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  • Family sharing a meal of fresh, local shrimp and crawfish in Lake Charles, Louisiana
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    Lake Charles: Celebrating A Maker’s Culture

  • Kayaking at Kisatchie National Forest outside Alexandria, Louisiana
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    Alexandria-Pineville: Historic Tales and Trails

  • Dancing to live music at a Lafayette, Louisiana, street festival
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    Lafayette: Cajun- and Creole-Inspired Fun

  • Waterfront dining at The Chimes in Covington, Louisiana
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    New Orleans Northshore: On the Water and Along the Trails

The colorful streets of downtown Lafayette, Louisiana
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Small-Town Touring on Louisiana’s Bayous and Byways

By Idoia Gkikas

  • Route distance:
    831.00 km
  • Suggested Time:
    5 days

Well-known for its festive atmosphere and irresistible cuisine, Louisiana is also diverse, historic and full of charm.

In cities big and small, Cajun and Creole cultures mingle with modern attractions and amenities. Follow this road trip to Louisiana’s less-traveled cities and discover tasty food, great music, natural beauty and the state’s colorful personality.

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Family sharing a meal of fresh, local shrimp and crawfish in Lake Charles, Louisiana
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Lake Charles: Celebrating A Maker’s Culture

Just two hours from Houston, Texas, and 3.5 hours from New Orleans (both home to international airports), Lake Charles overflows with rich Cajun influence, from art and music to – of course – food and drink. Satisfy your hunger with local specialties including spicy jambalaya, crawfish étouffée and boudin, and wash it all down with drinks featured on Lake Charles’ Craft Brews and Spirits Trail. In the morning, you’ll be tempted by 100 percent organic coffee at Acadian Coffee Roasters. Later in the day, plan a tour and tasting at the Bayou Rum Distillery or sample craft brews at Crying Eagle Brewing Company. Popular pints include Hop Blooded IPA and Ready to Mingle, a lighter Belgian brew. Stroll through downtown Lake Charles in search of vodka produced by Yellowfin Distillery on sale in local shops; it makes for a great gift! Lake Charles is also known as the Festival Capital of Louisiana, so watch the calendar for the Iowa Rabbit Festival (March), Louisiana Pirate Festival (May), Cajun Food and Music Festival (July) and one of the biggest Mardi Gras celebrations in the state. Next, you’ll head to the Alexandria-Pineville region.

159 km
1.75 hours by car
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Kayaking at Kisatchie National Forest outside Alexandria, Louisiana
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Alexandria-Pineville: Historic Tales and Trails

As you drive into the center of Louisiana, you’ll glimpse rural towns and thick stands of towering trees. The elegant and historic Hotel Bentley in downtown Alexandria is a great home base for exploring the area’s history, art and culture. The hotel houses a fascinating World War II exhibit dedicated to the Louisiana Maneuvers, the training event that prepared the U.S. Army to go to war. Nearly 500,000 men came through central Louisiana for the 1941 maneuvers, and the Hotel Bentley served as the meeting place where American military leaders, including George S. Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower, brainstormed plans to fight Axis forces in Europe.

When you're ready to explore beyond the hotel, catch a concert with a view at the Alexandria Riverfront Center or see local artists at work at River Oaks Square Arts Center. For history buffs, there’s the Northup Trail Byway, a collection of sites related to Solomon Northup’s famous 1853 slave narrative, “12 Years a Slave,” which was adapted for the big screen in 2013 and won three Oscars, including "Motion Picture of the Year." Nearby, explore the outdoors at Kisatchie National Forest, home to more than 240,000 hectares of land for hiking, biking, birding, camping and hunting. A series of serene lakes offers opportunities for boating, fishing and kayaking too. Wind down with a nightcap at Hotel Bentley’s Mirror Room Lounge, a throwback to the cocktail lounges of yesteryear. Next up is a place that’s been voted the Happiest City in America – Lafayette.

143 km
1.5 hours by car
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Dancing to live music at a Lafayette, Louisiana, street festival
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Lafayette: Cajun- and Creole-Inspired Fun

Nestled in the heart of Cajun and Creole Country, Lafayette is a family- and budget-friendly destination, not to mention a dining hot spot that highlights the best of the region’s tasty specialties. On the casual side is Dat Dog, a craft hot-dog shop where you can choose from 30 toppings including crawfish étouffée and andouille sauce. For authentic soul food, head to Laura’s II for fried chicken, rice with gravy or stuffed turkey wings (a house favorite). In case you thought the craft beer options had run out, not to worry – Parish Brewing Company has your thirst covered with unique brews like Ghost in the Machine double IPA, Nova Vert IPA and the ever popular Canebrake wheat ale. In between meals, explore Lafayette’s cultural attractions such as Acadian Village, an open-air museum, and Vermilionville Historic Village, a re-created traditional settlement celebrating Native American, Acadian and Creole culture. Catch some live music at Blue Moon Saloon to cap off your stay. Your final stop is New Orleans’ Northshore region.

241 km
2.5 hours by car
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Waterfront dining at The Chimes in Covington, Louisiana
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New Orleans Northshore: On the Water and Along the Trails

An easy drive across the state brings you to the lively Northshore, New Orleans’ neighbor across Lake Pontchartrain. The towns along the lake offer loads of fun events, mouthwatering cuisine and year-round recreation on the water. Learn about local history at the Jean Baptiste Lang Creole House Museum, the circa-1876 H.J. Smith’s Sons General Store and Museum and the Abita Springs Trailhead Museum. Take a scenic bike ride along the 50-kilometer Tammany Trace trail, or go tubing, paddling, fishing or stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Pontchartrain. Fresh seafood is a must at mealtime. Louisiana specialties include spicy boiled crabs, crawfish, shrimp, fried seafood and po' boys (a type of sandwich). Try these must-eats out at popular dining options such as The Chimes or Rips on the Lake, both of which are just steps from the water. Foodies won’t want to miss the Sunday Abita Springs Art & Farmers Market, a brewery tour at the Abita Brewery or a stop at Pontchartrain Vineyards, host of the Jazz’n the Vines concert series. Your Louisiana road trip comes to a scenic close with a drive across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, the world’s longest continuous bridge over water, to Louis Armstrong International (MSY) in New Orleans.