This summer, when you plan that family vacation to one of our beautiful National Parks, pack up and head to Louisiana! Yes, that’s right, Louisiana is home to three National Historic Parks and a National Monument featuring prehistoric works. Many of these are within an easy drive of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, meaning those of you who don’t want to rough it can see the sites while staying in luxury. Not a bad combination.
The largest of these parks is the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, with six different sites across Southeast Louisiana. The Baratarie Preserve in Marrero (less than 30 minutes’ drive from downtown New Orleans) is the most well-known and rustic site, featuring 20,000 acres of swamp, forests, and freshwater marsh. Nine of miles of boardwalk let you explore at your leisure, but be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and mosquito repellent.
The Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette depicts the life of Acadian people who settled this area in the late 1700’s. Lafayette is located 2 1/2 hours from New Orleans, and the city offers many wonderful surprises to visitors who take the drive. One hour up the road is Eunice, where you can find the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center; every Saturday night the Liberty Theater presents a live radio broadcast in Cajun French. Laissez les Bon Temps roulez!
Heading south from New Orleans, you can explore the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux. Here you will learn about the coastal waters that are home to 90% of the Gulf’s native species. History buffs will enjoy the Chalmette Battlefield, site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. Park headquarters are located in the French Quarter Visitor Center, where Rangers are available to take you on a historic New Orleans walking tours. All these sites are handicapped accessible
Looking to stay off the beaten path? Head to North Louisiana and visit the Cane River Creole National Park in Natchitoches. Here you’ll find 67 historic structures featuring plantation life at its best and worst-special tours focusing on history, architecture, or slavery can be arranged. If you like the beaten path just fine, you might want to visit the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park. This celebration of the birthplace of Jazz features musical events, demonstrations, lectures, and walking tours. Music lovers, don’t miss this!
Poverty Point, Louisiana is located near the Arkansas border. It is home to the Poverty Point National Monument, which preserves the works of a culture that flourished between the first and second millennia B.C.; here you can find ancient Native American earthworks dating back to a time before Christ. Visit the archaeological laboratory, climb the observation tower, have a picnic lunch and follow the hiking trails of this unique national treasure.
While other national parks are more well-known, Louisiana’s national treasures offer something for every visitor. Be sure to include these national parks on your list of places to go.