15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Louisiana
Author Lana Law has traveled around Louisiana and always enjoys a stop in New Orleans.
Even the name Louisiana evokes a feeling of sultry summer nights with cicadas chirping nearby, and the laughter of friends and family over a table groaning with tasty Southern fare. This a state where time slows down, and life is more about living than doing.
One of the best places to visit Louisiana's tourist attractions and soak up a bit of Creole culture is in New Orleans. The French Quarter celebrates the state's history and is a great place to get lost knowing that no matter where you turn, a great meal and a good time is waiting. World-famous Mardi Gras brings out the fun in people as they dress up and parade through the streets.
Just down the road is the state capital of Baton Rouge. State capitals can sometimes be stuffy places, but not Baton Rouge. This city casts that reputation aside and proudly celebrates all that it has to offer, including a capitol building with a resident ghost named Sarah.
Outdoor-minded travelers will want to stop in at Lake Charles and soak up the natural beauty and perhaps stop at one of the state's best beaches.
After you've given the cities their due, head out of town. Visit the bayous and swamplands with their ghostly silent waters inhabited by things that may like to eat you. Less adventurous visitors may find a tour through a plantation more to their liking.
Plan your visit with our list of the top attractions in Louisiana.
1. New Orleans' French Quarter
The French Quarter is New Orleans' oldest and most famous neighborhood. Its beautiful buildings date back as far as 300 years, many with wrought iron balconies that extend over the tourist-filled sidewalks below. Visitors flock to the French Quarter for sightseeing, shopping, dining, and entertainment, and the area is packed during the annual Mardis Gras celebrations.
The most popular place to visit in the French Quarter is Bourbon Street, which is alive year-round with throngs of tourists and live music. North Rampart Street is less crowded but has many historic buildings and good restaurants, while Decatur Street is a popular hangout for hipsters. Jazz clubs line the pedestrian-friendly Royal Street, which is also known for its antique shops and art galleries.
Louis Armstrong Park is another popular tourist attraction, home to the historic Congo Square, where the city's African-American community once socialized before gaining freedom. The park covers 31 acres and includes trails, fountains, and a huge statue of jazz legend Louis Armstrong.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Resorts in New Orleans, LA
2. National WWII Museum
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans offers an in-depth look at every aspect of the conflict, from the ground war in Europe to the challenges of battle at sea and in the air. One of the most impactful exhibits is "Road to Berlin," where visitors have the opportunity to be immersed in the past while seeing fully recreated battle zones complete with the sights and sounds.
Other exhibits include an exploration of the obstacles overcome by the Seabees and Merchant Marines in supporting the troops, a look at how vital support from the home front was to the effort, and details about the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
The museum's displays employ a variety of media and interactive technology that bring history to life. Exhibits are also full of personal stories and photos, as well as a large collection of artifacts, including soldiers' personal items and even a shark-faced P-40 Warhawk.
The museum added a new attraction in November 2022 titled Expressions of America. Taking place most evenings on the Col. Battle Barksdale Parade Ground, this immersive sound and light show is designed to take you back to the war years of the early 1940s.
The show starts in the BB's Stage Door Canteen, where live performances take place. Eventually the show moves outdoors for the main show. Expressions of America is a separate attraction from the regular admission to the museum and an additional fee is charged.
Address: 945 Magazine Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
3. Mardi Gras
The biggest event on Louisiana's annual calendar is the Mardi Gras celebration that takes place in New Orleans. This colorful event is a huge undertaking with a parade, balls, and street celebrations like none other. Mardis Gras is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, but celebrations begin on the weekend leading up to Tuesday.
The event draws huge crowds who come to join in the celebrations and watch more than 1,000 floats go by on dozens of parade routes. To see the floats up close, tourists can visit Mardis Gras World, where you can watch artists and craftsmen build them. Nearly half of the celebration's floats, costumes, and props are created in this workshop.
If you're coming for Mardi Gras, plan ahead. Check the events calendar and be sure to book a hotel well in advance.
4. Melrose Plantation
The Melrose Plantation in Natchitoches was first known as Yucca Plantation when it belonged to Marie Thérèse and Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer, freed slaves. Yucca House, found on the grounds, was built in the 1790s. The Big House is a West Indies Creole plantation house with early Greek Revival details.
At the turn of the century, Melrose became the home of John Hampton Henry and his wife Camie, a patron of the arts. Mrs Henry enlarged the garden and preserved the buildings. Many writers and artists were guests at Melrose over the years.
Address: 3533 Hwy 119, Melrose, Louisiana
5. Old State Capitol
The Gothic-Revival-style Old State Capitol makes a dramatic impression on visitors passing by and is equally impressive on the inside. Two huge towers flank the main entrance, and the roof is crenellated. The building, which resembles an old castle, is set on a hill overlooking the Mississippi River in downtown Baton Rouge.
This historic landmark building now houses a political history museum, which includes artifacts, documents, and interactive exhibits that explore the state's long history.
Visitors can also learn about the building's history and significance in the "Ghost of the Castle" presentation, a 4-D experience that is hosted by the apparition of Sarah Morgan.
Keep your wallet in your pocket, admission is free.
Address: 100 North Blvd, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Baton Rouge
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Baton Rouge
6. State Capitol Building
If you've toured the Old State Capitol Building, it's definitely worthwhile touring the current State Capitol Building. Located just under a mile north, this incredible example of Art Deco architecture is, at 460 feet tall, the tallest state capitol in the United States.
Take the elevator up 350 feet to the 27th floor, where you'll find the Observation Deck. It's from this elevated perch that you'll be able to appreciate how flat and wet Louisiana truly is. For a more detailed understanding of the building, consider booking a guided tour. Admission is free.
Address: 900 North Third Street Baton Rouge, Louisiana
7. Swamp Tours
Louisiana is famous for its bayous and swamps, and fortunately you don't need to venture far from New Orleans to get into the beating heart of bayou country. In this unique environment, you'll see moss-covered trees; extensive swamplands; and an assortment of wildlife, including alligators, wild boar, wading birds, and snakes.
Tours are easily arranged, and one of the best is the New Orleans Swamp and Bayou Boat Tour with Transportation. This two-hour boat tour is led by a knowledgeable and charismatic guide who will amuse you with stories of the Honey Island Swamp and point out the various critters, large, small, and extra large, living here. The tour also stops at a Cajun Village, accessible only by water, where you can learn about their unique culture.
8. Laura Plantation
The Laura Plantation in Vacherie has been open to the public since 1994, allowing visitors to tour the 1805 building and property that was a sugarcane plantation for 180 years. The home contains original period furniture, as well as exhibits highlighting the memoirs of Laura Locoul.
The most remarkable feature of the plantation, however, is its large exhibit dedicated to the lives and personal stories of those who were enslaved on the farm. The exhibit explores the complex relationships between the owners and the slaves, as well as various aspects of daily life, form health to religion.
Collections include rare photos and documents that shed light on all-but-forgotten African-Americans who lived and worked on this Creole farm, as well as other slaves in the state. Tours run every 40 minutes all day long, beginning at 10am.
Address: 2247 Hwy 18, Vacherie, Louisiana
Vermilionville, in Lafayette, exhibits the traditions and heritage of the Acadian settlers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At this living history museum, costumed craftspeople and historians demonstrate skills and folk crafts that have been preserved and handed down from previous generations.
Artisans can be found throughout the 23-acre site, which is home to restored original Acadian homes and authentic buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. The property also includes exhibits that are featured on a rotating basis and explore the lives of Louisiana's indigenous peoples.
The struggle to maintain the Acadian culture and language, and a look at black history from early slavery to the civil rights movement are also topics that are covered. Other exhibits include a fascinating look at the differences in Mardi Gras traditions in cities versus rural areas.
Count on an hour and a half to fully explore this interesting site. Note that the museum is closed on Mondays, and the last admission throughout the week is at 3pm.
Address: 300 Fisher Road, Lafayette, Louisiana
10. Spend a Day at the Beach in Louisiana
Louisiana has a surprisingly good selection of beaches, and with the state's reputation as a steamy, hot place in the summer, you may be making a beeline for one in short order.
One of the best places to visit the beach in Louisiana is Holly Beach, colloquially referred to as the "Cajun Riviera." Located in the southwest corner of the state, the beach here is long, flat, and wide with golden sands. The Gulf of Mexico waters get delightfully warm in the summer, and the shallow water is ideal for children.
Just a couple of hours south of New Orleans is another popular beach destination, Grand Isle. This barrier island extends into the Gulf of Mexico, and the beach here stretches for almost the entire length. Unfortunately, the Grand Isle State Park received significant damage from Hurricane Ida and has not reopened. However, the damage to the beaches in the town of Grand Isle have been repaired and are fully open.
At the far end of Grand Isle is Port Fourchon. The beach here is a bit different, with larger waves popular with surfers.
Even closer to New Orleans is Lake Ponchartrain and Fontainbleau State Park. This beach has flat, shallow water and a wonderful sandy shoreline. Off the beach is a water playground for the kids, showers, picnic tables, and restrooms. Hurricane Ida caused significant damage to the park, but it has since reopened fully, the only exception being the camping cabins, which remain closed until further notice.
11. Sci-Port Discovery Center
Sci-Port Discovery Center is a science and entertainment center featuring science, math, and space exhibits; an IMAX Dome Theatre; and the Sawyer SPACE DOME Planetarium. Located in Shreveport, the center is targeted mainly towards youth, and is a popular family attraction with a strong educational component, featuring hundreds of interactive exhibits.
The center's newest addition is the Power of Play Children's Museum, which encourages children to learn through hands-on play.
Address: 820 Clyde Fant Parkway, Shreveport, Louisiana
12. USS Kidd and Veterans Memorial
Visitors can climb aboard a decommissioned destroyer at the USS Kidd and Veterans Memorial, located in Baton Rouge. The ship was active during WWII and has since been used in films and TV productions.
Information on the ship, as well as nautical items and memorabilia, are on display in the museum. The USS Kidd is named for Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, Sr., who was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In addition to the ship, the memorial also has an observation tower and a museum. Inside the museum are historical artifacts and a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Children and adults alike will be fascinated by the model ship collection.
For a truly unique experience, gather 20 of your closest friends and camp out overnight on the ship. You'll have the complete run of the place and can set your own schedule.
Address: 305 South River Road, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
13. Rosedown Plantation and Gardens
The Rosedown Plantation is a State Historic Site known for being one of the most well preserved domestic Southern plantations. It offers a look at the lifestyles, both of plantation owners and slaves, during the mid 19th century in the South.
On the grounds are camellias, azaleas, and rare shrubs and trees. The Rosedown Gardens were created by the owners, Daniel and Martha Turnbull, in 1835. These incredible gardens span 28 acres and are one of the finest in the entire state.
The Turnbull family occupied the mansion for more than 120 years.
Address: 12501 Hwy 10, St. Francisville, Louisiana
14. St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church
St. Martin Catholic Church was established in 1765 in St. Martinville. The present structure was built in 1836 and has an 1883 replica of the Grotto of Lourdes. In the left wing of the church is the grave of Emmeline Labiche, thought to be the heroine of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem Evangeline. A statue of Evangeline stands in the churchyard.
Of note is a beautiful statue of Saint Martin de Tours dating from 1931. The St. Martin Catholic Church is the third oldest church in Louisiana.
Address: 133 South Main Street, St. Martinville, Louisiana
15. DeQuincy Railroad Museum
The DeQuincy Railroad is located in the old Kansas City Southern Depot, which was built in 1923. This grand old building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, now contains a variety of railroad equipment and related memorabilia.
Exhibits also include an impressive collection of museum quality Gauge 1 model steam and diesel engines created by master model craftsmen. Outside, visitors can admire the museum's 1913 steam locomotive and a 1947 Pullman passenger coach, as well as two cabooses.
This is also a great spot for train lovers to simply relax and watch the trains go by from the train-watching platform or any of the several viewing areas.
Address: 400 Lake Charles Avenue, DeQuincy, Louisiana