Laissez les bons temps rouler! That’s the saying, meaning "Let the good times roll," that rules this state. When you visit Louisiana, be prepared for big personalities and unforgettable times. Sure, Mardi Gras, the yearly street carnival ruled by floats and bead-tossing, embodies the spirit of the state. But it’s much more. From thick Creole accents and moody swamps filled with gators to spicy gumbo and heart-wrenching jazz tunes, this is where you go to live to the absolute fullest. Whether it’s a place where you pay respects to the deceased or a rodeo run by hard-core criminals, check out some of the state’s most interesting attractions.
Beignet means pastry in French, but we don’t really care what it means. All we know is if you are anywhere near New Orleans, you better make it to Cafe Du Monde, a classic outdoor cafe, open since 1862. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (with early closings on December 24), you can order a pile of powder sugar-covered beignets and steaming coffee, no matter if it’s breakfast time or midnight.
Unforgettable Street Party in New Orleans
Located in the heart of the French Quarter, Bourbon Street is where you go to find a New Orleans party, at any hour of the day. This is especially true during Mardi Gras, when the street is closed off and a colorful carnival takes over. Mardi Gras, meaning "Fat Tuesday," officially started in 1781 and is now known as the "Greatest Free Show on Earth!" Be prepared for a show, as activities can turn a bit risqué when free beads are on the line. Photo courtesy of NewOrleansOnline.com.
Swamp Ride in Breaux Bridge
So the gators in these parts may not be too friendly, but the tour guides at Champagnes’s Cajun Swamp Tours are. Take a slow ride through the swamps of Louisiana, keeping an eye out for the wide eyes of gators, moist vegetation and other local wildlife. And, by all means, keep your fingers inside the canoe or boat. Photo courtesy of LouisianaTravel.com and the Louisiana Office of Tourism.
An Afterlife Attraction in New Orleans
A cemetery as a tourist attraction seems sort of creepy, right? Well, in New Orleans, the places where the dead go to rest are also vacation attractions, as well as where family and friends go to mourn. Because the city is built on a swamp, the deceased must be buried above ground, typically in elaborate stone crypts and mausoleums. At Greenwood Cemetery, which opened in 1852, you’ll find numerous monuments and sculptures, including those of many mayors, jazz legends, Confederate generals and novelists. Photo courtesy of Jean-Paul Gisclair and NewOrleansOnline.com.
So Much Fun, It Should Be Illegal in Angola
When you tell your family and friends you are headed to a Louisiana prison (one that houses the state’s most violent criminals) for a day of family fun, don’t be surprised if you get raised eyebrows. Held on one weekend in April and on every Sunday in October, the Angola Prison Rodeo, open to the public, allows inmates to compete in an entertaining rodeo, as well as sell their handmade wares in a craft show, held the same time. Our only advice: don’t wear stripes. Photo courtesy of Crawford Orthodontics.
Worthy of a President in Covington
There’s one Louisiana city that has not forgotten President Ronald Reagan – Covington. The story goes that this city was always a Democratic spot, until around 2003 when a local tycoon, and good buddy of Reagan himself, made sure a statue would be erected in the honor of Reagan as soon a the former actor and president passed away. He did and in 2004, Patrick F. Taylor made sure a 10-foot statue of Reagan, atop a 6-foot pedestal, was built. It stands as the world’s largest Ronald Reagan statue. Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller.
One Spicy Tour in Avery Island
Add a little spice to your life by visiting the Tabasco® Sauce Pepper Sauce Factory in Avery Island, the largest of Louisiana's five major salt domes in the heart of Cajun Country. See where the condiment is made at the factory, about 140 miles west of New Orleans in a place surrounded by marshes and swamps. Then visit the onsite country store where you can sample everything Tabasco, from ice cream to soda – all flavored with the special, hair-raising sauce. Photo courtesy of McIlhenny Company.
A Spell-Worthy Spot in New Orleans
Located on the reported site on Bourbon Street that legendary Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau II once called home during her lifetime, Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo is where one goes to learn more about the mystical religion of Voodoo. Have your palm or tarot cards read or buy a Voodoo doll, African mask or earrings that look like mini-skeletons. Be warned that the spirit of Laveau has been known to sit in on psychic readings and many visitors report having felt her icy fingers touch them on the shoulders. Photo courtesy of Christopher Allen.
A Wild Experience in Gibson
At Wildlife Gardens, experience Cajun Country like the daring folks on one of the many nature shows on television. The options are plentiful: tour an alligator farm, stay the night in a cozy on-site cabin, visit an authentic trapper’s cabin or simply walk the acreage, in search of a feisty gator. Just watch where you step and be ready to run. Photo courtesy of Photo Jenny.
A Religious, Yet Quenching, Experience in Monroe
In 1979, an advertising drink campaign professed, "Have a Coke and a Smile." In this city, at this quirky museum, the slogan would be, "Have a Coke and Some Bible Literature." Yep, you heard us. Located in Monroe beside the Ouachita River, the Coca-Cola Museum features Coca-Cola memorabilia and historical items, and also houses the adjoining Bible Museum, which features a collection of bibles and biblical literature. Photo courtesy of Photo Phiend.