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Why The Great River Road is the #1 Louisiana Road Trip!

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If you’re looking for a great Louisiana road trip, then look no further than a drive down the Great River Road. There is so much diversity in what you’ll see on a Louisiana road trip down the Great River Road. Driving along the levies, through the bayous, and in the cities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, it really does have something for everyone. You’ve even got two sides of the Mississippi River to choose from on your trip! The Great River Road is by far the #1 Louisiana road trip! Once you get to the end of this post you’ll be wondering why you haven’t driven it already!

Exploring Nature on Your Louisiana Road Trip

When you get away from the cities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the natural beauty of Louisiana becomes apparent. Taking a road trip in Louisiana on the Great River Road will get you close to nature for sure. The solitary stretches of road do their job in giving you access to nature. However, you’ve got to be willing to get out of the car to experience it fully!

While journeying down the Great River Road in Louisiana, you’ll pass through the largest swampland in the country. The Atchafalaya Basin covers thousands of square miles across Louisiana. You’ll first encounter it when passing over a series of dams and locks at the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area. From this point south, you’ll find countless ways to explore the backcountry and cypress filled waters of Louisiana. Honestly, there’s enough to explore through here that you could make a whole trip out of it!

Bayou Savauge is one nature stop on your Louisiana Road Trip
Bayou Savauge is a great nature spot close to New Orleans

Once you reach New Orleans, there are a number of great ways to reconnect with nature. Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is just 30 minutes south. It offers hiking trails, boat tours, and a deep history of the bayou. To the northeast of the city is Bayou Savauge NWR. Here you can enjoy fishing, boating, and hiking in one of the most diverse preserves in Louisiana. You don’t even have to leave the city either. Both Audubon Park and New Orleans City Park are great ways to get away from the hustle and bustle, at least for a little while.

Food, Food, Food!

No trip to Louisiana is even started if you haven’t planned where to eat. That’s doubly true when it comes to taking a Louisiana road trip! Cajun dishes and heaping helpings of seafood can be found pretty much everywhere across the state. What you’ve got to figure out is how to squeeze in all these amazing places with only so many meals to be had!

As your Louisiana road trip down the Great River Road passes through Baton Rouge, put both of these stops on your list. Bergeron’s Boudin & Cajun Meats in Port Allen serves up delicious helpings of food in a cafeteria/deli style. Fill up on the delicious offerings here before heading across the river into Baton Rouge proper. Swing by Elsie’s Plate & Pie, where you’ll have your pick of amazing pies. It’s also an excellent choice for lunch or dinner if you’ve got the room after a stop at Bergeron’s. After you’ve eaten your fill in Baton Rouge, hit the road to New Orleans.

A great place to eat on a Louisiana Road Trip is Mambo's
The food was so good, I forgot to take a picture before I ate it all!

The Crescent City is well known for it’s cuisine. There are simply too many fabulous places to eat to list them all. When we made our trip through New Orleans, we did lunch at Mambo’s on Bourbon Street. The wait wasn’t terrible and the food was simply phenomenal. If you’re cruising Bourbon Street, you can’t go wrong with a stop at Mambo’s. I’d also highly recommend Cane & Table along Decatur Street. They do an excellent brunch, with the rest of the menu a wonderful fusion of Cuban and Cajun flavors. Beyond these two spots are literally hundreds of great restaurants worthy of giving a try on your Louisiana road trip.

A Louisiana Road Trip Full of Culture

New Orleans is the cultural heart of Louisiana. If you’re looking for ways to pack culture into your road trip through Louisiana we have to start there. The culture of New Orleans and Louisiana have become big parts of American culture over the course of decades. Once you make your visit, you’ll understand why that’s the case.

Bourbon Street is the most well known cultural and entertainment draw in New Orleans. Yet, there is a plethora of places to visit beyond its touristy steps. The New Orleans Jazz Museum celebrates a musical tradition with deep influences across the city and the rest of the country. You’ll find entertainment on pretty much every corner. We caught a hilarious and fabulous show at the AllWays Lounge on St. Claude. Check out Preservation Hall for your fill of authentic jazz in an intimate venue. For nighttime fun away from Bourbon, consider strolling down Frenchman Street instead. The Frenchman Art Bazaar is open nightly, offering a unique art market experience.

The AllWays Lounge is a fantastic place to see a show!

Outside of the Jazz museum, you’ll also find a large number of other museums unique to New Orleans. Museums that are pure New Orleans include the Historic Voodoo Museum, the Museum of Death, and the Mardi Gras Museum of Costumes and Culture. Your road trip through Louisiana and New Orleans will also let you visit one of the best art museums in the country. The New Orleans Museum of Art is located at the southern end of the city park, making it a great way to spend part of your day.

History Along the Great River Road

History flourishes across the swamps and waters of Louisiana. The state has played a big role in the history of North America, from prehistoric times all the way to today. The unique blending of cultures across that time shows up in the diverse history you can experience and explore when you’re taking a road trip in Louisiana.

You can start your journey through history on this road trip through Louisiana at Poverty Point. Located just a few miles to the west of the Great River Road, this ancient city was one of the earliest in North America. The people who built the mounds here were a sophisitcated culture that commanded a trade network across hundreds of miles. Many of the mound sites you’ll find along the Great River Road up and down the Mississippi have connections to Poverty Point. In fact, Poverty Point is both a national monument and a UNESCO World Heritage site! If you want to explore more mound sites in Louisiana, you can also check out locations like Balmoral or the campus of Louisiana State University.

Oak Alley is a beautiful plantation you can visit on a road trip through Louisiana
Oak Alley is a gorgeous site full of history. Image courtesy Oak Alley Plantation.

Much closer in time to you and I are sites of those who came to colonize the state. Oak Alley near New Orleans is one of the best plantation sites to visit. The plantation’s grounds have been extensively preserved or restored. It doesn’t shy away from acknowledging that people were enslaved here. However, it doesn’t give as much focus as other tours I’ve done like the one at Belle Meade in Nashville.

Once you make it into New Orleans at the end of your Louisiana road trip, you’ll be surrounded by history. Like, literally! Nearly every corner you might turn on has some historical aspect across the city. If you love architecture and old homes, you’ll want to take a stroll through the Garden District. The French Quarter will offer up countless stops. That includes the burial site of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, St. Louis Cathedral, and countless other mansions or homes. Outside of downtown you can visit Chalmette Battlefield, where Andrew Jackson famously defeated the British Army during the War of 1812… AFTER the peace had been signed in Europe.

Timing a Road Trip in Louisiana

This might be the million dollar question. When do you plan to take your Louisiana road trip? You can complete this road trip in as few as three days. However, to really do it justice I’d recommend taking at least five days, or even a full week. What that really comes down to is how much time you plan on spending in New Orleans. If the Big Easy isn’t your main draw on a road trip through Louisiana, then you’ll simply need fewer days overall.

Another big consideration is weather. As a gulf coast state, Louisiana gets frequent storms and hurricanes are a constant possibility from May through October. These also happen to be the hottest months of the year. If you’re used to hot, humid weather then this stretch won’t bother you too much. Honestly, it’s exactly this kind of weather that probably pops to mind when you think of Louisiana to begin with!

Just beware, it can rain pretty much any day of the year!

You’ll also need to be considerate of Mardi Gras and the Carnival season. These are some of the busiest times to visit Louisiana, and especially New Orleans. That means prices for practically everything are at or near their peak. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t visit this time of year. In fact, making a road trip down the Great River Road in Louisiana and ending with a Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans sounds like one fabulous way to do the trip! Just be mindful of how this busy season can effect your trip.

Ultimately, if you’re wanting to avoid hurricanes and Mardi Gras madness, then fall will be your best bet. The weather will cool off a touch and crowds will be lower. This will make it easier to enjoy pretty much every part of the entire road trip.

At The End of the Road

Eventually all good road trips must end. Whether you’re only embarking on this single stretch of the Great River Road, or you’ve made the entire 3,000 mile journey like we did, Louisiana is a fantastic state for a visit. The diversity of food, culture, and history you’ll find while on your road trip in Louisiana is well worth the effort. However, you could also use this road trip as simply a starting point! Head north from Louisiana and follow the Mississippi River to its beginning. All in all, the possibilties are nearly endless if you think about it!

A crooked sign among wild sunflowers on a road trip in Louisiana
So long Louisiana!

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