One of those states that just has something that extra something special, the Southern Belle is a potent melting pot of French, African, American, and French-Canadian cultures. And with such rich cultures comes rich experiences. Everyone knows about New Orleans and its fondness for jazz, but explore further afield away from the packed bars and crazy parties and you’ll find some truly unique and extraordinary landscapes. Visit this southeastern US state and expect to be in awe of the atmospheric swamps, perfectly preserved historic buildings, and the local’s unwavering appreciation for the good things in life. Here are my favorite best and most beautiful places to visit in Louisiana, USA…
1. New Orleans French Quarter – the cool city is a must-see place to visit in Louisiana
This one of the most famously best places to visit in Louisiana. For a genuinely romantic vibe with a touch of pizazz make your way to the French quarter. It’s a blend of the very old with the new, in a melting pot that will have your eyes on stalks. When you are here, it isn’t difficult to imagine a world awash with powdered wigs, artificial beauty spots, and hand fans.
Your senses will be bombarded. Along with impressive visuals, you’ll also be faced with a range of culinary options. It is the French quarter after all. Step into this cultural smorgasbord and enjoy a drink in authentic and rather gaudy chandelier bedecked bars whilst tucking into some Creole cuisine.
2. Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve – one of the most stunning beauty spots to explore in Louisiana
If you asked most what their thoughts of the deep south of the USA are and they would probably paint you a picture of misty bayous, alligators, and swamps.
And they’d be exactly right, especially if they had already been to Jean Lafitte National Park. Occupying over 20,000 Acres of wetland this park offers various activities in abundance. Take a hike on a designated trail, go for a picnic, and take in the local fauna. Caution, don’t feed the alligators! We are being serious, you can’t fail to spot them as they are everywhere.
3. Houmas House and Gardens – a striking Greek revival mansion
If you want to experience what life was like on an 1800’s sugar plantation, then this house is the gold standard. You can only imagine the opulence and wealth surrounding this place during the period.
If you aren’t the imaginative sort, don’t worry. Artwork and interactive displays will unlock the past. The on-site restaurants also provide you with sustenance during your journey, they are award-winning.
There is also the option to stay on the plantation overnight. Luxury cottages are available to hire on a nightly basis, allowing you to get the most out of your stay in beautiful surroundings.
4. Louisiana Wetlands – stunning water-saturated coastal and swamp regions
The wetlands of Louisiana are a surprisingly fragile and delicate ecosystem that has had a little bit of a tough time over the years, so you should take the opportunity to enjoy them while you can. Farming, mining, building, and the occasional hurricane have depleted them to a large extent.
For a real taste of the southern wilderness head here. There are guided (eco-friendly) boat tours, where you can observe all different types of local species, from white-tailed deer and raccoons to the ever-present alligators. Wildlife fans are in for a treat, as the waters of the wetlands are rich in various species. Definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Louisiana!
5. Old State Capitol – one of the most beautiful houses to explore in Lousiana
The Old State Capitol building is a little bit of an enigma. It looks like a castle and holds treasures within. It contains a museum that seeks to educate all those who enter on various subjects from the arts through to political processes.
Once you have stepped over the threshold of this 19th-century building you’ll be treated to a dazzling array of colors. The main hall of the building is fronted by a beautiful stained glass window which, at the right time of day, bathes the entire hall in a soft rainbow of colors. It’s surreal.
Exhibits include celebrations of the women’s suffragette movement, alongside ghost tours and feature films. It is well worth a visit, especially on a rainy day.
6. Lafayette – a famous city in Louisiana which has seriously beautiful surroundings
Laissez les bons temps rouler! Oops sorry, we got a little cajun there. We meant to say ‘let the good times roll’! Why do we say this? Lafayette has been voted the happiest city in America! One visit and it’s easy to see why.
Occupying a mix of the good old U.S of A with hints of creole and cajun culture thrown in for good measure, what you get is a good time vibe not found anywhere else. Food, music, culture, you’re in for a proper treat.
If it all gets too much and you want to settle down a bit pay a visit to Vermilionville Historic village, where you can get a snapshot of Louisiana life ‘back in the day’. Alternatively make your way to Cypress Lake, located in the heart of the University of Lousiana, this leafy oasis was at one time in the past a watering hole for migratory buffalo. Now it is a pleasant green space, perfect for a picnic.
7. Mississippi River – one of the world’s most beautiful and famous rivers in the world
“Stars and shadows ain’t good to see by” said Huckleberry Finn, just before he embarked on his fictional journey down the Mississippi. He was right. This iconic river is a sight to behold, and is the second-largest in North America, running all the way down from Minnesota. It’s as iconic to Louisiana as Mardi Gras and Jazz.
There are numerous things to do in, and on, the river. Take a trip on an authentic paddle steamer, dine in a variety of bankside restaurants offering traditional southern fayre, or just take a stroll…It is over 2000 miles long, so you won’t be seeing everything in one day.
8. Tree Tunnel, Vacherie – a unique and photogenic place to visit in Louisiana
Nothing speaks of the past like Oak trees. This tunnel encompasses 28 of them, their gnarled limbs leaning together to touch above the substantial path leading to this beautiful plantation house. Go early or late for the best chance to get a decent snap without busloads of tourists standing with their mouths agog.
Whilst the tree tunnel is beautiful, a visit to the house itself is a must. It is a worthy, yet sobering experience as you see how the “have’s” lived in luxury whilst the “have not’s” lived in utter cruelty and squalor. It’s a lesson in culture, history, and sadly, the worst of human nature. A must-see attraction in Louisiana.
9. Shreveport Skyline – the most populous city in Louisiana
Shreveport itself offers you pretty much a standard US city experience, but head outside of town and down to the river and, provided you time it right, the views are out of this world. It’s a great opportunity for photographers.
The Red River with its arched bridges and city skyscape makes for a great image, especially with a contrasting sunset. Even if you aren’t a photographer, head out in the evening for a stroll and take in the ambiance.
10. Fontainebleau State Park – one of the most beautiful national parks in Lousiana
Head to the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain and you’ll find the Fontainebleau state park. It occupies an area of around 2800 acres and was home to a large sugar plantation. Nowadays it provides the opportunity to get some fresh air amongst huge oak trees and beautiful greenery.
You can camp and stay the night or even hire cabins and lodges. On hot days make your way down to the lakeshore where you can catch some rays and go for a paddle in the waters of the nearby lake.
11. Oak Alley Plantation – a historic building with a controversial history
Sometimes things are so beautiful that you’ll want to stay for more than a few hours. An example of this is the Oak Alley plantation. Offering comfortable cottages in beautiful surroundings, it’s well worth spending an evening here.
Stroll around the grounds and relax, or for a real education, pay a visit, and do the ‘big house’ tour. This extensive tour will show you the history of the house and grounds, and offer some insights into the way that people of the time used to live when the house was built.
12. Palmetto Island State Park – one of Louisiana’s newest state parks perfect for outdoor lovers
One of the more recent additions, Palmetto Island State Park is great. You have the option to stay the night if you want to have an early night and make the most out of your day.
As outdoor activities go you will be spoiled for choice, kayaking, sailing, and cycling are all on the menu. If this wasn’t enough you can feel free to relax and enjoy the melody of croaking frogs and chirping crickets on a nightly basis. It doesn’t get much more southern outdoors than this.
13. Longue Vue House and Gardens – another striking historic building with a controversial past
If you’ve had your fill of the French quarter and want to head to somewhere slightly more effete, then Long Vue house is absolutely ideal. Each room within the house is a masterpiece and will leave you gasping with awe. If we had one word to describe it, we’d say ‘decadent’. It’s almost entirely all authentic too. It’s a true example of historical preservation.
It isn’t all about the house either. Within these spacious and beautiful gardens, you’ll find a mix of cultures and styles. There are tinkling streams, fountains, neat hedgerows, and lush green lawns.
14. Melrose Plantation – a National Historic Landmark in Natchitoches Parish and a must-see attraction in Louisiana
A beautiful building with an interesting past… It’s more than that, it’s a story. During its formative years, the south was shaped greatly by industry and slavery. Whilst a dark time, this perfectly preserved plantation will give you a real insight into what it was all about. There are guided tours explaining the history of both the house and its owners. One of whom was a slave that was freed.
This white-painted building gleams amongst the verdant greenery of the plantation and allows visitors to gain a real glimpse into an interesting (albeit slightly shameful) past.
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