There’s a reason the city of New Orleans is a bucket list destination for many people visiting the United States. Situated on the banks of the mighty Mississippi, the ‘Big Easy’ is known for its rich cultural heritage, vibrant music scene and incredible local cuisine – and you can experience it all as part of our Jazzy Jambalaya Adventure self drive.
From its origins as both a French and Spanish colony, New Orleans has always been a melting pot of different cultures, something which you can clearly see in the unique mixture of architecture that helps define this incredible city. It’s also a very good starting point for an extended self drive around the Southern cities and states that surround Louisiana and beyond.
This region of the United States is famous for the bittersweet beauty of Antebellum mansions and plantation estates, each of which offers a fascinating insight into the history of the Civil Rights movement. There’ll also be plenty of opportunities to sample the delights of local Cajun and Creole home cooking as you pass through vibrant cities and quaint river towns along the way.
- Enjoy the eclectic sights and sounds of New Orleans, a city known for its carnival atmosphere, riverboats and jazz heritage
- Visit Antebellum period mansions and plantations as you travel between iconic Southern cities throughout Louisiana
- Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of Cajun and Creole culture and cuisine
- Learn more about Louisiana’s pivotal role in both the American Civil War and Civil Rights movement
Start your Journey
Arriving at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, you’ll head directly to pick up your hire car before checking in to your hotel. You’ll then have the rest of the afternoon and evening free to explore the city at your own pace – and the second day too.
Grab a bite to eat at a traditional Creole restaurant, where you can tuck into a huge plate of gumbo, crawfish etouffee or jambalaya and experience Southern hospitality at its finest. We also recommend taking a steamboat tour of the surrounding bayou and swampland, a perfect chance to see another side of this incredible city.
The vibrant French Quarter district is famous for its streets filled with jazz bars and traditional cast iron balconies; an inimitable sign of a world gone by. Venues like Tipitina’s and Maple Leaf are also held in high regard by locals and tourist alike. Or, if you’re a keen sports fan, there’s always a chance that local NBA team New Orleans Pelicans will playing a home game at the Smoothie King Center, conveniently located in the city’s Central Business District. There’s certainly no shortage of amazing things to do, so choose wisely!
From New Orleans, you’ll hit the road straight to the nearby state capital of Baton Rouge, a city famed for its iconic plantation estates and rich historical heritage. Take time to visit the city’s most famous estate, Nottoway Plantation, where you can relive the turbulent history of the Civil Rights movement against the backdrop of the largest Antebellum mansion in the Southern states. Now doubling as a guesthouse and hotel, this iconic location is where you’ll spend your night in Baton Rouge, availability permitting.
It’s worth taking a short drive into the city centre for a delicious lunch and to browse the local shops before heading over to the Old Louisiana State Capital building, now converted into a political history museum. Like New Orleans, Baton Rouge also boasts a vibrant nightlife scene and is renowned for its free outdoor concerts that take place at various times throughout the year. Make sure to check the calendar to see what’s on during your stay here.
After a good night’s sleep in Baton Rouge, it’s back on the road as you cross the state border into Mississippi before arriving at Natchez, the state’s oldest settlement. The journey along the Trace Parkway is an amazing experience in itself, a beautiful route which has evolved over centuries from a humble Indian trail into an interstate highway. You’ll also have the opportunity to stop at St. Francisville along the way for something to eat or a stroll around one of the town’s breathtaking parks, or even another of the nearby plantation estates.
Having arrived in the charming river town of Natchez, you’ll have plenty of time to check into your guesthouse before heading back out to explore the many Antebellum mansions and public buildings that this town is known for.
From Natchez, it’s an hour-long drive north to Vicksburg, another historic city that blends Southern culture and heritage with exciting modern-day attractions. Known for its pivotal role in the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln once described Vicksburg as the ‘Key to the South’, a good indication of the city’s historical importance.
Vicksburg houses over 1,300 monuments, markers and plaques that commemorate the 30,000 lives lost during the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863 – most of which are located at the National Military Park. Beyond its storied history, you’ll also be able to enjoy a delicious meal here at one of the city’s renowned local restaurants before turning in for a well-deserved rest at your hotel for the night.
It’s time to circle back into Louisiana as you make your way to Natchitoches, a small city that boasts some of the best examples of French Creole architecture that you’ll see anywhere in Louisiana. It’s well worth a trip to the National Historic Landmark District to explore streets lined with traditional townhouses and general stores.
Natchitoches is also famous for its own brand of meat pie, so make sure to order yourself a slice or two during your stay in the city.
The road to Lafayette is a beautiful route and offers plenty of worthwhile stops at the towns of Alexandria, Ville Platte and Opelousas before arriving into the heart of Cajun country. Having dropped off your bags in Lafayette, take some time to explore the city and visit the plethora of fascinating museums and galleries on offer in the downtown district, not forgetting the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist along the way.
By this point you’ll soon start to recognise the laid back attitude, wonderful food and entertainment culture that defines life in Louisiana. Unlike Creole cuisine, true Cajun food doesn’t rely so heavily on tomato-based dishes, instead opting for a stronger focus on dry seasonings such as cayenne pepper and garlic. There’s no better place than Lafayette to spend time sampling different foods and discerning the subtle differences in taste.
Return to New Orleans
It’s just a short drive to the outskirts of Lafayette to the famous salt domes of Avery Island. This area is also famous for being the birthplace of Tabasco hot sauce, first produced by the McIlhenny family back in 1868. You’ll be able to take a quick tour of the factory before heading back on the road towards New Orleans.
We recommend an early start for those who want to stop at Morgan Island or Houma for a final riverboat tour around the surrounding bayou and swampland, spotting alligators and other exotic wildlife along the way. Either way, you’ll enjoy yet another scenic route down towards New Orleans. Check in for your final night’s stay and enjoy one more evening in the Big Easy before hitting the hay ahead of your departure the following day.
Departure from Louis Armstrong International Airport
After an unforgettable nine days discovering Louisiana and Mississippi, you may decide to take things easy on your final day in New Orleans. All that’s left to do is returning your rental car before a quick transfer back to Louis Armstrong International Airport to catch your flight home – and discuss when you’ll be returning to this amazing region of the United States.
- International flights and airfare taxes
- Cost of accommodation (double room based on two people sharing) for a total of 8 nights (alternative but similar accommodation may be used at certain times of the year)
- Board basis: Room Only
- Car hire and insurance
- Visa arrangements and fees
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses, such as beverages, telephone calls, laundry, camera fees, spa and business facilities in the hotel
- Attractions and excursions
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