If you’re taking, or planning, a trip to New Orleans, don’t miss your chance to explore outside the city. Louisiana is known for its deep rooted history and culture all throughout the state, not just in New Orleans. Therefore, you’ll find plenty of unique things to do just outside of New Orleans. Here we will share some experiences from my visit back in October.
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1. Drive along the scenic Mississippi River Road
About 70 miles long, this historic road winds through small towns, plantations, cypress swamps, and is located on both sides of the river between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. I made the drive south on my way from Lafayette to LaPlace, where I spent a couple nights. Along the way, I had to cross a couple bridges, otherwise you don’t really get to see the waterfront.
I did stop to take a picture of this cute old church. To my surprise, when I got to the Great River Road Museum, I recognized it in a photo, and learned the name and history of the church. St Garbiel is the site where the first Acadians settled in Louisiana, so it was a nice suprise to see this historic site.
Things to do outside of New Orleans along the Great River Road
2. Visit the Great River Road Museum
If you explore along the Great River Road, then visiting the Great River Road Museum is a must. Uniquely laid out, as if walking along the banks of the Mississippi River, you learn what life was like along the river over the past couple hundred years.
You can read in depth histories of the plantations that used to line the Mississippi River, like Evergreen Plantation. This one was most interesting to me, because my friend’s grandfather was born on this plantation. It’s also the largest, most intact plantation, even though it’s not open to the public.
3. Tour a Louisiana plantation
You can’t travel along the Mississippi River, without stoping for a plantation tour. The Great River Road Museum is on the same property as Houmas House Plantation, therefore it’s an ideal option. Not to mention, you can enjoy lunch at one of the three restaurants, walk the beautiful grounds, and grab a cocktail at The Turtle Bar.
Destrehan Plantation is closest to New Orleans, and also the oldest plantation in lower Mississippi Valley. We did “The Unheard Voices of the German Coast” tour, hosted by Dianne “Gumbo Marie” Honore. She is a descendant of Jean Baptiste Destrehan, the father of the original owner of Destrehan Plantation, and an enslaved African woman named Genevieve Bienville. This tour also includes some interactive music demonstrations, which our group enjoyed.
What is the oldest plantation is Louisiana?
Laura Plantation is the oldest plantation in Louisiana, and my favorite. Full of so much detail and history. Our group all agreed, if you can do one plantation, this is the one to visit. Learn about four generations of life on the plantation, and why the namesake Laura, wanted nothing to do with continuing life there.
4. Visit a local brewery
Take the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway across to Abita Springs and enjoy a flight from Abita Brewing Company. This was a bucket list brewery for me, because their strawberry lager is one of my favorite beers. We loved the atmosphere, and our beertender was super friendly and helpful. Not to mention, they have a huge selection of beer on tap. Everything we tried, we liked.
For the history buffs, check out Faubourg Brewing, the oldest operating brewery in New Orleans. Originally opening as Dixie Brewing in 1907, they have quite the story of overcoming multiple obstacles. Located just outside of Downtown New Orleans, we stopped on our way heading back to Florida.
What is close to New Orleans?
5. Go on a swamp tour
Southern Louisiana is well known for its swamps and bayou. Take a tour to learn some history, see gators and other wildlife, or just sit back and relax. We did our tour with Cajun Pride Swamp Tours in the Manchac Swamp. Located about a 30 minute drive just outside of New Orleans, on the western coast of Lake Pontchartrain.
We of course saw lots of gators, since they knew feeding time would come. Also saw this cute family of raccoons.
6. Zip line over a swamp
If you’re a little more adventurous, then how about zip lining over the swamp. Just up the road from Cajun Pride is Zip NOLA. Zip high above the Manchac Swamp amongst the Cypress trees. I was pretty nervous, because I had never been zip lining before, and it was a spontaneous stop on our day out. But, after making that first jump off the platform, the rest were a breeze.
Unique things to do near New Orleans
7. Take a Cajun Cooking class
Instead of going out for dinner, book a cooking class to make your own at Spuddy’s Cajun Cooking. This hands on experience will leave you feeling like a master in the Cajun kitchen. Cook up Louisiana favorites like gumbo and jambalaya. Then, enjoy the fruits of your labor. You may even learn a couple basic cooking tips to help with lots of other meals.
8. Attend a local festival
Check out local visitor bureau websites for events happening around the area. We traveled with LA River Parishes, and happened to be in town when the Andoullie Festival was happening. It’s a great way to live like a local, enjoy great bands, talent, and cuisine.
Final thoughts on things to do just outside of New Orleans
As you can see, there’s lots of things to do just outside of New Orleans, so you could always stay outside the city, and still take a day trip in. Here you can find things to do in New Orleans from my friend Tonya, with Detail Oriented Traveler. We stayed in LaPlace, but next time I would also consider Metairie and Jefferson area. Maybe find more historic places, and parks. We like to mix up our big city trips, with some historic small towns, therefore New Orleans area can do both for us. If you have more time, I highly suggest going over to Lafayette for a couple days.