Last month, the Lafayette Convention & Visitors Commission (LCVC) held a membership luncheon that landed not-so-coincidentally in the middle of National Travel & Tourism Week. The featured speaker, Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, kept his comments brief, but they resonated deeply: Louisiana is “on fire,” he said, referencing success stories like Lafayette’s title of Tastiest Town and the continued success of Festival International. However, not all states have been as fortunate as Louisiana economically. And while the numbers won’t be in for a while, that could spell trouble for the Louisiana tourism industry at large. That’s when it dawned on us: It’s easy to show Louisiana tourism support because there’s just so much to explore right here in our own backyards. From culture and cuisine, to festivals and fishing, there’s so much variety from parish to parish — so much of which is well within driving distance. We’ve compiled a few of our favorite getaways below, but encourage you to visit www.lafayettetravel.com for an even more comprehensive list. So this summer, consider exploring Louisiana. You really never know what you’re going to find until you do a little exploring. TUNICA HILLS, OUTSIDE ST. FRANCISVILLE, LA Rolling hills? In Louisiana? Located about an hour northwest of Baton Rouge, Tunica Hills houses some 5,906 acres of bluffs, ravines and species of plants and animals not found elsewhere in Louisiana. Hikers, hunters, bicyclists, birdwatchers, photographers — all of the above, really — are advised to check out this unique destination if you’re in the St. Francisville area.
THE MYRTLES, ST. FRANCISVILLE, LA The best scary movies always take place in a sleepy town. It’s kind of a rule. And tucked away in St. Francisville, a lovely, shady town dotted with B&Bs and cottages, stands the stately Myrtles Plantation. With a sometimes bloody history tracing back to 1796, the Myrtles is considered by many to be among the most haunted homes in America, with numerous accounts of ghost sightings (and sounds) over the years. As BBR’s own Rodney Hess puts it, “While my own belief in ghosts is practically nonexistent, this place never fails to bring out the heebies and the jeebies. I did my seventh grade social studies project on this plantation and even captured a photo of what many believe to be a legit ghost.” You be the judge. JOCKEY LOT FLEA MARKET, LAFAYETTE, LA Dubbed “South Louisiana’s Finest Open Air Market,” Lafayette’s Jockey Lot Flea Market features more than 500 booths of antiques, records, woodworks, games and so much more. The offerings are varied and plentiful, and with an impossible-to-miss location just off I-49 one mile north of I-10, the Jockey Lot is a perfect, quick weekend excursion. TIKI TUBING, OUTSIDE DENHAM SPRINGS, LA A three-hour relaxation session meandering down the Amite River, Tiki Tubing has become a popular attraction for the young and young at heart. You’ll be surprised at the power of some “floating time,” where you are forced to sit back, soak up the Louisiana summer heat and cherish the company of your friends and family in a nice, cool river. It’s quite possibly the most enjoyable way to lose a pair of expensive sunglasses. AVERY ISLAND, NEW IBERIA, LA It’s always exciting to introduce Louisiana to guests, especially if they’re visiting for the first time. With its beautiful gardens and expansive bird sanctuary — and with the scents and history of Tabasco at the center of it all — Avery Island is a great standby in lieu of the latest festival du jour. The drive is not too long and there’s just enough to do to keep the kids interested. GRAND ISLE, LA Grand Isle, Louisiana’s only inhabited barrier island, is a saltwater sportsman’s paradise, where redfish, speckled trout, sheepshead and you-name-its school in abundance. Even the unluckiest of fishermen should consider planning a trip to Grand Isle, where the fishing is frenzied, even off the dock, the smell of crab boil fills the air, and bait and tackle shops dot every corner. Plus with lovely beaches and lively birds to watch, Grand Isle also makes a great relaxation destination. For more ideas, visit www.louisianatravel.com.