Day Trips From New Orleans
When traveling to, and staying in, the jazz-filled city of New Orleans it can be a good idea to “take a breather” and go on a side trip to smaller, quieter spots that are within reach. Let’s take a look.
#1 CAJUN PRAIRIE
This is the name of the inland area between (a) the marshes to the southwest around Lake Charles, (b) the pine forests of central Louisiana and (c) the bayous and swamps to the southeast. The Prairie is renowned for its Cajun and Zydeco music and is also home to the Cajun Music Hall of Fame. Cajun country in the Deep South is the largest French-speaking area in the entire United States. Also, in many ways, this region is a blend of both South Louisiana and East Texas – the 10-gallon hat still rules.
Physically, it is truly prairie: wide expanses of green flatlands, broken up by rice and crawfish ponds. Eunice (30 miles from Lafayette) and Opelousas (Louisiana’s third-oldest city; founded by the French in 1720) are the major towns in the prairie, but you’ll also find Mamou which bills itself as “The Cajun Music Capital of the World” and Ville Platte or “The Smoked Meat Capital of the World.” (Sorry, I can’t help laughing.)
#2 LAFAYETTE AND BREAUX BRIDGE
One recent visitor to Lafayette (135 miles west from NOLA) writes that, “This town was bigger than what we were looking for. Breaux Bridge was a nice base for visiting the local area. New Iberia is another neat town.” The 200-year-old bridge gives the town its name. Note: the population of Lafayette was 126,848 as of 2017, while the population of New Orleans is 369,000 – down significantly from 10 years ago.
Breaux Bridge is the gateway to authentic Cajun culture in south Louisiana. It is home to the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, where hundreds of folks come to pay homage to Louisiana’s famous crustacean. Take a stroll down the quaint downtown streets and you’ll find yourself transported to a time before life became hectic. Neighbors still know each other by name. People stop to chat. Everyone truly follows the state motto: Laissez le bon temps rouler (Let the good times roll).
You’ll also find the University of Louisiana at Lafayette that sports live turtles and alligators in Cypress Lake on its campus. Yikes! And, of course, you’ll feast on Cajun cuisine that includes the Cajun sausage, “boudin” which is pronounced “BOO-dan.” It’s made with the beloved sausage, flour, salt, breadcrumbs, eggs and milk. CLICK HERE for Boudin Balls with a Creole Mustard Sauce.
Or, a culinary staple such as jambalaya: a dish comprised of a mix of chicken, shrimp, sausage with tomatoes, green pepper, onion, hot sauce, spices and rice. CLICK HERE for a delicious Jambalaya recipe.
#3 DOWN THE BAYOU
If you’re driving, the local residents say that “done slow” is the way you should approach your road trip. Roughly 68 miles southeast of Lafayette you’ll find the RIG MUSEUM (which is 80 miles south of Baton Rouge and 90 miles southwest of New Orleans). This museum bills itself as, “The only place in the world where you can walk aboard an authentic offshore DRILLING RIG.” Now, I’d do that in a New York minute!
Here, you can visit Houma (population 33,278 in 2017) and go charter boat fishing, hike on a birding trail or visit an exotic wildlife park – it’s all up to you!