New Orleans, Louisiana is one of the South’s most popular destinations and it’s easy to spend a week exploring the neighborhoods. But it’s also a great launching point to explore the rest of the state.
It’s easy to pick up your rental car downtown or at the airport and return to your hotel in the evening for these day trips from New Orleans.
Distance from New Orleans: around 45 minutes
A popular day trip from New Orleans is to see the majestic River Road plantations. You can book a spot on one of the many tours that go to plantations and swamp tours. But it’s also easy to rent a car and do it yourself.
If you only have time for one or two, Laura and Whitney have the most well-rounded experiences in terms of the story of the enslaved people that lived there.
There aren’t that many restaurants in the area, so plan on eating at one of the bigger plantations or bringing a picnic. Oak Alley Plantation has a restaurant that is open to the public.
River Road Tours
- Laura Plantation Tour
- Destrehan Plantation and Swamp Tour Combo from New Orleans
- Oak Alley and San Francisco Plantation Tour from New Orleans
- Whitney Plantation Tour
- New Orleans Bayou Tour
Distance from New Orleans: around 1 hour
Drive to the other side of Lake Pontchartrain to experience the charming towns like Abita Springs, Covington, and Mandeville. It’s easy to take the 26-mile causeway straight across or to go around to the east through Slidell.
Here you can have a variety of unique experiences like kayaking the Cane Bayou, sipping on craft beer at the Abita Brewery, and cycling the Tammany Trace, a rails-to-trails project. The Abita Mystery House is another favorite for its quirky rooms.
While you’re in the area, enjoy lakefront dining in Mandeville at The Lakehouse. Nearby, Liz’s Where Y’at Diner, Hambone, and Mandeville Seafood are also favorites. Del Porto Ristorante in Covington has incredible Italian food.
Distance from New Orleans: 1 hour
Set in the bayou south of New Orleans, the town of Houma is named for the Houma Nation, a Native American tribe. Here visitors can experience the great outdoors in places like the Mandalay Nature Trail and Bayou Terrebonne for hiking, birding, and geocaching.
The area has its own small-town Mardi Gras celebrations and has funky festivals like the Rougarou Fest, named for a mythical wolf-like creature that lives in the bayou.
Crawfish are never far away on the Crawfish Trail where diners can use an app to find the mudbugs cooked in a variety of ways. Bayou Terrebonne Distillers has whiskey and cocktails.
Distance from New Orleans: 1 hour 20 minutes
Baton Rouge is the state capital and lesser-visited by travelers. But the city is home to some incredible museums that cover different aspects of history and life in the state.
They include the LSU Museum of Art, the Rural Life Museum, the Louisiana Art & Science Museum, the Louisiana Old State Capitol, and the Capitol Park Museum. The riverboats also dock in the area.
While in town, visit the delicious restaurants across the city, from downtown to Spanish Town and Mid-City. Louie’s Cafe is a favorite of LSU students for its heaping biscuits and Cajun potatoes. The Overpass Merchant has great burgers.
Distance from New Orleans: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cross the border into Mississippi to enjoy Biloxi and the Gulf Coast towns like Bay St. Louis, Ocean Springs, and Gulfport. Here you can play at the casinos or just enjoy the coastal life.
The attractions are also unique like the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, named for the folk artist. The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum educates on the main industry. Beauvoir is the former home of Jefferson Davis. The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art is another unique art museum.
Save some room for the biscuits at The Greenhouse on Porter in Ocean Springs. The Blind Tiger Bay St. Louis is another favorite, offering craft beer, tacos, and burgers. Edd’s Drive-In is an old-school eatery with hot dogs, burgers, and ice cream.
Distance from New Orleans: 2 hours 10 minutes
Lafayette is the heart of Cajun country, featuring French speakers and traditional music and dancing. It’s a great place to visit for its festivals like Mardi Gras and Festival International.
Vermilionville is the perfect place to learn about the Acadian settlement. Located on the campus of the University of Louisiana, the Hilliard Art Museum has an impressive collection. You can also admire the wildlife on a trip from Atchafalaya Basin Landing & Marina.
There are dozens of delightful eateries in Lafayette, including Social Southern Table & Bar, Pamplona Tapas Bar, Spoonbill Watering Hole, and Central Pizza & Bar.
Avery Island & New Iberia
Distance from New Orleans: 2 hours 20 minutes
Not far from Lafayette is Avery Island, a community that has long been the home of the Tabasco Pepper Sauce Factory. Here visitors can tour the production facility and wander the Jungle Gardens. The factory has its own restaurant serving Louisiana dishes like gumbo.
In neighboring New Iberia, visitors can see the Bayou Teche Museum, which educates visitors on the landscape and culture of the bayou that runs through the area. Shadows on the Teche is an 1834 sugar plantation-turned historic home museum.
Bon Creole is a longtime eatery in town with po boys and crawfish. Jane’s Seafood is one of a handful of Chinese restaurants that also have Southern dishes.
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