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From New Orleans

Louisiana’s high-energy cities, like New Orleans, Lafayette and Shreveport, are nothing short of phenomenal, but just miles from each of them are a plethora of other must-see stops, venues and activities. Whether you venture on a day trip or weekend trip, you'll be sure to find delicious food no matter where you go. Visit the Houmas House Plantation in Darrow, or visit the town of LaPlace, nicknamed the "Andouille [French smoked sausage] capital of the world". The state is also brimming with culture, so catch a show at the Lafon Performing Arts Center in Luling, where visitors will be inspired by the array of visual and performing arts.

Nearly two hours from New Orleans is Grand Isle. The state’s only inhabited barrier island and former home to pirate Jean Lafitte is a picturesque escape. Seven miles of pristine public beaches offer a relaxing way to spend the day sunning, fishing or just enjoying the serene sounds of the ocean. In April, revel in the spectacular Grand Isle Migratory Bird Celebration, where nearly 168 bird species flock to the island to rest after migrating across the Gulf of Mexico. Then, see another wildlife marvel the last weekend in July at the International Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo, the oldest fishing tournament in the country and a must-see event whether you're a fisherman or spectator.

Just 45 minutes from New Orleans, Tammany Trace, the only rails-to-trails conversion in the state, offers 31-miles of trails to walk, ride or even rollerblade. The trails have numerous points of interest to see, like Covington Trailhead, modeled as an old train station, or Slidell Trailhead, complete with charming shops and restaurants. Visitors can also head to the Abita Brewing Company for a cold one in the 100-seat brew pub.

From Lafayette

About 45 minutes from Lafayette is Avery Island, home of TABASCO®. So, take a tour and learn about the history and production of the sauce, peruse the museum and be sure to bring home a mini-TABASCO® bottle. The island is also home to Jungle Gardens and its expansive bird sanctuary called Bird City. The 170-acre Jungle Garden is a semi-tropical garden perfect for bird watchers and nature lovers. See the centuries-old Buddha statue in the lush garden that’s open 365 days a year. Avery Island's 2,200 acres are full of beautiful scenery that the whole family will enjoy.

Twenty-minutes from Lafayette, you can visit the quaint town of Breaux Bridge. Go antiquing, shopping and try some of the area's delicious Cajun food. It is also home to the famed Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival in May.

Nearly an hour-and-15-minutes from Lafayette, visitors can explore marshes, swamplands and wildlife on the Creole Nature Trail, near Lake Charles. Guided tours let visitors get up close (safely, of course) to gators and see how shrimp and crab are caught. The nature trail offers fishing and hunting as options, too. The Lake Charles area also has everything from exciting casinos and beautiful golf courses to diverse museums and a symphony.

From Shreveport

Shreveport, in the northwest corner of the state, offers charming retreats away from the hustle and bustle of city life and has ample free parking for visitors. The hour drive from Shreveport to Ruston is worth it to enjoy their mouthwatering peach ice cream or to attend the Louisiana Peach Festival in June. While Ruston is known for its peaches, it's also home to plenty of culture and history, like the Dixie Center for Arts, a vintage movie theater turned into an art center and the Louisiana Military Museum located in Ruston’s Memorial Park.

Poverty Point, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Shreveport or an hour drive from Monroe-West Monroe, is awe-inspiring. The landscapes seen here, like the 72-foot-tall mound and concentric half-circles, were believed to be crafted thousands of years ago by indigenous peoples, and the site was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.

Louisiana has so much culture and history, it’s hard to find a way to fit it all in. But an hour-and-a-half from Shreveport in Monroe, visitors can see the Biedenharn Museum and Gardens. Joseph Biedenharn is credited with first bottling Coca-Cola, and his former home is now open as a museum and sculpture garden, with two rooms full of Coca-Cola memorabilia. Visitors can also head over to the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum, which is dedicated to Maj. Gen. Claire Lee Chennault. Chennault grew up in Louisiana and trained the famed Flying Tigers combat unit. See exhibits about Chennault, as well as other veterans, aircrafts and vehicles used in war.

From Alexandria

Alexandria, located in the center of the state, offers unparalleled outdoor beauty and history. Natchitoches, the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, is just an hour from Alexandria and is full of history and culture. The city is home to a 33-block National Landmark Historic District, complete with bed and breakfasts, art galleries, trolley and boat rides and more. Visitors can also tour local plantations, like the Oakland Plantation, the Melrose Plantation and portions of the Magnolia Plantation Complex. Visitors can also revel in seeing some of the filming sites for the 1989 classic, Steel Magnolias. Take one of the guided walking tours offered or soak in the natural beauty at Beau Jardin.

The Kisatchie National Forest, just 30 minutes from Alexandria, is the only national forest in the state and is a stunning escape. Walk, bike, horseback ride or take a hike through the forest, or enjoy the water with some fishing, swimming or boating.

Whether visitors start in the north, south, east or west of the state, Louisiana is busting with charming towns and hidden destinations.