One facet of Louisiana that makes it such an appealing visitor destination is its deep and colorful history. European explorers found their way to the region and inhabited the area very early relative to settlement of much of the rest of the continent. As a result, some communities in Louisiana are among the oldest in the United States. Before those explorers arrived, of course, people we now know as Native Americans populated the region. Reaching still farther back in time, ancient peoples left their mark on the area thousands of years ago. The state of Louisiana offers many ways to explore the region’s rich history, in hundreds of museums, historic structures, landmarks, artifacts and works of art. The careful preservation and restoration of these sites and artifacts has created many rare opportunities for visitors to experience Louisiana’s history and gain insights into the diverse cultures that continue to influence the state today.
Along the road between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, Gonzales awaits. This city brashly proclaims itself the “Jambalaya Capital of the World.” With so much competition in the neighborhood, you better be able to back up such a claim. And Gonzales does. For more than 40 years, Gonzales has held an annual springtime Jambalaya Festival and even has a Jambalaya Park next to the city hall. The town’s name does not originate, as one might imagine, from the Spanish colonial days of Louisiana. Rather, the town was named after a local resident of the late 19thcentury. With its proximity to the Mississippi River, there are a number of antebellum plantation homes within a short drive. Gonzales is a shopper’s xanadu. Its sprawling Tanger Factory Outlet Mall attracts people from miles away. The same goes for the 165,000-square-foot Cabela’s, which is part museum, part retail store for campers, fishermen and hunters.