Lively Louisiana is slowly picking up the pieces after the
devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina on 30 August 2005 and is
showing a determination to shake off the sackcloth and ashes and
carry on as before. Visitors from around the world are once again
flocking to New Orleans, not only to view the disaster areas and
hear the stories, but to experience the city's traditional
toe-tapping Dixieland jazz music, to dine on Cajun cuisine and
enjoy the laid-back lifestyle where a carnival atmosphere prevails
day and night.
Louisiana is hedonistic and historic, musical and memorable; the
American state that feels European has a distinctive scenic beauty
and a cultural uniqueness that makes it more than attractive as a
holiday destination. It is the cultural variety in particular that
gives Louisiana its special appeal, and this is the result of the
legacy of the original Native Americans; the French, Spanish and
Creole inhabitants of the major city of New Orleans; the Cajuns of
South Louisiana; the African slaves and free blacks; the European
plantation owners; and settlers of virtually every nationality that
have made the State their home.
Louisiana's past is just as colourful and varied as its people.
It has been governed under 10 different flags since 1541 when
Hernando de Soto claimed the region for Spain. At the outbreak of
the Civil War Louisiana even became an independent republic for six
weeks, before joining the Confederacy. Louisiana was actually sold
to the United States by Napoleon in 1803, the purchase being
negotiated by President Thomas Jefferson. The reason for all this
chopping and changing was because of the region's importance for
trade and security in the American mid-west; the mighty Mississippi
River flows through Louisiana and access to the mouth is controlled
by the city of New Orleans.
Further along the Mississippi visitors marvel at the stately
plantation houses of Louisiana's rich landowners of old, and enjoy
tasting the sights and sounds of the Mississippi valley, which is
one of the most scenic areas in the United States. Just like the
renowned Creole dish known as 'gumbo', the State of Louisiana
contains a bit of everything.
GMT -6 (GMT -5 from March to November).
Louisiana's climate usually remains constant, with semi-tropical
conditions throughout the year. Those parts of the state that are
in close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico tend to be very humid with
lots of rainfall, and little difference between summer and winter
conditions. New Orleans, for example, is hot and humid for the
majority of the year, with well over 180 days of sunshine annually.
Some snowfall can occur in the state in winter, but very rarely.
Louisiana is prone to hurricanes (June is the start of hurricane
season), with the most severe being the recent Hurricanes Rita and
Katrina in 2005.
When in New Orleans, the vintage electric rail vehicles or
'streetcars' are the way to go. With various lines crossing the
city, most destinations are accessible by this means of transport.
Various VisiTour passes allow unlimited rides on buses and
streetcars, and for streetcar fare and route information visit
www.norta.com. The Canal Street Ferry takes passengers across to
the suburb of Algiers and is free for pedestrians, offering fine
views of the city skyline. Walking, cycling, taxis and rental cars
are some of the other options; many tourist areas, like the French
Quarter, are most enjoyable on foot. Driving a car in New Orleans
may be difficult as many roads are still inaccessible due to
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International
The airport is situated 14 miles (22km) west of downtown
GMT -6 (GMT -5 from March to
Switchboard: +1 504 464 0831. Information desk: 504 464
Car rental companies are situated on the lower level of the
airport and include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz,
National and Thrifty.
There are taxicabs available on the lower level
outside the baggage claim zone. For one to two persons it costs
approximately $28 from the airport to the CBD, for three or more
passengers it costs $12 per passenger. Journey time is 30 minutes,
dependent on traffic. For queries call the Taxi Bureau on (504)
Banks and business centres offer foreign money exchange, ATMs,
travellers cheques and a host of other banking and business
services. Internet access is available, as well as tax-free
shopping, gift shops, a post office, advance baggage check-in, and
a visitor information service. Facilities for the disabled are
good. There are restaurants on Concourses A, B, D and in the main
ticket lobby, while snacks are available on Concourse C.
Short-term parking at Louis Armstrong International Airport
starts at $2 for the first hour and charges $2 every half hour
thereafter up to a daily limit of $16. Long-term parking charges
are similar, but with a daily maximum of $13. All vehicles are
subject to a search before parking.
In Algiers Point, on the west bank of the Mississippi River,
stands a unique studio museum showcasing the famous New Orleans'
Mardi Gras. The museum is actually the working studio of foremost
carnival float designer, Blaine Kern, for whom producing floats and
props for the city's annual Mardi Gras is a full-time job. Visitors
can watch Kern and his team design and construct the giant
sculptures of everything from cartoon characters to mythological
figures and animals that will eventually parade through the
The entertaining and informative Cabildo on Jackson Square in
New Orleans' French Quarter explores the history of Louisiana from
the first European explorations to the post-Civil War
Reconstruction era from a multi-cultural perspective. The museum is
the flagship of the Louisiana State Museum facilities and is housed
in an historic building, dating to 1799, originally serving as the
Spanish city council offices. Two major historic events took place
in the Cabildo building: the Louisiana Purchase Transfer ceremonies
in 1803 and later a landmark Supreme Court decision was handed down
here that legalised racial segregation. The Cabildo takes pride
that five American presidents have visited it.
The unique D-Day National World War II Museum was founded in
2000 by historian and author Dr Stephen Ambrose and has become
regarded as a highlight of any New Orleans sightseeing tour.
Situated in New Orleans' Warehouse District it depicts the June 6,
1944 invasion of Normandy, the Home Front during World War II, and
the D-Day Invasions in the Pacific. Exhibit galleries include text
panels, artefacts, and personal account stations where visitors can
listen to the stories of war veterans. A panorama exhibit recreates
a Normandy beach landing; there are also regular film shows.
945 Magazine Street, New Orleans. Entrance on Andrew
Open daily 9am-5pm. Closed Mardi Gras Day,
Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Museum only: $19 (adults), $9 (children 12-5), free for
children under 5, concessions and combo tickets
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
New Orleans' state-of-the-art Audubon Aquarium, situated on the
banks of the Mississippi River, is regarded as the best in America
with highly entertaining exhibits. Underwater tunnels allow
visitors to marvel at a Caribbean Reef and a re-creation of the
Gulf of Mexico, complete with sharks. There is also a walk-through
Amazon rainforest and an exhibit displaying the inside story of
swamp life. The Aquarium features every type of aquatic creature
from jellyfish and sea horses to sea otters and penguins. The
Aquarium's 'sister' attraction, also run by the Audubon Institute,
is the excellent New Orleans city zoo, situated in Audubon Park
Regarded as the heart and soul of New Orleans, the French
Quarter is the historic part of town covering about 90 square
blocks radiating out from Chartres Street and Jackson Square. The
Quarter, or Vieux Carre, was established in 1718 as a French
military outpost, which was later taken over by the Spanish,
merging into a freewheeling culture incorporating slaves, pirates,
mercenaries, call-girls and various freemen of every colour and
creed. Today the area looks and feels much as it did before
Hurricane Katrina, with its wrought-iron railings and tall
doorways, and clubs, bars, Cajun-seafood restaurants and shops all
a-buzz. By day it is one of the best people-watching spots in the
world, and the focus for visitors to New Orleans. By night the area
becomes a giant street party throbbing with jazz music and a
world-class dining district. The most famous street is Bourbon
Street, where prostitutes literally mingle with priests, and bars
stay open all night.
Situated on the Burden Research Plantation, run by the Louisiana
State University, is the Rural Life Museum and Windrush Gardens.
The museum features an extensive collection of tools, household
utensils, furniture, vehicles and farming implements, some outdoors
and others housed in more than 20 buildings that depict the
lifestyle of pre-industrial 19th-century Louisiana.
Daily 8:30am-5pm. Closed New Years Day, Easter
Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas
$7 adults, $6 children 5-11.
Old State Capitol
The historic Old State Capitol Gothic building, once described
by Mark Twain as being 'the ugliest thing on the Mississippi', sits
on a bluff overlooking the river and today operates as a centre for
political and governmental history. The building was completed in
1849 and housed the Louisiana Legislature until Union forces
captured the city of Baton Rouge in 1862. The legislature returned
to the building in 1882 and stayed until the new capitol was
completed in 1932. The old Capitol has now been restored and houses
a museum featuring state-of-the-art interactive exhibits and
multi-media presentations detailing Louisiana's past and political
Tuesday to Saturday 10am-4pm; Sunday 12pm-4pm. Open
Mondays for special tours.
Baton Rouge Nautical Center and the USS Kidd
A highlight of the Baton Rouge Nautical Center is the restored
369ft (112m) World War II Fletcher Class Destroyer, USS Kidd, which
is the prime exhibit. Overnight camping experiences on the ship are
offered. The center also features a huge collection of model ships,
a restored World War II fighter plane, a jet fighter from the
Vietnam era and a walk-through exhibit of the gun deck of Old
Daily 9am-5pm. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas
Ship and museum: $8 (adults), $5 (children 5-12),
San Francisco Plantation
Louisiana's most authentically restored 'great house' is the San
Francisco Plantation house, sited on the east bank of the
Mississippi under centuries-old live oaks, about 40 minutes from
downtown Baton Rouge near the small town of Garyville. The
galleried house was built by Edmond Bozonier Marmillion in 1856 in
what is termed the Creole open-suite style. Inside the house
features five hand-painted mural ceilings, faux marble and bois
wood graining, and one of the finest antique collections in the
United States. Also on the plantation is an 1830s slave cabin, a
one-roomed schoolhouse and a museum store. Period-costumed guides
take visitors on tours throughout the day. Other plantation houses
open to the public on the Great River Road between New Orleans and
Baton Rouge include Oak Alley, Nottoway, Laura, Madewood, and
Daily 9:30am-4:40pm (April to October), 9am-4pm
(November to March).
$15 adults, $10 children; concessions available,
children under six free.
Louisiana Art and Science Museum
Housed in a historic railroad depot the Louisiana Art and
Science Museum offers educational and entertainment opportunities
for visitors of all ages. Featured are changing fine art
exhibitions, interactive art and science galleries for children, an
Egyptian tomb and a simulated space station. Also on the site is
the Irene W. Pennington Planetarium and ExxonMobil Space Theatre,
offering planetarium shows and large format films.
Capital Transportation Corporation buses on the Florida
Boulevard route stop on River Road directly across from
Tuesday to Friday 10am-3pm; Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday
1pm-4pm; closed Mondays.
Museum only: $7 adults, $6 children. Museum and
Planetarium: $9 adults, $8 children.
The city of Lafayette is the hub of the eight-parish area in the
heart of Louisiana's southern Acadian region, famed for its unique
Cajun and Creole heritage, where the French language is soft on the
ear and French traditions prevail. Lafayette, to the east of Baton
Rouge, lies at the intersection of Interstate 10 and Interstate 49,
and is known for its great food, music and festivals. The city also
has historic attractions, majestic plantation homes, vibrant
gardens, leisurely swamp tours and exciting museums to entice
visitors. Authentic Cajun and Creole cuisine served up with
original Zydeco and Cajun music is what most tourists seek here,
but sites like the Acadian Cultural Center, University Art Museum,
and the Natural History Museum are all worth visiting.
800 346 1958 (Lafayette Convention and Visitors
In the wake of one of the worst hurricanes to ever hit the
United States, Gray Line Tours offers a three-hour bus ride around
some of the hardest hit areas in New Orleans, including Lakeview
and Gentilly, and is aimed at gathering support to rebuild the
city. To respect the privacy of the locals, buses will not allow
tourists off the bus to take pictures, but will pass around
pictures of the storm and its destruction, and guides will describe
the events before and after the storm hit the city, as well as
explaining the significance of the levee system.
Tours depart from Gray Line Lighthouse ticket office,
Toulouse Street, French Quarter
Three hour long tours are conducted daily at 1pm,
running January through October.
$48 adults, $30 children.
Historic Preservation Hall is New Orleans' most popular jazz
venue, where the famed Preservation Hall Jazz Band serves up
first-rate Dixieland Jazz six nights a week in the French Quarter
building (originally built as a residence in 1750). On Sundays the
Olympia Brass Band performs instead. No seating, food or drinks are
available, but crowds flock here simply for the music between 8pm
Louis Armstrong Park is a 32-acre sanctuary of green trees and
jazz melodies in the heart of the historic old quarter. Inside
you'll find Congo Square, the meeting place of slaves in the 19th
century. The Visitors' Facility also has exhibits and an indoor
performance venue. Occasional free Sunday afternoon concerts are a
highlight in the park.
View the priceless sculptures that make up the superb Sydney and
Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. The Sculpture Garden provides a
unique opportunity for visitors who treasure the arts, with a
world-class collection of modern and contemporary sculptures
presented in an exquisite natural setting. Next to the Sculpture
Garden is the New Orleans Museum of Art and City Park, with
centuries old oak trees, lagoons, a small amusement park and
Storyland, a charming fairytale playground.
$10 adults, $6 children 7-17. Concessions
Louisiana Childrens Museum
The Louisiana Children's Museum is a fantastic attraction for
kids with a vast selection of exhibits, art activities and
educational programs to enjoy. The kid-sized Winn-Dixie grocery
store is a favourite, as are the climbing wall and the giant bubble
that kids can play in. Eye to Eye has fun showing the workings of
the human eye, and Art Trek features drawing, painting and
Tuesday to Saturday 9:30am-4:30pm, Sunday 12pm-4:30pm
(September to May); Monday to Saturday 9:30am-5pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm
(June to August). Closed major holidays.
Mississippi River Boat Rides
Set on the banks of the Mississippi River, New Orleans is a
great place to take kids for a boat ride. The Natchez steamboat
traverses this great river and passes many of the city's historical
sites, while the John James Audubon ferries passengers between the
Aquarium of the Americas and the Audubon Zoo. There are also a
number of Louisiana swamp tours which kids would love.
Many boats dock near the foot of Canal Street
Storyland and Carousel Gardens Amusement Park
Kids in New Orleans love Storyland and the Carousel Gardens
amusement park. Storyland is a fairytale playground featuring
life-size storybook attractions such as Captain Hook's pirate ship,
and an imitation whale from
. The traditional wooden carousel at the
theme park always draws a crowd, as do the bumper cars, lady-bug
roller coaster and miniature trains.
Voodoo came to Louisiana through African slaves, and has been
practised since the early days of the city. New Orleans is known
worldwide for its shady association with the darker arts, and the
small but fascinating New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum has
artefacts and exhibits depicting the history of its practice in the
region. There is usually a voodoo priestess on hand to do palm
readings and even make personalised gris-gris bags. The museum may
also arrange excursions to voodoo rituals upon request.
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is a great
place to experience 'bayou life' in Louisiana. The park consists of
six physically separate sites and a park headquarters, including
the Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette, the Prairie Acadian
Cultural Center in Eunice, the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in
Thibodaux, the Barataria Preserve in Marrero, the Chalmette
Battlefield and National Cemetery in Chalmetter, and the French
Quarter Visitor Center in New Orleans.
The park offers a variety of activities, including bayou cruises
from the Acadian Cultural Center, birdwatching and swamp walks in
Barataria Preserve, and paddlewheel boat trips from New Orleans to
the historic Chalmette Battlefield sites. While cruises and guided
tours charge individual fees, admission to many of the cultural
centres is free.
A great weekend getaway from New Orleans, Grand Isle is a
popular holiday town located on an island in the Gulf of Mexico.
Formerly a busy port of call for pirates like Jean Lafitte, Grand
Isle is now a haven for fishing and birdwatching. Grand Isle State
Park is home to one of the top winter beaches in the US, and there
is a small town of about 1,500 people nearby with a few restaurants
and self-catering accommodation. Grand Isle comes alive each year
for the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo, a salt-water fishing rodeo that
draws 15,000 people each year; another popular event is the Grand
Isle Migratory Bird Festival, held each spring.
Grand Isle is accessible from New Orleans via Hwy 1 and
Avery Island is located on an eight-mile (13km) deep salt dome
located in Iberia Parish, 137 miles (220km) west of New Orleans.
Known as the birthplace of Tabasco Sauce, Avery Island is still
home to the Tabasco Pepper Sauce Factory, which offers tours to the
public. The island also contains the Jungle Gardens wildlife
refuge, home to alligators, deer, and raccoons; and Bird City, a
pond with specially-built piers for viewing snowy egrets, among