Best Weekend Getaways from New Orleans
For many, New Orleans is the destination, but if you call the city of bon temps home, it’s likely you’re looking for a change of scenery—especially after months of sheltering in place. The good news: You don’t have to travel far on the I-10 (in either direction) to find somewhere worth parking up for the weekend. From less-frequented towns in the Deep South to waterside cities on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, we’ve mapped out the best weekend getaways from New Orleans.
Drive time from New Orleans: 2 hours / 135 miles (217 kilometers)
Food is at the heart of any weekend trip to Lafayette—it is the capital of Acadiana, or Cajun Country, after all. Gumbo, crawfish by the pound, boudin, and étouffée (a spicy seafood stew) are just a handful of dishes you won’t want to skip over on the menu. Plan to hit Prejean’s for their crawfish enchiladas, Old Tyme Grocery for their po’boys, Johnson's Boucaniere for their boudin, and Blue Dog Café for their signature dish: Treasures of the Bayou. And come Saturday morning, drive to Buck and Johnny’s in neighboring Breaux Bridge for a zydeco breakfast; a local tradition that pairs Southern brunch fare with live music and dancing. Food aside, plan to visit Vermilionville Historic Village and take a swamp tour on Lake Martin.
Pro tip: Plan your weekend getaway from New Orleans to coincide with September’s Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, a 3-day celebration of music, crafts, and food.
Drive time from New Orleans: 2 hours / 145 miles (233 kilometers)
You’d be forgiven for thinking New Orleans is the birthplace of Mardi Gras—after all, it’s as synonymous with the Big Easy as jazz and beignets. But the carnival’s North American roots were laid two hours east, in Mobile, more than a decade before the first NOLA parade. Unsurprisingly, the best time to visit this Alabama port city is around Fat Tuesday, when the Mardi Gras celebrations are in full swing. Though you’ll have the opportunity to learn about Mobile’s Mardi Gras history year-round at the Mobile Carnival Museum. Beyond Mardi Gras, add the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, a food tour of Mobile’s LoDa neighborhood, and a Mobile-Tensaw Delta wildlife kayaking trip to your weekend itinerary.
Editor’s note: Mobile’s 2021 Mardi Gras celebrations are still expected to go ahead, with increased health and safety measures in place.
Drive time from New Orleans: 2.5 hours / 160 miles (257 kilometers)
You’re never far from the water in the pretty city of Fairhope, which overlooks Mobile Bay on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. If that isn’t reason enough to pack your bags for a weekend getaway from New Orleans; historic buildings, streets lined with Spanish moss–strewn oak trees, and a quaint but lively downtown are there to sweeten the deal. Shop and listen to live music in the French Quarter, sip craft beer at Fairhope Brewing Company, and work your way through the restaurants downtown. If you’re looking to get outdoors, options include horseback riding at Oak Hollow Farm, fishing or crabbing off Fairhope Municipal Pier, and Alabama Eastern Shore Trail, which is a popular route for runners and cyclists.
Walking Food Tour durch die Innenstadt von Fairhope
Drive time from New Orleans: 3 hours / 170 miles (274 kilometers)
This southern belle on the banks of the Mississippi has all the trappings of a small town in the Deep South: a long history, friendly locals, and a main drag where you can find everything from antique stores to cafes specializing in biscuits. Tour Natchez’s historic buildings; more than 1,000 of them feature on the National Register of Historic Places, including Auburn Museum & Historic Home, Stanton Hall, and True Blood–featured Longwood. Get an important history lesson on slavery and the Black experience in the southern US at the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture. And visit the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, which was constructed in 1200 AD. You’ll also want to make time to check out St. Mary’s Basilica, and taste locally made tipples at Natchez Brewing Company, Old South Winery, and Charboneau Distillery.
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Drive time from New Orleans: 3 hours / 200 miles (322 kilometers)
A weekend in Lake Charles typically revolves around getting out on the water, whether that’s kayaking through swampland; searching for alligators by airboat; or fishing on the lake, out at sea, or in the bayous. But there’s more to this Louisiana lakeside destination than watery pursuits. The 40-block Charpentier District, which features historic buildings replete with turrets, gables, stained glass, and gingerbread trim, makes for a charming walk, drive, or carriage ride. The Cottage Shops Cultural District is where you’ll find eclectic stores offering sweet treats, clothing, home decor, and locally crafted tidbits. For those interested in the area’s history, there’s a handful of museums in and around Lake Charles, including the Mardi Gras Museum and the USS Orleck Naval Museum. One final item for your weekend itinerary: filling up on Cajun and Creole cuisine. There’s even a Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail for lovers of the spicy Cajun sausage.