.

2. Gulfport, MS

Gulfport, MS
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There are many great things to do in Gulfport, a coastal community in Mississippi with something for everyone.

Get outdoors and enjoy the area parks and the waterfront. Rent a kayak or jet ski, board a fishing charter or take a cruise, or spend a day at the Gulf Islands Waterpark. On land, rent a bicycle at Magnolia City Rides, visit the children’s museum at The Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, or the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum.

You’ll find locally owned shops throughout the area, and of course, excellent seafood including Po Boys, fish plates and shrimp plates.

Notice the designated Least Tern Nesting areas along Highway 90, which protect the habitat of these native birds in what’s been designated as a Globally Important Bird Area, or IBA. Gulfport beaches are among the best places to visit in Louisiana.

3. Abita Springs

Abita Springs
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Louisiana’s Abita Springs is a charming small town known for its artesian waters, vibrant main street, and family appeal.

Abita is located in the St. Tammany Parish along the Tammany Trace Bike Trail, a 31-mile path along an abandoned railroad line. Enjoy walking, jogging, or cycling along the trail.

When in town, stop at the Abita Brew Pub, which produces the award winning Abita Beer. The pub’s menu is complete with burgers, crawfish cakes, and salads.

The Abita Springs playground, adjacent to the Tammany Trace trailhead, is a sustainable design made from recycled materials, and geared toward challenging children both physically and mentally.

Good to know: Best Time to Visit New Orleans & the Weather Year Round

4. Shell Beach

Shell Beach
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Shell Beach is just an hour’s drive from New Orleans and among the most beautiful beaches in Louisiana.

The beach is found along Lake Borgne, an inland lagoon formed by the Gulf of Mexico.

The quiet beach is a favorite of bird watchers who come to see both native and migrating birds.

Summer offers swimming opportunities, or visitors can get out on the water year round by renting a boat.

Fishing in Lake Borgne is among the best in the area. The protected waters make it a good spot for redfish. Charters can be arranged through several nearby outfitters. More things to do in Louisiana

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5. Avery Island

Avery Island
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Louisiana’s Avery Island is a 2,200-acre privately owned island that’s famous as the birthplace of Tabasco brand hot sauce.

The subtropical island is one of five that rise from the coastal waters.

The islands are formed by giant rock salt formations, a remnant of an ancient seabed.

Visit the Tabasco factory and museum, where the sauce has been in production since 1868.

Enjoy authentic southern and Cajun food at the Tabasco restaurant.

At the 170-acre Jungle Gardens you’ll see native flora and fauna, including a bird sanctuary that’s home to both native and migrating species. Bird tours are available daily via reservation. Avery Island Map

More ideas: Best Islands in the United States

6. Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge
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The state capitol of Louisiana, is centrally located and home to over 300 years of Louisiana history. Visit both the old and new state capitol. One is a national landmark overlooking the Mississippi River, the other the tallest capital building in the United States, with 34 floors.

Area museums include the Louisiana Art and Science Museum, the Baton Rouge African American Museum, and the 100-acre Audubon State Historic Site.

Baton Rouge’s Plantation Country offers tours of several historic plantation homes, including the 1792 French Creole Magnolia Mound and the 1835 Rosedown home and gardens.

Among the best things to do in Baton Rouge outdoors are the Botanical Gardens at BREC's Independence Park and Louisiana State University’s Hilltop Arboretum.

7. Bayou St. John

Bayou St. John
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Bayou St. John is a quaint, walkable neighborhood of New Orleans framed by Esplanade Avenue and the Lafitte Greenway.

Eclectic, locally owned boutiques and trendy cafes, restaurants and bars are tucked away in this picturesque neighborhood with oak-tree lined streets.

Walk along Esplanade Avenue past the historic 1852 Edgar Degas House, where the French Impressionist spent a year between 1872 and 1873.

Le Musee de FPC, or Free People of Color, is a house museum that’s used as an arts and events venue.

Bayou St. John is named in part for the waterway that frames one end of the neighborhood.

Get on the water by renting a paddleboard or kayak, take a yoga class or enjoy a picnic on the grassy shores. Where to Stay in New Orleans

8. Bush

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Located in the St. Tammany Parish, Bush is a small town located northeast of Covington.

The rural area is known for the Pontchartrain Vineyards and Winery, Louisiana’s only winery to produce from traditional grapes.

Visit the wine tasting rooms adjacent to the vineyard, or attend for the fall or spring concert series to enjoy live music outdoors on the winery’s lawn.

Splendor Farms is a family-friendly farm that offers a petting zoo, horseback riding stables, and even a dachshund kennel. The bed and breakfast is open to day guests for guided trail rides.

More ideas: Best Things to Do in Covington, Louisiana

9. De Soto National Forest

De Soto National Forest
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De Soto National Forest, just east of Louisiana, is one of the top places to visit in Mississippi. The 500,000 acre area protects hardwood bottoms and the native southern pine forest, several streams, cypress swamps, buttercup flats, and the wildlife that depends upon this natural resource.

Recreational opportunities within the forest include hiking, cycling, or ATV riding, canoeing, and horseback riding. Hunting and fishing is allowed within season.

Wilderness areas include Black Creek, the only National Scenic River in Mississippi.

Wildlife in this area includes wood ducks, birds, and otters. The district’s Big Biloxi Recreation Area offers camping, picnic and bathhouse facilities along the Big Biloxi River. More Romantic Weekend Getaways in Mississippi

De Soto National Forest, 654 West Frontage Rd, Wiggins, Mississippi 39577, Phone: 601-528-6160

10. Global Wildlife Center

Global Wildlife Center
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If you are looking for things to do in Louisiana with kids, Folsom’s Global Wildlife Center is among the largest free-roaming wildlife preserves in America.

Over 1,000 exotic animals roam the 900 acre preserve, including giraffes, camels, zebras, elands, kangaroo, and bison. Tours include Safari Tours and Private Tours.

On a 75-minute safari tour, you’ll board a train to get up close and personal with the animals throughout the scenic Louisiana countryside, complete with a lake and twelve ponds.

Private tours board a Pinzgauer all terrain vehicle for an intimate experience for up to eight guests.

Enhance your experience by purchasing a cup or bucket of feed for the animals, which encourages them to visit you up close.

Global Wildlife Center, 26389 Hwy 40, Folsom, LA 70437, Phone: 985-796-3585

11. Grand Isle

Grand Isle
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One of the best beaches near New Orleans, Grand Isle is a haven for fishermen, bird watchers and outdoor enthusiasts on the coast of Louisiana.

The barrier island offers expansive views of the Gulf of Mexico, natural landscapes and ample wildlife viewing.

Grand Isle’s beaches span 7 miles of public coastline and are suitable for swimming, fishing, and beachcombing.

Grand Isle State Park is found at the east end of the island, while Elmer’s Island, a wildlife refuge, is located directly across from Grand Isle across Caminada Pass.

Dining on the island includes several seafood restaurants for dining in or take away. Shop for souvenirs along Highway 1. Grand Isle Map

12. Honey Island Swamp

Honey Island Swamp
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One of the best things to do in Slidell, Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours have been taking visitors through Louisiana’s Honey Island Cypress Swamps since 1982.

Small boats, both covered or uncovered, allow for access deep into the shallow backwaters of Slidell.

Professional guides point out the area’s wildlife, which includes otters, beavers, mink, frogs, turtles, nutria, deer, alligators, hogs, and raccoons.

The tours are popular with birders who might see owls, osprey, bald eagles, waterfowl, and egrets.

Some claim to have seen the mythical creature, Big Foot, in the Honey Island swamp. Each two-hour tour departs from the West Pearl River’s Crawford Landing in Slidell.

Honey Island Swamp, 41490 Crawford Landing Rd, Slidell, LA 70461, Phone: 985-641-1769

13. Houma

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A unique romantic weekend getaway in Louisiana, Houma spans 2,500 acres of swamps and wetlands within an hour’s drive southwest of New Orleans.

The area is rich with Cajun culture, as experienced via the food, live music, and southern hospitality.

The area is home to the Wetlands Cultural Scenic Byway, which rolls through the parishes of Terrebonne and Lafourche.

Along the drive, enjoy some of the state’s best seafood, view 100-year old Cypress trees, and keep your eyes open for wildlife, including egrets and seaside sparrows.

Hop on a swamp tour for a close up tour of the wetlands that serve as a barrier between the Gulf of Mexico and the land.

Annual events include April’s Chauvin Folk Art Festival, September’s Best of the Bayou Festival, and November’s Bayou Beer Fest. Houma Map

14. Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve

Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve
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Jean Lafitte is a National Park spread across six different site throughout Louisiana. Each area offers a unique experience with distinct activities. Marrero’s Barataria Preserve is a 26,0000 acre wetland.

In Chalmette, visit the Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery to learn about the history of the War of 1812.

The French Quarter Visitor Center is located in New Orleans, while the Acadian Cultural Center is in Lafayette.

Most Acadian history is found at the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice, while the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center offers boat tours of the bayou.

Events and ranger-led programs for each of the park’s regions are regularly updated on the National Parks website. Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve Map

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15. Stennis Space Center

Stennis Space Center
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NASA’a Stennis Space Center is located on the banks of the Pearl River along the Louisiana border.

The center was opened in 1961, and today is the largest rocket engine testing facility in the United States.

Over 30 different public and private companies use the site for such tests, including the US Navy, NOAA, Mississippi State University, Lockheed Martin, and Rolls-Royce, among others.

One of the best things to do in Mississippi, the adjacent Infinity Science Center is the public arm of the facility, where visitors can take a behind-the-scenes tour of Stennis, and enjoy 72,000 square feet of exhibits on NASA, the international space station, space, weather, and the earth sciences.

Stennis Space Center, One Discovery Circle, Pearlington, MS 39572, Phone: 228-688-3333

16. Lafayette

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Lafayette is located at the center of Louisiana’s Creole and Cajun country.

The area’s rich cultural history, good food, good music and natural surroundings have given it the moniker “Happiest City in America.”

Visit the Lafayette Museum Association’s Alexandre Mouton House for a look at a restored 1800’s Louisiana style home that once belonged to the state’s 12th governor.

The Acadia Center for the Arts celebrates the visual and performing arts with exhibits and performances.

When downtown, notice the murals take a food tour for samples of Louisiana’s best Cajun and Creole seafood, gumbo and boudin. Best things to do in Lafayette for outdoor adventure enthusiasts include trail hiking, kayaking, birding, and swamp tours in the surrounding wetlands and swamps.

17. Mandeville

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Mandeville was founded in 1843 and was once a lakeside summer destination for Louisiana’s elite. Some of the grand homes of the 19th century are still present along Lakeshore Drive.

By the 1950’s Mandeville became more easily accessible when the longest bridge in the world was built to bring the Causeway through to the shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

The city is now an upscale suburb of New Orleans. Visit for a trip to a day spa, to enjoy fine dining, or high end shopping. Outdoor recreational opportunities abound at the Fontainebleau State Park.

Mandeville is also located along Tammany Trace, a 31-mile cycling route that follows the course of an abandoned railroad track.

18. Mississippi River

Mississippi River
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Mississippi River travels from its headwaters in Minnesota, through ten states, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico by way of Louisiana.

Follow it through its most southern state along the National Scenic Byway, the Great River Road. The road passes through several historic towns, including Tallulah, Plaquemine, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

At each city stop, you’ll find hundreds of years of culture and history, museums, distinct shopping and dining districts.

Eight Great River Road Interpretative Centers are located in Louisiana, including the West Feliciana Historical Society Museum in St. Francisville, the Poverty Point World Heritage Site in Pioneer, and the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans.

More ideas: Best Dog-Friendly Beaches on the Gulf Coast

19. Mobile, AL

Mobile, AL
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A popular weekend getaway from New Orleans, Mobile, Alabama has a colorful 300 year history, and was once referred to as the Paris of the south.

The Gulf Coast town sits on Mobile Bay, just across the border from Louisiana.

Both the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park and Gulfquest, the National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico sit on the shores of the bay.

Get out on the water with an airboat tour, a dinner cruise, or Sunday jazz brunch cruise. Visit on of several historic home museums, including Hank Aaron’s childhood home.

Best things to do in Downtown Mobile include shopping and dining along Lower Dauphin Street, or LoDa, where you’ll find one of a kind items. Don't forget to spend a day relaxing on one of Mobile's best beaches.

20. Plaquemines Parish

Plaquemines Parish
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Southeast Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish extends from southeast of New Orleans into the Gulf of Mexico, with the town of Port Eads at its tip.

The area, at the confluence of the Mississippi River and the Gulf is a world class fishing destination, and home to over 78 saltwater and freshwater lakes.

In addition to fishing, the 2,500-square mile region is a destination for eco tourism. Enjoy the outdoors along hiking and cycling trails, or canoe and kayak the waterways.

Over half the species of US birds can be found along the coastal marshes, as well as migrating species from central and south America. Drive the Great River Road, a scenic byway.

More ideas: Best Gulf Coast Beaches

21. St. Bernard Parish

St. Bernard Parish
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If you are looking for things to do in New Orleans with kids, St. Bernard is a scenic, historical region just 5 miles from the city.

The waterfront area is surrounded by the beautiful Breton Sound, Mississippi River and Lake Borgne.

Known as New Orleans’ “most historic neighbor,” St. Bernard was the first area to be settled by Spanish colonists in 1778, and where the War of 1812 came to an end.

Learn more about the history at the Chalmette Battlefield, the historic Beauregard Courthouse, and the Los Islenos Museum and Village.

Enjoy nature, fishing and bird watching at the 40 Arpent Wetlands Observatory and St. Bernard State Park.

Annual events include the Battle of New Orleans Commemoration in January, March’s Los Islenos Festival, and the Blessing of the Fleet in August. St. Bernard Parish Map

22. Atchafalaya Natural Heritage Area

Atchafalaya Natural Heritage Area
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The Atchafalaya Natural Heritage Area is a National Park protecting 150 square miles of swamps, marshland, rivers and prairies along the Louisiana coast.

The park is suitable for hiking, cycling, canoeing or kayaking, and wildlife viewing. Swamp walks and swamp tours via boat are operated via third party vendors including the Atchafalaya Experience and Cajun Country Swamp Tours.

Known as “America’s Foreign Country,” several distinct cultural areas make up the park, including the Upper Atchafalaya, Between Two Rivers, the Bayou Teche Corridor, Coastal Zone and Entire Atchafalaya.

Ranger led programs take place daily and include cultural and historical events.

Atchafalaya Natural Heritage Area, 114 Tourist Dr, Gray, LA 70359, Phone: 985-868-2732

23. Slidell

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Located where Lake Pontchartrain meets the Gulf of Mexico, Slidell is a coastal village adjacent to a deepwater straight.

The area is the perfect destination for water sports and outdoor recreation, be it aboard a kayak, canoe, sailboat, or fishing charter.

Take a Honey Island Swamp Tour, enjoy a Pearl River Eco Tour, or go fishing with a guide.

Visit any of the six area Farmer’s Markets, and enjoy fresh seafood straight from the Gulf.

Just 20 minutes across the water from New Orleans, Slidell feels worlds away with a charming Old Towne, antique shops, restaurants, and simple ambience.

Slidell, LA 70461

24. The Great River Road

The Great River Road
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The Great River Road is a National Scenic Byway that passes alongside the Mississippi River outside of Baton Rouge, traveling through Plantation Country and many of Louisiana’s most significant historic areas. Historic plantations along the route include the Lara Plantation: Louisiana’s Creole Heritage Site in Vacherie. The living history museum focuses on the lives of slaves at the four-generation plantation, and offers guided and self-guided walking tours. Also in Vacherie is the 19th century Oak Alley Plantation, now a restaurant and inn offering sugarcane plantation tours. The Houmas House in Darrow is surrounded by 38 acres of gardens. Edgard’s Evergreen Plantation is among the most intact, with 22 slave cabins still standing.

Plantation Country, LA

25. Ville Platte

Ville Platte
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At the northern end of Cajun country is Louisiana’s Ville Platte. The agricultural area was founded by a member of Napoleon’s cavalry, and the equestrian history is remembered today with the unique Louisiana Tournoi, an annual tournament where riders on horseback lance gold rings as they race around a track. The tournament takes place each year in early autumn closely followed by the Louisiana Cotton Festival. For shopping and dining, visit the town’s historic district, which is located along the El Camino Real. Enjoy the outdoors at the Chicot State Park, which offers varying terrain of cypress swamps, rolling hills and woodlands.

Ville Platte, LA 70586

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