Louisiana has so much to offer travelers well beyond the history and music of well-known New Orleans. Whether you’re looking for charming small towns, unique festivals, important history, or quirky experiences, you’ll find it here.
These six destinations are our picks for the places you can’t miss when visiting Louisiana.
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The North Louisiana city of Alexandria and neighboring Pineville make up the ninth-largest in the state. Set along the Red River, the land was originally home to the Caddo people. There’s even an international airport here!
Dive into the local history, starting with the circa 1800 Kent Plantation House, the oldest structure remaining in this part of the state. The Creole-style home was built through a Spanish land grant.
Outdoors lovers can explore the over 600,000 acres of Kisatchie National Forest, which includes waterfalls, caves, a historic sawmill, and a World War II military base.
For a taste of authentic Cajun meats, head to Quebedeaux’s Boudin & Cracklins, which serves pork cracklins, boudin balls, tamales, and fried chicken. The Diamond Grill is named for its location in a 1930s jewelry store and is the best place around for steaks, seafood, and Cajun dishes.
Spend the night at the Hotel Bentley, a 1908 hotel that reopened after being restored in 2016. It has 93 luxurious guest rooms, an in-house restaurant, and a bar.
Travelers often overlook the capital city of Baton Rouge, located just a short drive from New Orleans. But there’s so much to see in the “Red Stick,” whether you’re visiting on a Louisiana State University gameday or not.
The museums are some of the best in the state. The Capitol Park Museum highlights the state’s history, from Mardi Gras festivities to cuisine to Native American culture. The LSU Museum of Art has groundbreaking exhibits from American artists.
Louisiana Art & Science Museum is popular with families for its planetarium, exhibits on ancient Egypt and local works of art. The Louisiana Old State Capitol is a Gothic building that became a museum in 1994 with an interactive video narrated by the castle’s ghost.
LSU students love Louie’s Cafe, a 24-hour diner with Cajun hashbrowns and biscuits. The lunch specials and weekly half-priced burgers at The Overpass Merchant are worth the trip. For fresh seafood and boudin, don’t miss Tony’s Seafood Market & Deli, the largest seafood market in the state.
You don’t have to be a gambler to appreciate the luxurious L’Auberge Casino, which has dining, shopping, and live entertainment. Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge Downtown has the brand’s signature boutique design with local touches like its in-house restaurant and Louisiana artwork.
Watermark Baton Rouge is a stylish boutique hotel in the former bank headquarters. It’s a member of the Autograph Collection, meaning you can earn Marriott points for your stay.
The Cajun capital of Lafayette is where the Acadian people settled from Canada. Their influence is still found in the cuisine and live music, including zydeco. The city also has unique Mardi Gras celebrations.
Vermilionville is a folklife park that represents life in Acadiana from 1765 to 1890 from the perspective of the Cajun, Creole, and Native American residents with costumed interpreters, live music, a cooking school, restaurant, and boat tours. Book your Tour of Historic Vermilionville before you go.
The Children’s Museum of Acadiana‘s interactive exhibits and the works of the Hilliard Art Museum, located on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, are other options. If you have time, visit the Tabasco Factory in nearby Avery Island.
In addition to the many Cajun meat markets selling boudin, Lafayette has incredible restaurants. Randol’s Restaurant is known for dishes like crawfish etouffee, fried alligator, and chargrilled oysters. They also operate as a dancehall with live zydeco music most nights.
Pamplona Tapas Bar is a Spanish-inspired tapas bar that carries wines from the country, along with garlic shrimp, beef carpaccio, and brussels sprouts. Set in a former gas station, Spoonbill Watering Hole has creative cocktails, tuna tostada, and barbecue shrimp.
For a boutique experience, The Juliet Hotel is the only downtown hotel that has 20 rooms and suites. Blue Moon Saloon and Guest House is a lively music venue and guesthouse with eclectic decorations in both bunk and private rooms.
Lake Charles is named for its lakefront location, with access to both city amenities and the great outdoors. It’s also home to casinos where visitors can try their luck.
Start your journey on Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point at this visitors center with exhibits on life in South Louisiana and boardwalks to spot alligators and birds. Louisiana Spirits Distillery is home to Bayou Rum and offers tastings of their white, aged, and spiced rum varieties as well as tours of their facilities.
Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu is set in a historic schoolhouse and showcases the traditions of the Carnival festivities in South Louisiana.
Lake Charles has an abundance of cuisines on offer. Bodega Wine Dive serves up wood-fired pizzas and Italian-inspired eats alongside the area’s best wine list. Seafood Palace is an unassuming strip mall eatery with boiled crabs, gumbo, oysters, and more.
The Villa feels like a private library, lined with books and cozy corners, and the menu features Italian favorites like lasagna, cannelloni, and bruschetta.
L’Auberge Lake Charles is the top-rated hotel in town, with award-winning rooms, a spa, multiple dining options, shopping, a large pool area, and, of course, top-notch gambling. Courtyard by Marriott Lake Charles is a non-casino alternative.
Located on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain, Mandeville has long been a getaway from New Orleans. It is named for Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville and is home to Lakeshore Drive, a stunning row of parks and majestic homes along the lake.
Mandeville has a number of historic landmarks. The 1895 Dew Drop Jazz Hall was the social center of the town for the African-American community. Jean Baptiste Lange Creole House Museum is an example of the Creole cottages that wealthy New Orleanians retreated to on weekends. It’s been restored and turned into a museum.
The Tammany Trace is a rails-to-trails paved path that runs between Covington and Slidell over 31 miles. There are plenty of bike rental shops or you can bring your own..
Despite its small size, Mandeville has an incredible restaurant scene. At Hambone, Chef Luke Hidalgo is known for his fried boudin and chicken biscuits, set in a former cottage.
Lakehouse is an 1830s house belonging to the founder of Mandeville, now a restaurant overlooking Lake Pontchartrain serving fish tacos and barbecue shrimp.
Liz’s Where Y’at Diner is a colorful eatery with all-day breakfast, including eggs Benedict, pancakes, and biscuits. For lunch, they serve tacos and po boys.
Monroe and West Monroe are known as the home of the hit show Duck Dynasty. The small town has a street known as Antique Alley, which is lined with not only antique shops but also restaurants and boutiques.
Fans of the show can visit the Duck Commander Warehouse where the Robertson family business has a gift shop with Duck Commander calls and products.
Another essential destination is The Biedenharn Museum & Gardens, three museums in one named for one of the first independent bottlers of Coca-Cola. It has exhibits on Coke memorabilia and historic bibles and manuscripts.
The Masur Museum of Art is in the former Masur family home and features works by noted Louisiana artists, including the famous “Blue Dog” series. There’s even a winery in the area, Landry Vineyards, which also has RV sites and cottages.
Set on the water, Warehouse No. 1 has been a favorite since 1980 for its coastal and Southern food. Dishes include shrimp and grits, fried oysters, and catfish. Run by a chef featured on the Food Network, Parish Restaurant serves Louisianan cuisine and craft cocktails.
TownePlace Suites by Marriott Monroe is one of the few hotels in town with amenities like free breakfast, free Internet, and full kitchen access. Hamilton House Inn is a charming inn with cozy rooms and daily breakfast.
The charming town of Natchitoches is over 400 years old, set on the Cane River. It’s often known as the main filming location for the classic film Steel Magnolias and as the site of the annual Natchitoches Christmas Festival.
Learn about the long history of the area at Fort St. Jean-Baptiste State Historic Site, a replica based on a fort that was established nearby in 1714. The modern Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame celebrates the state’s rich history of athleticism and covers the town’s 3,000-year-old history from native tribes to the present.
Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant is the best place to get the traditional Natchitoches meat pie, along with Louisiana dishes like gumbo and etouffee. Maglieaux’s, overlooking the Cane River, has both meat pies and Italian dishes.
Merci Beaucoup serves decadent Cajun food like a baked potato topped with crawfish etouffee and fried shrimp. French Market Express is an upscale gas station store selling wine, king cakes, and po boys.
Chateau Saint-Denis Hotel is a hotel named for the French explorer that settled Natchitoches and has comfortable rooms and suites with free breakfast, WiFi, and a fitness center. Church Street Inn is another option, with balconies overlooking downtown.
Most travelers to Louisiana spend their time in New Orleans, partially because of its major airport. The Big Easy has appeared in countless television shows and movies for its history and charm. But there’s far more to see than Bourbon Street, whether you’re going for a romantic weekend, a family friendly vacation, or a girlfriend getaway.
For those who don’t want to brave the crowds and chaos of New Orleans’ annual Mardi Gras festivities, Mardi Gras World allows you a firsthand look at what it takes to create the iconic floats.
Learn about the region’s culinary history at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, which contains exhibits on each state’s foodways, a section on the history of classic cocktails, and artifacts related to absinthe, which was popular in New Orleans at the turn of the century.
The National World War II Museum has been named one of the best museums in the United States for its extensive exhibits on the various points of the war. Don’t forget about the historic cemeteries around the city, as well as live music venues.
There are countless places you must eat and drink in the city, depending on who you ask. The quintessential po boys can be found all over town. Café du Monde is open 24 hours a day, known for two menu items: chicory cafe au lait and beignets, a fluffy French-style doughnut topped in powdered sugar.
Compère Lapin has quickly gaind acclaim for its small plates and entrées that combine Caribbean and New Orleans flavors. For a classic New Orleans dining experience, go to Antoine’s Restaurant, a French Quarter staple for 175 years.
There are also plenty of options when it comes to where to stay in New Orleans. Bourbon Orleans Hotel (review) is in the heart of the French Quarter, while Old No. 77 Hotel and Chandlery is in the Warehouse District.
Shreveport and Bossier City are twin cities known as gaming towns. But they’re quickly becoming known for the culinary scene, including one of the best Louisiana breweries. The burgeoning arts scene is also delightful, from museums to installations.
The Shreveport Aquarium sits alongside the Red River and has exhibits with coral reefs, shipwrecks, ocean caves, and tropical lagoons. The Louisiana State Exhibit Museum was created as a New Deal program wutg dioramas on life in 1940s Louisiana, exhibits on natural history, original artwork, and panels on Native American traditions.
Visit the gardens of the American Rose Society, which offers tours of the grounds year-round. The Shreveport Municipal Auditorium was the site of the Louisiana Hayride program, hosting the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams.
The cuisine of Shreveport is unique and diverse. Lucky Palace is an unassuming Chinese restaurant with favorites like duck scallion pancake and ginger japaleno T-bone. Marilynn’s Place has lavish brunch and beignets that rival those of Café Du Monde.
Fertitta’s Delicatessen is part grocery store and part deli, in operation for over 50 years. What sets them apart is their “Muffy,” a take on the classic Louisiana muffaletta.
Shreveport has a number of casino hotels, including Bally’s Shreveport Casino & Hotel, which has multiple restaurants and an onsite spa. The Remington Suite Hotel & Spa is another option, with an in-house massage therapist, daily social hour, and pet friendly rooms.