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9 Perfect Day Trips From New Orleans

By Adam Karlin, Lonely Planet Writer
January 12, 2022
Welcome to Cajun Country Sign
Cheri Alguire/Dreamstime
Sometimes the best way to truly love New Orleans is to leave it—at least for a day.

Whether you're fleeing from the brutally hot and humid weather or simply looking for a respite from the Big Easy's riot of colors and sounds, here are nine of the best day trips from New Orleans.

1. Barataria Preserve

There are all sorts of swamp tours that operate out of New Orleans – we're even recommending one below – but one of our favorite ways to experience the south Louisiana wetlands is a visit to Barataria Preserve, a national park located about 25 miles south of New Orleans. Easy trails – dirt and boardwalk – thread through the swamps, and you may be able to spot local alligators, although wildlife viewing is hindered by prolific invasive water flora. On your way back to New Orleans, make sure to pop into the superlatively good Tan Dinh for some excellent Vietnamese food.

Getting there: Take US-90 and cross the Crescent City Connection Bridge over the Mississippi to the New Orleans West Bank. From US-90, take exit 4B to access Barataria Blvd which takes you to the preserve.

2. Whitney Plantation

A cluster of restored mansions sit roughly 50 miles west of New Orleans, with the Whitney being the most interesting of the bunch to visit. While most plantations now pay lip service to the history of slavery, the Whitney is a museum dedicated to unpacking the grim institution. Through a series of thoughtful exhibits, the Whitney demonstrates how the South did not just benefit from but was built upon chattel slavery.

Getting there: The most direct route is I-10 West for about 40 miles, then detour south on LA-641 for another 10 miles.

3. Lafayette

Cajun country is as fabled a destination as New Orleans, a land of low prairies, deep swamps, good music and delicious meals that you may never want to let your cardiologist know about. ‘Acadiana’, as the area is known, consists of many small towns scattered over southwest Louisiana. The capital of the region is Lafayette, a friendly small city located 140 miles west of New Orleans, packed with great food and excellent live music venues – don’t leave without stopping in for a night of dancing at the Blue Moon.

Getting there: Take I-10 West for about 2-and-a-half hours. Part of the route goes through the preserved Atchafalaya Basin, one of the state’s remaining wild wetlands.

4. St Francisville

When the furnace of New Orleans gets too hot or you just need some small-town arts atmosphere, head north about 120 miles to St Francisville, a tidy bohemian retreat set amidst hills and forests. A glut of historical buildings, cute cafes, antique-and-artsy shopping and hiking trails through the woods makes for a perfect break from New Orleans.

Getting there: Take I-10 West up through the state capital to Baton Rouge, take exit 8C to get on I-110 North. From there, take US-61 North to St Francisville.

5. Mississippi Gulf Shore

Despite being totally tied to the water, there’s no real beach access in New Orleans, barring a few stretches of not very friendly sand on Lake Pontchartrain. While the beaches of Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island, AL are pretty lovely, they’re also a fair distance. Consider instead the decent sand, friendly restaurants and generally laid-back seashore vibe at Mississippi Gulf Coast towns like Bay St Louis and Gulfport. While this area can get inundated with day-trippers on hot weekends, you can still embark on a relatively quiet escape during the week.

Getting there: It depends on where you’re going, but this advice applies from Biloxi to the Alabama border – just head east on I-10.

6. North Shore

The north shore of Lake Pontchartrain is made up of several bedroom suburbs of New Orleans and radiates a more sedate vibe than what you’ll find in the Crescent City. Attractions include sampling some brews at the Abita Brewery or exploring the surreal madness of theAbita Mystery House, one of the state’s great roadside attractions. Need a place to stay? Cabins at Fontainebleau State Park are raised on stilts over Lake Pontchartrain and make for a supremely relaxing, breezy escape.

Getting there: To cross Lake Pontchartrain, take I-10 West and exit to cross the Pontchartrain Causeway, one of the largest bridges in the world.

7. New Iberia

The hazy, humid town of New Iberia sits about 140 miles west of New Orleans. On the sleepy main streets you’ll find the well-preserved plantation of Shadows on the Teche, and just outside of town is the area’s main attraction: Avery Island (not really much of island), home of a huge salt mine and the headquarters of Tabasco, the iconic hot sauce maker. You can take a tour of the Tabasco Factory, and afterward amuse yourself by exploring the nearby Jungle Gardens, a sort of hybrid botanical retreat, wildlife preserve, aviary and a slice of historical trivia.

Getting there: US-90 West gets you almost 100 percent into New Iberia, and you’ll get to see some low-lying Louisiana prairie and farmland on the way.

8. Paddling Into the Bayou

While it’s great fun to trod a boardwalk at Barataria or watch an old fisherman point out gators on a motorized boat tour, there’s something utterly otherworldly about paddling the Louisiana swamps. It’s a strange, primal, beautiful experience; you are at once present in the midst of the bayou, yet also deeply aware that you are a visitor to this ecosystem, a fish out of water (or a human gliding across it, more accurately).

Louisiana Lost Land Tours, conducted by local environmental experts, give participants an excellent kayaking experience, as well as a solid grounding in the unique environmental issues confronting south Louisiana.

Getting there: Lost Lands will help you coordinate the launching point for your swamp adventure.

9. Baton Rouge

A lot of New Orleanians blow off Baton Rouge – named for a red stick used as a geographic marker by local Native Americans. This may be known as the state’s grey, faceless capital, yet it's also a sprawling town with some decent attractions. Football games at LSU are a non-stop display of pageantry and spectacle; it's a glimpse into the football-mad world of the American South where a tailgating party is a monumental sports moment. For a quieter experience, the Rural Life Museum is a window onto the state’s past.

Getting there: The ‘BR’ is an easy 80-mile trek northwest of New Orleans via I-10.

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Budget Travel Lists

Historic U.S. Homes: Our Top 8 Picks

You can read an author’s entire body of work, study a president’s legacy, or celebrate the achievements of a civil rights hero, but nothing gives you a true understanding of a famous figure like a visit to the place she or he lived. Their home is their sanctuary for creating their art, developing and carrying out their righteous mission, or simply experiencing life in a setting that influenced them. Here are a few historic homes that deliver a thorough education and, if you’re open to it, inspiration. 1. Harry S. Truman National Historic Site: Independence, Missouri From 1919, the year he married Bess Wallace, until his death in 1972, President Harry S. Truman lived in a simple Victorian home in, fittingly enough, Independence, Missouri. (During his eight-year residency on Pennsylvania Avenue, it was known as the ‘Summer White House’) A wander through this home delivers an intimate look at the life of the World War I veteran and 33rd American President. Like most presidential homes and memorials, this one is part of the National Parks Service and tours by park rangers happen regularly. The home is so loaded with period details, family heirlooms, personal objects and memorabilia that a guided tour is well worth it. 2. Susan B. Anthony House: Rochester, New York One of the cornerstones of American democracy – a woman’s right to vote – took root at a modest, pre-Civil War brick house in Rochester, New York, which is located about 90 minutes from Niagara Falls. Pioneering activist Susan B. Anthony turned her house into the headquarters of the suffrage movement, and when she wasn’t campaigning across the country, she was organizing from the parlor here, often with anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass and fellow women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Check out the third-floor attic, where she penned many political documents, and the second floor features a collection of memorabilia that tell the story of the suffrage movement. 3. John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site: Brookline, Massachusetts America’s 35th president was born and raised just outside of Boston, in the ritzy suburb of Brookline, and to this day, the unassuming home where he spent the first three years of his life stands as a monument. It’s a museum-like destination showcasing Kennedy family mementos and photographs. 4. Morris-Jumel Mansion: New York, New York George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton are just a few of the notables who dined in the Morris-Jumel Mansion, a country retreat built in 1765 on an elevated perch overlooking Manhattan in what is now the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Harlem. It was commissioned by Roger Morris, a colonel in the British Army, and his wife Mary. But in 1776 it was seized by the Continental Army and transformed into General Washington’s HQ. About 35 years later, it was purchased by wealthy businessman Stephen Jumel who pulled out all the stops to refurbish it. Known to be the oldest house in Manhattan, its period details have been carefully maintained, much to the joy of locals over time. (Duke Ellington once deemed it ‘the jewel in the crown of Sugar Hill.’) 5. Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum: Baltimore, Maryland The city of Baltimore pays tribute to its longtime resident Edgar Allan Poe in many ways, such as naming its football team the Ravens, in honor of his famous poem. A visit to Charm City can be a Poe-filled pilgrimage, what with Enoch Pratt Free Library’s original manuscripts and his grave at Westminster Hall and Burial Ground. Of course, the best way to learn about the American icon and his celebrated work is to visit the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum, a modest building where he lived for much of the 1930s with his teenage cousin/bride, Virginia, and her mother. His workroom sits at the top of a narrow and fittingly creaky staircase while the rest of the house, which became a National Historic Landmark in 1962, has exhibits on his life in Baltimore, his family and the poems and stories he penned. 6. Emily Dickinson Museum: Amherst, Massachusetts The tranquil woodsy landscape of Amherst Massachusetts, about 95 miles west of Boston, is the setting where Emily Dickinson penned her contemplative, radical verse. The Emily Dickinson Museum is set in two historic properties – the Evergreens, her brother and sister-in-law’s house, and the Homestead, a two-and-a-half-story brick house, where the famously reclusive Dickinson was born and spent most of her Victorian-era life writing countless poems, only ten of which were published – allegedly without her knowing – during her lifetime. Wander the Homestead for a look at her parlors, library, kitchen and maid’s quarters and check out ‘my Voice is alive,’ an interpretive exhibit about her early work. 7. Louis Armstrong House: Queens, New York The brick house on 103rd Street in the working-class neighborhood of Corona, Queens, doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside is a time capsule that tells the story of one of America’s most iconic musicians. Louis Armstrong, who grew up poor in New Orleans, lived out his retirement years with his wife, Lucille, in this gorgeously appointed home, which today stands as a tribute to the legend. The charming kitchen, the opulent bathroom and bedroom, the handsome wood-paneled office featuring original recording equipment, and the inviting living room, packed with souvenirs that Satchmo collected on his global travels, have all been maintained with attention to detail. 8. Eastman Museum: Rochester, New York Photography museums and galleries proliferate the planet, but the oldest in the world is in Rochester, New York at the estate of George Eastman, founder of the Eastman Kodak Company. A National Historic Landmark since 1966, the Eastman Museum is set on 10.5 picturesque acres and contains works from more than 14,000 photographers, including celebrated contemporary artists like Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman, the world’s largest collection of daguerreotypes, and vintage prints from luminaries like Ansel Adams. Eastman’s actual home contains more than 200,000 objects ranging from business and personal correspondences, including some with presidents, his own photos and scrapbooks, and an archive of Kodak advertisements. Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with Lonely Planet’s weekly newsletter.

Budget Travel Lists

8 Coolest Motels in America

Over the past few years, creative hoteliers have been taking rundown vintage motor lodges and sprucing them up with modern amenities without sacrificing any of the nostalgic charm. Here are a few of America's coolest motels where you can rest your head, retro-style. 1. Austin Motel: Austin, Texas Joanne’s Fine Foods, a classic 1950s-style diner, is the Austin Motel’srestaurant, and its throwback vibe captures the overall vibe of the super-hip property. Both fit perfectly into their setting, Austin’s super-hip South Congress neighborhood. Opened in 1938, the motel underwent a makeover in 2017 and now stands as a tribute to mid-century modern design and style. Each room features retro-esque radios and lamps, plus orange and yellow vinyl accents that complement the ultra-colorful, vibrant wallpaper. But the biggest draw is the kidney-shaped pool, a gathering spot for locals in the warm weather. 2. Beck’s Motor Lodge: San Francisco, California Rooms at this Castro district motel are no longer $5 per night, the rate charged when it opened in 1958, but parking is free, which is hard to come by in San Francisco and a big boon for road-trippers passing through. Beck’s Motor Lodge is perhaps the most historic on our list, what with its role in the gay rights scene in the 1960s. A 2017 makeover added sunburst décor, analog clocks, simple throwback furniture, and other details that enhance mid-century modern vibe. Contemporary amenities like flat-screen televisions were added, too. A few of the 58 rooms have access to the rooftop sundeck, a perfect perch for a timeless San Francisco activity: watching the fog roll by. 3. Vagabond Hotel: Miami, Florida Once you know that Sammy Davis Jr and Frank Sinatra hung out here back in the day, you’ll understand how important it was that this Miamihaunt’s snazzy 1950s-era vibe was preserved during a 2014 refurbishment. The works brought the hotel back from the brink of disrepair. The Vagabond Hotel’s revival is in sync with the design-centric MiMo Historic District in which it’s located. The sleek rooms feature Atomic Era-style geometric stenciling on the walls, groovy vintage lighting fixtures and custom-made furniture with pops of Miami-appropriate pink, turquoise, and muted yellow hues. 4. Modern Hotel & Bar: Boise, Idaho Because of the growing number of hipster business that have sprung up over the past few years – breweries, farm-to-table restaurants, artist galleries – Boise has developed a reputation as ‘Little Portland.’ As such, the Modern Hotel & Bar, an expansive low-rise building located about a ten-minute walk from the vibrant downtown, fits right in. It opened in 2007 in an overhauled Travelodge, an early lackluster motel franchise with all the hallmarks of a classic roadside accommodation, such as rooms that open onto an outdoor corridor. The rooms are decorated with mid-century modern furniture and retro-chic lighting. The stylish, laid-back restaurant/bar features creative dishes and classic cocktails. The most buzzed-about thing, however, is the turntable and collection of ’45s in the lobby bathroom. When the hotel opened, locals lined up to play DJ. 5. Big Texan: Amarillo, Texas The towering cowboy figure flanking the roadside sign for the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo is a dead giveaway of the adjacent Big Texas Motel’s kitschy throwback vibe. Not convinced? Just take a look at the motel’s façade, which looks like the set of a Western movie, and the Texas-shaped pool. Opened in 1960 and located on Route 66, just a few minutes from Rick Husband International Airport, the property’s rooms feature campy touches such as swinging saloon doors, old-timey wooden furniture and animal pelts, all of which add up to a theatrical Old West atmosphere. 6. Jupiter Hotel: Portland, Oregon Located in Portland’s fast-evolving Central Eastside neighborhood (known locally as Lower Burnside, or LoBu), Jupiter Hotel takes the log cabin design that’s inextricably linked to the Pacific Northwest’s woodsy landscape and gives it a jolt of cool, modern energy. Set in a low-slung 1964 motor lodge, which stretches out across several zig-zagging buildings, rooms open to an outdoor corridor. But the old-school look of the exterior belies the sleek rooms, which balance subdued minimalism with pop art vibrancy. The creative vibe that’s so characteristic of Portland extends beyond the rooms. The lobby doubles as a gallery for local artists, and the Doug Fir Lounge – a log-cabin-themed restaurant/bar and club next to the motel – features local beer, nightly concerts and a lively patio. If the creativity moves you, doodle your masterpiece on your room’s giant chalkboard before snapping it and tagging it #jupiterhotel. 7. Thunderbird Inn: Savannah, Georgia With its neon sign, blocks of color marking the exterior, and MoonPies and cans of RC Cola on the nightstand, the T-Bird Inn looks like something out of a Doris Day movie. When this downtown Savannahmotel, which sits on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1964, it lured travelers – including the Jackson 5 – with its ‘refrigerated’ rooms. Now, after a 2018 overhaul, it charms with warm popcorn on arrival, retro-chic rooms, full-on green initiatives, and complimentary Krispy Kreme donuts. Also, puppy parents will be happy to know that the hotel features an enclosed dog run and offers doggie bedding and treats. 8. Unscripted Durham: Durham, North Carolina Retrofitted into a 1960s motor lodge, the Unscripted Durham boasts a giddy mod sensibility with a vintage-style poolside lounge, mid-century modern furniture in the lobby and guestrooms, and wallpaper with colorful geometric patterns throughout. No modern, high-tech amenities are spared at the expense of a thoughtfully designed vintage look that makes you half-expect Don Draper to stroll through the lobby of this conveniently located downtown Durham property. There’s a smart flat-screen television and Bluetooth sound system in each room and high-tech equipment in the fitness center. Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with Lonely Planet’s weekly newsletter. Make sure you're ready for anything with travel insurance from our trusted partners.

Budget Travel Lists

Kentucky: Our 5 Favorite Things to Do

No one ever accused Kentucky of being boring. From the lively role it played in the Civil War to its rich history of bourbon-making to the all-American horseraces that bring throngs of fancy hat-sporting fans to the area each year, there’s plenty that draws people to the Bluegrass State, the 15th to join the Union. Here are a few things not to be missed when you plan a visit. 1. Hit the trail—the Kentucky Bourbon Trail When the Kentucky Bourbon Trail launched in 1999, it featured eight bourbon distilleries. Today it includes 17, six of which are in Louisville. In 2018, more than 1 million thirsty visitors explored the history of this iconic American industry. You can schedule a tour at each distillery, get a stamp on your “passport” when you leave, and if you hit them all, mail in you can exchange your passport for a t-shirt. Last year marked the unveiling of a visitors center at the Frazier History Museum in downtown Louisville. 2. Explore Horse Country When you think about major American sporting events, you think about the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA Finals. But none of those are associated with a single place—a single venue, in fact—like another major event: the Kentucky Derby. A glimpse into the lives of thoroughbreds is reason alone to visit Bluegrass State. Head to the horse farms in the Lexington area (AKA: “Horse Country”) where activities range from tours of the gorgeous farms, a riding lesson, and visiting the stables of Kentucky Derby champions. 3. Step back in Time America’s Civil War history runs wide and deep in Kentucky, and there are enough sites and monuments to events and people of the time to warrant a days-long road trip. The 36 attractions on Kentucky’s Civil War Heritage Trail include museums like the Underground Railroad Museum and the Women of the Civil War Museum; historic homes like Mary Todd Lincoln’s house and Henry Clay’s estate; as well as battlefields, state parks, cemeteries, and forts. 4. Soak Up Water Sports Rafting, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and just plain floating are just a few of the things to do in the 119 miles of Kentucky Wild Rivers. The nine rivers that fall under the designation are protected from construction and other man-made intrusions. Among the many, many places to explore the state’s waterways are Russell Fork River, a rafter’s delight that includes a gorgeous gorge and is rated Class IV through Class VI rapids, and the man-made Fish Trap Lake, a haven for boating, fishing, and hiking. Just be on the lookout for deer! 5. A New Take on an Ancient Landmark It seems that everywhere you travel these days, you can spot engaging public art and vibrant murals. But local artists lend unique character to their home turf in a variety of ways, and Chester Fryer in Munford, about 75 miles south of Louisville, that meant collecting nearly every large rock he could find within 1000 acres and recreating Stonehenge on his estate. What he didn’t use to build his masterpiece he employed in other projects around the property: the Garden of Gethsemane, Rock Park, and Rock Gardens. You can check out the structures from dusk to dawn daily, but note that it’s essentially in someone’s yard, so no touching or climbing allowed.

Budget Travel Lists

Northeast Wineries: 10 Vineyards That Are Changing the Wine Game

The Northeast region has been an up-and-coming wine area for some time and is finally getting the attention it deserves. With more vineyards opening and notable established wineries expanding from Vermont, Connecticut and New York down to New Jersey and Maryland, you may even call it the “East Coast Napa.” Your hardest decisions will be which vineyard to visit first and if you should order just one glass of wine or an entire flight. 1. Castello Di Borghese; Cutchogue, NY Soak up the history at Castello Di Borghese, the oldest Bordeaux vineyard on the North Fork of Long Island. The 100-acre farm is well known for its expansive collection of Bordeaux and gives history tours at the vineyard for guests to learn about the area and its rich past. The winery also draws a huge art crowd with a gallery in the tasting room that offers regular art shows featuring local artists. (castellodiborghese.com) 2. DiGrazia Vineyards; Brookfield, CT Want to learn about the winemaking process? DiGrazia Vineyards offers free tours of the organic vineyard by founder and original winemaker, Dr. Paul DiGrazia. >span class="s4"> Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy wines on their terrace. (digraziavineyards.com) 3. Channing Daughters; Bridgehampton, NY Tucked away in the picturesque East End in Bridgehampton, Channing Daughters is well known for having a wide array of whites, rosé, reds, orange or skin contact, pet nat and sparkling wine. The vineyard also features a sculpture garden that draws guests to roam through the vineyard and enjoy Walter Channing’s artwork, including a massive 40-foot rocket. (channingdaughters.com) 4. Shelburne Vineyard; Shelburne, VT Shelburne Vineyard started 35 years ago when Ken Albert leased three acres from Shelburne farms, believing that viticulture could be a success in Vermont. Winemaker Ethan Joseph now produces reds, whites, rosés, and even ice wines, which are dessert wines produced from grapes that have been frozen on the vine. Don’t miss out on Ethan’s other label, Lapetus, which focuses on natural resources and experimental wines of Vermont. (shelburnevineyard.com) 5. Wölffer Estate; Sagaponack, NY Established in 1987, Christian Wölffer started Wölffer Estates as a small operation; today that little dream has turned into the largest vineyard in the heart of the Hamptons. Wölffer has an expansive collection of delicious rosés, and has created a pink gin using their famed rosé as the gin base. The winery also has an outstanding summer program, including events like yoga in the vines, music, and special wine-paired chef dinners at the estate. (wolffer.com) 6. Unionville Vineyards; Ringoes, NJ While New Jersey’s nickname is the “Garden State,” when you think of New Jersey, a bustling wine region most likely doesn’t come to mind. But that is, in fact, changing very quickly. Unionville Vineyards sits on an 88-acre farm that was once the largest peach orchard in the U.S. They showcase single-vineyard bottlings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and have a growing portfolio dedicated to Rhône blends and varietals, which are not to be missed. (unionvillevineyards.com) 7. Wild Arc Farm; Pine Bush, NY The husband-and-wife team behind Wild Arc Farm left the Big Apple in 2016 to give their green thumbs a try in the Hudson River Valley in upstate New York. With little to no experience, they took the task to another level when they decided to farm biodynamic and permaculture-focused wines. This gave them the map to create world-class natural wines, a process that avoids using additives and filtration. The farm is opening a tasting room in 2019 and currently its wines can be purchased online and in restaurants, shops, and bars listed in the “Find” section of its website. (wildarcfarm.com) 8. Old Westminster Winery; New Windsor, MD It’s a true family affair at Old Westminster Winery in New Windsor, Maryland. Starting a vineyard was Jay and Virginia Baker’s dream. They planted their first vines in 2011 with their three children, who now fully run the winery. It was such a success that the family opened a massive tasting room in 2015, where they offer live music and local food trucks and have even put out a line of canned wine. Yes, that’s a thing now and you’re going to love it. (oldwestminster.com) 9. Liten Buffel; Middleport, NY Liten Buffel vineyard (meaning “little buffalo” in Swedish) keeps their natural winemaking process quite simple, with no filtration or additives. But the western New York winery’s natural wines are anything but just simple. Opening in 2017, its mission is straightforward: to make the best all-natural wine possible. Make an appointment at their tasting room to try their Pinot Noir or maybe a little Riesling? (litenbuffel.com) 10. Heart & Hands Winery; Union Springs, NY When you arrive at Heart & Hands Winery, you can count on a warm welcome from the vineyard’s mascot, Cailza, a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. The small boutique winery is a reflection of its name, with husband-and-wife team Tom and Susan Higgins committed to producing cool-climate wines that express the flavors of their Finger Lakes region. The winery’s handcrafted wines focus on Pinot Noir and Riesling, from which they create still and sparkling wines. (heartandhandswine.com)