Southeast

8 Weekend Getaways in Louisiana from New Orleans to the Great River Road

Local writer Andi Eaton takes you through some of the best weekend getaways in Louisiana from New Orleans to the Great River Road complete with a hotel recommendation for each destination.

I took off on my first adventure, a road trip, through Louisiana 15 or so years ago. I’d only heard the standard stories about New Orleans: tales of sugary sweet beverages, Mardi Gras madness, and beads on Bourbon Street. Often visitors only experience that one little taste, the full glory of Louisiana overshadowed by one of the biggest party streets on Earth. So, I set out on a mission to find more.

Arriving into New Orleans, I was struck by the two usual suspects. First, the music. At any given hour of the day, music is wafting into the streets. This isn’t just a Bourbon Street phenomenon. In fact, the best music is typically tucked away in a side street venue, a mélange of sounds and languages. Then, there was the heat, the kind found on a tropical island in the dead of summer with no relief other than the occasional faint breeze off the river.

Last and certainly not least, it’s the people who leave a lasting impression. There are budding bohemian artists, Cajun swamp musicians in their 70s and 80s, and longtime high society residents all of whom were committed to upholding local traditions and living that laissez les bons temps rouler lifestyle. Despite epic natural disasters and an eroding coastline, Louisianians have always known their state holds the deepest and utmost authentic magic.

Want to experience Louisiana and learn more about its culture while sampling some of the best food, music, outdoor activities, and historic landmarks? Read on for eight weekend getaways, three set in the heart of New Orleans, one in the capital city of Baton Rouge, and four spirited treks deep into a state filled with 300 years of blended French, Spanish, African and Caribbean influence.

Baton Rouge

1/4

The Capital City is well known for quite a few things. Highest on the list? Football. The Louisiana State University Tiger faithful are known for their massive tailgate parties that often start before sunrise. The city is also known for the Shaw Center for the Arts, a six-story complex built on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River housing galleries, a 300-seat theater, and Tsunami, the rooftop restaurant with an incredible view.

Be sure to explore the “New” State Capitol, the Old State Capitol (one of the most impressive examples of Gothic architecture in the country) and the Old Governor’s Mansion. Through exploring each of these buildings, you’ll learn about the state’s storied political history, riddled with scandals, assassinations, and mystery.

Watermark Baton Rouge, Autograph Collection

Top rated
9.0 Excellent (258 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
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French Quarter, New Orleans

1/4

While the cuisine is what the city is often celebrated for (with great reason), following the French tradition of grandiose department stores and art galleries, The French Quarter of New Orleans is not only a foodie destination but also one for shopping and southern art. The retail shops stock fine fabrics, employ tailors and milliners at the top of their trade and offer custom exotic perfumes. The gallery district on Royal Street is lined with fine, contemporary, neo-street, and classical works as well.

People are drawn to the French Quarter for its Old World charm, the jazz on every corner, the French and Spanish architecture, fantastic people watching and the sights and sounds of the everyday celebrations. The neighborhood is home to street musicians and performers as well as the famous Preservation Hall. On the southern end of the neighborhood, the French Market, a 200-plus-year-old market, includes stalls packed full of tourist gifts, local art, and fresh produce.

Vintage and flea market fans can visit David’s Found Objects, Greg’s Antiques Shop, and Le Garage all on Decatur Street steps from the Market. Stop for a meal at Cane & Table and stroll over to the Michalopoulos Gallery to view the latest exhibit of the prolific artist James Michalopoulos, who started his career as a French Quarter street painter.

Hotel Provincial

Top rated
New Orleans, 4.9 miles to Audubon Park
8.8 Excellent (3368 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.3 / 10
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Garden District, New Orleans

1/4

The Garden District is home to one of the best-preserved collections of historic Greek Revival and Italianate mansions in the country, including lavish gardens and scenery. The streets bare the names of the nine muses of Greek mythology, and the neighborhood is home to Lafayette Cemetery where Anne Rice once staged her own funeral complete with a horse-drawn hearse to celebrate the release of one of her novels.

Official flags designating Mardi Gras royalty are a common sight throughout the Garden District streets during Carnival season. On the edge of the district sits the Irish Channel home to Tracey’s and Parasol’s, two well-known establishments famous for beer and po-boys.

Locals and tourists alike dress in their finest on Fridays for Commander’s Palace twenty-five-cent martini lunch. Magazine Street extends into the Garden District from Uptown and includes some of the more contemporary design studios, offbeat clothing stores, and independently owned shops. Local favorites include Saint Claude Social Club and Funky Monkey and some of the most written about restaurants in the city, Emeril’s Delmonico and Turkey & Wolf, for example.

Pontchartrain

Top rated
New Orleans, 3.2 miles to Audubon Park
8.6 Excellent (982 reviews)
Excellent Service 9.2 / 10
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Grand Isle

1/3

In the eastern part of Cajun country, you’ll be quickly reminded that seafood is just as integral to Louisiana culture as music. Taste locally caught crawfish, Gulf shrimp, redfish and much more. Marine life truly permeates the culture.

Take advantage of easy access to fishing–inland or offshore–and get close-up views of the wildlife in this area too. Take a trip along the Vermilion Loop Wetland Birding Trail or plan a visit to the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum in Houma.

Want to join in on one of the largest fishing events in the country? Attracting 15,000 fisherman, friends and family, the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo is the oldest saltwater fishing rodeo nationwide. It offers fishermen more than 280 species to tackle, located on the only state-owned beach on the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Throughout this region, you can also schedule a private charter if you prefer something smaller scale or enjoy fishing solo at Vermilion Bay or Grand Isle State Park.

This is another area boasting lively dance halls where you can find Swamp Pop, Jazz, Zydeco and more. The Jolly Inn Cajun Dancehall offers local dishes and the upbeat sounds of fiddles and accordions on the weekends plus the kids are invited onto the dance floor. The dancehalls make for an incredibly authentic way to let yourself get lost in the traditions passed down through generations.

Blue Dolphin Inn And Cottages

8.4 Very good (207 reviews)
Excellent Location 8.8 / 10
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Lafayette and the Atchafalaya Basin

1/4

Louisiana is home to over four hundred festivals every year, ranging from seafood and strawberry festivals to jazz and voodoo festivals. Two of the best are free and take place in Lafayette: Festival International de Louisiane in April and Festivals Acadiens in October.

There are juke joints and roadhouses with rocking blues and roots bands throughout the Atchafalaya Basin. No-frills, low-ceilinged and never watered down places that are some of the last of their kind in America. Set smack in the middle of Cajun Country, Lafayette is a town well known for its restaurants (the city is said to have more per capita than anywhere else in the nation).

A few places to add to your must-visit list: Blue Moon Saloon for the Cajun Jam Night and the Sunday afternoon fais do-do dance parties at Whiskey River or La Poussiere Dancehall, either will give you a bona fide live Cajun and Zydeco musical experiences.

Bois Des Chenes

8.3 Very good (50 reviews)
Excellent Service 9 / 10
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Marginy/Bywater, New Orleans

1/3

New Orleans’ culture is rooted in music. “Ask a little kid what he wants to be and instead of saying ‘I want to be a policeman,’ or ‘I want to be a fireman,’ he says, ‘I want to be a musician,’” explains Alan Jaffe, Founder of Preservation Hall. It’s a city where artistic survival and success is an integral part of the community.

Immediately downriver from the Quarter is the local’s live music destination–The Marigny. Start on Frenchmen Street and work down to the Bywater, a thriving artist-friendly neighborhood home to a punk-style arts district along St. Claude Avenue. These two neighborhoods are packed with some of the coolest hangouts in the city ranging from hipster dives to trendy design-forward spaces.

The list of the neighborhoods’ long-standing favorites spots include: Vaughan’s Lounge (made famous by Kermit Ruffins), All Way Lounge (a burlesque club with a rowdy crowd), The Apple Barrel (which offers live jazz every night), Bacchanal Wines (a let-your-hair-down wine bar with a backyard-style stage set-up) plus Hi Ho Lounge and Siberia (two oldie, underground alternative venues).

Spend some time just exploring on foot or bike, too. The Creole and Classic Revival cottages that stood abandoned after residents left for the suburbs in the ‘50s have been restored. Historic banks, corner stores, and bakeries have been refurbished as homes and guesthouses, while revived riverfront warehouses offer artist studios and performance spaces.

Hgtvs Bywater Beauty As Seen On New Orleans Reno - Stunning Spacious 1-bedroom

New Orleans, 5.9 miles to Audubon Park
8.5 Excellent (32 reviews)
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New Roads (Along The Great River Road)

1/4

Driving just outside of New Orleans, you’ll land amongst stunning subtropical topography: swamplands, cypress forests, moss-draped oaks and miles upon miles of biodiverse marshes. Travel along daydreamy byways, out past the noise of the city beneath the low hanging stars of a southern sky. The juxtaposition of the visuals along the Great River Road is sharp: antebellum mansions and Cajun country swamp shacks that appear to be levitating just above the water.

Running along the mighty Mississippi, the Great River Road stretches hundreds of miles and features an abundance of historic sites. Plantation homes–including Oak Alley and Houmas House–museums, and plenty of riverfront dive bars and seafood joints are found all along the route. San Francisco Plantation in Garyville, Rosedown Plantation and Greenwood Plantation in St. Francisville are on the can’t miss list as is the Evergreen Plantation, a working sugar plantation with 37 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.

A favorite place to stop and spend a day is the St. Francisville and New Roads area. Drive along and take in the well-preserved Victorian mansions and Creole cottages, or take a canoe out to the Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge and then dine on Oysters Remoulade overlooking the False River at Morel’s Restaurant and Antiques.

See More of the Great River Road

Midwest

Great River Road Hotels

Best Western False River

8.8 Excellent (96 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.1 / 10
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St. Tammany Parish

1/3

Idyllic communities lined with crystal clear creeks and old piney woods are the highlight of the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Antique shops, galleries, and restaurants are found throughout St. Tammany Parish as are vast outdoor spaces. There are about 80,000 acres of national wildlife refuge areas in the parish.

Biking along the Tammany Trace, a 31-mile trail, is a great way to enjoy the outdoors. Connected to the Tammany Trace is Abita Springs, known for artesian waters and for the Abita Brewery that produces seasonal varieties of beer.

Visit Abita Brew Pub to sample not only the beer on tap but also a fantastic menu of local food to fill up on after a day outdoors. Be sure to make time for two more stops. The first: the Abita Mystery House, a roadside attraction housing folk art, thousands of found objects, and home-made inventions. The second stop not to miss is the Dew Drop Jazz and Social Hall. The musicians who have performed at the Dew Drop reads like a who’s who list and it’s regarded as the oldest surviving rural jazz dance hall in the world.

Southern

8.9 Excellent (45 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.2 / 10
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Feature photo by João Francisco on Unsplash