Road Trip Love: Take a Look at 25 of the Prettiest Little Towns in America

From coastal towns to southern gems, these idylls are worth a visit

I am always dreaming of taking a road trip, somewhere, anywhere. Do you ever find yourself staring out the window and wishing you could hop in the RV and drive away?

When you find yourself having moments like this, where do you imagine yourself driving? Do you envision a desert town or a beachfront campground? Or maybe it’s the drive itself you’re most jazzed about.

One of my favorite road trip destinations is traveling to pretty small towns that offer a unique experience in a lovely setting without necessarily having to brave a gazillion people once I get there.

If that is something to which you can relate, I’ve done a little research on some of the prettiest little towns in America. Let’s take a quick photographic tour. Cuz hey, even if you can’t head out on the open road immediately, you can at least make some travel plans so you’re ready to launch when you are.

And research shows that even just PLANNING a trip can be a mood booster. Isn’t that an encouraging thought? I think so! And while many others could be added to this list, let’s simply start with these.

OK, here are 25 of the prettiest little towns you ever did see.

Berea © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Berea, Kentucky

Known as the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky, Berea is a dynamic spot for creators and craftspeople working across a variety of media. Many sell their wares at galleries along Chestnut Street and in both the Artisan Village and the Kentucky Artisan Center. 

Wetumpka © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

 2. Wetumpka, Alabama

Put your finger on the middle of a map of Alabama and you’re likely to land on Wetumpka. Just north of Montgomery, this town is known as the The City of Natural Beauty and it’s easy to see why: Visitors love canoeing and kayaking on the nearby Coosa River and enjoying the green spaces on walks and picnics. Don’t miss Swayback Bridge Trail (for hiking), Corn Creek Park (for birding, fishing, and waterfall watching), and William Bartram Arboretum (to see local flora and fauna).

To learn more about Wetumpka, read The Inspirational Transformation of Wetumpka, Alabama

Aztec Ruins National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Aztec, New Mexico

Known by the Navajo as Kinteel (wide horse), this town’s names come from Escalante’s misguided notion during his visit to the San Juan Basin. He stumbled across the ruins of the Aztec National Monument and thought it was built by the Aztec Indians (though they were built by the Anasazi). 

History lives here at Aztec, especially along its downtown core which is complete with a host of historical buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Otherwise, this San Juan County community is packed with natural wonders and historical monuments, perfect for activities such as fishing, mountain biking, or hiking.

To learn more about Aztec National Monument, you can read The Ultimate Guide to Aztec Ruins National Monument

Schulenburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Schulenburg, Texas

Known as the town that’s halfway to everywhere, Schulenberg is a great small town between Houston and San Antonio. This quiet, cozy spot of just over 2,600 people is usually used as a stopover for those long road trips in Texas but it deserves more time on any itinerary.

Schulenberg was founded by Czech, Austrian, and German settlers in the mid-nineteenth century making it the perfect home for the Texas Polka Museum and a great place to try Czech kolaches (I recommend Kountry Bakery) or German schnitzel.

Downtown, you can dance the night away at Sengelmann Hall, a fully restored Texas dance hall that still has its original pinewood floors from 1894!

One of the local highlights is a stunning series of Painted Churches that some say rival the cathedrals of Europe.

To learn more about Schulenburg, read Halfway to Everywhere: Schulenburg

Murphys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

 5. Murphys, California

In California’s historic Gold Country, Murphys is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and boasts a historic Main Street lined with wine bars and tasting rooms, restaurants, and boutiques. The picturesque town park is a popular place to have a creekside picnic after visiting several of the town’s historic sites where you can delve into the history of the Gold Rush. Don’t miss the Murphys Hotel whose famous guests have included writer Mark Twain. 

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee is a funky artist haven with copper mining town roots. It sits nearly a mile high in the Mule Mountains which means it’s 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler in the summer here than it is in Arizona’s major cities. Victorian homes and buildings are perched precariously on the town’s steep mountainside which has over 350 staircases carved right into it for access.  

Discover Bisbee’s past by visiting the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum and taking the Queen Mine Tour. The tour will bring visitors underground to explore the mine on an ore ride while they learn more about the stories of the miners who worked here. Those who have an interest in the paranormal can book one of several ghost tours in Bisbee to hear the eerily fascinating reports of unexplained happenings and even sightings of spirits donning Victorian attire. Public art features prominently throughout town, from colorful murals and mosaic walls to cars that have been transformed into unique works of art.

Roswell © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Roswell, New Mexico

Chaves County’s community of Roswell is known among tourists for the reported site of an extraterrestrial sighting and spacecraft crash in 1947. Believers of the extraterrestrial flock to Roswell every July for the UFO Encounter Festival.

Visitors can admire the extensive UFO memorabilia and related activities at Roswell including exhibits at the International UFO Museum and Research Center and the souvenirs at the Invasion Station Gift Shop. 

Besides being famous as an alien town, Roswell is also a hub of cultural activities and local history given it was once the original homeland of the Mescalero Apaches and the Comanche’s hunting grounds.

To learn more about Roswell and the UFO Festival you can read What Really Happened at Roswell? and A Giant UFO Festival with All the Outer Space Vibes.

Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Mesilla, New Mexico

While Mesilla exists as a small New Mexico town today, it was once a major stop for traveling between San Antonio and San Diego. Once visitors step into Mesilla they will feel like they stepped in time as the town remains mostly unchanged since its heyday in the 1800s! 

Explore the San Albino Church in the town plaza, which stands as Mesilla Valley’s oldest (and still active) church. This town is also lively thanks to its offerings of unique boutiques, galleries, wineries, and specialty eateries!

To learn more about Mesilla, read La Mesilla: Where History and Culture Become an Experience and Old Mesilla: Where Time Stood Still.

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Mount Dora, Florida

Once a haven for hunting and fishing enthusiasts arriving by steamboat to escape chilly northern winters, today’s visitors flock to Mount Dora just 40 minutes northeast of bustling Orlando to play on 4,500-acre Lake Dora and see wildlife but also to shop for antiques, soak up the vibrant art scene, and stroll the historic downtown. 

With its live oaks, lovely inns, and quaint shops, Mount Dora offers a nostalgic taste of Old Florida. Head to Palm Island Park to stroll a boardwalk surrounded by old-growth trees and lush foliage or spend an afternoon hitting the many nearby antique shops. 

Just a bit north of Palm Island Boardwalk is Grantham Point Park, home to one of Florida’s few freshwater lighthouses. The 35-foot-tall lighthouse is one of the city’s most prominent landmarks and a great place to watch boaters and enjoy the sunset.

Fairhope © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Fairhope, Alabama

When Otis Redding sat down to pen The Dock of the Bay he may have been dreaming about Fairhope. The bayside spot is populated by ethereal live oaks, brilliant azalea bushes, pastel-colored bungalows, and brick sidewalks traversing a lively downtown. 

There are many reasons to visit Fairhope, especially in the off-season. If you love the Gulf Coast, there are few places more scenic with historic homes on streets lined with live oaks and a charming, walkable downtown. Fairhope sits on bluffs that overlook Mobile Bay, so you’re never far from a view of the water. 

Gatlinburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Given the millions of people who visit this area every year, the actual size of Gatlinburg which comes in at fewer than 4,000 residents escapes many travelers. Despite the high-season influxes, it’s the area’s homey Appalachian charm that helps draw all of the visitors here in the first place. The village has continued to evolve with a variety of new attractions joining the perennially popular pancake houses, candy shops, and craft galleries. 

To learn more on Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains, read Smoky Mountain Day Trips from Gatlinburg and Springtime in the Smokies.

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Helen, Georgia

The South holds its own in terms of small towns packing more than their weight in charm—but Helen, Georgia, really hammers that point home. With around 550 residents and only 2.1 square miles, it’s undoubtedly tiny. But the steeply pitched roofs, quaint cross-gables, and colorful half-timbering make the authentic Bavarian village enchanting. It looks straight out of fairytale dreams but sits in the mountains of Georgia.

Helen’s Oktoberfest celebrations have been going on for more than 50 years involving multiple weeks of traditional dancing, food, and beer from September through October. Held in the city’s riverside Festhalle, the permanent home of the festivities, the celebration is the longest-running of its kind in the United States. Helen’s Oktoberfest runs from Thursday to Sunday through September and daily from September 28 to October 29, 2023.

Alamogordo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Alamogordo, New Mexico

Nestled in the high desert on the base of the Sacramento Mountains in Otero County, this southern New Mexico community gets an average of 287 days of sun giving visitors plenty of sunlight to enjoy a collection of thrilling activities.

Play a round of golf at the Desert Lake Golf Course, admire the mechanics of the F-117 Nighthawk at the Holloman Air Force Base, or feel the soft sands at the nearby White Sands National Park. This New Mexico destination is also home to several family-friendly attractions, including the Alameda Park Zoo and the New Mexico Museum of Space History. 

Before you leave Alamogordo, don’t forget to stop by the world’s largest pistachio which is located near the world’s largest gypsum dune.

Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Bardstown, Kentucky

Rand McNally and USA Today called it the Most Beautiful Small Town in America. But Bardstown, Kentucky, is much more than just a pretty face. This Bourbon Capital of the World is home to six notable distilleries. Kentucky’s Official Outdoor Drama, one of the country’s most highly regarded Civil War museums, and one of the most recognized structures in the world is here at Federal Hill, better known as My Old Kentucky Home.

 If you’re looking to get away and take it easy for a couple of days or longer or for a home base for your pilgrimage along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, this is the ideal location.

Learn more about Bardstown by reading Bardstown Sets the Stage for Spirited Memories and Step Back Into Time at My Old Kentucky Home.

Shiner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Shiner, Texas

Speaking of beloved American beverages… Shiner, Texas is home to 2,069 people, Friday’s Fried Chicken, and—most famously—the Spoetzal Brewery where every drop of Shiner beer is brewed. Tours are offered throughout the week where visitors can see how every last drop of their popular brews gets made. 

Tours and samples are available for a small fee. Founded in 1909, the little brewery today sends more than 6 million cases of delicious Shiner beer to states across the country. Founder, Kosmos Spoetzal, would be pretty proud! To which we say “Prosit!”

To learn more about Shiner and Spoetzel Brewery, read A Toast to Texas History.

Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

16. Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Just 51 miles away from the one-of-a-kind hub that is New Orleans, Bay St. Louis couldn’t feel further from the hustle and bustle. The town’s prime spot on the Mississippi Sound, an embayment of the Gulf of Mexico, provides a glorious stretch of white-sanded beach with virtually no crowds. This strip of shoreline is known as Mississippi’s Secret Coast.

Just off of Beach Boulevard, you’ll find Old Town Bay St. Louis, a walkable area full of local shops and eateries. Spend an afternoon strolling through Old Town, browsing the beach boutiques and art galleries. Plan your trip to be in town on the second Saturday of each month when Old Town puts on a giant art walk complete with live music, local merchants, and other special events.

To learn more about this charming town, read Bay St. Louis: A Place Apart.

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

17. Marietta, Ohio

The oldest town in Ohio, Marrieta gets its name from the infamous Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France. Marietta was the first settlement of the Northwest Territory which was all of the land west of Pennsylvania, northwest of the Ohio River, and east of the Mississippi River. The end of the Revolutionary War saw the establishment of this territory in 1787.

A group of pioneers settled and founded Marietta in 1788. The town was easy to access by boat due to its placement on the banks of two major rivers. One of the early industries of the area was boat-building. Boats built in Marietta made their way down to New Orleans and often into the Gulf of Mexico. The town also made steamboats and furniture but much of their industry began to focus on brickmaking, sawmills, iron mills, and, eventually foundries.

Port Aransas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

18. Port Aransas, Texas

Hurricane Harvey caused major damage here in 2017, but nothing can keep this resilient coastal town down. Port A remains one of the state’s main spots for deep-sea fishing and dolphin watching and its 18 miles of beautiful beaches continue to attract returning visitors and new residents.

Stowe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

19. Stowe, Vermont

This impossibly quaint Green Mountain town has all the makings of a Norman Rockwell painting—right down to the general store. But there’s more to Stowe than simple pleasures. Not only does Stowe have Vermont’s tallest peak making it one of the East Coast’s most popular (and powder-friendly) ski destinations, but it’s also home to the Trapp Family Lodge, an Austrian-style chalet owned by the family immortalized in The Sound of Music.

Have a sweet tooth? The Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory is nearby in Waterbury. Be sure to book a maple syrup tasting at one of the local sugar farms to get a real sense of Vermont’s long and storied maple sugaring industry.

Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

20. Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Enjoy the quaint yet lively Breaux Bridge. Known as the Crawfish Capital of the World, the small town of Breaux Bridge offers rich history, world-class restaurants, and a very lively Cajun and Zydeco music and art industry.

Breaux Bridge is also home to the world-famous Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival which is celebrated every May (May 5-7, 2023). This is to pay homage to the sea creature that brought fame and wealth to the town.

Aside from being a popular stopover, you might also want to stay in the quaint town for a couple of days.

Woods Hole © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

21. Woods Hole, Massachusetts

The quaint New England village of Woods Hole lies at the far southwestern tip of Cape Cod with Buzzards Bay to its west and Vineyard Sound to its east. Because of its excellent harbor, Woods Hole became a center for whaling, shipping, and fishing before its dominance today through tourism and marine research.

Woods Hole is a small village and is easily strolled. The village is a world center for marine, biomedical, and environmental science. It houses two large, private organizations: the Marine Biological Laboratory and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. A total of 49 Nobel Laureates have taught, taken courses, or done research at the Marine Biological Laboratory.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

22. Woodstock, New York

To assume that Woodstock is only notable for its namesake 1969 music festival would be a major blunder—the festivities weren’t even held within city limits. In reality, Woodstock is a quaint little Catskills oasis where residents prop up an art, religion, music, and theater scene worthy of national attention. The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild continues to attract artists hoping to retreat from city life and hone their craft and visitors can tour the grounds and see where magic was made.

Medora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

23. Medora, North Dakota

One would think getting Broadway-quality performers to spend their summers in the middle of nowhere, North Dakota would be tough. But it’s barely a chore when you’re drawing them to quaint Medora, home of the Medora Musical and gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The once-depressed cattle town was brought back to life when businessman Harold Shafer sunk millions into it turning it into an Old West Revival that avoids being too campy. Saloons and steakhouses offer stellar food; day hikes along the Pancratz Trail, just outside the Badlands Motel offer sweeping views; and a trip to the Burning Hills Amphitheater—a sort of Hollywood Bowl in the Badlands—is a must for musicals and steak-on-a-pitchfork dinner. The entire town obliterates expectations of what one would expect to find in North Dakota.

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

24. Jacksonville, Oregon

Life slows a pace or two in quaint, historic Jacksonville. Steeped in history, the entire town of Jacksonville is designated a National Historic Landmark. Explore the roots of the area from the days of the 1850’s gold rush to now through a variety of historical tour options including a self-guided walking tour as well as trolley and haunted history tours. A quintessential western town, you’ll find yourself enthralled in how things used to be.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

25. La Conner, Washington

La Conner is one of those places in Washington State that people love to visit—time and time again. The reasons are many, but one that stands out is that La Conner is a quaint, historic waterfront village.

This riverfront town has a lovely setting located on the Swinomish Channel overlooking Fidalgo Island with plenty of waterfront restaurants.

Downtown La Conner has a wonderfully preserved Historic District with 27 vintage buildings from the 1860s to the early 1900s. Many of these were constructed during La Conner’s heyday in the 1890s when it was a major steamboat hub between Seattle and Bellingham.  

Get more tips for visiting La Conner: La Conner: Charming, Picturesque & Quaint.

Worth Pondering…

I say half your life is spent trying to get out of a small town and the other half trying to get back to one.

—Anon

My Favorite Things about Louisiana

From authentic dishes and Mardi Gras to adventures into nature, these are just a few of the reasons why I love Louisiana

There are infinite opportunities to get to know Louisiana, a state known for some of the nation’s (if not the world’s) friendliest folks, plus the kind of cuisine, music, and culture that are found nowhere else.

Here are a few of my favorites but by no means is this list complete—there’s simply too much to see and do! Add these to your Louisiana must-experience list. 

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Creole Nature Trail All-American Road

Starting on the outskirts of Lake Charles and ending at the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road is a network of byways where you’ll find more than 400 bird species, alligators galore, and 26 miles of Gulf of Mexico beaches. Also called America’s Outback, the Creole Nature Trail takes visitors through 180 miles of southwest Louisiana’s backroads.

Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll pass through small fishing villages, National Wildlife Refuges to reach the little-visited, remote Holly and Cameron beaches. Take a side trip down to Sabine Lake or drive onto a ferry that takes visitors across Calcasieu Pass. Throughout the trip, expect to see exotic birds; this area is part of the migratory Mississippi Flyway. 

>> Get more tips for visiting Creole Nature Trail

Louisiana swamp tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Louisiana Swamp Tours

Louisiana serves up a lot more memorable experiences than just bowls of its famed gumbo.

To experience an indelible part of the state’s past, present, and future visit the mysterious and exquisite swamps throughout south Louisiana, home to one of the planet’s richest and most diverse ecosystems. Perceived as beautiful and menacing, south Louisiana’s ancient swamps have long captivated writers, historians, and travelers.

Louisiana swamp tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just the name Louisiana brings to mind images of moss-draped oak trees, bald cypresses with massive, bottle-like trunks, and flat-bottom boats effortlessly gliding through waters populated with alligators. On a south Louisiana swamp tour, you’re likely to see all of those plus some unexpected surprises.

There are many outfitters who can get you deep into the waters of the Honey Island Swamp (on Louisiana’s Northshore) the Manchac Swamp (between Baton Rouge and New Orleans), Barataria Bay (south of New Orleans), and the massive Atchafalaya Basin between Baton Rouge and Lafayette. All swamps have their own stories to tell and with the help of expert local guides you’re guaranteed to have the kind of adventure you’ll only find in Louisiana.

Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Bayou Teche

The definition of a bayou is “a slow-moving body of water” and South Louisiana is full of them. But my favorite is Bayou Teche which meanders for 125 miles through charming towns like New Iberia, Breaux Bridge, and St. Martinville offering lovely vistas all along the way.

Bayou Teche was the Mississippi River’s main course when it developed a delta about 2,800 to 4,500 years ago. From its southernmost point in Morgan City to its northern end in Arnaudville, the byway crosses beautiful marshes and fields of sugar cane connecting lovely towns that have well-preserved historic districts.

Bayou Teche at St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sample Acadian culture in cafés and dance halls serve up Cajun and zydeco music along with boiled crawfish and étouffée. Stately mansions along with the bayou exhibit the lifestyles of sugar barons from the past. The cuisine, customs, and architecture reflect the influences of Native Americans, Europeans, Africans, the Caribbean, and other peoples who settled the area.

>> Get more tips for visiting the Bayou Teche

Konriko Company Store © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Conrad Rice Mill/KONRIKO Company Store

New Iberia’s Conrad Rice Mill is the oldest rice mill in America and is also one of the leading tourist attractions in the Bayou Teche area. At this National Register of Historic Places site, you can watch an introductory video about the history of rice farming in Louisiana, tour the mill itself, and shop at the KONRIKO Company Store for some truly unique local souvenirs.

P.A. Conrad founded the Conrad Rice Mill and Planting Company in 1912. He would cut the rice by hand and let it sun-dry on the levees before putting the rice in the threshers. The rice was poured into 100-pound bags and taken to the mill. At that time, the mill operated only three to four months out of the year. Conrad would sell his rice from inventory waiting for the next crop to harvest.

Tours are Monday to Saturday at 10 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 2 pm and 3 pm. The admission fee for the tour is $5/adult with a discounted rate for seniors and children. The tour consists of a slide presentation about the area and a guided walk tour of the mill.

Mardi Gras parade © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is just one of many reasons Louisiana has gained a reputation for being the nation’s most festive state. Mardi Gras isn’t just a day (also known as Fat Tuesday)—it’s also a season running from Twelfth Night (also known as Epiphany) to Ash Wednesday.

Visitors can also get a feel for the festivities anytime of the year. Check out the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu in Lake Charles, home to a stellar collection of Carnival costumes and artifacts from past decades. Or see the Mardi Gras: It’s Carnival Time in Louisiana exhibit at Louisiana State Museum’s The Presbytère in New Orleans to learn about the state’s rich Mardi Gras history. You can see Mardi Gras being built year-round at Mardi Gras World in New Orleans where some of the biggest and best parade floats are being constructed.

>> Get more tips for visiting during Mardi Gras

Louisiana hot sauces © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Cajun and Creole Cuisine

Louisiana’s food is steeped with historical influences including Cajun and Creole cuisines which are relatively similar to each other. Cajun and Creole are two distinct cultures that over the years have continued to blend.

If you’re versed on Louisiana history and culture then all you really need to know is that Creole cuisine uses tomatoes and proper Cajun food does not. That’s how you tell a Cajun vs. Creole gumbo or jambalaya. Other popular dishes include étouffée (a seafood stew) and beignets (fried doughnuts).

A vastly simplified way to describe the two cuisines is to deem Creole cuisine as city food while Cajun cuisine is often referred to as country food. Cajun is a style of cooking that has its roots in the French-Canadian settlers who arrived in the area in the 18th century. Cajun dishes are typically very spicy and full of flavor and they often include seafood, rice, and beans.

Be sure to try some of the delicious Cajun and Creole food on offer. You can find it in restaurants all over the state but for a truly authentic experience head to the bayous of southwest Louisiana.

Tabasco on Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Avery Island

The McIlhenny family introduced Tabasco pepper sauce in 1868. Experience the history and production of the world-famous hot sauce during your visit to Avery Island. The Avery Island Fan Experience includes a self-guided tour of the TABASCO Museum, Pepper Greenhouse, Barrel Warehouse, Avery Island Conservation, Salt Mine diorama, TABASCO Country Store, TABASCO Restaurant 1868! and the 170-acre natural beauty of Jungle Gardens. Admission is $15.50/adult, $12.50/child, and $15.95/senior and veteran.

Jungle Gardens on Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

E.A. McIlhenny created the 170-acre Jungle Garden in 1935 and opened it to the public to enjoy his collection of camellias, azaleas, and other imported plants. You may see wildlife such as alligators, bears, bobcats, deer, and other wildlife as you walk or drive along man-made lagoons that trail Bayou Petit Anse. The over 900-year-old Buddha sits in the Temple he created. And visit Bird City, home to thousands of egrets, herons, and other birds!

>> Get more tips for visiting Avery Island

Crawfish farming © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Crawfish Season

If the pelican wasn’t on Louisiana’s state flag, the crawfish might as well be. It’s just that important to the state’s identity, economy, and cuisine. The little red crustacean is found in Cajun and Creole food throughout Louisiana cooked every which way imaginable.

Crawfish are part of Louisiana’s history. The Houma Indian tribe has used the crawfish as its emblem for centuries. Today, Louisiana leads the nation in crawfish production.

Crawfish farming © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What makes crawfish even more of a precious resource is the fact that it’s so seasonal. February to mid-May is the prime time to find fresh, live crawfish.

Jeff Davis Parish offers crawfish farm tours which give visitors an inside glimpse of crawfish ecology and the business of farming them. The tours operate from March to May (the crawfish harvest season) on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. Spectators will experience the habitat, harvest, calculation, distribution, and consumption of Louisiana’s #1 crustacean.

The Louisiana Legislature named Breaux Bridge the Crawfish Capital of the World in 1959 and the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival was born in 1960. Replete with music, food, and fun this festival personifies the Cajun culture like no other. 

Boudin at Don’t Specialty Meats © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Boudin

Trying boudin is a must when visiting Louisiana. Though the recipe is uncomplicated—pork, rice, seasonings, and spice stuffed into an edible casing—each and every boudin is unique in texture and taste. Vendors are known for their distinct links. Boudin is a roughly half-pound, half-foot length of sausage available for purchase in most every local meat market, grocery store, and gas station. A perfect way to explore the region is to try one boudin after another, link after steaming hot link, to form a chain that connects, or literally links, the Cajun prairie towns to the Creole bayou communities.

Billy’s Boudin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether it’s smoked, fried as a boudin ball, or made from seafood rather than pork, there are many worthy variations. The best versions are found at gas stations and markets, like Best Stop or Billy’s, both in the town of Scott. Specialty meat markets like Don’s in Carencro offer a heart-stopping range of other meaty treats. And of course you’ll find high-end versions in restaurants like Cochon in New Orleans but do yourself a favor and check out the real deal at some of the old-school joints throughout Cajun Country. 

Atchafalaya National Heritage Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Atchafalaya National Heritage Area

The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area known as America’s Foreign Country is full of opportunities to take advantage of the great outdoors. Whether it’s paddling on the sparkling waters, hiking through the lush greenery, biking on winding paths, or keeping an eye out for that elusive bird you’ve been looking for­—the Atchafalaya National Heritage area has everything to offer. 

An American-Indian word, Atchafalaya (think of a sneeze: uh-CHA-fuh-lie-uh) means long river. Established in 2006, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area stretches across 14 parishes in south-central Louisiana. It is among the most culturally rich and ecologically varied regions in the United States, home to the Cajun culture as well as a diverse population of European, African, Caribbean, and Native-American descent.

>> Get more tips for visiting Atchafalaya National Heritage Area

Worth Pondering…

Goodbye joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh
Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou
My yvonne, the sweetest one, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, well have good fun on the bayou.

—Lyrics and recording by Hank Williams, Sr., 1954

10 Amazing Places to RV in May 2023

If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in May

A ship is safe in harbor but that’s not what ships are for.

—John A. Shedd

In 1901, a Minnesota newspaper reported that President Theodore Roosevelt wanted his warships on the move and that they would rust and rot if left in the harbor. Twenty-seven years later, a professor by the name of John A. Shedd solidified Roosevelt’s sentiment into a pithy, memorable quote to share with the world reminding us that great experiences are sometimes found over the horizon. Just as ships are meant to sail the seas, so too are we meant to explore new ideas and experiences. It can take courage to leave life’s safe harbors but the reward for such bravery is a life well-lived.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in March and April. Also, check out my recommendations from May 2022 and June 2022.

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Downtown delight

You can feel Macon’s soul throughout the city. Walk down Cherry Street in Downtown Macon and experience Southern hospitality as friendly store owners help you shop local products. Follow your nose and dine at one of their delicious restaurants. Stop by one of the art galleries and find unique pieces created by local artists. Learn about African American art, history, and culture at the 8,500 square foot Tubman Museum. Walk through the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and see over 3,000 artifacts highlighting some of the best athletes from the state.

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hop in the car and take a short drive to Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park. With over 17,000 years of history, it’s one of Macon’s top attractions. See the Earth Lodge with its original floors dating back to 1015.

Are you a fan of antebellum homes? Tour Hay House lovingly nicknamed The Palace of the South. It’s known for its incredible architecture and technological advancements and is a must-see. 

Rayne frog mural © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Rayne Frog Festival Happens Soon

Ever seen a frog derby? Want to try frog legs? The Frog Festival is the place to check out all things froggy as well as loads of other fun activities.

The Frog Festival is part county fair with local food vendors and rides and part French Acadian cultural exposition with three full days packed with live music and much of it Cajun. And of course, there are plenty of frog legs to eat!

Rayne frog mural © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Local high school artists compete to have their artwork become the festival poster, vendors sell crafts, the frog derby is still going strong, and there is always a frog cook-off, a frog-jumping contest, a dance contest, a grand parade, and Frog Festival pageants. It’s a highly unique, full-weekend festival that is definitely worth a quick deviation off the beaten path (or, ahem, off of I-10).

The 51st Annual Rayne Frog Festival is is slated for May 12-14, 2023 and features a full schedule including music, delicious food, a signature festival drink, and souvenir cup commemorating 51 years of tradition, arts and crafts show, carnival rides, frog cook-off, frog-eating contest, folklore tent, frog racing and jumping, and a few surprises along the way.

Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Crawfish Prepared Every Way Imaginable

Always held the first weekend in May, the world famous Crawfish Festival began in 1960 as a spin-off of the Breaux Bridge Centennial Celebration. The Louisiana Legislature had just named Breaux Bridge the Crawfish Capital of the World in 1959. The festival is now known around the country and even the world. Every May (May 5-7, 2023), thousands of hungry people flock to Breaux Bridge to be part of the festivities.

Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Crawfish Festival has also become one of the largest gatherings of world famous Cajun musicians. All weekend long you can hear the sound of authentic Cajun, Zydeco and Swamp Pop music rising from the festival. Whether your musical taste is Cajun or Creole, you can witness over 30 bands perform over the three day event if you think you have the stamina. It’s a perfect opportunity to see our musical tradition passed from generation to generation. Watch the Cajun dance contests, and if you’re brave, join in. There’s no better way to learn. There are even Cajun music workshops held in the heritage tent.

Doughnuts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Ohio’s Donut Trail

You may want to pair a trip down the Donut Trail with a few of the local hikes. But for those who savor the mouthwatering taste of a cream-filled or glazed delight, traveling this 80-mile path will provide sweet memories. Gather stamps on a Donut Trail passport to earn discounts and other benefits for attractions within Butler County near Cincinnati.

Confused about where to start or how to make the most of your time on the trail? There’s a Donut Trail concierge on call to answer your most pressing questions. Simply call 513-860-0917 for assistance with finding somewhere to stay, planning your route, and finding fun must-dos during your Donut Trail Getaway. Concierge hours are Monday-Friday between 8:30 am-5:00 pm. Once you’ve conquered all of the donut shop stops with your passport you’ll be rewarded with the official Donut Trail T-shirt.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Admire synchronous fireflies

Sparkling fireflies are synonymous with summer and Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a lot of them—like tens of thousands. In late spring, these bioluminescent fireflies twinkle in tandem during Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s annual Synchronous Firefly extravaganza which typically runs from late May to early June. The ticketed event draws thousands of nature enthusiasts to the evening shows; it takes place near the Elkmont campground. Attendance is limited to minimize disturbance to the fireflies; passes are awarded via a lottery system with a $1 lottery application fee and successful permits at $24.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Experience Sea Turtle season

With its unspoiled beaches, lush maritime forests, and peaceful marshes, Jekyll Island, a barrier island off the coast of Georgia, is a dream getaway for nature lovers and wildlife watchers—especially during sea turtle season.

The best time to see adult sea turtles is during nesting season which begins in May with nests often laid through mid-summer. Jekyll Island is one of the few places where you can experience up-close encounters with sea turtles. These gentle giants can weigh hundreds of pounds and adult females leave their saltwater and estuarine habitats to bring themselves onto the sandy beaches to lay eggs.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sea turtle hatching season typically happens in August through October and is the best time to potentially witness turtle hatchlings emerge from their nest and scamper their way across the beach and into the ocean.

At the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, take a behind-the-scenes tour into the turtle hospital to learn about sea turtle care and treatment. To spot some sea turtle nests for yourself, head out on the center’s Night and Dawn Patrol programs with a field biologist. You can also take a guided Turtle Walk to learn more.

Kingman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. The heart of Historic Route 66

Kingman, Arizona is known as the Heart of Historic Route 66 because the longest remaining stretch of Mother Road branches out to the east and to the west of town. 

Depending on which way you go cruising Route 66 out of Kingman can feel like going down memory lane in 1950s America with picturesque gas stations, curio shops, attractions, and even a couple vineyards dotting the landscape. Or, it’s like turning a page to the 1930s in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath with twisty mountain passes (great for a camper van or small class C, not a Class A motorcoach), a living ghost town, and scenic desert vistas.

Kingman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In any direction, driving down Route 66 is cruising in every sense. The blacktop rumbles from the undercarriage, a breeze wisps through the cracked window, and the sun beams down from Arizona’s blue skies… it’s how a road trip on a historic highway should feel.

Whether you seek a little history in a small southwestern town, an adventure on your way to the Grand Canyon, or are just looking for a good burger and a hike, Kingman is the dart on the map from which to launch your Arizona RVing adventure.

Shin oak at Monahans Sandhills State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. A massive forest of tiny oaks

Monahans Sandhills State Park is a landscape of shifting dunes under a dry West Texas sky. It’s also home to one of North America’s biggest oak forests, but you might not notice that right away.

Many dunes in this park support thickets of Havard shin oak (Quercus havardii), a native tree that usually tops out at 3 feet. Spreading by way of underground stems called rhizomes the oaks sink roots in the deep sand. They’re most visible on the south side of the park blanketing dune faces with their brief branches and dark grayish-green foliage.

Monahans Sandhills State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shin oak is found in the Texas Panhandle and parts of New Mexico and Oklahoma. Well adapted to a harsh environment, it lives where few other trees will grow. The groves at Monahans are part of a plant community that occupies 40,000 acres of the surrounding sandhill country.

Their roots and rhizomes stabilize the dunes. Growing close to the ground, they provide nesting sites for scaled quail and cover for the endangered sand dune lizard. Their acorns, measuring up to an inch long and three-quarters of an inch in diameter, provide food for deer and rodents.

Think about it. That scrubby 3-foot oak clinging to the side of a Monahans sandhill may have grown from an acorn that fell when the Big Tree on Goose Island was just a sprout.  

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Alberta’s national parks

Summer in Alberta is truly magical with endless sunshine, stunning landscapes, and unlimited outdoor activities to enjoy. And what better way to experience all of this than by camping in one of the province’s beautiful national parks?

Banff National Park is one of Canada’s most iconic and beloved national parks and for good reason. Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Banff offers breathtaking views, incredible wildlife sightings, and an endless array of outdoor activities. The park boasts 13 campgrounds with over 2,400 sites. Banff’s most popular campgrounds include Tunnel Mountain, Two Jack Lakeside, and Lake Louise.

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jasper National Park is another must-visit destination for camping enthusiasts. The park’s rugged mountains, turquoise lakes, and glaciers are truly awe-inspiring and there’s no better way to experience them than by spending a few nights under the stars. Jasper offers 11 campgrounds with over 1,800 sites. Some of the most popular campgrounds in Jasper include Wapiti, Whistlers, and Pocahontas.

Nestled in the southwestern corner of Alberta, Waterton Lakes National Park is a hidden gem that offers stunning scenery and plenty of outdoor activities. The park’s unique blend of prairie, mountain, and lake landscapes makes it a photographer’s paradise and its diverse wildlife makes it a nature lover’s dream. Waterton offers four campgrounds with over 200 sites. Some of the most popular campgrounds in Waterton include Townsite, Crandell Mountain, and Belly River.

Elk Island National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Elk Island National Park is another great option for camping in Alberta. Located just a short drive east of Edmonton, this park offers a unique blend of grasslands and aspen parkland and a chance to see bison, elk, and other wildlife up close. Elk Island offers two campgrounds with over 200 sites. Some of the most popular campgrounds in Elk Island include Astotin Lake and Oster Lake.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. A braying good time

The ghost town of Oatman is a worthy destination to visit for history lovers and you will find businesses operating there despite the lack of residents. A must-stop on a Route 66 road trip, Oatman is another former mining town that offers the chance for visitors to experience the Old West as pictured in so many cowboy films.

Oatman © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While it’s a ghost town, in recent years it’s taken on new life as a popular tourist attraction. Wild burros roam the streets in search of treats, the carrots that are purchased from one of the numerous carrot stands. In fact, more burros reside in Oatman than humans. The population of about 100 people is mainly business owners who make a living off of the steady stream of tourist traffic that runs through the town annually.

Worth Pondering…

When April steps aside for May, like diamonds all the rain-drops glisten; fresh violets open every day; to some new bird each hour we listen.

―Lucy Larcom

The Quaintest Towns in America

Pull up a rocking chair, pour yourself a cool glass of lemonade, and settle in as we get to know some of the quaintest towns in the U.S.

When it comes to quaint you might be picturing an idyllic English borough or a half timbered French enclave but the U.S. has endless charming hideaways to discover. From coastal, windswept fishing villages to mountain enclaves, here are 10 of the quaintest towns in America.

Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Stowe, Vermont

This impossibly quaint Green Mountain town has all the makings of a Norman Rockwell painting—right down to the general store. But there’s more to Stowe than simple pleasures. Not only does Stowe have Vermont’s tallest peak making it one of the East Coast’s most popular (and powder-friendly) ski destinations, it’s also home to the Trapp Family Lodge, an Austrian-style chalet owned by the family immortalized in The Sound of Music.

Have a sweet tooth? The Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory is nearby in Waterbury. Be sure to book a maple syrup tasting at one of the local sugar farms to get a real sense of Vermont’s long and storied maple sugaring industry.

>> Get more tips for visiting Vermont

Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Enjoy the quaint yet lively Breaux Bridge. Known as the Crawfish Capital of the World, the small town of Breaux Bridge offers rich history, world-class restaurants, and a very lively Cajun and Zydeco music and art industry.

Breaux Bridge is also home to the world-famous Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival which is celebrated every May (May 5-7, 2023). This is to pay homage to the sea creature that brought fame and wealth to the town.

Aside from being a popular stopover, you might also want to stay in the quaint town for a couple of days.

>> Get more tips for visiting Breaux Bridge

Woods Hole © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Woods Hole, Massachusetts

The quaint New England village of Woods Hole lies at the far southwestern tip of Cape Cod with Buzzards Bay to its west and Vineyard Sound to its east. Because of its excellent harbor, Woods Hole became a center for whaling, shipping, and fishing prior to its dominance today by tourism and marine research.

Woods Hole is a small village and is easily strolled. The village is a world center for marine, biomedical, and environmental science. It houses two large, private organizations: the Marine Biological Laboratory and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. A total of 49 Nobel Laureates have taught, taken courses, or done research at the Marine Biological Laboratory.

Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Helen, Georgia

When you think of wine country and the North Georgia mountains, one place naturally comes to mind: Helen, the quaintist little town in the Peach State. Turning onto the main drag is like apparating from the Deep South to the German Alps in two seconds flat. The street is lined with chocolatiers, biergartens, and souvenir shops that’ll have you thinking you’re in Europe. Outside town are a handful of wineries where visitors learn that Georgia Wine isn’t just a nice way of saying moonshine. It’s also set right on the Chattahoochee River which means plenty of rafting, fishing, and hiking. If you can’t make it in the summer, Oktoberfest here is, unsurprisingly, quite the event.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Woodstock, New York

To assume that Woodstock is only notable for its namesake 1969 music festival would be a major blunder—the festivities weren’t even held within city limits. In reality, Woodstock is a quaint little Catskills oasis where residents prop up an art, religion, music, and theater scene worthy of national attention. The Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild continues to attract artists hoping to retreat from city life and hone their craft and visitors can tour the grounds and see where magic was made.

Woodstock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the Maverick, a barn-like concert hall that’s still in operation today, locals have been enjoying outdoor hippie music festivals since the dawn of the 20th century and in the summer the city hosts outdoor concerts at the Village Green for all to enjoy.

When you’re ready for a dose of nature, make your way to the Overlook Mountain Wild Forest—the 4.6-mile mountain trail begins beside the monastery and runs along ruins of a never-completed hotel, a historic fire tower, and stunning viewpoints of the Hudson Valley.

>> Get more tips for visiting Woodstock

Medora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Medora, North Dakota

One would think getting Broadway-quality performers to spend their summers in the middle of nowhere, North Dakota would be tough. But it’s barely a chore when you’re drawing them to quaint Medora, home of the Medora Musical and gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The once-depressed cattle town was brought back to life when businessman Harold Shafer sunk millions into it turning it into an Old West Revival that avoids being too campy. Saloons and steakhouses offer stellar food; day hikes along the Pancratz Trail, just outside the Badlands Motel offer sweeping views; and a trip to the Burning Hills Amphitheater—a sort of Hollywood Bowl in the Badlands—is a must for musicals and steak-on-a-pitchfork dinner. The entire town obliterates expectations of what one would expect to find in North Dakota.

>> Get more tips for visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Jacksonville, Oregon

Life slows a pace or two in quaint, historic Jacksonville. Steeped in history, the entire town of Jacksonville is designated a National Historic Landmark. Explore the roots of the area from the days of the 1850’s gold rush to now through a variety of historical tour options including a self guided walking tour as well as trolley and haunted history tours. A quintessential western town, you’ll find yourself enthralled in how things used to be.

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacksonville will charm you with more than its history. The quaint brick and wooden buildings are alive with great food, unique merchandise, live music, and wine as they now house an eclectic mix of independently owned shops, restaurants, spas, and lodging.

For culture seekers the Britt Festival offers a wide range of musical performances from June through September and keeps Jacksonville abuzz in the summer months.

>> Get more tips for visiting Jacksonville

Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Considered a place apart, this quaint seaside town has been named one of the Coolest Small Towns in America by Budget Travel and was also recognized as a top 10 small beach town by Coastal Living Magazine. From friendly folks to historic buildings, this unique city embraces the heritage of the Coastal Mississippi region.

The town’s prime spot on the Mississippi Sound, an embayment of the Gulf of Mexico, provides a glorious stretch of white-sanded beach with virtually no crowds.

Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just off of Beach Boulevard, you’ll find Old Town Bay St. Louis, a walkable area full of local shops and eateries. Spend an afternoon strolling through Old Town, browsing the beach boutiques and art galleries. Don’t miss the French Potager, an antique store and flower shop.

>> Get more tips for visiting Bay St. Louis

Seaside © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Seaside, Florida

Seaside is a quaint little coastal town in the Florida panhandle known for its sugar white sand, emerald water, mom-and-pop stores, and laid-back beach vibe. Seaside is located along a beautiful stretch of the coast midway between Destin and Panama City but has a totally different personality than those bustling hotspots. The town is acclaimed world-wide as one of the iconic examples of New Urbanism where a defined town center with shopping and dining are well within walkable distance to homes, cottages, and offices. 

Green spaces and parks are prominent throughout the town as well as house fronts with inviting porches line these areas where walking paths encourage mingling with passersby instead of watching zooming cars. Less than 300 homes make up this town (many of them available as vacation rentals with kitschy beach-themed names) and all have a colorful picket fence and charm.  The town’s streets end in distinctive beach pavilions providing access to the beautiful Gulf of Mexico and white sugar sand beaches. 

Seaside © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A prominent feature in downtown Seaside is the Airstream Food Court where Silver Bullets serve up a myriad of food groups sure to please everyone’s palate in your party.  This strip plays centerpiece to hungry people in search of gourmet hot dogs at Wild Bill’s Beach Dogs, Hawaiian shaved ice at Frosty Bites, and those looking for a creative take on the grilled cheese at the Meltdown on 30A.  

Midway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Midway, Kentucky

Some of our most pleasant moments always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else. So it was when we unexpectedly came upon the quaint, historic town of Midway. Located midway between Frankfort and Lexington, Historic Midway was the first town in Kentucky founded by a railroad.

Midway’s downtown followed the railroad’s fortunes and by the late 1960s and early 1970s, the few remaining businesses primarily served the local agricultural community.

Midway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Revitalization and rebirth began in the mid-1970s when several antique shops and galleries were established and the Midway I Village Guild was formed. In 1978, 176 buildings in Midway were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Now, Historic Midway once again thrives and enjoys its present reputation as one of Kentucky’s favorite spots for antiques, crafts, gifts, restaurants, and clothing. Several freight trains still make use of the active tracks running through Railroad Street, preserving Midway’s unique history and atmosphere.

Today, Midway continues to be a uniquely friendly and quaint town with a noticeable spirit. Among the cheery storefronts that line Main Street, you’ll find an array of antique shops, specialty boutiques, and restaurants with a little something for everyone.

>> Get more tips for visiting Midway

La Connor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. La Conner, Washington

La Conner is one of those places in Washington State that people love to visit—time and time again. The reasons are many, but one that stands out is that La Conner is a quaint, historic waterfront village.

This riverfront town has a lovely setting located on the Swinomish Channel overlooking Fidalgo Island with plenty of waterfront restaurants.

Downtown La Conner has a wonderfully preserved Historic District with 27 vintage buildings from the 1860s to the early 1900s. Many of these were constructed during La Conner’s heyday in the 1890s when it was a major steamboat hub between Seattle and Bellingham.  

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Strolling through town, there is plenty of sidewalk art and boutique shops. There are also plenty of places to take in the views of the Swinomish Channel or garden courtyards with fountains and statues.

Continue your artsy walk around La Conner by heading to the Rainbow Bridge, a huge piece of functional art that spans the Swinomish Channel connecting Fidalgo Island to La Conner.

>> Get more tips for visiting La Conner

Worth Pondering…

I say half your life is spent trying to get out of a small town and the other half trying to get back to one.

—Anon

Discover Lafayette in the Heart of Cajun Country

Find some joie de vivre here and po’ boys

Select a town or small city in America for a road trip and you’ll likely get a lot of the same. Perhaps a cute main drag, a church or two, an old-school diner. Don’t get me wrong, small-town America can be great—but there’s no place quite like Lafayette, Louisiana.

Called the happiest city in America year after year plus the tastiest Southern town and music mecca, this New Orleans-alternative and geographic heart of the Bayou State is oozing with joie de vivre. That’s mostly thanks to the resident Creoles (French speakers born outside of France) and Cajuns (descendants of the Acadians expelled from the Canadian Maritimes in the 18th Century) who get what it means to have a good time.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sure, there are Mardi Gras traditions unique to Creole and Cajun country like chicken chases but Lafayette which is also known as Hub City because of the many towns that surround it has so much more to offer. You’ll find arguably more festivals than any other US city of its size, parties every night at dancehall honky tonks, and some of the best cuisine in the country. Think New Orleans’ best cuisine and here is where most of those dishes originated.

And Lafayette is only getting better. Over the last few years, creative locals have revitalized downtown Lafayette with shops and restaurants you won’t see anywhere else.

So if you find yourself, like Paul Simon, “standing on the corner of Lafayette, state of Louisiana, wondering where a city boy could go to get a little conversation, drink a little red wine, catch a little bit of those Cajun girls dancing to zydeco,” here’s your guide.

Boudin balls © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lafayette knows how to party

Mardi Gras is done very differently here and absolutely needs to go on your bucket list even if you’ve experienced carnival season in New Orleans. On Fat Tuesday in Lafayette, locals dress up in colorful masks with big noses (like a more colorful big bird), get wasted, and eat thousands of crawfish.

But Lafayette doesn’t stop all year ‘round. In March, there’s Festivals Acadiens et Créoles for Cajun fiddle and washboard zydeco music. In April you’ve got Festival International (April 26-39, 2023) which attracts hundreds of thousands to the city every year and a festival for boudin.

Don’s Specialty Meats in Scott for boudin and other Cajun food © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boudin is deeply ingrained in Cajun culture and the nearby community of Scott celebrates and shares it. You can find all kinds of mouth-watering boudin at the 9th annual Scott Boudin Festival, April 14-16, 2023. This regional authentic Cajun food is a favorite for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Boudin is a delicious combination of rice, ground pork, and flavorful seasonings stuffed into sausage casings. Boudin remains one of the most unique American sausages and regional specialties of Louisiana’s Cajun culture.

Rayne frog mural © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The rest of the year, there are festivals for everything from po’ boy sandwiches to frogs (Rayne Frog Festival) to sweet dough pie. In September, the Acadiana Po-boy & Plate Lunch Festival combines two of Lafayette’s favorite culinary gems, the po’boy and the plate lunch.

Sweet Dough Pie Festival celebrates the history of Grand Coteau (15 miles north of Lafayette off I-49) and a traditional Louisiana treat called a sweet dough pie. Every year on the fourth Saturday of October this charming town draws thousands of hungry visitors in search of their favorite traditional filling―sweet potato, fig, blackberry, or lemon!

Crawfish float in Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Any time of the year, party while you eat during the world-famous zydeco breakfasts at Buck & Johnny’s (Saturdays, 8-11 am) or Cajun jams (Saturdays and Sundays, 11 am-1 pm) at Tante Marie in Breaux Bridge. Essentially, they’re exactly what they sound like: you eat a decadent brunch while listening to traditional music and everyone is encouraged to get up and boogie. Just know that you’ll never master the slick moves of the octagenarians (one who is between the ages of 80 and 89) you’re bound to see cutting up the dance floor.

Last but certainly not least, go dancing at Blue Moon Saloon Saloon & Guest House and Artmosphere. These two dancehalls encapsulate Lafayette’s love of life more than any place else.

Frog City RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get that Cajun and Creole grub

Cajun and Creole food are celebrated the world over and Lafayette is where it all began. There are literally 50 places to eat boudin (Cajun Boudin Trail) so many crawfish boils during the season, gumbo (a meat stew made with dark roux in Acadiana as opposed to tomato-based roux in New Orleans), and shrimp étoufée (seafood stew over rice).

Cracklin, a Cajun food specialty © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You really can’t go wrong with food in Lafayette but if you want a guide to give you a sampling of the most traditional dishes, you can do a Cajun Food Tour which offers history tours and culinary tours all rolled into one. Their tours take you into the heart of Cajun Country, off the eaten path.

After you’ve tried the classics, downtown Lafayette has some exciting new restaurants that are definitely worth checking out. The finest is Vestal (555 Jefferson Street) where Chef Ryan Trahan—a.k.a. The King of Louisiana Seafood—is doing something special with live fire cooking techniques. Otherwise, try Pop’s Poboys (740 Jefferson Street) or Pamplona Tapas Bar & Restaurant (631 Jefferson Street).

Tabasco factory on Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drink bookstore wine or drive-thru daiquiris

Beausoleil Books & Whisper Room (302A Jefferson Street) is the kind of place that proves Lafayette is on the up and up. The bookstore is the only place that has a collection of French books for sale in Lafayette these days and it duals as a bar and event space—yes, you can even take your drink with you as you peruse.

Jungle Gardens on Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wild Child Wines (210 E. Vermilion Street) has the city’s best selection of natural and traditional wine which can be sipped in-shop. If craft beer’s what you’re after, Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville is worth the 20-mile drive for its big selection of intriguing flavors (king cake beer during carnival season!) and does a mean pizza. If you’re daring, try their Boudin Bomb (a cajun stout with bourbon and “Gatorbite” coffee liquor).

Just make sure you don’t leave Lafayette without getting a drive-thru daiquiri at a place like Frankie’s because where else in the world can you say you did that?

Alligator on Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gander at the ‘gators and get (hot) sauced

Humans and alligators have a complicated relationship. They scare us but they’re nothing to be afraid of. Well, as long as you’re not a tiny, bite-sized human or swimming right next to them. From a lovely, floating, safe boat, they’re pretty neat to watch. The best way to do that is with McGee’s Swamp and Airboat tours which are also a good way to gain an appreciation for Louisiana wetlands.

Cajun Palms RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another fun thing to do is to drive down to Avery Island, the home of the Tabasco hot sauce factory. You can also sample every sauce flavor available here along with super delicious Tabasco Ice Cream. More than a worthwhile museum experience, Avery Island has jungle gardens with exotic wildlife including hundreds of egrets that nest on the island each spring on specially built, pier-like structures in a pond nicknamed “Bird City.”

Poche’s RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to stay in Lafayette

Campgrounds and RV Parks in the Lafayette area include:

  • Cajun Palms RV Resort, 15 miles west in Henderson (I-10, Exit 115)
  • Lafayette KOA Holiday, 8 miles east in Scott (1-10, Exit 97)
  • Frog City RV Park, 12 miles east in Duson (I-10, Exit 92)
  • Poche’s RV Park and Fish-N-Camp, 12 northwest in Breaux Bridge (1-10; Exit 104; check directions locally)

Worth Pondering…

Well, I’m standing on the corner of Lafayette
State of Louisiana
Wondering where a city boy could go
To get a little conversation
Drink a little red wine
Catch a little bit of those Cajun girls
Dancing to Zydeco.

―Paul Simon, “That Was Your Mother”, Track 10 on Graceland (1986)

Winter 2022-23: 10 Best Things to Do in America

While summer gets all the popular attention—sun, sand, sea, surf, and so on—it’s safe to say that winter is underrated

From fishing and camping to a taste bud tour, RVing with Rex reveals unique and unusual picks for the 10 best things to do in the US this winter. Your RV bucket list just got (a lot) longer.

The best things to do this winter include many hidden gems and unique experiences. You’ll find plenty of tried-and-trued staples too. But, as is my style at RVing with Rex, I tend to embrace under-the-radar spots as well as famous attractions. You’ll likely find things to do that you didn’t even know existed!

Believing the most authentic recommendations derive from personal experiences, the list highlights the places I’ve discovered and explored on one or more occasions. But, no matter where you plan to travel you’re bound to find something unique and fun to do this winter.

Daytona Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Cruise the Atlantic Coast of Florida

Location: Jacksonville to Key West, Florida

Stretching along Florida’s Atlantic Coast from Fernandina Beach to Key West is the iconic A1A highway. The famous route passes through historic towns like St. Augustine before making its way through hotspots like Daytona Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Then, stay a few days in Miami before continuing south on the Overseas Highway, a scenic 130-mile stretch of roadway connecting Key Largo to Key West in the Florida Keys.

Kennedy Space Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Discover Outer Space at Kennedy Space Center

Location: Kennedy Space Center Complex, Merritt Island, Florida

Visiting Kennedy Space Center allows you to live out the dream of being an astronaut. You can see the space shuttle Atlantis, meet an astronaut, and watch a space movie in the IMAX movie theater. For true space travel enthusiasts, consider booking one of the add-on enhancements such as the Special Interest Bus Tour or the Astronaut Training Experience. 

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Wander through Mount Dora

Location: Mount Dora, Florida

Time slows down in this quaint Florida town filled with unique shops and delicious eateries.  Located approximately 45 minutes north of Disney World, Mount Dora is like a real-life Main Street U.S.A. This small town is known for its boutique stores and the downtown area is filled with eateries, tasty coffee, and ice cream shops. Cruise on Lake Dora, sip on a signature cocktail while enjoying the spectacular sunset, and slow down and take in the relaxing atmosphere. 

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Feel the warm desert air in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Location: Ajo, Arizona

The remote Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a gem tucked away in southern Arizona’s vast the Sonoran Desert. Thanks to its unique crossroads locale, the monument is home to a wide range of specialized plants and animals including its namesake. The park lies near Ajo, 43 miles south of Gila Bend on Interstate 8. This stretch of desert marks the northern range of the organ pipe cactus, a rare species in the U.S. With its multiple stems, the cactus resembles an old-fashioned pipe organ. There are 28 different species of cacti in the park ranging from the giant saguaro to the miniature pincushion.

>> Get more tips for visiting Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Goose Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Fish and camp at Goose Island State Park

Location: Rockport-Fulton, Texas

Lapping water and Gulf breezes: We must be on the coast! Goose Island offers camping, fishing, and birding along St. Charles and Aransas bays. Camp, fish, hike, geocache, go boating and observe and take photos of wildlife, especially birds. Fish from shore, boat, or the 1,620-foot-long fishing pier. Choose from 44 campsites by the bay or 57 sites nestled under oak trees, all with water and electricity. Every camping loop has restrooms with showers. Be sure to visit the Big Tree which has been standing sentinel on the coast for centuries and has withstood several major hurricanes.

>> Get more tips for visiting Goose Island State Park

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Sample the South in Savannah’s Historic District

Location: Savannah, Georgia

Few US city centers match the charm and style of Savannah’s Historic District. Every corner reveals an 18th-century home somehow more picturesque than the last. The area is perfect for strolling aimlessly and stopping for treats (and shade) along the way. Wander down River Street to sample the famous southern pralines at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen or indulge in a Bourbon Pecan Pie martini at Jen’s & Friends. If you’re somehow still hungry, choose from over 100 eclectic restaurants. Then, burn it all off by dancing the night away in Savannah’s buzzing nightlife scene. 

>> Get more tips for visiting Savannah

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Experience the magic of the Sonoran Desert at Usery Mountain Regional Park

Location: Mesa, Arizona

Located on the Valley’s east side, this 3,648-acre park is located at the western end of the Goldfield Mountains adjacent to the Tonto National Forest. The park contains a large variety of plants and animals that call the lower Sonoran Desert home. Along with the most popular feature of the park, the Wind Cave Trail, water seeps from the roof of the alcove to support the hanging gardens of Rock Daisy.

Usery Mountain Regional Park offers a campground with 73 individual sites. Each site has a large parking area to accommodate up to a 45-foot RV with water and electrical hook-ups, a dump station, a picnic table, a barbecue grill, and a fire ring.

>> Get more tips for visiting Usery Mountain Regional Park

Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Experience the quaint, seaside town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Location: Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

It’s no secret that the farther west you travel along the Mississippi coast, the stronger you’ll hear the call of New Orleans. Once you hit the waterfront in Old Town Bay St. Louis, you might as well be in the French Quarter. Many locals here have New Orleans roots and this little burg is all about letting those bons temps rouler. Its artsy, funky, and quirky yet still peaceful and relaxing, with the unhurried, y’all-come-on-in attitude of a small Southern town: NOLA, meets Mayberry.

In 2010 Bay St. Louis was listed as one of the Top 10 Beach Communities in the U.S. by Coastal Living MagazineBudget Travel magazine named it one of the “Coolest Small Towns in America” in 2013 and Southern Living magazine named Bay St. Louis one of their 50 Best Places in the South in 2016.

>> Get more tips for visiting Bay St. Louis

Fairhope © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Experience Southern Coastal Charm in Fairhope, Alabama

Location: Fairhope, Alabama

Wiry trees draped with Spanish moss frame pastel-painted bungalows in this small Alabama town. Fairhope is perched atop bluffs overlooking Mobile Bay. You can bike oak-lined sidewalks, watch watercolor sunsets, and browse inspiring shops including Page & Palette bookstore and other businesses in the town’s French Quarter near the water.

Explore the piers and meander the parks and beaches—if you’re lucky, you’ll witness the summer jubilee when sea creatures wash up on the beaches by the bucketful. Once you watch a sunset from the Tiki Bar at the American Legion Post 199, you’ll understand Fairhope nostalgia and wonder why anybody would want to live anywhere else.

Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Discover the Crawfish Capital of the World

Location: Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

A tiny bayou town just a short hop from Lafayette, Breaux Bridge is not only the “Crawfish Capital of the World” per the Louisiana legislature but lays claim to having invented crawfish etouffee. It’s in the heart of Acadian Louisiana with all the fantastic food and music that entails. Cajun dancers have been two-stepping and waltzing around the beautiful old dance floor at La Poussiere since 1955. On Saturdays, Café des Amis serves a Zydeco breakfast with live music downtown.

Breaux Bridge is one cool little Louisiana town where locally-owned shops, Cajun eateries, French music, bayou country, and crawfish all come together. The walkable downtown hub is studded with antique shops, restaurants, and homey cafes. And if you love fishing and boating, you’ll be right at home thanks to the town’s quick access to Lake Martin. For art lovers on a budget, the Teche Center for the Arts has regularly scheduled workshops and musical programming that typically clock in under $10.

>> Get more tips for visiting Breaux Bridge

Worth Pondering…

Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.

—Anita Desai

‘Pass a Good Time’ on the Bayou Teche Byway

Bayou Teche Byway stretches down through South Louisiana like a snake that can’t make up its wind which way to coil

Teche Country is off the beaten path and is a little wild with its lush vegetation and hauntingly beautiful moss-draped oaks. Bayou Teche Byway meanders alongside Bayou Teche, a stream that twists and turns for 125 miles through the semi-tropical land of southern Louisiana. This is a journey into the geographical heart of Acadiana.

Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Once described as the “most richly storied of the interior waters and the most opulent,” this body of water was the center of a booming cypress industry in the early 1900s. Get a firsthand glimpse of giant oaks with 150-foot reach trailing moss sometimes a yard below the branches along the brown-watered stream. The opulent Greek Revival mansions scattered here and there along it appeared on the landscape as a result of the “sugar money” derived from the area’s most abundant crop, sugarcane. Stop in the small villages and towns along the bayou and you may hear the authentic and uncorrupted dialect of the Acadian people.

Related: Lake Martin: An Accessible Louisiana Swamp and Rookery

Atchafalaya Basin National Heritage Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From its southernmost point in Morgan City to its northern end in Arnaudville, the byway crosses beautiful marshes and fields of sugar cane connecting lovely towns that have well-preserved historic districts. Sample Acadian culture in cafés and dance halls serve up Cajun and zydeco music along with boiled crawfish and étouffée. Stately mansions along with the bayou exhibit the lifestyles of sugar barons from the past. The cuisine, customs, and architecture reflect the influences of Native Americans, Europeans, Africans, the Caribbean, and other peoples who settled the area. Here’s a sample of what you’ll find.

Atchafalaya Basin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Morgan City to Franklin

Stroll Morgan City’s historic district where you can browse antique shops or view the Atchafalaya River from a wharf-side pavilion. For a closer look at the Great Atchafalaya Basin (and maybe a ’gator or two), take a guided swamp tour in nearby Patterson. There you’ll also find a branch of the Louisiana State Museum noted for its displays on aviation and the cypress industry. Next stop: Franklin, whose more than 400 historic properties include the Grevemberg House Museum, a gracious antebellum townhouse filled with Civil War artifacts and antique toys. Pause for a hamburger or po-boy at Iberia Cash Groceries then visit Charenton where the Chitimacha Museum reveals the history of Bayou Teche’s early inhabitants.

Atchafalaya Basin National Heritage Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Franklin to New Iberia

In the town of Jeanerette, be sure to sample the French bread and ginger cakes at LeJeune’s Bakery whose owners still use the bakery’s original 19th-century recipes. Further along the byway in New Iberia stands Shadows-on-the-Teche. The antebellum home built by a wealthy sugar planter now is a museum surrounded by graceful live oaks.

Related: Cool-As-Hell Louisiana Towns You Need to Visit (Besides New Orleans)

On the Bayou Teche © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Near New Iberia, tour the Avery Island factory where world-famous Tabasco pepper sauce is made. The plant’s founder also created a 250-acre garden and bird sanctuary here. Stroll through azaleas and camellias, glimpse a deer in the garden, and step onto a boardwalk for a view of resident alligators.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Iberia to Arnaudville

As you make your way toward Arnaudville, stop in St. Martinville and Breaux Bridge. The Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site in St. Martinville recalls the chilling expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia as told by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in “Evangeline.”

Related: I’m going to Cajun Country!

Café des Amis in Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Breaux Bridge visit Café des Amis where the menu includes beignets, couche-couche (battered cornmeal cooked in a hot skillet and topped with milk or syrup), andouille or cheese grits, and crawfish étouffée—and that’s just for breakfast. About 10 minutes from here is Lafayette, considered the unofficial capital of Cajun country.

Bayou Teche at St. Martinville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A trip along Bayou Teche is a good way to sample Louisiana hospitality, hear toe-tapping music, and as the locals say “pass a good time.”

Related: Creole Nature Trail: Bayous, Beaches & Birds

Worth Pondering…

I got swamp water runnin’ through my veins.

The Mississippi River can’t be tamed.

I pole my pirogue in the middle of the night.

I’m an uptown ruler, I can do it right.

—lyrics and recording by the Neville Brothers, 1975

I’m going to Cajun Country!

Most travelers come to southern Louisiana expecting to find gumbo, accordions, and maybe a few gators. But the mix is far richer.

The southwestern region of Louisiana is officially called Acadiana but most people find themselves saying, “I’m going to Cajun country.” I was drawn to the region’s heritage and hoped to eat Cajun food, listen to zydeco, and maybe head out on the bayou. What I didn’t expect: soul-stirring natural beauty and a unique community with a layered history that continues to thrive and adapt.

Bayou Teche at St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I set off for Lafayette Parish which welcomes roughly 3 million people each year. Here, in the center of Acadiana which showcases the region’s fiddle-and-accordion-driven music and cultural events like the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles (October 8-10, 2021).

Whether you’re coming for the weekend or planning an extended stay, the “Happiest City in America” has numerous family-friendly things to do. From foodies, history and cultural buffs, and geocachers to the more adventurous outdoor activities, Lafayette has the perfect experience waiting for you.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lafayette Parish is surrounded by wetlands, so there’s no better way to experience the area than by boat. Hop aboard a swamp tour via airboat or rent a kayak. It’s also a birding paradise. Visit Bayou Vermilion, Lake Martin, or Avery Island with binoculars in hand. Admire the plant life on the Lafayette Azalea Trail or Avery Island’s Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre complex with azaleas, camellias, and even wildlife. And don’t forget your camera!

Lafayette is known as “The Hub City” because of its proximity to major roadways heading north, south, east, and west that lead locals and visitors to explore smaller towns. Though Lafayette is the largest city in the region, a great portion of its rich culture here is driven by surrounding communities, the gems that makeup Acadiana, a 22-parish (county) region.

Cracklins © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canadians make up the largest group of international visitors which makes sense. The word Cajun is an Anglicization of Acadien, the French Catholic ethnic group that in the 18th century was expelled from eastern Canada (largely Nova Scotia) by the British in what became known as Le Grand Dérangement, or the Great Upheaval. Thousands ended up on the bayous of Catholic, French-speaking Louisiana.

Boudin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lafayette Parish has received countless awards for its culinary scene including Southern Living’s Tastiest Town in the South. Where else can you tour a rice plantation, a crawfish farm, a meat market, and a chile pepper growing facility before enjoying a dish that combines them all? Avery Island’s Tabasco Experience is perhaps the best-known foodie attraction. And the area also has its own Boudin Trail (What is boudin? Rice, pork, and spices in a smoked sausage casing, served in links or in boudin balls which are deep-fried cousins of the iconic Cajun delicacy). Don’t miss the opportunity to chow down on dishes like crawfish etouffee, cracklins, and gumbo. The Lafayette area also has both down-home eateries that have been here for decades and new restaurants with modern interpretations of the traditional cuisine.

Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

My first stop was Breaux Bridge, the “Crawfish Capital of the World.” Nestled along the banks of the slow-rolling Bayou Teche, Breaux Bridge is a gorgeous historic town with world-class restaurants and a thriving Cajun music and folk art scene. Conveniently located just off I-10 at Exit 109, nine miles east of Lafayette, Breaux Bridge is a great place to stop off for a meal and an even better place to camp at a local RV park (see below) and stay awhile.

Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bridge itself isn’t much to see (though you can’t miss it)—it’s a tall, slightly rusty metal drawbridge that spans the Teche (pronounced “tesh”). The downtown stretch of Bridge Street, though, is adorable. Antique shops, boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants span several blocks; strolling the length of the strip can easily fill an afternoon.

Cafe Des Amis at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Breaux Bridge is the gateway to authentic Cajun culture in south Louisiana with traditional Cajun and funky Zydeco music, world-famous cuisine, and a rich history filled with interesting stories. Breaux Bridge is home to the world-famous Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival every May (May 6-8, 2022) where thousands converge on the little city to pay homage to Louisiana’s famous crustacean.

Lake Martin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just outside of Breaux Bridge is the gorgeous Lake Martin, a wildlife-filled preserve and rookery that’s protected and administrated by the Nature Conservancy. You can drive or walk along the edge of the lake and see alligators, egrets, herons, roseate spoonbills, nutria, and many more critters of various sizes hiding among the bald cypress and water lilies. There are several tour operators offering boat tours: Champagne’s Swamp Tours dock right at the entrance to Rookery Road and offer an eco-friendly tour experience. You can also rent canoes and kayaks and take your own trip around the lake.

Atchafalaya Basin Natural Heritage Area Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just a bit further out of town, in the neighboring hamlet of Henderson, you’ll find access to one of the largest swamp ecosystems in the United States, the Atchafalaya Basin. McGee’s Landing Basin Swamp Tours take you into the basin for a look at some of the plants and wildlife that thrive in its murky waters, including the aforementioned gators and wading birds. And it goes without saying, the fishing’s great here and in Lake Martin. They don’t call Louisiana the Sportsman’s Paradise for nothing.

Tabasco factory and museum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The McIlhenny Company still operates at its original home on Avery Island which is a must-do when visiting Acadiana. Built on a salt dome, it’s a mysteriously beautiful place where the red chile peppers grow, the factory hums, and abundant wildlife can be seen in Jungle Gardens. Tour the history and production of TABASCO Sauce including TABASCO Museum, Blending and Bottling, TABASCO Country Store, and 1868! Restaurant, a casual eatery serving spicy, authentic Cajun favorites and other classic favorites seasoned with TABASCO Sauce. Experience the natural beauty and tranquility of Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre semitropical garden on Avery Island. Enjoy the gently rolling landscape, botanical treasures, and abundant wildlife. Attractions range from beautiful flowers to birds to a 900-year-old Buddha, a magnificent centuries-old statue on the grounds. Thousands of snowy egrets nest in Bird City.

Where to Stay

Cajun Palms RV Resort

Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson

New in 2009 with paved streets, Cajun Palms offers long pull-through sites that range in length from 55 to 75 feet. Not to be ignored are the back-ins to the lake in the 55-60 foot range. Pull through and back-in sites have 20 feet of space between each concrete pad. Easy-on, easy-off Interstate 10 (Exit 115) at Henderson (near Breaux Bridge).

Poche’s RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Poche’s RV Park, Breaux Bridge

Poche’s RV Park is a pleasant and unique location with excellent fishing and birding. RV sites are located on several sides of a pond overlooking the water. Sites are concrete and level and separated by grass. Picnic tables are located at every site with fire rings at every other site. During our last visit, the interior road was in rough driving condition. Top tip: The owners also have a great little Cajun market with a really good restaurant a mile or so away on the road to Breaux Bridge. 

Frog City RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Frog City RV Park, Duson

Frog City RV Park opened in 2006. The park is located just off I-10 in Duson, a small town 10 miles west of Lafayette and deep in the beautiful Cajun countryside. With 62 spacious RV sites, Frog City offers Wi-Fi, cable TV, pull-through sites, a swimming pool, coin-operated laundry, and private hot showers that are sparkling clean. Guests receive a unique welcome package upon arrival.

Worth Pondering…

Goodbye joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh
Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou
My yvonne, the sweetest one, me oh my oh
Son of a gun, well have good fun on the bayou.

—Lyrics and recording by Hank Williams, Sr., 1954

Must-See under the Radar Small Towns to Seek Out this Spring

Favorite lesser-known destinations from around America to consider for your spring adventure

We’ve all been spending a lot more time daydreaming about all the places we want to visit this spring. Small town, big personality! The season of road trips is almost among us and sometimes the best places to go are the ones that are a little more under the radar. Check out these small towns in America that are just brimming with charm.

Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Nestled along the banks of the slow-rolling Bayou Teche, Breaux Bridge, the “Crawfish Capital of the World,” is a gorgeous historic town with world-class restaurants and a thriving Cajun music and folk art scene. Breaux Bridge is a great place to stop off for a meal and an afternoon of antiquing, and an even better place to camp at a local RV park and stay awhile. The bridge itself isn’t much to see (though you can’t miss it)—it’s a tall, slightly rusty metal drawbridge that spans the Teche (pronounced “tesh”). The downtown stretch of Bridge Street, though, is adorable. Antique shops, boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants span several blocks.

Old Talbott Tavern, Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bardstown, Kentucky

The second-oldest city in Kentucky, Bardstown has other claims to fame: as the “Bourbon Capital of the World”, home My Old Kentucky Home of Stephen Foster fame, and Old Talbott Tavern, the oldest stagecoach stop west of the Allegheny Mountains, dating to 1779. 

Bardstown is a popular starting point for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. But booze aside, the town has plenty of allure with its picturesque and quaint courthouse square.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Conner, Washington

La Conner is one of those places that people love to visit—time and time again. The reasons are many, but one that stands out is that there are so many things to do in—and around—La Conner. A waterfront village in northwestern Washington, La Conner is nestled beside the Swinomish Channel near the mouth of the Skagit River. La Conner is a unique combination of fishing village, artists’ colony, eclectic shops, historic buildings, and tourist destination. Relax by the water, enjoy fine restaurants, browse through unique shops and art galleries, and visit the beautiful tulip fields of Skagit Valley.

Lancaster County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

The heart of Pennsylvania’s Dutch community can be found in Lancaster which famously acted as the state capital from 1799 to 1812. The local farms mean lots of amazing food and fresh produce which can be found at Lancaster Central Market (the U.S.’s oldest public market). The town is also the starting point for the Lancaster County Art Gallery Trail which travels through several nearby towns and showcases the area’s most interesting (and affordable) art.

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Marietta, Ohio

Marietta is a small city that lies right along the Ohio River in southeast Ohio.  While little in size and numbers, it’s bursting with local attractions. The downtown is lined with cozy shops and great restaurants—there’s even an historic bridge to take you over to Harmar Village. Marietta was the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory.  Founded in 1788, Marietta was named in honor of France’s Marie Antoinette showing thankfulness to France for their contribution to a US victory in the Revolutionary War.

Corning © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Corning, New York

Corning is part of the Finger Lakes region of New York. Wineries and breweries: check. Panoramic views of a gorgeous lake: check. Restaurants filled with top-notch food: check. The Corning Museum of Art is celebrating 50 years and welcoming visitors in a unique way. This southern Finger Lakes community offers something for everyone. Spend time at the Corning Museum of Glass and the Rockwell Museum.

Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona, Arizona

With a gorgeous backdrop of red sandstone formations which appear to almost glow in reds and oranges during sunrise and sunset, Sedona is a perfect destination for photographers or outdoorsy people alike. Take in the majestic views from the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a church built on a 1,000 foot red rock cliff. Hike out to Cathedral Rock or check out the Red Rock Scenic Byway. You can always do an off-roading ATV tour at Red Rock Jeep Tours if you are feeling adventurous, or hike out along the West Fork Oak Creek Trail.

Angels Camp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Angels Camp, California

Angels Camp is named after Henry Angel, a shopkeeper from Rhode Island, who opened a trading post here in 1848—a short time before placer gold was discovered. In 1864, Samuel Clemens wrote his first successful short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” based on a tall tale he was told at the Angels Hotel by local, colorful character, Jim Smiley (or so the legend goes). The story launched his career as Mark Twain and put Calaveras on the map. The town has kept the allure of the Gold Rush era alive with many of the 19th century buildings housing eateries and unique shops in the charming historic downtown.

Lockhart © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lockhart, Texas

Houston and Austin can quibble all they want about who has the best barbecue, but the clear winner is Lockhart. This small town 35 miles south of Austin is the Barbecue Capital of Texas—and that’s not just a municipal marketing ploy. The Texas State Legislature passed a resolution in 2003 officially giving Lockhart the title. Hundreds of thousands of people make the trek to Lockhart every year where four barbecue joints cook up mouth-watering meats made by legendary pitmasters. Here, meat is served in boxes by the pound and eaten off butcher paper on long, wooden tables.

National D-Day Memorial © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bedford, Virginia

Resting at the foot of the Peaks of Otter in the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and only 9 miles from the Parkway, Bedford is surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in Central Virginia. The town is home to several historic landmarks including the National D-Day Memorial, the Elks National Home, and the Avenel Plantation. Nearby, visitors have a wide range of attractions: Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, Smith Mountain Lake, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Peaks of Otter, and the Sedalia Center for the Arts. There are a dozen wineries within a short drive out of the town and plenty of antiquing, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, and other outdoor sports.

Worth Pondering…

Here and there…not quite everywhere yet!

Authentic Breaux Bridge: Crawfish Capital of the World

Stroll the quaint downtown streets of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana and you’ll find yourself transported back to a time when life was less hectic

Nestled along the banks of the slow-rolling Bayou Teche, Breaux Bridge, the “Crawfish Capital of the World,” is a gorgeous historic town with world-class restaurants and a thriving Cajun music and folk art scene. Conveniently located just off I-10 at Exit 109, three hours east of Houston and two hours west of New Orleans, Breaux Bridge is a great place to stop off for a meal and an afternoon of antiquing, and an even better place to camp at a local RV park and stay awhile.

Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bridge itself isn’t much to see (though you can’t miss it)—it’s a tall, slightly rusty metal drawbridge that spans the Teche (pronounced “tesh”). The downtown stretch of Bridge Street, though, is adorable. Antique shops, boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants span several blocks, and strolling the length of the strip can easily fill an afternoon.

The origins of this charming town date back to 1771 when Acadian pioneer Firmin Breaux bought land in the present-day city of Breaux Bridge and in 1799 built a suspension footbridge across the Bayou Teche to help ease the passage for family and neighbors. Area residents and visitors soon knew of the bridge and began calling it “Breaux’s bridge”, later adopted as the city’s name.

Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The town received its official founding in 1829 when Scholastique Picou Breaux drew up a plan called Plan de la Ville Du Pont des Breaux. The Catholic Church parish was created in 1847 and Breaux Bridge was officially incorporated in 1859. Back in 2009 Breaux Bridge celebrated its 150th birthday.

Breaux Bridge is the gateway to authentic Cajun culture in south Louisiana with traditional Cajun and funky Zydeco music, world-famous cuisine, and a rich history filled with interesting stories. Breaux Bridge is home of the world famous Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival every May, where thousands converge on the little city to pay homage to Louisiana’s famous crustacean.

Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The annual Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival is the town’s largest attraction. Taking place each year on the first weekend of May (April 30-May 2, in 2021, this down-home festival is an ode to the humble mudbug, one of the area’s major exports and a favorite for Cajun food lovers.

With three stages featuring the most popular Cajun and Zydeco musicians in the region, dozens of food vendors cooking crawfish (and other Cajun favorites) in every way you can imagine, a midway with rides and games, and more activities like crawfish races and crawfish eating contests, it’s a one-of-a-kind event that’s worth a trip.

Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Smaller events take place in town several times a year. The Tour du Teche, a large paddling race that takes place over three days each October and stretches the entire length of the Bayou Teche, passes through town. The annual Breaux Bridge Cajun Christmas Parade takes place the first Sunday after Thanksgiving and rings in the Christmas season with a Louisiana flair.

Just outside of Breaux Bridge is the gorgeous Lake Martin, a wildlife-filled preserve and rookery that’s protected and administrated by the Nature Conservancy. You can drive or walk along the edge of the lake and see alligators, egrets, herons, roseate spoonbills, nutria, and many more critters of various sizes hiding among the bald cypress and water lilies. There are several tour operators offering boat tours: Champagne’s Swamp Tours dock right at the entrance to Rookery Road and offer an eco-friendly tour experience. You can also rent canoes and kayaks and take your own trip around the lake.

Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just a bit further out of town, in the neighboring hamlet of Henderson, you’ll find access to one of the largest swamp ecosystems in the United States, the Atchafalaya Basin. McGee’s Landing Basin Swamp Tours take you into the basin for a look at some of the plant and wildlife that thrive in its murky waters, including the aforementioned gators and water birds. And it goes without saying, the fishing’s great here and in Lake Martin. They don’t call Louisiana the Sportsman’s Paradise for nothing.

Cafe des Amis, Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic byways through this part of the state offer visitors a unique experience of the Cajun and Creole lifestyle. They are selected for their recreational, scenic, historic, cultural, archeological, and natural resources. Your senses are inundated with sights, sounds, and tastes that could only come from south Louisiana. Breaux Bridge is part of Bayou Teche Scenic Byway which winds through south Louisiana’s lush swamps and moss-draped bayous.

Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Breaux Bridge is a hotbed for Cajun and Zydeco music, and it’s easy to find in town. The famous Cafe des Amis (140 East Bridge Street) features Zydeco Breakfast every Saturday morning which pairs decadent brunch items with live zydeco music. You’ll also find live acoustic music here several nights a week.
Pont Breauz’s Cajun Restaurant (325 West Mills Avenue), formerly known as Mulate’s, is a legendary Cajun food and music venue that offers live traditional Cajun music every night of the week, alongside a tempting menu of classic Cajun and Creole dishes.

Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joie de Vivre Cafe (107 North Main Street) is a coffee shop and ad hoc community center that features Cajun music jam sessions on weekend mornings, as well as evening concerts, poetry and literature readings, and other cozy cultural events.

Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

What we admire—and secretly covet—is their love of good food combined with a zest for life that they proudly call joie de vivre.

—Linda Carman