From swamp tours and holding alligators to authentic Cajun food to exploring beaches and bayous, these New Orleans day trips and Gulf Coast road trips will make every person in your family or group happy. These 15 fun day trips from New Orleans offer cool, happy, and memorable experiences, whether you have a few hours or several days to explore.
The following New Orleans getaways are grouped by state and destinations are listed according to distance from New Orleans, according to Google Maps.
Fun Day Trips from New Orleans to Louisiana
The following road trips from New Orleans offer swamp tours and outdoor experiences to get your heart pumping, unabashed and authentic Cajun cuisine and culture, and chances to get away from New Orleans and into a different and more relaxing world.
— Dew Drop Music Hall in Mandeville LA
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 35 miles, 44 minutes
You can find jazz all over New Orleans but not quite like this. Dew Drop Dance and Social Hall in Mandeville was built in the same year jazz started, 1895. The building remains in its original state, except for some unauthorized paint and stenciling from the prop crew for the movie Pretty Baby. If your New Orleans visit coincides with one of the six seasonal Dew Drop shows, GO!
While in Mandeville, visit Fontainebleau State Park, Sunset Point, and The Candy Bank. The best Mandeville restaurants include Liz’s Where Y’at Diner, Rip’s On the Lake, The Lakehouse, and Mandeville Seafood Market and Eatery.
For a fun music experience, check out Collette tour America’s Music Cities (starts in New Orleans).
— Louisiana Northshore Day Trip to Covington LA
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 41 miles, 55 minutes
Seems ironic to leave New Orleans for amazing food but I visited at least three magnificent Covington restaurants. I was struck by the similar stories at Del Porto, LOLA, and Oxlot 9. All are owned and operated by married couples with young children who chose to come here. One couple worked at Brennan’s in New Orleans, another in Napa Valley, and the third at Veranda in Birmingham (via New Orleans).
Historic downtown Covington Louisiana is a popular shopping and festival destination. Be sure to visit the throwback HJ Smith & Sons General Store and Museum, fascinating Acquistapace’s Covington Supermarket (with 10k cheese samples), and order an ice cream flight at Hoodoo.
— Airboat Tours by Arthur Matherne in Des Allemandes LA
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 46 miles, 50 minutes
Get up close with a wild 14 foot alligator named Big All with Airboat Tours by Arthur Matherne. When I say up close, I mean you might be able to touch Big Al, as I and my group were fortunate to do—although two persons chose not to. We saw several 10+ foot gators along with some of the most gorgeous bayou scenery, including a watery oak alley.
Before or after your incredible airboat ride, stop at nearby Spahr’s for lunch. It is the closest Cajun Bayou Food Trail stop to New Orleans (see below for more about the Cajun Bayou Food Trail).
— Bayou Adventure in Lacombe LA
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 48 miles, 50 minutes
Bayou Adventure will outfit you for whatever you want to do in Real Louisiana, calling themselves the “concierge for the refuge and bayou area.” Bike the Tammany Trace trail, fishing, crabbing, or whatever escape from New Orleans entices you. My #FeedYourSoul experience was kayaking #LiquidRoadTrip between Fontainebleau State Park and Lake Pontchartrain on Bayou Cane. If you are lucky, a gator will bump your kayak, as happened to me. Bayou Adventure can provide transport to/from New Orleans for a group.
Watch this video of a foggy day kayaking with Bayou Adventure.
Before or after your Bayou Adventure (maybe even during), you might want to visit Abita Brewing Company, the ultra-quirky Abita Mystery House, splendid Covington or Mandeville restaurants or sights, or other Northshore places: 27 Fun Things to Do in Louisiana Northshore
— Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery in Covington LA
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 48 miles, 60 minutes
If your day trip from New Orleans is in August or September, look into the gator hatching experience at Insta-Gator. You might have the rare opportunity to hold a baby alligator while it hatches from its egg. At any time of the year, Royce and crew entertain and educate up to hundreds of visitors per day and guests have an opportunity to hold larger gators (optional charge).
McCool Travel tip: I have never done this (as a tease) but there is something to see at Insta-Gator that is nowhere else in the world. Something even rarer than letting a gator egg hatch in your hand. Insta-Gator does not advertise it and the guide might not even mention it during the tour. Many visitors are not even aware of what they see/saw but you will because you will be looking for it. Let me know if you saw it!
— Spuddy’s Cajun Foods Cooking Experience in Vacherie LA
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 49 miles, 53 minutes
Within 5 minutes of meeting the namesake of Spuddy’s Cajun Foods, I finally realized that andouille sausage is a German-Cajun fusion invention. Why did I not know that prior? Spuddy—aka “The Jambalaya King”—runs a very popular off the beaten track restaurant but is developing a Cajun cooking experience to attract New Orleans day trips by the busloads. If you happen to visit before the classes are announced, stop in for amazing Cajun food including, yes, andouille.
— Cajun Bayou Food Trail in Lafourche Parish, Thibodaux LA
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 64 miles, 68 minutes
Experience raw and authentic Cajun culture and food on the Cajun Bayou Food Trail. Hit seven of the 16 stops (plus six festivals) and earn a free t-shirt. Several places are in Thibodaux, parish seat of Lafourche Parish, which locals call naturally and unapologetically Cajun. Yes, eating at seven places on a day trip sounds daunting so let me help you out.
Kajun Twist in Galliano is run by Anthony, great-grandson of Alzina from Alzina’s Kitchen (her place is booked on weekends a year in advance. WOW!). Try the shrimp boulette patty and gumbos at Kajun Twist, on old school linoleum diner tables. It is also a family affair at nearby Rose’s Cafe. At Rose’s Cafe you will find pure Cajun comfort cuisine with a Memphis twist. The fried shrimp and oysters (ask about Captain Wilbert!), shrimp boil and crawfish boil are staples but you gotta try the chicken wings with three amazing sauces.
The voodoo shrimp at Flanagan’s will tickle your tastebuds and sustain you until the next stop. Later, head to Fermin’s in Thibodaux for fresh oysters and you might find a pearl (as I did!). For a relative hidden gem, stop into Bourgeois a 4th generation Cajun meat market in Thibodaux. They stake claim to the world’s best jerky and the first boudin burrito. Add Louisiana hot sauce to the burrito and definitely buy some jerky for the road. Spahr’s has three locations and the catfish chips and bread pudding are the item to order.
Order a po’ boy from Bubba’s or Harry’s to nosh during your scenic drive to New Orleans.
Well done, that was seven Cajun Bayou Food Trail stops. To get your free Cajun Bayou Food Trail t-shirt, stop in the visitor center or mail in your passport.
— The Cajun Village in Sorrento LA
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 53 miles, 54 minutes
The Cajun Village is a great pit stop (only 1/2 mile off I-10) or can be an entire New Orleans day trip destination. The village is a collection of old Cajun houses now housing local shops. Definitely sample the beignets at the coffee shop. Check out the kitchen items with a Louisiana focus and the Louisiana crafts in another shop. Try the make-your-own pottery experience. Look for Big Boy and Nubby behind the shoppes. The Cajun Village also has Cajun themed B&B and cottages nearby.
— Houmas House and Gardens in Darrow LA
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 58 miles, 59 minutes
It is worth stopping at Houmas House and Gardens for nothing else than seeing the place where the mint julep cocktail was invented. But also admire the amazing oak trees and gardens, sample fare from three restaurants, and tour the wonderful historic plantation home, which now hosts events and weddings. Stay tuned for the upcoming Louisiana’s Great River Road Museum, scheduled to open in November 2019.
— Experience Louisiana’s Bayou in Houma LA
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 59 miles, 1 hour 7 minutes
Speaking of Houma—Houma is a native tribe in this area—the city of Houma is well worth a day trip from New Orleans. From quirky attractions (like Chauvin Sculpture Garden, deep in the wetlands) to plantations to the Greenwood Gator Farm (see below), Houma calls itself Louisiana’s Bayou Country and the people are real. If you are around the last weekend in October, DO NOT miss the Rougarou Fest. I deemed it the love child of New Orlean’s Mardi Gras, Halloween, and a Renaissance Faire. No way I can advise visitors to leave New Orleans for food but the Friday night dinner at A-Bear’s Cafe is a deep Cajun experience unlike anything else.
Read more about A-Bear’s Cafe and Things to Do in Houma: Louisiana Bayou Activities Near New Orleans
#RougarouFest is, um, well, the love child of #MardiGras, #Halloween, and a Renaissance Faire. Is that possible? In other words, perfectly weird and wonderful. #BayouCountry #OnlyLouisiana #travel #funness @rougaroufest pic.twitter.com/IeTy0DKscR
— Charles McCool ✈️ (@CharlesMcCool) October 26, 2019
— Greenwood Gator Farm in Gibson LA
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 74 miles, 81 minutes
Learn all about the powerful and popular reptile, feed them, hold them (really!), plus take a swamp tour—all at Greenwood Gator Farm in Gibson, Louisiana. Greenwood Gator Farm is one of 12 gator farms in Louisiana and the only place where people can tour a working gator farm.
Before or after your Greenwood Gator experience, stop for lunch or dinner at Boudreau & Thibodeau’s Seafood in Houma.
Read more about the experience at Louisiana Bayou Tour at Greenwood Gator Farm
— Home of TABASCO Sauce in Avery Island LA
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 138 miles, 2 hours 22 minutes
Visit the spiciest island along the US Gulf Coast and allow time for the fascinating factory tour, fun museum, Cajun restaurant (with all the TABASCO flavors on each table), and the grounds (including a bamboo experimental forest). One cool fact I learned is that Avery Island is actually not an island but an incredible salt dome—a massive 2,200 acre hill of salt, 2.5 miles across and 160 feet above sea level, in the middle of the bayou.
Avery Island is 45 minutes south of Lafayette Louisiana. See our article: 8 Great Happy Things to Do in Lafayette Louisiana
— Bayou Rum in Lacassine (Lake Charles) LA
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 189 miles, 3 hours
A bit more than a simply New Orleans day trip, but if you are driving on I-10 west to Lake Charles, Beaumont, or Houston, take time to stop at Bayou Rum in Lacassine LA (exit 48). Bayou Rum was recently awarded #1 Louisiana attraction and #1 visitor center. After earning over 100 awards for their rum products, Bayou Rum calls itself USA’s #1 craft rum. Stop in and see why.
See also this #USGulpCoast article: Fun US Gulf Coast Bars, Breweries, and Beverage Spots.
For more Louisiana Gulf Coast information, see:
- Relaxed Luxury at L’Auberge Lake Charles
- Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras: Family-friendly Carnival in Lake Charles
Fun Day Trips From New Orleans to Coastal Mississippi
These Mississippi Gulf Coast destinations offer beaches near New Orleans, mild adventure experiences, and transformative travel opportunities for all the senses. Coastal Mississippi is a scintillating destination to visit for a few days or as a coastal scenic drive from New Orleans or a highly recommended detour drive between New Orleans and Mobile Alabama.
— INFINITY Science Center in Pearlington MS
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 43 miles, 45 minutes
Take a selfie with the most powerful engine ever created. Then immerse yourself into a deep sea diving VR experience, see how hurricanes work, learn about carnivorous plants, and much more. Science is cool and fun at INFINITY Science Center! Take the optional tour of Stennis Space Center to see where NASA rockets and engine components are tested before actual use.
Before heading back to New Orleans, have a meal at Mockingbird Cafe in Bay St Louis or sample a few craft brews at Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company in Kiln.
— Art and History Road Trip to Bay St Louis MS
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 58 miles, 64 minutes
One Bay St Louis B&B owner told me that Bay St Louis is the place where Crescent City residents go on vacation, when they want to find a beach near New Orleans. She would know, since she worked for New Orleans tourism for 25 years. Things I love about BSL include the angel trees (artists carve figures into damaged oak trees and branches), Ruth’s Roots (an eclectic community garden), 100 Men Hall (historic site on Mississippi Blues Trail), and being able to watch sunrises and sunsets from the shoreline.
In addition to the above recommendations, stop in Pass Christian for the artistic sushi creations at Fatsumo for lunch or the relaxed upscale cuisine at Whiskey Prime.
For more US Gulf Coast restaurant suggestions, see Cool, Happy, and Fun Gulf Coast Restaurants in the Southeast US.
— Wolf River Canoe & Kayak in Long Beach MS
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 70 miles, 70 minutes
Want to get away from it all for half a day? Take an exhilarating #LiquidRoadTrip on the Wolf River. Allow 2-4 hours for your adventure with Wolf River Canoe & Kayak. On your way to the pick up spot, stock up on drinks and food. I recommend the incredible bread and chicken salad from Serious Bread in Bay St Louis. While paddling along the Wolf River, look for petrified wood and embrace the natural landscapes. McCool Travel tip: Wolf River features a couple of low level rapids, which are super fun in a kayak.
Visit the 500+ year old Friendship Oak on the USM campus before or after your Wolf River #LiquidRoadTrip.
See also this liquid road trip article: Fun Places to Kayak in US.
— Fishbone Alley and Mississippi Aquarium in Gulfport MS
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 78 miles, 81 minutes
The new, magnificent Mississippi Aquarium opened its doors in August 2020. Fishbone Alley has vibrant, cool public art, plus a few excellent restaurants and bars. Gulf Islands Water Park has miles of water slides to cool you off on those warm and humid summer days. Or the adults may opt to cool off with a craft beer flight at Chandeleur Brewing Company (their satsuma cream ale is delectable). Jones Park is often the hub of activity for festivals and events, or, when not, just a place to relax and stroll around the harbors.
— Bahn Mi and #BigShrimpin in Biloxi MS
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 91 miles, 86 minutes
Biloxi MS was once the Shrimping Capital of the World and the shrimping industry still reigns supreme on the #SecretCoast of Coastal Mississippi. Learn about Mississippi Gulf Coast sea life on the super fun and entertaining Biloxi Shrimping Trip. The captain trawls the gulf floor for the first half of the tour. Then first mate Dave takes over and entertains and educates guests; Dave of the Biloxi Shrimping Trip is particularly adept at engaging children and encouraging them to handle the collected sea critters.
Before or after your shrimp boat tour, continue your #BigShrimpin experience with some hyper fresh Deer Island oysters or shrimp and grits at White Pillars, a Bahn Mi po’ boy at Le Bakery and Cafe, or an order of steamed Royal Reds at The Blind Tiger. The nearby Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum is well worth a visit to see historical shrimping machinery and fascinating informational displays.
— Get Artsy in Ocean Springs MS
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 92 miles, 88 minutes
The legendary Anderson family dominates the Ocean Springs art scene, featuring Walter Anderson Museum of Art and Shearwater Pottery (founded by his brother Peter Anderson). The Anderson family influence extends throughout Ocean Springs, from the epic community center mural (see video below) to the design and room names at the award-winning The Roost boutique hotel. Definitely stay at The Roost or its sister property Inn at Ocean Springs if your New Orleans day trip runs too long.
See this video of the Walter Anderson mural room in the Ocean Springs Community Center.
Ocean Springs’ casual beachy but artsy vibe extends into its food scene. James Beard semi-finalist chef Alex Perry is a culinary wizard at Vestige. Sample the fresh daily biscuits at Greenhouse on Porter. The Wilbur Bar (in The Roost) serves creative cocktails that will awaken several of your senses. Coincide your New Orleans day trip to Ocean Springs with a Mary C. cooking class to foster and feed your inner artist.
Countless Ocean Springs small business and festivals entice shoppers and weekend visitors. Several art galleries line the classic #USGulfCoast downtown streets. Lovelace Drugs was recently lovingly restored to its 1950s glory. On a pleasant day, have a meal or drink in the outside courtyard behind Maison de Lu. Still looking for places to eat in Ocean Springs? Try The Shed for BBQ, Charred for steak and oysters, or The Shrimp Factory for seafood and sushi.
McCool Travel note: Vestige (immediately above) and White Pillars (earlier, in Biloxi) offer two of the Best US Gulf Coast Restaurants and Chefs
— Nature on a Pascagoula Day Trip
Distance and Time (from New Orleans): 109 miles, 99 minutes
Experience the longest free flowing river in continental USA with McCoy’s River Boat Tour from the Pascagoula River Audubon Center. Or explore the Pascagoula River area on your own with a rented kayak from the center. Either way, get a shrimp and oyster po’ boy from Bozo’s Seafood Market before or after your visit. You will thank me!
Other things to do in Pascagoula include exploring the LaPointe-Krebs museum (oldest house in Mississippi), seeing the avenue of oaks in Moss Point, visiting Jimmy Buffett’s first home (also Jimmy Buffett beach and Jimmy Buffett bridge), and nearby is Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge.
For more Mississippi Gulf Coast information, see:
- Fun Things To Do On The Mississippi Gulf Coast
- Mississippi Gulf Coast Hotels: Fun Lodging Along the Mississippi Coast
- Margaritaville Resort Biloxi: Fun Lodging Along the Mississippi Coast
Tips For Day Trips From New Orleans
Traffic will most likely be heaviest during morning rush hours into New Orleans and afternoon rush hours out of New Orleans. For best results, avoid travel in the heavy directions at those times.
The shortest direction may not be the quickest. For instance, driving straight across Lake Pontchartrain to get to parts of Louisiana Northshore may take longer than driving through Slidell on the east edge of the lake.
Thank you for reading this list of cool, happy, and fun day trips from New Orleans. By no means is this a comprehensive list. Comment with your favorite New Orleans day trip, places to go in Coastal Mississippi, or things to do in Louisiana Gulf Coast.