Whether you’re a first-time visitor who’s looking to explore beyond the excitement of the French Quarter or a local weekend-wanderer who wishes to appreciate all that Louisiana has to offer, you haven’t truly been to the Pelican State until you get out of New Orleans on a day trip. From historic national parks and shimmering Gulf Coast beaches to marshy bayous and charming villages, Louisiana is home to a contrasting rural world filled with some of the country’s most alluring and charismatic attractions. Here’s a guide to the five best day trips from the Big Easy, all within a couple of hours’ drive.
Receiving more than 120,000 visitors a year, the museum is located in an old bank outside the main gate, and features permanent and changing exhibits that chronicle what life was like life inside Louisiana’s prisons. The exhibition also showcases a plastic comb carved into a key so effective that locks had to be changed, a shotgun a prisoner made from metal pipes, and ‘Gruesome Gertie,’ the wooden electric chair where 87 inmates took a seat for the last time.
The 1,800-acre penal complex also hosts an arts and crafts fair with works created by inmates during Sundays in October, and for one week each spring, as well as a rodeo featuring professional acts and inmates taking on bulls and wild horses.
Tabasco Plant at Avery Island
Lying about 140 miles west of New Orleans, the McIlhenny Company – and its world-famous Tabasco sauce – is located on one of five salt dome islands rising above the flat Louisiana Gulf Coast, located in New Iberia Parish.
Avery Island is home to the Tabasco Museum and factory, where the McIlhenny family and their employees continue to live and work. Learn more about the spicy sauce’s history, not to mention the area’s famous Cajun food, with tours of the factory that focus on cuisine, history and nature. The island is also a natural paradise and botanical treasure where pepper fields are inhabited by indigenous plant species – there is even an exotic bird sanctuary, known as ‘Bird City.’
Surrounded by low-lying swamps and marshes, Avery Island visitors can learn about the island’s history, see how a bottle of Tabasco is made, try some of spicy treats, shop at their country store, and take one of their fun tours around the Jungle Gardens.
With the exception of some holidays, factory tours are available seven days a week. It costs $1 to enter the island.
Tabasco Plant, Avery Island Road, Avery Island, LA, USA, +1 337 365 8173
Global Wildlife Center
Home to over 4,000 exotic, endangered and threatened animals from all over the world, the Global Wildlife Center is a non-profit organization where families have the opportunity to come together and appreciate animals living and flourishing like the beginning of time – in a free-roaming natural environment.
The Folsom facility, which is just a short drive up the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, seeks to be the center of excellence in education; to create a place where, through first-person sensory experiences, children, adults, students and teachers can learn about the importance of active conservation and wildlife preservation.
The center prides itself on being the largest totally free-roaming wildlife preserve of its kind in the country, and is open seven days a week for daily tours.
Global Wildlife Center, 26389 Louisiana 40, Folsom, LA, USA, +1 985 796 3585
John C. Stennis Space Center
Located in Hancock County, Mississippi, just over the border from Louisiana, the John C. Stennis Space Center is home to NASA’s premier and largest rocket engine testing facility in the United States.
Not only has the NASA center tested engines for all manned Apollo and space shuttle flights, but also serves as the site where NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) is testing next-generations engines and rocket stages to carry humans aboard, deeper into space than ever before.
While the rocket-testing facility is based inside a restricted area, the neighboring non-profit science museum, INFINITY Science Visitors Center, features a variety of exhibits that blend space, earth science, engineering and technology content, as well as the opportunity to go see the NASA site next door during a guided tour.
Abita Mystery House
An easy day trip from New Orleans, the Abita Mystery House provides the perfect excuse to take a city break and explore thousands of handmade folk-art scenes depicting southern life by Louisiana artist and inventor John Preble. With push-buttons that activate animated displays on the exhibit, the roadside attraction, which lies inside a vintage gas station in the heart of Abita Springs, features vintage arcade machines, Louisiana-themed sculptures such as ‘Darrel the Dogigator’ (half alligator, half dog), a 100-year-old Louisiana Creole cottage, the much-photographed House of Shards, and a miniature southern town with scenes from a Mardi Gras parade, a New Orleans jazz funeral, a rhythm and blues dance hall and a haunted plantation. For those looking to get an extra kick of their trip and explore beyond the mystery museum, the city is home to Louisiana’s oldest and largest brewery, the Abita Brewing Company, and is filled with gorgeous bike trails, including a leg of the Tammany Trace.
The Abita Mystery House is open every day except major holidays from 10am to 5pm. If you are over three years old, admission is $3.
Abita Mystery House, 22275 Louisiana 36, Abita Springs, LA, USA, +1 985 892 2624
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
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