Whether you’re an international visitor coming to New Orleans for the first time or a Louisiana native ready to book a summer staycation, there’s an endless bounty of exciting activities in and around the Crescent City.

Once you’ve exhausted our list of free things to do in New Orleans, try one of these quick day trips from New Orleans. Each is just a short drive from Hotel Monteleone, meaning you can feel like you’re worlds away for the day but still have the chance to experience the vibrant French Quarter nightlife or unwind after a day’s adventure at the Carousel Bar & Lounge.

Visit nearby Jean Lafitte Barataria Preserve or Honey Island Swamp for a chance to see alligators in their natural habitat. (Photo courtesy Angela N., via Flickr)

Visit nearby Jean Lafitte Barataria Preserve or Honey Island Swamp for a chance to see alligators in their natural habitat. (Photo courtesy Angela N., via Flickr)

Jean Lafitte Barataria Preserve

Approximate driving time: 30 minutes

Located just a half hour’s drive from Hotel Monteleone, Jean Lafitte Barataria Preserve offers a wilderness retreat that is a stone’s throw from downtown New Orleans. Boardwalks and packed gravel or dirt trails wind through diverse wildlife habitats that include bayous, swamps, marshes, and forests.

Park rangers host a free Wetlands Walk at 10:00 a.m. every Wednesday through Sunday, or explore the self-guided trails. You will likely catch a glimpse of snakes, turtles, and even alligators!

Honey Island Swamp

Approximate driving time: 45 minutes

If you’re looking to explore the bayous and swamps surrounding New Orleans even further, Honey Island Swamp offers a convenient way to do so. A number of local tour companies including Pearl River Eco-Tours and New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours provide guided swamp tours that will take you past alligators, wild boars, and other native wildlife.

Get up close and personal with exotic animals at Global Wildlife Center.(Photo courtesy Shawn, via Flickr)

Get up close and personal with exotic animals at Global Wildlife Center.(Photo by Shawn via Flickr)

Global Wildlife Center

Approximate driving time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

If the Audubon Zoo isn’t already part of your trip itinerary, the Global Wildlife Center in Folsom, Louisiana is worth the trip for the chance to get up close and personal with more than 4,000 exotic animals.

This free-roaming wildlife preserve focuses on animal conservation and public education by providing guided wagon safari tours of their 900-acre facility. Visitors come face to face with free-roaming giraffes, zebras, camels, bison, and other endangered and threatened species.

Abita Springs

Approximate driving time: 1 hour and 15 minutes

A trip to the town of Abita Springs offers plenty of fun on tap, both literally and figuratively. Abita Springs is most famous for being the home of Abita Brewing Company, which has grown since its start in 1986 to be one of the largest craft breweries in the nation. The Visitor Center & Tap Room are open daily, with the option of guided and self-guided tours through the brewery. Visitors can make reservations in advance for guided tours, which include four 4-ounce beer tastings.

Beer isn’t the only thing to keep you busy in Abita Springs, however. The Abita Springs Trailhead offers access to the idyllic Tammany Trace, a 31-mile trail beloved by local hikers and bicyclists which also features a separate equestrian path. The accompanying Abita Springs Trailhead Museum features exhibits by local artists as well as seasonal events. The Abita Mystery House is also worth a visit while you’re in town. Filled with thousands of found objects and folk art oddities, it’s a museum unlike any other.

Grand Isle, located just a short drive from New Orleans, is a haven for fishing. (Photo courtesy Grand Isle, via Facebook)

Grand Isle, located just a short drive from New Orleans, is a haven for fishing. (Photo courtesy Grand Isle, via Facebook)

Grand Isle

Approximate driving time: 2 hours and 20 minutes

Grand Isle is a nature lover’s paradise, located just a couple hours from downtown New Orleans. The only inhabited barrier island in Louisiana, Grand Isle plays host to thousands of migrating birds each year. The island is also ideal for year-round fishing, whether you choose to use the public fishing bridge or charter a boat with one of the many offshore fishing tours.

Grand Isle State Park features a sandy beach perfect for swimming. (If you’re lucky, you might even spot dolphins swimming just offshore.) Be prepared to pay a small toll before entering the bridge to Grand Isle. An automated payment machine will accept credit cards, debit cards, cash, and coins. The toll for a standard two-axle vehicle is $2.50.

Bay St. Louis

Approximate driving time: 1 hour

The nearby town of Bay St. Louis on the Mississippi Gulf Coast offers a perfect day trip destination for those looking to explore local beaches, arts, and culture. This quaint city by the bay is famous in the region for its thriving arts scene.

Start your visit with a trip to the Alice Moseley Folk Art Museum, located in Bay St. Louis’ historic train depot. The depot once served as a backdrop for the classic movie This Property is Condemned starring Robert Redford and Natalie Wood. Nearby there are a number of local shops and restaurants worth exploring.

Hotel Monteleone is pet-friendly and so are the beaches of Bay St. Louis, so if you’re traveling with your four-legged friends, this is a great one-day getaway.

Whitney Plantation

Approximate driving time: 1 hour

There are plenty of plantations within a short drive of downtown New Orleans, but perhaps none of them offer an experience more moving than that of Whitney Plantation. It opened in 2014 as the first plantation museum in the state to focus specifically on slavery. Through first-person slave narratives, exhibits, memorial artwork, and restored buildings, visitors can gain a unique perspective on the lives of Louisiana’s enslaved people.

A guided tour is required in order to explore the plantation grounds and exhibits, and tours often sell out on busy days. Visitors are encouraged to reserve tickets online before visiting.

Where To Stay In New Orleans

Hotel Monteleone offers the perfect home base for all of your adventures. Our concierge can arrange tour pick-ups for many of the day trips mentioned here.

Book your room now, and start planning your New Orleans vacation itinerary!

Ready to see exotic animals, take a walk on the beach or sample craft beer? Try one of these quick day trips from New Orleans.