Grace Episcopal Church, St. Francisville, LA. Credit: Geoff Eccles -

7 Louisiana Small Towns With Rich History

Louisiana exemplifies much of what makes the United States such an interesting country. It has arguably the best cuisines, thanks to its many cultural influences. Its landscape is iconic, with its vast swamps, wetlands, forests, and beaches, and it has an extremely rich history dating back centuries. 

Today, we will embark on a journey to seven small towns in The Pelican State to explore historical landmarks and other cool spots, which will be sure to make your travels all the more memorable. Take note of which places can fit into your itinerary, and see what fits best in your trip. Beware, because, by the end, you may want to visit every single town! 


Light trails at the Minor Basilica in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
Light trails at the Minor Basilica in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Established in 1714, Natchitoches is a town in north-central Louisiana with a long storied past. With influences from the Natchitoches Tribe, Spain, France, Canada, and America all converging in on it, it is not just a historical hotspot but a cultural one too.

Downtown Natchitoches is itself a historic site and is full of things to see and do, all within walking distance. Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site is a wonderfully preserved village that will take you and your family back in time to the French colonial days of the early eighth century. For something a bit more modern, you can check out the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and view the sporting legacy of this great state.   

Being located along the Cane River, an offshoot of the Red River, this town has many outdoor recreational opportunities available, whether it is a riverwalk along the Natchitoches Parish Riverbank or an excursion to the Cane River Creole National Historical Park. 

St. Martinville

Beautiful Evangeline Pond in St. Martinville, Louisiana.
Beautiful Evangeline Pond in St. Martinville, Louisiana.

St. Martinville is a small town comprising about 5400 residents near the south-central coast of Louisiana. Like many towns and cities in this state, the Gulf of Mexico has heavily influenced the culture and history of this area. Having been originally settled by the Attakapas tribe of Native Americans, it wasn't until around 1760 that the French colonized it and turned it into a settlement.

Here, you can take a stroll around the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site to view and learn about the plantations that were once more common in this region of the South. To further your Creole and Cajun adventure of learning, be sure to visit the Acadian Memorial and Museum on South New Market Street right on the Bayou Teche, which was once part of the Mississippi River's main course thousands of years ago. The Acadians are a French minority in Louisiana who originated from eastern Canada and France before that. 

Just beside the Acadian Memorial is the Evangeline Oak Park. Here, you can explore an enchanting oak forest near the water and grab a bite to eat at a nearby cafe downtown.  


Bayou Lafourche in Thibodaux, Louisiana.
Bayou Lafourche in Thibodaux, Louisiana.

Just west of New Orleans is the historic town of Thibodaux. Here, you can bask in the splendors of the deep southern Bayou backcountry. The site of Spanish, French, and Civil War history, anyone looking to better educate themselves on the diversity of Louisiana is sure to get it here. 

There are several well-preserved buildings that are on the National Register of Historic Places in Thibodaux. The Charles C. Elkins Hall is on this list and definitely worth a picture if you love architecture. For those who are religious, there is a life-sized reliquary to Saint Valerie, the patron saint of Thibodaux. It displays a young woman inside a glass reliquary, and it is worth it for those who are into obscure attractions. The Church itself is another fine example of the area's architecture if you prefer to stay outside in this historic downtown core.

Speaking of downtown, it also is chock-full of wonderful local shops to explore by the waters of Bayou Lafourche. Here, there is yet another Acadian landmark, the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center. 


St. Landry Catholic Church in Opelousas Louisiana.
St. Landry Catholic Church in Opelousas, Louisiana.

Generally, places with interesting names tend to be interesting in their own right, and Opelousas is no different. This town of about 16,000 residents sits in the heart of Louisiana and is a top destination for those who are looking to better experience the unique Creole culture of the area. 

To start, the Opelousas Museum and Interpretive Center is a great place to get a general overview of the history of this town and its current events. Visit the Creole Heritage Folklife Center next to further immerse yourself in the culture and history of the region. The history of African Americans in the South is very important as well, and the Rural African American Museum is a place to educate yourself on this history that is too often overlooked.  

Calling itself "the spice capital of the world," fans of mouth-watering southern cooking should definitely test out Opelousas's culinary food. Tony Chachere's Creole Foods is an amazing market and restaurant that calls itself home to this remarkable brand of spices and seasoning. 


Historic Bank Of Ascension building on Mississippi St in Donaldsonville, Mississippi. Editorial credit: Rusty Todaro /
Historic Bank Of Ascension building on Mississippi St in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Editorial credit: Rusty Todaro /

Donaldsonville is located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans and sits right on the mighty Mississippi River. Because of its proximity to so many iconic locations and geographical features, this town will give you the quintessential Louisiana experience packaged with a small-town feel.  

Downtown Donaldsonville is a historic district and has earned that accolade for good reason. It offers a mix of many types of architecture, including French, Victorian, and even Greek revival! The Ascension Parish Clerk Court and the Bank of Ascension are notable examples that can be accessed easily. The River Road African American Museum is a great space to learn more about the history of the African American presence in this region. 

For a better view of the Mississippi River, there are extensive pathways lining its shores just to the north of town. Here, you can find some great restaurants and cafes nearby to refresh after a day of exploring. 


Franklin, Louisiana. In Wikipedia.,_Louisiana By Piccor at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Franklin, Louisiana. In Wikipedia. By Piccor at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia

Historically, Franklin was a typical plantation town. Although slavery is long gone, remnants of this painful past still exist here. Thankfully, most history fans know and understand that this painful past is important to learn about. Spots, like the Arlington Mansion, are wonderfully preserved and maintained and can provide a visual insight into what a plantation looked like. Surrounded by pristine farm country and a snaking river cutting through town, it is no wonder that the economy of this down is still largely agrarian. 

Shadowlawn is another example of a plantation mansion, this time right in the center of downtown. The Gevemberg House Museum is yet another example of deep southern architecture, with a focus on preserving this rich heritage. 

Golf is also, understandably, a popular pastime in this steamy climate. The Belleview Golf Course is a gorgeous countryside course a short drive north of town for anyone interested in a day out of the fairway. 

St. Francisville

Rosedown Plantation in St Francisville, Louisiana.
Rosedown Plantation in St Francisville, Louisiana.

Nestled in the green landscapes of Louisiana, St. Francisville, with its population of approximately 1,600, stands as a testament to the state's rich past. Renowned for its meticulously preserved plantation homes, including the Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site, the town exudes a timeless charm, like many other entries on this list. 

The historic district, containing landmarks like Grace Episcopal Church, invites visitors to stroll through the pages of this region's history in a way that is enjoyable for the whole family or travelers alike. Beyond the architectural monuments, St. Francisville offers a unique blend of boutique shopping within its antique-laden streets, making it a captivating destination for both history enthusiasts and avid shoppers alike.

Hungry for more museums? Just south of town is the West Feliciana Historical Society, which provides an interesting walk-through time as well as a gift shop for you to pick up some memorable trinkets from your trip. 

Explore Louisiana's Past in These Small Towns

From the oldest settlement of Natchitoches to the timeless elegance of St. Francisville, these communities call to travelers with their historic landmarks, preserving the centuries past. You may be exploring the Creole charm of Thibodaux, the Acadian roots of St. Martinville, or the antebellum allure of Donaldsonville; these towns offer an immersive journey through Louisiana's diverse history. 

As you meander through the old streets and explore centuries-old structures, they discover the untold stories that make these towns not just beautiful but invaluable chapters in the rich narrative of Louisiana's past.

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