top ten best day trips from new orleans with a car
top ten best day trips from new orleans with a car

To Day Trips From New Orleans:

Although the French Quarter and Garden District are an essential part of any trip to New Orleans, you haven’t truly been to Louisiana until you get out of New Orleans on a day trip.  There are a ton of side trips you can take in as little as a half a day to give you a slice of anything from South Antebellum life, to Cajun living in the Bayou, and even a dash of Africa by joining a wildlife safari.  Enjoy our list of the top day trips from New Orleans!

Joining A Group Tour -or- Car Rental:

Most of our top New Orleans day trips can easily be reached with tour groups, but they have their downfalls.  With Plantation Alley, you will be limited on time and will only be able to visit 1-2 select mansions on a group bus tour.  We prefer a rental car as it gives you way more flexibility and in the case of the swamp tours will save you $20 a person on your ticket by driving yourself.  Parking in the French Quarter can be in the range of $25-40 a night but you can get around this by parking at Harrahs Casino which gives you 24 hours of free parking with 30 minutes of gambling using their free club card.

Best Day Trips From New Orleans:

1. Swamp & Gator Tours (Various Locations):

Top Day Trips From New Orleans, Best Side - Bayou Gator Swamp Tours
Top Day Trips From New Orleans, Best Side - Bayou Gator Swamp Tours

About The Swamp Tours: Surrounded by the Bayou, the local  Louisiana swamps are ingrained into the culture of New Orleans.  No trip to the Big Easy would be complete with taking a day trip into the back country for a swamp and gator tour.  Tours range from pontoon-style craft to high speed airboats powered by large fans.  The pontoon tours are the most popular option as they gently glide you along swamp in search for gators under trees covered in Spanish moss.  While we love being able to freely walk about the pontoon to whatever the action is, the boats can feel crowded if overbooked during the peak Summer months.

In contrast, the airboats are great for the thrill seekers as a powerful fan brisks you over the open water.  The experience is very safe and while you wont go as deep into the swamp, your group size will be smaller.  With either option, most companies enhance the educational experience by letting you hold a young live gator at the end of your tour.  The monster gators you see on TV are very rare, and activity is much lower in the Winter, but except to see plenty of gators any time of year.

Below is a list we compiled of the top swap and bayou tours in the area, most will pick you up from New Orleans, but offer large discounts if you have a rental car.

A. Jean Lafitte – Great tour which is our favorite in town.  Mainly does pontoon style boats with plenty of room to both sit and walk around.  Jean Lafitte also offers airboat tours and typically offer the best deals around.  They are also very close to the Jean Lafitte Recreation Area where you can walk around after your tour if you drive yourself.  Website: Here

B. Airboat Adventures – Outside of being able to ride an airboat, which is awesome, these guys are also good at limiting group sizes.  One of the boats only takes 8 people and the other 27 so you will get a better tour.  Website: Here

C. Cajun Pride – Right between NOLA and Plantation Country to the West of town.  They operate on a private swamp which leads to the wildlife being a lot more comfortable with the Cajun’s boats.  They also offer great combo tours with local plantations.  Airboat rides available.  Website: Here

D. Pearl River Eco Tours – Does tours in the Honey Island Swamp including some tours at night.  Website: Here

E. Cajun Encounters – Featured on Regis & Kelly and American Idol.  Does tours in the Honey Island Swamp.  Website: Here

F. Cajun Style Swamp Tours – A little smaller operate specializing in Airboat tours, but does a great job.  Has been featured on the Travel Channel.  Website: Here

2. Plantation Alley Mansion Tours (1 Hour West):

Top Day Trips From New Orleans, Best Side - Plantation Mansion Tours
Top Day Trips From New Orleans, Best Side - Plantation Mansion Tours

About The Plantation Alley Mansions: Along the Mississippi between New Orleans and Baton Rouge is the best collection of southern plantation mansions anywhere in the United States.  The stately mansions and can easily be toured an in one day with a rental car.  There are organized tour groups that hit the top couple mansions but the cost to join one is the same as what it costs to rent a car for a couple of days.  Having a car will let you see them all and at your own pace, plus there are some worthwhile attractions to see along the way.  For the full experience try to fit in an overnight stay at the Nation’s biggest Antebellum mansion called Nottoway Mansion.

Getting Here: There are a ton of tour groups that depart from New Orleans to visit the mansions, however, the groups can be quite expensive and really limit how many mansions you can visit.  Simply put, rent a car and do the full Plantation Alley loop yourself for an unforgettable day trip.

Read More: Best New Orleans Plantation Tours.

3. Global Wildlife Safari (1 Hour North):

Top Day Trips From New Orleans, Best Side - Global Wildlife Safari
Top Day Trips From New Orleans, Best Side - Global Wildlife Safari

About Global Wildlife Safari: Get ready for a wild adventure at the largest totally free-roaming wildlife preserve of its kind in the country!  The 900-acre Global Wildlife Center in Folsom, Louisiana is home to over 4,000 exotic, endangered, and threatened animals from all over the world.  During your visit, you’ll come face to face with bison, giraffes, zebras, camels, eland, and much more!  We were amazed at how fun are safari was and it was great being able to let the free roaming animals eat right from our hands.  It’s like being in Africa, but Louisiana!

Wagon Tour: Large wagon caravan tour is $17 per Adult and $11 per child.  This version of the tour is tons of fun, but you will be in a large caravan of up to 120 people and animals must come to you making it hit or miss.  Private Tour: The private tour is by far the way to go as they take your group of 1-9 people off the beaten path in one of their WWII 4×4 Pinzgauer vehicles.  Although the private tour is only $35 per person plus feed, you must pay for at least 4 seats per group.  We recently went with just two people and the $140 was worth the cost to get up close true safari feel.  The Pinzgauer vehicles used on the private tours also make for a more intimate tour with your family and friends plus priceless photo opportunities!

Getting Here: You’ll have to rent a car as Folsom is about a 1-hour drive north of New Orleans. Driving here is a treat as the most popular route brings you over the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, which is the longest continuous bridge over water in the world at 23.8 miles long.  Hours: 7 days a week, with hourly tours normally 9am-2pm, call for tour schedule (985) 796-3585.  Website: (Here).

Baton Rouge Old State Capitol

4. Baton Rouge (75 Minutes West): More info coming soon

4a. Old State Capitol –

4b. War Ship

4c. Plantations

5. Fisherman’s Castle: 
Simon Villemarette built the castle back in 1981 to look like a 14th-century chateau.

6. Mississippi Beaches (90 Minutes East): 
The beaches start about 60 minutes from New Orleans and continue through Biloxi which is another 15 minutes to the East.  The stretch between Gulfport and Biloxi is the best.

7. The Gulf Shores Beaches (2-3 Hours East):
 It takes 3 hours to get to either the main part of Gulf Shores or to Pensacola from New Orleans. Dauphin Island is the closest part of the Gulf Shores to New Orleans at only 2 Hours.

8. Natchez, Mississippi (2.5 Hours):
  Tons of historic homes including Longwood Octogonal Villa, Dunleith Plantation,  Lansdowne George Marshall mansion Auburn house, D’Evereux, and the Melrose Estate.

9. Atchafalaya Swamp:
 swamp turns into a Cypress Lake in the wet season.  The swamp is huge and stretches almost all the way down to the ocean.  Tours are available.

10. Rip Van Winkle Gardens (2 Hours 15 Minutes West): 

11. Tabasco Factory (2 Hours 25 Minutes):
 Tabasco is made in Louisiana and you can tour the main headquarters on Avery Island.

barataria preserve jean lafitte national park