If Louisiana is on your travel bucket list, you’ve picked quite a gem. With plenty of amazing food, cultural events, and outdoor adventure, this destination is sure to offer sugar, spice, and everything nice.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Louisiana Bucket List Destinations
- Outdoor, Hikes, and Camping Bucket List Ideas in Lousiana
- Popular Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in Louisiana
- New Orleans Bucket List Ideas
But if Louisiana is just part of a larger bucket list and you’re unsure where to go while you’re there, or you’re familiar with the state and you’re just trying to explore a bit more, this post will help you with all of that.
This post will cover more than 23 must-do activities across Louisiana in popular cities like New Orleans and Lafayette, as well as a lot of history, food, natural wonders, and more sights.
Louisiana Bucket List Destinations
For a broader look at the best of Lousiana, this first list offers an exciting variety of excursions perfect for festival lovers, history buffs, and hot sauce or seafood connoisseurs.
1. Mardis Gras in New Orleans
You likely don’t think of Louisiana without thinking of Mardi Gras. If you’re planning a trip specifically for this event (or you’d rather sit it out), take note: this legendary celebration culminates on Mardi Gras Day, but it lasts two weeks.
So get ready for tons of music, parades, picnics, floats, and excitement. You can also participate in the fun by wearing a costume or dressing in purple, green, and gold. Keep in mind, too, that on Mardi Gras Day, the majority of non-essential businesses are shut down because of the celebration.
It’s also a good idea to bring a large bag with you so can take home plenty of souvenirs from the parades, like beads and trinkets, according to the website for Mardi Gras.
2. Melrose Plantation
Sometimes also called Yucca Plantation, Melrose was one of the biggest plantations built by and for free blacks. The plantation is part of the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
The plantation features eight main structures, one of which is uniquely African, making it a must-visit. Melrose was established by Louis Metoyer, a slave who became a free person of color when he was finally granted his freedom.
3. Vermilionville in Lafayette
Vermilionville exhibits the traditions and heritage of the Acadian settlers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Since this is a living history museum, expect craftspeople in costumes and demonstrations made by historians as part of the preservation of folk crafts handed down from previous generations.
You can find artisans throughout the 23-acre site, also home to restored original Acadian homes and authentic buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries.
The site educates patrons about the struggles of maintaining Acadian culture and language, black history from early slavery to the civil rights movement, as well as Mardi Gras traditions across the state.
4. Breaux Bridge
The small parish town of Breaux Bridge, right outside of Lafayette, is sometimes known as the gateway to Cajun culture. It’s a “fantastic introduction to the heritage, cuisine, and history of Southern Louisiana,” according to Touropia.
Breaux Bridge is also the crawfish capital of the world. If you plan your visit for May, you’ll time it just right for the popular Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, alive with Zydeco music, locals dancing in the streets, and plenty of fresh crawfish.
5. Avery Island
Avery Island, despite the name, is actually inland and sits atop a salt dome. Many people know Avery Island because it’s the home of Tabasco sauce. The Tabasco factory is the biggest attraction in the area, offering guided tours, a botanical garden, and a bird sanctuary. Therefore, this spot offers both great food and opportunities to check out local wildlife.
Outdoor, Hikes, and Camping Bucket List Ideas in Lousiana
If a little humidity doesn’t bother you and alligators excite you, Louisiana offers incredible outdoor adventures, particularly in its swamps and along the coast. It’s easy to find plenty of family-friendly spots for camping, boating, and just relaxing.
6. Louisiana Wetlands
Swamp tours of Louisiana’s extensive wetlands are available throughout the state. They’re an incredible way to see a different side of Louisiana, though likely just as wild as some of the antics on Bourbon Street.
Airboats are arguably the most exciting way to tour, with their motors found above, rather than below, the water. (The speed and noise make for quite the ride.)
If you’re hoping for a quieter adventure and a better view of wildlife, you should opt for a tour via canoe or kayak. You’re sure to see alligators, owls, snakes, herons, pelicans, nutria, otters, and turtles.
7. Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge
Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge is located in New Orleans and runs along Interstate 10. A real treat for those who love wildlife and conservation, the massive wading bird rookery is one of the main attractions. The refuge is also home to alligators, bald eagles, and brown pelicans across its vast 24,000 acres.
8. Oak Alley Plantation
Oak Alley Plantation is another can’t-miss historical destination in Louisiana. It’s particularly notable for the row of trees that give the plantation its name. It’s also a National Historic Landmark thanks to its architecture and landscaping.
In fact, the trees at Oak Alley Plantation are over 300 years old, and to this day, it’s a mystery who originally planted them at the site—it’s someone simply known as “an unknown French settler.”
9. Chauvin Sculpture Garden
If you love finding beauty in the eccentric, Louisiana has plenty of that for you—particularly at the Chauvin Sculpture Garden. Developed by “reclusive” artist Kenny Hill, the sculpture garden features a huge array of bizarre but wondrous creations, from winged angels to depictions of God Himself. There’s also an art center and a small local museum at the site. The site suffered some damage from hurricane Ida in 2021, but local volunteers are quickly bringing the garden back to its former glory.
10. Grand Isle
If you’re hoping to spend some quality time by the ocean while in Louisiana, the Grand Isle is the perfect place for you. This oceanfront town rests on a scenic barrier island and offers 7 miles of public beach.
You can also explore the nearby Butterfly Dome, home to hundreds of free-flying butterflies, and Wake Side Cable Park for wakeboarding, tubing, water skiing, wake surfing, and more. It’s truly one of the best spots in the state for boating, fishing, swimming, tanning, and camping.
Popular Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in Louisiana
It won’t be challenging to find delicious home cooking, Cajun fare, decadent desserts, and fresh seafood just about everywhere you go around the bayou. But to help you out a bit with your food bucket list for Louisiana, here are some can’t-miss spots.
11. Café Du Monde in New Orleans
Café du Monde is a legendary, open-air coffee shop located on Decatur Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Open daily, 24 hours a day (except for Christmas and the occasional hurricane), this landmark and tourist destination is known for its café au lait and beignets.
Patrons can enjoy Café Du Monde’s unique coffee blended with chicory, providing an almost chocolatey flavor. This is perfect to enjoy alongside beignets, which are square sections of dough fried and covered in powdered sugar.
12. Barrow’s Catfish in New Orleans
One of New Orleans’s favorite catfish restaurants, Barrow’s (originally called Barrow’s Shady Inn), is still run by two generations of the Barrow family. The cornmeal-dusted fried catfish is known to be light and thin, perfectly seasoned, and served piping hot. Along with catfish and the celebrated potato salad, they also serve delicious fried shrimp, gumbo, po'boys, and more.
13. 14 Parishes Jamaican Restaurant in New Orleans
Dubbed one of the hottest new restaurants in New Orleans according to Eater, this must-see joint offers two stories with bars on both levels. The opening menu includes salmon sliders, a smoked herring board, and traditional Jamaican patties as well as jerk chicken and ribs, whole red snapper prepared two ways, and curry chicken.
14. Suire's Grocery & Restaurant in Kaplan
Looking for authentic turtle stew and brown gravy? Suire’s Grocery & Restaurant in Kaplan is just the spot, according to Eater. The family-owned spot is famous for plate lunches and as a great place to stock your cooler with food for hunting and fishing trips. This spot offers rustic, Cajun cooking, which means lots of smothering, simmering, frying, and baking.
15. Scratch Farm Kitchen in Lafayette
With ingredients sourced from Louisiana and Mississippi farmers, Scratch Farm Kitchen offers vegan, vegetarian, and tasty meat options. Everything they offer is either made by them or folks they know, according to Eater. Their meat options include jerked chicken salad, pulled mojo pork, or a veggie patty and sides like pickled beets, hash potatoes, grits, or grilled broccoli.
16. Gov’t Taco in Baton Rouge
Gov’t Taco offers modern American tacos to satisfy all travelers, as well as creative shareables like beet hummus and sides like mole baked beans. It even won the Best New Restaurant award from a local Baton Rouge magazine. This spot also offers vegetarian and vegan options.
17. Elsie’s Plate & Pie in Baton Rouge
Also award-winning and a favorite of many, Elsie’s Plate & Pie has tons of tempting sweet and savory pie options, salads, soups, entrees, sandwiches, and more.
New Orleans Bucket List Ideas
While many other items on this bucket list outside of New Orleans may have piqued your interest, it’s still important to emphasize the best this city has to offer.
If you’re a planner or a wanderer when you travel, you’re bound to get carried away by the rhythm in the Jazz Capital of the World.
18. The French Quarter
The French Quarter is New Orleans' oldest and most famous neighborhood. Buildings in this area date back as far as 300 years, many featuring wrought-iron balconies that extend over the sidewalks below.
People flock to the French Quarter for sightseeing, shopping, dining, and entertainment, and the area is packed during the annual Mardis Gras celebrations mentioned prior.
19. Bourbon Street
You simply can’t experience Louisiana without a trip to Bourbon Street — and it’ll be hard to miss. It’s alive year-round with tourists, live music, and plenty of entertainment. Of course, the liveliest part of the year is during the Carnival season. Mardi Gras day falls on March 1, 2022.
Around Bourbon Street, you can also find tons of historic buildings, great restaurants, as well as antique shops, Jazz clubs, and art galleries. So, even if crowds, clubbing, and nightlife aren’t your travel crew’s favorite (or you get worn out!), you can still find plenty of other activities.
20. Louis Armstrong Park
Louis Armstrong Park is also 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.
21. The St. Louis Cathedral
St. Louis Cathedral is one of the most famous structures in New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole. Located in the French Quarter, the almost 300-year-old cathedral has been regularly renovated, rebuilt, and upgraded.
In fact, this cathedral is the mother church of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and is the oldest continuously active Roman Catholic Cathedral in the U.S. In the back of the cathedral, you’ll also find St. Anthony Garden, which has a statue of Jesus that’s particularly striking at night thanks to lights.
22. The National WWII Museum
The National WWII Museum offers an in-depth history of just about every aspect of the war — on the ground, in the sea, and in the air. The entire museum uses a variety of media and interactive technology that brings the history to life.
A can’t miss exhibit, the "Road to Berlin," allows visitors to have the opportunity to be immersed in fully recreated battle zones complete with the sights and sounds.
Other exhibits include an exploration of the Seabees and Merchant Marines, the vital support from the homefront, and details about the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
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, according to PlanetWare.
22. The Garden District
The Garden District is home to 19th-century mansions easily accessible via the St. Charles line streetcar. You can also look out for other popular landmarks in the area including the George Washington Cable House, as well as the famous restaurant, Commander’s Palace.
Louisiana: Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice
Whether you’re looking for food, culture, wildlife, or wild nights, Louisiana has a bit of everything. It might be tempting to hit just the highlights, but be sure to ask around and get advice from the locals for an even more authentic experience.
You may also be interested in this guide for how to make a travel bucket list for tips and tricks you may not have considered.