Louisiana, or the Bayou State as many call it, is a dream destination in the Deep South for anyone interested in Mardi Gras celebrations, Creole and Cajun cultures, and exploring the banks of the Mississippi River. The compact state is relatively easy to navigate, with most of Louisiana’s biggest and most popular destinations all bundled together within 100 miles (161 km) from each other at the state’s southern tip.
New Orleans and the historic French Quarter is undoubtedly the star city in the Bayou State, however, it’s far from the only destination that’s worthwhile to visit, with Shreveport, Baton Rouge and Lafayette all equally great cities in Louisiana too. So, if you want to learn more about America’s French influences, Creole and Cajun culture or just have an all-around festive time, check out these cities in Louisiana.
20 Cities in Louisiana
1- New Orleans
Known by many simply as the ‘Big Easy’, New Orleans is truly a one-of-a-kind American city that provides travellers with a vivacious atmosphere fuelled by the city’s Creole and Cajun cultures.
New Orleans lies at the Mississippi Delta in southern Louisiana and is the state’s economic, cultural and entertainment hub, with the French Quarter and Bourbon Street being two of the city’s most popular places for visitors.
The Big Easy has always been a diverse city with strong French, African and Native American influences, making it one of the most exciting destinations in the United States.
While Mardi Gras is undeniably the biggest and most popular spectacle in New Orleans, there are many other great attractions and landmarks to stop by, too, such as the National WWII Museum and Audubon Aquarium.
2- Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge is the Bayou State’s second-largest city and its official capital.
It is home to the main campus of Louisiana State University, the largest public university in the state.
The city is on the shores of the mighty Mississippi River.
It has a population of 457,000, with evidence of Paleo-American people living in the Baton Rouge region as early as 6,500 BC.
Named by French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville after seeing a red pole marking the boundary between the Bayagoula and Houma people, Baton Rouge is home to impressive landmarks and attractions for travellers to visit.
From the LSU Rural Life Museum to the Atchafalaya Basin, there’s no shortage of activities and places to experience in and around Baton Rouge.
Best tour: Baton Rouge Bar Hunt: Baton Rouge Goes Rogue.
In the middle of Louisiana’s predominantly Cajun region, Lafayette is a scenic riverside city with a general youthful spirit thanks to the large university campus in the city’s downtown.
The city is the fourth-largest in Louisiana and was initially coined ‘Vermilionville’ when Lafayette was first settled in 1821.
Lafayette was officially renamed in 1884 and is today a must-visit city in the state for anyone interested in learning more about Cajun culture and customs, with several excellent museums and lively entertainment spots to check out throughout downtown Lafayette.
Best tour: Cajun Food Bus Tour in Lafayette.
Founded in 1836 and boasting a population of more than 189,000, Shreveport is the Bayou State’s third-largest city and a significant economic, cultural and entertainment hub in northern Louisiana.
It was the capital city of Louisiana between 1863 and 1865 (during the American Civil War).
The city was named after Captain Henry Miller Shreve after clearing the Great Raft, a large log jam that limited shipping along the Red River.
Popular attractions in Shreveport include the American Rose Center, the R.W. Norton Art Gallery and the Strand Theatre, all fantastic options to choose.
Best tour: Shreveport Showdown Scavenger Hunt.
5- Lake Charles
Combining the great outdoors with top entertainment options and nightlife destinations in Louisiana into one convenient city, Lake Charles in the Bayou State’s southwest corner is perfect for travellers seeking a healthy balance of things to do.
Lake Charles is less than an hour’s drive from the Texas state border, placing the city within 150 miles (241 km) of popular Lone Star State destinations such as Houston and Galveston.
With unique attractions and landmarks in Lake Charles, such as the Imperial Calcasieu Museum and Prien Lake Park, it’s a great addition to any Louisiana itinerary and a must-visit city when travelling around the Bayou State’s southwest.
Founded in 1714 by French Canadian explorer Louis Juchereau de St. Denis, Natchitoches is the oldest permanent European settlement on land acquired through the Louisiana Purchase and was named after the native Natchitoches people.
Natchitoches teems with history and early Louisiana culture, which visitors can best experience at places like the Natchitoches National Historic Landmark District or the Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site.
Nestled in Louisiana’s northwest corner, Natchitoches lies roughly 76 miles (122 km) from downtown Shreveport.
It is home to several state historic sites, museums and Creole plantations within the city limits, making it one of the South’s most historic cities.
In central Louisiana on the banks of the Red River, Alexandria is a colourful mid-sized city with roughly 50,000 people, making it the ninth-largest city in the Bayou State.
Alexandria was founded around the turn of the 19th century by prominent Pennsylvania businessman Alexander Fulton, who received a land grant from Spain in 1762.
The city lies roughly 88 miles (142 km) from downtown Lafayette and is littered with quaint art galleries, top-notch museums and some of the most scenic surroundings in central Louisiana.
Stop by Alexandria’s Kent Plantation House and the Alexandria Museum of Art the next time you’re near the city.
Renowned throughout Louisiana as a major aviation and educational hub, Monroe and its sister city of West Monroe treat travellers to attractions and cultural institutions in northern Louisiana.
Named after a steamboat titled ‘James Monroe’, Monroe is best known as the birthplace of legacy carrier Delta Air Lines.
Monroe was the carrier’s headquarters until the company moved to Atlanta in 1948.
The city is the eighth-largest in Louisiana and is filled with tons of great museums, bars and shops to visit, with the city situated roughly 98 miles (158 km) east of Shreveport.
Some of Monroe’s most visited attractions and institutions include the fascinating Chennault Aviation and Military Museum, the Masur Museum of Art and the Biedenharn Museum and Garden, making the city a must-visit destination when travelling around northern Louisiana.
9- Bossier City
Nestled in the Bossier Parish in Louisiana’s northwest corner, Bossier City is a charming mid-sized city of roughly 67,000 people situated on the Red River’s banks.
The city overlooks downtown Shreveport on the other side of the river.
It is part of the broader Shreveport–Bossier City metro area, one of the most populated in the state.
Bossier City is jam-packed with many unique sights and interesting places to explore, such as the picturesque Red River National Wildlife Refuge and the Shreveport Aquarium.
One of the fun cities in northern Louisiana, Bossier City’s many great attractions and proximity to Shreveport make it a top-notch tourist destination worth stopping at when you’re in the area.
Forming part of the Cane River National Heritage Area, the small city of Natchez in Louisiana’s Natchitoches Parish seems like a world away from the busy bars and restaurants of the French Quarter.
Natchez is among the oldest settlements included in the original Louisiana Purchase and was home to some of the state’s first French planters, who set up plantations near modern-day Natchez.
This Louisiana city is also home to the oldest church founded by mixed Creole people in the United States.
It is a major stop along the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.
Best tour: Nutty Natchez Scavenger Hunt.
Thibodaux in the Bayou State’s Lafourche Parish is a quaint riverfront city with a storied past that includes Native American, French and American Civil War influences.
Nicknamed the “Queen City of Lafourche” due to its position along the banks of the Bayou Lafourche, Thibodaux boasts a population of roughly 16,000 people and is an excellent destination for travellers hoping to escape everyday city life.
Situated in southeast Louisiana, Thibodaux’s proximity to New Orleans and unique small-town charm make it among the most popular weekend getaway destinations and a pleasant addition to any Louisiana itinerary.
Forming part of the broader Lake Charles metro area, Sulphur is a delightful mid-sized city with a whole host of Creole culture and scenic outdoor spaces to savour.
Europeans first settled in Sulphur during the late 19th century when geologist Eugene W. Hilgard stumbled upon the region’s rich sulphur deposits while searching for oil.
The region quickly turned into a significant economic hub for the region with sulphur being mined on an industrial scale during the early 1900s, leading to a rise in the city’s population and prominence.
Today, this city in Louisiana is a popular tourist destination in the southwest, with destinations such as the Henning Cultural Center and the Brimstone Museum Complex just two of the many great places to visit in and around Sulphur.
Situated in southern Louisiana’s populated Jefferson Parish, the city of Kenner near downtown New Orleans is the Big Easy’s largest incorporated suburb, boasting a population of more than 66,000 people.
Minor Kenner founded the city on land that consisted of three former plantations in 1855, which the Kenner family purchased to establish the settlement near the Mississippi Delta.
Kenner remains a popular destination for travellers seeking the amenities and attractions of New Orleans without the Big Easy’s drawbacks, with Kenner serving up many interesting attractions to visit too.
Featuring a wealth of perfectly preserved 19th-century brick architecture, Cajun and Creole culture, and a vibrant entertainment and nightlife scene, Opelousas is among the most interesting cities to visit in Louisiana’s south.
Opelousas was settled predominantly by French and Spanish Creoles, Acadians and Creoles of colour and is the self-described ‘spice capital of the world’.
The city is the centre of the Creole people’s traditional zydeco music.
It is home to the Evangeline Downs Racetrack and Casino, the St. Landry Catholic Church and the Louisiana Orphan Train Museum, all great venues to explore.
Home to a thriving public art and festival scene, top-notch restaurants and several antique stores selling one-of-a-kind treasures of yesteryear, Slidell is the perfect Louisiana city to visit if you’re looking for fun and entertainment.
Founded in 1882, Slidell lies just 33 miles (53 km) from New Orleans and the French Quarter and has a population of more than 28,000 people.
Slidell’s the perfect city to visit if you’re interested in exploring the Big Easy without actually staying in New Orleans, with enough historical and cultural landmarks to keep you busy during your stay.
Houma is a mid-sized city in southern Louisiana’s Terrebonne Parish named after the Houma people, a Native American tribe believed to be related to the Choctaw.
The city sprung up in 1834 and was officially incorporated in 1848, and is home to attractions and landmarks such as the Bayou Terrebonne Waterlife Museum, the Regional Military Museum and the Terrebonne Folklife Culture Center.
Steeped in Cajun culture and a popular destination for geocaching, Houma seamlessly blends the indoors with the great Bayou swamplands to create a truly unique Louisiana city, offering the best of both worlds.
With a population of just over 13,000, the St. Tammany Parish city of Mandeville offers travellers a great mix of history and Creole culture on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain.
The city lies roughly 22 miles (35 km) west of Slidell and 34 miles (54 km) from downtown New Orleans, placing it right in the middle of some of southern Louisiana’s best and most popular attractions.
Featuring attractions and landmarks that include the Fontainebleau State Park, the Jean Baptiste Lang Creole House Museum and the Mandeville Trailhead, Mandeville is a fantastic alternative to the Big Easy’s busy streets and overcrowded venues.
Forming part of the larger New Orleans metro area, Covington is a smaller city in southern Louisiana renowned for its craft beer scene, art galleries and scenic nature trails.
Covington boasts a population of roughly 11,000 and is situated at the Tchefuncte and Bogue Falaya River fork, with signs of European settlement dating back to 1800.
Spurred by the shipping industry along the Mississippi and the arrival of the railroad, Covington is a breath of fresh air from the Bayou’s larger cities, with plenty of unique places to visit and interesting tales to learn more about.
Situated in Jefferson Parish, roughly seven miles (11 km) from New Orleans, Metairie is the largest city in the parish and the fourth-largest city in all of Louisiana behind Shreveport.
Metairie was first settled by French arrivals during the 1720s, making it one of New Orleans’ oldest suburban areas.
Modern-day Metairie is littered with Victorian-era architecture and many of the Big Easy’s top attractions, including the Jefferson Performing Arts Center, Jackson Square, and the Longue Vue House & Gardens, so be sure not to miss out on visiting Metairie.
Yet another large city in Louisiana’s populated Jefferson Parish, Marrero is the Big Easy’s gateway to southeast Louisiana’s swamps, bayous, forests and marshlands.
Marrero is named after Louis Herman Marrero, former Louisiana politician and founder of the Marrero Land Company, and is located just 8 miles (12 km) from downtown New Orleans.
The city has world-class attractions, such as the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, the Sazerac House and the Barataria Preserve, perfect for a quick afternoon trip from the Big Easy.
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