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While New Orleans is a favorite destination for many reasons, its coastal location makes it a great starting point for southern road trips as well.
If you’re planning a trip to New Orleans, consider adding a visit to one of these 11 nearby destinations to your itinerary. Doing so will give you a look at other areas and regions of the South, some of which offer a night-and-day difference from New Orleans.
From coastal towns to historic cities and major metropolises, the Big Easy is surprisingly close to a number of fascinating destinations that are well worth a visit. Here are 11 spots that make perfect weekend road trips from NOLA.
1. Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Photo: Sharon Ball
Baton Rouge, the capital of New Orleans, offers history in spades, plus a taste of the Cajun and Creole cultures that the state is famous for. Make sure to visit the Capitol Park Museum for an in-depth look at all things Louisiana.
Also, don’t miss a stop by the Louisiana Old State Capitol, which just so happens to be free to visit. For even more history, try Magnolia Mound Plantation, built in 1791, or Louisiana State University’s Rural Life Museum.
- Distance: 81 miles
- Drive time without stops: 1 hours 16 minutes
Related read: 12 Quaint Cottagecore House Rentals Across the U.S.
2. Lafayette, Louisiana
- Photo: Sittichai Sukreep
You have to go through Baton Rouge to get to Lafayette from New Orleans, so you can easily create a longer road trip and hit both of these destinations at once. In Lafayette, you’ll find Cajun culture galore, like the historic Olde Tyme Grocery, which serves up award-winning po’boy and fried catfish sandwiches.
You can also learn about the city and state’s Cajun connections with a visit to the LARC Acadian Village, a living history museum that replicates Cajun life in the 1800s, or at the Acadian Cultural Center, a museum that focuses on Cajun history. If you’re traveling with the kiddos, make sure to plan stops at the Children’s Museum of Acadiana and the Lafayette Science Museum.
- Distance: 135 miles
- Drive time without stops: 2 hours 8 minutes
Related read: The 8 Best Texas Lake Camping Destinations
3. Gulfport, Mississippi
- Photo: Alex Grichenko
If you visited New Orleans with the expectation that there would be some sort of beach (seeing as the city is technically on the Gulf of Mexico) you were likely sorely disappointed. However, you can find beautiful Gulf beaches nearby with ease if you take a little road trip east to Gulfport, Mississippi.
In addition to the beaches, there are fishing charters, kayaking tours, and more golf courses than you can count. Plus, the pace will be much slower and quieter than the Crescent City, making Gulfport a great way to unwind after a big New Orleans vacation.
- Distance: 78 miles
- Drive time without stops: 1 hours 18 minutes
Related read: 12 Scenic Weekend Road Trips from Memphis, Tennessee
4. Biloxi, Mississippi
- Photo: Terry Kelly
Just past Gulfport is Biloxi, so you could easily combine the two during your road trip from New Orleans. Biloxi has a casino scene, with several options (including a Hard Rock outpost). There’s also the beach, of course, as well as a few other possibly unexpected attractions that you might want to add to your itinerary.
The Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum preserves the heritage and history of the Gulf’s vital seafood industry, while the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art displays an impressive array of artwork, including ceramics and pottery from the museum’s namesake, George Ohr. Plus, the museum’s physical structure is absolutely stunning thanks to its design by world-famous architect, Frank Gehry.
- Distance: 90 miles
- Drive time without stops: 1 hours 25 minutes
Related read: 9 Free Things to Do in New Orleans, Louisiana
5. Mobile, Alabama
- Photo: Christian Hinkle
Drive from New Orleans, all the way across the state of Mississippi, and you’ll end up in Mobile, Alabama. You’ll have no trouble filling your itinerary with a wealth of museums and historic attractions here. There’s the History Museum of Mobile (which stretches across three buildings), the Gulf Quest National Maritime Museum, and the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial, just to name a few.
But not every attraction is focused on maritime heritage or the Gulf Coast. You’ll also find an 18th-century cathedral, the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception; a science museum, the Exploreum Science Center; and the Mobile Carnival Museum, which is dedicated to all things Mardi Gras.
- Distance: 144 miles
- Drive time without stops: 2 hours 7 minutes
Related read: What to See & Do on a Nashville to Gatlinburg Road Trip
6. Pensacola and Pensacola Beach, Florida
- Photo: Mason B.
Drive even further east, through Mobile, Alabama, and you’ll reach Pensacola and Pensacola Beach, Florida. There, you’ll find plenty to do in both cities, but you’ve got to start with the gorgeous white sand beaches. Further outdoor explorations can be enjoyed on the Pensacola Beach Eco-Trail, as well as exploring the broader Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Check out the Pensacola Beach Pier and Pensacola Beach Boardwalk before traveling inland a bit to see what awaits in neighboring Pensacola. The city boasts a bevy of museums, including the Pensacola Museum of Art, the Pensacola Museum of History, and the Pensacola Lighthouse and Maritime Museum.
- Distance: 201 miles
- Drive time without stops: 2 hours 58 minutes
7. Jackson, Mississippi
- Photo: Sean Pavone
If you’re not stuck on the idea of visiting one of the many nearby Gulf beach towns, you can head further inland for visits to destinations like Jackson, Mississippi. Jackson is the capital of the state and, as such, offers a handful of family-friendly cultural attractions that are worth a visit.
Try the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Mississippi Museum of Art, Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, or the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum. The kiddos will love the Mississippi Children’s Museum. Those looking for outdoor fun will find it at the nearby LeFleur’s Bluff State Park.
- Distance: 186 miles
- Drive time without stops: 2 hours 45 minutes
8. Vicksburg, Mississippi
- Photo: Sabrina Janelle Gordon
Not too far from Jackson, Mississippi, Vicksburg is a must-visit for those interested in the area’s Civil War history. Top sites include Vicksburg National Military Park and the USS Cairo Museum to see the restored 1861 Union warship that traveled down the Mississippi River and helped the Noth win numerous battles. Civil War artifacts are also on display at the Old Court House Museum.
If you get hungry during your visit, be sure to check out 10 South, a rooftop restaurant and bar that offers stunning views of the city’s historic downtown and the Mississippi River.
- Distance: 207 miles
- Drive time without stops: 3 hours 15 minutes
9. Houston, Texas
- Photo: Shutterstock
If you don’t mind a longer drive, you can reach even more unique southern destinations, like Houston. While the journey will take almost six hours, the city is well worth a visit if you’ve never been.
Houston is one of America’s most diverse cities, and its eclectic and varied dining scene proves it. From sushi to Ethiopian wot, Houston is a foodie’s dream come true. It’s also home to a whopping 19 museums in the walkable Museum District.
- Distance: 348 miles
- Drive time without stops: 5 hours 15 minutes
10. Shreveport, Louisiana
- Photo: Sean Pavone
Similarly, if you don’t mind a longer drive, you can travel the length of Louisiana and head up to the northernmost reaches of the state – Shreveport. While you won’t get the airport connectivity you would in Houston, this route allows you to really see all of Louisiana.
Shreveport is known for its riverfront casino district which includes a Bally’s, Horseshoe, Sam’s Town, Margaritaville, and more. And all that tourism has attracted a new wave of development, including a riverfront mall, an aquarium, and more.
- Distance: 314 miles
- Drive time without stops: 4 hours 53 minutes
11. Montgomery, Alabama
- Photo: Sean Pavone
About four-and-a-half hours away is Montgomery, Alabama, the state’s capital. This is an amazing destination to visit if you’re interested in learning more about the American Civil Rights movement. Can’t-miss spots include Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist, the Civil Rights Memorial, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and The Legacy Museum.
A must-do when visiting Montgomery is attending a service at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist church – where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached. While you can take a tour, it’s still an active church, and attending a sermon there is an experience like no other.
- Distance: 309 miles
- Drive time without stops: 4 hours 28 minutes
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The Louisiana Byway Program
Beyond planning a road trip from New Orleans to a certain destination throughout the South, you can also choose to take a road trip along one of Louisiana’s byways. The state’s byway program encompasses nearly 20 different routes.
Some are fairly short (less than 50 miles), while others are hundreds of miles long. Depending on your travel interests and how much time you have, you can pick the best byway route for you.
As an example, the Southern Swamp Byway is 69 miles and it’s recommended you travel it in about a day. The southeastern route takes you through bayous, marshes, and wetlands, as you explore wildlife, history, and great dining options.
Other byways focus on Cajun culture and cuisine, some focus on Cajun music, and others focus on Louisiana’s various industries, including lumber and oil.
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