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

Surrounded by Frogs on a Rayne-y Day

Frogs love rain, but why does Rayne love frogs?

Out on the prairie in the heart of Acadiana sits the tiny old railroad town of Rayne. Originally called Pouppeville, the citizens decided to rename their town Rayne in honor of the engineer who laid the tracks. The little Cajun town has a population of about 8,000 as well as a big obsession with frogs.

Breaux Bridge is the crawfish capital of the world. Crowley is the rice capital of the world. Rayne is the frog capital of the world.

Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rayne celebrates its amphibian history with an annual frog festival where queens pose with frogs, not princes. And frogs compete in races and jumping contests while their less fortunate amphibian cousins end up being served as fried frog legs.

Is your interest piqued? Well, lucky for you, the Rayne Frog Festival is happening 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.

Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the 51st Annual Rayne Frog Festival happening May 10-14, 2023, I was thinking, why is Rayne the frog capital of the world? Obviously, having a bunch of frogs is one reason but that’s not the main reason Rayne earned the title.

It seems that everywhere you look in the Cajun city of Rayne, you see frogs. They’re on the sidewalks, in front of stores, the police station and fire house, and the courthouse. And about two dozen frog murals are painted on the sides of buildings.

>> Related article: Discover Lafayette in the Heart of Cajun Country

The festival started in 1973, but the town’s official title as the frog capital of the world started in the late 1800s.

Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rayne’s frog industry beginnings

In the 1880s, Donat Pucheu, a Frenchman chef and adventurer made his way to Louisiana and spent some time in Rayne. He noticed how plentiful the local bullfrog population was so he started capturing them and selling them to New Orleans restaurants.

In France, frog legs have been consumed since at least the 12th century and records show that the Chinese have been eating them since the first century. They were very popular with Catholic French monks who considered them fish and could, therefore, eat them on meatless Fridays.

Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the cusp of the 20th century, frog legs were a new and exciting delicacy in the US. Rayne’s frogs were so delectable, so juicy and muscular, that word spread quickly.

The dish made its way around the world but the city officially received its title from New York. A restaurant in the Big Apple named Sardi’s called the delicacy as Frog Legs from Rayne,  Louisiana. Frog Capital of the World. The name has since stuck. 

French businessman Jacques Weil and his brother Edmond were in Rayne snacking on the amphibian’s hind legs. They enjoyed them so much that they decided to start a business selling frog legs. They were shipping the locally harvested frogs to restaurants in France where they were considered a delicacy.

Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Louisiana Frog Company

By the 1940s, the Rayne-based Louisiana Frog Company Plant was the largest exporter of live frogs for gastronomic purposes in the world. In 1937 alone, it shipped over half a million frogs. Some days, the company’s hunters and suppliers brought in 10,000 frogs. The largest ever weighed 3 pounds.

>> Related article: I’m going to Cajun Country!

The Louisiana Frog Company was also known for its canned Frog a la sauce Piquante. The company included a branch that sold hand-caught (so as not to damage them) frogs for breeding purposes. These frogs are Rana Catesbiana commonly known as the American Bullfrog. But the giant variety found in the south are called Louisiana Jumbo Bullfrog.

Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Revitalizing the industry

In 1946, Rayne hosted its first frog derby where young women dressed frogs up as jockeys and raced them. But in the 1970s, the frog trade was in steep decline. To uphold its reputation as the frog capital, Rayne locals decided to expand the Frog Derby into the town’s first Frog Festival.

Hundreds of locals came out to the first Rayne Frog Festival in 1973 and they still show up today. (Some of them have come every single year, for 51 years.) And eventually, frog murals started popping up all over town so that Rayne can celebrate its froggy heritage year-round.

Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the frog export companies are gone, but not the frogs. The flat countryside near the southwesten Louisiana city of Rayne is marked with low levees that confine foot-deep water in crawfish ponds. These ponds are the perfect breeding ground for large bullfrogs. And nighttime is the right time for catching frogs.

Small aluminum boats that crawl through the ponds on wheels during the day when they are used by crawfishermen to run their nets double as a frogging transportation at night. The frogs hang out along the edges of commercial crawfish ponds. Their white throads give them away in the spotlight. A good night of frogging can fill a small flatboat.

>> Related article: How Rayne became Frog Capital

These Rayne bullfrogs have another claim to frog fame. Twenty years before NASA had frogs floating in a space shuttle experiment, two bullfrogs from Rayne made a giant leap into orbit in 1970. NASA strapped the frogs inside a tiny capsule and launched them into space on a one-way mission to test the effect of weightlessness on their inner ears which are similar to those of humans. Calling it Orbiting Frog Otolith, the test was a success and NASA said goodbye to the Cajun frogs. 

Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2023 Rayne Frog Festival

Although Rayne doesn’t produce frog legs anymore, the city still honors its claim to fame. 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!

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).

>> Related article: Cultural Interplay along the Bayou Teche: Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site

The 2023 Rayne Frog Festival is slated with 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.

Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


I loved walking the streets and taking photos; the posted images are just a sampling of all the frogs to be found in Rayne. They made me smile and reminded me that life is too short to take too seriously. How can you take things too seriously when you are constantly surrounded by frogs? Kudos to the citizens of Rayne for keeping their sense of humor and bringing a lot of joy to the folks! It makes you want to jump for joy!

Worth Pondering…

Jambalaya (On the Bayou)

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

How Rayne became Frog Capital

Frogs everywhere in Rayne

Rayne loves frogs. Murals depicting the little amphibians are scattered throughout town from the interstate to the south side. Frogs grace the city’s official stationary and hang stylistically from the street lamps. Several businesses bear Frog City in their official names and little green figurines adorn coffee tables and bookshelves throughout the town. There is even an annually celebrated Frog Festival (51st annual; May 11-13, 2023).

Frogs everywhere in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why does this love affair with the slimy, swamp-dwelling denizens exist? The answer surprises many people, even some of those born and raised in the town: Rayne sold and shipped hundreds of thousands of the little wetland beasts throughout its history.

That bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana in scientific terms and ouaouaron in Cajun terms) inhabit the area around Rayne is no surprise since the amphibians thrive in bayous, rice fields, swamps, and ponds. What is surprising is that the Louisiana town was once famous worldwide for supplying frogs to gourmet restaurants across the United States and even to the European continent.

Frogs everywhere in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It seems natural that this bullfrog trade was initiated by Frenchmen and carried on by Acadians, two groups noted for their fondness for the tasty frog legs.

Shortly after Rayne’s birth in the 1880s, there came to the prairie town a French-born saloon keeper named Donat Pucheu. Since the town had a direct link to New Orleans and Houston by way of the transcontinental Southern Pacific Railroad, a ready market for perishable produce like eggs, cabbage or tomatoes, quickly developed.

Frogs everywhere in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Barkeep Pucheu had connections with some of New Orleans’ finest restaurants and began shipping freshly killed ducks, quail, and snipe to them (which was legal to do in those days). These restaurants also served frog legs and Pucheu invented the Rayne frog shipping business.

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

For some reason, Donat Pucheu got out of the frog trade but his place in Rayne history was quickly taken over by a fellow countryman.

Frogs everywhere in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacques Maurice Weil, a Parisian by birth, was to make his name forever associated with Rayne and frogs. He arrived in America sometime in the late 1890s, first trying Jackson, Mississippi, before making the Frog City his home. His first business venture here was to manage the general store of Boudreaux, Leger and Weil.

Like every other general mercantile firm in Rayne, Boudreaux, Leger and Weil accepted produce in exchange for their wares. These items, such as eggs, live chickens, vegetables or butter were either sold in the store or shipped aboard the next train to larger cities like New Orleans.

Frogs everywhere in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Somehow, Weil’s store came to specialize in the exchange of wilder commodities like pecans, furs, and bullfrogs. While he didn’t invent the Rayne frog trade, Weil did perfect and promote it to the point where Rayne frogs were served on restaurant tables in St. Louis, Los Angeles, and even in Paris.

Behind his store, Weil built a large chicken-wire cage. This frog aquarium held up to 15,000 ouaouarons and kept a five-man cleaning crew busy. Bright lights above the cage attracted insects at night and fed the condemned amphibians their final meal before their fateful rendezvous with the skinning knife.

Frogs everywhere in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacques Weil did not believe in waste. Legend has it that when Weil’s skinners arrived at work and found that some of the caged frogs had suffocated overnight their employer urged them to “Kill the dead ones first!”

>> Related article: ‘Pass a Good Time’ on the Bayou Teche Byway

All across Acadia Parish, the springtime nights belonged to the intrepid lantern-toting men and boys searching the prairie darkness for the elusive Rana catesbeiana. The next morning, their full sacks were deposited at Jacques Weil’s in exchange for some necessary groceries or for some even more necessary bouré money.

Frogs everywhere in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rayne became famous for its frogs. Not only were restaurants begging for the delectable amphibians’ legs but even the frog skins were sold to tanneries and converted into leather goods.

Jacques Weil was joined by his brothers Edmond and Gontran and his business empire grew. The J & E. Weil Operating Company owned cotton gins, a rice mill and a theater besides the frog shipping business and general store.

Frogs everywhere in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When World War I ended, war-driven high agricultural prices dropped precipitously ruining many investors and farm products brokers. One such loser was the J. & E. Weil Operating Company. The Hibernia Bank of New Orleans purchased the bankrupt Weil brothers’ assets—the frog business included—and operated them under the name of Rayne Farm Products, Inc. and under the direction of A. J. Carriere.

Jacques Weil jumped back into the frog business and competed directly with Rayne Farm Products until the latter firm folded during the Great Depression. Other shippers fought for a share of the frog trade including Jake Laughlin and Leon Meche of Rayne, John P. Hoyt of Estherwood, Ben Johnson of Redlich, and E. D. Fruge of Mermentau. In 1906, C. LeBlanc even attempted to farm frogs commercially in Estherwood. But these small shippers were only a slight business nuisance to the legendary Jacques Weil.

Frogs everywhere in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Far more worrisome was the Louisiana Frog Company established by Lionel Babineaux and Louis Baer in Mermentau and moved to Rayne in 1933. Lionel’s brothers David “Pete” and Desire joined the firm and after Baer’s death in 1941, the company became a Babineaux family enterprise.

>> Related article: Discover Lafayette in the Heart of Cajun Country

Louisiana Frog eventually grew even larger than the Jacques Weil company. At one time they sold canned Frog a la Sauce Piquante under the brand name of Kajin.

Frogs everywhere in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The frog business was by then approaching its zenith. No longer could the rice fields around Rayne supply the demand.

Both Weil and Louisiana Frog trucked in unlucky ouaouarons from the Atchafalaya Basin, the swamps near New Orleans, the Sabine River bottoms, and even from as far away as Mississippi and Arkansas. Thousands of condemned bullfrogs left the now-famous Frog City every year to grace the gourmet tables of the world. Some even went to NASA for space experiments.

Frogs everywhere in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1951, a nationally syndicated cartoon called Strange As It Seems stated the following: “Didja know—Rayne, Louisiana—The Frog Center of the World—is the only U. S. city with a (train) carload rate on frogs?”

But all good things come to an end and the Rayne frog business’ days were numbered. Jacques Weil passed away in 1948 though his frog firm continued for years under the direction of W. J. Chatelain and Lionel Babineaux died in 1967.

>> Related article: 6 of the Best RV Parks in Louisiana

By the 1970s, the frog shipping industry was doomed, killed by cheap frogs from overseas and habitat degradation at home. The once massive trade to restaurants around the world was replaced by a small time supplying of biology labs and schools with dissection specimens. Weil and Louisiana Frog became a part of history.

Frogs everywhere in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At about the same time that Rayne was in danger of losing its title as the Frog Capital of the World, the town embraced and forever enshrined the dying industry by establishing its first Frog Festival in 1973. And while fewer people will remember the thriving frog trade as time goes by, Rayne will forever be associated with the ouaouaron.

Worth Pondering…

Jambalaya (On the Bayou)

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

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)

How Louisiana At Large Does Mardi Gras

There are unique celebrations in every corner of the state

Common take me to the Mardi Gras
Where the people sing and play
Where the dancing is elite
And there’s music in the street
Both night and day.

—Paul Simon

Even if you consider yourself a New Orleans Mardi Gras expert, you haven’t seen anything yet! The celebrations outside of NOLA are as diverse as the state itself. Louisiana celebrates all of its roots: Native American, French, Spanish, African-American, Cajun, and Creole. Each city in each region of Louisiana has its own way of celebrating Mardi Gras.

Everyone loves Carnival Season—the weeks of parades, feasts, family fun, and revelry. It runs from Twelfth Night through Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

January 6th also known as Twelfth Night or the Epiphany is the day that the three kings (or wise men) visited Jesus in Bethlehem after following a bright star and presented their gifts to the baby Jesus of gold (to symbolize his royal birth), frankincense (to represent his divine birth), and myrrh (to recognize his mortality). The word Epiphany is from the Greek word to show. This is the day Mardi Gras season begins—hence king cake season.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mardi Gras and king cakes go hand in hand. Carnival’s beginning, Twelfth Night, is a fixed date, but its ending at midnight on Mardi Gras is movable. This year Mardi Gras is February 21 which means the season will last a little more than six weeks—a month and a half of being exposed to king cakes. The cakes tend to show up most everywhere during the season. Once they were baked so dry and undistinguished that they were easy to ignore; now they are injected with various flavors of globby stuff that make a bust out of New Year’s diet resolutions but that are nevertheless tempting.

Want to join in? Explore the different regions, find a spot that speaks to you, and reserve a camping site. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

North Louisiana

At the top of the boot, north Louisiana offers its own unique and distinct take on Mardi Gras. From fishing and game hunting to cards and dice to antiques, wine and culture, you can truly choose your own adventure here. And that’s especially true during Carnival Season.

>> Read Next: 10 Things You Might Not Know About Mardi Gras

Those in east Texas or Arkansas can take a short drive to Shreveport for the festivities. One of their stand-out parades is the Krewe of Barkus and Meoux parade which features a royal court of pets. Past parade participants have included turtles, donkeys, cats, dogs, goats, chickens, and more. Bring the whole family over to Monroe for a kid’s parade, pet’s parade, a Mardi Gras 5K (complete with King Cake), and a traditional Mardi Gras parade with marching bands and colorful floats.

King cakes at Ambrosia Bakery in Baton Rouge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Central Louisiana

In central Louisiana all the wide variety of cultures in Louisiana come together. There’s incredible music to enjoy, Civil War history to witness, and visitors can even walk the same path taken by Solomon Northup during his 12 years as a slave.

The Alexandria Mardi Gras has been formally functioning since 1994. Locals celebrate with a variety of parades including the Pineville Light the Night Parade. The illuminated floats coming over the bridge linking the two cities are stunning.

The Town of Woodworth Parade welcomes any and all entries from go-karts and wagons to horses, tractors, or trikes. The Hixson Classic Cars and College Cheerleaders may be the area’s best-known event.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Southwest Louisiana

As the home of Zydeco music, fantastic food, and fais-do-do dance parties locals of Lafayette, Houma, New Iberia, and beyond take having a good time pretty seriously. When it comes to Carnival season, the area is most famous for the Courir De Mardi Gras. Though medieval France is where it all began, capitaines of Mardi Gras can still be found leading a courir (French for run) to this day. Each community puts its own spin on the run but across central-southern Louisiana you’ll find hordes of participants all dressed up and running on foot, riding horses or trucks, going house to house, begging for ingredients to make a communal gumbo.

Mardi Gras costume display © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first recorded celebration of Lafayette Mardi Gras was on February 14, 1869 but the first citywide Mardi Gras observance wasn’t until 1897. All parades end at Cajun Field where the annual Festival de Mardi Gras (February 17-21, 2023) takes place with carnival rides, live music, and more. If you’re a master costume crafter, you may want to partake in the Grand Marais Mardi Gras Association’s annual ugly costume contest.

>> Read Next: Joe Cain, Moon Pies & Mobile Mardi Gras

King cake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If king cake is your favorite part of the season, you’ll find the sweet treat across the state with plenty of delectable options in Houma. No matter where you get your cake, everyone digging in will keep an eye out for the small plastic baby baked in. If you find it in your piece, you’re responsible for buying the next cake—and quick! Along with your sweet treat, you’ll want to hang around for the extensive schedule of colorful parades rolling through the bayou region, both in Houma and nearby Thibodaux.

On the far west end of the state, you’ll find Lake Charles enjoying the carnival season. This family-friendly Mardi Gras celebration includes over 60 krewes participating in their Krewe of Krewes Parade on Fat Tuesday. In addition, be sure to check out how local restaurants and bakeries embrace the season.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Southeast Louisiana

You will find that this area of the state is rich in history. These days, the diversity of the region can be seen coming together over jambalaya, classic cocktails, and outdoor adventures. 

King cake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the capital city, Spanish Town Parade is a vibrant staple of the Carnival season. Started in 1981 in Baton Rouge, Spanish Town residents partake in a long-time tradition of kidnapping one of the fake lake flamingo decorations and relocating it to their own yard. For locals, the flamingos are a vibrant kick-off to this festive season.

Northshore Mardi Gras celebrations are quirky, creative, and high-energy. Marching bands and ornate floats take to the streets. Fancifully decorated boats ride the waves and costumed pups walk their people.

Mardi Gras costume display © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Founded in 1965, the 300-member Krewe of Olympia is the oldest in St. Tammany Parish. Keeping the identity of King Zeus a secret, members ride on floats, trucks, and horses interspersed with marching bands from across the Northshore. And yes—there is plenty of Abita Beer to be found. The next Krewe of Olympia parade rolls February 11, 2023 in Covington at 6 pm.

>> Read Next: How to Celebrate Mardi Gras in 2021?

A walking parade featuring man’s best friends and their families puts some bark into the Carnival scene. Founded in 1999, the Mystic Krewe of Mardi Paws features dogs sashaying in costume along the Mandeville lakefront.

No matter what your favorite part of Carnival is or your past experience, there’s something for everyone across greater Louisiana. Enjoy it like a local with great food and entertainment. Come experience the most authentic and diverse Mardi Gras you never knew existed.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Future Mardi Gras Dates

February 13, 2024

March 4, 2025

February 17, 2026

February 9, 2027

February 29, 2028

February 13, 2029

March 5, 2030

Worth Pondering…

Fat Tuesday, last day before Lent’s forty day fast;
Mardi Gras magic exudes from every pore,
Elaborately costumed krewes toss beads off floats,
Give rise to fanciful celebrations of the dead,
Historic carnival steeped in Catholic doctrine.

—Sterling Warner

Crowley: Where Life is Rice & Easy

A wonderful blend of the past and the present where life is rice and easy

At the crossroads of LA 13 and U.S. Highway 90 lies the city of Crowley. It was founded by C.C. and W.W. Duson back in 1886. At just 137 years old, Crowley is practically a teenager compared to other cities in the state. But what a ride it’s been!

Crowley is a railroad town. It was named after Pat Crowley who was the railroad owner who brought the depot to the land owned by the Duson brothers. The town was a planned community. The streets and properties were plotted out and developed. Unlike many Louisiana towns, the layout is a grid using numbered and lettered streets with the courthouse circle being the center.

Crowley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rice is the bedrock of the region’s celebrated Cajun cuisine and no other Louisiana community is as intimately tied to the crop as Crowley. The shallow ponds and level prairies surrounding the city produce lots of crawfish too, but it was the turn-of-the-century rice mills that gave Crowley its identity and made possible today’s impressive collection of historic structures.

Victorian hone in Crowley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With its district lined with oaks and ornate Victorian homes, downtown Crowley is part of the state’s Main Street Program. Many historic buildings still play prominent roles in the city’s life. One such example is Miller Stadium, a 1940s-era ballpark and the Grand Opera House of the South that first opened in 1901 and was recently revived as an elegant space for world-class performers. Visitors can relive regional music history at the J.D. Miller Recording Studio Museum downtown or get a taste of prairie life at the Crystal Rice Heritage Farm.

Crowley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Opera House of the South

One of the most unique second-story opera houses still standing, the Grand Opera House of the South is a beautifully restored historic theater that hosts shows and events. Built in 1901 by David E. Lyons, a livery stable owner and deputy sheriff, the Grand, as it was named then, was referred to by the Daily Signal as a beautiful little playhouse.

Costing a mere $18,000 to build, Mr. Lyons carefully constructed his masterpiece using virgin Louisiana cypress, pine, and oak. The Grand Opera House of the South featured everything from musical performances to theatrical presentations with figures from Clark Gable, Huey Long, and Babe Ruth to opera singer Enrico Caruso and Madame de Vilchez-Bisset of the Paris Opera gracing its stage.

Crowley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As for why The Grand Opera House lured so many A-list performers to its stage in its early years, consider Crowley’s location, positioned halfway between New Orleans and Houston. It was a convenient stopover point along the rail line where performers could spend a night or two.

The Grand Opera House of the South was more than a performance venue, too. On the first floor there was a saloon, café, mortuary, and a pool hall. Until the opera house closed its doors in 1939—the victim of changing times and the advent of modern movie theaters—it was a thriving part of Crowley’s downtown.

Crowley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Restored in 2004 and reopened in 2008, the revived auditorium seats up to 400 guests and offers a schedule of performances that’s guaranteed to entertain. One hour tours are offered by appointment only ($10 per person/minimum of 3 guests/$30).

The Grand Opera House is one of more than 200 Crowley structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Other buildings of historic interest include the Houssaye House (1887), the Egan Hotel (1914) and the Blue Rose Museum (1848).

Crowley Motor Co. in Crowley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crowley Motor Co.

Next door to the opera house, the Crowley City Hall, housed inside a restored 1920 Ford Motor Company building has been restored and features a museum on the city’s history. All are worth checking out when visiting Crowley.

The Crowley City Hall, Historic Ford Building is comprised of four interesting museums—Rice Iterpretive Center, the History of Crowley, J.D.Miller Music Recording Studio, and Ford Automotive Museum. Built in 1920 at the cost of $40,000 the Crowley Motor Co. was the city’s Ford Motor Model T dealership. Designed by an architect for the Ford Motor Co, it was one of 1,000 similar Ford dealerships constructed in the U.S. Admission is free to the museums.

Crowley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kelly’s Landing Agricultural Museum & Cajun Prairie Farm

Explore the agricultural importance of the area with Kelly’s Landing Agricultural Museum & Cajun Prairie Farm. Tour a working farm on the Cajun Prairie, learn how crawfish and rice are farmed, view Kelly’s extensive collection of antique toys and equipment, and take part in an AgiTour.

Rice and crawfish farming © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kelly started his John Deere collection in 1989. Visitors frequently ask Kelly, “How many toys do you have?” To which Kelly responds, 1837, give or take. But, the truth is that no one’s ever counted and the collection grows too rapidly to try. The real John Deere enthusiasts and farming fanatics will recognize 1837 as being the date that John Deere invented his first successful steel plow.

The collection at Kelly’s Landing goes beyond John Deere. Kelly has also acquired an array of Massey Ferguson, Case, Moline, and Oliver toys, as well as model planes.

Rice and crawfish farming © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

AgiTours include:

  • Crawfish Pond Tours: Learn how crawfish are farmed at the only working agritourism destination in the parish, possibly in all of Acadiana
  • Rice Field Tours: Learn how Acadia Parish’s #1 crop is produced; from field flooding to harvesting, Kelly covers it all
Crawfish trap © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crystal Rice Heritage Farm

The Crystal Rice Heritage Farm is the historic location in Crowley where Sol Wright (full name Salmon Lusk Wright) invented the Blue Rose variety of rice which changed the rice industry—and the world—for the better. The rice varieties Sol bred successfully are the basis for the strong, disease-resistant American rice seed being used today.

In 1890, Sol Wright purchased 320 acres of land 5 miles south of Crowley. He made the move from the Midwest to a tract of land down south that would later become Crystal Rice Plantation. Since he was already a successful wheat farmer getting to know the rice field was easy. He soon found out that the imported seed from Japan and Honduras was not well suited for the area.

Rice and crawfish farming © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sol’s next challenge was to produce seed rice that would offer a better yeild in the field and be hardy enough to withstand the milling process. He was on a mission to turn around a struggling industry. Using natural selection and cross-pollination he labored for 12 long seasons with patience and determination.

Crowley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At last, in 1912 his hard work paid off. Laying before him in his study were the grains of crystal rice he had sought to achieve.  Sol went on to develope new varieties in long, medium, and short grain rice. News spread quickly and soon Sol’s seed rice varieties were being used in 70 to 80 percent of the United States. Some say that Sol Wright saved the rice industry.

The Crystal Rice Heritage Farm is also the location of the Blue Rose Rice Museum, home to many relics of the Acadian era and other pieces of history including some from Abraham Lincoln. The Blue Rose Rice Museum is a National Historical Landmark located in Crowley adjacent to the Wright Group’s manufacturing facility.

Crowley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crowley Rice Arena

The Crowley Rice Arena hosts seasonal events and activities including rodeos, youth 4-H and FFA live-stock shows, tractor pulls, barrel racing, cutting horse shows, timed events, youth and LRCA rodeos. Forty RV hook-ups sites are available for rent whether you are attending a function or just passing through and need a place to overnight. 

Victorian home in Crowley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

International Rice Festival

Plan a visit for the International Rice Festival (86th annual; October 19-22, 2023) and stay to explore the area. The International Rice Festival, held annually every third full weekend in October, is one of Louisiana’s oldest and largest agricultural festivals.

Crowley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reggie’s Downtown

Dine and drink at Reggie’s Downtown, a restaurant and microbrewery in Crowley’s historical, main street, and culture district. All of their beers contain Crowley Rice and other locally sourced ingredients which is why their beer is so tasty.

Specialty beers include:

  • Mermentau: This is where it all began. Their German Hefe Weisen Dunkel or Dark Wheat lagered beer is named after the Mermentau River. Color and complexity with a light smooth finish.
  • Atchafalaya Amber: A crisp lager with a hint of caramel for a smooth taste. 
  • Vaux Sur Sure: Belgian style ale with a hint of citrus for a light flavor. This beer is named after Crowley’s twin city Vaux Sur Sure, Belgium.
  • The Standard: Pilsner with heavy Rice elements, lagered. Named after Standard Mill Road where Crowley had 16 Rice Mills in its peak.
Crawfish traps © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fezzo’s Seafood Steakhouse & Oyster Bar 

Fezzo’s Seafood Steakhouse & Oyster Bar cooks up a large menu of authentic Cajun food in the Cajun tradition in a family dining atmosphere. Something for everyone: steaks, seafood, pasta, po-boys, salads, and more.

Worth Pondering…

Jambalaya (On the Bayou)

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

The Ultimate Coastal South Road Trip: From New Orleans to Savannah

Discover the sights, sounds, and tastes along this Coastal South road trip

The dog days of summer are the perfect time to embark on a great American road trip.

One such road trip links two of the South’s most historic and poetic cities: New Orleans and Savannah.

Cajun cuisine © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along the route, explore the Gulf Coast—balmy shores full of quirky beach towns, Cajun culinary magic, and breweries—as well as the white-sand beaches of the Eastern Seaboard between Florida and Georgia.

Pack your sunscreen and bathing suit, and throw on a blues and Southern rock playlist. This weeklong road trip through America’s warmest (both in climate and culture) region awaits.

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Start your trip in New Orleans

The Big Easy. N’awlins. The Birthplace of Jazz.

New Orleans is one of America’s most storied and with deep French, Spanish, and African roots culturally distinctive cities. As the saying goes, New Orleanians are perpetually either throwing a party or recovering from one. For those seeking revelry, look no further than the French Quarter or Frenchmen Street—the latter is also one of the best places in New Orleans for live music.

Like Las Vegas, New Orleans doesn’t have open-container laws. So snag yourself a daiquiri while you stroll and admire the city’s inimitable architecture, street music, and local characters.

Related article: The Ultimate Deep South Road Trip: Savannah to Charleston

Dine at one of New Orleans’ legendary restaurants—perhaps Commander’s Palace, Arnaud’s, or Galatoire’s.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Bay St. Louis is about an hour and a half east of New Orleans.

As with Louisiana, the French colonized these shores in the late 17th century. I recommend taking Highway 90 from New Orleans. This route follows the coastline and is far more scenic than the slightly more expedient Interstate 10.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After the revelry of New Orleans, Bay St. Louis, a quiet and breezy beach town is the ideal place to catch your breath.

For those interested in blues history visit 100 Men Hall. This hallowed music venue has hosted the likes of James Brown, Etta James, and Muddy Waters. The current owner, Rachel Dangermond continues to host musicians and uses the hall for events in support of coastal Mississippi’s African American community.

The gorgeous Pearl Hotel overlooks the ocean and sits within easy walking distance of the restaurants, beach bars, and ice cream parlors of Bay St. Louis. Right across from Pearl Hotel is The Blind Tiger, a beach bar serving up delicious “royal reds,” deep-water shrimp, a coastal Mississippi delicacy.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulfport, Mississippi

Driving east from Bay St. Louis, you’ll soon arrive in Gulfport.

Be sure to start the morning with a coffee and plate of biscuits at Fill-Up with Billups, an old-fashioned gas station converted into a diner.

Related article: The Underrated Coast

Boasting a dozen well-known casinos, Gulfport is a popular gaming destination. But if gambling isn’t your thing, Gulfport also boasts world-class charter fishing and is home to Chandeleur Island Brewery.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Biloxi, Mississippi

About 30 minutes down the coast from Gulfport is Biloxi, the Playground of the South.

Long renowned for the abundant shrimp, oysters, and crabs of its warm waters Biloxi suffered tremendous destruction from Hurricane Katrina.

Now, nearly 20 years later, Biloxi is on the rise again with a slew of busy casinos, booming commercial and recreational fishing industries, and killer dining and drinking. If you’ve had your fill of gambling, take a shrimp boat tour with Capt. Mike at Biloxi Shrimping Trip. He takes passengers out into Biloxi Bay to learn about the world’s favorite crustacean.

Mississippi Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Just east of Biloxi Bay, this small town is a leafy artists’ colony that punches well above its weight for dining, coffee, and nightlife. It’s sprawling with live oaks and buildings bedecked with wrought-iron balconies and the old French influence is palpable.

Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ocean Springs comes alive at night. To find a bustling patio bar and live music, just walk up Main Street after dark. Check out Maison de Lu for excellent French-inspired seafood with a Gulf twist. And don’t leave Ocean Springs without getting a cup of joe at Bright-Eyed Brew Co., a local roastery adored by both visitors and locals.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mobile, Alabama

Continuing east and crossing state lines, Mobile is about an hour from Ocean Springs.

Related article: Experience the Alabama Gulf Coast along the Coastal Connection Scenic Byway

If you have time, keep to coastal Highway 90—it’s a much prettier drive than the inland Interstate 10 as noted previously.

Mobile Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As with New Orleans, Biloxi, and most older Gulf Coast settlements, the French founded Mobile in the late 17th century. Mobile also claims to be home to North America’s oldest Mardi Gras.

Beer aficionados should check out Braided River Brewing Co., a recently opened brewery that’s already garnering national awards.

Hank Aaron Childhood Home © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re a sports fan be sure to pay homage to one of the great ones at the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum located adjacent to Hank Aaron Stadium. Aaron was one of the best to ever play this game. Aaron played 23 seasons. He came to the plate almost 14,000 times. He hit .305 with 755 home runs and 6,856 total bases—more than 700 total bases beyond everyone else. The gap between Aaron and No. 2 on the list, Stan Musial, is more than 12 miles worth of bases.

Fairhope © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fairhope, Alabama

Consistently ranked as one of the nation’s coolest small towns, Fairhope is an upscale beach town about an hour southeast of Mobile. With wooden piers stretching out over blue waters, white-sand beaches, and gorgeous architecture, Fairhope is a town that seduces visitors to stay permanently. What’s more, Fairhope boasts some of the South’s best restaurants. Check out Tamara’s Downtown for scrumptious Gulf Coast delicacies.

Fairhope is undeniably posh (golf carts are the preferred means of transportation here). However, it also has a funky side, evidenced by the ample coffee shops, breweries, and the fact that the town once had a flourishing nudist colony.

Tallahassee, Florida

Welcome to the Sunshine State!

Tallahassee is about three hours east of Fairhope. Home to nearly 35,000 college students, Florida’s capital is one of the country’s most notorious college towns. As you would expect with an overpopulation of 18-to-22-year-olds, Tallahassee brims with rowdy bars, late-night eateries, and youthful verve.

Amelia Island near Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacksonville, Florida

Another 2½ hours of driving will take you from Tallahassee to Jacksonville and the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Jax is the largest city in the U.S. in terms of geographical breadth. It’s also the hometown of Southern rock legends the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

In Jacksonville, the characteristic form of the Florida beach—that is, powdery white sand against placid, turquoise water—is fully realized. Not to mention that Jacksonville’s beaches are far less crowded than those farther south. For fun in the sun, head to Neptune Beach near downtown Jacksonville.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah, Georgia

Head north up the coast for about two hours to reach Savannah, the final stop on our jaunt through the coastal South. Savannah is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. and boasts some of the most stunning examples of the South’s grandiose pre-Civil War architecture.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Unlike Atlanta, a city Gen. Sherman burned to the ground during the Civil War, the Union Army spared Savannah its torches—some say because Sherman had a local mistress who convinced him that her city was too beautiful to destroy. Either way, posterity is grateful that Savannah remained intact as the Historic District—with its stately fountains, mansions, and lush public parks—is a national treasure.

Related article: The Perfect Georgia Coast Road Trip

St. Marys, Georgia (just north of the Florida/Georgia state line) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bottom line

Whether your thing is American history, beautiful cities, fabulous cuisine, or gorgeous beaches, the coastal South makes for a fantastic road trip.

This route links the old and superlatively poetic cities of New Orleans and Savannah. It shows you the best of coastal Mississippi, the Gulf Coast, North Florida, and the southern reaches of the Eastern Seaboard.

Worth Pondering…

The journey not the arrival matters.

—T. S. Eliot

Best States for a Summer Road Trip

Summer is the perfect time to hit the open road: School’s out, the weather’s warm, and the possibilities are endless

Don’t you just love when you are driving and see those welcome signs into states? There’s nothing like a summer road trip to enjoy the outdoors with friends and family. Summer is the best time to hit the road and check some places off that bucket list. It’s your chance to feel that summer breeze, listen to good music, play fun road trip games, and watch road trip films. Sightsee across some of your favorite states both near and far!

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In their Summer Travel Survey 2022, The Vacationer determined that 42 percent plan to travel more than last summer with nearly 51 percent flying on a plane and 80 percent on road trips.

Deciding to take a trip is the easy part, though. Picking a destination and affording everything you want to pack into your itinerary is harder. Fuel prices might be one thing to worry about, for example. They’ve been increasing this year with the national gas average hovering around $5 per gallon now ($5.80 for diesel). On top of that, you’ll need to consider accommodations, activities, and dining. All of these certainly contribute to the more than $751 billion we spend on leisure travel each year.

Kemah Boardwalk, Kemah, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wallet Hub curated a list of the best and worst states to take a summer road trip this year. Of course, Texas made the list. I’m not surprised! Wallet Hub compared all 50 states and key factors to determine the most fun, scenic, and affordable states to visit on a road trip. After the pandemic and current inflation, road trips are still the best way to still experience an enjoyable vacation with your favorite people. So load up the RV and hit the road! It’s time to see what states fall into the top 15 best states for a summer road trip.

Whitehall, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To determine the best road-trip destinations for travel this summer, WalletHub compared the 50 states across three key dimensions: Costs, Safety, and Activities.

They evaluated those dimensions using 32 relevant metrics. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for summer road trips.

Cherohala Skyway, North Carolina

Metrics used to determine Costs include:

  • Average gas prices
  • Lowest price of camping
  • Cost of Living Index

Metrics used to determine Safety include:

  • Quality of roads
  • Quality of bridges
  • Traffic-related fatalities
  • Car thefts per 1,000 residents
  • Violent crimes per 1,000 residents

Metrics used to determine Activities include:

  • Share of the total area designated as parkland
  • National parks recreation visitors per capita
  • Zoos and botanical gardens per capita
  • Number of attractions
  • Access to scenic byways
  • Historic sites per capita
Rayne mural, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The financial website then determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order their sample.

Taking the average gas prices metric, for example, Georgia came in with the lowest average prices followed by Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Mississippi. At the high end, California and Nevada came in with the highest prices followed by Washington and Oregon.

When the points were tallied, New York came in No. 1 with a score of 58.01 and Minnesota followed with 57.56.

Vanderbilt Estate, Hyde Park, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. New York

Not only is there the city to enjoy but many places outside the Big Apple. Visit Niagara Falls, mountain views, The Catskills, historical spots, and more!

2. Minnesota

Hit the road to Minnesota. I know, maybe you did not know it would be No. 2! Take a scenic drive and view beautiful byways, waterfalls, and more.

Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Texas

Texas is absolutely it! One of my favorite to explore in an RV! Head to Texas and you could spend days driving through the entire state all you want. Stop in Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and more. From the beach, to the cities, to the country side you will never run out of things to do and places to eat.

Avery Island, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Louisiana

Go to Louisiana and it’s time to have fun! Visit the swamp on a swamp tour, factory tours, historical tours, Cajun Country, and much more.

5. Maine

Now, maybe you would have never guessed it? I surely did not. But head to Maine and experience national parks, cool loop highways, beaches, and more.

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Ohio

Oh, Ohio! Drive up North and visit Cedar Point Amusement Park, Put-In-Bay, Columbus Zoo, hiking trails, and more!

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. North Carolina

You read that right! NC is in the No. 7 spot for best summer road trips. If you’ve toured the Tar Heel State, I am sure you know why. Drive through the mountains, on the beach, through the cities, eat good, hike, shop, relax, this state has it all!

Snake River at Twin Falls, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Idaho

Hit the road in Idaho! Visit hiking trails, national recreation areas, and scenic byways while you’re there.

Mount Dora, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Florida

Hit the road and head to Florida. You might want to drive through the entire state but trust me; it will take you a while so you might as well pit stop while you’re there. Drop into Pensacola, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa area, Miami, Key West, and more!

10. Wyoming

If you drive to Wyoming for Yellowstone and Grand Teton, take some time to visit the Union Pass Monument, National Museum of Military Vehicles, Wild Horses, and more!

St. Marys, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Georgia

This is a good one, and another personal favorite! Visit the mountains, the lake, amusement parks, amazing shopping centers, state parks, great food, and more all throughout Georgia!

Mount St. Helens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Washington

Drive across the country and visit Washington State this summer. You’ll see plenty of sites on the way, but once you are there enjoy views of Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, Mount St. Helens, the Cascade Loop, San Juan Islands, and more!

Altavista, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Virginia

You’re on your way to Virginia this summer! Visit national parks, beaches, Colonial National Parkway, and more!

14. Nebraska

Hit the road to Nebraska! Visit Sandhills Journey, Loup Rivers Byway, Lewis & Clark Byway, Heritage Highway, and more!

15. Iowa

Take a drive through or to Iowa and see some of your new favorite views. Visit Iowa Great Lakes, The Amana Colonies, and more!

Worth Pondering…

Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will—whatever we may think.

—Lawrence Durrell

Visiting Hollywood South: Louisiana’s Film Trail

Locations tied to Louisiana-filmed movies and TV shows are numerous

Louisiana’s official state nickname is Sportsman’s Paradise thanks to rich and abundant natural resources and the fish and wild game that call it home. Related nicknames for the state include The Pelican State, about the state bird, and Bayou State, thanks to the slow-moving streams.

Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s another nickname for Louisiana that is not all about the flora and fauna—Hollywood South. Thanks to its diverse settings for movies (Louisiana has everything including bustling cities, antebellum mansions, and lush wilderness areas), generous state tax incentives for film producers, and numerous production support businesses, Louisiana is a global player in a movie and TV filming location. And, like other visitors to the state, movie and TV stars rave about enjoying the food, music, and joie de vivre away from the sets.

A comprehensive list of major movies and TV shows made in Louisiana in recent years would be too long to list here but here are a few ideas for mixing some of Louisiana’s more notable filming sites with your travels throughout the state.

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

Steel Magnolias (1989)

Scene: Filmed in Natchitoches, a good part of the film takes place in M’Lynn Eatenton’s (Sally Field) fictional 1830s home in the fictionally named Chinquapin Parish. It’s the site of memorable quotes such as one during the annual Christmas party when Ouiser Boudreaux (Shirley MacClain) turns to M’Lynn and quips, “M’Lynn, what’s wrong with you these days? You got a reindeer up your butt?”

Crawley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: Laugh through tears (Truvy’s [Dolly Parton] “favorite emotion”) as you enjoy a weekend staying in the actual 1830s, six-bedroom, six-and-a-half bath Steel Magnolia House. The bed and breakfast is where much of the movie was filmed.

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

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

Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Scene: Louis (Brad Pitt), an unwilling vampire, decides he’s had enough of his so-called life and takes a torch to his sprawling manor setting the curtains ablaze which ticks off the aristocratic vampire Lestat (Tom Cruise) who was rather fond of the place.

Crawfish farming © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: Louis’ homeplace was filmed at Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie. Take a tour and see the restored antebellum Greek Revival mansion—sans flames—plus spots where the graveyard scenes were filmed. Decide for yourself if it’s a fitting estate for a vampire.

Frog mural in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Easy Rider (1969)

Scene: On a break from their iconic, cross-country road trip, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) along with a couple of bleary-eyed prostitutes, drop acid in an ancient cemetery prompting them to get dazed, philosophical, and naked.  

Above-ground cemetery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: Don’t drop acid or get naked but do get philosophical while wandering around the famous, above-ground St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans where the scene took place. Specifically, seek out the massive, queen-like sculpture set into the “Italia” gravesite where, like Wyatt, you can imagine yourself talking to dead relatives. Several tour companies offer cemetery tours.

Louisiana sunset © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Scene: Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) wakes up his father, Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng), drives him out to a lake, and then carries him on his shoulders to the pier where he sets him on a chair and they watch the sunrise. During the three-minute scene, a beautiful song, Sunrise on Lake Pontchartrain, is playing in the background.

Tabasco factory © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: Start early and park yourself on the banks of Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans where the song takes its name. Watch a real sunrise while listening to the music and chances are you’ll end up teary-eyed at the beauty of both. Afterward, take a ride by the Nolan House at 2707 Coliseum Street, a spectacular Garden District mansion where the bulk of the film took place.

Related: ‘Pass a Good Time’ on the Bayou Teche Byway

Along the Creole Nature Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Duck Dynasty (2012-2017)

Scene: The Robertson boys deck themselves out with camo gear, shotguns, and their famous, handmade duck calls, then cruise on an airboat through the North Louisiana marsh, gather ’round the duck blind, and proceed to gleefully blast down one quacker after another.

Sabine National Wildlife Refuge© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: If that sounds like your idea of happiness then order a few of the Robertsons’ custom duck calls from the Duck Commander company website and head to one of the prime duck hunting areas in North America: Chenier Plain in southwest Louisiana. On the Sabine and Lacassine national wildlife refuges in Cameron Parish, it’s where you can fire away at gadwalls, blue-winged teal, pintails, mottled ducks, and white-fronted geese. 

St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tremé (2010-2013)

Scene: This Emmy Award-winning HBO drama (2010-2013) is set in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Co-created by David Simon—best known for blockbuster television drama The Wire—Wendell Pierce (a native New Orleanian) and a cast of costars work on rebuilding their lives in the wake of one of the nation’s most significant natural disasters. The series name refers to a New Orleans neighborhood that is the historical heart of the city’s African American community through Tremé was filmed throughout the Crescent City.

Experience: All over New Orleans including numerous bars and restaurants (Vaughn’s Lounge, Liuzza’s By the Track), the French Quarter, and historical shotgun-style homes central to New Orleans’ architectural distinctiveness.

Atchafalaya National Heritage Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Swamp People (2010–present)

Scene: This reality show based in south Louisiana focuses on the lives of alligator hunters in the Atchafalaya Basin swamps and depicts life (and wildlife) in the bayous. At times intense—alligator hunting is not for the squeamish, after all—Swamp People is a testimony to the resilience of the men and women who call the region home. 

Related: Lake Martin: An Accessible Louisiana Swamp and Rookery

Lake Martin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience: Throughout rural central and south Louisiana. Pierre Part, a village a few miles due south of Baton Rouge, is among the primary filming locations. Others include Houma, Hammond, Bayou Sorrel, Thibodaux, and Zwolle. An airboat swamp tour with RJ Molinere, star of Swamp People, is about as close as you can get to the real thing you see on the show.

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

NCIS: New Orleans (2014-2021)

Scene: A spinoff of the enormously successful CBS network show, NCIS. NCIS: New Orleans stars Scott Bakula as Special Agent Dwayne Pride whose investigations into crimes involving military personnel have made for captivating, edge-of-your-seat viewing since it premiered in 2014. While NCIS: New Orleans shows off the talent of Golden Globe winner Bakula and an extensive roster of actors, the real star may be New Orleans itself with each episode showcasing the city’s unique architecture and unconventional characters.

Experience: Iconic locations throughout New Orleans. Bourbon Street, Louis Armstrong Park, Café Du Monde, Jackson Square, Plaza Tower, and New Orleans Motorsports Park (in Avondale) make appearances.

Denham Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More stops along the Louisiana Film Trail

Louisiana’s antebellum plantations on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge remain a magnet for blockbuster films. In recent years, 12 Years a Slave was filmed at Felicity Plantation. For the classics enthusiast, the tours at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens explain the mansion’s role in making Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

Plantations along the Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Baton Rouge, visit Louisiana’s State Capitol to see where All the King’s Men, a story based on Huey P. Long, was filmed. Just a few blocks away sits the USS KIDD, a WWII-era battleship where Tom Hanks’ Greyhound was filmed.

Read Next: 6 of the Best RV Parks in Louisiana

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 Things You Might Not Know About Mardi Gras

Everywhere else, it’s just a Tuesday

Mardi Gras. Two little words with an infinitely large explanation.  For different people, it means different things—an event, an idea, a day, a way of life, a piece of history, a state holiday, or a million parades, and countless memories. Think you know Mardi Gras? That it’s all about booze and beads? Think again! 

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Of the hundreds of Louisiana festivals, none tops Mardi Gras. Spectacular parades, unbelievable costumes, music, dancing, food, drink—take your pick of places to indulge and enjoy. The biggest celebration occurs in New Orleans but nearly every community in the state and beyond has its own version of the annual party. Wherever you go, you can find the style that best suits you, including tons of family-style celebrations.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is Mardi Gras? Do you know the meaning of krewe? Or where to get one-of-a-kind beads? Here are 10 things to know about Mardi Gras to make your Carnival the best!

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Carnival is a Season; Mardi Gras is a day

Sure, we all do it. “Yea, I’m going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras!” we say when we’re actually going to see parades the weekend before Mardi Gras or the weekend before that. Technically, “Mardi Gras” is the last Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and ushers in 40 days of best behavior during Lent, and “Carnival” is the season that begins on the Feast of Epiphany.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mardi Gras 2022 falls on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. The official start of Carnival Season is Twelfth Night, January 6.

A krewe (pronounced the same way as “crew”) is an organization that puts on a parade and/or a ball for the Carnival season.

Bonus Fun Fact: Mardi Gras is a legal holiday in Louisiana and has been since 1875 when Governor Warmoth signed the “Mardi Gras Act.”

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Your Dog Will Love Mardi Gras

Dogs just want to have fun! And that’s what they get at their very own parades in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, the Louisiana Northshore, and more locations! These animal-dedicated parades show off the fun and revelry from our furriest of friends and do they look cute.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Orleans’ French Quarter goes to the dogs at the annual Krewe of Barkus where dogs and their owners dress up in cute, crazy costumes.

Related Article: Joe Cain, Moon Pies & Mobile Mardi Gras

Shreveport goes to the dogs (literally) at the Krewe of Barkus and Meoux Parade. Head to Old Reeves Marine to see the pups strut their stuff and feel free to bring your own. The cuteness of this parade will have you telling everyone “Happy Mardi Paw!”

Start planning your dog’s costume for the celebration.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Mardi Gras Is for Families

There are many activities and Mardi Gras parades that are family-friendly. In New Orleans, there are a few favorite family parade-watching spots which include St. Charles and Napoleon Streets. As you explore the state, you’ll find that many Louisiana cities host huge Mardi Gras celebrations with brightly colored floats and marching bands that are perfectly appropriate for the whole family.

Lafayette goes big with its Mardi Gras festivities and two of the family-friendly highlights are the annual Children’s Parade and the Krewe of Bonaparte.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. The Best Ways to Get Parade Goods Aren’t Always Obvious

Sure, you could say, “Throw me something, mister!” or you could stick your cute kid on your shoulders but if you really want to test your suitcases’ weight limit, head to the end of the parade. You’ll be showered by effervescent float-riders with a single goal: chuck all bags of beads off before they get off the float themselves.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. You never know what they’ll Throw

Bathroom humor never grows old, as evidenced by the irreverent joy of Krewe of Tucks riders including the King’s Throne (a giant toilet) float! The screaming crowds line the street begging for their bathroom-themed throws including monogrammed toilet paper, sunglasses shaped like toilets, mini-plungers, and more.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Shreveport, you’ll love the Krewe of Highland who throw a new surprise each Carnival season. The first of Krewe’s famously unusual throws began with candy canes in its founding year. Over the years, throws have included recycled beads, rubber chickens, Beanie Babies, and food, from spaghetti and meatballs in Ziploc bags to pickles, hot dogs, Capri Suns pouches, Ramen Noodles, MoonPies, and even coined money. The throws are as exciting as the floats from which they’re thrown; every year brings a new surprise to parade go-ers, screaming, “Throw me something, Mister!”

Anyone can come home with beads. Only those “in the know” get miniature squirting toilets and dinner.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. The Best Parades Aren’t Necessarily the Biggest

You can’t get any smaller than ’tit Rex, New Orleans first and only MicroKrewe. A group of artists, business people, teachers, workers, and bon vivants founded ‘tit Rəx in 2009 in a response to the super krewes constantly setting records for floats, throws, and extravagance.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

‘tit Rəx takes an opposite approach focusing instead of on massive floats that take up entire blocks, the ‘tit Rəx floats are made from shoeboxes and found objects that look like full-size floats. Carnival throws are handed out by krewe members rather than tossed, since—in keeping with the theme of the parade—they are so tiny.

Related Article: How to Celebrate Mardi Gras in 2021?

The parade’s name comes from the Cajun abbreviation of petite, used as a prefix before the name of the smaller or younger of two people who share a first name.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Why They Throw Beads at Mardi Gras?

Legend has it that in the 1880s, a man dressed as Santa Claus received such fame throwing beads, that other krewes followed suit. Makes sense, seeing as, before that, krewes threw any manner of items including food and dirt. Today, krewes buy plastic beads en masse which parade-goers prefer over dirt! Locals still love to see throws of tiny glass bead strands which are rare and seemed to have phased out in the 1960s and 1970s.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. The Weight of Revelry

Think your suitcase is heavy? Officials estimate upwards of 25 million pounds of Mardi Gras items get tossed from floats. In fact, locals like to visit the Arc of New Orleans and recycle their beads for next year. It is a 67-year-old non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the independence and well-being of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Royalty is Often Top Secret

Ever see the term “Mystic Krewe” and wonder what that means? Many Mardi Gras Krewes use “mystique” or “mystic” in their titles, meaning krewes will not reveal the identities of their royalty until they’re presented at the royal ball. King, Queens, and Maids are often sworn to secrecy all year until they’re able to make their grand debut.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Mardi Gras is More Than New Orleans

When you hear “Mardi Gras” do you only think of New Orleans? Think again. Mardi Gras is celebrated around the state! Cajun Mardi Gras (yes, there is a Cajun spin on Mardi Gras) can be found in the Lafayette and Eunice area. In Baton Rouge, parades roll many weekends before and during Mardi Gras. Plan to experience some family-friendly Mardi Gras fun in Alexandria, Lake Charles, Monroe, and many other locations throughout the state.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be sure to explore the small cities and towns of South Louisiana such as Houma and Thibodaux as every region has its own way of celebrating the carnival season.

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

And don’t forget where it all began in America. In 1703, the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile celebrated America’s very first Mardi Gras, 15 years before New Orleans was established.

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now that you are well versed in Carnival knowledge, it’s time to plan your trip to visit the Bayou State and “let the good times roll.”

Worth Pondering…

But, after all, if, as a child, you saw, every Mardi Gras, the figure of Folly chasing Death around the broken column of Life, beating him on the back with a Fool’s Scepter from which dangled two gilded pig bladders; or the figure of Columbus dancing drunkenly on top of a huge revolving globe of the world; or Revelry dancing on an enormous upturned wine glass—wouldn’t you see the world in different terms, too?

—Eugene Walter, The Untidy Pilgrim