Quite literally, Louisiana is the state the Mississippi River built. The world's third-longest river brings sediments through the heart of the continent and deposits them in the wide delta that stretches into the Gulf of Mexico.
This low-lying land has seen its share of troubles over the years, including the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Every time disaster has struck, Louisiana has fought back. Within a year of the hurricane, many hotels and restaurants in devastated New Orleans had reopened. Visitors today can still enjoy the city's jazz clubs, Creole restaurants and Mardi Gras celebrations, justly famous the world over. But there's much more to the state than the undeniable charms of the Big Easy.
In the countryside around St. Francisville and the state capital of Baton Rouge, you'll find grand plantation houses that have been restored to their antebellum luxury. In Cajun country, centered on Lafayette, kick back with zydeco music and a bowl of gumbo, jambalaya or crawfish etouffée as you learn more about the Acadians—the French Canadians expelled from Nova Scotia who brought their culture and customs thousands of miles to build new lives here.
On a side trip to Avery Island, you can tour the Tabasco hot sauce factory and then visit Jungle Gardens and Bird City, established by an heir to the factory at the turn of the last century. The gardens are home to thousands of camellias, while Bird City is a noted sanctuary for egrets.
Wilderness lovers will find lots to explore in Louisiana. Hikers head to the pristine trails of the Kisatchie National Forest, while canoeists explore the Kisatchie Bayou. Thrill seekers keep their eyes open for alligators in the state's many swamps, while fishing enthusiasts try their luck at bass fishing in northern Louisiana’s lakes.