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MARDI GRAS OUTSIDE OF NEW ORLEANS

If you want to experience Mardi Gras in a BIG way, do it in the "Big Easy," but the parade route doesn't end there. For an authentic look at how this long-held Louisiana tradition is celebrated throughout the rest of Louisiana, experience some of the non-New Orleans Mardi Gras events.

The "Courir de Mardi Gras" in Church Point re-creates a tradition brought to French Louisiana by the first Acadinans in the 1750's. Le Capitaine and his hundreds of masked riders beg in French for ingredients for gumbo.
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LOUISIANA COASTAL WETLANDS - OF NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE

Preservation of America’s precious coastal wetlands is perhaps one of the most important environmental issues facing our nation today.  A quarter of the nation relies on these working wetlands, which also provide natural protection for coastal cities and for the oil and gas pipelines that serve as a major artery for delivering fuel to heat our homes and power our cars.

Louisiana is home to more than 40% percent of America’s coastal wetlands - yet an alarming 80% of all coastal wetlands loss in the continental United States occurs in Louisiana. In the past 50 years, more than 1,500 square miles have been lost.

This intricate ecosystem is a nature lovers dream providing a wintering habitat for millions of waterfowl and migratory birds. Louisiana's wetlands offer visitors a unique experience to discover the sheer beauty of this habitat and opportunities to participate in efforts to preserve this great natural resource for future generations.
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ROAD TRIP - 12 MONTHS OF TRAILS

No matter what your interests, age, budget, or vacation time, Louisiana has a road trip for you. These road trips or "trails" are ideally suited for today's travelers who seek fun, convenience and adventure.

The Creole Nature Trail is perfect for the outdoor enthusiasts and eco-traveler, allowing visitors to enjoy what Mother Nature blessed Louisiana with long ago.

Travel along the Ghost Trail and you may see your own poltergeist at America's most haunted house, the Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville.

Bird watching enthusiasts flock to Louisiana annually to experience the state's diversity of species on the Birding Trail.

The legendary Music Trail will get your feet tapping and your hands clapping as you experience jazz, zydeco, country, gospel, Cajun and other unique Louisiana rhythms and sounds.

Louisiana isn't called Sportsman's Paradise for nothing -- grab your clubs and play the many courses that are part of the Audubon Golf Trail, or reel in a big catch at the thousands of salt and fresh water fishing locations throughout the state.

Other custom designed trails feature archeology, Civil War battlefields, plantation homes, azaleas, boudin (a Louisiana sausage), gardens and gumbo to name a few.
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CRUISIN' FROM LOUISIANA

Cruise vacationers have more to like about Louisiana than ever before. Not only do cruise passengers get an extra "port of call" from always popular New Orleans, but the variety and diversity of cruise experiences will please any budget or length of vacation.

Cruising is one of the fastest growing vacations in the country, and Louisiana's central location makes it an easy alternative to Florida ports --whether you're flying or driving to your cruise embarkation point.

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Cruise lines including Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines offer Caribbean cruises from New Orleans in a variety of lengths - from 4 , 5 and 7 days. Luxury brand, Crystal, also has a few select departures from New Orleans to the Panama Canal and South America.

Delta Queen and RiverBarge Excursion Lines offer unique cruises to America's inland waterways and along the Louisiana and Texas coast. A variety of themed journeys add to the enjoyment.

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SWAMP POP - DRINK UP A UNIQUE MUSICAL STYLE

Swamp Pop isn't a beverage, but rather a unique blend of indigenous music styles found only in a small part of the U.S. -- in Acadiana (south Louisiana) and a small area in east Texas.

Swamp Pop is a blend of New Orleans rhythm and blues, hillbilly, rockabilly, blues, Cajun, and Creole music. The style evolved in the mid-1950's and got its name in the 1970's when British music writers began using the term to describe Louisiana's rock n' roll.  The first record to receive attention outside of Louisiana was Bobby Charles' "(See You) Later Alligator."
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LOUISIANA'S LIGHTHOUSES

Louisiana has a rich history of welcoming people from all corners of the world.  For hundreds of years, the lighthouses that dot the Louisiana coastline were the first U. S. landmarks foreign immigrants would see upon their arrival to this country --- rivaling the Statue of Liberty in significance.

Here are just a few of  the many interesting stories about Louisiana's lighthouses:

Benjamn H. Latrobe, architect of the United States Capitol, drew up the plans for the lighthouse on Frank's Island.

The lighthouse at New Canal Station probably holds the record for the most female keepers.  No fewer than five served the station, most assuming their posts when their husbands died.  Several of these women performed heroic acts during hurricanes and storms.

Keeper I.C.M. Erickson, of the South Pass lighthouse, set off accross the river in a rowboat on April 8, 1923.  The current swept him out to sea where he was picked up by an outbound freighter 15 miles from the station. He was taken to their next port of call in Mexico (nearly 700 miles away).  Erickson was eventually returned to his station, and almost a year later was again carried out into the gulf as he attempted to cross the river.  This time he never made it back to the station.

Many Louisiana lighthouses were deactivated during the Civil War to make passage difficult for Union troops.

The Sabine Pass Lighthouse was erected in 1849, shortly after the Republic of Texas joined the United States.
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ANCIENT MOUNDS OLDER THAN EGYPTIAN PYRAMIDS

Indians first built mounds in Louisiana in 4000 B.C., making them among the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Louisiana has mounds older than the pyramids in Mexico and South America, older than Stonehenge in England and older than the earliest pyramids in Egypt.

These mounds are also some of the most spectacular and best preserved Indian mounds in the world. Mounds are found throughout the state, but are most concentrated in northeastern and central Louisiana. Archaeologists from around the world have used Louisiana's mound sites to better understand ancient hunter-gatherer societies.

With more than 15,000 prehistoric and historic archaeological sites, Louisiana delivers a unique opportunity to learn about some of the world's first peoples. Each fall, the Louisiana Division of Archaeology hosts a Louisiana Archaeology Week featuring special lectures, leading experts, exhibits, and more.  Visitors may also want to request a copy of the "Ancient Mound Sites of Louisiana," brochure from the Louisiana
Division of Archaeology by calling (225) 342-8170
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AGRI-CULTURE TREND MAKES LOUISIANA A PERFECT DESTINATION

Travelers today are looking for unique experiences and opportunities for lifelong learning.  The increase in popularity of culinary, cultural and "watch it made" adventures make Louisina a must see (and do) destination.

Louisiana's food products are used throughout the world. Visitors to Louisiana can visit rice plantations, crawfish farms, watch a sugar cane harvest, see how syrup or Louisiana's famous hot sauces are made, or even meet with people who are raising alligators for commercial purposes.  Add to this the hundreds of fairs and festivals celebrating Louisiana's unique foods, the world class restaurants and the hospitality of our residents and no visitor will go away hungry.
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JAZZING UP A CHILD'S HISTORY LESSON

Louisianians feel that it is important to pass down their unique musical heritage to their children. The New Orleans Jazz Centennial Celebration Committee is working in Louisiana through an innovative series of "informances," or interactive performances that teach a history of the music to school-age children.

These "informances" involve the children in second-lining, dancing, and hand-clapping experiences with New Orleans musicians such as Charmaine Neville, "Papa" Don Vappie, and Ellis Marsalis (father of Pulitzer Prize winning trumpeter Wynton Marsalis).

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation's Journey Series is another way Louisiana musicians have found to share and discuss their craft with young people. Camps and after-school programs for children teach the fundamentals of music and improvisation and nurture the love of the art form to the next generation of Louisiana musicians. These include the Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp, where Edward "Kidd" Jordan is camp director and Wynton Marsalis has served as artistic director, and the New Orleans Jazz Foundation Heritage School of Music.

For more information contact Jason Patterson with the New Orleans Jazz Centennial Celebration Committee (504) 835-5277; the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, Jazz Journey Series or Heritage School of Music (504) 522-4786; the Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp (504) 565-8104
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OKRA - LOUISIANA STAPLE IS USED AROUND THE WORLD

This vegetable and Louisiana recipe staple was first introduced to the southern United States by African slaves in the 18th century, and has been cultivated in Louisiana ever since.

Cooks value the vegetable for its ability to help thicken soups and stews --a defining characteristic of traditional Louisiana gumbos.

But how many non-Southerners are aware of this quirky vegetable with its slippery texture?  Actually quite a few.  In fact, okra is found in recipes around the world from the Middle East to India and is served most often with tomatoes.
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WHERE TO FIND THE MUSIC IN LOUISIANA

Nowhere on earth is there a richer or more abundant musical legacy than in Louisiana. There are hundreds of places dedicated to dancing and listening to the various forms of music that are dear to Louisianians. So where do you find the music? New Orleans is a good place to start because today the birthplace of jazz has it all in terms of Louisiana music--jazz, Cajun, zydeco, rhythm and blues, gospel and rock and roll.

"For authenticity of the early jazz clubs, visit Preservation Hall on St. Peter in the French Quarter. "A newer venue is The Storyville District on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. "To learn more about Louisiana's musical history, see the Louisiana State Museum Jazz Exhibit at the Old U.S. Mint on Esplanade or the Hogan Jazz Archives at Tulane University. "To give the whole family a taste of old New Orleans jazz, visit Jazzland, New Orleans' first Disney-style theme park designed to carry visitors back to the old days of jazz in New Orleans. Opened May 20, 2000. South Louisiana features Cajun and zydeco music. For Cajun, visit "DI's in Basile "The original Mulate's in Breaux Bridge "Randol's and Grant Street Dance Hall in Lafayette. For Zydeco, visit "Richard's in Lawtell "Slim's Y-Ki-Ki in Opelousas "El Sido's Zydeco and Blues Club in Lafayette.

North Louisiana's musical roots are steeped in country music.  The Louisiana Hayride at the Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport is a must-see for country music fans, and the Rebel State Historic Site in Marthaville is home to the Louisiana Country Music Museum.
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LOUISIANA INSTRUMENT MAKERS

Many of the colorful Louisiana musicians have found that to produce their special kind of music, they have to make their own instruments. Here are more than 100 Acadian accordion makers in Louisiana, along with a handful of people who make Cajun violins and fretted instruments, Cajun triangles or "tit fers," and Cajun washboards, or frottoirs. These are the people who specialize in "fait a la main," or made-by-hand instruments, and you may not find a more colorful group or a group more eager to share their story anywhere else in the state of Louisiana.
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BONFIRES ALONG THE MISSISSIPPI – A LOUISIANA CHRISTMAS TRADITION

Christmas in Louisiana is like no other celebration anywhere with unique bayou legends, 19th century plantation celebrations, and brilliantly lit festivals. Because of the melting pot of cultures that make up Louisiana, the Christmas traditions have always been varied and interesting. 

One French Louisiana twist to the holiday festivities that isn’t found anywhere else is the tradition of the Bonfires dating back to the 1800s.  Hundreds of Christmas bonfires light the banks of the Mississippi River to guide Papa Nöel’s (the Cajun version of Santa Claus) pirogue (a shallow, wooden canoe) to deliver gifts to all good little Cajun children.  Visitors can see them on a Christmas Eve paddlewheel cruise, or walk the levees in the cities of Gramercy, Lutcher and Paulina and sample the Cajun cuisine, catch the holiday spirit with the locals, and see the night ablaze with the light from up to 100 bonfires.

To prepare for the bonfire events, families in the communities gather on weekends in November and December to construct the mammoth structures.  The bonfire festivities have been a tradition in St. James Parish since the 1880’s.  Although the origin is debated, the most popular story is that the fires lit the way for Papa Nöel, the Cajun version of Santa Claus, as he paddled his pirogue (a shallow, wooden canoe) delivering gifts to children.

Some say the fires were used as navigational signals to help guide religious travelers to midnight mass. Another story is that the bonfires celebrate Epiphany, the Twelfth Night after Christmas, when Christmas trees were taken down and burned. The most likely story is that Marist priests, who took over Jefferson College in 1864, built the fires on New Year’s Eve to entertain the students.  Why it was moved from New Year’s Eve to Christmas Eve is a mystery.

Regardless of the origin, the bonfire festivals in Louisiana offer visitors a fun way to celebrate Christmas that is uniquely Louisiana, complete with its famous food and music.
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Some Travel information courtesy of  Louisiana Office of Tourism


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