Located on the Gulf of Mexico, the state of Louisiana has a rich history as a melting pot of French, African, American, and French-Canadian cultures. Home of the famous Mardi Gras festival, the people of this state know how to have a good time, and everyone’s invited.
Known as the birthplace of jazz music, you’ll find lots of history, outdoor activities, fun beaches, museums, and some of the best food you’ll ever taste in Louisiana. Want to know more? Here are 25 things to do in Louisiana that you’re not going to want to miss.
NEW ORLEANS’ FRENCH QUARTER
When people think of Louisiana and New Orleans, one of the first things they think of is the famous French Quarter. Here, you’ll find all kinds of cultural and historic attractions, as well as plenty of live music to suit just about every taste. Stroll the streets while checking out the historic buildings and listening to music on the street corners.
Bourbon Street is home to some of the oldest and most well-known establishments in the state and offers a great mix of drinking, dining, and exploring the cultural heritage of the city.
There are all kinds of events that go on throughout the year in the French Quarter, including Mardi Gras, which takes over the city every March (more on that below).
Café du Monde is a classic French Market and coffee stand that’s been there since 1862, serving beignets and coffee 24 hours a day. It’s a can’t miss!
A trip to the French Quarter isn’t complete without a stop at Jackson Square. This 2.5-acre historic park was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960, and welcomes over 2 million visitors a year!
NATIONAL WWII MUSEUM
Located at 945 Magazine St New Orleans, LA 70130, the National WWII Museum is another hot attraction in New Orleans. The National WWII Museum offers up-close and personal accounts of the American military efforts during WWII, and how it changed the world.
At this amazing museum, you’ll find immersive exhibits, a collection of artifacts and stories from the people who fought in the war, aircraft, and multimedia experiences. In addition to their permanent collection, visiting exhibits come here regularly, so there’s always something new to experience.
This museum is huge, and features a wealth of information, so you’ll definitely want to set aside some time to take it all in.
Discount Tickets: The National WWII Museum Ticket OR Go City All-Inclusive NOLA Pass with 25+ Attractions
If you’re looking for the biggest party in the state — and honestly, the biggest party in all of the United States — Mardi Gras is where it’s at.
Each spring, there is a two-week long party that ends on Ash Wednesday, celebrating in a way that’s so large — only New Orleans could pull it off.
During Mardi Gras you’ll enjoy amazing parades featuring huge floats, lots of music, food, drinks, and of course…beads! The most elaborate parades are held during the last five days. Visitors dress up in masks and costumes, and plenty of college students and young adults flock to the area for the true Mardi Gras experience. Don’t forget to grab a slice of king cake!
Melrose Plantation was originally known as Yucca Plantation, once owned by two freed slaves. The house that was built on the grounds has been standing since the 1790s, featuring early Greek Revival details and a traditional West Indies Creole style.
The home changed hands at the turn of the century and new owner Mrs. Camie Henry preserved the buildings and enlarged the gardens. This plantation has been visited by many artists and writers over the years.
A National Historic Landmark, Melrose Plantation contains nine historic buildings.
The plantation is open to the public for guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays. The tours begin at a quarter past the hour, and run approximately 45-60 minutes.
OLD STATE CAPITOL
The Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge is a great visit for anyone who appreciates architecture and learning about Louisiana’s rich history. Known today at the Museum of Political History, this unique landmark will teach you about the democratic process through exhibits, programming, and the arts.
This Gothic architectural treasure, overlooks the Mississippi River. In its 165 years, it’s made it through war, fire, scandal, abandonment — and an occasional fistfight.
Here you’ll find plenty of exhibits while taking in the beauty of the building itself. A 4D movie here talks about ghosts of the past, and how far Louisiana has come. Admission is free.
JEAN LAFITTE NATIONAL HISTORIC PARK AND PRESERVE
Located in and around Marrero, LA, the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve offers walking tours covering six different sites. The natural preserve is protecting the resources of the Mississippi River Delta.
Visit the park store, walk the trails through Louisiana’s wetlands at Barataria Preserve, stroll down a historic carriageway, relax in the courtyard at the French Quarter Visitor Center, and learn how the War of 1812’s Battle of New Orleans shaped American history at the historic battlefield.
While you’re there, consider taking a swamp tour with Jean Lafitte Swamp Tours & Airboat Tours. Explore Louisiana’s backcountry and come face to face with some amazing Louisiana swamps wildlife — including, alligators!
Discount Tickets: Swamp Tours South of New Orleans by Airboat from Lafitte
Want to experience more Louisiana wildlife? Don’t miss the Audubon Zoo, located at 6500 Magazine St New Orleans LA 70130
The Whitney Plantation is located about an hour from New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and is a historic museum dedicated to preserving artifacts and history related to slavery. The house itself and the outbuildings sit alongside the Mississippi River and visitors can come here to learn about the ongoing legacy of the museum and the history of slavery in the area. Whitney Plantation is the only museum in Louisiana with an exclusive focus on the lives of slaves.
During your self-guided tour, you’ll see memorials honoring over 100,000 people who were held in slavery in Louisiana. You’ll also explore slave cabins, outbuildings, and an owner’s home that was built in the 1790s.
In the visitor center, you’ll find two permanent exhibits — The History of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery in Louisiana. This is a powerful museum, and well worth a visit.
Discount Tickets: Whitney Plantation Tour
Vermilionville is a quaint, restored 18th-century village that is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Lafayette, LA. More than 50,000 people each year come to this restored village that includes food, music, and more.
A visit here will increase your appreciation for the history and culture of the Native Americans, Acadians, Creoles, and people of African descent in the Attakapas region through the end of the 1800s.
Visit the gardens, see amazing exhibits that give you a glimpse into the past, and enjoy shopping and dining. The Vermilionville Living History Museum and Folklife Park features original structures dating from 1765 to 1890. You’ll also find artisans working in the park, which will give you insight into how Acadians, Creoles, and Native Americans lived.
Canoes and kayaks are available to rent so you can explore the Bayou Vermilion. Vermilionville is closed on Mondays.
SCI-PORT DISCOVERY CENTER
The Sci-Port Discovery Center is a great museum full of science and entertainment, math, space exhibits, and more.
Sci-Port is located in Shreveport, and is geared towards kids and their families — but is great for people of all ages. Offering plenty of educational features worth checking out, as well as hundreds of different interactive exhibits, this museum is so fun, kids won’t even realize they’re learning.
Visit the Sawyer Space Dome Planetarium, see the animal enclosures, and walk through the Peggy & Aaron Selber Space Walk exhibit. The “space walk” is a nearly 15-foot long tunnel that will make you feel that you’re walking through space!
There’s a special exhibit and play area for kids under the age of 8 (PoP Children’s Museum), in addition to solar system exhibits, a bodyworks exhibit, a solarium, and more. Sci-Port is also home to an IMAX Dome Theater, and it’s the only IMAX Dome Theatre in the state of Louisiana.
DEQUINCY RAILROAD MUSEUM
Built in 1923, the old Kansas City Southern Depot is home to the DeQuincy Railroad Museum. Here, there is an impressive collection of model diesel and steam engines that were crafted by master craftsmen. This museum is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Here you’ll even find a 1931 steam train and a 1947 passenger coach by Pullman, along with two cabooses to admire. The platform for train watching and other viewing areas make it a great stop for train watchers, too.
THE CAJUN RIVIERA
Known formally as Holly Beach, the Cajun Riviera is located on the Gulf of Mexico, offering beautiful beach access that’s minutes from Cameron, LA. This beach offers an impressive stretch with no restaurants or stores and very few homes.
Popular activities here include crabbing, fishing, swimming, shell collecting, and just relaxing on the beach. It’s a great place to check out when you visit.
CHRISTMAS IN NATCHITOCHES
Christmas lovers will want to check out Christmas in Natchitoches, LA — because they know how to do it right.
What originally started as a single-day festival has now grown to be a six-week long event that begins early and runs through Christmas. During the holiday season, you’ll find plenty of events, holiday light displays, and attractions to check out.
The city has been called “The City of Lights,” and you’ll find thousands of lights downtown, with residents following suit.
Enjoy parades, a holiday market, fireworks shows, a tour of homes, a lighted boat parade, and so much more. If you want to get in the holiday spirit, Natchitoches is the best way to get there!
TABASCO FACTORY & MUSEUM
Ready for something spicy? Located on Avery Island you’ll find the Tabasco Factory & Museum — home of the famous Tabasco sauce.
Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the Tabasco Museum and find out how hot sauce is made, learn about how it got started here, and more.
In addition to all the Tabasco knowledge, tours of Avery Island also include a visit to a great sanctuary for birds and flowers at Jungle Gardens, part of more than 170 acres of gardens on the island.
The Steamboat Natchez provides an authentic steamboat experience for those who want a romantic dinner on the mighty Mississippi River. The beautiful waters flow by while the steamboat goes up and down the river, as guests enjoy a world-class dinner experience from this 200-year-old steamboat company.
For those who have always wanted to experience a steamboat ride, this one should definitely be on the list.
Discount Tickets: Day Jazz Cruise on the Steamboat Natchez
RIP VAN WINKLE GARDENS
The Rip Van Winkle Gardens are a beautiful site, located on a salt dome on Lake Peigneur. Offering semi-tropical flowers and plants that cover 20 acres, these gardens surround the Joseph Jefferson Mansion. There are 22 rooms in the mansion and it is decorated beautifully with period furnishings.
You can explore the gardens seven days a week on your own or guided tours are available. There’s also an on-site café for a quick lunch or you can spend the night in a cottage on the grounds for a real unique experience.
CREOLE NATURE TRAIL
Located in Lake Charles, the Creole Nature Trail offers more than 180 miles of paths through uninhabited lands, including plenty of uninhabited beaches where you can drop a kayak or canoe.
There is also a ton of great wildlife found here, and beach camping is recommended for anyone who wants to truly get away from it all. Nature lovers will enjoy themselves for at least a day or two at this impressive preserve.
GHOST TOUR IN NOLA
Thanks to the rich and long history of New Orleans, known familiarly as NOLA to the locals, there are plenty of ghost tours and haunted visits to be found throughout the city and the state.
New Orleans is actually ranked as one of the most haunted cities in the country and these ghost tours will ensure that you see the spookiest places around.
There are walking tours, carriage tours, cemetery tours, and even voodoo tours and vampire tours, including many that take place at night to get the full effect.
LOUISIANA STATE ARBORETUM
In Ville Platte, within the boundaries of Chicot State Park, you’ll find the Louisiana State Arboretum. This attraction is about an hour’s drive from Lafayette or Alexandria, and it offers plenty of walking trails that explore all kinds of nature.
You’ll find a visitor center here where you can learn about the state park, and there are six miles of trails through the lush greenery, wetlands, and trees. This arboretum was built in 1961 and was among the first in the South.
KAFFIE-FREDERICK GENERAL MERCANTILE STORE
History buffs will love stepping back in time at Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile Store. Originally founded in 1863 in Natchitoches, this store is still standing even after three wars and a Depression.
The store is on Front Street, where it’s always been, and the third generation is in charge today. The same 100+ year old cash register is still present, and you’ll find plenty of housewares, gifts, toys, and cookware, along with other goods.
The USS Kidd is a restored WWII naval ship that sits on the docks of the river in Baton Rouge. The ship is the museum, offering restored features and functions and plenty of historical insights for those who are interested in military history.
You can even camp in the quarters of the ship just like crew members! How cool would that be?
RW NORTON ART GALLERY
The RW Norton Art Gallery is located in Shreveport, and is home to hundreds of European and American works dating back centuries. It was built to showcase the collection of Richard Norton’s family.
Themed exhibits and a monthly art displays ensure that every visit can be a unique experience, no matter how many times you come. Special events are hosted here throughout the year, as well.
LSU RURAL LIFE MUSEUM
The LSU Rural Life Museum offers a unique experience for those visiting Louisiana State University. The museum preserves and documents the local history of architecture, culture, and landscapes that are unique to the region, sharing the local history through restored structures and plenty of interesting exhibits.
There’s even a working plantation section that’s situated on 400 acres, offering a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of Baton Rouge.
OAK ALLEY PLANTATION
Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, is one of the most beautiful estates in Louisiana, situated on the river with pristine landscaping and colorful gardens to explore. Located at 3645 LA-18 Vacherie, LA 70090, there are also 28 oak trees and tons of open lawns for exploring.
The house itself, as well as the rest of the buildings, offer plenty of historical exhibits regarding slavery and slave life, as well as the emancipation process and how they lived after that. You can also tour the Blacksmith’s Shop and Sugarcane Theater for a glimpse of historic plantation life.
Also in the town of Vacherie, you’ll find Laura Plantation — a place significant for its early 19th century Creole-style big house and outbuildings, including two slave cabins. Laura Plantation, formerly known as Duparc Plantation, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is included on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Take a tour here and walk through the 200-year-old sugar plantation that includes three gardens. You’ll see 12 buildings, including animal barns and more. Part of the tour also includes a visit to the inside of one of the authentic 1840s slave cabins.
You can also take a self-guided tour of the museum exhibit, “From the Big House to Quarters: Slavery on Laura Plantation.”
Discount Tickets: Laura Creole Plantation Guided Tour
BONNIE AND CLYDE AMBUSH MUSEUM
The Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum is located in Gibsland, offering affordable admission for anyone who wants to see the real history of the infamous Bonnie & Clyde.
Here, you’ll even see glass from the windshield and Bonnie’s red hat, along with a fake “death car” that resembles the original. There are also guns that belonged to Clyde on display. Eight miles south of the museum, you’ll find a small monument erected to mark the site where Bonnie and Clyde died.
WHERE TO STAY IN LOUISIANA
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO LOUISIANA
- MORE ON LOUISIANA
- NATCHITOCHES CHRISTMAS: 10 FESTIVE WAYS TO CELEBRATE THE NATCHITOCHES CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
- RITZ NOLA: 9 RITZ-CARLTON, NEW ORLEANS IS PERFECT FOR MAKING MEMORIES
- NEW ORLEANS: GHOST TOURS & SPOOKY HALLOWEEN EVENTS IN NOLA
- SHREVEPORT: 19 FUN THINGS TO DO IN SHREVEPORT AND BOSSIER CITY
- NOLA CHRISTMAS: HOW TO ENJOY CHRISTMAS IN NEW ORLEANS LIKE A LOCAL
What is Louisiana known for?
Louisiana is known for Cajun and Creole cuisine, Mardi Gras celebrations, a diverse culture, Jazz music, and the birthplace of the American Blues.
What are the top attractions in Louisiana?
The top attractions in Louisiana are The French Quarter, National WWII Museum, Mardi Gras Celebration, Melrose Plantation, and the Old State Capitol.
Which famous people are from Louisiana?
There are several famous people from Louisiana including Jazz musician, Louis Armstrong, The Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson, and pop sensation, Britney Spears.
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