Best Day Trips From New Orleans, Louisiana (2024 Guide)

Make the most of your time in the Big Easy with this guide to the most incredible day trips from New Orleans! You won’t want to plan your visit without this!

New Orleans is an amazing city on the Mississippi River that blends art, history, and culture.

Whether reveling in the festivities of Bourbon Street, exploring the solemn beauty of St. Louis Cemetery, or savoring the soulful sounds of jazz in the birthplace of the genre, New Orleans beckons visitors with its dynamic spirit, celebrating both the exuberance of life and the resilience of a city with a captivating cultural mosaic.

Visitors can go for a jazz cruise on the Mississippi River or admire historic mansions in the New Orleans French Quarter. But these day trips from New Orleans are a great way to take your exploring outside the city center!

Explore Cajun country with a visit to Lafayette and tour the Acadian Cultural Center, or admire historic buildings in the Louisiana state capital of Baton Rouge.

Lounge on beaches and swim in Lake Pontchartrain, or tour the Tabasco Factory in Avery Island. Whether you’re looking for a town filled with American history or a serene escape into nature, here are some great day trip options from New Orleans!

Check out these fun things to do in New Orleans for some inspiration before you head out of the city.

Bourbon Street, New Orleans
Bourbon Street in New Orleans is great to explore but there are so many other places not far from this city.

Best Day Trips From New Orleans

From exploring the greenery in De Soto National Forest to visiting a historic plantation on the Mississippi River, here are some of the top day trips from New Orleans.

The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.

Fontainebleau State Park

  • Distance from New Orleans: 38 miles
  • Driving time: 47 minutes

Situated on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville, Louisiana, Fontainebleau State Park is a scenic haven that combines natural beauty with historical significance.

Covering over 2,800 acres, the park features diverse ecosystems, including swamps, hardwood forests, and waterfront areas, creating an ideal setting for outdoor recreation and nature appreciation.

The park’s picturesque trails wind through ancient live oaks draped in Spanish moss, providing a tranquil escape for hikers, birdwatchers, and nature enthusiasts.

Visitors can explore the park’s sandy beaches, fish along the shoreline or Lake Pontchartrain, or enjoy a leisurely picnic amidst the stunning scenery. It’s a lovely day trip destination for those looking to connect with nature.

One of Fontainebleau State Park’s notable attractions is the remnants of a former sugar mill and plantation, which adds a historical dimension to the natural beauty of the park. The park’s visitor center provides insight into the area’s history, ecology, and wildlife.

From trying water sports in Lake Pontchartrain to breathing in the fresh air on a hike, Fontainebleau State Park is a beautiful New Orleans day trip.

Fontainebleau State Park
Try and stay for the sunset to see some magical colors in Fontainebleau State Park.

Lake Charles

  • Distance from New Orleans: 205 miles
  • Driving time: 3 hours

Another one of the best day trips from New Orleans is Lake Charles, though it’s a bit of a far drive. But the visit is worth it! Lake Charles, situated in the southwestern part of Louisiana, is a city that harmoniously blends Southern charm, cultural richness, and economic vitality.

At the heart of the city is the shimmering Calcasieu Lake, a sprawling body of water that not only lends its name to the city but also serves as a focal point for various recreational activities. The lake is a haven for fishing enthusiasts, offering an abundance of speckled trout, redfish, and flounder.

Lake Charles also boasts a rich and fascinating history, evident in historic landmarks like the Historic Charpentier District, characterized by beautifully preserved Victorian-era homes.

Lake Charles is renowned for its authentic Cajun cuisine as well. The Lake Charles Boudin Trail is a culinary adventure that takes visitors to a variety of local establishments, each showcasing its unique twist on the traditional Cajun sausage. This is a great way to learn about Cajun culture in Lake Charles!

Find more amazing things to do in Lake Charles!

Avery Island

  • Distance from New Orleans: 138 miles
  • Driving time: 2 hours and 20 minutes

Avery Island, nestled in the heart of Louisiana’s bayou country, is a captivating and unique geological formation known for its iconic role in the production of Tabasco sauce. This salt dome island rises unexpectedly from the surrounding marshes and is adorned with lush botanical gardens, showcasing a remarkable diversity of plant life.

The island’s verdant landscapes are home to Jungle Gardens, a botanical paradise created by Edward McIlhenny, the son of the Tabasco sauce inventor.

Visitors can explore this 170-acre semi-tropical garden, encountering a fascinating mix of azaleas, camellias, bamboo groves, and an expansive collection of Buddha statues amidst the natural beauty of the bayou.

Beyond its botanical wonders, Avery Island is synonymous with Tabasco sauce, which has been produced here since the 1860s. The Tabasco Factory on the island offers guided tours, providing insight into the sauce-making process and the McIlhenny family’s rich history. Avery Island is one of the most exciting day trips from New Orleans!

Avery Island
Check out the Tabasco Factory on Avery Island.

Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve

  • Distance from New Orleans: 15 miles
  • Driving time: 23 minutes

A quick and easy day trip from the city is Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, a multifaceted treasure that encapsulates the rich cultural and natural heritage of the region. It’s located right outside New Orleans and is a great place to try a swamp tour without having to travel far.

Named after the notorious pirate and privateer Jean Lafitte, the park consists of six separate sites, each offering a unique perspective on the history and ecosystems of the area.

From the Barataria Preserve, where elevated boardwalks lead visitors through lush swamplands teeming with wildlife, to the Chalmette Battlefield, a site of the historic Battle of New Orleans, the park provides a diverse range of experiences.

The park also encompasses the French Quarter Visitor Center in New Orleans, acting as a gateway to the city’s historic district.

With its commitment to preserving the cultural mosaic of Louisiana and protecting its natural wonders, Jean Lafitte National Historical Park preserves the stories and environments that define this unique corner of the United States.

Mobile

  • Distance from New Orleans: 145 miles
  • Driving time: 2 hours and 10 minutes

Mobile, Alabama, situated on the Gulf of Mexico, is a city steeped in history, known for its Southern charm, vibrant cultural scene, and significant maritime influence.

Home to the original Mardi Gras celebration in the United States, Mobile exudes a lively and festive atmosphere during the carnival season, attracting visitors from near and far. The city’s historic district showcases antebellum architecture, with well-preserved homes and tree-lined streets, contributing to its reputation as one of the South’s most charming cities.

The USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park is a prominent attraction, offering a glimpse into the area’s military history and providing a striking backdrop along Mobile’s waterfront.

The city’s cultural offerings include museums, art galleries, and a lively music scene, making Mobile a vibrant day trip destination for all types of travelers.

Uss Alabama Mobile
You can check out the impressive USS Alabama Battleship in Mobile!

Grand Isle

  • Distance from New Orleans: 108 miles
  • Driving time: 2 hours

The picturesque barrier island of Grand Isle is another one of the best New Orleans day trips. With its white sandy beaches, warm Gulf waters, and abundant wildlife, Grand Isle is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and beachgoers.

The island is a popular destination for fishing, attracting anglers from around the region eager to cast their lines into the fertile Gulf waters, known for its diverse marine life.

Beyond its reputation as a fishing paradise, Grand Isle is a haven for birdwatchers and nature lovers. The island’s strategic location along migratory bird routes makes it an excellent spot for birdwatching, with opportunities to observe a wide variety of species.

The Grand Isle State Park provides a serene setting for hiking, birding, and enjoying the coastal environment, while the nearby Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge offers additional opportunities to explore the island’s unique ecosystems.

Grand Isle provides a tranquil retreat for those looking to connect with nature along the Gulf Coast, and it’s only a two-hour drive from New Orleans!

Continue further east along the Gulf Coast to Destin, Florida for another beach getaway.

Honey Island Swamp

  • Distance from New Orleans: 37 miles
  • Driving time: 42 minutes

Honey Island Swamp, located in southeastern Louisiana, is a captivating and ecologically rich wetland that spans over 70,000 acres. It’s a popular day trip destination within the Pearl River Basin that is filled with untouched natural beauty and diverse wildlife.

The swamp is characterized by its labyrinthine waterways, cypress-tupelo forests, and expansive marshes, creating a unique and enchanting ecosystem.

This vibrant ecosystem is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, snakes, and a variety of bird species. The swamp is also a critical habitat for numerous fish species and invertebrates, contributing to the overall biodiversity of the region.

Visitors to Honey Island Swamp have the opportunity to explore its wonders through guided boat tours, immersing themselves in the tranquility of nature while learning about the swamp’s ecological significance and cultural history.

With its unique blend of biodiversity and natural beauty, a Honey Island Swamp tour is a fantastic day trip idea if you’re looking to explore more of Louisiana.

Honey Island Swamp
Check out the Honey Island Swamp.

Baton Rouge

  • Distance from New Orleans: 81 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 17 minutes

Definitely one of the best day trips from New Orleans is the state capital city, Baton Rouge. Situated along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, the city exudes Southern charm with its antebellum architecture, oak-lined streets, and a warm hospitality that reflects the unique Creole and Cajun influences of the region.

Baton Rouge is home to the Louisiana State Capitol, an imposing Gothic-Revival structure that stands as the tallest state capitol building in the United States.

The Old State Capitol, with its distinctive castle-like appearance, serves as a testament to the city’s own history, hosting exhibits that delve into Louisiana’s political and cultural evolution.

Beyond its political and historical prominence, Baton Rouge is a dynamic cultural hub. The city is renowned for its lively music scene, especially along the famous Third Street Historic District, where blues, jazz, and zydeco fill the air. Louisiana State University (LSU), a major research institution, contributes to the city’s youthful energy and collegiate spirit.

Visitors can go for a boat trip on the Mississippi River, or check out fun family attractions near the city such as Blue Bayou Water Park. Baton Rouge is an amazing place for a New Orleans day trip.

Baton Rouge
There are lots of things to see and do in Baton Rouge.

Global Wildlife Center

  • Distance from New Orleans: 57 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour

Located only an hour away from New Orleans is the Global Wildlife Center, the largest free-roaming wildlife preserve of its kind in North America.

Spanning over 900 acres, the center is home to a diverse collection of over 4,000 exotic and endangered animals from six continents, including giraffes, zebras, kangaroos, and many more.

Visitors can embark on guided safari tours through the expansive preserve, encountering these magnificent creatures in a natural and spacious environment, fostering a sense of connection and appreciation for global wildlife conservation. Or go on a self-guided tour through the center.

The Global Wildlife Center’s commitment to education, conservation, and providing a one-of-a-kind wildlife encounter makes it a standout destination for families, nature enthusiasts, and anyone eager to explore the wonders of the animal kingdom in a unique and ethical setting.

Head just a few hours further west from New Orleans and spend some time in Houston, Texas!

De Soto National Forest

  • Distance from New Orleans: 102 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

A prime destination for exploring the lush nature of the American South is De Soto National Forest. Located in southern Mississippi this sprawling expanse of natural beauty and biodiversity spans over 500,000 acres and is a top day trip from New Orleans.

Named after the 16th-century Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, this national forest is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Its diverse landscape encompasses pine-covered hills, bottomland hardwoods, and meandering streams, providing a rich tapestry of ecosystems that support a wide array of flora and fauna.

Visitors to De Soto National Forest can explore a network of trails, including parts of the historic Old Natchez Trace and the Longleaf Trace, which winds through picturesque pine forests.

The forest also features scenic recreation areas such as Black Creek, a designated National Wild and Scenic River, where canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts can paddle through pristine waterways surrounded by lush greenery.

Lafayette

  • Distance from New Orleans: 135 miles
  • Driving time: 2 hours and 10 minutes

Lafayette, nestled in the heart of Cajun Country in southwestern Louisiana, is a city that is renowned for its live music, distinctive cuisine, and warm hospitality.

This cultural hub is steeped in the traditions of the Acadian people, and visitors can immerse themselves in the region’s unique heritage through festivals, music venues, and local eateries.

The Acadian Cultural Center in particular allows visitors to delve into the rich cultural tapestry of the Acadian people. Here you can explore their history, traditions, and enduring influence on the vibrant Cajun heritage of the region.

Stroll downtown to admire the historic architecture and artistic murals of Lafayette. Places like Vermilionville Living History Museum and Folklife Park provide an immersive journey into the area’s Cajun roots.

Lafayette is also celebrated for its role as a musical epicenter, particularly in the realms of Cajun, zydeco, and swamp pop music. The city’s dancehalls and music venues come alive with the infectious beats of accordions and fiddles, inviting locals and visitors alike to join in the spirited revelry.

Lafayette’s culinary scene is equally captivating, with a plethora of restaurants serving up delectable Cajun and Creole dishes, from gumbo and étouffée to boudin and crawfish. It’s definitely one of the best day trips from New Orleans!

Read about more of the best things to do in Lafayette!

Atchafalaya Natural Heritage Area

  • Distance from New Orleans: 114 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 50 minutes

Less than two hours from the city lies another amazing day trip destination. The Atchafalaya Natural Heritage Area, located in south-central Louisiana, is a sprawling expanse of diverse ecosystems that showcase the rich natural heritage of the region.

Encompassing over 1 million acres, this vast area includes cypress-tupelo swamps, bottomland hardwood forests, and expansive marshes, creating a haven for a wide array of plant and animal species.

The Atchafalaya River, with its intricate network of distributaries, defines the landscape and plays a crucial role in shaping the region’s ecology.

Visitors to the Atchafalaya Natural Heritage Area can explore the unique beauty of this dynamic environment through recreational activities such as birdwatching, hiking, and wildlife observation, gaining a deeper appreciation for the importance of preserving Louisiana’s natural treasures.

Swamp Trees
The swamp is one place not to miss.

Exploring more of the US South? Check out these fun things to do in Atlanta, Georgia.

Oak Alley Plantation

  • Distance from New Orleans: 53 miles
  • Driving time: 58 minutes

Just under an hour’s drive from New Orleans is Oak Alley Plantation, one of the most popular day trips from the city. Located on the Mississippi River in Vacherie, Louisiana, this plantation stands as a mesmerizing testament to the antebellum South’s grandeur and complexity.

The iconic plantation is renowned for its breathtaking quarter-mile alley of 28 evenly spaced, towering live oak trees, creating a dramatic canopy that leads to the majestic Greek Revival-style mansion.

Built in 1837, the mansion exudes Southern charm and historical significance, featuring a dual-level veranda with 28 columns mirroring the symmetry of the oak alley.

An Oak Alley Plantation tour provides insight into the lives of those who lived and worked on the plantation, exploring the complexities of the sugar industry, the architectural beauty of the mansion, and the challenges faced by enslaved individuals who toiled on the estate.

Ocean Springs

  • Distance from New Orleans: 92 miles
  • Driving time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Ocean Springs is a picturesque coastal town that captivates visitors with its blend of artistic flair, Southern charm, and natural beauty.

Nestled along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, Ocean Springs is renowned for its vibrant arts community, featuring numerous galleries, studios, and the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, dedicated to the works of the renowned regional artist.

The town’s historic downtown area is a delightful mix of tree-lined streets, charming boutiques, and diverse dining options, creating a welcoming atmosphere for locals and tourists alike.

With its scenic beaches, a lively cultural scene, and a strong sense of community, Ocean Springs offers a serene coastal escape with a touch of creative spirit on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Ocean Springs Mississippi
Head to Ocean Springs for a coastal getaway!

Stennis Space Center

  • Distance from New Orleans: 51 miles
  • Driving time: 50 minutes

One of the more educational New Orleans day trips is Stennis Space Center, situated in Hancock County, Mississippi. Named after Senator John C. Stennis, a key advocate for space exploration, the center is operated by NASA and serves as a critical hub for testing engines used in space exploration.

Covering over 13,000 acres, the facility houses a complex of test stands and facilities dedicated to the development and evaluation of rocket propulsion systems. The Infinity Science Center is a highlight of the complex due to its engaging exhibits and interactive displays that cater to visitors of all ages

The rocket engine testing conducted at Stennis Space Center has been pivotal in advancing space exploration efforts, contributing to the success of various NASA missions and programs.

With its commitment to advancing the frontiers of space exploration and scientific discovery, NASA Stennis Space Center remains a vital asset in NASA’s quest for new knowledge and capabilities in the realm of space travel and technology. Places like the Infinity Science Center make knowledge accessible for everyone, which is a super cool way to learn about science and space.

Abita Springs

  • Distance from New Orleans: 44 miles
  • Driving time: 50 minutes

Last but not least on our list of the best day trips from New Orleans is Abita Springs. Nestled in the piney woods of St. Tammany Parish, Abita Springs, Louisiana, is a charming and historic town known for its idyllic setting and artistic community.

Renowned for the crisp, pure water of the Abita Springs, the town was once a popular destination for those seeking the healing properties of its artesian springs.

Today, travelers can have fun exploring the quaint downtown area of Abita Springs, featuring eclectic shops, and fascinating museums. Be sure to check out the historic Abita Mystery House, a folk art museum showcasing quirky exhibits.

The town is also famous for the Abita Brewery, a craft brewery that has gained national acclaim for its range of unique and flavorful beers.

Abita Springs exudes a laid-back atmosphere, making it a delightful retreat for visitors seeking a blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and small-town charm on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain.

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About the Author - Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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