Between Louisiana’s five amazing national parks, there’s no shortage of things to do. Get ready to discover more than you ever thought possible at the Jean Lafitte, New Orleans Jazz, Cane River Creole, Vicksburg, and Poverty Point parks.
The state of
Louisiana is rich in heritage. From the explosive jazz scene of New Orleans to the palimpsest left behind at Cane River, it’s as fertile to the imagination as the swamps and backwaters of the bayou. Through these national parks, you can follow every one of Louisiana’s musical, cultural, historical, and natural threads to a new adventure.
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Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve
Location: Marrero, LA 70072
Hours of operation: 24 hours a day. Facility hours vary, with many closed on holidays.
Admission price: Free. Fees may apply to some park programs.
What makes Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve special
Spanning over 26,000 acres, the six sites that collectively make up the
Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve celebrate the land and people that make up the Mississippi River Delta. That includes the history and contemporary customs of the Acadians, who became Louisiana's modern-day Cajun population.
The eponymous Jean Lafitte was a French pirate turned American defender in the war against the British. And the park named in his honor preserves some of Louisiana's most valuable natural, cultural, and historical treasures.
What to do in Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve
Barataria Preserve: Accounting for the majority of the park's land, this site marks the headquarters of Lafitte's navy in Mattero. Visitors can enjoy hiking, fishing, picnicking, boat tours, and more across miles of trails through forests, marshes, swamps, and bayous. The visitor center and education center offer films, exhibits, and daily ranger programs, as well.
Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery: Located at the site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans (where General Andrew Jackson defeated the British), this park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visit a sprawling cemetery of America's war heroes (from 1812 to Vietnam), a 100-foot-tall monument, reconstructed battle ramparts, and an 1830’s house for a self-guided tour. Films, exhibits, and ranger talks can be found at the visitor center.
Acadian Cultural Center: Located in Lafayette, the site tells the story of how the Acadian people came to be Louisiana's Cajun population through exhibits, ranger programs, and an award-winning film.
Prairie Acadian Cultural Center: Not all of the Acadian exiles from Nova Scotia settled in the bayou. The ones on the prairie took on Cajun, Creole, and cowboy influences, as told through the cooking, crafts, music, and dance demonstrated at the center in Eunice.
Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center: The site in Thibodaux reflects the importance of water to the Cajun way of life with historic walking tours, boat tours, musical performances on the bayou, summer camps, and more.
French Quarter Visitor Center: At the heart of New Orleans, this site pays tribute to the area's culturally diverse customs, cuisine, architecture, and more through exhibits and films.
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When to visit Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve
The months of February to May play host to New Orleans' raucous festivals, including Mardi Gras. Tourists interested in a more sedate experience should plan to visit in December or January.
For rural sites, note that humidity in the summer months can push 90% on top of sweltering highs of up to 89°F, making intensive physical activities dangerous. Be sure to hydrate well and rest often. And if you opt to visit in the fall, hurricanes could potentially interrupt your plans.
Pro Tip The New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park has temporarily set up operations in the French Quarter Visitor Center, making it possible to hit two of these great parks in one visit!
New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
Location: (Formerly) 400 Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70116; (Temporarily) 419 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA 70130
Hours of operation: 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM from Tuesday to Saturday
Admission price: Free. Fees may apply to some park programs.
What makes the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park special
Created in 1994 to celebrate America's most widely-recognized form of indigenous music, the
New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park celebrates the evolution and continuation of jazz in all its forms. Through teaching, inspiring, and playing, the center continues its musical legacy with as much passion as the art form it preserves.
What to do in New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
Note that the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park has temporarily moved to the French Quarter Visitor Center of Jean Lafitte National Park.
You can catch New Orleans jazz talks, performances, and other programs at the park’s temporary location. Hopefully, the Jazz Park can soon return to its original site, which includes Perseverance Hall No. 4, a concert venue, former Masonic Lodge (the oldest in Louisiana), and entry on the National Register of Historic Places.
When to visit New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
As an indoor site, the downsides of visiting during New Orleans' off-peak months (June to November) are greatly reduced. Enjoy shelter from the heat and the rain at the visitor center.
Cane River Creole National Historical Park
Location: (Oakland) 4386 Highway 494, Natchez, LA 71456; (Magnolia) 5549 Highway 119, Cloutierville, LA 71416
Hours of operation: 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM year-round. Facility hours vary, with many closed on holidays.
What makes Cane River Creole National Historical Park special
Cane River Creole National Historical Park was established in 1994 to protect the two French cotton plantations at Magnolia and Oakland. Constructed in the 18th century, they remain in their original condition, the best-preserved in the country.
The same goes for the 64 structures, landscapes, buildings, and 1 million artifacts preserved on the park’s 63 acres. As part of the Louisiana African-American Heritage Trail, Creole Park plays an important role in educating the public about a formative period in the nation's history.
What to do in Cane River Creole National Historical Park
Visitors can explore Oakland and Magnolia at their own pace or opt to join a guided tour. One of the highlights of the park, the tour covers:
The inner workings and legacy of the Creole cotton plantation system, which produced tobacco, cotton, and indigo for centuries
The living quarters and conditions within the plantations' self-contained communities, including slave and tenant cabins; overseers' houses, doctors’ offices, and stores; blacksmith and carpenter's shops; and farm buildings
A thorough cross-section of plantation society and its class system, from the enslaved workforce to paid workers to landowners
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When to visit Cane River Creole National Historical Park
Since the stores and structures at both sites have limited occupancy, come prepared to weather the worst of Louisiana's unpredictable seasons. That means bringing plenty of water, sunblock, and shade for the hot and humid summer, and umbrellas and hats for the rainy and windy fall and spring. Winter is fairly mild, but you should always check the day's forecast.
The Whitney Plantation, the only museum in the country entirely dedicated to slavery, has more exhibits for Louisiana visitors interested in one of the foremost legacies of the United States.
Vicksburg National Military Park
Location: 3201 Clay Street, Vicksburg, MS 39183
Hours of operation: 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Facility hours may vary.
Admission price: $20 per car (7-day pass), $15 per motorcycle, $10 per person, $35 annual pass
What makes Vicksburg National Military Park special
The site of the battle that decided the American Civil War in 1863 is now a national park dedicated to education and reflection. The impressive
Vicksburg National Military Park contains 18,000 graves, 1,325 memorials, 20 miles of earthworks, and 12.5 miles of walking trails.
The battlefield memorial site, marked with the locations of trenches and campaign actions, was developed with the help of actual war veterans. Under the stewardship of the National Parks Service, it’s doubtful that the memory of what happened at Vicksburg will ever fade.
What to do in Vicksburg National Military Park
You’d be hard-pressed to see all of Vicksburg in one day. As a park visitor, you can:
Drive a 16-mile tour road that includes the majority of memorials and monuments
Visit the restored USS Cairo Gunboat and Museum, originally sunk in the Yazoo River in 1862
Witness living history programs, including cannon, musket, and artillery demonstrations
Take a self-guided, digital, audio, or licensed Battlefield Guide park tour
When to visit Vicksburg National Military Park
The majority of the park’s experiences are outdoors, including the living history demonstrations, so dress for the elements. You can expect summer temperatures to climb up to 90°F in the afternoon, spring and fall to remain between 50°F to 70°F, and winter to only occasionally drop below 30°F.
Pro Tip Download the
Vicksburg Battle App before visiting—you’ll have historian videos, audio accounts, photos, chronologies, and a GPS-guided touring system at your fingertips!
Poverty Point World Heritage Site
Location: 6859 Highway 577, Pioneer, LA 71266
Hours of operation: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM except on holidays
Admission price:$4 per person, free for seniors (62 and over) and children (3 and under)
What makes Poverty Point World Heritage Site special
Poverty Point World Heritage Site has a wealth of accolades. It’s a state historic site, a U.S. national monument, a national historic landmark, and the 1,001st property to be inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The prehistoric earthworks that compose the site—including six mounds, several concentric ridges, and a central plaza—are marvels of both engineering and history. Constructed over generations beginning some 3,000 years ago, it’s debated to this day whether their purpose was ceremonial, residential, or mercantile.
What to do at Poverty Point World Heritage Site
To experience Poverty Point to its fullest, make sure you set aside some time to:
Hike the 2.6 miles of trails across the park
Bring a meal and enjoy it in a picnic area
Follow along with guided tours and demonstrations
Visit the museum housing stone and clay artifacts from the Late Archaic period—millions have been found!
When to visit Poverty Point World Heritage Site
As an outdoor site, the best way to prepare to tour Poverty Point will be to check the weather forecast. Summers are hot, and with afternoons reaching almost 90% humidity, it can be potentially dangerous without ample amounts of drinking water. Winters are mild, but spring and fall are known for severe and unpredictable storms. Comfortable sportswear, plus a pair of walking or hiking shoes, are highly recommended.
How to prepare to visit Louisiana’s national parks
Digital maps, weather forecasts, and the
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