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.
The town of Washington, the third-oldest settlement in Louisiana, is a former French trading post that flourished thanks to the river the bayou that runs through it. The town was founded in 1720 on the banks of Bayou Courtableau, and eventually rose in prominence as a steamboat port that brought cattle, sugar and other farm goods from Cajun Country to markets in New Orleans. The last steamboat left Washington in 1900, leaving behind homes and warehouses that today form the heart of the town's historic district. In fact, 80 percent of the city is on the National Historic Registry.
See one of those historic buildings from the inside by dining at Steamboat Warehouse Restaurant, or choose from one of the city's bed and breakfast accommodations. Washington is also a destination for cyclists—check out the Washington-Breaux Bridge Trail or the Washington to Eunice to Sunset Trail for details for examples of how to see Cajun Country on two wheels.