There’s no doubt there are plenty of fun and affordable family vacation spots across the United States. But few places allow families to vacation in slow Southern style like Louisiana does. As anyone who’s part of a family (big or small) knows, we all need a little time away to rest and regroup. The ideal destination for kids and kids at heart, Louisiana is the perfect place to reach that vacay state of mind. Pack your bags, because Culture Trip is bringing you all you need to know about the many family-friendly cities across Louisiana. Before you know it, the only question you’ll be asking is, “Are we there yet?”
With Audubon Zoo in historic uptown New Orleans, the Aquarium on the Mississippi River near the French Quarter and the Insectarium all at your family’s disposal, there’s no shortage of things to keep your kids busy on your next family vacation to the Big Easy. If you plan on visiting New Orleans through Labor Day, all three of these local gems are open seven days a week. Looking for a way to get active on your next visit to NOLA? Then we highly recommend heading to City Park for a boat ride or walk around the Big Lake. One of the nation’s oldest urban parks, it even has playgrounds and plenty of fun for the little ones at Storyland. For older kids and kids at heart, head to Carousel Gardens. While it’s no Six Flags, there are over 15 fun rides to enjoy, including a historic carousel that was featured in Now You See Me and lots of other Hollywood films. While you’re there, make sure to stop at Morning Call anytime of the day or night (they’re open 24 hours) for a cafe au lait and an order of beignets (or two or three). With the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden, there’s no doubt City Park is a New Orleans must-see and that New Orleans should be number one on your list of Louisiana vacation spots.
Baton Rouge is the perfect family vacation spot if you’re aiming to visit Louisiana in the fall. There’s nothing like a Saturday night in Death Valley. Before you hit the LSU tailgate scene, make sure to stop by the Red Stick Farmer’s Market in Downtown Baton Rouge at 5th and Main Streets. Occurring every Saturday from 8 a.m.–12 p.m. year round rain or shine, you can grab a delicious breakfast inside the Main Street Market building while browsing the fresh produce, local seafood and tasty treats. Visitors traveling with children 21+ should take a detour to the Tin Roof Brewery at some point during your stay for some local craft beer. If you can’t swing tickets to the big game, we recommend catching it on the big screen at The Varsity. The only thing better than the drink specials and a place to sit? The fact that you can order delicious eats from The Chimes next door. Not sure where to stay on your visit? We’ve got you covered with the 10 best hotels in Baton Rouge.
If you haven’t seen Steel Magnolias, go ahead and add it to your Netflix queue. Natchitoches is Louisiana’s oldest city, known for its annual Christmas festival and tasty meat pies. Visit over the winter holidays, and your family won’t be disappointed. Known as the bed-and-breakfast capital of Louisiana, seeing the annual festival of lights is something that will be sure to get everyone in the holiday spirit. With a parade, live music, arts and crafts vendors and delicious eats, there’s even a fireworks show coordinated to holiday tunes. On your next family vacation to Louisiana, don’t miss the 300,000 Christmas lights and 100 lighted set pieces that illuminate downtown Natchitoches and Cane River Lake every winter.
Avery Island, located in Iberia Parish, is best known for being the birthplace of the world famous Tabasco hot sauce. When your family visits Avery Island, you can learn all about the McIlhenny family, take a tour of the factory and museum and taste a variety of hot-sauce infused products. This Louisiana destination is highly recommended for all those foodie-families vacationing to the Bayou State. While you’re there, don’t miss the Jungle Gardens, 170 acres that stretch along Bayou Petite Anse on Avery Island. Enjoy local wildlife like azaleas, camellias, bamboo and animals like alligators, deer and thousands of snowy egrets.
Lafayette is famous for being the Happiest City in America for a reason. With delicious Cajun and Creole cuisine, we advise taking a family vacation to this Southern city at peak festival season. In April, you can catch Festival International de Louisiane, the largest international music and arts festival in the United States. If you can’t make it in the spring, mark your calendars for Festivals Acadiens et Créoles the second full weekend in October. Pro tip: this festival packed with delicious local eats, authentic crafts and five stages of music is free. If you’re in Lafayette for an extended weekend, bring the family to Vermillionville in the heart of Lafayette and enjoy being transported back in time with this living history museum and folklife park. To be honest, though, our favorite family spot in all of Lafayette will have anyone with a sweet tooth pumped. Borden’s Ice Cream Shoppe will take you back to a simpler time and give you a taste of ice cream the old fashioned way – because some things never go out of style.
On your next family vacation to Mandeville, rent a cabin and explore the beautiful outdoors at Fountainbleau State Park, where you can hike a variety of trails, launch your canoe or kayak and swim off of Lake Pontchartrain’s sandy beaches. Get active and take the whole family biking or walking along the Tammany Trace, which runs right through the park. Make sure you make a stop at the Mandeville Trailhead, where there are free Friday evening concerts from 6:30–8:30 p.m. in the spring and Saturday morning Community Markets. One thing you can count on? There’s no shortage of family-fun activities in Mandeville on the Northshore.
Taking a family vacation to Grand Isle will give you a glimpse of why Louisiana is known as the Sportsman’s Paradise. We recommend a visit in April to catch the Blessing of the Fleet Fair and Migratory Bird Festival. The former is a unique local event, featuring blessing of the fleet, rides, delicious grub, live music, carnival games and fun for the whole family. The latter is a weekend meant for bird-watchers with tours on the Grand Isle Birding Trail, Elmer’s Island and the Grand Isle State Park. While you’re in Grand Isle, make sure to kayak through the island’s mangroves and take advantage of the white sandy beaches and fishing piers galore.
The Louisiana Peach Festival in Ruston is a family-oriented annual event held every summer on the fourth weekend of June. Besides the parade, Cobbler Gobbler Eating Contest (you read that right), antique car show, games, rides and rodeo, attendees can feast on pies, tarts, salads, cakes and lots of other peach-flavored delicacies. The best part of this fest? Children eight and under get in free! Plus, a weekend pass will only set you back $15 per person. Talk about affordable family fun! Though it’s best known for the the annual Peach Fest, the City of Ruston is home to plenty of other attractions your whole crew will enjoy on your next family vacation to Louisiana. For lovers of outdoor adventure, we recommend flying high at Soaring Spirit Ziplines or catching a concert at Railroad Park, the outdoor entertainment hub of downtown Ruston just steps from lots of local shops and delicious places to grab some grub.
Experience the bayou culture of the historic fishing town of Jean Lafitte, located just 20 miles southwest of New Orleans. A don’t-miss on your family vacation? A swamp or airboat tour. There’s no better way to see the local wildlife and wetlands. You can also enjoy saltwater fishing at Lafitte Public Fishing Pier or one of the many local marinas. Other high points to hit on your trip to Jean Lafitte: kayaking through the wetlands, hiking trails and exploring the history of the region at the new 6,000-square-foot Lafitte’s Barataria Museum. Top your trip off by tasting some of the Cajun and Creole cuisine found at many of the local restaurants in the area.
Your favorite Hanna-Barbera cartoon comes to life at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Robert, Louisiana. With not one but two swimming pools, canoes, paddleboats and kayaks, two lakes with fishing, a water “sprayground,” playgrounds, mini-golf, golf cart rental, a basketball court and a baseball field, this is not your average campsite. When your little ones are craving something sweet, Cindy’s 19th Hole even serves New Orleans–style snowballs and hand-dipped ice cream cones. Talk about the perfect summer getaway!
Fan of locally grown, delicious strawberries? Pack the family van and make your way to Ponchatoula for the famous annual Strawberry Festival in the spring. Known as the Strawberry Capital of the World, your family is bound for a weekend full of fun with live music, rides, food, game booths and even a parade.