Editors' Picks: 20 of the Best Things to Do in Louisiana!

When you think of Louisiana, you probably first think of New Orleans, Mardi Gras and the sweaty mysteries of Tennessee Williams. But it's also where you'll find tons of amazing music, crawfish boils, swamps - and the birthplace of Tabasco sauce.

The state is home to some of the country's remaining antebellum plantations, rich Creole and Cajun culture -and one of the oldest archeological sites in the world.

Yep, you probably think you know the Bayou State - but here are 20 other cool things to check out.

1. Oak Alley Plantation

Stroll beneath the breathtaking canopy of oaks that date back to the 18th century, then explore one of the rockstars of authentic plantation homes. Cottages on the premises are available for overnight stays, too. (Vacherie)

2. Vermillionville

It describes itself as a "living history museum," dedicated to preserving the culture of the Acadian settlers from the 18th and 19th centuries. You can enjoy live music, watch artisans and craft demonstrations and much more. (Lafayette)

3. The Old State Capitol

This magnificent castle-like building has managed to survive everything from war to political scandal; what remains is gorgeous stained glass, a beautiful spiral staircase and a lot of fascinating history. Truly a gem worth seeing. (Baton Rouge)

4. Audubon Insectarium

Housed within the former New Orleans Custom House is the largest open-plan insectarium in America. You can explore the Butterfly Garden, investigate those that live in the swamps of Louisiana - even sample some buggy delicacies courtesy of the "Cooking Show." (New Orleans)

5. The Biedenharn Museum & Gardens

Basically, it combines beautiful Southern gardens….with a ton of amazing Coca-Cola memorabilia (Joseph Biedenharn was the first to bottle the beverage in the area, starting in 1894). Either way, you win. (Monroe)

6. Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Take a break from the heat inside this wonderful museum, solely dedicated to the art of the South, and dating from 1733 onwards. After hours, they throw in live music. (New Orleans)

7. Abita Brewery

Nothing like a cold beer on a hot day - and you can sample several of their excellent craft brews after the fun tour (including root beer, for those who want to pass on the alcohol). (Covington)

8. Check Out A "Fishing Rodeo"

They're basically large-scale (and some smaller-scale) fishing contests, and they take place across the state all summer. One of the biggest takes place in Grand Isle during July. You game?

9. Tipitina's

The building is from 1912, but it took on new life in 1977 as the home for some of the best music in the world. Local legends like Dr. John and the Neville Brothers are regulars, and it's also hosted everyone from James Brown to Pearl Jam. Get your groove on. (New Orleans)

10. Audubon Aquarium

This world-class aquarium offers a chance to witness sharks, sting rays, tarpon and more up close and personal. Plus, they offer a spectacular 400,000 gallon exhibit devoted to the sea life of the Gulf of Mexico. (New Orleans)

11. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop

There are tons of places to drink in the Big Easy - but only one that supposedly harbors a pirate's fortune. One of the oldest bars anywhere (dating from the 1700's) also packs some spooky tales. Those drinks will come in handy. (New Orleans)

12. Take A Swamp Tour

Are gators your idea of a cuddly critter? Even if not, you'll get a rise when you see them in their native habitat on a swamp tour. Honey Island Swamp is one of the least-altered river swamps in America, so you get a good chance to see the gators, deer, wolves and more that call it home. (Slidell)

13. Mardi Gras World

The celebration most associated with Louisiana gets its start right here. Get an amazing inside look at the year-long making of those crazy floats and costumes; they've been doing it since 1947. (New Orleans)

14. A Cemetery Tour

Above-ground cemeteries are a distinctive feature of the region, and there are some cool tours that let you get a good look at the ornate tombs and memorials. In New Orleans, Lafayette Cemetery is one of the most popular, being the site of many movie shoots - as well as the final resting place for voodoo queen Maria Laveau. For safety reasons, it's best to visit as part of a tour, versus on your own.

15. Myrtles Plantation

Yes, it's pretty and charming - but it's also considered one of America's most haunted places: a slave accidentally poisoned two of the master's children and was subsequently hung on the property. Lots of ghostly activity has been recorded there, and if you're game, you can take your chances by spending the night (it's a B&B). (St. Francisville)

16. Preservation Hall

Louis Armstrong himself said this is where "the greats" perform. Every night, you're guaranteed amazing traditional jazz. But be prepared to crowd in - and don't expect any A/C. (New Orleans)

17. The Tabasco Plant

Those little bottles of red stuff all start in Louisiana. If you like things spicy, you'll want to see how the iconic hot sauce comes into being. The best part? Everyone gets a free tiny sample to stash in pocket or purse - 'cause you never know when you'll need it. (Avery Island)

18. Stroll The French Quarter

Yes, it's a little touristy, but it's also one of the loveliest and most distinct areas of the city. Gaze upon the wrought-iron balconies, and indulge in the many fantastic restaurants and stores you'll run across at street level.

19. Poverty Point National Monument

Pyramids, schmyramids: this archeological site (also a World Heritage Site) dates back nearly 3,000 years and preserves some pretty spectacular engineering feats right here in North America. (Pioneer)

20. Ride The St. Charles Streetcar

Blanche DuBois took the one named "Desire" - but this one is the oldest operating streetcar in the world, having run continuously since 1835. Beyond the history, it also offers a fantastic look at New Orleans' lovely Garden District.

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