Nothing like a pandemic to put the brakes on long-distance travel. But, here’s the good news. Louisiana remains a prime destination meaning staying home equals excellent travel opportunities.
We’re not talking shabby vacations either. Cities across the Bayou State offer boutique, historic and uniquely styled hotels, decadent ways to relax and rejuvenate and distinctive attractions, many of which cannot be found anywhere else.
So, what are you waiting for?
Photos by Sarah Essex Bradley & Haylei Smith
There are so many new hotels to visit in the Crescent City, in addition to the boutique and historic hotels already gracing its neighborhoods. It’s tough to pick just one as the home place for a relaxing staycation. The best course of action is to narrow your intentions and determine the part of town you wish to explore.
For those who prefer elegance and serenity, the 67 guest rooms and suites at the Maison de la Luz on Carondelet might be the ticket. Cherish the exquisite antique elevators and original City Hall Annex banister, part of the hotel’s past history. Enjoy an opulent breakfast in the Guest House and craft cocktails and small plates at Bar Marilou, housed in the former City Hall’s historic library and accessible through a public side door or the secret guest-only entrance. Priority reservations may also be made from the hotel for dining at Josephine Estelle, helmed by James Beard Award nominated chefs Michael Hudman and Andy Ticer or Seaworthy, featuring seafood and craft cocktails in an 1832 Creole cottage.
To thoroughly enjoy the French Quarter, park the car and plant yourself in a cool space. Everything within the Vieux Carré and much of its surrounding neighborhoods, such as Bywater and the Marigny, is walkable.
The ONE11 is the first hotel to open in the Quarter in 50 years, taking over a 19th-century sugar warehouse on Iberville Street close to the river. It’s a fine marriage of old-style design elements with modern amenities and close to most Quarter attractions. Hotel Peter & Paul is another unique restoration, this time a former Bywater Catholic church, rectory, convent and school. No two guest rooms are alike and, in addition to drinks and dining in The Elysian Bar, there’s small-batch ice cream served at Sundae Best.
There’s so much to enjoy downtown, including the spirited Sazerac House on Canal, the Art Market on Frenchmen Street and a tour on wheels with the Creole & Crescent Bike Tour. For a touch of romance and nostalgia, hop on a classic carriage ride through the Quarter at sunset.
History and art lovers may prefer a stay at the Higgins Hotel, part of the National WWII Museum complex, allowing visitors easy proximity to the military museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Contemporary Arts Center and August’s White Linen Night along Julia Street.
Shaw Center for the Arts is Home to the LSU Museum of Art, the Manship theatre and Tsunami restaurant with its rooftop views of the Mississippi.
If you’re lucky, the affable and obliging Bill Facey will greet you upon your entrance into the elegant Watermark Hotel. Facey serves as the hotel’s bell captain, but around downtown Baton Rouge he’s known as the “Mayor of Third Street.”
Facey’s happy to elucidate the wonders of the hotel, a 1927 Art Deco building that served as the headquarters for the Louisiana Trust and Savings Bank, then a state office building in the heart of the Third Street Business District. After a loving restoration, the historic building now offers exquisite guest rooms, a conference room that contains the bank’s original safe, fitness center with a boxing bag and dining options that include The Gregory, named for artist Angela Gregory of New Orleans, whose murals adorn the walls.
There’s so much more to explore in this unique hotel including original artwork, such as the bank founders outside the Founders’ Room, each comical portrait containing a modern item. But visitors looking for romance may want to start with champagne and strawberries in their room or suite, then follow up with cocktails and fine dining in The Gregory.
Since the hotel is located in the heart of downtown, it’s an easy walk to the Shaw Center for the Arts with its LSU Museum of Art, the Manship Theatre for live music, theatrical performances and special film showings, and the rooftop Tsunami Restaurant, the perfect spot for watching the sun set over the Mississippi River.
If rejuvenation is needed, visit the art-centric Healthcare Gallery and Wellness Spa. Guests who visit for a variety of massages and skin care treatments may enjoy walls of artwork, with sales proceeds heading straight to the artists. The holistic spa hours are weekdays only.
At the pet-friendly Remington Suite hotel & Spa in Shreveport, guests can enjoy cocktails in the lobby lounge, take advantage of the spa and beauty bar and can create their stay based on various packages.
Arrive at the Remington Suite Hotel & Spa in downtown Shreveport in time for happy hour, and slip into one of the comfortable leather chairs in the lobby lounge for a specialty cocktail. Then head up to the Grand Suite with its spiral staircase leading to the second-floor bedroom. This pet-friendly boutique hotel includes a spa and beauty bar and complimentary breakfast, and if you choose the romance package the stay comes with gourmet chocolates, rose petals leading to the bedroom and the use of hotel robes.
Craft cocktail lovers may want to walk the three blocks to Fatty Arbuckle’s, one of the city’s oldest standing lounges and named one of the “Best Bourbon Bars in the World” by gobourbon.com. Next door is Fat’s Oyster House if you’re hungry.
“They [Fat’s] have a gator cheesecake that is to die for,” said Shalisa Roland, public relations and digital content manager for the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, who regularly writes about the region’s foodways. “If you’re grabbing a drink at Fatty’s, you can still order food from Fat’s without ever leaving your seat.”
The Logan Mansion, known for its spirited past (we’re talking ghost stories), now offers a Prohibition Club, a modern speakeasy that requires a password to enter as well as a $25 day pass or $200 monthly fee if you wish to be a member. The Mansion also serves as an Airbnb for those who want to fully enjoy the Queen Anne architecture, enveloping porch or a ghost or two.
If art’s your speed, don’t miss the city’s many — and varied — art experiences. More an art center than gallery, artspace hosts exhibits and events featuring numerous Louisiana artists. Southern University Museum of Art focuses on the art and culture of the African and African American diaspora with unique art pieces from West Africa. The R.W. Norton Art Gallery is a more traditional museum of art with landscaped grounds and walking trails.
Lake Charles has the distinction of being home to three upscale casinos — and two of the premier properties are located next to each other. Each offer luxury accommodations, exquisite amenities such as fine dining and spas, fabulous pool campuses with cabanas and swim-up bars for those hot summer days and, of course, a wide variety of gaming options.
The only problem is which one to choose.
“When it comes to our side-by-side resorts, I’d say that you can’t go wrong with either L’Auberge Casino Resort or Golden Nugget because they are each within walking distance, so you can easily get the best of both worlds,” said Kathryn Shea Duncan, media and public relations manager for Visit Lake Charles.
Lake Charles serves as the heart of Sportsman’s Paradise, surrounded by lakes, bayous and the Creole Nature Trail. Grosse Savanne outside Bell City can bring visitors into nature at its finest with its guided fishing and hunting packages. Visitors can utilize the 50,000 private acres and three lakes at Grosse Savanne or let guides take them on to Calcasieu Lake. Grosse Savanne provides transportation to and from fishing-hunting sites, fish and duck processing and anything visitors may have left at home. They sell ammunition for hunting as well.
Once back in town, enjoy a cold beer at Crying Eagle Brewing Company, and maybe sign up for a brewery tour, then clean up for fine dining at La Truffe Sauvage or Ember Grille at L’Auberge or one of two steakhouses at Golden Nugget. In the morning, enjoy a late breakfast and relax by the decadent pool.
Crying Eagle Brewery
Vestal Restuarant Is a chic new hotspot by award-winning lafayette chef ryan trahan nestled in the heart of downtown lafayette.
Downtown Lafayette is hopping these days, with new retail, restaurants and additional residential opportunities. And every second Saturday ArtWalk dominates, with gallery openings, live music and more.
“The past two months have been insane,” said Samuel Oliver, executive director of the Acadiana Center for the Arts (ACA), which participates in ArtWalk. “It’s like a festival downtown.”
The Juliet boutique hotel and Buchanan Lofts both offer unique accommodations in the heart of the city, but there’s also Flower Streets Cottage through Airbnb where guests can enjoy a a renovated cottage in the historic Saint Streets District, well within walking distance of downtown action, plus a stay includes use of two bicycles.
Shop for innovative men’s and women’s wear, plus fun gift items, at Genterie Supply Co. on Jefferson Street or head over to Parish Ink for locally designed T-shirts, home décor and those masks for those who still need to don one. Rock’n’Bowl’s second location in Lafayette offers live performances, food and drinks in addition to their unique bowling experience.
Downtown restaurants making waves are numerous, so guests may choose from Pop’s Poboys, CENTRAL Pizza & Bar or Spoonbill Watering Hole & Restaurant for craft cocktails and unique twists on Gulf Coast cuisine. New to town is Vestal, owned and helmed by award-winning Lafayette chef Ryan Trahan.
“It’s a very hip urban restaurant that Lafayette never had,” Oliver said of Vestal. “It’s very very chic.”
This summer the ACA brings the Billy Childs Quartet to town on July 6, followed by Jim Lauderdale with singer-songwriter Sara Douga on Louisiana Crossroads hosted by Lafayette’s own musical artist Roddie Romero. Lauderdale met Douga when she received a scholarship to Lafayette’s South Louisiana Songwriters Festival and Workshop (SOLO); she’s since gone on to Nashville where she’s producing albums.
“He [Lauderdale] was a big part of her making it,” Oliver said. “And they’re going to do a show together of stories and songs. And it will be a coming home for her.”
So, here comes the hard part. Which to choose?