Content Produced in Partnership with Louisiana Travel
Picture Louisiana in your mind. What do you see? Colorful Mardi Gras floats, alligators peeping through murky waters and live oaks covered in Spanish moss are just a small faction of the state — there's much more to it than that. Delving into the state's one-of-a-kind experiences is one way to better understand its deep-rooted traditions and customs that make Louisiana the lively state we all know and love. From its unique stays to its stunning facades, here are just a few of the ways you can get to know another side of Louisiana:
Take a Swamp Tour
You can’t say you visited Louisiana if you didn’t take a swamp tour during your visit. But here’s the thing: though thrilling, swamp tours don’t have to involve airboats whizzing across the water. The Louisiana bayou is quiet and calm, and a kayak or paddleboard tour across its waterways gives visitors a chance to savor its natural beauty. Because the waters tend to be calmer, kayak and canoe tours are available on Lake Martin, while paddleboard and kayak tours operate on Lake Chicot in Chicot State Park.
Sleep in a Haunted House
Maybe it’s the way time seems to stand eerily still in the bayous and marshes or maybe it’s because the line between myth and history tend to blur, but there’s a surplus of folklore throughout the state. Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville clearly embodies the best of Louisiana’s deepest mysteries. Supposedly haunted by no less than a dozen ghosts, Myrtles Plantation is registered as one of the most haunted places in all of Louisiana. If you’re willing to investigate the mysteries further, you can spend the night at one of its on-site cabins or in the uptairs of the actual plantation home after your tour.
Visit Two State Capitol Buildings in One Day (in the Same City!)
Yes, you read that correctly. Baton Rouge is home to not just one capitol building but two. Separated by just a few city blocks, the Old State Capitol Building is shaped like a castle with a stunning stained glass dome inside. The state’s current capitol building is the tallest in the United States. The observation deck on the 27th floor showcases sweeping views of the city skyline beside the Mississippi River, making for one of the best photo opportunities in the entire state. Note: The Louisiana Old State Capitol and its museum are closed on Mondays. However, visitors can still check out the newer Louisiana State Capitol Building — and even speak to members of the state legislature when in session — throughout the week.
Tour a Plantation Home
Though the grand buildings tend to draw in the crowds, it’s the stories of the hundreds of people who lived on the plantation that’ll stick with you. The plantation homes across Louisiana offer an intimate glimpse at the men and women who lived there during one of the most crucial — and turbulent — times in American history. Known for its 28 300-year-old live oak trees lining its drive, the aptly named Oak Alley Plantation is one of the prettiest, most historic and most visited homes in the entire state, making for an easy day trip outside New Orleans.
Cruise the Mississippi River
Step back into a bygone era aboard the Steamboat Natchez, one of the last genuine steamboats still operating on the Mississippi River. Docking outside New Orleans, the Steamboat Natchez offers specially themed cruises along the Mississippi Delta throughout the year. Featuring live jazz music on all of its cruises, the Steamboat Natchez is a charming departure from the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter allowing guests to truly embrace the spirit of the Big Easy.
Float the Amite River
Word to the wise, summers in Louisiana begin in mid-April and when the summer breezes start flowing, there’s only one place Louisianans want to be: the Amite River. Thanks to the folks at Louisiana River Adventures, locals and visitors alike can spend half the day tubing. You won’t have a care in the world (except maybe when your cooler starts running low).
Stay in a Former Bank
If sleeping in one of the most haunted homes in Louisiana isn’t quite your cup of tea, head west toward the state capital for a stay at the Watermark Baton Rouge. Recently refurbished, the Watermark Baton Rouge has been a landmark for nearly 100 years. Initially one of the first skyscrapers in Louisiana back in 1927, the building served as the headquarters for the Louisiana Trust & Savings Bank. Though no longer in use, the hotel stays on theme with gold accents, Art Deco designs, grand staircases leading to the old bank vault and even a bowl of lollipops in the main lobby.
Tour the TABASCO Factory
Did you know every pepper in your TABASCO hot sauce bottle is grown, picked and bottled in Louisiana? America's favorite hot sauce has been created, processed and packaged on a little slice of paradise called Avery Island for more than 140 years — and counting. Located about 45 minutes outside Lafayette, visitors to Avery Island can tour the greenhouses and factory and even sample the goods at the on-site restaurant. One of five salt islands on Louisiana's coast, the majority of Avery Island features protected swamps, marshes and even a 170-acre public garden. Created by former company president Edward Avery "Ned" McIlhenny in 1895, Jungle Gardens is a botanical wonderland and wildlife refuge that showcases the ingenuity of the family behind the world-famous hot sauce.