Louisiana is one of the most romanticized and idealized states in the U.S., admired for its distinct history, heritage, and character. The culture of Louisiana is unlike any other in the nation – a mixture of Hispanic, Louisiana Creole, and French-speaking Cajun, along with a touch of British, German, Irish, and American. Add to the mix Louisiana’s southern hospitality and graciousness and you get a state as unique and colorful as they come.
Louisiana has often been described as Bayou Country because it is filled with bayous along its Mississippi River delta. These are rivers or creeks in low-lying regions that have streams moving at slow velocities. The bayous in Louisiana also overhang with oak and moss and teem with shellfish, crawfish, shrimp, and catfish, which together comprise the cornerstone meats of Louisiana’s celebrated Cajun and Creole dishes. Along the banks of its bayous, many of the state’s residents fish, trap, and farm.
Louisiana is divided into several tourist regions: Greater New Orleans, Cajun Country, Plantation Country, the Crossroads, and Sportsman’s Paradise. Greater New Orleans in the southeast is the region of New Orleans and its metropolitan and suburban stretch. This area is famed for Louisiana’s largest city, the headquarters of Dixieland Jazz, romantic French architecture, sumptuous cuisine, and hedonistic nightlife. Cajun Country in the south is full of bayous and swamps and the region is centered around Lafayette, the heartland of the Cajuns. Cajun dancing, music, and food is the way of life in Cajun Country, but you can also enjoy scenic hikes along trails like the Creole Nature Trail in Lake Charles that bloom with colorful wild flowers. In Plantation Country in the southwest, you can tour the old plantations and also engage in some fishing and hunting. The Crossroads in the central region of Louisiana hosts numerous festivals like the Zwolle Tamale Festival in October. You can join in on the dancing, parades, crafts, and concerts of these festivals and also observe the Native American and Spanish cultures evident in this region. Sportman’s Paradise in the north is the setting of numerous lakes, including the Toledo Bend Lake and the Caddo Lake. Outdoor activities, chief among them sport fishing and hunting, is popular in this region as is gambling at the casinos in Shreveport and Bossier City.
Louisiana’s climate is semi-tropical and humid. During the late summer months of August, the heat can be extreme. And from August until late Fall, the state is soaked in rain and wind during hurricane season. The winter and spring months, however, offer perfect weather.
Much of Louisiana’s appeal comes from its rich cultural history. Louisiana has long been inhabited by various Native American tribes like the Houma, Coushatta, Chitimacha, and Choctaw, among others. The first Europeans to discover the region was Hernando de Soto when sailed up the Mississippi River in 1541. The Spanish brought disease to the Native population, which killed many of them. Although the Spanish explored the area, they did not initially colonize it. In 1682, the French led by explorer La Salle arrived onto the scene, claiming Louisiana on behalf of France. A French settlement was established in nearby Mississippi in 1699, which expanded all the way to New Orleans by 1718. Louisiana remained a French colony for the next 50 years. In 1755, the colony saw an influx of French Canadians from Acadia (present-day Nova Scotia), today known as “Cajuns”. They were forced by the British to relocate after the English defeated France and assumed control of Acadia. In 1763, the French traded Louisiana to the Spanish, which triggered mild immigration from Spanish-speaking migrants from Texas, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. In 1800, the French reacquired Louisiana and then sold it shortly afterwards to the Americans in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. By 1812, Louisiana was admitted as a state. Today, the mixture of Cajuns, French, and the Creoles, which are people of mixed race whether French, Spanish, Black, Native American, gives Louisiana a dynamic set of cultures not found in any other state.
Today, Louisiana is one of the major tourist states in the U.S. Its mixed cultures, rich seafood cuisines, and French-style architecture of port coheres and wrought-iron balconies provides a charming and romantic escape from the duller states of America. Louisiana is also renowned for its Dixieland Jazz and its crazy nightlife, epitomized by the wild partying that goes on during Mardi Gras.
But for the tamer traveler, Louisiana boasts several museums and art galleries that celebrate the state’s history as well as its achievements in the arts, music, and literature. The bulk of the acclaimed museums are in New Orleans such as the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Cabildo, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. You’ll also find other historic and cultural sights in other parts of the state, including the North Louisiana Military Museum in Ruston, the Opelousas Museum of Art in Opelousas, the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge, and the Delta Music Museum in Ferriday, which pays tribute to the musical talents of the state’s northwest.
Louisiana also offers outdoor attractions for the adventurous, hence its nickname “Sportsman’s Paradise”. Its wetlands and backwoods are filled with wildlife resulting in a hunting season that lasts for eight months. In fact, Louisiana has the largest game preserves in the country. It is also a bird-watcher’s paradise; its Wetland Birding Trail encompasses more than 100 birding sites along its Gulf Coast region, which harbors rare and even endangered species in its habitat of hills, prairies, meadows, pines, hardwood forests, swamps, and freshwater marshes. And with about 20 State Parks, you’ll find year-round locations where you can fish, hike, mountain bike, and camp.