15 May Louisiana Musts
Louisiana is one of the most unique places in America. If you ask me, it’s a must. It’s a fascinating mix of cultures and traditions, including French, Spanish, West African, Native American, and, of course, Cajun. This fusion has resulted in a plethora of one-of-a-kind food, music, and cultural traditions. After living in the state for almost 25 years, here are some of my favorites.
From Cajun food to New Orleans fare, these culinary treats are beyond belief.
A fluffy deep-fried pocket of dough piled high with powdered sugar. Perfect with a hot cup of joe or hot chocolate.
These little mud bugs (as they are loving called) have gained fame throughout the nation. Traditionally boiled with spices or cooked into a Cajun stew served over rice, these river dwellers resemble tiny lobsters. Their fatty, yummy tails are eaten while the shells are discarded, only after you suck the spicy juices out of the head.
One of our yummiest local crops, strawberries grow big and juicy here. Of course, most fruit and vegetables grow well in our hot, humid climate. Strawberry season hails everything from strawberry pies and breads to beer.
This could be an enormous section, but I’ll try to keep it brief. Cajun folks are resourceful and combine many unexpected elements in their cuisine. Some of my favorites include shrimp creole, crawfish etouffee, seafood gumbo, fried fish, and jambalaya.
And, of course, it is still the south so diners reign supreme. 24 hour places with open air kitchens and colorful staff like Camelia Grill in New Orleans or Louies in Baton Rouge are faves of mine.
While some tout the hand grenades and hurricanes of New Orleans, I’m more of a daiquiri girl. Frozen fruit yumminess spiked with anything from rum to bourbon, it’s refreshing and downright dangerously fun.
Louisiana’s musical traditions run deep. Whether the well-known jazz and blues of New Orleans or the lesser known Cajun music, you’re sure to be inspired.
Considered one of the birthplaces of jazz and blues (and by extension an amazing location for funk), the quality of the live music is phenomenal. Any night of the week you can find great live music in a variety of venues. Some of my choice establishments include Howlin’ Wolf, Tippitinas, and Magnolia Café.
While everyone knows about New Orleans connection to Jazz, few celebrate the variety of Cajun music styles unique to Louisiana. Zydeco and swamp pop, often sung in Cajun French and played with instruments like the accordion and metal spoons on a wash board are playfully upbeat and energetic. Lafayette is the capital of Cajun Country, though there are a myriad of small towns which are home to these styles of music.
Louisiana is a party place full of party people. There is something for every taste, but here is a selection of the ones I most recommend.
This free festival takes place in Lafayette. Celebrating Louisiana’s original musical heritage, you can find a wide variety of zydeco, swamp pop and French Cajun music, as well as a host of international musical guests hailing from all over the world. With several stages, amazing Cajun food and drinks, lively audiences and serious musical after parties, it’s not to be missed. In my humble opinion, it trumps Jazz fest big time.
Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival
Celebrating one of the great crops of Louisiana, the strawberry festival has strawberry EVERYTHING. While munching on deserts, breads, cocktails and beer all made of strawberry, you can listen to the sweet sounds of local Zydeco and swamp pop bands.
Not-your-frat-kid’s Mardi Gras
Everyone knows about carnival style New Orleans Mardi Gras. If you’re from here or live here, you probably run the other way. But Mardi Gras has a different face in Cajun country. One of the principle traditions involves masked and costumed participants singing and dancing for the communal gumbo ingredients, riding through the streets of Eunice on horseback, performing for dinner. Cajun music and food abound, not to mention ornate costumes and fun-loving people. Some great spots to see this first hand are Mamou, Iota, Elton, Church Point, Faquetaigue, Soileau and Eunice.
Louisiana’s lush beauty isn’t just decoration for all the eating and partying. It’s worth checking out. Just make sure you have bug repellent and are ready to sweat!
The only national reserve in Louisiana, Kisatchie is a gorgeous pine forest in north Louisiana with waterways, red clay mud and rolling hills. Many animals like the whitetail deer, wild turkey, quail, dove, woodcock, squirrel and other species live in these forests. There are many fun outdoor activities like camping, cycling, hiking and more.
Located near St. Francisville, a beautiful area by the border with Mississippi, Tunica Hills is perfect for hikers, bikers and nature-lovers who want to experience a pristine, century-old hardwood forest full of streams, waterfalls, and delightful white and red clay basins. A variety of wildlife calls Tunica Hills home, including white-tailed deer, squirrel, rabbit, wild turkey, eastern chipmunks and resident and migratory birds, including several rare in Louisiana, such as the worm-eating warbler and the Coopers hawk.
Our swamps are incredible. Diverse like the rainforests, they are a treasure trove of life. You never know what you’ll see. There are many swamp tours available for different bayous or swamplands. I like the Honey Island swamp myself, partly because they don’t have mosquitoes! Due to shifting water levels from changing tide, the mosquitos can’t lay eggs and their eggs can’t hatch. It makes the swamp experience that much nicer.
Comite / Hooper Loop
This little trail outside of Baton Rouge is easy to get to and fun to trail ride on a bike or hike if you’re looking to get outdoors. You can do one trail or both as they connect for a small segment.