Louisiana Small Trips Make for Great Memories

Make the time to go! A short trip can do wonders for your outlook, and Louisiana offers lots of budget-friendly ways to play. These short drives lead to a few days of fun, which can make life seem more manageable. Take a look and find a way to getaway with some great options close to home.

Go with confidence and let Travel Central plan a weekend trip to remember. Travel Central’s experienced travelers work with some of the best suppliers in the world and as an American Express Representatives to provide travelers with hundreds of vacation specials and exclusives. Travel Central also hosts travel talks to help travelers learn more about destinations and suppliers. On Oct. 2, come learn more about the Regent Cruise Line at a Tea at the Longue Vue Gardens. On Oct. 16, find out about Uniworld European River Cruises. Oct. 29, discover wild adventures with Taste of Alaska and Alaska 101 seminars. Whatever you choose, at Travel Central they can help plan a great weekend away. Take a trip on the newly refurbished Carnival Fantasy, where four-night cruises start at $350 per person and include accommodations, most onboard meals and entertainment, port charges and taxes.
    To learn more about a great adventure visit www.travelcentralvacations.com.
For a great fall weekend, take a trip to Terrebone Parish and visit Houma, where you’ll find festivals, fishing, swamp tours, shopping and great restaurants. Find nature in its glory with bird watching, hiking and the one-of-a-kind Wildlife Gardens, then dance the night away at a lively Cajun dancehall. Learn about the history of the Native Americans indigenous to the area, or find out about Plantation culture at the area plantations. In October, celebrate while contributing to the environment at the The 5th Annual Voice of the Wetlands Festival. With live music, food, history, and exhibits, the stage will be set for the weekend of Oct. 10-12 at Southdown Plantation. Visit Southdown on Nov. 1 for its biannual arts and crafts festival with more than 300 local and national vendors. Or check out Live After 5. Held through November the event takes place on the last Friday of every month and features local bands, artisans, and crafters at Houma’s Historic Downtown Courthouse Square. There’s something for everyone in Houma.
    For more information, visit www.houmatravel.com.

Hugging the northern shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain, the Northshore/St. Tammany Parish offers a great weekend destination. 80,000 acres of national wildlife refuge, including Big Branch NWR and the Northlake Nature Center on Bayou Castine, make for outdoor adventures. Spend the day bird watching, with many bird species, including some endangered and rare, visiting or making homes in St. Tammany. Kayakers and canoeists can paddle beautiful waters, and cyclists can find thrills along the Tammany Trace, a 31-mile trail that, through the Rails to Trails Conservancy project, turned old railroad tracks into scenic bike lanes. Visitors can rent bikes and ride for miles. The Trace is also great for walking, or rides along the adjacent horse trails. Take a swing at a round of golf on one of many courses, or enjoy the wonders of the bayous and swamps. Visitors will find many sophisticated restaurants, arts galleries and upscale boutiques. View art in Covington galleries or experience outsider art at the eye-opening Abita Mystery House at the UCM Museum, a roadside attraction for all ages. Sip in style at Pontchartrain Vineyards, the Abita Brewery, or the Heiner Brau microbrewery. October brings terrific events like the Madisonville Wooden Boat Festival, The Ozone Film Festival, the St. Tammany Parish Fair and more.
    For information visit www.LouisianaNorthshore.com.
For an intoxicating weekend, drive to beautiful Bush, near Covington and
experience Pontchartrain Vineyards. A working vineyard in Louisiana that handcrafts artisan wines from wine-making grapes grown on the premises, Pontchartrain Vineyards offers visitors the chance to sip in style in their tasting room. Open Wed-Sun., noon-4 p.m.., the tasting room allows visitors a chance to taste six Pontchartrain wines for a nominal charge of $4 per person. Sample the notes of wines specially created to pair with Louisiana cuisine and have fun raising a glass for an afternoon. This fall, Pontchartrain Vineyards brings back its popular Jazz’n the Vines outdoor concert series. Beginning Saturday, Sept. 27, come listen to the sounds of Lower Mississippi Delta Blues artist Larry Garner and his band. Guests can bring their own picnic dinners and lawn chairs. Pontchartrain Vineyards wines will be for sale, along with desserts and baked goods from Winnfield Catering. Sit under the stars and sip. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. with performances beginning at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $10. Whether you come for the concert, for a day-trip, or for a long weekend, Pontchartrain Vineyards provides a refreshing escape.
    To learn more visit www.pontchartrainvineyards.com or call (985) 892-9742.

Small town ambiance, rich history and lots of shopping and food are all to be found in Ponchatoula, “Strawberry Capital of the World” and “America’s Antique City.” Children love to visit “Ole Hardhide” Ponchatoula’s resident alligator housed in the center of downtown and to watch the trains that run through the town center. Visitors of all ages can learn at the Collinswood Museum, relax in the many green spaces and dine in the area restaurants. Ponchatoula also offers festivals in fall.
    Trash or treasure? Find out at Appraisal Fair, Ponchatoula’s mini version of the Antique Road Show. For a nominal fee appraisers will be on hand to give you the value of your treasures. Oct. 11 will be a quilter’s delight at the Berrypatch Quilt & Art Expo, with fun events like the Fat Quarter Stroll and a fashion show. Oct. 18 is Ponchatoula’s Party in the Pits. Come watch over 20 IBCA professionals and local teams as they cook some great bbq and compete for over $5,000 in cash and prizes. Fall also brings the Ponchatoula Antique Trade Days & Craft Fair, Nov. 1-2, and a free outdoor art exhibit featuring well-known Ponchatoula artists. Or, visit the Cultural Road Show in November with a free mini farm and petting zoo for children.
     For more information: www.ponchatoulachamber.com; (800) 617-4502

This fall is the perfect time to visit New Orleans Plantation Country. Picturesque day tours of the historic plantations will escort you back to an era when powerful Creole families thrived in lavish homes along the Mississippi River. See priceless heirloom antiques, ancient avenues of oaks, and gracious verandas overlooking sugarcane fields. Just beyond these stately mansions you can take a thrilling swamp tour. Glide through cypress-filled waters as a native guide quietly approaches wild animals that call the swamps home. In New Orleans Plantation Country, you’ll also find one-of-a-kind dining experiences. Indulge in foods as unique as the chefs that prepare them. Authentic Cajun and Creole cuisine is served with Southern charm and hospitality in a relaxed atmosphere. Exciting events fill the calendar this fall in New Orleans Plantation Country.  Oct. 1-Nov. 2: St. Joseph Plantation “Mourning Tour”; Oct.2: “Battle For The Paddle”; Oct. 4-5: St. Michael Church Fall Festival; Oct. 17-19: Andouille Festival; Oct. 18-19: Oak Alley Plantation Fall Arts & Crafts Festival; Nov. 6: St. James Parish Veterans Day Celebration; Nov. 8-9: Destrehan Plantation Fall Festival.
    For more information, call (866) 204-7782 or visit www.NewOrleansPlantationCountry.com.

Looking for an experience that differs from the usual? Take a weekend and visit St. Martin Parish, where the spirit of the people is as much of an attraction as the art, food, music and nature. Travel deep into Cajun Country to find the beauty of the bayou and the rich cultural history of the Cajun and Creole people. Located just two hours west of New Orleans, St. Martin Parish is a cultural delight. Eat to your heart’s content in a place where food is sacred and flavors are bold. Come see history preserved in the many museums and cultural locations. A good time is always just around the corner in St. Martin Parish. Come for one of the great Fall Festivals, including the Breaux Bridge City Wide Garage Sale, Oct. 4 and the Okra Festival in St. Martinsville on that same date. Visit the Pepper Festival, Oct. 19, 2008. The Festival offers food, crafts, music, games for kids and a pepper eating contest to heat things up.
    For more information, visit www.cajuncountry.org. 

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