The history of the territory that is now Louisiana began roughly 10,000 years ago. Visit some of the timeless locations around Louisiana to get a glimpse of the state’s past and enjoy its additional modern day offerings all at once. New and old, Louisiana has it all!
There are a total of nine museums statewide in the Louisiana State Museum collection, but visitors to New Orleans should include the French Quarter five to their must-visit list: The Cabildo, The Presbytere, 1850 House, Madame John's Legacy and the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old U.S. Mint. These National Historic Landmarks are home to thousands of artifacts and artwork reflecting Louisiana's historic and cultural legacy. Listen to the sounds of traditional New Orleans jazz played within the halls of the 1750s French Quarter building dedicated to preserving traditional jazz. Both veteran and younger musicians play at the Preservation Hall, continuing the effort to preserve and maintain the sounds of traditional jazz. Nightly music begins at 8pm and admission is $15 per person. louisianastatemuseum.org; preservationhall.com
Take a ride on New Orleans’ oldest electric streetcar line. The route covers seven miles of the city with the majority of the tracks running in the center median on St. Charles Avenue. Riding the historic streetcar line shows off the gorgeous historic homes and buildings, and tree-lined streets from the Garden District to Tulane and Loyola Universities. The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum is an unusual museum located in the Vieux Carre Historic District and was called “one of the best” by Rand McNally. The historic building houses an extensive collection of pharmaceutical items from a time when pharmacists compounded their own medicines without the structure or knowledge of modern medicine. From showcasing the history of America’s first licensed pharmacist, Louis J. Dufilho, Jr. to antique surgical instruments, hand blown apothecary jars filled with crude medicines, to perfumes and cosmetics and more—the museum preserves the history of pharmacy and healthcare in Louisiana. pharmacymuseum.org
Take a tour of Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow where each visitor is thought of as a houseguest. The tours are kept at a small number to properly display the beauty and intricacies of the plantation, which was called “The Sugar Palace” during its antebellum days. Wander the gardens and enjoy an afternoon refreshment at the onsite restaurant or Turtle Bar. Throughout the year in Marksville, the Native American traditions and culture of the Tunica-Biloxi tribe that began more than 20,000 years ago come to life with Pow Wow events. Tribal members, dressed in full regalia, dance and sing to the beat of drums, while crafts and Native American foods are featured. Vermilionville Living History Museum in Lafayette is a picturesque representation of a late 1700s-1800s village reenacting how Acadians and Creoles created a new life in the Attakapas Region of the new Louisiana territory. The museum sprawls across 23 acres filled with costumed artisans and musicians acting out the chores and activities of their daily lives. houmashouse.com, lafayettetravel.com
If you are in Monroe, travel back to the early 20th century at the home of Joseph A. Biedenharn, the first bottler of Coca-Cola. Take a tour of the Biedenharn Museum, residence and the beautiful gardens. The museum also offers a large collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia including a replica soda fountain with a genuine soda jerk retelling the Biedenharn story. The Old State Capitol is a 160-year-old National Historic Landmark, located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in downtown Baton Rouge, and is a preserved treasure of architecture. The Gothic Revival structure of the Old State Capitol has withstood war, fire, scandal, and bitter debates. In 1990, the building went under a major restoration project and is now the Museum of Political History. Schedule a tour, visit The Ghost in The Castle theatrical presentation, or just wander the museum free. bmuseum.org, louisianaoldstatecapitol.org
In Louisiana, remnants of the Civil War are never far away. From the pine groves of central Louisiana to the eastern shore of Lake Pontchartrain, memories of the "War Between the States" linger. Louisiana is full of Civil War battlefields and museums. Here is a little about the stories behind them.
In 2014, the sesquicentennial of the Civil War also marked the 150th anniversary of the Red River Campaign in Louisiana, a combined Army-Navy venture in the spring of 1864 that was the Union’s most powerful gathering of gunboats since the campaign against Vicksburg one year earlier. A group of 30,000 men attempted to gain ground and naval control of western Louisiana and Arkansas, only to be turned back south of Shreveport when low water and Confederate blockades resulted in a massive failure of the campaign.
The two-month disaster was assuaged only by Lt. Col. Joseph Bailey’s ingenious dam, which allowed the remaining U.S. naval fleet to escape being captured by Confederates. Today, history lovers can view strategic battle points such as Fort DeRussy and Yellow Bayou in Avoyelles Parish, Monett’s Ferry in Natchitoches Parish and Bailey’s Dam in Pineville, near Fort Randolph and Fort Buhlow, which were built in anticipation of a second Red River campaign that never materialized. For those seeking more visceral action, annual re-enactments of the Battle of Pleasant Hill take place in Pleasant Hill each April. Take a sobering road trip through Civil War history by visiting these sites throughout the state. You will see forts, monuments, artifacts and exhibits, as well as the final resting places of soldiers from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. The memory of soldiers is kept alive at such sites at Fort Pike State Historic Site in New Orleans; Chalmette National Cemetery, in Chalmette; the Old Arsenal Museum, in Baton Rouge; and Frogmore Cotton Plantation & Gins, which runs the guided Plantation Civil War Tour, in Frogmore. frogmoreplantation.com
Across the state, the holidays are celebrated with a variety of unique activities, sounds, and sights only Louisiana could serve up. On the Holiday Trail of Lights, there are eight towns to celebrate all the festivities of the season. They create the Christmas spirit with beautiful displays of holiday lights, parades, live music, theatre performances, visits from Santa and more.
The sweet charm of Minden is a perfect setting to get in the holiday mindset. Celebrate at the Old World Christmas Lights Spectacular starting at dusk every Saturday night through New Year's Day in historic downtown. It is best enjoyed as a self-driving tour — hundreds of life-sized nutcrackers line the streets, a nod to Minden's German heritage. Head to the beautiful historic town of Natchitoches to jump right into the energy of the holidays. Take a Christmas Tour of Homes to see the amazing Christmas decorations in the historic houses. Head to the 92nd Annual Christmas Festival to be awed by 300,000 lights illuminating downtown Natchitoches and 100 lighted set pieces along Cane River! It is a magical backdrop for the spectacular fireworks, live musical entertainment, arts, crafts, food vendors and more. Hear the gorgeous notes of Christmas carols at the Northwestern Christmas Gala with music and theatre performances by the NSU students. Make sure you have rationed your holiday cheer for these awesome and plentiful events that happen in Shreveport-Bossier every Christmas. The Festival of Lights will ensure you’ve enjoyed your holiday season with enough lights, parades, Christmas carols, music and holiday cheer to get you through to next year! holidaytrailoflights.com, natchitoches.com, shreveport-bossier.org
Louisiana is a place of wonder, history, and romance. Historic sites will leave you with an understanding of the strength and diversity of the Pelican State. The colorful locals you meet along the way will add the spice and liveliness to your experience that will have you longing to return. Louisiana is waiting for you, so don’t keep her waiting.
More of Louisiana’s Legacy
The cities and towns of Livingston Parish are as diverse and fascinating as they are beautiful. Each offers a unique opportunity to explore and uncover local treasures and experiences. Shop for unique finds in the Denham Springs Antique district or sample the spicy Cajun crawfish of French Settlement. Listen to lively bluegrass tunes in Walker and dance with the friendly locals. Don’t skip a visit to the French Settlement Historical Museum an authentic Creole cottage, or the Carter Plantation House. livingstontourism.com
Lafayette is the beating heart of Louisiana’s Cajun & Creole Country, a unique area known as the “Happiest City in America” and it’s no mystery why. Whether your passion is for delving into rich cultural history, tasting the bustling culinary scene or listening for the distinctive blend of Cajun and Zydeco music, you can be sure you will leave beaming from ear to ear. Plan your escape to the “Happiest City in America” and discover it for yourself. lafayettetravel.com