Home of blues, Mardi Gras, and Creole cuisine, Louisiana is one of the most interesting and diverse places in the United States. While the culture of Louisianna is Southern, the Louisianna lifestyle is noticeably different from that of Georgia or Texas. The countryside of Lousianna is stunning and undoubtedly worth a visit; however, much of the world-famous culture and festivities are in its great cities. Here, the vibrant buzz of the large centers will greet you with the typical and unforgettable Louisianna experience.
One of the most famous cities in the United States, New Orleans is the financial and cultural center of Louisiana. There are endless attractions and things to do here. Attending the world-renowned Mardi Gras festival is what most people come to do, with more than 1 million people traveling to New Orleans to take part each year. Taking place in February or March every year for two weeks, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Despite its reputation for being an expo of debauchery and uncouth behavior, many of the celebrations are entirely family-friendly and do not revolve around alcohol. Aside from the Mardi Gras festivities, the French Quarter of the city is also worth a visit. Here you can find many of New Orleans's early French roots still alive in the intricate architecture of its buildings and shops. Make sure to check out Marie Laveau's House Of Voodoo for an unforgettable time.
The capital of Louisianna, Baton Rouge, is often overlooked in favor of places like New Orleans, but if you take the time to look, you will find just as much culture and history as anywhere else in the state. Another city that was first founded by the French in the early colonial period, Baton Rouge still manages to retain its French character. Many of the buildings in the downtown area still sport distinctive markings of French architecture from that time period. The area around the state capitol building is a great place to take a walk and admire each of the stunning buildings and the nearby Veteran's Memorial Park.
When you are done walking around the city, make sure to stop by one of the countless locally-run restaurants in the area. Both Cecelia Creole Bistro and Crawfish on the Geaux are excellent choices.
Despite being one of the lesser-known cities in Louisiana, there always seems to be something exciting happening in Shreveport. Each year Shreveport has the honor of hosting the Louisianna State Fair. Some state fairs might be a tad underwhelming, but the one held in Shreveport goes above and beyond everyone else. It is so large that it is only eclipsed by Mardi Gras each year in terms of size and scale. All of your typical attractions ramp up to an eleven. Roller coasters, rodeos, hog races, and BBQs are just a few things to expect.
The atmosphere here oozes authenticity and friendliness. Even though Shreveport is the third largest city in the state, it still feels like a small town centered around community.
As a suburb of New Orleans, Metairie has all the charm of its big neighbor without all of the noise and bustle that comes with the big city. Metairie is a much more slow-paced and laid-back city. Sitting right along Lake Pontchartrain, visitors to Metairie appreciate the lovely seaside view for much of their visit.
The small fishing village known as "Bucktown" is chock-full of top-notch seafood restaurants that usually buy their fish fresh from local vendors. Mr. Ed's Seafood & Italian Restaurant, along with the famous New Orleans Food & Spirits, are the perfect places to dive into the cuisine. There is also a wharf along the lake that you can browse for your own shopping needs. Here you can buy your next meal directly from the source.
The story of the settlement of what is today Lafayette is both a tragic and intriguing story. Much of the French population that settled in this area did not come from France proper but rather from Atlantic Canada. In the middle of the 1700s, there was much anxiety from the British that the large French-speaking population in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia would side with the French in the event of a war between the two nations. So, they made the decision to deport these people to Louisiana.
Today, Lafayette remains one of the biggest strongholds of Acadian and Cajun culture in the world. The food and restaurants here will routinely serve you some of the most authentic and delicious food in the state. T-Coon's Restaurant looks like an unassuming breakfast dinner on the outside but has some of the best-kept secrets in the city once you walk inside. If you are in town at the right time of year, you might come across the Lafayette Cajun and Zydeco music festivals. This event shows off all of the fascinating dance and culture that has roots in this part of Louisiana.
Lake Charles, situated right next to an enormous lake, is a hub for water sports, with boating commonplace here among the locals. It is not unusual to see thousands of people out each weekend enjoying the water. If you want to take a closer look at the lake, boat rentals are easy to come by with reasonable prices. It is a great way to spend a summer afternoon out on the water with friends and family.
Once finished at the lake itself, there is still plenty to do. The boardwalk that encompasses the city's shoreline has undergone a massive facelift in the past decade or so. You can also find great restaurants and bustling shops, and boutiques here. The Luna Bar & Grill is a great place to start your night before going for a peaceful walk around the waterfront and taking in the natural beauty of the water and tall grass reeds that line the city.
Another suburb of New Orleans, the city of Kenner, is directly adjacent to Metairie. Kenner is home to the Louis Armstrong International Airport, so many people travel through this hub when they visit New Orleans. Kenner is also located along Lake Pontchartrain. On the Kenner side of the lake, visitors can treat themselves to a steamboat ride across the water or just a short ride to the middle and back. Regardless of how far you go, the experience will transport you back in time.
The street-side public markets in Kenner are some of the best around too. Here you will be able to acquire quality handcrafted jewelry along with a taste of the local produce and fish.
Just across the Red River from Shreveport lies Bossier City. Bossier City is best known for its abundance of casinos. If you stay within the city limits, chances are you are just a short car ride from one of the city's many casinos. One of the more popular casinos is Margaritaville. The presentation and ambiance really go above and beyond what is standard practice in Louisiana.
The flashing lights and nightlife of Bossier City make it feel like a mini Las Vegas minus the noise and the crowds of people. The downtown area of Bossier has a ton of great bars and nightclubs to tour. The Drunken Monkey Tavern is a great place to kick off a night out thanks to its live music and central location in the entertainment district. If you are planning to travel with kids, then it might be a good idea to leave them at home or take them to the Shreveport Aquarium instead.
Louisianna is much more than just Mardi Gras. If you ever find yourself in the American South, make sure to stop by at least a few of these places. Each city has its own unique feel and atmosphere, not to mention the friendly demeanor of the locals. Those who have been born and raised in Louisianna welcome the opportunity to show visitors the true meaning of "southern hospitality."