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Best day trips from New Orleans

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Best things to do within a short drive from New Orleans.

by Jeffrey Chitek

 

1. Clark Creek Natural Area/ Tunica Falls

Louisiana, especially around the Greater New Orleans area is flat…very flat.  We have many iconic and beautiful swamps, wetlands and marshes to explore by boat, but the prospect of a hike across dry ground seems unobtainable.  THIS IS NOT TRUE.  Just a 2.5 hour drive north of the city center lies a land of topographic variance with rugged sandstone cliffs and clear running waterfalls hiding amongst a surprising and unique wooded landscape.  I speak of the Clark Creek Natural Area running along the border of Mississippi and Louisiana.  With over 30 waterfalls and 8 miles of hiking trails, Tunica Falls is WELL worth the drive and the time.

 

2. Cajun Country swamp and plantation combo

Driving west out of New Orleans is like taking a trip back into the past.  Just over the levy lies the vast swampland of the Mississippi River delta, the biggest in North America.  A swamp tour is a must during your visit to New Orleans.  Tours by kayak are ideal, as you can reach shallow and narrow areas that are inaccessible with large motorized vessels.  The landscape and its wild inhabitants are one of a kind.  Traveling further west, you will find plantation row along the Mississippi, with many tours of the grounds available.  We highly recommend the Whitney Plantation over any other plantation tour option.  The Whitney is the one and only national monument to slaves, sharing the the story of Louisiana’s sugar plantation era from the due perspective of those enslaved in the river valley.  If you don’t have a rental car, you can still experience both of these tours by purchasing a kayak/plantation combo ticket.

 

3.  Louisiana Global Wildlife Center

Just an hour drive to the north of New Orleans city center sits the Louisiana Global Wildlife Center.  Covering over 900 acres it is the largest totally free-roaming animal preserve of its kind in the entire country.  Private tours as well as 1.5 hour wagon tours are available daily giving visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with over 4000 species of exotic animals from all over the world including bison, giraffes, zebras and camels!!

4.  Jean Lafitte Nation Park/ Bayou Coquille walkway

Louisiana’s ONLY national park is just a quick 20 minute drive south of the river.  There are multiple elevated wooden walkways that zig-zag through the marshy swamps and bayous along the east edge of the park.  Its not uncommon to walk up on alligators, turtles and an array of birds while walking along the 1 mile path.  This is a great opportunity to experience a Louisiana swamp for those weary of getting into a boat or kayak.