Every state has its oddities and its quirks, and Louisiana is no different. It is these peculiarities that make for a good story and rich culture. Louisiana sits alone and isolated at the bottom of the U.S., being swept away by the rich Delta of the Mississippi River. Louisiana is an old land with plenty of stories illustrated in its unusual attractions. Here are 13 of the best.
Kenny Hill was a bricklayer by trade who lived along the bayou in the small town of Chauvin. Somewhere along the way in the 1990s, Hill started making concrete statues mostly of religious themes though much of the art also reflected Cajun life and the struggles the artist himself was going through. Lots of the pieces depict weightless angels helping characters, guiding them or denying them entrance. Not much is known about the motivation for Hill’s work, though many know of it as today the over 100 sculptures he built are under the protection of Nicholls State University as an open attraction to visitors. The largest of which is a 45-foot lighthouse composed of 7,000 bricks that is adorned with different figures clinging to the lighthouse, including various soldiers, God, and Hill himself. In early 2000, Hill was kicked out of the Parish for not taking care of his property and abandoned his work walking out of town bare foot.
This historic cemetery is the oldest in the city of New Orleans and dates back all the way to the late 1700s. Many prominent New Orleans families, especially in the Creole population, bought plots in this cemetery to use as their final resting place. Being built after the initial city cemetery on St. Peter Street had filled up, city officials chose the site for the now St. Louis Cemetery due to it being away from the city center so as to not spread disease form the dead. One grave in particular draws thousands of tourists each year. That is the burial site of the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau whose tomb was recently refurbished by the city due to people making their own marks on the Voodoo Queens grave. Much mystery surrounds the tomb and many go to visit on midnight of her birthday. Tours are available Monday-Sunday though not during Mardi Gras.
This interesting museum is an educational and artistic experience. Made entirely of stuffed, mounted animals it showcases animals from all over the world. The animals are placed in glass display cases where artists have hand painted murals of their natural habitats to go with each mount. It includes over 1,000 mounted animals and takes hours to see each one. The taxidermy work makes the animals truly seem alive and the displays are done with artistic care. Founded in 1981, this museum also contains some Native American artifacts along with memorabilia from the Civil War as well as World War I & II.
These unique tours offer an all-out Cajun experience in the swamps and bayous of Louisiana. Though there are many swamp tours around the state, this one is captained and narrated by Captain Billy J. Gaston on a comfortable 49-passenger covered boat that plays Cajun music along the way. An array of wildlife can be seen depending on the time of year. Bald eagle sightings are mostly from October to May, while alligator sightings are usually from February through November and migratory birds October through February. They have different tours specializing in different sightings and have a Praise & Worship Tour for those interested in a more religious experience. Live Cajun music is provided by Mr. Black Guidry, Mr. Waylon Thibodeaux, or more local artists upon request. Catering is also available for those folks looking to taste a bit of the local cuisine.
Known as the Grand Dame of the Great River Road, this historic plantation home was built in the mid 1800s. It is named after the alley of 80-foot-tall oak trees that go from the house to the river and exemplifies the grandeur of the Old South. Oak Alley Plantation was originally owned by the Roman family and operated as a full-on plantation. Today, the plantation is open to the public for tours, private events, and overnight stays. However, it is also a National Historic Landmark due to its architecture and landscaping as well as the agricultural innovation of grafting pecan trees done by a slave gardener there between 1846-1847. Another reason for Oak Alley’s beauty is the restorative process that has continued. First being restored in 1925 by Mr. & Mrs. Andrew Stewart with updates such as modern plumbing and kitchen facilities, Mrs. Josephine Stewart created a non-profit for the plantation before her death in 1972 that has upheld the running of the plantation homes facilities, gardens, and workers.
This center is dedicated to providing a space for threatened and endangered wildlife in a free-roam natural environment. They have over 4,000 species of exotic, threatened, and endangered animals from around the globe. Tours are available for teachers, kids, and adults to have an educational experience learning about wildlife conservation and preservation. The Safari Tour is an hour and a half long ride in a covered wagon where the peaceful animals can be seen from a true in person perspective. It goes through over 900 miles of Louisiana countryside, including a lake and 12 ponds. Animals include bison, giraffes, camels, elands, zebras and much more! Want a more private experience? Book a private tour that makes for an intimate experience on a real Pinzgauer.
This chimpanzee sanctuary is not open to the public every day but on their Chimpanzee Discovery Day Dates, the public is welcome to come meet the chimps. Families and friends can observe the chimps in natural forested habitats where they interact together in their own little family. Staff members are on site to answer any questions about the animals and tell guests about the individual chimp personalities. Guests are also welcome to hike on the nature trail where the call of the chimps from the sanctuary can be heard, giving a true Tarzan and Jane experience! An even more personal experience can be had during the Chimp Chat & Chew that are held from noon to 2 p.m. on the Discovery Days. Guests get a behind-the-scenes tour, a presentation from a staff member, and up-close interaction with some of the sanctuary’s residents.
The Abita Mystery House is exactly what it sounds like. This folk art collection of memorabilia, homemade inventions, found objects, iconic games, and pure junk has thousands of objects on display. Guests are encouraged to explore the entire grounds that includes an Exhibit Hall full of miniature exhibits along with odd attractions, a House of Shards cottage that is made of thousands of pieces of tile as well as pottery, and a UFO Airstream trailer. Inside their main exhibit hall guests can come face-to-face with Darrell the dogigator and Buford the bassigator who both guard the hidden treasures in the Mystery House!
For history fanatics, this spot is a place of much intrigue. It is the exact spot where the famous gun-slinging outlaw duo Bonnie & Clyde ate their last meal before being laid to rest by the police in a gun battle for the books. This museum takes guests back to 1934 when Rosa’s Café, aka Ma’ Canfield’s Café, occupied the same historical location. As legend tells it, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow got two sandwiches to go from the café, drove eight miles down the road, and were ambushed by a pack of angry sheriffs in the area. Today, a son of one of those same sheriffs runs the little museum today. L.J. “Boots” Hinton is the face of the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum and has since 2005 made the place a real treat. Visitors are warned ahead of time of the gruesome photographs shown of the two after being show with over 130 rounds by the police. Real artifacts such as Bonnie’s iconic red hat, one of Clyde’s Remington shot guns, a Browning semi-automatic rifle, and a tire Clyde had given an old man in the area.
This park is full of gator fun for all ages with several attractions and demonstrations. The “Alligator Island” show gives valuable information on alligator farming and the conservation of the American alligator. A reptile habitat, that includes Myrtle the 50-year-old alligator, is also on the island, along with a gaming center! The next show is on “Castaway Island,” where guests get to watch the feeding. From four-footers to huge gators weighing thousands of pounds, the feeding frenzy will amaze all witnesses. Next stop, the jungle. But on your way, be sure to visit Edgar, one of only 30 albino alligators in the world. He will be comfortably in his caged environment where he can survive and thrive. Cross the shaky wooden bridge to enter “The Jungle” that has everything from a house of raccoons to Bernadine the 14-foot albino python. A true wild life adventure awaits at Alligator Park.
This world-famous pepper sauce continues to have its home in Louisiana in the small community of Avery Island. The company, owned and operated by the McIlhenny family since the 1860s, still makes the sauce in the same recipe in the hometown that gave them their start. Today, guests can visit Avery Island and go through their own 10-stop Tabasco Tour that takes them through the Tabasco Museum, the green house, the barrel warehouse where the sauce is aged and finally into the factory building itself. The last two stops are a tasty treat as tourists can bop into the Tabasco Country Store and Restaurant 1868. On the island, there is also the Jungle Gardens, which provide 170 acres of semi-tropical preserve with tons of plants, wildlife, and a centuries-old Buddha statue.
This tree has hidden chimes all tuned to the pentatonic scale. Crafted by local artist Jim Hart, the chimes are all painted black to blend in with the bark of this mighty oak tree that sits stone’s throw from the New Orleans Museum of Art. The largest chime is 14 feet long, but the overall effect of all the chimes together make for a relaxing feeling. On hot summer months, the tree provides shade, comfort, and harmony. Visit this tree anytime in New Orleans City Park, day or night.
Believe it or not, the world’s smallest church resides in the small town of Bayou Goula, Louisiana. It is only eight feet by eight feet, and was built by Anthony Gullo in 1903. Gullo, a poor sugar farmer, promised the Virgin Mary that if his son recovered from an illness he would build a church in her honor. Low and behold, his son must have made it since the tiny chapel that has only four seats still stands today. A mass is held once a year on Aug. 15, which is the rainy season in Louisiana though the local preacher says the clouds always part when the annual mass begins. A key in a tiny box sits outside the chapel doors for the devout to come and pray anytime they like. It is just a short distance away from Nottoway Plantation and was even featured on the show “Ripley’s Believe it or Not.”