New Orleans might draw the crowds, but there are countless hidden gems for the curious traveler to discover all across the state of Louisiana. This fall and beyond, you can explore nature walks, culinary landmarks, and cultural treasures that will feed your soul and inspire you as you journey to places full of natural beauty, imagination, and hometown charm. From the home of TABASCO® to a folk-art masterpiece like the Chauvin Sculpture Garden to a delicious pie at the historic Lea’s Lunchroom, only in Louisiana will you be able to discover such a diverse array of culture, history, and experience.
Here are some of fall's must-see hidden gems for the curious traveler in you:
Louisiana’s Old State Capitol
Head to Baton Rouge to check out this gothic revival-style building that was created to look like a medieval castle. The Old State Capitol building's eye-catcher is gorgeous stained-glass dome is a kaleidoscope of color (and perfect fodder for your Instagram feed), and the ornate spiral staircase inside the building is a sight to behold. They say it’s haunted by Civil War era-woman Sarah Morgan, so take in a tour and check out the “Ghost of the Castle” show to see if the rumors are true!
Great River Road
Driving this 70-mile stretch between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is like traveling through time. The Great River Road area is lined with gorgeous oak trees and evocative Southern Spanish moss that are a feast for the eyes, and you can stop to snap photos of historic plantations and natural beauty along the way. The sugar plantations and landmarks bordering the Mississippi River have inspired travelers and history buffs for years, and the famous Southern writer Mark Twain even wrote about the experience of traveling through the corridor. You can tour several of the plantations to gain a deeper understanding of the history and stories behind some of the iconic homes.
Creole Nature Trail
Head to Lake Charles and travel along “Louisiana’s Outback” as you explore the Creole Nature Trail, a 180-mile stretch, which was one of the first National Scenic Byways in the Gulf South. Along the way, you'll find hundreds of bird species, alligators, 26 miles of beaches, plenty of Cajun culture, fishing, crabbing, and stunning views of the region’s most beautiful vistas. Check out options for guided tours so you can make the most of your journey, and choose between alligator sighting adventures, beachcombing treks, hunting, bird watching and more.
Right outside New Iberia, one of the most beautiful places in Louisiana happens to also be known as the home of TABASCO® sauce. Built atop a salt dome, this mysterious and unique locale offers up history, natural beauty, and plenty of fun. Visit the TABASCO® factory and Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre botanical garden and bird sanctuary that’s also a geological oddity. Be sure to check the calendar for festivals like “Rhythm & Brews,” and stop by the TABASCO® Restaurant for Southern comfort food (and plenty of hot sauce).
Chauvin Sculpture Garden/Kenny Hill Sculpture Garden
Chauvin, located southeast of Houma in the southern part of the state, curious, art-loving travelers can explore this folk-art treasure created by reclusive artist Kenny Hill, a bricklayer who left behind more than 100 sculptures on his bayou property. The Chauvin Sculpture Garden is a whimsical sight that includes colorful Cajun-style artworks that chronicle moments from the artist’s life, and the 45-foot tall lighthouse, made out of 7,000 bricks, is lined with intricate sculptures. There's a small museum on-site at this “only in Louisiana” gem, and you can take in Hill’s life story while discovering some of the region’s most fascinating folk art examples.
The town of LeCompte has been designated the “Pie Capital of Louisiana,” and that's due to Lea’s Lunchroom. It’s one of the state’s oldest restaurants, dating from 1928 – and legend has it that it’s the last place the historic bandits Bonnie and Clyde ever ate. This small-town treasure serves plenty of savory fares like baked ham sandwiches and delicious fried chicken, but it’s the homemade pies that draw travelers from near and far. Go hungry and get ready to Instagram your home-style Southern meal.
Poverty Point World Heritage Site
Head to the northern part of the state to discover Poverty Point World Heritage Site. This true Louisiana marvel, which was recently listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – alongside wonders like Great Wall of China, the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty (and it was only the twenty-second place in America to receive the distinction). It was home to an enormous Native American settlement, and this ancient city still holds engineering marvels, artworks, and earthen monuments that will fill curious travels with wonder and awe. There are plenty of places to eat and stay nearby, making this a truly unique destination in a state brimming with culture.
There are incredible destinations all across Louisiana that will fulfill the curious traveler’s quest for discovery, history, natural beauty, and culture – and plenty of great food along the way. Start planning your itinerary and get ready to explore Louisiana’s hidden gems, from ancient Native American cities to hometown pie houses. Get ready to discover a diverse, vibrant state filled with unforgettable experiences that’ll inspire your wanderlust and make you fall in love with all that Louisiana has to offer.