20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Louisiana

Jul 22, 2021

With its smooth, wide rivers and welcoming bayous, bountiful food and abundant, inexpensive museums, not to mention a flourishing culture and exquisite musical and visual arts, it's easy to see why Louisiana draws an unrivaled number of tourists.

Louisiana is also one of the most scenic states in the U.S. and there are countless sites to see, all of which will undoubtedly make an impression on your travels. Don't miss the ever-popular Southern cities of New Orleans and Cajun country in the south, and the Louisiana coast which has many of the state's most famous and popular attractions. Explore this unique region with our list of the top things to do in Louisiana, and add a stop here to your U.S. travel itinerary.

Louisiana State Museum

Photo of Louisiana State Penitentiary
Louisiana State Penitentiary: en.wikipedia.org

A museum devoted to life in Louisiana's diverse cultural history. Be sure to see the dioramas inside the Indian village in the back of the park. These dioramas portray Louisiana tribes in all aspects of their lives, including spiritual beliefs, food sources, clothing and household objects. Visitors are taken on a journey to learn about the native people of the region, when Spanish explorer and early pioneer LaSalle brought Louisiana to the attention of the world. Also fascinating is the Indian Village exhibit which depicts the lifestyle of the Indian people at the time of LaSalle's arrival. Visitors can experience life as the people of Louisiana lived, including clothing, kitchen utensils and religious ceremonies.

French Quarter

Photo of French Quarter
French Quarter: en.wikipedia.org

The French Quarter of New Orleans is one of the most famous European-influenced sections of the USA. Its colorful houses were built in the French colonial style between 1724 and 1795. Also known as Vieux Carré (Old Square), it is a pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined, historic area with many restaurants, bars, and boutique shops. The area extends for one block, along both sides of the street, running from Canal Street in the south to Decatur Street in the north, and from St. Louis Street to Felicity Street.

Jackson Square

Photo of Jackson Square (New Orleans)
Jackson Square (New Orleans): en.wikipedia.org

Jackson Square in New Orleans is one of the largest and most well-known squares in the United States. With an area of 12,000 square meters (130,000 square feet), the square is home to the headquarters of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation. It also holds a number of impressive memorials, including the Arthur Baker Monument, which commemorates the lives lost on New Orleans' ships during the hurricane of September 2005. Many of the popular tourist attractions of New Orleans are found in Jackson Square, including the Old U.S. Mint and the famous New Orleans Museum of Art.

New Orleans

Photo of New Orleans
New Orleans: en.wikipedia.org

This naturally beautiful American city is known as the crossroads of America, and for good reason. It's also a great destination for the history and culture-cravers. New Orleans is also packed with wonderful attractions like historic French Quarter, the bustling French Market, Jackson Square and jazz clubs, Mardi Gras celebrations, quirky celebrations, such as the ever-popular Krewe of Barkus and the Southern Food and Film Festival. Best time to visit New Orleans is from June to September. Hotels in New Orleans offer great discounts during this time. Most of the hotels in New Orleans are located in the historic French Quarter district. Other popular areas include the French Market and the Garden District. The Old Fair Grounds, Uptown New Orleans and the Central Business District are not far from French Quarter, but still remain quiet. Things to do in New Orleans include taking the New Orleans Tulane Univeristy walking tour or riding the bus tours. Go for the best tours, food tours and festivals on Halloween, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Visit local jazz clubs and bars to hear live music in the Uptown area, or visit the French Market to try Creole-style delights, and gourmet food.

Louisiana State Capitol

Photo of Louisiana State Capitol
Louisiana State Capitol: en.wikipedia.org

Built in 1846, the Louisiana State Capitol is the second-largest state capitol in the US. It's the seat of state government in Louisiana and one of its most important buildings. Highlights of a visit include the rotunda and the first floor, where exhibits highlight the state's legislative history. You can also visit the fine gallery featuring oil paintings of Louisiana scenery by West Coast artist Marcus Rees. Located close to the Mississippi River, the state capitol is a pleasant city of mostly wooden houses and old streets. In front of the capitol stands a statue of the 10-foot-high bear that helped save the city from New Madrid earthquake in 1812. Although it didn't bear any of the pain of the quake, it became known as the "Louisiana Bear" and remains a part of the city's iconography.

Louisiana State University

Photo of Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University: en.wikipedia.org

Louisiana's flagship university is a major research center in all fields of study, including engineering, agriculture, law, medicine and natural sciences. Founded in 1833 as one of the first state-supported universities, Louisiana State University provides services and offers a wide variety of programs, including graduate degrees and high-tech research and development. Louisiana State University is located in the center of the state at Baton Rouge and is home to more than 50,000 students from Louisiana and other parts of the world. Its main campus is immediately adjacent to the Louisiana State Capitol, an impressive, 150-year-old Italianate structure.

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve

Photo of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve: en.wikipedia.org

At the heart of America's Cajun Country is this pretty city of pretty French architecture. Located along the banks of the Mississippi River and Louisiana's longest canal, the town dates back to 1730, when French sea captain Jean Lafitte, who is credited with thwarting the British attempt to build a navy in New Orleans, founded the town. The town still retains its French heritage, with several interesting old buildings and cafés around the levee district, as well as several antique shops and art galleries. The town is also home to America's oldest working paddle wheel boat, the River Queen, built in 1896, and M.S. Bayside, a full-service restaurant that will have you thinking that you've stepped back into another era.

French Market

Photo of French Market
French Market: en.wikipedia.org

The historic St. Louis Market, or the French Market as it is more often called, is one of the most popular attractions in New Orleans. Located along Canal Street, the French Market is a collection of different specialty shops. Souvenir and gift shops are available, along with several restaurants, including some run by acclaimed chefs. The market is also famous for its lively atmosphere and a number of live music events occur there. Sites to visit in New Orleans include the Saint Louis Cathedral, the Louisiana State Museum, and the Mississippi River Museum, which are all located in the French Quarter.

Baton Rouge

Photo of Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Baton Rouge, Louisiana: en.wikipedia.org

Baton Rouge (and several other smaller surrounding towns) make up the Southern Crescent Metropolitan Statistical Area. A boom town in the post-World War II period, Baton Rouge has since diversified into higher education, health care, technology, and high-tech industry. While Baton Rouge's modern buildings aren't as arresting as those on New Orleans' French Quarter, and the local "Mardi Gras" celebration is notably less pronounced than in other parts of the country, this small city in East Louisiana is still very much a place of easy access for those in the southeast United States. Baton Rouge offers good hotels, plenty of shopping, and top-rated sports facilities, making it a convenient base for exploring all of southern Louisiana. For example, it's easily reached by air, with major airport service, from New Orleans, Lafayette, Shreveport, and Dallas.

Lake Charles

Photo of Lake Charles, Louisiana
Lake Charles, Louisiana: en.wikipedia.org

In the south-central United States, the Pineville-Kirkwood area in Louisiana is a pleasant city on the west bank of Lake Charles. It's the only city in Louisiana that spans two bodies of water, with the New Orleans skyline and the Gulf of Mexico on the east and west side of the city, respectively. The area is known for its role in the movie The DaVinci Code. There are many things to do in Lake Charles, including historic tours, dining, and, of course, art galleries, many of which are devoted to the movie industry.

Grand Isle

Photo of Grand Isle, Louisiana
Grand Isle, Louisiana: en.wikipedia.org

Home to a smattering of fascinating roadside attractions, this south coast of Louisiana is best visited as a day trip from New Orleans. Voodoo traces its history back to Louisiana. While it may be difficult to find in some cities, it's ubiquitous here. On the way to New Orleans is Grand Isle State Park. It's one of many parks in the area and is spread out over a peninsula covered with woods and pines. This is also a good spot for bird watching and fishing. For more information on this destination and to plan your trip, check out Lonely Planet's article on the best places to visit in the US in this issue.

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop

Photo of Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop: en.wikipedia.org

Built in 1834, the Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop is one of the most popular tourist attractions in New Orleans. Set between the Mississippi River and the Garden District, the shop attracts visitors because it was once the headquarters of famed pirates Jean Lafitte and his partner Auguste Chouteau, a central figure in the pirate era. It has a number of shops and entertainment attractions, including the Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Museum (an award-winning archaeological, naval, and architectural museum that explains the history of the pirates).

Bourbon Street

Photo of Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street: en.wikipedia.org

During the nineteenth century, this city was known as New Orleans' scandalous red light district, the infamous "French Quarter". With its swanky elegance, sprawling live music venues and bustling nightlife, this is one of the most exciting cities in the country. Highlights include the charming European-style district around the Pontchartrain bridge. The nightlife here is pulsating, from jazz clubs and blues joints to lively drinking haunts, with French Quarter being synonymous with music. The biggest draw to this district is Bourbon Street, the number-one destination. The street runs down from the fabled Old Absinthe House at Magazine and Canal Sts. to the Louis Armstrong Playhouse, home to the famous New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Right next door, on St. Peter Street, is the famous Cour-Feuil Bakery, which was founded in 1892, and houses one of New Orleans' most famous landmarks, the No. 2, a 100-year-old engine built in 1902. The former train station also belongs to the list of places to visit. It's known for the No. 5 and the No. 45 Streetcars, which connect to the city's famous Uptown Central Business District, offering visitors from around the world an exciting walking experience along the most famous Bourbon Street.

Old U.S. Mint

Photo of New Orleans Mint
New Orleans Mint: en.wikipedia.org

Built by the government in 1809 to house the federal gold coinage, the Old U.S. Mint was abandoned in 1933 and is now a National Historic Landmark, now open to visitors as Old Mint Museum and the Mint Museum. The main attraction is a beautiful building filled with some of the original machines and tools used to create the nation's gold coins. The story is told through lively, interactive exhibits on the history of coinage, from a bird's-eye view of early coinage to the creation of gold coins and the First National Bank. Other highlights include the minting of large coins for the Gulf and Mississippi navies, the national banking system and the development of paper currency. In the galleries are fascinating exhibits about world money from the Phoenician to the Euro. An 8-minute film about the mint's history is available in seven languages. Visitors may also see re-created, reproductions of the fabled country mints from 1792 to 1912.

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park

Photo of New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park: en.wikipedia.org

The good times just keep rollin' on in New Orleans. Whether you visit the French Quarter, or the heart of the famous "Big Easy" on Canal Street, an old fashioned stroll or even a drink at a Bourbon Street bar, you can experience true Louisiana style. The world-famous jazz scene dominates the New Orleans music scene with live jazz concerts every night of the week. There is always something happening. A few of the more popular jazz venues include Preservation Hall, the House of Blues, Cafe Europe, and Tipitina's. The clubs offer live performances by local and touring jazz bands. Many New Orleans jazz musicians and stars, such as Allen Toussaint, Paul Sanchez, Earl K. Long and his Hot Seven, and Earl Thomas Conley are honored in the National Jazz Hall of Fame and Museum in New Orleans, located on the World War II Memorial grounds. One of the best things to do in New Orleans is to visit the city's excellent New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. There you'll find over 15,000 square feet of exhibitions and exhibits that display costumes, instruments, and photography of legends in New Orleans music. Another highlight of a trip to New Orleans is a tour of Jackson Square, where there are great shops and stores as well as great live entertainment all year long. Jackson Square is the main shopping and dining area of the city, but there are many other good places to eat in the city, especially in the French Quarter.

Crawfish Festival

Photo of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana
Breaux Bridge, Louisiana: en.wikipedia.org

To celebrate the beginning of the crawfish season in Louisiana, this festival draws participants from around the state and even the country. Organizers believe the crawfish originated with indigenous Native Americans, who lived off the bounty of the Bayou country for thousands of years. Today the party kicks off in early April with the Louisiana Crawfish Festival Parade through New Orleans's French Quarter and streetside restaurants serving special crawfish dishes for hungry celebrants. A live band performs on both stages, and during the later, post-ceremonial section, Louisiana's biggest fireworks display is set to music. A wide variety of crawfish species can be found in Louisiana, including red, white, bayou, and tiger.

Shreveport

Photo of Shreveport, Louisiana
Shreveport, Louisiana: en.wikipedia.org

Shreveport, the largest city in Louisiana and the former capital of the Louisiana Territory, is easily reached from anywhere in the US by car or bus. Although the area is best known for its Cajun culture and for the giant Mardi Gras Masks paraded through downtown streets during Carnival season, Shreveport is also home to an artsy, hip atmosphere and historic charm not found in many towns its size. An excellent place to start any visit is at the Shreveport Convention Center, which houses the unusual two-tiered River Stage theatre and the Art Museum, which serves as home to the celebrated Phillips Collection. You can also check out the Old State Capitol Museum, which gives visitors a fascinating glimpse into the town's history. Shreveport also features a wide variety of specialty shops and other retail stores including five-star department stores and specialty shops. The Municipal Auditorium offers events for many different kinds of audiences. The nearby Bossier Museum of Natural History and Science and the Audubon Zoo are also popular attractions.

City Park

Photo of Bossier City, Louisiana
Bossier City, Louisiana: en.wikipedia.org

City Park, also known as Lafayette Square, is a large park located at the center of New Orleans. Renowned for its plant life and wide vistas of the New Orleans skyline, the park contains the huge Congo Square and Napoleon Barracks Ruins, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It also contains City Park Playground, which is the city's oldest playground, and a fountain in the center of the park. Lafayette Square was the site of some of the nation's most important early events, including the transfer of power to the new United States of America following the end of the American Revolution. It's also home to one of the most interesting buildings in the city, the First Unitarian Church. Originally built in 1792 as a town hall and dedicated to Christopher Columbus, the church is a magnificent example of Federal architecture, with soaring arched windows, ornate rococo details, and a circular dome with angels spouting flame from the top. It was later converted to a Unitarian church after its main charter was revoked. It's still open to visitors and an important part of the New Orleans story, and is currently undergoing extensive restoration.

Eiffel Tower

Photo of Paris, Texas
Paris, Texas: en.wikipedia.org

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, the most famous landmark in the world, has its own film starring Jacqueline Bisset, but there is a Parisian Eiffel Tower in the state of Louisiana. Built in 1889, it looks very much like the one in France's capital city, standing for visitors to this popular American tourist destination. For over one million tourists a year, the 325-meter-tall structure is one of the city's most popular tourist attractions, and the site of the annual International Eiffel Tower Festival every September.

Presbytere Museum

Photo of The Presbytere
The Presbytere: en.wikipedia.org

The Presbytere Museum, a collection of seven buildings in the Garden District of New Orleans, is one of the best in the United States. Most notable among its collections is the Musesque Gallery, with paintings by Nuevos Mexicanos artists of the 1950s. The rich heritage of the Creoles is another notable attraction of the museum. The Presbytere Museum is located in the old Presbytere de Orleans Parish church, completed in 1853 by Thomas Francis Wade, who played an important role in New Orleans' history and architecture. Built at the beginning of the French period of New Orleans history, it was designed by a French architect, is one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the United States and is a part of Louisiana's historic districts. The museum's collection ranges from Louisiana art to early-20th-century French art, with emphasis on works from the 18th, 19th and early 20th century. The museum has an extensive art collection of paintings, tapestries, carved statuary, and historic photographs. Other notable collections include New Orleans memorabilia, Indian art and African-American history. Other items on display include mementos of important events in Louisiana history, like the landing of the 'Mother of a Storm,' the great hurricane of 1893, and the 1927 New Orleans Hurricane, as well as a historic collection of flags that has been flying in the stormy weather over the parish.