When we talk about the “Deep South” of America, Louisiana is one of the first states that springs to mind. The Pelican State – as it’s officially known – is right in the heart of this region, with the Gulf of Mexico to its south, Texas to its west, and Arkansas to its north. Although it is a veritable melting pot of cultures, bringing together French, Spanish, Saint Dominican and African communities, there is a sense that this part of the States gets overlooked frequently among travellers.
Louisiana has long held a reputation for being one of the less impressive states in the US. Nevertheless, there are signs that this multicultural land is demonstrating signs of life. There is ambition among the state’s legislature to generate new income streams so that its economy can better support its people.
The US iGaming industry is one of the most dynamic in the country right now. The repeal of PASPA has enabled individual states to legalize and regulate their own gaming markets. Louisiana followed suit by voting to legalize online sports betting, with its launch earlier this year raking in $16.7m in revenue during the first month alone. Although the Bayou State is yet to legalize online poker and casino games, its lawmakers will be watching the success of its newly regulated sports betting market with interest. There are plenty of US states that now offer all three forms of iGaming, with operators providing new customers with the opportunity to sample their latest games for free in order to get Americans through the door and demonstrate exactly what the industry now has to offer.
That doesn’t mean the way of life in Louisiana wasn’t fascinating in years gone by – far from it, in fact. The Pelican State is an undeniably unique part of the United States – the birthplace of the Pilgrim Fathers; the home of the Creoles; the heart of America’s soul food scene; and so much more. The time to stop overlooking Louisiana is now. Below, we’ve put together some handy hints and tips on everything from Cajun country and the capital, Baton Rouge, through to plantation areas.
The city of New Orleans is one of the jewels in Louisiana’s crown. Positioned to the south-east of the iconic Mississippi River, this city lives and breathes music and food. The French Quarter is one of the most vibrant areas when the sun goes down. Bourbon Street, however, is the most popular district for live music, and you can delve down the neighboring side streets to get a more authentic feel for the sights and sounds of the city.
Within an hour’s drive of New Orleans, you can also explore Louisiana’s most historic plantations. Houmas House was said to have been established in the late 18th century, while Oak Alley is another opportunity to experience sugarcane plantation life from the early 19th century.
Head north-west out of New Orleans for a couple of hours and you’ll reach Louisiana’s proud capital city of Baton Rouge. Those fascinated by historic architecture will enjoy the chance to explore Baton Rouge’s many magnificent buildings inspired by Renaissance, Art Deco and Neo-Gothic eras.
It’s by no means as “buzzy” as a trip to New Orleans. Despite it being the state’s capital and one of Louisiana’s most influential commercial ports, Baton Rouge has managed to retain a sense of calm. You’ll also come across a string of museums celebrating pre-industrial life in Louisiana, like the LSU Rural Life Museum. Meanwhile, the imposing Old State Capitol is well worth a visit too.
Louisiana’s Cajun country runs all the way along the base of the state from east (Houma) to west (Lafayette). Cajun country also expands into the state of Texas. If you are an intrepid traveller that enjoys exploring off the beaten track of major towns and cities, this will tick all the right boxes for you. It’s the area which welcomed Acadia’s French colonists, who lived in relative isolation until the state’s mass development in the era post-1945.
Its roots live on through the plentiful Cajun festivals found across this region. If you’re a fanatical foodie, head down to Washington for the Catfish Festival and the chance to witness and taste some amazing cook-offs. Sticking with the seafood theme, there’s also the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, which even hosts crawfish-eating competitions among locals and tourists alike. In Lafayette, there’s also Festivals Acadiens et Creoles, which is a three-day event celebrating Cajun, Zydeco and French music and cuisines.
Despite being regularly overlooked for its more glamorous counterparts, Louisiana is a culture of its own making – and well worth a visit.