A Mix of Louisiana's History and Culture in Ascension Parish

Everyone knows about Baton Rouge and New Orleans, but what lies between these two major cities will make you want to get off the interstate and stay a while.

historic district downtown donaldsonville, louisiana

Wander the historic district in downtown Donaldsonville.

Houmas House and Gardens exterior view in Louisiana

Visit the Houmas House and Gardens to experience historical, cultural and culinary delights.

jambalaya festival in Gonzales louisiana

Vist the Jambalaya Festival in Gonzales for a delicious treat!

By the time you cross the Sunshine Bridge, you’re well immersed in 500 years of history layered with such diverse culture and tradition you couldn’t possibly be somewhere you have been before. In Ascension Parish, where Native American, Spanish, French, German, Italian, English, African and Acadian cultures have thrived and mingled, the sights, sounds, traditions and experiences are truly more varied and unique.  

Just as the sugar coaxes out the flavor in everything it’s added to, the fusion of many influences and ethnicities in Ascension Parish add flavor to its rich heritage of cultural and culinary traditions. 

Things to Do in Ascension Parish

Donaldsonville, Louisiana’s First State Capital

Located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, Donaldsonville served as the capitol of Louisiana from 1829-1831. Rich in history, the Historic District, is an immense collection of diverse histories deserving recognition, celebration, and protection. Located on Railroad Avenue, The River Road African American Museum does just that. The River Road African American Museum collects, preserves and exhibits art, artifacts and buildings as it is related to the history and culture of African Americans in the rural communities along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. More than just a slavery museum it is an institution that tells the stories of freedom, resilience and reconciliation. The River Road African American Museum captures the spirit, soul, and significance of the people who thrived and enriched south Louisiana’s sugarcane country. Exhibits reflect the fortitude and achievements birthed by a generation of artists, educators, physicians, craftsmen, politicians, inventors, and musicians.

Alvin Batiste, a self-taught primitive artist, and Louisiana’s premier folk artist is a Donaldsonville native who has gained international recognition. Through his artistic depictions of life along the Mississippi, Alvin Batiste has infectiously managed to capture the hearts and imaginations of people from every demographic. He is a visionary and a story teller. You can see Alvin at work and purchase his art at Framer Dave's Frame Shop, located on Mississippi Street in the heart of the historic district of Donaldsonville. 

Donaldsonville’s Historic Portal to the Past

Create your own unique experience in one of Louisiana’s oldest cities. Enjoy learning about the history of Donaldsonville at your own pace by visiting seven self-guided portals in the Historic District. The portal map will guide you to each numbered portal location but feel free to start at anywhere you’d like. The route is approximately 2.5 miles and is perfect for walking, biking or by car. Join us on a journey though time to a place that was once a magnet for Indians, explorers, planters, merchants, and pirates. Fascinating remnants of a storied past await you! Learn more about Donaldsonville.

The Crown Jewel of Louisiana’s River Road

The Houmas House and Gardens allows visitors to experience the life on a sugarcane plantation in the 1800’s. The mansion has been restored to the antebellum era, reflecting the opulence and wealth this sugarcane farm boasted in the 1880’s. The guided mansion tour walks through the 250-year history, showing the architectural evolution of this manor house and how it became a grand estate.  Rare and period artwork and artifacts are displayed and used to explain plantation life.

One of the South’s oldest and most beautiful estates, Houmas House and Gardens is the home of Latil’s Landing Restaurant, The Carriage House Restaurant, and Café Burnside, each providing guest with a culinary experience of a lifetime all on its own. Their Chef, Jeremy Langlois, masterfully creates wonderful dishes using the freshest local ingredients that Louisiana has to offer giving his guests an unforgettable experience in one of Louisiana’s most beautiful settings. 

Jambalaya Capital of the World in Gonzales

It's pronounced "jahm-buh-LIE-uh" or "jum-buh-LIE-uh". Jambalaya found its way into Creole cookery in the late 1700's where it soon took on the flavor of added local ingredients. Today it is a Cajun/Creole dish made from a mixture of meats, rice and seasonings blended to produce a delicious dish. It can be made (separately or all together) with ham, chicken, sausage, fresh pork, shrimp and oysters, to which is added shortening, rice, onion, garlic, pepper and other seasonings. For the last 50 years The Jambalaya Festival and World Champion Jambalaya Cooking contest has been held annually in Gonzales, Louisiana. Jambalaya cooking is an art that must be perfected to acquire a superb blend of flavor with proper consistency. This year the competition is greater than ever. Every Memorial Day weekend cooks put their name on the line to out cook the others for the world title. Learn more about Gonzales, Louisiana.

Start planning your trip to Ascension Parish today to experience the beauty, culture and friendly faces of this beautiful region of Louisiana located just a short drive away from New Orleans and Baton Rouge.