10 Amazing Places to RV in February 2024

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

The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.

—Eden Phillpotts

English author and poet Eden Phillpotts was known for his prolific output of novels, plays, poetry, and short stories. In 1918 he published A Shadow Passes, a collection of reflections and poetry that capture the author’s keen observations about the world around him. In his contemplation of the buckbean plant (aka Menyanthes), Phillpotts marvels at the beauty of its “ragged petals finer than lace.”

This attention to detail serves as a broader contemplation of the natural world emphasizing the innumerable potential wonders that remain unnoticed and unappreciated until our understanding and awareness deepen. Beauty and magic are always present; we need only to keep our minds and hearts open to the possibilities that lie in wait all around us.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in January. Also check out my recommendations from February 2023 and March 2023.

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. A history of cowboys, shootouts, and outlaws in the southwest

The rich and illustrious history of Tombstone is well-known by many Western film buffs but few places are as prepared to tell its story as the Tombstone Courthouse. This Arizona State Historic Park is a wealth of knowledge on everything from the founding of the city of Tombstone to the first-hand accounts of those present at the gunfight at O.K. Corral.

Tombstone as a city was established in 1877 when Edward Schieffelin discovered silver mines in the area. Tombstone Courthouse was the center of Cochise Country from 1882 to 1931 when the city seat was moved to Bisbee.

The courthouse was built in the shape of a Roman cross and is 12,000 square feet. The Tombstone Courthouse is the oldest courthouse still standing in Arizona. During its tenure as the county courthouse seven men were sentenced to hang for various crimes—five of which were hung together after a botched robbery left at least four others dead.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Best national park to visit in February: Saguaro National Park

Located in southern Arizona, Saguaro National Park is one of the warmest parks to visit in February. Temperatures in the park soar from late spring through early fall making the winter months the best time to visit Saguaro. With an average high of 70°F and a very low chance of rain, this is a great park to visit in February.

Saguaro National Park is named for the Saguaro Cactus which only grows in the Sonoran Desert.

This park is split into two different sections, the Tucson Mountain District and the Rincon Mountain District. You can visit both in one very busy day but you’re best to spread them out over two separate days.

Plan your visit:

Temecula Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Temecula Valley wine region

Nearly 50 wineries populate the Temecula Valley and the rolling-hills region: known for award-winning Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir. Think of Temecula as the Napa Valley of southern California being only an hour drive from San Diego and a couple hours from LA.

Just west of the valley wine region, Old Town Temecula is a fantastic place to eat and people watch. However, getting through Old Town involved ten stop signs and ample opportunity for street café onlookers to witness my first gear stall.

Plan your visit:

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. West Texas is mostly flat and desolate, right? Not Quite! 

Big Bend National Park is an exception to people’s commonly-percieved notions that West Texas is flat and desolate. Big Bend National Park is the quintessential hidden gem of the state. At 801,000-plus acres, it’s one of the largest national parks in the United States yet it’s also one of the least-visited parks. The low-visit rate might be because the park is nowhere close to a populated city center.

Big Bend National Park is perhaps most appealing in winter when temperatures stay in the 60s during the daytime. This weather is perfect for hiking and biking the 200 miles of trails that the park offers. Big Bend offers the best of both mountain and desert terrain and with the Rio Grande River bordering the park, you can also take part in water activities.

Plan your visit:

Galveston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. I still dream of Galveston

This exciting old city is located on a barrier island off the Gulf Coast via Highway 45. It’s just 50 miles south of Houston but it leaves the hustle and bustle of the big city behind and slows the pace down to a barefoot beach town.

The Gulf of Mexico laps the sandy beaches that stretch the full length of the island. You can enjoy the relaxing beachfront atmosphere, take a dip in the warm gulf waters, walk along the seawall, or go through the shops in the historic downtown area where cruise ship passengers disembark to get a taste of this historic city that was established in the early 1800s when it was still part of Mexico.

The Spanish influence is evident in much of the old-town architecture. Check out the Bishop’s Palace, historic churches, and the Moody Mansion for examples.

Read more:

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. A place apart

There’s St. Louis, and then there’s Bay St. Louis which dubs itself a place apart. 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. In fact, 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.

Check this out to learn more: Bay St. Louis: A Place Apart

Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Mardi Gras

Mark Twain once wrote that a traveler “… has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans.”

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 has its own version of the annual party. Wherever you go, you can find the style that best suits you including tons of family-friendly celebrations.

Mardi Gras is here and there are so many parades and activities for every member of your family. You’ll find the perfect revelry for every age.

Nothing gets Louisianans together like a good party. And when it comes to Mardi Gras season, you’ll find plenty of ways to celebrate with the kids and grown-ups alike all the way up until Fat Tuesday (February 13, 2024).

Read more:

Mardi Gras King Cake © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Birthplace of Mardi Gras

When you think of Mardi Gras you likely think of New Orleans, beads, and the rowdiness of the French Quarter. The Big Easy has a long and illustrious history with Fat Tuesday, but, believe it or not, it’s not the birthplace of the celebration in America. For that, you have to go about 150 miles east to Mobile, Alabama.

On Mardi Gras, clusters of costumed people travel from the banks of Mobile Bay on Government Street, up old and tightly crowded Dauphin Street, and into the center of the city.

The secret societies that dominate the celebration organize themselves on floats just as their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents did before them. Crowds along the street cheer them on and marvel at the costumes catching trinkets and MoonPies thrown from above.

Read more:

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. A dose of southern hospality

Savannah, Georgia, is a charming historic Southern town on the Atlantic coast, just across the Savannah River from South Carolina. The city is known for its beautiful municipal parks, historical features such as antebellum homes, and the horse-drawn carriages that ferry passengers around the cobblestoned streets of the historic district.

Stroll the ancient oak-lined paths of Forsyth Park and then take a walk through the Juliette Gordon Low Historic District followed by comfort food at a Southern cafe and you’ll never want to leave Savannah. February is the end of Savannah’s low season and a great time to beat the crowds as long as you are willing to don a jacket.

Worth Pondering…

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.

―Charles M. Schulz

Family-Friendly Mardi Gras Events in Louisiana 2024

Everywhere else, it’s just a Tuesday

Mark Twain once wrote that a traveler “… has not seen the United States until he has seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans.”

Of the hundreds of Louisiana festivals, none tops Mardi Gras. Spectacular parades, unbelievable costumes, music, dancing, food, and drink—take your pick of places to indulge and enjoy.

The biggest celebration occurs in New Orleans but nearly every community in the state has its version of the annual party. Wherever you go, you can find the style that best suits you including tons of family-friendly celebrations.

Mardi Gras parade © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mardi Gras is here and there are so many parades and activities for every member of your family. You’ll find the perfect revelry for every age.

Nothing gets Louisianans together like a good party. And when it comes to Mardi Gras season, you’ll find plenty of ways to celebrate with the kids and grown-ups alike all the way up until Fat Tuesday (February 13, 2024).

Greater New Orleans Area 

Slidell: Krewe of Bilge

Sometimes Mardi Gras floats float. Head just a few miles east of New Orleans where the Krewe of Bilge boat parade goes through the canals of Slidell. For the last 40 years, Bilge has tossed out beads and cups (or throws) and other commemorative Carnival treasures to parade goers from the middle of Slidell waterways. The family will love seeing the decorated boats where krewe members toss out beads and Carnival treasures.

Some great spots to catch the parade are at The Dock of Slidell off Lakeview Drive, along Highway 11 at Michael’s Restaurant, The Landing, and Tooloula’s, and on the east side of the parade route at the firehouse on Marina Drive.

Details: Saturday, January 27, 2024 at 12:00 pm

Mardi Gras parade © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Metairie: Family Gras

Head to Jefferson Parish’s family-centric Mardi Gras experience: Family Gras. This free event is perfect for the whole family. You can enjoy the spectacle of Mardi Gras parades, authentic local cuisine, local art, a Kids’ Court and outdoor concerts by both national artists and Louisiana favorites!

After the music ends, stay for an up-close look at the Krewes of Excalibur, Caerus, Atlas, and Madhatters as they roll in front of the Family Gras site on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.

Details: February 2-4, 2024, Mardi Gras Plaza, 3300 block of Veterans Memorial Boulevard, across from Lakeside Shopping Center 

Mardi Gras parade © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Orleans: Krewe of Barkus

Mardi Gras gets even cuter when furry friends are involved. 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. It’s a blast for kids and adults alike alike. Who doesn’t like adorable animals dressed to the nines?

Like Barbie, Barkus believes that dreams do come true and that any dog canine be anything! Krewe members embrace the possibilities that Barbie and her posse represent at the best dog parade on Earth.

Details: Sunday, February 4, 2024 at 2 p.m.

Mardi Gras parade © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Louisiana

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. The Children’s Parade kicks off first in downtown Lafayette and is followed by the illustrious Krewe of Bonaparte later in the evening. These are far from the only parades, though. An old-fashioned Courir de Mardi Gras takes place in Vermilionville and is followed by many others.

Eunice: Lil’ Mardi Gras

Adults can’t have all the fun! Eunice is one of the small Cajun Country towns where the culture is as alive as ever and family is an important aspect of their culture. That’s why you’ll find Lil’ Mardi Gras here where children are separated into different age groups and can participate in traditional Cajun Mardi Gras traditions.

They are encouraged to be in full costume, mask, and capuchon. The day starts early with the Mardi Gras run beginning at 9 am. Participants will return to the Eunice Recreation Complex at noon for lunch then depart for Harris Field at 1:15 for the chicken chase. The day ends with a children’s parade in downtown Eunice at 3 pm.

Details: Sunday, February 11, 2024

Mardi Gras costumes exhibit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Baton Rouge: Mystic Krewe of Mutts 

In Baton Rouge, the 25th annual Mystic Krewe of Mutts asks you to bark your calendars for this hilariously awe-inspiring (or paw-inspiring) event. This is a fundraising celebration for a local non-profit’s spay/neuter program that features costumed pups parading through downtown Baton Rouge. Food vendors are on-site, too, so come hungry.

Details: Sunday, January 28, 2024 starting at 10:00 am

Lake Charles: Krewe of Barkus 

Lake Charles also hosts the Krewe of Barkus parade that encourages pets, their owners, and all who want to participate to dress in their Mardi Gras best.

Details: Saturday, February 10, 2024 at 1 pm

Mardi Gras exhibit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jeanerette: Grand Marais Mardi Gras Parade

The Grand Marais Mardi Gras Parade is a unique experience the whole family will love. This rural Mardi Gras parade in the heart of Cajun Country takes place at the corner of Highway 90 and College Road in Jeanerette. It’s a family-oriented event with floats, bands, and an “ugly costume” contest that is not to be missed.   

Details: Sunday, February 11, 2024

Central Louisiana 

What to take the kids to see a real-life queen? The reigning Miss Teen Louisiana is the Grand Marshal of Alexandria’s annual Children’s Parade. You’ll see whole families from grandparents to grandchildren on colorful floats along with local marching bands and dance teams to get your toes tapping.

Mardi Gras exhibit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Natchitoches: Krewe of Dionysos

The whole family will enjoy the charm of Natchitoches with the Krewe of Dionysos parade. This evening parade puts on a show with lights, costumes, and lots of beads to take home.

Details: Saturday, February 10, 2024

North Louisiana 

Monroe: Krewe of Janus Parade 

The Krewe of Janus Parade in Monroe puts on a show that is not to be missed, with dozens of floats and marching bands. The elaborate floats feature larger-than-life sculptures and bright colors that are a marvel to the eye. And the Krewe of Janus Children’s Parade steps up the competition for best floats with some incredible family creativity. In the Children’s Parade, you will find dozens of decorated wagons and kids in costumes putting on a show for the whole family.

Details: Saturday, February 3, 2024, Pecanland Mall at 10 am

Mardi Gras exhibit © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shreveport: Krewe of Barkus and Meoux Parade

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!”

Details: Sunday, February 4, 2024, Louisiana Downs at 11 am

This is just a sample of the many family-friendly that take place throughout the state during carnival season. Enjoy a safe family-friendly Mardi Gras!

Here are a few great articles to help you do just that:

Worth Pondering…

It’s a great party, and anyone who doesn’t enjoy Mardi Gras is not of this world.

—Franklin Alvarado

Snowbird Guide: States with the Least Snow

Planning for a future RV snowbird road trip? Need to know where it doesn’t snow? Here are the top six states with the least snow to get you started on your plans.

The seasonal migration of Canadian and American snowbirds from the greater north into southern states like Arizona, Texas, Alabama, and Florida and then back home again requires good planning.

There are many logistical issues to consider when traveling and one of the first decisions is how you’ll get from point A to point B.

Here are a few great articles to help you do just that:

Planning for the best and preparing for the worst will help you keep safe during your snowbird travels whether in sunny weather or adverse road conditions.

Here are the top six states with the least snow to get you started on your plans.

Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

# 6: Georgia

When it comes to Georgia and snow, it’s all about what area you visit. For example, parts of northern Georgia can see up to as much as three inches of snow each year. If you want to avoid snow altogether, stick to central and southern Georgia where less than an inch of snow a year is the norm. By the way, the higher snow totals in northern Georgia are due to the Northeastern mountain region.

By the way, I have a series of posts on Georgia:

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

# 5: Mississippi

If you hate snow and want to avoid it at all costs many areas of Mississippi are bound to deliver. The Gulf Coast and southern regions of Mississippi see an average of half an inch of snow or less each year. Central Mississippi usually gets less than an inch of snow but northern Mississippi can get up to two inches though it’s infrequent.

It’s worth noting that the Gulf Coast of Mississippi is a popular vacation destination. Winter months offer high temperatures in the 60s. Cities throughout the Gulf Coast like Biloxi, Gulfport, and Bay St. Louis offer a variety of holiday events throughout the winter months. 

Another great winter event in coastal Mississippi is, of course, Mardi Gras. Though more commonly associated with Louisiana, Mardi Gras has a 300-year history on the Gulf Coast. Numerous Mardi Gras events take place beginning in January and into February.

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

# 4: Alabama

The Alabama Gulf Coast and southern Alabama are a great escape from the white stuff. Most cities in these regions average .2 inches or less of snow a year—not exactly the best destination for cross-country skiers. That isn’t to say snow is completely out of question. Some cities in Alabama have seen record snowfall amounts of more than 13 inches.

By the way, I have a series of posts on Alabama:

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

# 3: Louisiana

Average snowfall throughout Louisiana is an inch or less making the state a consistently snow-free destination. Winter highs are likely to be in the mid-60s. In addition to its temperate climate, Louisiana has one impressive draw for winter traveling: Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras has been openly celebrated in New Orleans since the 1730s. The Mardi Gras traditions began in France and then spread to French colonies. It was brought to New Orleans by a French–Canadian explorer in 1702. The traditions and celebrations have slowly grown over time to become what New Orleanians call the.

The Carnival season begins on January 6 or King’s Day kicking off a long stretch of celebrations and events. The date of Fat Tuesday changes every year and is always the day before Ash Wednesday (February 13, 2024). Bacchus and Endymion are two of the biggest parades of the season and happen the weekend before Fat Tuesday.

By the way, I have a series of posts on Louisiana:

Venice, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

# 2: Florida

Summing up the average snowfall in Florida is easy: none. Don’t believe it? It snowed in Florida 16 times in the entire 21st century. Simply put, temperatures don’t drop low enough.

The average high is in the mid-60s. The consistent weather and lack of winter precipitation make Florida a great destination for vacationing. Florida is the number one destination in the United States for Canadian transplants and one in four residents in Florida are seniors.

Florida is home to several attractions that make it a desirable vacation destination. One of the most well-known is Disney World and some of the winter months are the least busy at the park.

Consider planning a trip in early to mid-December or January to mid-February. If you are looking for something a bit different consider a visit to the Kennedy Space Center or Everglades National Park.

By the way, I have a series of posts on Florida:

# 1: Hawaii

YES, HAWAII DOES GET SNOW!

Just not very much! But how practical is it to get your RV there? So Florida could be in this number 1 spot.

Are you really surprised? Of course not!  Much like Florida, Hawaii’s average yearly snowfall is non-existent. It also boasts highs in the 80s and lows in the upper 60s.

Weather like this should certainly make you consider saying Aloha to Hawaii in the winter months.

The only place you are likely to see snow in Hawaii is at the top of the state’s three tallest volcanoes: Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Haleakala.

Worth Pondering…

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida but they turned sixty and that’s the law.

—Jerry Steinfeld

The Ultimate RV Lifestyle Destinations Guide: RV Trip Ideas Based on Location

Looking for exciting RV trip ideas and travel suggestions?

This ultimate guide brings all of my destination resources to one place! Browse LOTS of RV road trip ideas based on location or interests.

We have been living the RV Snowbird Lifestyle for over two decades, cataloging our trips from year to year. I’ve shared countless articles and resources to help fellow RVers enjoy similar travels. Now, I’m bringing it all together in this ultimate destinations guide filled with many great RV trip ideas.

You can use this guide as an index to discover new ideas or dig deeper into places or things you’ve always wanted to see. I’ve organized it into two parts: location and activities/interests.

So, whether you’re interested in Arizona or scenic drives, Texas or birding, Georgia or hiking, you’ll find excellent resources to help with planning your next adventure!

RV trip ideas based on location

In this section, I organize my many location-based articles and resources into an easy-to-scan index. You’ll see helpful articles and links to useful resources.

When something catches your interest, click through to the links to learn more!

SOUTHWEST

The Southwest has stunning and unique landscapes you can’t see anywhere else in the world. We have fallen in love with the Southwest—Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and California.  From red and orange rock formations in the desert to green and lush mountains, there’s so much to see in this one area of the country and hiking and birding that can’t be beat. Then there is the beautiful national parks, state parks, and regional/county parks—and, of course, the Grand Canyon.

Cathedral Rock, Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona

Visit Arizona for the iconic red rock formations of Sedona to the majestic Grand Canyon. Or for the vibrant cities such as Phoenix and Tucson which offer a range of shopping, dining, and entertainment options.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Mexico

New Mexico is a great destination for RVers due to its diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage. From deserts to mountains, RVers can enjoy a range of scenic drives and outdoor activities. The state is also home to a number of historic Native American pueblos as well as Spanish colonial missions which provide a unique cultural experience.

New Mexican cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, Native American, and Mexican ingredients and techniques. While familiar items like corn, beans, and squash are often used, the defining ingredient is chile, a spicy chile pepper that is a staple in many New Mexican dishes. Chile comes in two varieties, red or green, depending on the stage of ripeness in which they were picked.

D. H. Lawrence, writing in 1928, pretty much summed it up: “The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning shine high up over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul.”

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah

Every state thinks its fun. Every state claims to have something for everyone. But not every state has five national parks (The Mighty Five), 46 state parks, five national historic sites and trails, and a dozen national monuments and recreation areas. While it’s mathematically impossible to finish your Utah bucket list, I’ll help you plan the trip you’ll be talking about forever!

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California

What is the quintessential wine experience in the Golden State? Where are the must-see natural wonders? Which beach is best? How do you decide which theme park to visit? Where best to spend the winter? Scroll through my favorite places to go and things to do and start dreaming about your next California adventure today. 

SOUTHEAST

Over the last decade, the United States’ southeastern portion has become the ultimate place to visit for people who love outdoor activities and sports. You will find plenty to do from whitewater rafting to camping and hiking the trails when you visit the area. The twelve states located in the Southeast include Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Kentucky.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgia

From the mountains down to the coast and everything in between, Georgia offers well-known and off-the-beaten-path experiences in cities both big and small. From ghost tours and island resorts to hidden gems here are a few can’t miss attractions, stays and towns when visiting Georgia.  

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Carolina

South Carolina is a state of variety with beautiful beaches, remote islands, charming cities and towns, watery wilderness, great golf, interesting history, rolling hills and mountains, and much more. From the Upcountry mountains through the vibrant Midlands and to the Lowcountry coast, the Palmetto State amazes.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama

From the foothills of the Appalachians through countless river valleys to the sugar white beaches of the Gulf, natural wonders abound. The 22 state parks which encompass 48,000 acres of land and water provide opportunities to fish, camp, canoe, hike, and enjoy the great outdoors.

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

Louisiana

Break away from the Interstate and take a road trip down one of Louisiana’s 19 scenic byways. From historic treasures and music festivals, to country kitchens and coastal wetlands teeming with wildlife, each drive offers you an authentic taste of Louisiana food, music, culture, and natural beauty. Start planning your trip here.

Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Kentucky

With everything from world-class horse racing to world-class bourbon, the list of things to do in the Bluegrass State seems almost endless. But with so many options, where do you even start? Here are a few experiences that stand above the rest.

Kennedy Space Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Florida

The Sunshine State connects you to natural landscapes, vibrant wildlife, and a host of outdoor activities and interactions.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas

Mention Texas to someone from another state and they might picture cowboys herding longhorn cattle across the open range or scheming, wealthy oil barons a la TV’s Dallas. The Lone Star State which was admitted to the United States after winning its own independence from Mexico still sometimes seems—as the state tourism slogan goes—like a whole other country. And, boy, do we have a LOT of helpful articles on this popular RV destination!

MIDWEST

The Midwest, also known as America’s Heartland, lies midway between the Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains and north of the Ohio River. The Midwest is generally considered to comprise the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Holmes County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ohio

Ohio is home to a wide range of attractions from sprawling parks with stunning waterfalls to bustling cities and college towns. 

Shipshewanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indiana

Appreciate a slower pace of life in a state known for its rural charms, Amish communities, and architecturally impressive cities.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

North Dakota

North Dakota has uncrowded, wide-open spaces, and amazing vistas that take your breath away at must-see national and state parks, and recreational areas.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Dakota

An often overlooked travel destination, South Dakota is a land of breathtaking scenic beauty.

Here’s the thing, visit South Dakota once and the place SELLS ITSELF. Much more than just the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the Badlands, SoDak is the most scenic places you knew nothing about. Until now!

Worth Pondering…

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

—Gandalf the Wizard, Lord of the Rings

The Louisiana Film Trail

Lights. Camera. Louisiana.

With her exotic swamps and bayous, imposing plantation locations, and unrivaled cityscapes, Hollywood has been casting Louisiana as a leading lady for over a century. 

Louisiana has long been a frontrunner in the film industry. New Orleans opened the first indoor seated theater in 1896 and when Tarzan of the Apes appeared on film (1918), Morgan City served as the jungle. The movie premiered at the Broadway Theatre in New York and became an instant box office hit. It was one of the first six films to earn over $1,000,000, a significant amount in 1918.

More than 2,500 films have been shot in Louisiana and although you may not be familiar with Creature, Red River Ode, or The Ninth, you’ve probably heard of Beasts of the Southern Wild, 12 Years a Slave, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Pelican Brief, and Monster’s Ball.

Explore some of the most iconic movies in history and imagine Tom Cruise, Elvis Presley, Sean Penn, John Wayne, Dolly Parton, Brad Pitt, Charlton Heston, Jack Nicholson, and Julia Roberts in those same spaces.

Whenever you find yourself in Louisiana, explore these unique sites and dig into all the other adventurous experiences Louisiana has to offer.

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

Belizaire the Cajun (1986)

Belizaire the Cajun tells the story of a traiteur, or a Cajun healer, who goes on a series of adventures to save his community in Louisiana in 1859. Belizaire the Cajun was filmed by Louisiana native Glen Pitre on location in the heart of Cajun country in 1986.

Renowned film critic Roger Ebert liked the approach of the main character, saying he “doesn’t play the Cajun like an action hero. He plays him sort of like a bayou version of Ghandi, restraining his anger, always able to see the comic side of his predicament, trying to talk his people out of a situation they clearly cannot win by force.”  The Acadian House at Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site served as Perry Plantation in the film.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site honors the story of Evangeline and the author (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) who made her famous. The main attraction here is Maison Olivier, a Creole plantation built around 1815 that once grew indigo, cotton, and sugar. Sitting on the banks of Bayou Teche in the town of St. Martinville, Maison Olivier features a mix of French, Creole, and Caribbean architectural influences that were typical of the early 1800s.

Mural depicting arrival of the Cajuns in St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Christmas In Louisiana (2019)

Christmas in Louisiana is a Lifetime Original Movie, filmed in New Iberia. This family Christmas movie stars country singer Jana Kramer; Percy Daggs III, Moira Kelly, Barry Bostwick, and Dee Wallace. Numerous locations in New Iberia star as the backdrop; The Evangeline Theater, Shadows on the Teche, Bayou Teche Museum, and more. 

A drive down Main Street during filming in September 2019 felt like traveling from the Queen City of the Teche to a Christmas village, albeit one with 90-degree weather. Experience your own Christmas in Louisiana by visiting all the locations from the film and while you’re there you can even visit the other filming locations on their complete movie trail. 

Evangeline Oak Park in St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Evangeline (2013)

Although not the original film adaptation of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic about the journey of the Acadians, the film’s most popular screen version was released in 1929 by United Artists. Legendary actress Dolores Del Rio starred as the namesake character Evangeline and Roland Drew as her love Gabriel.

Del Rio was so enamored of the state and its people that she contributed to a fund to restore the supposed burial place of the real Evangeline. A statue of Evangeline—posed for by Ms. Del Rio—was donated to the town of St. Martinville by the film’s cast and crew and is still on display just outside St. Martin de Tours chapel, the Acadians’ Mother Church. Visitors can also complete a walking tour of St. Martin Square or Evangeline Oak Park.

Swamp people © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Swamp People (2010–present)

Currently, in its 13th season on the History Channel, Swamp People gets the viewer practically nose-to-snout with the month-long alligator season in Louisiana. Probably the most unique tale of living off the land, Troy Landry and his crews cull alligators for a living while maintaining their proudly Cajun way of life.

Take a swamp tour with the show’s own R.J. Molinere’s Rising Sun Swamp Tours, and get your own personal “behind the scenes tour” of the biggest, swampiest filming location ever!

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

White Rose (1923)

In 1923, legendary film director D. W. Griffith, known as the father of American cinema, came to south Louisiana to shoot the 1923 film White Rose, based on the story by Irene Sinclair. The film starred Mae Marsh, Carol Dempster, Ivor Novello, Neil Hamilton, Lucilla LaVerne, and Porter Strong.

The controversial plot involves a wealthy young Southern aristocrat who graduates from a seminary and, before he takes charge of his assigned parish, decides to go out and sow his oats. He winds up in New Orleans and finds himself attracted to a poor, unsophisticated orphan girl. One thing leads to another, and before long the girl finds that she is pregnant with his child.

The Bayou Teche area served as a background and the majority of the scenes in White Rose were filmed on location at Shadows-on-the-Teche Plantation in New Iberia, Bayou Teche, Franklin, and St. Martinville. The short parade sequence was filmed during Mardi Gras 1923. Located in New Iberia’s Main Street District, set among towering live oak trees draped with Spanish moss on the banks of Bayou Teche, The Shadows-on-the-Teche was built in 1834 for sugar planter David Weeks.

Bayou Teche at St. Martinsville © 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.

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.

Get in the Christmas spirit and see the settings of Lifetime movies A Christmas Wish in Ponchatoula and Christmas in Louisiana in New Iberia.

Take a look at other famous movies and TV shows filmed 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

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

Conclusion

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