Super useful & totally free Louisiana travel guides, written by locals who love Louisiana

Overlooking view of the colorful lights from the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana
The French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana

Why We Love Louisiana: The state of Louisiana is most famous for its fun-loving city of New Orleans, where you can parade down the street to brass band music. But Louisiana has so many other wonderful destinations as well. The entire southwestern region is known as Acadiana or “Cajun Country,” where you can two-step to an accordion, sing in French, and eat the best boudin balls you can find in the country.

Best of Louisiana

🏙️ Places to Visit

The author Meg and her dog posing at the steps leading to the Mississippi River levee
Milo and Meg posing at the steps leading to the Mississippi River levee in downtown Baton Rouge

From the dulcet jazz of New Orleans in the east to the romping sounds of zydeco in the west, Louisiana brings more than just the Big Easy to the table.

  • New Orleans – Known as the Big Easy or Crescent City, New Orleans is known for its nightlife, jazz, and European-looking Creole architecture.
  • Baton Rouge – The state’s capital is home to numerous museums and a revitalized downtown area with arts, casinos, and a walkable levee.
  • Lafayette – The biggest city in Cajun Country, Lafayette’s walkable downtown area is home to museums, live music, and excellent Cajun food.
  • New Iberia/Avery Island – A salt dome in the Iberia Parish, Avery Island is best known for being the home of Tabasco sauce.
  • Grand Isle – A town in the Gulf of Mexico that is popular for fishing, birding, and camping.

👉 See the full list of best places to visit in Louisiana.

✨ Things to Do

There’s nowhere else in the country you can find such a sublime mix of live music, rich food, and eerie Spanish moss over a bayou. Here are some of the best things to do in Louisiana:

  • Sample the Cuisine – Louisiana is famous for its Cajun and Creole cuisine. Make sure you try all the local dishes: jambalaya, red beans and rice, crawfish etouffee, and gumbo.
  • Two-step to Live Cajun Music – In the southwestern part of the state in Cajun Country, you’ll find endless opportunities to two-step to some Zydeco.
  • Check out Live Jazz in New Orleans – Whether you’re listening to dueling pianos at Pat O’Brien’s in the Quarter or bar-hopping on Frenchmen Street, you’ll never be far from live jazz in New Orleans.
  • Go to Mardi Gras or the Courir de Mardi Gras – Southeastern and southwestern Louisiana both have their own Mardi Gras traditions. Enjoy extravagant parades in New Orleans or mask-making and costumed horseback riders in Eunice or Lafayette in the West.
  • Visit World-Class Museums – From the National World War II Museum in New Orleans to the living history museum Vermillionville in Lafayette, Louisiana’s museums will blow your mind.
  • Visit the Swamp Whether you go on a swamp tour or hike at Jean Lafitte National Park, don’t miss a chance to commune with Louisiana’s unique and eerie swamps and bayous.
View of the people dancing Cajun at Vermilionville Museum in Lafayette
Cajun dancing at Vermilionville Museum in Lafayette

🗺️ Where to Stay

The author Meg posing as the Y in the “Lafayette” landmark signage
Cityscape of Pittsburgh

While most people have heard of the New Orleans French Quarter, fewer people know about all the other hidden gems the state has to offer.

  • New Orleans French Quarter– The heart and soul of Louisiana, the French Quarter is what most people picture when they hear “New Orleans.”
  • Other New Orleans Neighborhoods – If you have the chance, venture out and explore the Warehouse District, Uptown, and wonderful City Park. See my guide to where to stay in New Orleans.
  • Baton Rouge – The state capital has numerous museums, some great eateries and parks, and fantastic views of the Mississippi River.
  • Lafayette – As the most bustling town in southwestern Louisiana (Cajun Country), you’ll find some of the best food and music in Lafayette.
  • Houma – Houma is a small city south of New Orleans where the land starts getting patchy and people live in houses on stilts.

🛎️ Best Hotels

Exterior view of the Watermark Hotel from a distance in Baton Rouge
The Watermark Hotel in Baton Rouge

Louisiana has numerous historic and beautiful hotels that can elevate your visit into an unforgettable experience.

  • Hotel Monteleone – A gorgeous beaux-arts high-rise in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the Hotel Monteleone is famous for its slowly-rotating Carousel Bar.
  • The Roosevelt – An elegant New Orleans property adjacent to the French Quarter and managed by Waldorf Astoria.
  • The Watermark Hotel – An iconic century-old skyscraper in downtown Baton Rouge that boasts painted ceiling murals, chiseled marble, and old bank vaults.
  • St. Francisville Inn – One of the most celebrated inns in the south, this St. Francisville hotel embraces the vibe of a relaxed, breezy southern evening.
  • Southern Hotel – Charmingly dubbed “Covington’s Living Room,” this historic hotel on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain provides a physical and spiritual retreat for its guests.

🚗 Best Road Trips

Panoramic view of the Shadows on the Teche plantation surrounded by greenery in New Iberia
Shadows on the Teche plantation in New Iberia

Louisiana is famous for its winding roads along levees and past live oaks strewn with Spanish moss.

  • River Road – The Great River Road follows the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Louisiana. Following the River Road in Louisiana will bring you great bridge crossings and views of mansions and historic properties.
  • New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Acadiana/Cajun Country – Driving west from New Orleans to Baton Rouge and then further west to the area around Lafayette will hit many of the state’s attractions.
  • Down to Grand Isle – Driving south of New Orleans is an awe-inspiring experience because it feels like driving on patchy, transient land to the end of the world. 
  • Bayou Teche Byway – A 125-mile scenic route that begins in Morgan City and winds through historic settlements with both Cajun and Anglo-Saxon origins.
  • Carville – Carville was a home for patients with leprosy. You can drive a self-guided tour through Carville using a free audio guide on your phone.

🖼️ Best Museums

  • National World War II Museum – A museum in New Orleans about the World War II experience.
  • The Cabildo – A collection of exhibits in the New Orleans French Quarter about Hurricane Katrina and Mardi Gras, among other things.
  • The Whitney Plantation – A plantation museum entirely devoted to the experience of enslaved people, with a modern commitment to anti-racism.
  • Vermilionville – A living history museum in Lafayette with many historic homes from different periods and ample information about Cajun culture and history in Acadiana.
  • Louisiana’s Old State Capitol – A free museum in Baton Rouge with stunning architecture.

🌳 Best Outdoor Activities

  • Honey Island Swamp – One of the most popular destinations for swamp tours, located just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans.
  • Barataria Preserve – Encompasses Jean Lafitte National Park, which offers swampy trails, nature exhibits, and ranger-led tours.
  • The Jungle Gardens – Large, sprawling gardens in Avery Island, associated with the Tabasco Factory.
  • New Orleans City Park – City Park offers kayak and swan boat rentals, ample walking trails, fishing spots, and all-around beautiful landscaping.
  • Grand Isle State Park – A famous Gulf of Mexico beach in the extreme southern end of Louisiana.

✒️ Best Literary Sites

  • Hotel Monteleone – The Hotel Monteleone and its Carousel Bar were the stomping grounds of brilliant artists.
  • Evangeline Oak – A large oak tree and park in St. Martinville honoring Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem Evangeline, an Acadian love story.
  • Tennessee Williams’ Homes/ Festival – Tennessee Williams lived in multiple places in New Orleans. Additionally, an annual literary festival in his honor occurs in the French Quarter.
  • Grand Isle State Park – Grand Isle is the setting for Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, a critique of the oppressive culture of the American South.
  • Beauregard-Keyes House – A historic house in New Orleans, one of the famous residents of the mansion was renowned author Frances Parkinson Keyes.

💃 Best Dancing Spots

  • Mulates – A Cajun restaurant in New Orleans with live music and dancing most nights of the week.
  • Rock n’ Bowl – A family-friendly bowling alley with live bands and a dance floor.
  • Buck and Johnny’s – An Acadiana establishment famous for its Zydeco brunch and dancing on Sundays.
  • Vermilionville – A living history museum in Lafayette with a performance space that hosts Cajun music and dancing on Sundays.
  • Blue Moon Saloon – A venue offering both local and touring band performances, they host frequent zydeco concerts packed with dancing locals.

Louisiana Travel Advice

🗓️ Best Time to Visit

You can’t go wrong choosing when to visit Louisiana – as long as you steer clear of summer when oppressive heat and hurricanes make it less-than-ideal for a visit. Consider:

  • 🌼 Spring –  Beautiful, warm weather (just bring your raincoat!) and plenty of festivals throughout the entire state. Oh, and spring is crawfish season.
  • ❄️ Winter –  Enjoy the mild weather and holiday festivities throughout the state, like the traditional bonfires that occur on the levees on Christmas Eve and the entire Mardi Gras season.
  • 🍂 Fall –  Although you may be flirting with the tail-end of hurricane season, the later fall months usher in mild weather and fewer crowds.
  • 🌞 Summer –  Avoid summer if you can due to high heat and humidity and the threat of hurricanes. However, if you do come in the summer, make sure to plan some fun ways to cool off.

🚌 Getting In & Around

Outside of New Orleans, a car is a must for getting around Louisiana, but you may find these transportation tips helpful:

  • ✈️ Airports – Most visitors will use Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY), but other options to check include Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport about an hour and a half away, or the airports in Alexandria or Shreveport if you’re not sticking to South Louisiana.
  • 🚗 Driving – If you’re staying in the New Orleans French Quarter, Central Business District, or Warehouse District you can get by without a rental car. However, you will need one to explore any other part of the state.
  • 🚇 Public Transit – Public transit is very limited in Louisiana. There are streetcars and buses in New Orleans. An Amtrak train can take visitors between New Orleans and Lafayette or New Iberia (home to the Tabasco Factory).
  • 📲 Ride Share – Uber and Lyft are accessible in cities like New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette. They may not be available in rural towns in Louisiana.
  • 🚴‍♀️ Biking – Many cities, like New Orleans and Baton Rouge, have blue bikes for rent on the streets. Biking is a good option in these cities as long as the cyclist remains vigilant and defensive around drivers.
  • 🚶‍♀️ Walking – New Orleans is quite walkable, especially between the French Quarter, CBD, and Warehouse District. Downtown Lafayette is compact and easily walkable. Downtown Baton Rouge and the Spanish Town neighborhoods are walkable, but the rest of the city requires transport.

👉 Tips & Things to Know

  • 💃 – Learn to Two-Step – The Cajun Two-Step is the most traditional dance step in Cajun Country.
  • 🥐 – French is Spoken in Some Areas – There is a strong French influence in both New Orleans and particularly Cajun Country (Acadiana).
  • 🍷 – Know the Liquor Laws – In the New Orleans French Quarter, you can legally walk out of a bar with a go-cup of alcohol as long as it’s in a plastic container. Outside of New Orleans, many local ordinances ban alcohol on the streets.
  • 🥵 – Respect the Heat – In the late spring through mid-fall, Louisiana temperatures soar into the 90s, which often means it feels like 100+ with the heat index.
  • 🌀 – Avoid Hurricane Season – Hurricane season runs from June – November and is best avoided.

🧳 What to Pack

  • 🧺 – Cotton and Linen Clothing – Natural fibers like 100% cotton and linen will keep you coolest in the spring/summer/fall heat and humidity. 
  • 👒 – A Sun Hat and Sun Shirt – Less clothing isn’t always better in the direct sun. Sometimes keeping the sun off your body will keep you coolest.
  • 🧊 – A Cooling Towel – In the heat, wrap a cooling towel around your neck so you can immediately bring your body temperature down.
  • 🩱 – A Bathing Suit – Even if you think you won’t want to swim, you may want to swim when you realize what a summer afternoon in Louisiana feels like.
  • 👟 – Shoes You Can Get Dirty – In New Orleans, there’s the radioactive ooze (okay, not literally) that accumulates on Bourbon Street every night. Everywhere else, there’s swamp mud, low-lying marsh, and lots of rain.

🤓 Facts & Info

  • Population – 4,627,098
  • Capital – Baton Rouge
  • Largest Metro Areas – New Orleans
  • Time Zone – Central Time (UTC -6 / UTC -5 during daylight savings)
  • Airports – New Orleans Louis Armstrong Airport (MSY), Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (BTR), Alexandria International Airport (AEX)
  • Colleges & Universities – Louisiana State University, University of Louisiana Lafayette, Tulane University, University of New Orleans
  • Nickname – The Pelican State
  • Demonynm – Louisianan
  • USPS Abbreviation – LA
  • Governor – John Bel Edwards (Democratic Party)
  • CountryUnited States of America

💵 Costs & Budgeting

  • MERIC Cost of Living State Rank – #18
  • 3 Star Hotel Room – $150-350/night
  • 1 Bedroom Apartment Rental – $150-300/night
  • Rental Car – $50/day
  • Public Transit Ticket – ~$3/day ($2 to airport from center)
  • Take Out Meal for Two – $25 – $80
  • Sit Down Dinner for Two – $30- $90
  • Draft Beer – $5-$8

FAQs About Visiting Louisiana

Is Louisiana safe for tourists?

Louisiana is generally a safe place to visit. Like any state, you should be aware of your surroundings and check out your neighborhood on a crime map when you visit.

When is Hurricane Season in Louisiana?

Hurricane Season in Louisiana runs from June 1st – November 1st every year.

What is Louisiana known for?

Louisiana is known for the New Orleans French Quarter, Mardi Gras, Cajun food and culture, live jazz music, and crawfish boils.

Is Louisiana a good place for a vacation?

Louisiana is a great place for a vacation! The subtropical weather, food, music, and architecture make Louisiana unique and memorable.

Meet Our Louisiana Travel Expert

Meg O’Connor

Meg O’Connor is a travel writer, adventurer, and marine scientist. For years, Meg traveled the world on Navy vessels as a civilian scientist, making port stops in Bahrain, Oman, Japan, Crete, and Spain. These days, her travel is usually on solid ground. She lives on Lake Pontrchartrain outside New Orleans, Louisiana.

👉 Read Meg’s Articles

📰 Louisiana Travel Guides

There are so many great things to do and places to visit in Louisiana. If you’re finding vacation planning a little daunting, then check out our other travel guides to the state:

🗺️ Louisiana Map