When you picture the southern state of Louisiana in the middle of summer, you may envision hot and humid afternoons filled with glasses of sweet iced tea on front porches. While that scenario does have its charm, there are many other ways that you can keep yourself busy and chill out during a Louisiana summer. Spend a day or week exploring one of the state's cool small towns, taking in all of the history, culture, food, and family adventures that it has to offer. There are many alluring and unique Louisiana towns to explore while on a summer vacation.
Known as the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, the charming town of Natchitoches sits on the Cane River. Established in 1714, Natchitoches is rich with history in addition to all of Louisiana's natural beauty. Start your visit with a walk around downtown, which is in the heart of the Natchitoches National Historic Landmark District. Set off in the morning, before the hottest part of the day, and then cool off in one of the town's many boutiques, antique stores, cafes, and coffee shops.
If you want to further explore local history, check out the Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site, which served as a military outpost and commercial trade center until 1762. You can also tour the Steel Magnolias filming sites, which include homes and the theater the movie premiered in 1989.
Located about 30 miles north of Baton Rouge in hilly West Feliciana Parish, the small town of St. Francisville offers visitors the chance to slow down and relax. When temperatures rise in the summer, spend some time cooling off in this picturesque town. Meander through downtown, admiring the town's many historic homes and stopping into one of the local shops and eateries. Spend a few hours at the West Feliciana Historical Center Museum, which features exhibits detailing the area's railroads and plantation history, as well as shop with regional books and souvenirs.
Brave the summer heat by wandering through the moss-draped oaks of Garden Symposium Park, Parker Memorial Park, or the West Feliciana Railroad Park. Tour one of the area's several historic plantation homes, such as The Myrtles Plantation or the Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site.
Cool off on a hot summer day in the refreshing water of Abita Springs, which was first home to Native Americans over 2,000 years ago. Situated in St. Tammany Parish north of Lake Pontchartrain, the small town is known for its natural springs. Abita Springs is also home to the Abita Brewing Company, which makes a variety of craft beer using local Louisiana ingredients, such as strawberries and other produce. Take a tour of the brewery to cool off on a hot summer day, or enjoy a meal and a beer flight at the Abita Brew Pub. You can also spend time at the Abita Mystery House at the UCM Museum.
Immerse yourself in Lousiana nature at the Abita Creek Flatwoods Preserve, which features a boardwalk above the savanna habitat. The entire family can take advantage of the Abita Springs Park splash pad, located at the Abita Trailhead. The park also has a playground and plenty of shaded picnic spots.
Located deep in the heart of Louisiana's Cajun Country, charming Breaux Bridge has earned the title of "Crawfish Capital of the World." The town serves up the tasty crustaceans at a variety of places, including seafood boils, restaurants specializing in local cuisine, and the annual Crawfish Festival, which dates back to 1960.
Situated in the Atchafalaya River Basin, the largest floodplain swamp in North America, Breaux Bridge boasts natural beauty such as swamps, cypress trees, Spanish moss-draped oaks, water lilies, nutria, alligators, egrets, and other indigenous wildlife. Beginning at the Bayou Teche Visitors Center, take a walking tour through the town and soak in the scenic view of the bayou from a wharf. History buffs will not want to miss the Fourgeaud House, constructed in 1905, or Patin's Pharmacy building, constructed in 1917. Constructed in 1869, The O Badon House features an authentic Acadian design.
Founded in 1813, Covington retains its small-town charm despite being only 40 miles north of New Orleans. Situated on Louisiana's Northshore directly on Lake Pontchartrain and surrounded by three rivers, Covington offers visitors plenty of opportunities to keep cool in the summer.
Explore the 31-mile Tammany Trace, which winds through Covington and a few other towns, by foot, rollerblade, or bike. The trace meanders through bayous and historic downtowns, as well as over creeks and rivers, treating explorers to local wildlife and natural beauty along the way. The Covington trailhead features a bandstand, for special events, and a visitor center. Spend some time at the Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery, where you can hold and feed baby alligators. If you plan your visit for August or September, you may be able to see alligators hatching.
Located in south Louisiana in the state's bayou country, Houma gives visitors an authentic taste of bayou life. Located in Terrebonne Parish, Houma will immerse you in all that bayou country has to offer, from fresh crawfish and other local seafood to the rich and historic Cajun culture. Take in Houma's natural surroundings and wildlife by signing up for a boat tour with Annie Miller's Son's Swamp and Marsh Tours. The tour guides will explain the differences between bayous and marshes, as well as teach you about local wildlife, such as alligators, egrets, nutrias, snakes, and owls.
Learn about Houma's history by visiting the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum, which features a live Cajun band on select days. The museum's exhibits introduce visitors to all aspects of Louisiana's Cajun culture, from industrial to family life. It is the perfect place to cool down on a hot summer day.
Home to Southeastern Louisiana University, charming Hammond has a small-town feel as well as big-city amenities. Located about an hour from both Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Hammond is the ideal place to spend a day or more during your summer vacation. For those that prefer to camp, park your RV or pitch a tent at the Hidden Oaks Family Campground, which offers water activities, live music, and even a DJ. The entire family will enjoy the onsite 10-acre fishing lake, swimming pool, rental boats, and recreation center.
Arts enthusiasts won't want to miss the Hammond Regional Arts Center, which features exhibits by both local and well-known artists, as well as art classes for both adults and kids. The center also offers a summer camp and special arts-related events throughout the year.
With so many fun towns to explore in Louisiana, do not let the state's hot summer deter you from visiting during your next vacation. Whether you are just driving through the state or are spending a week or more there, you will have no shortage of cool towns to keep you entertained. You may even get the chance to learn more about Louisiana's unique culture, as well as sample some of its delicious Cajun and Creole cuisine, during your visit.