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A small yellow pagoda in a lagoon shaded by live oaks at Avery Island
Complete with gardens, bird habitats, and a pagoda, Avery Island is a must-see.

14 small towns near New Orleans you need to visit right now

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Complete with gardens, bird habitats, and a pagoda, Avery Island is a must-see.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2016 and has been updated with the most recent information.

The first real cool snap of fall is predicted to arrive Saturday—making this weekend an ideal time to roll down the windows, hit the road, and explore a scenic destination.

You can experience prairie Cajun culture and music in Eunice; see a Frank Lloyd Wright cottage in Ocean Springs, Mississippi; and explore a famous roadside attraction while sampling beers at breweries to your heart’s content in Abita Springs.

Are we missing any of your favorite road-trip destinations? Tell us in the comments, or drop us a line.

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1. Natchitoches

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Natchitoches, the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, is a four-hour drive from New Orleans. It’s anchored by the National Historic Landmark District, a 33-block area with shopping and plenty of charming bed-and-breakfasts. Don't leave town without sampling its famous meat pie.

A street in New Orleans with a row of houses. The house in the foreground has a red brick facade. There are cars parked on the street. Kent Kanouse

2. Eunice

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The Cajun town is home to the colorful Courir de Mardi Gras tradition, but Eunice merits a visit any time of the year. Start on Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Savoy Music Center, which hosts an acoustic jam session. That night, visit the Liberty Theater, a restored art deco playhouse, which hosts the Rendez-Vous des Cajuns radio show on Saturday nights. The Cajun Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Prairie Acadian Cultural Center, and the Eunice Depot Museum are all worth a visit. And be sure to eat as much boudin and cracklins as possible.

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3. Washington

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Antiques lovers will find heaven in Washington, home to the Washington Old Schoolhouse Antique Mall, where antiques fill up the floors of an old schoolhouse and gym. You could spend a whole day here and fuel up at the 1950s-style cafe on site when you need a break. It's about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from New Orleans.

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4. Lafayette

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A bastion of Cajun culture, Lafayette is a two-hour drive from New Orleans. It’s dotted with great bars, farmers markets, campgrounds, galleries, and parks, but its festivals are the real draw. The last weekend of October brings the Blackpot Festival, a celebration of Cajun food and culture that’s worth the trip. Bring a tent, make a bonfire, and camp onsite.

In April, the Festival International de Louisiane attracts more than 300,000 city dwellers to Lafayette’s small downtown core, thanks to headlining acts playing Delta-centric music genres ranging from zydeco to blues. Admission is free—and if you take the Amtrak train (a roughly $20 ticket) to Lafayette, you don’t have to worry about parking (or finding a designated driver).

A body of water surrounded by trees. There is a boat in the water.

5. New Iberia

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A little over two hours from New Orleans, New Iberia’s Main Street showcases the art deco Evangeline Theater. Visit Shadows-on-the-Teche, a 3,750 square-foot historic house and garden. You'll also can’t miss Avery Island, the salt dome that is home to the Tabasco hot sauce factory, the tropical Jungle Gardens, and the Bird City wildfowl sanctuary.

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6. Natchez, Mississippi

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Unscathed by the Civil War, Natchez is the place to go if you want to gape at antebellum architecture or visit indigenous tribal grounds of the Natchez Indians; or the Natchez National Cemetery. You’ll also find the Natchez booze trinity of Old South Winery, Charboneau Rum distillery, and Natchez Brewing Company. Known as the Biscuit Capital of the World, Natchez is a little less than three hours from New Orleans.

A large white house with columns on the front facade. There are trees and a lawn in front of the house. Visit Mississippi

7. St. Francisville

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St. Francisville is the heart of plantation country; the haunted Myrtles Plantation is located here. Oakley Plantation, which is within the Audubon State Historic Site, and Rosedown Plantation are two more to check out. If you're the outdoors type, nearby Tunica Hills offers camping, hiking, and bird-watching. St. Francisville is a little under two hours from New Orleans.

8. Ponchatoula

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Perhaps most well-known for the annual Louisiana Strawberry Festival, Ponchatoula has small-town charm year-round. About an hour drive from New Orleans, the main downtown strip here has cute boutiques, antiques shops, and stores selling an astounding variety of strawberry food items (plus meat pies, crawfish bread, and your typical Louisiana road-trip food finds).

A street in Ponchatoula with a row of houses. Shawn Dubin

9. Franklinton

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About an hour and a half north of New Orleans, you’ll find this charming town near the Bogue Chitto River. In October, Franklinton holds one of the longest-running fairs in the state. And if you’re looking for a day in nature (or tubing), it’s only seven miles from the Bogue Chitto State Park. 

The town also features the Da Varnado Store Museum, which has a selection of rotating, community-centered exhibits.

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10. Abita Springs

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Abita Springs, less than an hour from New Orleans, boasts of one Louisiana's most famous roadside attractions: The Abita Mystery house, a gas station-turned-folk-museum housing a jam-packed collection of art, memorabilia, "pure junk," and other curiosities. It’s a short drive away is the Abita brewery, where you can take a guided tour with free 4-ounce tastings or buy a pint in the Tap Room. Neighboring Covington has a historic downtown area with cafes, charming shops, and art galleries.

11. Poplarville, Mississippi

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One of the most “Poplar” choices, this small city hosts the annual Blueberry Jubilee, an arts and craft fair that happens on the second Saturday of every June. Poplarville is home to the oldest community college in Mississippi. The city also holds a farmers market on the first and third Thursday every month between May and October.

12. Biloxi

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Many visitors to New Orleans are disheartened when they find out Louisiana’s coastline is comprised of swamps and muddy wetlands—with nary a beach in sight. Although Biloxi’s sand beaches are more beige than white, they’re only an hour and a half from New Orleans. They’re also lined with casinos, plantations, and museums. But Biloxi’s best attraction, Ship Island, is actually 11 miles off its coast. Grab a ticket for the ferry, enjoy the sea breezes, and spend the day lounging on this undeveloped barrier island’s pristine beaches.

In the foreground is a lighthouse. In the distance is a house surrounded by trees. Shutterstock

13. Ocean Springs, Mississippi

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The artsy Mississippi town, less than a two-hour drive from New Orleans, is home to the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, featuring the painter's colorful, folksy murals. The nearby Ocean Springs Community Center is home to Anderson's largest mural. Explore the Charnley-Norwood House, the summer cottage designed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, which is open for public tours. The Crooked Letter Brewing Company offers tours, with samples, on Saturdays. The Greenhouse On Porter is a whimsical coffee shop with seating inside a greenhouse, high-quality coffee, and homemade biscuits.

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14. Fairhope, Alabama

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The picture-perfect Alabama town on the Eastern shore of Mobile Bay is about two-and-a-half hours from New Orleans. Anchored by an adorable downtown area, Fairhope Avenue is the main drag with shopping and restaurants. There also are beaches and a municipal pier. The Fairhope Brewing Company offers tours every Saturday. There are plenty of cute bed-and-breakfasts in town; for a fancier option, the nearby Grand Hotel Marriott Resort is gorgeous.

In the foreground is an ocean. There is a pier that stretches out into the distance. It is sunset and the sky is purple, orange, and blue. Shutterstock

1. Natchitoches

Louisiana 71457
A street in New Orleans with a row of houses. The house in the foreground has a red brick facade. There are cars parked on the street. Kent Kanouse

Natchitoches, the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, is a four-hour drive from New Orleans. It’s anchored by the National Historic Landmark District, a 33-block area with shopping and plenty of charming bed-and-breakfasts. Don't leave town without sampling its famous meat pie.

2. Eunice

Louisiana 70535

The Cajun town is home to the colorful Courir de Mardi Gras tradition, but Eunice merits a visit any time of the year. Start on Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Savoy Music Center, which hosts an acoustic jam session. That night, visit the Liberty Theater, a restored art deco playhouse, which hosts the Rendez-Vous des Cajuns radio show on Saturday nights. The Cajun Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Prairie Acadian Cultural Center, and the Eunice Depot Museum are all worth a visit. And be sure to eat as much boudin and cracklins as possible.

3. Washington

Louisiana 70589

Antiques lovers will find heaven in Washington, home to the Washington Old Schoolhouse Antique Mall, where antiques fill up the floors of an old schoolhouse and gym. You could spend a whole day here and fuel up at the 1950s-style cafe on site when you need a break. It's about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from New Orleans.

4. Lafayette

Lafayette, LA
A body of water surrounded by trees. There is a boat in the water.

A bastion of Cajun culture, Lafayette is a two-hour drive from New Orleans. It’s dotted with great bars, farmers markets, campgrounds, galleries, and parks, but its festivals are the real draw. The last weekend of October brings the Blackpot Festival, a celebration of Cajun food and culture that’s worth the trip. Bring a tent, make a bonfire, and camp onsite.

In April, the Festival International de Louisiane attracts more than 300,000 city dwellers to Lafayette’s small downtown core, thanks to headlining acts playing Delta-centric music genres ranging from zydeco to blues. Admission is free—and if you take the Amtrak train (a roughly $20 ticket) to Lafayette, you don’t have to worry about parking (or finding a designated driver).

5. New Iberia

New Iberia, LA 70563

A little over two hours from New Orleans, New Iberia’s Main Street showcases the art deco Evangeline Theater. Visit Shadows-on-the-Teche, a 3,750 square-foot historic house and garden. You'll also can’t miss Avery Island, the salt dome that is home to the Tabasco hot sauce factory, the tropical Jungle Gardens, and the Bird City wildfowl sanctuary.

6. Natchez, Mississippi

Mississippi 39120
A large white house with columns on the front facade. There are trees and a lawn in front of the house. Visit Mississippi

Unscathed by the Civil War, Natchez is the place to go if you want to gape at antebellum architecture or visit indigenous tribal grounds of the Natchez Indians; or the Natchez National Cemetery. You’ll also find the Natchez booze trinity of Old South Winery, Charboneau Rum distillery, and Natchez Brewing Company. Known as the Biscuit Capital of the World, Natchez is a little less than three hours from New Orleans.

7. St. Francisville

Louisiana 70775

St. Francisville is the heart of plantation country; the haunted Myrtles Plantation is located here. Oakley Plantation, which is within the Audubon State Historic Site, and Rosedown Plantation are two more to check out. If you're the outdoors type, nearby Tunica Hills offers camping, hiking, and bird-watching. St. Francisville is a little under two hours from New Orleans.

8. Ponchatoula

Louisiana 70454
A street in Ponchatoula with a row of houses. Shawn Dubin

Perhaps most well-known for the annual Louisiana Strawberry Festival, Ponchatoula has small-town charm year-round. About an hour drive from New Orleans, the main downtown strip here has cute boutiques, antiques shops, and stores selling an astounding variety of strawberry food items (plus meat pies, crawfish bread, and your typical Louisiana road-trip food finds).

9. Franklinton

Franklinton, LA 70438

About an hour and a half north of New Orleans, you’ll find this charming town near the Bogue Chitto River. In October, Franklinton holds one of the longest-running fairs in the state. And if you’re looking for a day in nature (or tubing), it’s only seven miles from the Bogue Chitto State Park. 

The town also features the Da Varnado Store Museum, which has a selection of rotating, community-centered exhibits.

10. Abita Springs

Louisiana

Abita Springs, less than an hour from New Orleans, boasts of one Louisiana's most famous roadside attractions: The Abita Mystery house, a gas station-turned-folk-museum housing a jam-packed collection of art, memorabilia, "pure junk," and other curiosities. It’s a short drive away is the Abita brewery, where you can take a guided tour with free 4-ounce tastings or buy a pint in the Tap Room. Neighboring Covington has a historic downtown area with cafes, charming shops, and art galleries.

11. Poplarville, Mississippi

Poplarville, MS 39470

One of the most “Poplar” choices, this small city hosts the annual Blueberry Jubilee, an arts and craft fair that happens on the second Saturday of every June. Poplarville is home to the oldest community college in Mississippi. The city also holds a farmers market on the first and third Thursday every month between May and October.

12. Biloxi

Biloxi, MS
In the foreground is a lighthouse. In the distance is a house surrounded by trees. Shutterstock

Many visitors to New Orleans are disheartened when they find out Louisiana’s coastline is comprised of swamps and muddy wetlands—with nary a beach in sight. Although Biloxi’s sand beaches are more beige than white, they’re only an hour and a half from New Orleans. They’re also lined with casinos, plantations, and museums. But Biloxi’s best attraction, Ship Island, is actually 11 miles off its coast. Grab a ticket for the ferry, enjoy the sea breezes, and spend the day lounging on this undeveloped barrier island’s pristine beaches.

13. Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Mississippi 39564

The artsy Mississippi town, less than a two-hour drive from New Orleans, is home to the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, featuring the painter's colorful, folksy murals. The nearby Ocean Springs Community Center is home to Anderson's largest mural. Explore the Charnley-Norwood House, the summer cottage designed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, which is open for public tours. The Crooked Letter Brewing Company offers tours, with samples, on Saturdays. The Greenhouse On Porter is a whimsical coffee shop with seating inside a greenhouse, high-quality coffee, and homemade biscuits.

14. Fairhope, Alabama

Alabama 36532
In the foreground is an ocean. There is a pier that stretches out into the distance. It is sunset and the sky is purple, orange, and blue. Shutterstock

The picture-perfect Alabama town on the Eastern shore of Mobile Bay is about two-and-a-half hours from New Orleans. Anchored by an adorable downtown area, Fairhope Avenue is the main drag with shopping and restaurants. There also are beaches and a municipal pier. The Fairhope Brewing Company offers tours every Saturday. There are plenty of cute bed-and-breakfasts in town; for a fancier option, the nearby Grand Hotel Marriott Resort is gorgeous.