by: Nelson Hicks Updated:
NEW ORLEANS --Cajun food, plantation homes, casinos, tours of the bayou, alligators, the home of Tabasco and Bourbon Street; there are countless reasons to visit Louisiana.
First Stop-New Orleans
Mardi Gras has brought thousands of Georgia residents to Louisiana. The massive celebration that includes parties, parades and plenty of fun culminates the day before Ash Wednesday with Fat Tuesday.
The French Quarter is a mecca for partying during Mardi Gras, but even after Fat Tuesday has come and gone, there are still plenty of reasons to visit.
"You can walk around with your drinks if you want," Greg Simmons from Tucker told wsbtv.com "There are plenty of great, great (restaurants).We've been here for a couple days and had four great meals. The people are real nice and friendly. The weather is great. So, a great place to come to."
The French Quarter features dozens of restaurants, nightclubs and shops to enjoy on a visit.
While the party atmosphere is certainly a reason to visit Louisiana, it's far from the only reason. Look no further than the second stop of the trip, Darrow. It's home to the Houmas House Plantation and Gardens.
The Houmas House and Gardens is about an hour west of New Orleans along Interstate 10. It's one of a few dozen plantation homes Louisiana visitors can tour. The Houmas House includes furniture from past presidents and an amazing statue of President Abraham Lincoln created by sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Borglum carved the presidents' heads at Mt. Rushmore. He also was commissioned to carve Stone Mountain though he did not complete the project. Other artifacts at the Houmas House detail what plantation life was all about.
"Life here is very different than the urban areas," owner Kevin Kelly told wsbtv.com. "This is country life, but as you can find here, it's a very sophisticated farmhouse look. It's European gardens. The collection inside is primarily Louisiana furniture, Louisiana artwork. The owners were from Columbia, S.C., who built it in 1810."
There aren't any "Do Not Touch" signs at the Houmas House either. Kelly encourages guest to touch the art and even try out the furniture on a visit.
"My favorite thing since I was about 10 years old was to visit all the great castles of America, which this is one," Kelly said. "I know what I like and I like to be able to go in the room and be able to feel the room, sit on the furniture and make yourself feel at home. I wouldn't do this if I couldn't make all my guests feel very comfortable."
Kelly said the 38-acre gardens at the Houmas House, which feature indigenous Louisiana plant life and stunning exotics, are totally replanted for color four times a year. The gardens at the Houmas House include the Hampton Garden, Upper Garden and Fountain Courtyard.
Third Stop-Breaux Bridge
From exploration of the past to some good eats in the present, Cajun food is a reason all itself to visit Louisiana.
First, let's be clear as to exactly what Cajun food is. We went to the authority on Cajun food, Mulate's in Breaux Bridge.
"Cajun food is not supposed to be hot and spicy," Jenny Melancon from Mulate's said. "It's a blend of spices mixed together, and yes, they do have pepper in it but they also have garlic and other things like that."
What makes Mulate's the authority? It's billed as the original Cajun restaurant.
"This is Cajun country," Melancon said. "We specialize in food. We put the food, the music and the culture all together."
Fourth Stop-Lake Charles
More than a dozen Louisiana casinos offer visitors a chance to hit it big on their next trip to the Bayou State. One of the most popular places to place is L'Auberge du Lac Casino Resort in Lake Charles. The resort offers 30,000 square feet of gaming featuring more than 60 table games and 1,600 slots. L'Auberge plans to open a new poker room in July.
There are casinos closer to Atlanta, but few can compete with the multitude of amenities L'Auberge offers. Whether it's gambling, golfing, the spa, dining, shopping or just floating down the lazy river, L'Auberge offers plenty of things to pass the day.
"When people come here, they feel comfortable bringing mom, dad, grandma, grandpa and the kids because there truly is something for everyone," Crystal Miller from L'Auberge du Lac said. "Mom and dad can go enjoy the casino area while grandpa and grandma can take the kids to L'Arcade where the kids can play arcade games and then, take them out to the lazy river and let them go through the pool all day."
Vacation time: Cajun food, plantation homes, casinos in Louisiana
AP Exclusive: Strapped UN health agency spends big on travel
Gen. Lee the last Confederate statue removed in New Orleans
In New Orleans, Confederate monuments are gone _ Lee last
The Latest: Last Confederate monument removed in New Orleans