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Day 1: New Orleans
Arrive in New Orleans and get settled into your hotel, then make your way to the French Quarter for a first taste of the restaurants and nightlife in and around Bourbon Street. Stop at Preservation Hall for traditional jazz, the Maison Bourbon for Dixieland stylings, or one of the many other music venues in the Big Easy.
Day 2: New Orleans
Begin a walking tour of New Orleans this morning at Jackson Square in the heart of the French Quarter, with a stop for coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde or a Jazz Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters. Make your way to Congo Square, influential in the development of jazz, as it was the only place in New Orleans where slaves could officially meet to sing, dance, and keep alive their African and Caribbean musical traditions. Appropriately, a self-guided jazz walking tour begins here, part of the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park. This evening, rest your tired feet during a jazz dinner cruise on the Steamboat Natchez.
Day 3: New Orleans
Today, hop on the St Charles Avenue Streetcar to explore the leafy streets and opulent mansions of the Garden District, then learn more about New Orleans unique culture at the Voodoo Museum and the Mardi Gras exhibit at the Louisiana State Museum. Afterwards, shop for crafts and curiosities in the French Market, then rest up for an evening at one of New Orleans’ upscale venues, or in the edgier clubs along Frenchmen Street.
Day 4: New Orleans - Lafayette (200 m / 320 km)
Follow the Mississippi River this morning to Laura Plantation, a French Creole plantation still with the original slave cabins. Continue on to nearby Oak Alley, famous for the 300 year-old trees that line the approach to the mansion. Then, follow the Bayou Teche to St Martinville, and visit St Martin de Tours, mother church of the Acadians. Continue to Breaux Bridge and Mulates Cajun Restaurant for live music and dancing seven nights a week, then make the short drive to Lafayette for your overnight.
Day 5: Lafayette
Lafayette is the capital of Cajun Country, the name given to the descendants of the French refugees who settled here. Their relative isolation and strong community ties allowed them to keep their French heritage and dialect to the present day, and their story can be traced at Vermilionville, an open air living history museum with costumed interpreters. This afternoon, head out to nearby Henderson and watch for alligators on a swamp tour of the Atchafalaya Basin, and this evening, return for more music and dancing in Lafayette.
Day 6: Lafayette - Natchitoches (175 m / 280 km)
This morning, tune your radio in to Zydeco for the drive to Opelousas and Eunice, and visit the Savoy Music Center, a local institution. Visit the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center and the Cajun Music Hall of Fame, then stop at Floyd’s Record Shop for Louisiana’s best music selection. Continue to Natchitoches, Louisiana’s oldest town, to tour the reconstructed French colonial Fort St Jean Baptiste, then stroll along the shops and restaurants on Front Street, whose brick facades and iron balconies are reminiscent of New Orleans’ French Quarter.
Day 7: Natchitoches - Natchez (125 m / 200 km)
Enjoy breakfast and a walk around Natchitoches’ Historic District, then depart for Natchez, one of America’s richest cities before the Civil War, and still one of its prettiest. Visit the elegant Southern mansions and enjoy the river views high above the Mississippi, enjoy hot Tamales at Fat Mama’s, then go riverside for an evening of music or casino entertainment.
Day 8: Natchez - Mobile (290 m / 465 km)
More time this morning to visit the homes and gardens of Natchez, then depart for the Louisiana state capital of Baton Rouge. Stop to see the capital buildings, then continue your drive to Mobile, the original capital of French Louisiana. Check into your hotel and head for the restaurants and nightlife in the downtown historic district, and see why Mobile has earned a reputation for good times and live music.
Day 9: Mobile - Biloxi (75 m / 120 km)
Mobile became the capital of French Louisiana in 1702, and its over 300-year-old Mardi Gras was first celebrated one year later, a full fifteen years before New Orleans was founded. Tour the historic district around Washington Square, then visit Fort Conde, a reconstruction of the original French colonial fort. After lunch on Dauphin Street, depart for nearby Bellingrath Gardens, a botanical masterpiece. Continue through the artist’s refuge of Ocean Springs on your way to Biloxi, where you can check out the beaches late this afternoon, and the casinos tonight.
Day 10: Biloxi - New Orleans (90 m / 145 km)
Biloxi was the capital of French Louisiana before its final move to New Orleans in 1723. Enjoy the beach this morning, and get out on the water on a shrimp boat tour. Art lovers should stop at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum, designed by Frank Gehry and dedicated to George Ohr, the “Mad Potter” of Biloxi. Visit Beauvoir, home of Jefferson Davis, the only President of the Confederate States of America, before your drive along the Mississippi Gulf Coast that Coastal Living magazine calls “one of the 10 best water-view drives in America”.
Day 11: Departure
A final day in New Orleans to relax and prepare for your return trip home, or add additional nights so you can enjoy more time in the Mississippi River metropolis.
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