Louisiana Weekends

Looking for something to do? Just off the beaten path, you’ll find a wealth of treasures – day trips that dazzle and delight or a way to wile away a long weekend. Brimming with cultural traditions, festivals, great food and natural beauty, Louisiana offers a variety of ways to escape – and most of them are just around the corner. Here’s a listing of some of Louisiana’s best destinations for a weekend getaway.

Travel less than an hour southwest of New Orleans and you’ll enter the Heart of America’s Wetland in Houma, La. Bordered by the bountiful Gulf of Mexico, surrounded by rich, coffee-colored bayous and shaded by an endless canopy of moss-draped cypress trees, in the Houma area, you’ll find a rich and rare blend of nature that allows for a unique and unimaginable mix of wildlife found nowhere else on earth. Houma’s swamps and wetlands overflow with the exotic to the breathtaking and wondrous. Waters abound with some of the world’s best fishing and a centuries-old Cajun history and heritage is infused in everything from the cooking and music to architecture and lifestyle. Take a weekend visit and get a glimpse into the incredible, the fantastic, the uncommon and the unbelievable that is Houma. For more information and to receive your free Houma adventure guide call (800) 688-2732 or visit: www.houmatravel.com.

If heading north’s more your style, then travel along the world’s longest bridge to the Northshore. Hugging the northern shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain, the Northshore is about a 40-minute drive to New Orleans’ French Quarter and about an hour to the plantation country south of Baton Rouge and the casinos of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. With 80,000 acres of national wildlife refuge set aside in the parish, including Big Branch NWR and the Northlake Nature Center on Bayou Castine, visitors can enjoy birdwatching, kayaking, canoeing and more.

The Tammany Trace, a bike trail that threads through 31 miles of St. Tammany Parish, is a great way to enjoy the Northshore outdoors. A Rails to Trails Conservancy project that turned old railroad tracks into a wide, paved bike path through several towns and green spaces, visitors can walk or bike as much as they like. There’s even an adjacent horse trail along part of the Trace. Additionally, golfers and fishermen can find plenty to do, from casting a line off a pier on the lake to spending an afternoon on one of the Slidell area’s charter fishing boats.

The Northshore offers sophisticated restaurants, art galleries and upscale shopping, swamp tours, the Insta-Gator Ranch and the Global Wildlife Center. And for adults, Pontchartrain Vineyards or local breweries all make great day trips. It’s all part of the Northshore experience. For more information or to request a visitor’s guide, call (866) 295-6660 or visit: www.savorthenorthshore.travel.

Feeling lucky? Then why not take a trip to the L’Auberge du Lac Casino Resort. Tucked along the banks of Contraband Bayou in Lake Charles, L’Auberge du Lac Casino Resort provides the perfect getaway. Inspired by the architecture of Texas Hill Country, this premier resort is ideally located for the guest who is looking for the ultimate in hospitality and dining experiences, plus non-stop gaming action. Boasting a 30,000- square-foot gaming area, including 62 table games and over 1,600 slot machines, the resort offer the latest in slot technology.

And when you’re ready to dream of what you’ll do with all your winnings, a unique, 26-story, 1,000 room, asymmetrical hotel complex features well-appointed guest rooms characterized by a contemporary, rustic theme. Innovative dining outlets, big name entertainment, two resort pools, a lazy river and the luxury of Spa du Lac are just steps away. Or just go ahead and spend those blackjack dollars at The Shops At L’Auberge. The shopping complex features trendy boutiques and high end retailers. If shopping’s not your thing, why not take a swing at some relaxation? L’Auberge du Lac offers the  Contraband Bayou Golf Club at L’Auberge, designed by world-renowned golf architect Tom Fazio and a summer concert series featuring Cowboy Mouth, The Gin Blossoms and more. L’Auberge du Lac Casino Resort is located approximately 200 miles west of New Orleans on Interstate 10. Take the I-210 Loop at Nelson Road/Exit #4. For directions and entertainment listings call (866) 580-7444 or visit: www.ldlcasino.com.

It’s crawfish season! What better way to spend a day (or two) than at the 25th Anniversary Mudbug Madness Festival in Downtown Shreveport? May 22-25, Festival Plaza will be transformed into a haven for all things mudbug and will feature two stages of live music, 25 food vendors, 14 crafts vendors and a children’s area with live entertainment, hands-on art activities, a mock architectural dig, clowns and storytellers.

Presented by Downtown Shreveport Unlimited, a private, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to quality of life issues in downtown Shreveport, and sponsored by CenterPoint Energy, Mudbug Madness was developed as a tribute to Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole heritage. The event offers the largest crawfish boil in the area and a host of other fun activities, including raucous crawfish eating contests, a crawfish calling contest, opening ceremonies where King & Queen Mudbug No. 25 are crowned, and a Mardi Gras-style parade on opening night.
The Festival is open 11 a.m.–11 p.m., and is free until 6 p.m., on Thursday and Friday and just $3 per person after 6 p.m., and all day Saturday and Sunday. Free shuttle service will be offered from Mall St. Vincent, Pierre-Bossier Mall & the Louisiana Boardwalk. For more information about the Mudbug Madness Festival visit www.mudbugmadness.com.

One of the great things about Louisiana is its multiculture influences. From French and Spanish to Native American, Louisiana offers a host of culture adventure, so why not allons aux Avoyelles Parish … for a bottomless cup of hospitality! Avoyelles Parish, located in Central Louisiana, boasts of many exciting annual festivals, cultural museums, as well as wonderful food and music. With a strong history of French and Native American influence, Avoyelles offers interesting things to do, both old and new. Paragon Casino Resort, the “Pearl of Louisiana,” has brought new excitement for visitors to the lovely little parish. Historical properties in the line-up of must-sees include the Prehistoric Indian Museum and mounds at the Marksville State Historic Site and the historic downtown district around Courthouse Square. The Big Bend area features the Adam Ponthieu Grocery/Post Office Museum across from the Old Iron Sarto Bridge which crosses Bayou des Glaises.

So hurry to Avoyelles, where the hospitality is as warm as the coffee and beignets! They’ll be waiting for you, cher!

For more information on Avoyelles Parish contact the Avoyelles Commission of Tourism.Write to them at 8592 Highway 1, Suite 3, Mansura, LA 71350. Call Mary, Iva, Jackie, Marie or Wilbert Carmouche, Tourism Director at (800) 833-4195 or locally at (318) 253-0585; or visit  www.travelavoyelles.com or tourism@kricket.net.

Or why not just take a vacation right in New Orleans? Be transported through the power of art. Nestled among the live oaks of Tulane University’s Uptown campus, the Newcomb Art Gallery encourages visitors to learn about the art of different times, places, and peoples through a diverse array of exhibitions and programming. Smaller than the typical city museum, broader in scope than a contemporary art center, and more international in reach than most commercial galleries, the Newcomb Art Gallery presents shows in photography, sculpture, video, painting, and mixed-media by both historically significant and noted emerging artists. Past exhibitions have featured the work of Diane Arbus, Paul Chan, Russel Wright, Marsden Hartley, James Whistler, and Auguste Rodin. The gallery’s significant collections – including metal work, embroidery, and pottery produced at Newcomb College from the late 1800s through the early 1900s – are also on semi-permanent view.

Through June 15, the gallery presents From Society to Socialism: The Art of Caroline Durieux. Showcased in the exhibition are images from the illustrious Newcomb alumna’s five decades as a printmaker with an emphasis on her early work in Mexico and Louisiana. Also included are select paintings, drawings, lithographs, and etchings by other United States’ artists working in Mexico and her Mexican artistic mentors, such as Diego Rivera and Emilio Amero.

The Newcomb Art Gallery is located in the Woldenberg Art Center at Tulane University, and is open Tuesday-Sunday, noon-5 p.m. (closed between exhibitions, on major holidays and during the summer). For more information call (504) 865-5328 or visit: www.newcombartgallery.tulane.edu.

Looking for a place to stay while visiting America’s great jazz city? Just minutes from downtown New Orleans are New Orleans’ Hilton Garden Inns, offering contemporary ambiance and the ultimate in comfortable accommodations. The Hilton Garden Inn New Orleans Convention Center hotel is located just one block in front of the New Orleans Morial Convention Center. The Hilton Garden Inn CBD/French Quarter is in the business district, just steps away from the French Quarter. There are many world-recognized attractions, great restaurants and entertainment spots within walking distance of each hotel. Guest rooms are like a home away from home, with comfortable bedding, oversized reading chairs, well-appointed work areas, microwaves, refrigerators and more. Complimentary business centers are provided for guests at both hotels.

Be sure to ask about these two summer special accommodation packages, valid from April 30 through Labor Day.

Business Traveler’s Dream (Ask for code P2) from $89 guest room rate for one or two persons per guestroom. Free parking for one standard sized vehicle and two complimentary drinks at the Pavilion Lounge. There’s a 72-hour cancellation policy. A credit card is required at time of booking to guarantee.

Southern Summer Special (Ask for code P3) from $99 guest room rate for one person. Free parking for one standard sized vehicle, one voucher per day for one full American breakfast. Must stay seven nights or more, prepaid, non-refundable.

To reserve, visit www.stayhgi.com or call (877) 782-9444. For more detailed information about each hotel property, visit www.neworleansconventioncenter.gardeninn.com or www.neworleansfrenchquartercbd.gardeninn.com.
Whatever you decide, you’re sure to experience the hospitality and joie de vivre that makes New Orleans a favorite. n

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