25 Best Day Trips From New Orleans
New Orleans may be the ultimate destination with its unique mix of culture, music and architecture, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't explore what the rest of Louisiana and beyond has to offer.
Most of our day trips from New Orleans will take you around southern Louisiana, but some of the destinations will head to Mississippi and even as far as Alabama.
Our list has alligator-filled swamps and marshes, famous plantations along the Mississippi, historic cities and great beaches as well as the odd surprise option.
We've put together our list of the 25 best day trips from New Orleans in order of time it takes to get there.
Make sure you look further down the list - some of the best day trips like the plantations along the Great River Road are right at the end!
1. Steamboat Natchez
Tours start from New Orleans
If you are after a day trip from New Orleans that requires the least possible amount of effort and zero driving time, Steamboat Natchez may be the perfect option.
The tours for Steamboat Natchez start at the Toulouse Street Wharf just one block from Jackson Square in the French Quarter.
Your options for tours are two daily 2-hour tours during the day at 11.30 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. and a dinner cruise that sets off at 7 p.m. You have to make sure you get to the pier early as boarding happens half an hour before the cruise departs.
As you go up and down the Mississippi and see the city and the New Orleans port from the water, the Steamboat Stompers Jazz Band will play jazz and you can roam around the boat, buy gifts or get some lunch. On Sundays the Southern brunch menu is a definite upgrade if you're flexible with dates.
With the viewing much better from the parts of the boat that are outside, Steamboat Natchez is a considerably better option during good weather. You'll still be able to enjoy the sights, food and music in the winter, but the warm sunshine adds a lot to the experience!
2. Barataria Preserve, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park
25 minutes from New Orleans (15 miles)
If you like the idea of a swamp tour, but you don't want to spend a long day travelling to and from the swamp and then the few hours it'll take to get around, Barataria Preserve is less than half an hour from New Orleans.
Here you can walk along the trails through the vegetation and over water or take a ride in an airboat (one of those flat boats with a giant propeller on the back).
If the water is warm enough, you have a decent chance of seeing some alligators and they may even come up close to the boat, but even if you don't it's a great day out.
Barataria Preserve is not quite as spectacular as the marshland swamps further away and you'll be going up and down canal-like waterways instead of pushing through grass and pass cypress trees, but this is a great option for families - the kids will love the various sights on show along the way.
Remember that Jean Lafitte National Historic Park that the Preserve is part of has 6 different sites which are in completely different locations including the famous Chalmette Battlefield a few miles east of the French Quarter where the 1815 Battle of New Orleans took place.
If you're heading for Barataria Preserve, don't navigate to one of the other sites by mistake!
3. Explore the Northshore - Mandeville and Fontainebleau State Park
45 minutes from New Orleans (39 miles)
The Northshore is a very popular destination for the locals who want to get away from the city for the weekend.
Less than an hour away from New Orleans, it is the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The scenery is relaxing and peaceful - think huge live oak trees with moss hanging down, a bayou and some swamps.
You can go on a swamp tour here but the Atchafalaya Swamp (see #16 below) is a better option for that. The bayou is good for kayaking and paddle boarding through picture-perfect Louisiana wilderness.
With some great restaurants in Mandeville and a few local craft breweries, you may want to stay until the evening or even overnight!
If you do stay the night, the Abita Springs Mystery House (#6 below) is only a few miles further north so you can combine the two into a single trip out.
4. Ponchatoula, Louisiana
50 minutes from New Orleans (52 miles)
Ponchatoula is in the Tangipahoa Parish which is famous for agriculture. In fact, very unusually for the local area, the main focus of local farmers are strawberries.
Strawberries are such a big deal in Ponchatoula that there is an annual Strawberry Festival held in April complete with fairground rides, every kind of food that you can theoretically make with strawberries and amazing live music.
For those who want to see nature, just to the north of the city is Kliebert & Sons Gator Tours where you can come up and close to alligators, snakes and other animals - many of them rescued from previous owners where they lived in poor conditions.
South of Ponchatoula is the Joyce Wildlife Management Area - the swamps here offer tours and attract birdwatchers. For a more chilled option, take a stroll along the swamp boardwalk where signs will tell you about the local wildlife and point out things to look at.
If time is on your side, take the (more) scenic route back and follow Louisiana Highway 22 down to Sorrento before heading back to New Orleans. This part of the highway is known as the Southern Swamps Byway which will pass through a lot of swamps and highlight exactly how the Bayou State got its nickname.
5. John C. Stennis Space Center, Mississippi
50 minutes from New Orleans (50 miles)
The INFINITY Science Center is located at a NASA rocket engine building and testing facility just across the border from Louisiana in Mississippi.
It should take you just under an hour to get here from New Orleans - the Center is very easy to find just off the I-10. The cue to turn off is when you come across a giant Saturn V rocket with 5 enormous F-1 engines - pretty hard to miss!
The museum itself is alright, but not spectacular - there's some interactive displays, some NASA exhibits and a short movie you can watch about space exploration.
The main reason to come, however, is not the museum but the opportunity to go on a bus tour of the rocket testing facility where you can see the real NASA rocket engines being put through their paces. The size of the things is mind boggling and the tour is well worth the cost of the entry ticket!
6. Abita Springs, Louisiana
50 minutes from New Orleans (44 miles)
Abita Springs is the place to go if you want to spend a day visiting a sleepy town less than an hour away from New Orleans where the highlights include a wacky Mystery House and a Trailhead Museum with local folk art.
Located 20 minutes north of the Northshore area, start your visit by stopping by the Abita Springs Mystery House.
This is a museum full of random exhibits like a comb collection, a collection of antique barbed wire and Buford, the bassigator - a weird 22-foot long alligator - seabass hybrid creature made of plywood, fabric, craft paper and beach balls.
I told you it was weird!
If you are into bike rides, Abita Springs is on the Tammany Trace - a 31-mile bike trail that runs from Covington to Slidell. The trail that runs along a disused railway passes right through the middle of Abita Springs.
7. Spend a day fishing in the Biloxi Marsh
50 minutes from New Orleans (34 miles)
If you love fishing or have never caught a fish in your life, there are few better ways to spend a day than go on a fishing boat through the marshes, waterways, lakes and rivers found in the delta of the Mississippi.
The Biloxi Marsh sits along the edge of Lake Borgne and is a huge mix of connecting waterways with grass, trees and other swamp vegetation creating the perfect habitat for fish.
There are a few fishing companies that operate out of Hopedale offering the opportunity to catch redfish, flounder, drum, speckled trout and sheepshead. The best time to go is around sunrise - remember to book ahead and allow at least 5 to 6 hours for the day trip.
For those who like to catch fish the old fashioned way, redfish are popular with anglers in the area and they can be pretty big.
The tours are expensive - expect to spend $500 to $1,000 for a decent one as well as forking out $10 for a fishing licence (get it online in advance). At the end of your trip, you can have your fish cooked at one of the local restaurants for a perfect late lunch!
8. Houma - Louisiana's Bayou Country
1 hour from New Orleans (58 miles)
Many people automatically think that New Orleans epitomizes everything about Louisiana but wait until you've had a chance to visit Houma, an hour southwest of The Big Easy.
Bayous, swamps and tall dark cypress trees growing out of the water. Tick. Large colonial mansions and column-fronted historic houses. Also tick.
The plantation chosen as the set of the oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave is the Magnolia Plantation, a few minutes drive out of the city. Some of the best Cajun restaurants you will find anywhere in Louisiana along with live music are right here - sat along the Bayou Terrebonne.
I am not talking fancy. I mean the real deal mom and pop's type of place where you'll find the darkest, thickest and best tasting gumbo you've ever had. I might be biased - the Louisiana Cajun gumbo is my all time favorite dish I have ever tried and I'm not normally a seafood guy.
9. Bay St. Louis and Gulfport, Mississippi
1 hour 15 minutes from New Orleans (78 miles)
If the goal of your day trip from New Orleans is to find yourself a pristine sand beach where you can lie on a lounge chair and listen to the waves roll in while listening to panpipes music (this bit is optional), the Gulfport coast is the closest option available.
It'll take a little over an hour to get to Bay St. Louis up the I-10 and across the border into Mississippi. Gulfport is another 20 minutes further along the coast and the entire way you'll have pristine white sand to your right.
The scenery is perfect for a relaxing day out - the houses on stilts and the harbor are worth a stroll and you can grab lunch looking out to the sea in Pass Christian or Gulfport.
Take care if you're visiting in early summer - the Mississippi can have high flows starting in late spring and the high volumes of fresh water can close the beaches due to algae growth.
10. Bogue Chitto State Park
1 hour 20 minutes from New Orleans (63 miles)
The Bogue Chitto State Park sits along a length of the Bogue Chitto river that meanders south from Franklinton just over an hour north of New Orleans.
Bogue Chitto is known for its diversity - you've got hardwood forests lining the banks of a fast flowing river and a mile away is a swamp with cypress trees growing out of the water.
Entrance to the park is only $3 per person and if you come when the weather is good, you can paddle along the river in a canoe or kayak, set up a picnic under a live oak tree or check out the sandstone spires of Fricke's Cave.
Before you head back to New Orleans, cross over to the east bank of the river through Franklinton and make a stop at the C&C Smokehouse down Highway 16. This is the place to buy out of this world wild game smoked sausages and meats.
For the more adventurous, try the hog head cheese - it's not actually a cheese, but a terrine made with meat from parts of a hog's head - a local speciality!
11. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
1 hour 20 minutes from New Orleans (82 miles)
We love a day trip from New Orleans to Baton Rouge so much we have two of them on our list! This one takes half the time - the other is the drive up the Great River Road (#24 below) that will take a good 3 hours following the twists and turns of the Mississippi before you add the plantation stops along the way.
If you're keen and want to set off early, you could take the slow route up to Baton Rouge, check out the sights and plantations, then have lunch and spend the rest of the day in Baton Rouge before heading back.
Baton Rouge is the capital of the State of Louisiana and being right in the middle of southern Louisiana, it has a bit of everything for you to see. When you first arrive you'll notice the somewhat unusual State Capitol building.
Where most States build a dome-capped 2 to 4 floor building, the locals felt that a 450 foot (137 m) tall building with 34 stories is more appropriate. Especially as it was designed and built during the Great Depression!
If you want to spend longer than a day here, there's plenty to see and do without having to go far.
The Old Governor's Mansion, Old State Capitol, the Capitol Park Museum, Spanish Town Historic District, Pentagon Barracks Museum, LSU Museum of Art are all within a 10 minute walk of the Capitol building.
12. Ocean Springs, Mississippi
1 hour 25 minutes from New Orleans (92 miles)
If you are longing for the beach and you've done Bay St. Louis and Gulfport or you're after more of a seaside resort feel, then add the extra 10-20 minutes and keep on driving along the Mississippi coast until you get to Ocean Springs.
Ocean Springs is all about the sea - it sits in the Gulf Islands National Seashore which is one of only two along the entire stretch of the U.S. Gulf Coast (the other one is Padre Island near the Mexican border in Texas).
Things to do include relaxing on Front Beach (also called the Ocean Springs Beach), checking out the spectacular Biloxi Bay Bridge and the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum across the bridge in Biloxi.
For those who don't want to spend their entire day on the beach, there are a few great art museums - check out the Walter Anderson Museum of Art and the Ocean Springs Museum in Ocean Springs and the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art across in Biloxi.
But beach is what you really are coming to Ocean Springs for - the Front Beach in Ocean Springs is relaxed and the water is calm as Deer Island creates a natural bay.
Biloxi Beach stretches further and can be quieter and the water is still relatively calm - a few long barrier islands further out in the Gulf break the sea waves before they reach Biloxi but they are so far out you won't see them.
13. Drive to Louisiana's southernmost point - Venice in Plaquemines Parish
1 hour 30 minutes from New Orleans (80 miles)
It might seem that New Orleans is about as far south as you can go in Louisiana - there are miles upon miles of marshland that separate The Crescent City from mainland Louisiana.
So you may be surprised to know that you can head south out of the city along Louisiana Highway 23 and keep going for another 90 minutes until you get to Venice. The highway follows the land that has been created by soil deposited by the Mississippi as it has flown into the Gulf.
Over the years over 80 miles of this soil have created a long stretch of land along both banks of the river and Venice is the last port you can drive to.
Its unique location means everything here is about the river and the Gulf - you can do almost every kind of fishing that exists. From large tuna in the gulf to redfish in the many bays and marshes to freshwater crawfish.
If fishing is not your thing, then grab a seat at one of the amazing fish restaurants in Venice and take a leisurely lunch trying the best of the morning's catch!
I was thinking what to suggest for those who don't like fish or fishing. The best answer is to keep reading - Venice, Louisiana is not the place for you!
14. De Soto National Forest, Mississippi
1 hour 50 minutes from New Orleans (119 miles)
If you've had enough of bayous, marshes, alligators and fish and want a good old trip to a National Forest for your day out from New Orleans, the best option is the De Soto National Forest in Mississippi.
Named after the famous 16th century explorer of the Americas, Hernando De Soto, the forest has everything you'd want for the perfect day trip.
Hiking trails, horseback trails, ATV offroad vehicle and bike trails, special driving trails, rivers you can canoe, paddleboard or kayak along are the ways you can explore the area.
If you do fancy a bit of fishing the lakes and Black Creek offer plenty of options. Otherwise you can do things like hunting, shooting or even disc golfing.
Not sure what disc golfing is? It's basically playing a golf-type game, except you use a frisbee instead of golf balls and clubs. It is awesome fun and you can spend a good few hours at the 18-hole course at Ashe Lake Recreation Area.
15. St. Francisville
1 hour 50 minutes from New Orleans (112 miles)
If you want a day trip out to see the best of traditional Louisiana and learn about local history, then head up the Mississippi river to St. Francisville.
I say head up the river loosely - if you literally follow the Great River Road from New Orleans, it'll take you a solid 4 hours to get to St. Francisville and that's before accounting for any stops.
Instead, follow the much faster I-10 to Baton Rouge and US-61 from there to St. Francisville. By all means, do drive along the Great River Road (we have a shorter drive along it at #24 below), but if you do, you'll need to make it into at least a weekend away to make the most of the trip.
When you get to St. Francisville, take a long stroll through the historic district to find amazing houses, shops, churches and a courthouse listed on the national historic registry.
Just outside the town, there are 6 plantations that are open to visitors where you can explore the mansions and the grounds on the bank of the Mississippi.
If you have time on your hands, the Angola Museum is another 30 minutes further north from St. Francisville. It is the only museum located in an active U.S. maximum security prison and details the history of what is known as America's Bloodiest Prison.
16. Go on an airboat tour to the Atchafalaya Swamp
2 hours from New Orleans (125 miles)
If you've never experienced it, there are few things that are more Louisiana than going on an airboat tour through gator-infested marshes.
One of the best places you can do this is in the Atchafalaya Swamp - about 2 hours headed west along the I-10 from New Orleans and just before you get to Breaux Bridge (see #17 below) and Lafayette (#20).
If you don't know what an airboat is, I bet you've seen them dozens of times in movies. They are flat and wide boats with a giant propeller on the back. The propeller means the boat can make it through thick marshland without getting stuck in the weeds.
In Atchafalaya, you'll find all the key ingredients to a proper Louisiana swamp - the tall cypress trees growing straight out of the water, the still waters of the bays and lakes and the occasional alligator coming to say hello.
It's an experience like no other and if you are in New Orleans and there's just one day trip you're going to take, this is probably it!
Make sure you book ahead - the tours can sell out in advance and they usually take around 2 hours all in. If you take one of the early or late tours, you can drive along the Great River Road (see #24 below) on the way there or back to make for the ultimate Louisiana day trip!
17. Breaux Bridge - a day trip to Cajun Country
2 hours from New Orleans (128 miles)
Breaux Bridge is a town near Lafayette that has declared itself to be the Crawfish Capital of the World.
Sitting on the Bayou Teche, there are some amazing local restaurants where you can try Cajun and Creole food - seriously do give the crawfish a try. You've driven 2 hours to get here!
Sitting right on the edge of the Atchafalaya Swamp and with Lake Martin within walking distance of the city, make sure you find time to explore the outdoors.
From unique Louisiana cypress trees and plants to birds and gators, it's well worth spending at least part of the day trip outside downtown Breaux Bridge.
In the town itself, the bridge after which it was named is not much of an attraction - it's an old iron bridge that spans the Bayou Teche below and connects the busier downtown to the east bank part of the city.
The Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival at the beginning of May is a great time to come - you can try every kind of crawfish dish that you can think of (and many more you can't).
You can also watch some seriously wacky events like crawfish racing (no, really!) and a crawfish eating contest. Plan ahead and make it a full weekend if you have the luxury of time!
18. A day trip to the beach on Grand Isle, Louisiana
2 hours from New Orleans (108 miles)
Grand Isle is the only barrier island off the Louisiana Coast that you can drive to and is a few miles east of Venice (#13 above).
The reasons to come and list of things to do is similar to Venice, although Grand Isle is a little better set up for visitors. Fishing is the name of the game and you can go out on a fishing boat or just sit back and watch the boats come and go from the marina.
There are great restaurants and bars along the island and a few hotels you can spend the night if you want to enjoy an evening meal.
Right at the end of Grand Isle is the Grand Isle State Park. The beach that runs the whole length of the island continues through the park and the pier is the most popular spot for fishers as well as a great place to watch the birds and waves of the park.
The beaches here are amazing and the season is long. The relatively unknown location and the 2 hour drive from New Orleans means that they are much less crowded than the options along the Mississippi coast
Use this to your advantage and make your day trip from New Orleans all about relaxing on the white sand with the Gulf of Mexico waves rolling in.
19. Mobile, Alabama
2 hours 10 minutes from New Orleans (144 miles)
Mobile is one of the furthest day trips on our list and the only one that doesn't take you to Louisiana or even one of its neighbor states
To get to Mobile, you have to follow the coastline east through the width of Mississippi and across the State border into Alabama. The I-10 will take you the entire way which should make it a relatively straight-forward 2 hour drive.
Mobile is one of the oldest cities along the Gulf Coast and there is a lot to see and do here - certainly plenty for a day trip and more than enough if you want to make it into a whole weekend away.
Fort Conde is an interesting visit - it's only a scale reconstruction of the original one as the old structure was gradually torn down to make way for the city of Mobile.
The historic district is great for a stroll to see some buildings that date as far back as the 1830s and there are some very good art and history museums.
Don't miss the USS Alabama battleship. It was built for and decommissioned after World War II and you can tour it to see everything on board as well as fighter planes of the era in the Memorial Park.
In the afternoon, hop across Mobile Bay and spend some time in Fairhope - it is a beautiful small town that has an art culture and some amazing local restaurants. Get your dinner early before heading back to New Orleans.
If you're coming during the summer, the beaches down in Gulf Shores are a great way to spend a few hours. However, if you're just coming for the day, it might be a lot to fit in and there are other beaches that are just as great closer to New Orleans.
20. Dive into Cajun culture in Lafayette, Louisiana
2 hours 10 minutes from New Orleans (136 miles)
A 2 hour drive from New Orleans in the opposite direction along the I-10 will get you to Lafayette - the Heart of Cajun Country.
You will pass right through the Atchafalaya Swamp (#16 above) and past Breaux Bridge (#17) - you can easily add these to your itinerary to make more of the day trip.
Lafayette is rich in cultural sites and the two main places to visit are Vermilionville and the Acadian Village. Both are a little outside downtown and detail the history of the Acadian (Cajun) people.
The Acadian people originally settled in what is today's Quebec and parts of northeastern United States. During the settlement, wars and expansion during the 18th century, they were moved to Louisiana creating the unique French-inspired cultural mix.
Both are villages with homes and other buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries and offer an amazing insight into the lives of these people when Louisiana was building its roots.
Downtown Lafayette is worth some time as well - a lot of the lively restaurants, bars and music venues as well as quirky shops are along Jefferson Street.
Alongside museums, there are a few great parks too including the famous Cypress Lake (in the picture above). There are few inner city parks that can make you feel this far away from the hustle and bustle!
21. Visit the home of Tabasco Sauce on Avery Island
2 hours 15 minutes from New Orleans (138 miles)
Getting to Avery Island from New Orleans will take a little over 2 hours along Highway 90. The word island is used frequently in Louisiana and its use is pretty flexible - don't expect to have to take a ferry to get here. The various bayous and streams do segment the land into technical islands, but it's all very much part of the mainland.
Avery Island sits on top of a huge rock salt deposit with an estimated several miles of pure salt underneath it.
But the most famous thing about the island is that it is the birthplace and the only factory in the world that produces Tabasco Sauce. Wherever you might have found the hot sauce, this is the place it was made!
You can go on a self-guided tour of the factory. There is a huge amount of information and videos that detail every step in the manufacturing process.
At the end, pop into the Tabasco Country Store. Aside from the mementos and gifts, there is a big selection of sauces, dips and foods that are all based on Tabasco. We're talking things like very spicy soup and Tabasco flavour ice cream. You know you have to try it!
22. Natchez, Mississippi
2 hours 45 minutes from New Orleans (172 miles)
One of the best places to explore real Southern culture, history and architecture is, funny as it sounds, almost 3 hours north of New Orleans in the city of Natchez.
We're getting into the realm of pretty long drives towards the end of the list so if you want to make the most of the day, you'll need to set off early and plan to have you dinner late, on the way or before you set off!
Natchez sits on the Mississippi river and is the oldest European settlement along the length of the river having been founded 2 years before New Orleans.
The city is full of character - there's the finest antebellum homes, some of which are open to visitors, and some grand plantations within and just outside the city.
Over 1,000 of the houses in Natchez are on the National Register of Historic Places and if you time your day trip right, the Natchez Pilgrimage is an event that runs twice a year over a few weeks in spring and fall.
During this time, some of the finest classic private houses open their doors to visitors for tours which is a unique way to see these buildings in use today.
23. Jackson, Mississippi
2 hours 50 minutes from New Orleans (187 miles)
A little further north than Natchez and 45 minutes' drive east from the Mississippi is the city of Jackson. It should take about as long to get here as Natchez along the I-55 which runs almost directly north from New Orleans.
Like Natchez, if you want to visit Jackson on a day trip, an early morning start will set you up nicely and give you the time to see all the main sights.
Jackson was one of the most prominent cities during the Civil Rights Movement and there is a lot to take in - the Smith Robertson Museum is located on the site of the first public school for African-American students and well worth visiting.
The Farish Street Historical District is a neighborhood where all you have to do is stroll and soak in the history - the area was home to one of the largest communities of Black-owned businesses in the country in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is a good place to complete your cultural tour.
As Jackson is the capital of the State of Mississippi, don't miss out on the rest of what it has to offer. There are two State Capitol buildings - the old one is a museum but you can go inside the new one too to have a look.
In Jackson's Fondren District you'll find some quirky shops and bars and there are lots of museums, galleries and places to visit - the Mississippi Museum of Art being the best known with a large collection of American artists and a particular focus on local Mississippi painters.
24. See the plantations along the Great River Road
2 hours 50 minutes from New Orleans (123 miles)
This is an amazing day trip out of New Orleans and highly recommended if you want to dive into the culture and history of Louisiana.
The driving time here is a little deceptive - it'll take a good 3 hours to drive up the Great River Road from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, but it's only about an hour and 20 minutes to drive back along the I-10 and unlike the other destinations on our list, the driving is part of the experience!
The Great River road is not strictly speaking a specific road - it's actually a number of different roads that run along both banks of the Mississippi all the way up the country.
In some states, this road is a big deal and you'll see massive signs that are easy to follow. In Louisiana, you'll need a little self guidance and you might not see a single reference to the road on your way if you're not looking carefully enough!
Some of the most outstanding plantations in the whole country can be found along the Great River Road. The Oak Alley plantation has the famous oak tree-lined drive to its front door and Whitney Plantation is a museum dedicated to slavery in the Southern United States.
It can take 2 to 3 hours per stop so pick the plantations you want to see and plan your journey in advance!
25. Lake Charles, Louisiana
3 hours 10 minutes from New Orleans (207 miles)
The furthest option on our list will take just over 3 hours of driving along the I-10 west from New Orleans.
Lake Charles is known for its party atmosphere - the Festival Capital of Louisiana hosts over 75 different festivals through the year with the State's 2nd largest Mardi Gras through to quirky events like the Louisiana Pirate Festival.
Located close to the border with Texas, Lake Charles is known for its casinos and gambling as much as the nature that surrounds it.
Sure - the Sam Houston State Park, some of the local trails, 5 National Wildlife Refuges and even more local conservation areas are amazing for exploring the best of Louisiana's wildlife, but there are many places much closer to New Orleans for day trips to forests and bayous for gator spotting.
If you're in town to party and plan to spend some time at the local casinos, you might want to stay the night rather than drive back home in the early hours. Places like the Golden Nugget Casino and its neighbor L'Auberge Lake come with fancy rooms, spas, restaurants and endless game options that wouldn't look out of place in Las Vegas.
Don't miss out on the historic parts of Lake Charles - the Charpentier Historic District has some 400 homes and buildings and the 1911 Historic City Hall is a great place to visit to see art and learn about the city's history.
If you want to take the scenic route on the way up to Lake Charles, the Great River Road, Baton Rouge, Atchafalaya Swamp, Breaux Bridge and Lafayette are all en route and all in our list above in their own right.