We humans are an interesting lot. We just need to celebrate something – all the time. It is the best way we know to experience local culture and the joy in life. Here in Louisiana, we’ve got our own special brand of celebrating our diverse culture and southern living. From our second line parades, to Carnival season – heck, we even celebrate omelettes – every day is a new reason to commemorate something.
Louisiana’s Many Varied Festivals
Ah, the almighty crawfish. The delicacy of Cajun and Creole cuisine. There is nary a restaurant menu in Louisiana that does not offer some form of crawfish – indeed, it is cooked in a myriad of ways. So why not take it a step further and have a bunch of festivals in the name of crawfish? There are a ton of them throughout the state with food, music, and yes, a couple of them even have crawfish races.
The Blessings of the Fleet Festival in Grand Isle, which pays tribute to the local shrimping and fishing industry, features local food and music, kids’ crab races and a shrimp boat decorating contest.
Eggs, anyone? With roots going back to Napoleon and the south of France, the celebration of the omelette has become synonymous with Easter, fraternity, and friendship. This yearly festival in Abbeville celebrates all things egg, and the main event is a bevy of chefs getting together to prepare what started as a 5,000-egg omelette feast. Fun fact: one egg is added to the omelette each year, so in 2021 they will cook 5037 eggs!
Natchitoches Christmas Festival
Holiday season is always a special time of year, especially in the historic town of Natchitoches (pronounced NA-cudish). You don’t need to celebrate Christmas to partake in the famous Christmas Festival, a highly anticipated, annual event that’s considered one of the oldest community-based holiday celebrations in the country.
If fruit festivals are more your speed, consider visiting the Louisiana Watermelon Festival in Farmerville, The Peach Festival in Ruston, or the Strawberry Festival in Ponchatoula. Each one celebrates their region’s respective crop with a number of live performances, fun activities and of course, lots of fresh, locally grown fruit!
There’s nothing more New Orleans than taking part in a second line parade. It is the city’s way of celebrating the life of the newly departed, and is a descendant of NOLA’s famous jazz funerals, with a proud march down the street honoring a loved one. Primarily held on Sunday afternoons in the French Quarter, impromptu second lines can crop up anywhere, anytime. If you happen across one, you may even be invited to participate!
Take the idea of Roller Derby up a notch! Start with some roller derby girls, add some plastic horns and bats, throw in the spirit of a bull run, and what do you get? A free festival full of fun. Every July in New Orleans, The Running of the Bulls involves no actual bulls, but Rollerbulls with skates and helmets. Come join the fun!
Super Sunday and the Mardi Gras Indians, staged by the Mardi Gras Indian Council, is the largest and most popular of the Super Sunday festivities. Originating at A.L. Davis Park, the Mardi Gras Indians strut their stuff down the streets in a dizzying display of color, masks, and feathers. Super Sunday, not to be confused with NFL’s Super Bowl, is celebrated on the Sunday closest to St. Joseph’s Day on March 19.
Krewe of Paws Mardi Gras Pet Parade, West Monroe
Carnival season in Louisiana refers to the period of feasting and fun, beginning with The Feast of Epiphany on January 6, and ending with Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. It's important to note that Carnival happens all over Louisiana and is celebrated in unique ways by different communities; from family-friendly parades geared towards children to raunchier themed festivities, there's something for everyone—even pets! That's right, there are several Carnival celebrations dedicated to our furry friends. While most of them feature dogs, some parades, like the Annual Krewe of Paws Mardi Gras Pet Parade in West Monroe, welcome all kinds of animals, including those with feathers, scales and hooves. Celebrations can also take place just about anywhere, such as bayous, rivers, and lakes.
Beads aren't the only things being tossed to parade-goers during Mardi Gras. Every year, Mardi Gras krewes create new and unique ways of expressing their distinct krewe culture. Often this is defined by their “throws;” the items they toss to revelers along the parade route. Throws can range from traditional items such as beads, cups, frisbees, and colorful dubloons to bedazzled high heels, painted coconuts and even hot dogs!
Louisiana’s Peculiar Museums
Gothic Jail, DeRidder
Not to be outdone by the great museum cities of Paris or London, Louisiana spices things up with its share of unusual, mysterious and macabre attractions.
- Tabasco sauce is practically a culinary institution, and on Avery Island you can tour the factory of the mother of all red sauces, the Tabasco Factory. Get the sauce on the sauce, invented back in 1868.
- If a bit of mystery is what gets your blood pumping, do not miss the Abita Mystery House in Abita Springs, located just north of NOLA across Lake Pontchartrain. It’s a down-home roadside attraction; a most eccentric museum and gift shop showcasing thousands of found objects and inventions, all cleverly housed in a repurposed gas station.
- Home to Kentwood, Louisiana’s sweetheart, the Britney Spears Exhibit at Kentwood Museum is a must-stop for anyone who’s a fan…or just curious...to see the shrine to the Princess of Pop.
- Located in the heart of the French Quarter, the Pharmacy Museum - New Orleans is for those who are scientifically inclined, or just like looking at a bunch of the questionable instruments of days gone by. The former home of the U.S.’ first licensed pharmacist, this intriguing museum holds various paraphernalia and is a fascinating look into pharmacy history.
- The Bonnie & Clyde Ambush Museum located in Gibsland, not far east of Shreveport, is a museum dedicated to the loveable crime couple, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Learn of their short time in the sun – stealing, robbing, and shooting – eventually ending in a rain of bullets and blood not far from where the museum stands today.
- Get your paranormal fix at the DeRidder’s Gothic Jail in DeRidder, where you can possibly experience the hauntings of an early 1900s jail that holds secrets to a suicide, a macabre murder, and double hanging.
- Voodoo has been in New Orleans for centuries, so of course there are several sites in the area that celebrate this ancient practice. The Voodoo Spiritual Temple on Rampart Street serves as a reminder that this religion is alive and well.
Whether you're looking for a cause to celebrate or just craving a weekend that's chock-full of unusual activities, come on down to Louisiana and discover why there's nowhere else like it.