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Top Destinations for 2016: Louisiana

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Louisiana is made up of a blend of cultures that have come together to create a youthful and lively state. Its largest city and most popular tourist destination, New Orleans, has rebuilt itself in the past ten years post-Hurricane Katrina as a city that is both modern and rich in historical roots.

Louisiana is a hip vacation spot for anyone interested in music, food, or history.

The state’s mix of cultures and languages come from the influences of French and Spanish settlers who colonised it, as well as Native American tribes in the area and African slave labourers who came with the settlers. Today, that blend is reflected in the food, architecture and languages; some long-standing Louisiana families speak Creole French, a blend of French and African terms.

Louisiana is also noteworthy for its natural attractions. Settled on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, southern Louisiana is made up of swamplands and marshes. The French-English term bayou is used to describe many of the swampy areas of the state that are home to alligators, crawfish, and herons.

Where to go

Louisiana’s biggest attraction is the city of New Orleans, which is an absolute must-see for anyone who wants a taste of what the state has to offer. While New Orleans would stand on its own as a hub for music and food, it is truly an incredible city especially considering around 80% of it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

New Orleans has come back stronger than ever – today, it has 600 more restaurants than it did in 2005, three more non-stop flights out of Louis Armstrong International Airport than it did in 2005, and 25% more festivals attended in 2014 than in 2010. New Orleans is not only back on-track since Katrina; it’s actually arguably better now than it was pre-tragedy. With this progress, Louisiana has also seen a rebirth in the spirit of volunteerism and a focus on family and friendship.

New Orleans’ French Quarter will take you back to 19th-century living, as most of its historical buildings were built in or before the early 1800s. The area received relatively mild damage during Hurricane Katrina, meaning its history was thankfully preserved. Bourbon Street, the French Quarter’s most popular attraction, offers bars, clubs, and taverns for travellers looking for a fun night out.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capital, is home to the Old Louisiana State Capitol, a castle-like structure that is now known as the Museum of Political History. The Louisiana State Capitol – the new version of this building – is located downtown and is the tallest capitol building in the United States.

In addition to being known for its rich history and politics, Baton Rouge is a state-wide hotspot for young people as it is home to Louisiana State University. Between it and several other universities in the area, college students make up 20% of the city’s population.

What to do

Eat a beignet

Stop by Café du Monde in New Orleans to try some of these doughy sweets – they are definitely worth the wait in the queue. A famous staple of Creole cuisine and similar to doughnuts, they’re served with mountains of powdered sugar on top. Beignets make the perfect dessert to many other classic New Orleans meals you should definitely also sample while touring the city – gumbo, jambalaya and red beans and rice are all staples available at a number of restaurants.

Get a taste of Mardi Gras – even if it’s not February

New Orleans’ celebration of the pre-Lenten feast is unlike any other. New Orleans’ population more than doubles in the time leading up to the big event; people wear elaborate costumes, masks, and beads, and giant floats are ridden through town on parade. Travelling after February, when all this takes place? No worries – go to Mardi Gras World and see all the floats and props for the event on display.

Explore the National WWII Museum

An immersive and unique historical experience, the WWII Museum is made up of three different buildings full of photographs, films, and artefacts from the war. A capital campaign has led to the planned expansion of the museum, so future visitors will have the opportunity to see more than ever before. Prepare to feel emotional.

Get ready to celebrate

Interested in travelling in 2018? Good – this is the year New Orleans turns 300. Considering the city’s reputation for throwing a great party, it’s safe to assume its own birthday celebration will be no different. Plans are already well underway – the group 2018Nola has started a website and social media campaigns with plans for the big event.

Go on a swamp tour

Get out of the city and see Louisiana in its natural state. Head out to Lafayette, home of Cajun Country Swamp Tours, to see Louisiana wildlife in its natural state. The boat tours are environmentally friendly and safe for both animals and people – so you may be closer than ever to alligators, but you’ll be in good hands.

Visit a plantation

Also outside of New Orleans, around 12 miles from its airport, you can visit the oldest documented plantation home in the lower Mississippi Valley, Destrehan Plantation. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the plantation was known for producing sugarcane and indigo and is noteworthy for its French Colonial style. It was featured in the Academy Award Best Picture 12 Years a Slave and other movies.

Fancy indulging your sense of wanderlust further? Check out our full list of top travel destinations for 2016 here.




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