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

Saintly Cities

There’s more to Halloween than goofy costumes and trick-or-treating. In fact, Halloween is actually a precursor to two other holidays: All Saints’ Day and Day of the Dead.

We celebrate Halloween on October 31 each year. Halloween (short for All Hallows’ Evening) is traced back to the Irish and Scottish ancient Celtic holiday Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”), a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture.

Halloween is a holiday that promotes fear of the dead but All Saints’ Day and Day of the Dead both celebrate the deceased. The dead (including Catholic Saints) are honored on All Saints’ Day on November 1. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead is a two-day celebration honoring both deceased children and adults. Some Mexicans make it a week-long celebration, beginning on October 28 and ending on November 2.

Since November kicks off with both All Saints’ Day and the Day of the Dead, both celebrated on November 1, I thought that I’d highlight some of America’s cities named for saints.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Antonio, Texas

The third largest city in Texas, San Antonio (Spanish for Saint Anthony) was founded in 1718 when a mission was established here. For many years, it was the largest city in Texas. Today, this lively city has stayed true to its roots and is rich in culture and history.

San Antonio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors can stroll along the River Walk, a city park along the river offering shops, galleries, and restaurants. Of course, the most historic site to see here is the Alamo Mission to learn the history of the Battle of the Alamo. Other attractions include the San Antonio Zoo, Natural Bridge Caverns, and the Japanese Tea Gardens.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

“A Place Apart” Bay St. Louis is a historic beach community with a quaint and funky Old Town. Bay St. Louis has been home to colorful characters, fanciful buildings, and unquenchable community spirit for over three centuries. Bay St. Louis was established in 1699 by French explorers d’Iberville and Bienville. Known for years simply as “the Bay of St. Louis,” the city was incorporated under the name of Bay St. Louis as the first act of the new Mississippi legislature in 1818.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

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

St. Martinville, Louisiana

Bayou Teche, a waterway in south central Louisiana, meanders through St. Martinville where birds wade among cattails, streets are shaded by century-old mossy oaks, and people enjoy fishing, picnics in the parks, and visits to historic museums. The St. Martinville people are descendants of Beausoleil Broussard, an Acadian hero from the 1700s, and Bienvenu and the Duchamp families of French royalty, who fled the revolution.

St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As one of the oldest surviving towns in Louisiana, St. Martinville retains many buildings and homes reflecting the beautiful architecture of days gone by. The city’s Creole heritage is strongly represented by its inhabitants and is reflected in the cuisine, culture, and customs. Many of the buildings in its historic district are on the National Historic Register.

St. Marys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. Marys, Georgia

Located on the easternmost fringes of the Florida-Georgia line, the city of St. Marys is perhaps best-known as the launching point for those visiting Cumberland Island, the largest of Georgia’s idyllic seaside isles. Though Cumberland’s sprawling sandy beaches and centuries-old ruins are truly a sight to behold, St. Marys is fully capable of holding its own as a fascinating destination packed full of historic landmarks, museums, wild horses, and dining venues.

St. Marys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Upon arrival, visitors should take a leisurely stroll along the St. Marys Waterfront, a charming promenade complete with a gazebo offering a spectacular view of the river.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Padre Island, Texas

Padre Island is the largest of the Texas barrier islands and the world’s longest barrier island. The island is located along Texas’s southern coast of the Gulf of Mexico and is noted for its white sandy beaches. Meaning father in Spanish, it was named after Father José Nicolás Ballí who owned the island and served as a missionary priest and collector of finances for all the churches in the Rio Grande Valley.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Encompassing 130,434 acres, Padre Island National Seashore is the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of barrier islands in the world. Visitors will find a variety of outdoor things to do including surf fishing, RV and tent camping, world-class flat water windsurfing, wade fishing, surfing, birding, kayaking, and of course relaxing the beautiful white sand beaches of Malaquite Beach. The undeveloped, preserved beaches, coastal grasslands, and wetlands of the Padre Island National Seashore are one of the most scenic coastal areas of the sub-tropical Texas coast.

Quail Creek State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. George, Utah

The city was named for 19th-century LDS Church apostle George A. Smith (not the Roman martyr). From 1000 BCE to 1300 CE, Ancestral Puebloans traded their nomadic ways for rows of corn and squash. The Southern Paiutes were settled there when the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition passed through in 1776 and when 300 Mormon families founded a cotton mission in 1861.

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park is one of Utah’s Mighty Five national parks and many people travel to the state to see its natural wonders but Utah Dixie offers so much more for outdoor enthusiasts. Surrounding St. George are four superb state parks—Quail CreekSand Hollow, Gunlock, and Snow Canyon—all offering gorgeous scenery and plenty of ways to enjoy nature including hiking, camping, fishing, boating, photography, cliff diving, and swimming.

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Corpus Christi, Texas

Corpus Christi means the body of Christ in Ecclesiastical Latin, about the Christian sacrament of Holy Communion. The name was given to the settlement and surrounding bay by Spanish explorer Alonso Álvarez de Pineda in 1519 as he discovered the lush semitropical bay on the Western Christian feast day of Corpus Christi.

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s no denying that Corpus Christi is one of the most beloved destinations in Texas, and for good reason. However, among the well-known ways to enjoy a day on the bay, Corpus Christi is packed with plenty of hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path surprises. Stroll along a scenic soft sandy beach. Watch sailboats glide on the bay. Step inside a legendary World War II aircraft carrier or tour an aquarium that provides insight into the creatures inhabiting the Gulf. These are among the many experiences you can have when you visit Corpus Christi, the largest coastal city in Texas.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe is one of the top destinations in the American Southwest. A city that embraces its natural environment, Santa Fe is a city whose beautiful adobe architecture blends with the high desert landscape. A city that is, at the same time, one of America’s great art and culinary capitals. Santa Fe draws those who love art, and natural beauty, and those who wish to relax.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the heart of the city and the place where Santa Fe was founded, the Plaza is the city’s most historic area. Surrounded by museums, historic buildings, restaurants, hotels, galleries, and endless shopping, the Plaza is the place to start understanding Santa Fe.

Colorado River at Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Luis, Arizona

Founded in 1930 and named for the town across the border in Mexico in the state of Sonora, San Luis Rio Colorado. It is named after St. Louis IX. The town’s history is closely associated with the Colorado River which was once the main transportation artery before the advent of the railroads.

Historic Downtown Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Luis is now considered a suburb of Yuma. Home to a massive military base, Native American Reservations, and some interesting and unique historical sites, the surrounding desert is also one of the country’s produce centers—especially for watermelons and other fruits that are shipped from Arizona farms to markets when most of the country is firmly in winter’s icy grip.

Lockhart State Park near San Marcos © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Marcos, Texas

In 1689, Spaniard Alonso de Leon led an expedition from Mexico to explore Texas and establish missions and presidios in the region. De Leon’s party helped blaze the Camino Real (later known as the Old San Antonio Road. De Leon’s party reached the river on April 25, the feast day of St. Mark the Evangelist; the river was thus named the San Marcos.

Conveniently located in Central Texas between Austin and San Antonio, San Marcos truly is the center of everything. So no matter where you are, you won’t have far to go. The San Marcos River bubbles to life from hundreds of springs right in the City’s center. Always a refreshing 72 degrees, the river is enjoyed year round. Grab a tube and go for a float. Rent a kayak or stand-up paddle and navigate its length.

Worth Pondering…

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

—Francis of Assisi

The Best Stops for a Spring Road Trip

Whether you park for ten minutes or ten days, what destinations do you pull off the highway for?

At some point, everyone starts to think about their dream road trip. For some, it’s a jaunt to the Grand Canyon or touring the Mighty Five in a decked-out RV. For others, it’s traveling Historic Route 66 or the Blue Ridge Parkway. No matter the destination, though, everyone needs to make stops on the way. What are some of your favorites?

For my purpose, a stop is anything from a national park to a state park or a roadside attraction to a Texas BBQ joint. Anything that gets you to pull off the highway, turn off your engine, and stretch your legs a bit—whether it’s to hike a mountain trail or tour a living history museum is up to you.

My vote for the perfect road trip stop is multifaceted and an ongoing list as I travel to new places and explore America’s scenic wonders.

Morse Farms Maple Sugarworks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, Montpelier, Vermont

Vermont Maple has been the standard by which all syrups are judged. I think you can taste eight generations of experience in Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks. The Morse Family has been making maple syrup and related products in Vermont for 200 years. And their folksy maple farm is an interesting place to visit any time of year.

Nestled on a hilltop just 2.7 miles outside of Montpelier, the smallest state capital in the U.S., Morse Farm is a throwback to a simpler, quieter time when generations of the same family worked together to carve out a living on the land.

Morse Farms Sugarworks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

You’ll hear an informative and fascinating presentation about the history and operation of the farm and you can take a stroll on the trail among some of the sugar maple trees. There are farm animals to feed and of course there is a gift shop with a wide assortment of the farm’s products for sale.

Open daily, with slight variation in hours by season. No admission charge. Harvesting season is mid-March to Mid-April. Ample parking is available, including pull-through parking for RVs.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Catalina State Park, Tucson, Arizona

Several hikes and activities await the visitor to Catalina State Park. One of the prettiest hikes is the Romero Canyon Trail, which climbs up to the Romero Pools with trees, rocks, and water. Visitors can also picnic, spot birds and wildlife, ride trail bikes, or take a trail ride on horseback.

Related Article: 10 Inexpensive Outdoor Activities for Spring

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Catalina State Park is located off Highway 77/Oracle Road. Best times to visit are fall through spring; summer can be very hot. A per-vehicle day-use fee is collected at the entrance station. RV camping with 50/30-amp electric service and water are available at the site. Showers and a dump station are available.

Middleton Place © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Middleton Place, Charleston, South Carolina

America’s oldest landscaped gardens and a great deal of history can be found at Middleton Place, a former plantation near Charleston. The estate was the primary base of the Middleton family, who owned 19 plantations in the area (staffed by as many as 1,000 slaves). One member of the family was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The main house is in ruins but a guest house still stands furnished to give a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the plantation’s heyday.

Middleton Place © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The plantation is open year-round but during warmer weather you’ll have more opportunities to observe demonstrations of blacksmithing, pottery, and other period trades. The camellias begin blooming in February.

St. Martin de Tours Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

St Martin de Tours Church, St. Martinville, Louisiana

Cajuns refer to this as the ‘Mother Church of the Acadians’ as it was here in St. Martinville that the largest immigration of Acadians took place in 1785. The church is the focus of St Martin Square where you’ll find a number of monuments and statues. St Martinville’s wider historic district is home to 32 buildings dating from 1820-1931 and the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site.

Evangeline Oak © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Behind the church sits the statue of Evangeline, the fictional Acadian heroine immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem set in the time of the Expulsion of the Acadians.

Related Article: 12 of the Best State Parks for Spring Camping

Bernheim Arboretum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Shepherdsville, Kentucky

At 15,625 acres, Bernheim Arboretum boasts the largest protected natural area in Kentucky. It’s also one of the area’s premier recreational venues, ideal for those individuals who enjoy strolling through nature while taking life at a pace conducive to easy enjoyment. Bernheim contains a 600-acre arboretum with over 8,000 unique varieties of trees.

Bernheim Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Take a scenic drive through the forest on paved roads or bicycle around the Arboretum, a living library of trees. Over 40 miles of trails with varying degrees of ease and difficulty weave their way through the forest at Bernheim; no matter what level you are looking for, there’s a trail for you. Some are handicap accessible.

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

La Conner, Washington

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

Acorn woodpecker at Ramsey Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Hereford, Arizona

15 species of hummingbirds, the elegant trogon and the lesser long-nosed bat are just a few of the species found in this ecological crossroads operated by the Nature Conservancy. Enjoy spotting dozens of bird species or sit in shaded seating areas along Ramsey Creek and watch hummingbirds feed. Hike up the Hamburg Trail along the creek past old cabins to an overlook where it joins a network of trails in the Coronado National Forest and the Miller Peak Wilderness Area.

Open Thursday through Monday. Hours change by season. Admission charged. Parking is limited. Bookstore and gift shop, restrooms in the visitor center.

Wigwam Motel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Wigwam Motel, Holbrook, Arizona

Get off the Interstate and drive a portion of historic Route 66 in Holbrook. Spend the night in a wigwam right on Route 66 with vintage cars parked all around! With only 15 wigwams, making a reservation is a good idea. This is a good base for a day trip to Petrified Forest National Park and Historic Route 66.

Woodford Reserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles, Kentucky

If you’re looking for Kentucky majesty, you’ll be hard-pressed to find grounds more beautiful than those of the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles. Woodford can claim that it is the “oldest” distillery in Kentucky because it’s been located in the same place since 1812. Other distilleries have moved their operations over the years. Because of this, Woodford Reserve is a national historic landmark. Woodford holds special significance for me as being the first bourbon distillery visited and one of only two distilleries we have visited on two separate occasions, the other being Maker’s Mark.

Related Article: America’s 10 Best Scenic Byways for a Spring Road Trip

Hoover Dam © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Hoover Dam, Boulder City, Nevada

A modern wonder, Hoover Dam was constructed in the 1930s. The facts and figures are staggering: the dam is 726.4 feet high, 1244 feet wide, 660 feet thick at the base, and was constructed with 3.25 million cubic yards of concrete. The water held behind the dam in Lake Mead, North America’s largest man-made reservoir, meets the needs of more than 20 million people and generates huge amounts hydroelectric power. And yet nothing quite prepares you for the immensity of this awe-inspiring feat of engineering. Tours are available.

Tombstone © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Town Too Tough To Die, Tombstone, Arizona

Live out all of your Wild West dreams in Tombstone, Arizona, the location of the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Cowboys, cowgirls, and wannabes fill up the town’s saloons and the O.K. Corral museum puts on reenactments of Wyatt Earp’s 1881 shootout. The buildings are so well maintained and the townsfolk so authentic that at times it’s easy to think you’ve landed on a John Wayne movie set.

World’s Largest Pistachio Nut © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

World’s Largest Pistachio Nut, Alamogordo, New Mexico

Erected outside McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch in 2008, the world’s largest pistachio nut is a truly impressive piece of engineering. Standing 30 feet tall and so substantial that it required a concrete base 9 feet deep, this giant steel-and-concrete nut is now firmly established as one of New Mexico’s most distinctive roadside attractions.

Free samples at McGinn’s © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Don’t just stop for the photos, as well as an amazing selection of pistachio products, McGinn’s also sells great ice cream and a wide range of New Mexico wines and foods. Tours are available.

Papago Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Papago Park, Phoenix, Arizona

Filled with sandstone buttes that provide gentle but stimulating hiking trails and photogenic spots like the Hole in the Rock, Papago Park is a scenic wonder only 10 minutes from downtown Phoenix. Home of the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Garden, the park also offers many activities including archery range, golf course, fishing lagoons, and an orienteering course. That little pyramid you’ll see is the tomb of Gov. George Wiley Paul Hunt.

Blue Bell Creamery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Blue Bell Creamery, Brenham, Texas

The main attraction in Brenham is the Blue Bell Ice Cream factory, which opened in 1907. Visitors can stop by the creamery’s Ice Cream Parlor for a generous scoop, learn about the history from the visitor’s center, shop the Country Store, and watch the production from the observation deck. Be sure to take a photo with the statue of the brand’s iconic logo, a little girl leading a cow on a rope.

Moki Dugway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Moki Dugway, Mexican Hat, Utah

A winding, scenic drive along the edge of Cedar Mesa offers panoramic views. Valley of the Gods is below. Monument Valley is off in the distance. A drive to nearby Muley Point near the top overlooks the Goosenecks of the San Juan River. Built originally for trucks hauling uranium ore, this is a popular route, though not for the faint-hearted! The road is unpaved but graded. The State of Utah recommends that only vehicles less than 28 feet in length and 10,000 pounds in weight attempt to negotiate this steep (10% grade), narrow, and winding road. It’s also spelled as Mokee Dugway.

Worth Pondering…

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown trail before me leading wherever I choose.

—Walt Whitman

Focus on Unique Small Towns from Coast to Coast

We’ve explored America by RV and found these 10 cool small-town gems you’re sure to enjoy

America was built upon small towns and fortunately many of them are still thriving today. From coast to coast and north to south, RVers can get a taste of what it’s like to live somewhere completely different or perhaps even startlingly similar to what they’re used to.

During 25 years of living the snowbird lifestyle, we’ve visited 25 states and camped at hundreds of RV parks and campgrounds. To kick-start your search, here are 10 of our favorite small towns in America. Each town earned its spot for individual reasons.

Marietta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Marietta, Ohio

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

Folly Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Folly Beach, South Carolina

Folly Beach is one of America’s last true beach towns. Just minutes from historic downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is a 12 square mile barrier island that is packed with things to do, see, and eat. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Folly River, visitors enjoy six miles of wide beaches, surfing, fishing, biking, kayaking, boating, and eco-tours. Folly Island was named after its coastline which was once densely packed with trees and undergrowth: the Old English name for such an area was “Folly.”

Related Article: American Small Towns Can’t-Wait To Visit Again

Rock of Ages Granite Quarry © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Barre, Vermont

About 7 miles southeast of the state capital (Montpelier) is Barre, known as the Granite Center of the World. Its downtown, with several prominent sculptures and granite faced buildings, reflects that heritage. Its famed quarries at the edge of town are sprawling and spectacular with an estimated 4,500-year supply of Barre Gray granite still to be quarried out of the surrounding hills.

Rock of Ages © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Rock of Ages which claims to be the world’s largest granite quarry is laced with a 15-mile network of cables and derricks to hoist the slabs up to 250 tons out from the depths. Climb aboard a shuttle bus for a guided tour of the quarry and watch the process of mining granite.

St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. Martinsville, Louisiana

As one of the oldest surviving towns in Louisiana, St. Martinville retains many buildings and homes reflecting the beautiful architecture of days gone by. St. Martinville has become symbolic of the Acadian legacy, holding sacred the history and legends of the Acadian people who settled in Louisiana. Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site explores the cultural interplay among the diverse peoples along the famed Bayou Teche.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alamogordo, New Mexico

Located in the high desert at the base of the Sacramento Mountains, Alamogordo is the perfect location to “set up camp” to enjoy all the incredible attractions the area has to offer. With an average of 287 days of sunshine, outdoor activities abound. Only 15 minutes from Alamogordo, one of the world’s great natural wonders rises from the desert, White Sands National Park.  The glistening white sands and wave-like dunes of white gypsum cover 275 square miles of the desert. 

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

World’s largest pistachio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not far from town is the world’s largest pistachio! The Tularosa Basin has the perfect climate for growing pistachios, pecans, and grapes. There are numerous nut farms where you can enjoy samples and beautiful views of the Sacramento Mountains. 

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Conner, Washington

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

Seaside © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seaside, Florida

A small resort community in the Florida Panhandle, Seaside is the epitome of cute. Featuring pastel-colored homes and pedestrian-friendly streets, the beach community is tranquil and picturesque. Just how adorable is this place? The fictional town from the Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show was set here. West of the town visit the Grayton Beach State Park for some coastal trails.

Wetumpka © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wetumpka, Alabama

In 1776 William Bartram, the legendary naturalist, when visiting Wetumpka proclaimed, “This is perhaps one of the most eligible situations for a city in the world, a level plain between the conflux of two majestic rivers.” The strategic location (just minutes from the State Capitol), natural resources, and hospitable atmosphere continue to attract residents and tourists today.

Bibb Graves Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wetumpka has played a significant role in the history of Alabama. As the Bibb Graves Bridge quickly identifies Wetumpka, the Coosa River flowing beneath offers limitless opportunities for recreation and tourism.

Related Article: Must-See under the Radar Small Towns to Seek (Out)

Fort Jackson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Additional attractions at Fort Toulouse/Jackson State Park, the eroded remains of a pre-historic meteorite crater, and the Poarch Band of Creek Indian reservation gaming facility increase the daily traffic flow. Would Bartram be disappointed? Never!

Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rayne, Louisiana

In a small town in the middle of Louisiana’s Cajun prairie is a town called Rayne where frogs have gained iconic stature. Frogs and Rayne have a relatively long history that dates back to the 1880s when a gourmet chef named Donat Pucheu started selling juicy, delectable bullfrogs to New Orleans restaurants.

Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Word of Rayne’s frog delicacies spread like wildfire and soon attracted the Weil Brothers from France who started a lucrative business exporting frogs to restaurants. For years, world-renowned restaurants boasted of offering frog legs from Rayne, Louisiana. Rayne no longer exports frogs but their frog identity is bigger than ever because of a unique array of frog murals.

Angels Camp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Angels Camp, California

Angels Camp is named after Henry Angel, a shopkeeper from Rhode Island, who opened a trading post here in 1848—a short time before placer gold was discovered. In 1864, Samuel Clemens wrote his first successful short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” based on a tall tale he was told at the Angels Hotel by local, colorful character, Jim Smiley (or so the legend goes).

Related Article: Fascinating Small Towns You Should Visit on Your Next Road Trip

Angels Camp © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The story launched his career as Mark Twain and put Calaveras on the map. The town has kept the allure of the Gold Rush era alive with many of the 19th century buildings housing eateries and unique shops in the charming historic downtown.

Worth Pondering…

This is not another place.

It is THE place.

—Charles Bowden

Rôder with Family

How about y’all? Do you like to rôder?

Rôder (pronounced row-day) in Cajun French means to roam or run the roads and Lafayette is the perfect destination to pack up the RV and rôder.

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

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

So what are you waiting for? Let’s go rôder!

Are you overwhelmed with all of the things to do and experience? There’s no shortage of ways to experience the Happiest City in America and its nearby communities. Here are some of my favorites for first-time visitors and those already in love with all things Cajun.

Lake Martin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Louisiana hot sauces © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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

Don’s Specialty Meats in Scott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scott – 5 miles; 13 minutes from Lafayette

The city of Scott’s motto is “Where the West Begins and Hospitality Never Ends” and that’s pretty fair. Its close proximity to Interstate 10 makes its quaint downtown district accessible to visitors for local shopping, art galleries, and boudin―lots and lots of boudin. The title “Boudin Capital of the World” was awarded to Scott by the state of Louisiana about five years ago. You can find the rice and meat-filled sausage staple at iconic joints like Billy’s Boudin and Cracklin, Don’s Specialty Meats, Best Stop Grocery, and NuNu’s Cajun Market.

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

Breaux Bridge – 9 miles; 10 minutes from Lafayette

Breaux Bridge was given its name from an early Acadian family who built a bridge over the Bayou Teche, a main waterway used during the Acadian’s arrival in the 1700s. The bridge over the Teche now celebrates the town’s other title, given to it by the Louisiana Legislature in 1959. Yes, without argument, Breaux Bridge is “The Crawfish Capital of the World”.  Its downtown district is the perfect day trip destinations for a main street walk and bite to eat. Take note, the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival is held annually in May. Breaux Bridge’s downtown district is worth a visit during any season for shopping, dining, and live music. Check out venues like La Poussiere, Buck & Johnny’s Pizzeria, and Tante Marie’s Kitchen for a weekly live music schedule.

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

St. Martinville – 16.3 miles; 26 minutes from Lafayette

St. Martinville is the parish seat of St. Martin Parish. It lies on Bayou Teche and is the third oldest town in Louisiana with many buildings and homes with historic architecture. The historic St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church and La Maison Duchamp on Main Street are part of the legacy of the Acadian people. The church was dedicated to Martin of Tours in France where a St Martin de Tours church can be found. St. Martinville is also the site of the “Evangeline Oak”, featured in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about the Acadian expulsion. It is also the site of an African American Museum and is included as a destination on the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail which was established in 2008.

Tabasco on Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Iberia – 20.5 miles; 32 minutes from Lafayette

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

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

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