19 Fun & Easy Day Trips from New Orleans 

Southern Louisiana is a special region of breathtaking natural beauty and rich multicultural heritage. And what better starting point for exploring this diverse region than New Orleans, one of the most iconic American cities? From New Orleans, there are countless day trips available that will allow you to immerse yourself in the unique landscapes, history, and culture of southern Louisiana. From rolling hills and cypress swamps to charming small towns and historic plantations, the region is filled with exciting and unexpected destinations that are just a short drive from the city.

New Orleans Day Trip Ideas 

1. Jean Lafitte National Park

Jean Lafitte National Park is both a nature reserve and a cultural resource center with six different sites scattered across southern Louisiana: two in the French Quarter and four outside the city. Barataria Preserve is 27 minutes from New Orleans, with alligators, snakes, turtles, and tons of hiking trails spanning over 26,000 acres of wetlands. If you drive an hour to the east, you can explore the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center, where you can learn about Cajun culture through exhibits, musical performances, and boat tours of the Bayou Lafourche. There are two Acadian Culture Centers, one in Lafayette and one in Eunice, which explore the Acadian culture through cooking and craft demonstrations, live music performances, and dancing! 

  • Location: Six different sites
  • Cost: Free but boat tours and additional programs at extra cost

2. Tubing at Bogue Chitto State Park 

Bart Everson

The Bogue Chitto River in Bogue Chitto State Park is the perfect place to go tubing in Louisiana and a relaxing activity to break up your busy New Orleans itinerary. Starting off at the check-in station where you buy your ticket, you’ll be shuttled upriver for a 2-hour to 4-hour float back down. You can bring a cooler, but you’ll have to rent a cooler tube to float with you. All tubers must get into the water before 2:00 pm to ensure a safe return by 6:00 pm. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, waterproof containers for cell phones and cameras, and drinks to stay hydrated. Also, make sure to tell staff if it’s your birthday (with a valid ID), and you can go tubing for free!

  • Location: Franklinton, LA
  • Distance from New Orleans: 1 hr 22 min
  • Cost: $3 admission to park; Tubing $25 (cash) or $28 (card) per tube; $5 cooler tube 

3. Lafayette, Louisiana

Lafayette is a cultural gem in Southern Louisiana and the heart of Cajun Country. It’s not nearly as busy as New Orleans, but it has deep multicultural Cajun and Creole roots and world-class festivals like Festival International de Louisiane–the largest outdoor Francophone event worldwide! Downtown you’ll find some of the most exciting things to do in Lafayette: free music in the streets, art galleries, shopping, and delicious cuisines from eateries like the Spoonbill Watering Hole & Restaurant or local barbecue at Johnson’s Boucaniere. History buffs can explore the city’s culture through the Acadian Cultural Center and the Acadian Center for the Arts. To experience authentic Zydeco, a music genre created by French Creole speakers in the South, visit Blue Moon Saloon or Feed & Seed.

4. Clark Creek Nature Area (Tunica Falls)

Clark Creek Nature Area (or Tunica Falls) spans 700 acres in southwestern Mississippi, with at least 50 waterfalls to explore. These beauties cascade anywhere from 10 to 30 feet, and they are quite a rare site for an area otherwise full of low-lying swamps. You start at the self-payment kiosk, inserting your fee, before choosing from several trails to hike. While few of the ascends are extremely difficult, there are several stair sections to climb on the steeper parts of the trails. One of the most popular hikes is the Clark Creek Waterfalls Trail, a 3-mile out-and-back trip that takes about 1.5 hours. You may find this trail gets a little busy, but there is plenty of space to spread out in the park to avoid crowds. NOTE: Tunica Falls is separate from Tunica Hills, another nature park in Louisiana, about 1.5 hours away, which could be worth adding to your New Orleans day trip. 

  • Location: Woodville, Mississippi
  • Distance: 2 hr 13 mins from New Orleans
  • Cost: $2 per person, cash only

5. Abita Mystery House + Museum & Brewery 

There are 1,000s of objects to explore at the Abita Mystery House, located right on the roadside in Abita Springs and considered the ‘most provocative museum in Lousiana.’ Visitors will explore a little Southern town with automated push buttons to activate animated displays. You’ll find a collection of memorabilia, odd fixtures, and old arcade machines you can actually play. When you’re done, head into town to visit the Abita Brew Pub for a bite to eat and unique craft beer, with flavors such as Juciyfruit IPA and French Toast stout! The town of Abita Springs is quaint and fun to explore, with a rich Native American history dating back 2,200 years and some wonderful bike trails.

  • Location: Abita Spring, LA
  • Distance: 5 hours 35 minutes from New Orleans
  • Cost: Museum $5 for all over 5 years old

6. Baton Rouge 

Directly between Lafayette and New Orleans sits Baton Rouge, the capital of Louisiana, with a colorful history from its decades of being occupied by different regions and countries. French explorers named the city “the Red Stick City” to depict a melting pot of Cajun and Creole cultures that all came together in one area. You can visit the largest state capital in the country here, with the Louisiana State Capital soaring 450 feet tall! Some of the best things to do in Baton Rouge are to explore the Old State Capital Building, with a stunning stained glass dome, and the Capitol Park Museum. You can also take a tour of the Red Stick Farmers Market or visit the USS Kidd, a famous naval ship from WWII. 

7. Avery Island + TABASCO® Museum 

For over 5 generations, Avery Island has been the pepper sauce mecha of the south and is the birthplace of the world-famous TABASCO® plantation and TABASCO® Museum. Avery Island is a natural wildlife sanctuary that sits on top of a salt dome allowing red peppers to thrive. You can tour the museum to learn about the production process and eat at the restaurant 1868! to sample authentic Cajun dishes and Southern comfort food. Don’t forget to check out the snowy egrets at bird city, which was built to protect the species when they were endangered in 1895. Ride services are unavailable for pick-up from Avery Island, but taxi service is available Monday to Saturday through John Allen’s Taxi Cab Service (337-940-1139). 

8. Lake Martin 

Lake Martin is a hot spot for swamp tours in Breaux Bridge and for its abundance of local wildlife with the Cypress Island Nature Preserve at the southern base. Visitors can spot several species of colonial nesting water birds, including the Great Blue Heron, Anhinga, Snowy Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, and more. Lake Martin is also a nesting ground for alligators, which can be a little difficult to spot at first with their camouflage but keep looking, and you will see them! The area is easy to explore by foot, or you can rent a canoe or kayak. If you stay until sunset, you’ll get an incredible view of the Southern sky. 

  • Location: St. Martin Parish, LA
  • Distance: 2 hr 7 min from New Orleans

9. Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge

Discover the Beauty of the Atchafalaya Basin: As the largest river swamp in the US, the Atchafalaya Basin is surrounded by over 1 million acres of wetlands and forests, making it larger than the Florida Everglades. It’s a haven for 65 species of reptiles and amphibians, 250 bird species, and the largest bald eagle nesting area in the region. The abundant wildlife in the basin attracts fishermen to harvest nearly 22 million pounds of crawfish every year!

Explore the Basin with McGee’s Landing: Take a swamp or airboat tour of the Atchafalaya Basin with McGee’s Landing. Learn about the colorful history of one of the country’s most notorious swamps while taking in the breathtaking scenery and diverse wildlife. For a less intense experience, the slow boat tour is recommended, especially if it’s below 70 degrees. Your tour guide will share information about the local wildlife and connect with you to chat about life in the area.

Note: The Atchafalaya Basin should not be confused with the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge, which is North America’s largest river swamp extending beyond Cajun Country into the Mississippi, with over 15,000 acres of swampland, bayous, forests, and more

  • Location: Lottie, LA 
  • Distance: 2 hours from New Orleans

10. Bay St. Louis & Pass Christian 

Two cities perfect for adding to your New Orleans day trip itinerary are Bay St. Louis and Pass Chrisitan, just a bridge apart. Bay St. Louis is an adorable seaside city with white sand beaches that has been named one of the best places to live in Mississippi and is huge for charter fishing. The downtown area is full of antique stores, art galleries, a casino hotel, local shops, and a number of historic (and haunted) sites to visit, including the Gulf Coast Freedom Trail. Pass Christian is a beautiful city nestled into the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi Sound with a diverse and vibrant community, parks, two harbors, and a thriving seafood industry. You can explore ancient Native American settlements and historical sites that were homes to many famous American writers and jazz musicians–most of the town is a designated National Historic District! 

11. Tickfaw State Park 

Tickfaw State Park has only been open since 1999, but it quickly became one of Louisiana’s most popular parks for its recreational activities, natural setting, and easy commute to New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Visitors can explore over a mile of wooden boardwalk in the park through bottomland hardwood and pine forests, cypress-tupelo swamps, and the Tickfaw River. Interconnecting trails for skating, biking, and walking are also available, plus boat launches for canoes and kayaks. For the kids, a Water Playground splash park is open to cool off in the heat. Vacation cabin rentals are available for those who enjoy night hiking and listening to the unique sound of Southern wildlife at night. 

  • Location: Springfield, LA 
  • Distance from New Orleans: 1 hr 22 min
  • Cost: $3, free for Seniors and Children 3 and under

12. Whitney Plantation

If you’re looking for a historically rich experience to learn about the real-life history of slavery in the South, Whitney Plantation is the perfect opportunity. Whitney Plantation was first operated as a modest farm in 1721 but quickly transformed into a thriving plantation that enslaved hundreds of people over time. The plantation today serves as an educational institute to spread awareness about the trials and tribulations enslaved Africans experienced on Southern plantations. It takes about two hours to explore all the plantation has to offer, from the historical buildings to the exhibits to the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the stories of the individuals who lived and worked here. You can also book a guided tour with round-trip transportation here, or this tour, which is Black-woman-owned!

  • Location: Wallace, LA
  • Distance: 50 minutes from New Orleans

13. Ponchatoula

Ponchatoula is an antique lover’s dream, nicknamed “America’s Antique City,” and an easy stop after going to Whitney Plantation (listed above). This is the home to the Electric Train Depot, the largest full-service train store in the state, with 4,000 square feet of trains chugging around the store. Downtown, you can antique shop at the Ponchatoula Country Market, grab some Mexican cuisine at La Carreta, or see a live art performance at the Swamplight Theater. Despite being a small town, Ponchatoula is also named the “Strawberry Capital of the World” and has an amazing Strawberry Festival in the spring. Right outside the town is the Joyce Wildlife Management Area, with opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, fishing, and enjoying the beauty of Louisiana wildlife. 

  • Location: Ponchatoula, LA
  • Distance: 50 minutes from New Orleans

14. Swamp Tours

Booking a swamp tour in Louisiana is a must for first-time visitors to New Orleans and is well worth the experience. There are two types of tours: airboats and cruise boast. Both will take you deep into the Louisiana bayous and wetlands in search of alligators, snakes, turtles, and the ancient cypress forests. Airboat tours will go faster and accommodate fewer people, so they are perfect for smaller groups and couples who want a variety of speeds and cruising. Cruise boats will slowly explore the swamps, focusing more on the legends and stories of the swamplands and accommodating large groups. One of our favorites is Honey Island Swamp Tours (one of the country’s least altered swamps), offering covered and uncovered rides, hotel pick-ups, and swamp legends of Big Foot and pirates. 

  • Location: all throughout Lousiana 

15. Grand Isle State Park 

This beautiful state park serves as a breakwater between a network of inland channels and the Gulf. Grand Isle State Park is connected to lagoons and bayou tributaries flowing from the Mississippi River, which brings a host of fish (speckled trout and redfish), birds, and crustaceans to explore. Bring gear for swimming, binoculars, fishing poles, and pails for crabbing. If you’d rather stay the night, you can book a reservation at the campground or a glamping experience through Tentrr.com, which allows you to just show up to a pre-set-up campsite ready to go. Right outside the park is the town of Grand Isle, a little southern oasis tucked into the shoreline with several family-owned shops and amazing seafood restaurants. 

  • Location: Jefferson Parish, Louisiana 
  • Distance: 2 hours from New Orleans
  • Cost: $3 per person

16. Mississippi River Cruise 

The Mississippi River is the third-largest river basin in the world, measuring 11 miles across at its widest point! Its force has led to the birth of the saw and flour milling, and its span of over 10 states made it an ideal route for transportation, explorations, trading, and so much more. Exploring this majestic wonder on the Paddlewheeler Creole Queen is one of the best things to do in New Orleans. This historical boat ride will allow you to sail down the banks and listen to a narrator tell stories of the river, including the history of the Battle of New Orleans. This Mississippi river tour includes a 2-hour and 30-minute cruise with food and drinks. Make sure to check out the Chalmette Battlefield right near the boat’s departure (one of the six Jean Lafitte National Historical sites) before or after your trip. 

  • Location: New Orleans, LA
  • Cost: $39 per person

17. Go Ziplining 

Adventure seekers can look closer at Lousiana swamplands by trying a zipline course that will take you deep into the wetlands and give you some fantastic views. Maurepas Swamp is a popular location for ziplining, with over 61,633 acres of flooded cypress-tupelo swamps and wetlands to explore. You can see a ton of wildlife here, such as armadillos, alligators, turtles, egrets, and many other types of birds. This New Orleans zipline tour lasts about 1 hr and 15 minutes with five zip lines and a suspension bridge and is great for beginners (if you’re staying at one of the Boutique Hotels in New Orleans, you can schedule a pick up for an additional fee). Make sure you wear closed-toe shoes and sunscreen, and pack some bug spray!

  • Location: Laplace, LA
  • Distance: 32 minutes from New Orleans
  • Cost: $89 per person

18. Gulf Shores 

About 3 hours outside of New Orleans are some of the most incredible white sand beaches in Gulf Shores, Alabama. You’ll want to leave early for this day trip to get the most out of your beach day and plan which of the 8 beach accesses you want to park at beforehand if you can. Gulf Shores Main Public Beach is lively with volleyball games, beach bars, open-air pavilions, and the Town Green–a large grassy area for recreation and picnicking. Outside the beach, there are tons of attractions, including the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, mini golf, gocarts, the Gulf State Park, and more. For a unique view of the Gulf, try a helicopter tour

19. Ship Island 

Ship Island is one of the best day trips on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, about an hour’s drive from New Orleans, with no traffic. You ride to the island by ferry from the Gulfport Marina (March to October) and may get to spot some dolphins on your trip. Fort Massachusetts, a pre-Civil War military fort, is the first stop from the ferry, featuring a 50,000-pound canyon! You can bring your own beach gear and food/drinks (no glass bottles), or there’s a surf shop with beach gear, snacks, and $15 umbrella and chair rentals. Other favorite activities on the island include shelling, kite-flying, hiking, and bird watching for shore birds that nest on the coast. (Note: Please respect the natural wildlife and pick up all waste you bring in.)

  • Location: Ship Island, Mississippi
  • Distance from New Orleans: 1 hr 20 mins
  • Cost: Ferry Ride (Adult= $41, Child= $35, Senior & Military= $39, 2 and under free)

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