15 Best Day Trips from New Orleans

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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An incredible city with an amazing array of things to see and do, New Orleans has long been a popular tourist destination in the United States.

Drawing on French, Spanish and Creole influences, the ‘Big Easy’ has an eclectic mix of cuisines, architectural styles and nightlife for visitors to enjoy.

Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz and the home of Mardi Gras; a festival that showcases its unique cultural heritage.

While there are a plethora of sights and sounds to enjoy within the city, New Orleans’s surroundings make for a number of fascinating day trips.

Whether it is exploring the old plantation houses or the unforgettable swamps; here are the best day trips from New Orleans.

1. A Day Cruise on the Mississippi River

Steamboat NatchezSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
Steamboat Natchez

Jump on board the Steamboat Natchez and enjoy a scenic trip along the Mississippi.

Drifting along the river is a delightful way to see New Orleans and explore another part of its history.

The only authentic steamboat still in use, the Natchez offers a number of different cruise options that cater to a range of diverse interests.

Whether you are a history buff learning about the lucrative cotton trade, a steamboat enthusiast or jazz aficionado; the tranquil ambiance on the boat harkens back to times gone by and is sure to soothe your soul.

After running around New Orleans, the Natchez is the perfect place to sit back, relax and watch the world go by.

2. The Louisiana Bayous

The Louisiana BayousSource: David A Litman / shutterstock
The Louisiana Bayous

Head into the depths of Cajun Country and explore the stunning swamps and wetlands that surround New Orleans.

Otherworldly in appearance, Manchac Swamp is the perfect place to discover the unique fauna and flora of Louisiana.

Best seen by water, be sure to book a boat trip through the bayous.

As you drift dreamily through the murky wetlands, keep an eye out for the amazing animals concealed amongst the foliage.

Home to alligators, snakes and deer among others, myths and legends of the area are brought to life by the experienced captains who know the waterways like the back of their hand.

3. The Great River Road

The Great River RoadSource: Kathleen K. Parker / shutterstock
The Great River Road

The spectacularly scenic road weaves its way alongside the Mississippi River, meandering through the swamps and wetlands.

Despite its beauty, however, the Great River Road in Louisiana is primarily known for the former plantations that line the route.

While the sugar plantations themselves are stunning in style, they were once home to wealthy families’ who built their fortunes on slave labour.

Each plantation has its own history and visiting numerous properties makes for a very interesting experience as you explore a mosaic of stories that give you the bigger picture.

This trip is not to be missed for anyone looking to gain a greater understanding of the area’s past.

4. INFINITY Science Visitor’s Center

INFINITY Science CenterSource: Khrystyna_Pochynok / shutterstock
INFINITY Science Center

Just across the state border in Mississippi is the INFINITY Science Visitor’s Center.

Interactive, engaging and educative for all the family, INFINITY is a fun day out that will leave you curious to learn more about the world we live in.

Right next to the Stennis Space Center, the site acts as a NASA visitor center.

Here, interesting exhibitions will enlighten you about the secrets of the cosmos and dive you deep down into the dark depths of the ocean before taking you to explore the Earth’s crust.

Well worth the one hour drive, the center will leave you hungry for more.

5. Global Wildlife Center

Global Wildlife CenterSource: Stephanie Bonnett / shutterstock
Global Wildlife Center

If you are an animal lover then this wildlife center is the place for you.

Here, over 4000 animals from all around the world roam free in this huge preserve.

From giraffes and zebras, to llamas and kangaroos; it is delightful seeing them playfully run about and frolic in the open air.

Travelling in old style wagons, you can feed the animals if they approach the convoy and at times whole herds of deer pass by.

It is a magical experience and although it is just an hour away from New Orleans, it feels a million miles away from the city.

Impressively, the Global Wildlife Center is the largest free-range preserve in the whole of the USA.

6. Baton Rouge

 Louisiana State Capitol in Baton RougeSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge

The capital of the state of Louisiana, Baton Rouge has a number of attractions to entice tourists away from New Orleans.

From sumptuous Southern cuisine to metropolitan museums and amusement parks; there are a diverse range of activities for you to explore.

The Louisiana Art and Science Museum has great exhibitions on show as does the African American Museum for those looking to learn more about the local Louisiana culture.

If you are a thrill seeker intent on getting your fill of adrenaline, head to the Blue Bayou Water Park and give the massive Conja water slide a go.

7. Mississippi’s Coast

Gulfport, Mississippi CoastSource: Vicki L. Miller / shutterstock
Gulfport, Mississippi Coast

Just an hour and a half away from the city lie the tranquil beaches that form Mississippi’s coast.

The small, laid-back coastal towns are the perfect getaway for some rest and relaxation with the best stretch being between Gulfport and Ocean Springs.

Lying on the soft sand in the sun is idyllic after having explored all that New Orleans has to offer.

Taking a dip in the Gulf also feels magnificent and is sure to leave you feeling refreshed and revitalised.

If the Big Easy’s nightlife and partying has not yet quenched your thirst for thrill seeking then head to one of the casinos at Biloxi and try your luck.

8. Atchafalaya National Heritage Area

Atchafalaya National Heritage AreaSource: LHBLLC / shutterstock
Atchafalaya National Heritage Area

This incredible national park is well worth a day trip from New Orleans.

The largest river swamp in the USA, the park has endless waterways for you to explore and is composed of a number of diverse ecosystems.

Weaving their way through the wetlands are trails and paths for you to follow either on foot or by bike.

Alternatively take to the water and paddle your way among the submerged trees that create such a distinctive environment.

With its mesmerising landscapes and breathtaking scenery, Atchafalaya makes for an unforgettable day out.

Just over two hours outside of the city, you won’t regret making the journey to this amazing national park.

9. Plaquemines Parish

Plaquemines ParishSource: JB Manning / shutterstock
Plaquemines Parish

Jutting out into the Gulf of Mexico is the picturesque Plaquemines Parish.

The thin peninsula runs either side of the Mississippi River and is home to the southernmost point of the river.

Here, Venice, the last accessible town by land, is appropriately nicknamed the ‘end of the world’. The surrounding areas of the delta make for good fishing and many city folk head here at the weekend.

Famous for its freshwater fishing and deepwater fishing alike; the Plaquemines Parish is one of the best locations in the world.

The peaceful quiet and fresh air of the isolated Parish makes for a lovely day trip from New Orleans.

10. De Soto National Forest

De Soto National ForestSource: Steven L.J. Reich / shutterstock
De Soto National Forest

America is rightly renowned for its national parks and while De Soto is not as famous as Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, it still has a wealth of pristine protected nature to enjoy.

In fact, De Soto is crucial in many respects as it is home to numerous types of endangered pine forests.

In the park, crystal clear streams wind their way through the wild forests and if you are looking for a secluded spot, you have come to the right place.

In the end two hours of driving isn’t too long to end up so far away from the world.

11. Mobile

Mobile, AlabamaSource: Sean Pavone / shutterstock
Mobile, Alabama

Two hours east of New Orleans lies Mobile, a port city on the Gulf of Mexico.

While Mobile has the usual conveniences of a city on hand, it has a number of interesting historical sites that make it worth visiting.

Historic Fort Conde, for instance, is a beautiful reconstruction of a French fort that was previously built on the site in 1723. Also of note is the Battleship Memorial Park that is home to the USS Alabama and the USS Drum, both of which were used in the Second World War.

The city’s cathedral is also worth a visit due its stunning architecture.

12. Saint Bernard Parish

Chalmette BattlefieldSource: Brberrys / shutterstock
Chalmette Battlefield

The Parish has a diverse range of things to see and do and, just outside New Orleans, the area makes for a very convenient day trip.

On the outskirts of the city, for example, is Chalmette: the site of the Battle of New Orleans.

It was here that the British invasion was stopped and history changed course.

Further along, the beautifully scenic road links the city to the shore at Shell Beach.

Serene and secluded, the beach is a stone’s throw away from Fort Proctor.

Although only accessible by boat, the dilapidated 19th Century fort makes for fun exploring if you have the chance.

13. Abita Springs

Abita SpringsSource: Malachi Jacobs / shutterstock
Abita Springs

Located in St. Tammany Parish, the relaxing countryside and peaceful forests have long been a favourite haunt for people looking to escape the hubbub of New Orleans.

Abita Springs in particular is lovely to visit and is conveniently less than an hour’s drive from the city.

While the area’s pristine nature is a draw for many, others prefer to head to the Abita Springs Brewery to sample some of the local beers.

For those intrigued by the weird and wacky, the ‘Mystery House’ is sure to entertain and astound in equal measure.

With a park, picnic and playground, Abita Springs is perfect for parents looking for a peaceful day out.

14. Lafayette

Lafayette, LouisianaSource: Nenad Basic / shutterstock

For anyone looking to learn a bit more about the culture of Louisiana, Lafayette is a great place to visit.

The Acadian Cultural Center for instance explores the rich cultural heritage of the Cajuns who inhabit the south, delving deep into their origins and history.

At Breaux Bridge, not far from Lafayette, is the perfect experience to consolidate what you have learnt.

Visiting Maison Madeleine, a restored traditional Creole Cottage, you cannot help but be immersed in the local culture.

Maison Madeleine’s is absolutely beautiful and harkens back to a bygone era.

Only a couple of hours from New Orleans, this educative yet entertaining trip is invaluable to understanding Cajun history and culture.

15. Lake Charles

Lake Charles, LouisianaSource: travelview / shutterstock
Lake Charles

Just over three hours away from the Big Easy, Lake Charles has it all.

From delicious food and lively nightlife to gambling and great expanses of beautiful nature; you cannot go wrong with this day trip.

As the city hosts a huge number of festivals each year, you are very likely to experience a whole new part of local Louisiana culture.

Bordering Lake Charles are pristine wetlands for you to explore and you can also take to the lake and enjoy a boat trip on its waters.

The city is also home to the largest Mardi Gras Museum in the world which is sure to interest and astound any visitor with the bright costumes and floats on display.

15 Best Day Trips from New Orleans:

  • A Day Cruise on the Mississippi River
  • The Louisiana Bayous
  • The Great River Road
  • INFINITY Science Visitor’s Center
  • Global Wildlife Center
  • Baton Rouge
  • Mississippi’s Coast
  • Atchafalaya National Heritage Area
  • Plaquemines Parish
  • De Soto National Forest
  • Mobile
  • Saint Bernard Parish
  • Abita Springs
  • Lafayette
  • Lake Charles