What does retirement mean to you? Is it peaceful days spent fishing, or pursuing more vigorous outdoor activities like hiking and hunting? Do you hope to earn a second degree, or try out a new profession? Are historic houses in small towns your cup of tea? Or is your idea of the good life living in a modern loft downtown in a busy city?
Whatever version of retirement you seek, Louisiana can make that dream come true. From North Louisiana, called Sportsman’s Paradise because of its many outdoor opportunities, to the Greater New Orleans area, noted for its great restaurants and museums, you’ll find a part of the state that suits you well. Central Louisiana, for example, is home to both historic communities like Natchitoches and busy towns like Alexandria. Cajun Country’s hometowns like Lafayette and New Iberia, are filled with friendly folks and delicious cuisine. And the Baton Rouge area, also known as Plantation Country, is comprised of both big-city life in Baton Rouge and lovely smaller towns like St. Francisville and New Roads.
As you read through The Good Life, you’ll learn about the fascinating history of Louisiana, and find out about the state’s museums, historic sites and parks, all places to experience history firsthand. You’ll also find out about the opportunities each region provides for culture, education and just plain having good times.
But the best way to see how great retirement in Louisiana can be is to test drive for yourself. Come visit – our people are gracious hosts – and see why we say Louisiana is the answer to just about everyone’s retirement dreams.
“History is not necessarily in a history book,” says Prof. Gary Joiner of Louisiana State University in Shreveport. That’s certainly true in North Louisiana, where history lies around every corner. The northern region of the state is nicknamed Sportsman’s Paradise for its many outdoor opportunities. But the area has played an important part in the story of Louisiana, and you can learn about that story in the region’s busy cities and charming small towns.
Visiting living history museums, period houses and restored battlefields is an especially good way to introduce young people to history. Hearing the boom of a cannon, tasting freshly churned butter or spending a few minutes picking cotton in the hot sun illustrates the lives of generations gone by in a way reading a book could never do. Here are some ideas to get you started as you explore the colorful history of North Louisiana.
Between 1650 and 700 B.C., a highly civilized group of people lived in northeastern Louisiana. At Poverty Point State Historic Site, near the small town of Epps, you can see the earthworks these people left behind. At the visitor’s center, watch a short film. Then take a tram tour, or a self-guided walking tour, to view the earthworks.
In 1864, during the Civil War, the Union mounted the Red River Campaign to take Shreveport and push into the eastern Texas territory. See how the Confederates foiled this plan at the Mansfield State Historic Site. After taking in a film and touring the museum, visitors can walk the battlefield on interpretive trails and see battle reenactments and musket demonstrations. The campaign is “one of the bedrocks of our history and our past,” park manager Scott Dearman says.
Water has played an important role in Louisiana’s growth. The twin cities of Shreveport and Bossier City were once trading posts on the Red River; Shreveport takes its name from Capt. Henry Shreve, who cleared the river of a 200-mile logjam. At the city’s Spring Street Historical Museum, housed in one of Shreveport’s oldest buildings (circa 1866), exhibits ranging from Indian artifacts to Civil War, World War I and World War II memorabilia, tell the story of Shreveport from its beginnings up through the 20th century. Prof. Joiner also recommends the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, an Art Deco gem of a building that brings the Shreveport of the 1940s to life. Other water-related sites include the J. Bennett Johnston Waterways Visitors Center, which concentrates on the history, navigation and exploration of the Red River, and the Shreveport Water Works Museum, which contains the original McNeil Street Pumping Station that in 1887 became one of the first plants in American to do water chlorination.
While you’re in Shreveport, leave some time to visit the Multicultural Center of the South, where exhibits bring to life the Indian, African American, Asian, Creole, Cajun, Hispanic and Middle Eastern peoples who make Louisiana the fascinating gumbo it is. Younger visitors might enjoy the Pioneer Heritage Center on LSU Shreveport’s campus. This living history museum has seven structures including an outdoor kitchen, a blacksmith’s shop, a doctor’s office and a commissary.
The town of Minden is home to the Dorcheat Museum, named after the nearby Dorcheat Bayou. The museum includes a log cabin, furniture, clothing, and pioneer and Civil War era artifacts. Exhibits also tell about the disasters that befell Minden in 1933: the Great Depression, bank failure, a fire and a major tornado.
The oil and gas industry played a big part in Louisiana history. The first drilling rig erected over water was in Caddo Lake. In aptly named Oil City, take in the Louisiana State Oil & Gas Museum to learn about the industry’s boom and bust years.
The town of Monroe is also a good stop for those taking a North Louisiana history tour. It’s home to the Northeast Louisiana Delta African Heritage Museum, where you can get a real feel for the labor that helped build Louisiana through viewing kitchen ware and furniture from old slave cabins and the sacks once used for picking cotton. Monroe played a pivotal role in the aviation industry; its Navigation School trained thousands of navigators during World War II and the town is the birthplace of Delta Airlines, which began as a regional crop dusting service. The Chennault Aviation & Military Museum of Louisiana is packed with exhibits on not just aviation but other military topics, including weapons, uniforms and Nazi artifacts. Oral histories by those who served in the military are an invaluable tool for learning first hand about Louisiana men and women who served their country.
After you’ve taken in North Louisiana’s historic sites, find out why the area’s nickname, Sportsman’s Paradise, is so appropriate. A good place to start is the Kisatchie National Forest, Louisiana’s only national forest, where you can enjoy more than 600,000 acres of outdoor fun. Fish, hunt, bird-watch, ride bikes or ramble on one of the forest’s many trails, ranging from ½ mile to 30 miles long.
North Louisiana also has many state parks, including Lake D’Arbonne State Park (Picture) in Farmville, southwest of Minden, with many fishing piers and a tennis court, and Lake Bistineau State Park, with several swimming pools. Caddo Lake, on the Louisiana/Texas border, is a great spot for bass fishing, while the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refu ge has lots of i nteresting nature trails and boardwalks. For the golfers in your group, Black Bear Golf Course is a don’t miss. It’s part of Louisiana’s beautiful Audubon Golf Trail.
North Louisiana has lots of city life, too. In Shreveport, children and adults will both enjoy visiting Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center. Neighboring Bossier City’s Louisiana Boardwalk is packed with shops and spots to dine. If flowers are your thing, head to the American Rose Center Gardens.
Add in the region’s charming small towns, like Homer, Winnsboro and Ruston, its delicious LA/Tex cuisine, and events like the annual Ruston Peach Festival, you’ll agree that North Louisiana is an ideal destination for a vacation any time of the year.
Central Louisiana, the heart of the state, has played a major role in its history. Sometimes nicknamed the Crossroads, the region’s location and waterways furthered trading and connection with the world outside of Louisiana, and its rich soil and abundant forests led to thriving agricultural and timber businesses. Today, the region’s museums and state historic sites help visitors see what life was like in bygone days.
A good place to start a visit to Central Louisiana is Natchitoches (pronounced NACK-a-tish), the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase. Founded in 1714, the town is named after the Natchitoches Indians. Natchitoches has wisely preserved its 33-block Historic Landmark District, so visitors can admire beautiful examples of French- and Spanish-styled architecture as they shop and dine. The town’s Fall Home Tour is a good chance to go inside some of the district’s lovely houses.
At Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site, on the banks of the Cane River, is a full-scale replica of a French Colonial fort built in the 1730s to prevent Spanish forces in the province of Texas from pushing into French Louisiana. In 1762, France was defeated by England in the French & Indian War, and the Louisiana colony was ceded to Spain. The Spanish eventually abandoned the fort and the U.S. acquired it in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
Dr. Jerry Sanson, history professor at LSU Alexandria, recommends a drive through Cane River Country, south of Natchitoches on LA 1, where you can see pecan orchards, cotton farms and historic landmarks and plantation homes. Visitors won’t see the array of magnificent mansions found along River Road in the Baton Rouge area, he says; because of an abundance of timber, many of Central Louisiana’s plantation homes were built of wood and have been lost to fire.
The cities of Alexandria and Pineville on the Red River are both historically important. Forts Randolph & Buhlow State Historic Site (>) in Pineville tells the story of the two forts, which were built by the Confederates in spring 1864 to repel Union attacks through northwest Louisiana. The site has an elevated boardwalk around the remains of the forts, a visitor’s center with a small museum and an open field for Civil War reenactments.
The campus of LSU Alexandria includes the historic Epps House, built by planter Edwin Epps in 1852. The house, which has had several locations, was reconstructed on the campus using much of its original materials. It’s the setting for a famous memoir, Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup. A movie based on the book was slated to open in October.
Louisiana was “a major proving ground for U.S. ground forces in anticipation of World War II,” Prof. Sanson says. The Louisiana Maneuvers & Military Museum in Pineville salutes the soldiers and civilians who were part of the Louisiana Maneuvers.
Central Louisiana’s forests fueled a thriving timber business, the subject of the Southern Forest Heritage Museum in Long Leaf, about 20 miles south of Alexandria. The museum bills itself as the oldest complete sawmill facility in the south, with rare equipment and buildings dating to the early 1900s.
Other interesting spots to experience history first hand include:
• Kent Plantation House (<) in Alexandria, an authentic Creole plantation home built around 1796. Exhibits include a mill house, an open-hearth kitchen, slave cabin and blacksmith shop.
• Frogmore Cotton Plantation and Gins in Frogmore, where you can see both a modern cotton gin and one dating to the early 1880s. If you time your visit right, you may be able to experience picking cotton for yourself.
• Melrose Plantation, about 15 miles from Natchitoches, built by and for freed blacks and famous as the home of primitive artist Clementine Hunter.
• Museum of the West, in Leesville, situated in an old railroad depot. The museum is dedicated to the history, culture and art of the people of West Central Louisiana, and there are a number of restored buildings on the grounds.
As fascinating as the history of Central Louisiana is, visitors will want to take advantage of the region’s other attractive attributes. Half the fun of traveling is sampling new foods, and a trip to this part of the state wouldn’t be complete without savoring a meat pie in Natchitoches. The food is great at the Que’in on the Red Festival in Alexandria, on the banks of the Red River, where barbecue takes center stage. Other area festivals salute local produce such as the pecan.
To relax in the great outdoors, try the hunting, fishing and birding at Toledo Bend Reservoir, or explore the Kisatchie National Forest, where you can backpack, bike, fish and swim. Hodges Gardens, in the little town of Many, has acres of flowers and greenhouses.
The area also is home to two quirky museums. The town of Winnfield is the birthplace of favorite sons Gov. Huey P. Long, Gov. Earl K. Long and Sen. Russell Long, celebrated at the town’s Louisiana Political Museum . If music is your thing, head for Ferriday, hometown of singers Jerry Lee Lewis and Mickey Gilley and evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. They are among those enshrined in the Delta Music Museum.
And make time to drive through some of the region’s many small towns, such as Marksville, Homer and Anacoco. You’ll meet friendly folks eager to show you their little part of Lousiana (>).
Cajun Country, stretching across south Louisiana, wears its history in its name. The story of the expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia in 1755 has become well known, through songs, legends and the epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Evangeline.” These Acadians, or Cajuns, settled in the southern part of Louisiana and gave the area the music, food and culture it has become famous for. Mixed in with their influence, though, is that of the many other cultures – British, Spanish, German, Italian, Native American – who were attracted to the region’s rich bounty of fish and game and its productive farmland.
The city of Lafayette is often called the capital of Cajun Country, and it’s a good place to begin your explorations. Acquaint yourself with the basics at the Acadian Cultural Center, which recounts the story of the Acadian expulsion in a film, exhibits and special events. For a more up-close look at long ago life, visit Acadian Village, a re-creation of a 19th century village complete with blacksmith shop, doctor’s museum and a general store. Nearby Vermilionville is another interesting living history museum, where young people can interact with docents demonstrating the way people lived “back in the day,” and where visitors can dance the Cajun two-step and sample some local foods.
If you like to combine a good walk with a history lesson, head to Lake Charles, another major city in Cajun Country. The city’s Charpentier Historic District is filled with wooden homes built by lumbermen from the north who came down during the area’s lumber boom of the 1800s. Because so many different builders were at work, each house has its own unique look. The Imperial Calcasieu Museum is another popular Lake Charles destination. The museum covers a wide range of topics through such displays as a turn-of-the- century kitchen, barbershop and pharmacy; Native American Indian artifacts; and a room dedicated to the history of war.
Like most of Louisiana, Cajun Country has charming small towns that preserve the region’s history. St. Martinville, the third-oldest town in Louisiana, was once a refuge for New Orleanians escaping epidemics. Its nickname was “Le Petit Paris,” and it was known for its good hotels and the French Theatre. In St. Martinville, visit the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, located on the banks of Bayous Teche and Tortue. You’ll see Maison Olivier, a circa 1815 plantation house, along with a reproduction of a farmstead along Bayou Teche that includes a typical family home from around 1800, with outdoor kitchen, barn and slave quarters. In the pasture are cattle like those raised by Creoles and Acadians at that time.
Living history museums use everyday objects to bring to life settlers of long ago in a way a history book just can’t do. The towns of Abbeville, Opelousas and Terrebone each illustrate Acadian lifestyles in its own way:
In Abbeville, visit the Abbeville Cultural and Historical Alliance Center.
Opelousas is home to both the Creole Heritage and Folklife Center and La Vieux Village du Poste des Opelousas.
In Thibodaux, the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center, part of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, concentrates on the history of the Cajuns who settled around Bayous Lafourche and Terrebonne. Both walking tours and boat tours are available.
Historically, sugar cane played an important role in the economy of Louisiana. The Jeanerette Sugar Museum, located in the small town of Jeanerette, illustrates the planting, harvesting and processing of sugar. The museum explains the contributions made by African-Americans to sugar country culture.
In New Iberia, sugar planter David Weeks and his wife built one of Cajun Country’s beautiful mansions, (<) Shadows-on-the-Teche. Constructed in 1831-1834, the Greek Revival home is beautifully furnished and holds more than 17,000 family documents dating back to the plantation’s beginning, including the period it was occupied by Union soldiers during the Civil War.
In Eunice, nicknamed “Louisiana’s Prairie Cajun Country,” visit the Eunice Depot Museum. Housed in a converted train depot, this museum contains spinning wheels, crawfish traps and other staples of long-ago Cajun life. Nearby, the Liberty Theatre, a vaudeville house built in 1924, hosts a live radio and television show featuring Cajun and zydeco music every Saturday. Music is an integral part of the history of Cajun Country, and the stars of the genre are honored in Eunice’s Cajun Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Even the festivals harken back to the region’s rich history. Lafayette, for example, holds the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles each October to celebrate the music, food and crafts characteristic of the Acadians and Creoles. New Iberia highlights its sweet past at the Louisiana Sugar Festival, and the legend of pirate Jean Lafitte takes center stage at the Contraband Days Pirate Festival in Lake Charles (>).
Whether you tour a museum, take in a festival or walk through a historic district, you’ll find learning about Cajun Country’s history both illuminating and lots of fun.
Like so much of the state, South Louisiana is known for its many outdoor opportunities. In Ville Platte, the Louisiana State Arboretum has a variety of outdoor trails through its more than 300 acres. You can picnic in nearby Chicot State Park (picture). Enjoy camping, canoeing, hiking, fishing and bird-watching at Lake Fausse Point State Park, or take your pick of rambles on the 180-mile Creole Nature Trail.
Avery Island is another fascinating stop. This salt-domed island is home to the company that makes world-famous Tabasco hot sauce; in addition to factory tours, you can take a ride through Jungle Gardens, planted with azaleas and camellias and other indigenous plants. You might also glimpse an alligator or snowy egret.
You can try your luck at the L’Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles, or sample the region’s famed boudin (sausage balls) at dozens of small neighborhood eateries. Like music? You’ll find lots of places to dance the Cajun two-step or listen to the area’s signature “swamp pop” sound. In Eunice, for example, you can head to the Jean Lafitte Prairie Cultural Center and dance during the weekly Cajun music jams.
Cajun Country’s smallest towns have their own special joie de vivre; Rayne, for example, holds an annual Frog Festival, while Crowley, noted for its rice crop, throws an annual Rice Festival. And Mardi Gras, usually associated with New Orleans, takes a more rural flavor in towns like Mamou and Eunice.
Fresh air, food and fun – it’s all waiting for you in Cajun Country, along with some of the friendliest folks you’ll ever meet. Cajuns are proud of their heritage, and happy to share it with visitors, along with a sweet homemade praline and a cup of rich café au lait.
The Baton Rouge area is often referred to as Plantation Country, with a nod back to the time when wealthy cotton and sugar planters built gracious mansions along River Road. Some of the homes are open for tours, and others have become bed-and-breakfast inns. But the area has more to see than plantations, including museums that highlight Louisiana’s larger-than-life politicians, and small towns with well-preserved historic districts.
Visiting the area is akin to taking a living history tour, and a lot more fun than just reading a guidebook. A good place to start is Baton Rouge, named by explorer Sieur d’Iberville in 1699 when he saw a “red stick” in the ground, marking the boundary between the Houma and the Bayou Goula Indian hunting grounds.
The city has been under the governance of France, Britain, Spain, Louisiana (the Florida Republic), the Confederacy and the United States. It was named state capital in 1849. The capital was moved to Opelousas, then Shreveport during the Civil War. Baton Rouge again became the state’s capital in 1882.
An interesting first stop is the Old Governor’s Mansion, now a historic house museum. The building was home to Louisiana governors from 1930 to 1962. Learn about such historic figures as Huey P. “Kingfish” Long, whose slogan was “Every Man a King,” and Jimmie Davis, called the singing governor for his country hit “You Are My Sunshine.” The Old Louisiana State Capitol is a wonder of Gothic architecture. It’s the home of a fascinating political history museum.
Other Baton Rouge historical stops include:
• Capitol Park Museum, part of the Louisiana State Museum complex, where such diverse artifacts as a Civil War submarine and a wooden shrimp trawler tell the story of Louisiana’s culture and economy;
• West Baton Rouge Museum, which covers 300 years of history and includes hands-on exhibits;
• LSU Rural Life Museum (<), where you can take self-guided tours of a replicated plantation, including the outbuildings, and see examples of the toys, tools and other implements people used long ago.
Also in Baton Rouge is the USS Kidd, a restored World War II destroyer. In nearby Donaldsonville, children and adults will learn much at the River Road African American Museum & Gallery. Exhibits on the Underground Railroad and free people of color bring the history of Louisiana’s African Americans to life.
One of Plantation Country’s loveliest smaller towns is St. Francisville, with a Historic District that includes churches, antebellum homes, cemeteries, and gift and antiques shops. At the Audubon State Historical Site just southeast of St. Francisville, you can tour the nearly 200-year-old Oakley House, where John James Audubon once sketched.
Don’t miss nearby Rosedown Plantation and Gardens (>) also a state historical site. Its formal gardens are filled with azaleas, crape myrtles and other southern flora. At its largest, Rosedown was 3,455 acres, generating vast wealth for the cotton planter who built it. The magnificent home is still filled with many original pieces.
Along the River Road, most of the homes open for touring include exhibits on all facets of plantation life, including life in the “Big House” and the daily routine of the hundreds of slaves who provided the labor. At Destrehan Plantation, established in 1787 and reported to be the oldest documented plantation home in the lower Mississippi River Valley, the 1811 Slave Revolt Museum shows the plight of the farm’s slaves. Demonstrations of open-hearth cooking, candle making and African-American herbal remedies provide a first-hand look at what it took to run a household generations ago.
Each plantation home along River Road has unique characteristics that make it worth seeing. Oak Alley, for example, is noted for its alley of 300-year-old live oaks. Houmas House Plantation is called “The Sugar Palace.” The mansion was owned by sugar baron John Burnside, who at the time of the Civil War was the largest sugar producer in the country.
Perhaps the grandest of the plantations is Nottaway, in the town of White Castle. The 64-room home was completed in 1859. It’s noted for its breathtaking white ballroom. John Hampden Randolph, who built Nottaway, envisioned the ballroom as the perfect place to show off his seven daughters. Way ahead of its time, the home was built with three bathrooms with flushing toilets, gas lighting, and a bowling alley.
Whether you prefer its welcoming small towns or the big-city atmosphere of Baton Rouge, Plantation Country is a destination that makes the past come alive.
Although Louisiana’s colorful history greets you at each turn in the Baton Rouge area, you’ll find plenty of other reasons to visit as well. Like most parts of the state, the region is filled with opportunities to get outside and enjoy yourself. If you prefer getting dressed up and having a night out, you’ll find riverboat casinos, fine dining, theaters and art museums as well.
The Baton Rouge area is blessed with several outdoor recreation spots. Tickfaw State Park has a boardwalk that guides you through several types of topography, including swampland, bottomland and forest. Here you can hike, bike, rent a canoe, enjoy a cozy cabin or cool off at a water playground.
Another popular outdoor getaway is the Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area, near the Mississippi border. In addition to hiking and bird watching, you can hunt for deer, turkey, feral hogs and other small game. Trappers can set their sights on coyote, fox, bobcat and raccoons. Those looking for tamer pursuits can enjoy the fauna, which includes flowering dogwood, oak leaf hydrangeas and blackberries.
If you prefer swinging a club, head to The Bluffs on Thompson Creek, an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course that’s accented by creeks, ponds and rolling bluffs.
Baton Rouge is home to two well-known colleges, Louisiana State University and Southern University. Both campuses provide spirited athletic events. Many other activities await at the (<) Shaw Center for the Arts, a museum, theater and arts complex in Baton Rouge.
Whether your preference is for fresh air or fresh art, you’ll find both and more in the Baton Rouge region of Louisiana.
Canal Street, New Orleans’ version of Main Street, was once the dividing line between the Creoles who lived in the French Quarter and the city’s new American sector. The street’s wide medians were, and are, referred to as “neutral grounds.”
That’s just one example of how in New Orleans, historic lore is woven into everyday life. Often referred to as one of the country’s most European cities, New Orleans has a vivid history influenced by the many French, Spanish, African-American, Irish, Italian, German, Caribbean, Vietnamese and other settlers who have called it home. The city’s museums, historic homes and even restaurants are great places to learn about this great city’s colorful past. Fortunately, many of them are just a short walk or streetcar ride away from one another.
In the French Quarter, or Vieux Carre, a trio of historic houses provides a fascinating glimpse into bygone days. The in 1826, contains collections that belonged to its two famous residents, Gen. P.T.G. Beauregard-Keyes House, (>) builtBeauregard and writer Frances Parkinson Keyes. The Hermann-Grima Historic House Museum , built in 1831, shows how prosperous Creole families lived; tours include cooking demonstrations in the outdoor kitchen. Gallier House, built by prominent architect James Gallier Jr. in 1860, is a lovingly restored Creole townhouse. The house wears accurate holiday dress during the Christmas season, and in the summer, beds, chandeliers, mirrors and picture frames are swathed in netting to keep off insects, much as they were long ago. In the days before central air conditioning, summer dress meant that furniture was covered in white canvas slipcovers; sheer curtains replaced heavy drapes, and sisal rugs were put down while thick carpets were rolled up.
Also in the Quarter are the Cabildo and the Presbytere, which flank St. Louis Cathedral. T he Louisiana Purchase was signed in the Cabildo, which has displays on Louisiana’s early history. The Presbytere, which dates from 1791, contains a fascinating exhibit on the many ways Mardi Gras has been and is celebrated all over Louisiana. Nearby is the Old U.S. Mint, where both U.S. and Confederate currency were minted. Today the beautifully restored Greek Revival building holds a history of jazz collection.
Of course, just strolling through the French Quarter itself is an enjoyable way to learn about the city’s history and architecture; many buildings are marked with plaques detailing their past uses. Especially notable are the redbrick Pontalba Apartments framing Jackson Square. Baroness Pontalba built the apartments in the 1840s; look for her initials in the wrought iron lace balconies.
At the foot of Canal Street, catch the ferry for a ride across the Mississippi River to Algiers Point, graced with many restored Italianate and Greek Revival homes.
Across Canal Street, in the Warehouse District, is the National World War II Museum. Plan to spend the day touring this historical treasure trove, with its many artifacts and oral histories and an excellent “4-D” film.
Nearby is a smaller but equally interesting stop, the Louisiana Civil War Museum at Confederate Memorial Hall Also in the Warehouse District is the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, one of the largest collections of its kind in the U.S.
A streetcar ride up St. Charles Avenue will bring you to Tulane University (<). In Tilton Hall, the Amistad Research Center contains a large collection on African-Americans, race relations and civil rights. Near Tulane are Loyola University and the beautiful Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church.
In New Orleans, even the cemeteries are historic. Several tour companies will take you through these interesting “above ground” resting spots. In St. Louis Cemetery No.1, you may find tributes resting on the grave of Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau.
A little further afield is Fort Pike, a state historic site about 23 miles east of downtown New Orleans. The fort, begun in 1819 and finished in 1826, is part of a defense system built to defend the coast. The fort has been restored and is open for tours; you can also picnic on the grounds.
In the past, New Orleanians who could afford it escaped the heat and disease of summer by taking a train to the breezier towns on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain. Replicate their journeys by taking a drive across the 26-mile Causeway Bridge, then dining at Rip’s on the Lake or another of the restaurants overlooking the lake.
Dining, strolling or touring – it’s easy to immerse yourself in the stories that together make up the history of New Orleans.
With a history that includes French and Spanish rule, the Greater New Orleans area has a past like few other parts of our country. But when you visit New Orleans, you owe it to yourself to take a little time away from learning about the past to have a good time in the present. You’ll find so much to do that you’re sure to make a return trip.
New Orleans is known as one of the culinary capitals of the world. The city itself has just about every kind of eatery, from traditional white tablecloth restaurants like Antoine’s , Arnaud’s and Commander’s Palace, to newcomers like Restaurant R’evolution, to casual neighborhood spots like Venezia and Liuzza’s.
Venture a little bit outside of the city for more choices, like Sal and Judy’s in Lacombe, where families flock for Italian food, or Middendorf’s, a go-to spot in Manchac for fried catfish since 1934. And don’t forget to linger over café au lait and beignets at Café Du Monde. (>)
If shopping is your pleasure, head to The Shops at Canal Place for shops like Saks Fifth Avenue, Coach and Mignon Faget. Or browse the small shops and arts and crafts shops in Covington on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, or the miles of boutiques along world-famous Magazine Street.
Enjoy the outdoors at City Park, with its fine golf courses, or take in the treasures at the nearby New Orleans Museum of Art. Ride the St. Charles Avenue streetcar Uptown, with its great views of glorious mansions alo ng the route, or just sit on a bench at Woldenberg Park and take in the mighty Mississippi.
It’s often been said that when a person tires of London, he tires of life. The same could be said about New Orleans, an American city with the flavors of Europe, Africa and the Caribbean all wrapped into one fascinating trip.