Day Trips and Excursions from New Orleans

When you've thoroughly explored the city of New Orleans, the next step is to head to some of the wonderful destinations in the surrounding area. From old plantation houses to unforgettable swamps to amazing nature preserves.

Katherine Betances

Katherine Betances

10 min read

Day Trips and Excursions from New Orleans

New Orleans | ©Ken Cooper

Located near the mighty Mississippi River, New Orleans is a city famous around the world for being the birthplace of Jazz and for its unique cultural background with strong French, Spanish and Creole influences.

It is certainly an incredible destination and you will find hundreds of activities to see, do and enjoy during your stay in Boston. However, your curiosity may not be limited to the wonders of the city, but you may be moved to explore beyond its borders.

For those scenarios where your travel itinerary allows, here is a list of the best tours and getaways from New Orleans. The best part? Even though they are some distance from the city they can all be done in a day of exploration or less. Let's get started!

1. Take a tour of the famous old Plantations in New Orleans.

Oak Alley Plantations| ©Simon
Oak Alley Plantations| ©Simon

A tour of the famous old plantations is without a doubt one of the best things to do in the city. It is also one of the most requested and highly rated experiences by travelers, so you will find several local companies in the city that offer this service.

When you take the New Orleans plantation tour, you hire the services of an expert guide who will take the group of travelers through the sugar plantations, characterized by huge stately homes with a dazzling architectural style and beautifully landscaped spaces.

These houses were home to wealthy families who built their great fortunes on slave labor. You'll quickly notice that each plantation has its own unique history; resulting in an incredible journey for anyone seeking to understand NOLA's storied past.

Useful Info

  • Price: Available from approximately $70 per traveler.
  • Length of tour: You will find half-day tours, but my favorites are the full-day tours, which last 7-9 hours and visit more than one plantation.
  • Recommended if... it is your first time in New Orleans you must do this tour. It is one of the essential excursions to understand the life and history of its people; it is advisable to do this tour even if you are only traveling for a few days, for example 3 days in New Orleans.

Book a tour to the Plantations in New Orleans

2. Take a guided tour to the swamps from New Orleans.

New Orleans Swamp Afternoon| ©dustinpsmith
New Orleans Swamp Afternoon| ©dustinpsmith

Go deep into Cajun Country to explore the stunning swamps and wetlands of New Orleans on another must-see on any trip exploring the city.

Like the plantation tours, you'll find numerous local companies offering this type of adventure and even combined experiences to experience the best of both destinations.

On guided tours of the marshes, a guide will take you and your group out on a boat, the type of vessel that can best navigate the wetlands.

These wetlands are home to alligators, snakes, deer and other animals; in addition to wild flora and numerous legends and myths that come to life during the tour thanks to the guide who leads the exploration.

Another valuable experience you can do in the wetlands and swamps is a Kayak tour. In my opinion the experience is a bit more personal, intimate and up close but requires a certain amount of physical fitness to paddle for much of the tour.

Useful information

  • Price: The boat tour to the swamps of New Orleans has an approximate cost of approximately 55€ per traveler.
  • Duration of tour: This is a half-day tour and you should reserve at least 5 hours of your itinerary for the experience.
  • Recommended if... you feel admiration for wildlife and natural landscapes taken from another universe. It's a fun experience that can be included in a short trip to the city.

Book a swamp tour from New Orleans

3. Explore the Global Wildlife Center Preserve from New Orleans

Wild Fox| ©Scott Walsh
Wild Fox| ©Scott Walsh

With its 36 hectares of land, the Global Wildlife Center is known as the largest wildlife reserve in the United States and is only an hour's drive from New Orleans. It is located in the north of the state of Louisiana along the Lake Pontchartrain route.

This wonderful place is home to more than 4000 animals, of approximately 1000 different species that roam free in the protected space.

It is an ideal visit if you are going to New Orleans with children on a family vacation, as here you will find large species such as kangaroos, deer, zebras, giraffes and even the beautiful South American llamas.

At the moment there are no organized tours from New Orleans, but you can choose to make a trip on your own. Inside the park you can count on the services of a private guide, but you need to make a reservation in advance on the official website.

Unfortunately getting to this part of the state of Louisiana by public transport is very complicated, if you decide to take this experience you will have to book a car in New Orleans.

Useful information

  • Price: The private tour inside the park is available from approximately 38€ per traveler and must be booked in advance.
  • Duration of tour: For a visit from New Orleans I recommend booking a full day itinerary.
  • Recommended if... you are an animal lover, it is a visit you should not miss. If you visit it the children have a day of fun in the nature assured.

4. Visit the Atchafalaya National Heritage from New Orleans

Bayous| ©CTGTravelLLC,
Bayous| ©CTGTravelLLC,

A 2-hour drive from New Orleans is the federally designated Atchafalaya National Heritage Park. It is an impressive space where you will find a vivid display of Louisiana's diverse ecosystems.

With an ecosystem loaded with wetlands and trails, the Atchafalaya is home to the largest river swamp in the United States.

The site offers visitors outdoor recreation and fun. With activities designed for all levels of difficulty, from travelers and visitors with a more athletic profile to people whose age or condition does not allow them to make greater efforts.

Activities such as rowing, cycling, swamp tours, hiking, bird watching and many more can be done inside the reserve.

If you decide to visit the park, keep in mind that you will have to arrange your own transportation. The easiest way is to rent a car in town.

Useful information

  • Price: The entrance fee to the National Parks in North America is around 15€ per person, approximately.
  • Duration of the excursion: I recommend booking a full day excursion to explore this national park. To make the most of the day you should leave early from New Orleans.
  • Recommended if... You like nature, fun and outdoor sports. The park offers the opportunity to do activities such as kayaking and hiking in a really different landscape environment.

5. Spend a day getting to know the city of Lafayette

Springtime in Lafayette Square| ©Edward Wood
Springtime in Lafayette Square| ©Edward Wood

If wilderness tourism is not your thing but you are passionate about cities, architecture and history, Lafayette is a must-see destination.

Located 2 hours 30 minutes west of the city, it is a recommended day trip for those with longer stays such as 4 days in New Orleans or more.

If you are traveling on your own, getting to Lafayette from New Orleans is easy: just take the Greyhound bus from the New Orleans Bus Station.

This educational tour is an unparalleled entertainment that will help you understand Cajun history and culture.

Once in Lafayette, you can book a tour of the historic village of Vermilion Ville where you'll find restored old homes, local artisans, a Cajun menu and much more to help you delve into the origins and peculiarities of Southern cultures.

Useful information

  • Price: Guided group tours of Vermilion Ville are available from 10€ per person.
  • Duration of tour: Including transportation to and from New Orleans, it is recommended to reserve at least one full day for this adventure.
  • Recommended if... You are interested in learning about the history and evolution of theCajun culture in Louisiana, Lafayette, like New Orleans, is a destination with an impressive background but less exploited for tourism which offers a more real and honest view of the culture.

6. See the De Soto National Forest from New Orleans

De Soto National Forest| ©Steven Kamenar
De Soto National Forest| ©Steven Kamenar

The United States is a land famous for its well-preserved national parks. In the De Soto National Forest you will find a lot of unspoiled nature to enjoy and, the best part, within easy reach of New Orleans.

From the heart of the city itself, the trip takes about 2 hours by private vehicle, but you will not find public transportation lines that travel directly to this area of the country. My recommendation to travelers who decide to make this excursion is to rent a car in New Orleans for a day or two.

The Soto National Forest was named after the Spanish explorer Hernano Soto. It is famous for its ancient and endangered pine forests and its many crystal clear streams.

You can visit the De Soto National Forest for hiking tra ils and if you want to navigate the river and you have experience, inside the park you will find canoes and kayaks that you can rent.

Useful information

  • Price: The entrance fee to National Parks in the U.S.A. is around 15€ per person, approximately.
  • Duration of the excursion: Due to the distance from the city I recommend booking at least one full day for this experience, try to leave early to make the most of the day.
  • Recommended if... you are looking for a quiet place in nature and totally away from the more traditional tourist routes. Camping is allowed in the park, but I only recommend it if you have time and your travel itinerary allows it.

7. It combines the swamps with the plantations of New Orleans.

Oak Alley Plantation, Oak Alley| ©Simon
Oak Alley Plantation, Oak Alley| ©Simon

Another getaway format from New Orleans that you should consider is the combination experience that unites the two most popular adventures to do in the city: a tour of the mysterious swamps with a tour to explore the historic plantations.

If you are traveling to the city for a few days during peak season months, such as March in New Orleans or May, booking such a combination tour in advance can help you save planning time and money on your trip.

Fortunately, in the city of NOLA you will find numerous local companies that offer travelers this type of experience. While it is true that some specific details may vary depending on the company you hire for the experience, it is also true that most follow a similar format.

You will depart from the city to embark on a boat tour of the marshes and learn about the wildlife of the marshes; then you will arrive at one of the traditional plantations where you can enjoy a traditional lunch and a tour of the history of the plantations and the evolution of Southern culture itself.

Depending on the tour you pay for and your budget, you may visit more than one plantation.

Useful information

  • Price: Although it could vary depending on the company you hire, the price is around 200€ on average.
  • Duration of the excursion: You will visit several destinations so this type of experience usually takes 9 to 10 hours to complete.
  • Recommended if... You want to experience two of the best tours of New Orleans in one short trip; combination tours are ideal for travelers looking to save on their tour, as they are generally less expensive than purchasing the experiences separately.

Book a tour to the Plantations in New Orleans

Why is it advisable to take a tour from New Orleans?

Alligator Swamp| ©chris ipadzwo
Alligator Swamp| ©chris ipadzwo

Taking a tour from New Orleans to the above or other similar destinations is an excellent way to learn about and further explore the unique culture of the southern United States and even compare the uniqueness of each area.

Beyond the curiosity of the culture and traditions, it is important to recognize that the city of New Orleans is a destination bordered by stunning natural landscap es ranging from lush forests, vast wetlands and incredibly diverse wildlife.

That's why most of the excursions on this list are focused on appreciating the natural diversity of the southern part of the country.

Taking advantage of your visit to New Orleans to see as much as possible is a smart way to make the most of your stay. Also check out the information on the best guided tours in New Orleans for information on the most interesting tour options in the city.

If you need to add days to your New Orleans itinerary to do some of the tours listed here, don't hesitate for a second!

What are the advantages of taking a guided tour vs. visiting New Orleans on my own?

Touring the bayou in an airboat| ©Nikita N
Touring the bayou in an airboat| ©Nikita N

Guided tours in New Orleans have an obvious advantage: the accompaniment of an expert guide at every important part of the tour. This accompaniment is almost essential when visiting places like the Oak Alley Plantation from New Orleans or touring the swamps of Jean Lafitte National Park.

When talking about the guides in this city, it is important to know that the city takes its historical and cultural past quite seriously.

For that reason, all tour guides in New Orleans have a state-sanctioned license, which is only obtained after passing certain exams (on local history, geography and cultural topics) and also by being free of any criminal record. The license is valid for two years and must be renewed at the end of the period.