Louisiana Rebirth: Restoring the SOUL of the U.S.

Winter 2005 CSANews Issue 57  |  Posted date : May 25, 2007.Back to list

If you're scanning a continental map and considering your next destination, let your eye wander to that intoxicating spot where the Mississippi River drains North America into the Gulf of Mexico: Louisiana!

The hurricanes that battered its shores in the fall have ushered in a renaissance making Louisiana (www.louisianatravel.com) better than ever. The entire state is a destination full of adventures that can be experienced right now. Whether your interest is the world-renowned cuisine, incredible music, outdoor adventure or the unique blend of cultures (including those that tie Louisiana's heritage with that of Canada's), this southern state offers something for everyone.

Already one of the most remarkable places on earth, plans for its rebirth will combine its rich cultural heritage with modern ideas to rebuild this region. Though the lands were damaged, the soul of this southern state thrives and is ready to welcome visitors and share its diverse bounty.

When traversing Louisiana, there are a number of stops to tempt you in each region of the state. From the Sportsman's Paradise, Crossroads, Plantation Country, Cajun Country to New Orleans—Louisiana is awaiting your visit with open arms and a pot of gumbo cooking on the stove.

Adventure in Sportsman's Paradise
Rolling, wooded hills scattered among lakes, rivers and bayous make Northern Louisiana a sportsman's paradise. Mother Nature graced the area with the best, making it perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and travelling families. Excellent opportunities are scattered throughout this area for hunting and fishing and taking in the breath-taking nature the state has to offer, such as Kisatchie National Forest and Caney Creek Lake.

And the trees are not the only giants growing in this region. Skyscrapers, grand hotels, casinos, museums, parks, world-class restaurants, and sporting and cultural events guarantee plenty of action indoors throughout northern Louisiana.

The Sportsman's Paradise is home to an eclectic mix of cultures and histories. Get transported back in time as you hear stories of the Native Americans who traded at Poverty Point in Epps, Henry Shreve's breaking of the log jam on the Red River, the soldiers who fought and fell at Mansfield Battlefield, and Bonnie and Clyde's demise in Arcadia.

Starlight, nature and neon—you'll find them all in northern Louisiana.

Charm in Crossroads
The north-central region of Louisiana is its birthplace. Founded in 1714, Natchitoches is one of the oldest settlements. A beautiful historic town, Natchitoches boasts a 33-block National Historic Landmark District in which shopping and quaint bed & breakfasts encourage a leisurely pace.

South of Natchitoches, nestled on the banks of the Red River, Alexandria is surrounded by natural beauty including Dewey Wills Wildlife Management Area, Kincaid Lake and the Wild Azalea National Recreation Trail.

While travelling in the area don't miss The Alexandria Museum of Art; the restored home (now a museum and cultural centre) of Harlem Renaissance writer Arna Bontemps; Lloyd Hall Plantation in Cheneyville; the fabulous links of the Audubon Golf Trail; and Toledo Bend Reservoir, west of Alexandria, (hosting 300 pounds of fi sh per acre). As you continue your travels, don't pass up the opportunity to meander along the charming country roads, dotted with wildflowers, along the Cane River.

Joie de Vivre in Cajun Country
The southwestern region of Louisiana, known as "Cajun Country," boasts both bayous and big cities.

The unofficial capital of Cajun Country is Lafayette. This is where you'll fi nd genuine Louisiana Cajun food, Cajun and Zydeco music and Cajun historical and cultural attractions. Lafayette is home to two fascinating living history museums— Acadian Village and Vermilionville.

And if you have a hankering for spice, head over to Avery Island to tour (and taste the fruits of) the home of TABASCO® hot sauce.

Heading southwest from Lafayette you'll find the Atchafalaya Basin, home of swamps, snowy egrets, blue herons and moss-covered trees. Grab your binoculars as Louisiana offers access to some of the best birding on the continent. And don't pass up St. Martinville, home of the Evangeline Oak, the inspiration for Longfellow's tragic love poem set around the Acadian exodus from Nova Scotia to this land in the south.

On your way to coastal Louisiana you'll come across Lake Charles, where more opportunities for outdoor activities abound. Visit Louisiana's only National Scenic Byway, the 180-mile Creole Nature Trail, Sam Houston Jones State Park, and Grand Isle State Park. And you are close enough to jump aboard a fishing charter in Grand Isle, Cocodrie, Golden Meadow, Port Fourchon, Dulac and Leeville.

Romance in Plantation Country
Take yourself back to the 1800s as you meander along the Mississippi River in Plantation Country. Louisiana's antebellum plantations were undamaged by the hurricanes, and provide a glimpse into the region's history. You have a choice of so many (or stroll through them all): Ormond Plantation, the oldest on the river; Nottoway, the South's largest; Oak Alley, the most photographed; or Laura, home to the legend of Br'er Rabbit. You can also stop off in Donaldsonville, the home of the River Road African-American Museum and Gallery.

Louisiana's state capitol will be your guide as you wander south. The 34-fl oor, Art Deco-style capitol building is the largest in the nation and is where Huey Long, the Kingfish, was assassinated. Don't leave Baton Rouge without a glimpse at the old state capitol, the Shaw Center for the Arts, U.S.S. Kidd, a restored destroyer, and the gaming boats that dot the Mississippi River.

You can also explore Louisiana's castles in St. Francisville, filled with antiques and drama, such as Catalpa Plantation, nearly destroyed during the Civil War; The Myrtles, one of the "most haunted houses in America" and Oakley House, where naturalist John James Audubon spent four months.

Another popular attraction is the museum at Angola Prison, where you can tour an exhibit that displays 130 years of prison life and if the timing is right, kick back at the Angola Prison Rodeo.

Though the city experienced the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, much of what makes New Orleans historic and unique was undamaged.

In the French Quarter, the Old U.S. Mint and Cabildo are being enjoyed again. And there is always entertainment on Bourbon Street, jazz at Preservation Hall and hot beignets at Café du Monde.

The Garden District—one of the crown jewels of New Orleans—remains as picturesque and beguiling as ever. Also intact are the grand oak trees and historic homes that make St. Charles Avenue the most beautiful main street.

You can also visit Audubon Park and Zoo, or tour Mardi Gras World for a close-up look at the elaborate costumes and famous fl oats, just in time for Mardi Gras to roll in February of 2006.

Antique shoppers can stroll down Royal and Magazine streets. Art fanatics can explore the Warehouse District or visit the Contemporary Arts Center.

And if relaxation is on the agenda, head over the Causeway (the largest expansion bridge in the world) to take a leisurely bike ride along the 31-mile St. Tammany Trace or stop off in the artsy communities of Mandeville and Covington for antique shopping, or to sit back and sip on a big glass of iced tea.

Clearly Louisiana is back to business and ready to host you, your friends and family. The efforts to rebuild Louisiana to worldwide pre-eminence as a travel destination are well under way—and your next visit will aid that effort.

Visit this fascinating, intoxicating, inspiring region and its southern hospitality will make your eye continue to wander longingly to the spot where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Mississippi River.

Pic 1: You will need all of the energy you can get as you keep step with Louisiana's Cajun and Zydeco music.

Pic 2: Mother Nature provided Louisiana a bounty that is unmatched. Take advantage of what nature provides us and explore Louisiana's swamps, bayous and wildlife. For the daring, jump on board an airboat for a tour of nature like no other.

Pic 3: Catch an amazing sunset, as well as trophy-size fish, in Sportsman's Paradise. Bass close to 16 pounds have been pulled out of Caney Lake—imagine the picture holding your own 16-pounder!

Pic 4: Come experience the courses of Arnold Palmer, Hal Sutton, David Toms and the most magnificent designer of all—Nature. The Audubon Golf Trail provides world-class golfing across all regions of Louisiana, including Cypress Bend in Crossroad.

Pic 5: Discover Cajun and Zydeco music and rediscover your Acadian heritage in Cajun Country — don't be shy, put on those dancing shoes!

Pic 6: As you wind your way along the Great River Road you recapture the romance of a bygone era in Plantation Country—home to Oak Alley, perhaps the most photographed plantation ever.

Pic 7: As you wind your way along the Great River Road you recapture the romance of a bygone era in Plantation Country—home to Oak Alley, perhaps the most photographed plantation ever.