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Travelling to New Orleans is a feast for all the senses. The blend of cultures in Louisiana’s best-known city makes it one of the most fascinating places to visit in the US, if not the world! Jazz, incredible gastronomy, and tales of ghosts, ghouls, and vampires are just some of the things to expect from visiting The Big Easy.
However, because there’s so much to get excited about, sometimes New Orleans can overwhelm you. And you might feel a day away from the city will be good to get you relaxed, recharged, and recuperated. But where do you go?
That’s where we come in. Our team of expert travel writers have trawled through the best day trips from New Orleans to help you make the most of your trip. And thankfully, there’s an awful lot nearby – from bayous to historic plantations, to great beaches.
So, let’s jump straight in and check out the best day trips from New Orleans!
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In such a big city, it can be hard knowing where to stay. Do you want to be in the infamous French Quarter, famed for its bars and colonial architecture? Perhaps the Bohemian riverside area of Bywater is more suited to you. For something a little more elegant, maybe the Garden District is your best bet. We’ve scoured the city and found three of the best places to stay in New Orleans. Let’s check them out!
Two features you wouldn’t normally expect from a budget hotel, right? That’s what we thought too! However, Brent House Hotel really owns those three stars with a number of cool facilities, while remaining one of the most reasonably priced hotels in New Orleans! If you want to sample some real Southern cooking and hospitality, try the on-site restaurant.
Editor’s Note: You might also like to look at our best hotel recommendations in New Orleans.
Less than 2km from Royal Bourbon Street, the Royal Frenchmen Hotel and Bar is a great option if you are looking between budget and luxury. A four star offering, you can relax after a long day of sightseeing in the garden. Update your social media or watch a movie, as there’s WiFi available in every part of the hotel!
Haven’t found what you’re looking for? Try our hotel guide for Downtown New Orleans!
This five star offering is the best luxury hotel in New Orleans. Within walking distance of the French Quarter, you’ll find opulent interiors with high ceilings and decadent furnishings. Decorated with local artwork, this incredible hotel really does give an insight into New Orleans’ irresistible character and spirit!
Best Day Trip from New Orleans – Whitney Plantation
Best Day Trip from New Orleans by Bus – Baton Rouge
Best Romantic Day Trip from New Orleans for Couples – Gulf Shores, Alabama
Best Day Trip from New Orleans with Kids – INFINITY Science Visitors’ Centre
Just 45 minutes west of the city, you’ll find the best day trip from New Orleans. It’s an extremely important monument where you can learn about the state’s history. However, you can expect it to be a sobering experience.
Whitney is one of many sugar plantations in Louisiana but it’s the only one that is now dedicated to the history of slavery. Here, you can learn about the daily lives of slaves through the thought-provoking displays and guided tours.
As well as being an important nod to Louisiana’s unsavoury past, it’s an excellent example of Spanish Creole architecture. Although this not may be an attraction you’ll leave with a huge smile on your face, it’s one of the best day trips from New Orleans if you’re interested in history.
Okay, so Baton Rouge probably can’t stand up to New Orleans when it comes to cultural attractions and character. However, it’s well worth a visit to the Louisiana state capital, and it’s under 2 hours away by the famed Greyhound Bus.
There’s still plenty to see though! Cool museums such as the African American Museum and the Louisiana Art and Science Museum can give you an insight into the state’s culture and history.
For something a little more exciting, you could also visit one of the nearby amusement parks. On a hot day, the Blue Bayou Water Park is recommended. Especially if you’re travelling with kids! The white-knuckle thrill slides will put a smile on everyone’s faces!
Step back in time to the raucous and rowdy early 20th century, when New Orleans and jazz was right in its pomp. But how can you do that? By taking the only remaining authentic steamboat on this part of the Mississippi River of course – the Natchez.
Enjoy jazz and calliope music from a live band as you cruise around the crescent of the Mississippi River. You’ll feel like you’re a million miles from city life and you’ll really be able to switch off an disconnect from everything on the mainland.
Some cruises last as little as two hours, so you will have plenty of time left to explore more of New Orleans and the surrounding area. Maybe you’ll find somewhere great for dinner! That is, of course, if you haven’t already had lunch aboard the Steamboat Natchez!
Across Lake Pontchartrain, around 40 minutes from the centre of New Orleans, you’ll find Honey Island Swamp. One of the more curious attractions of this lake is the supposed Bigfoot-like creature that inhabits the swamp. Nothing has been proven, but perhaps you’ll be the first one to get definitive proof of the Honey Island Swamp Monster!
Something you’re much more likely to see is an alligator. These impressive creatures may be scary, but getting up close (but not too close) and personal with them in their natural habitat is an experience you won’t forget.
One of the best ways to do this is by taking a kayak trip with a local guide. They’ll know the best spots to find the alligators and they’ll also show you the best ways to stay safe around these wild animals!
Insider Guide! These are the absolute BEST times of the year to visit New Orleans!
One hour’s drive south east of the city, you’ll find one of the best budget day trips from New Orleans. In fact, all you need is your swimsuit, towel, and sunscreen. And maybe a picnic! Shell Beach is an idyllic escape where you can enjoy regular beach activities or a spot of fishing if you’re so inclined.
If you’re looking for a little more entertainment, check out the nearby Bayou Segnette State Park. Here, you can go swimming and canoeing. It’s also a great option if you’re travelling with the kids – they’re bound to love the wave pool and adventure playgrounds!
You won’t find many hotels around here, another thing that makes this place appropriate for a day trip!
Have you ever wanted to take an old-style wagon around a park and see more than 4,000 animals? If the answer isn’t yes, you just didn’t know it yet. The Global Wildlife Center is one of the best day trips from New Orleans for families, as it will keep all ages entertained!
Just an hour away from the city centre in Folsom, this is actually the largest free-range preserve in the entire United States. Some of the most popular animals here include giraffes, zebras, llamas, kangaroos, camels, and even bison!
You can’t book wagon tours in advance, and they’re sold on a first come first serve basis. So, if you’ve really got your heart set on that, try and get to the center first thing. It’ll definitely be worth the early start!
Although it was infamous in the past, the French Quarter is considered one of the safest neighbourhoods in New Orleans. Even though it may not always feel that way! New Orleans is perhaps more dangerous than some other cities in the US, and travellers should be cautious when visiting. Use big city awareness and be vigilant when it comes to pickpockets and petty crime. If you’re worried about anything, check with your hotel when you arrive the best ways they recommend for staying safe.
For those who are travelling with their other half, often there’s nothing better than a chilled-out day at the beach. And Gulf Shores, across state lines into Alabama, is one of the best. It’s probably the furthest day trip from New Orleans on our list, at 3 hours and 200 miles, however, you’ll be thanking us once you edge your toes into that warm white sand.
If the journey has tired you out, lay down your towel and sunbathe or have a paddle in the azure blue waters.
However, if you prefer your beach time to be a little more active, take a canoe out onto those same blue waters. If you prefer not to get wet, take advantage of the biking trails. Scuba divers will love the opportunity to have an underwater adventure by checking out the sunken freighter Lulu!
Another super relaxed day trip from New Orleans is Grand Isle. At 2 hours away by road, it’s quite a trek but totally worth it. You’ll escape the throngs of tourists that inhabit the French Quarter and trade that for a slice of local Louisiana life.
Grand Isle is the only inhabited barrier island in the state, and it’s heavily relied on for seafood. Foodies will love the opportunity to sample the freshest seafood in Louisiana and can indulge in shrimps, oysters, and much more!
You can even try your hand at fishing yourself – there’s no better place than the public pier at Grand Isle State Park!
If you’re interested in history and Louisiana’s colonial past, you certainly won’t want to miss the Oak Alley Plantation. It’s a more upbeat plantation experience than the one at Whitney, but they both offer important insights into plantation life.
Here, guides in authentic clothing will give you a tour of the Greek Revival house which dates back to 1837. There’s a restaurant, a shop, and some other cool parts of the house to check out. The highlight though is the 28 oak trees which line the house’s driveway.
Because the Oak Alley Plantation is so close to the Barataria Basin, this is the perfect excuse to take a cool and hair raising tour on an airboat. This will allow you to see wild pigs, alligators, and raccoons from the safety of the vehicle!
Swampy bayous are synonymous with Louisiana and especially New Orleans, so you really shouldn’t miss checking one out while you’re in the area. Bayous are packed with wildlife, and it’s here that you can see lots of native wildlife. Turtles, alligators, and water birds can all be seen in their natural habitats.
A tour is a great way to check out a bayou, and the one below can be combined with a visit to either the Oak Alley Plantation or the Laura Plantation!
If you want to head to a bayou without leaving the city limits, check out Bayou St. John. The urban bayou is a great urban public green space where you can kayak or paddleboard. In summer, there are festivals on too – don’t miss Bayou Boogaloo!
You won’t be staying in Louisiana, but the whole family will not mind a jot when they arrive at the INFINITY Science Visitors’ Center. That’s because this is easily the best day trip from New Orleans with kids! Packed with interactive exhibits which will take you to the deepest depths of the ocean and even further into the Earth’s crust, it’s a learning experience for all the family.
You can also head into outer space, this is, after all, a NASA visitor centre too! That’s because it’s right opposite the Stennis Space Center.
Even though you’ll be heading to another state, it’s only an hour journey so you won’t hear the abominable ‘are we there yet’ phrase!
We’ve already given you a few ideas if you want to visit bayous and swamps, but Atchafalaya National Heritage Area is possibly the daddy of them all. It’s certainly the biggest, and the largest river swamp is definitely one of the best day trips from New Orleans for outdoor enthusiasts.
There are several ways to discover the swamp. Hiking and biking trails criss-cross the wetlands, while kayaks or canoes are great ways to navigate through the submerged treetops.
Atchafalaya is a two-hour journey from New Orleans. It’s a highly recommended spot if you want some cool holiday snaps to take home!
Want to escape the hustle and bustle of New Orleans without going fully into nature? Then Abita Springs is a good compromise. One of the most popular attractions here is the brewery – which just happens to be the largest and oldest in Louisiana. Self-guided tours of the brewery are a great way to learn about the town’s history, and of course, you can try a sample at the end!
A slightly quirkier option to check out is the Mystery House. This roadside museum is a converted gas station, but don’t let that put you off. It’s packed with folk art, home-made inventions, and animated displays. It’s a great place to kill a few hours and have a good laugh!
Named after a 16th century explorer, the De Soto National Forest covers over half a million acres in Mississippi. It’s an important protected area for biological diversity, as over 90% of this type of habitat has been lost throughout the United States.
This is the spot to visit if you’re interested in seeing endangered wildlife such as gopher frogs and gopher tortoises. Walk through the forests along the paths which roll along the banks of crystal-clear streams and find your own private spot. Nature lovers will adore De Soto, as will anyone who is just looking for a bit of peace and quiet!
So, that’s everything from our list of the best day trips from New Orleans. No matter which way you head from this city, you’re bound to find the perfect way to spend a day. We think you’ll agree that we’ve included a broad range of activities suited to different budgets, tastes, and interests.
New Orleans is well connected, and all of these day trips are within a 3-hour radius of the city by road or rail. So, there’s no need to worry that you’ll not get back to New Orleans in time for dinner. On the subject of dinner… give the alligator sausage a go if you’re brave enough!
Whether you head north, east, south, or west from The Big Easy, you’ll find something cool to do. And if you think we’ve left anything off, please let us know in the comments below. We wish you an amazing vacation!
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Gin lover. Coffee addict. Nicola has traveled the world for 7 years and is a staff writer for Hotel Jules. Born in London, Nicola first got the taste of travel studying abroad in Barcelona. Since then she's been hooked - traveling the world non-stop. Passionate about green travel and vegan lifestyle, Nicola spends more of her free time staring at maps wondering where she will head to next!