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.
Leonville, a town settled by free people of color living on the beautiful Bayou Teche, was named after the Catholic priest who built the settlement's first church in 1898. The city remains a destination for the devout; the grotto at St. Leo's Catholic Church in the center of town is a local visitor attraction. Leonville is located on the outskirts of Opelousas, which means that its Cajun roots run deep. Outdoors enthusiasts take note: the 50-mile Opelousas Loop of the Louisiana bike trail network runs through Leonville, as does the kayaker- and canoeist-friendly 135-mile-long Bayou Teche National Water Trail.