And here we go!
Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville is a mere 45-minute drive from downtown New Orleans.
As the most visited recreation area in the state of Louisiana, it’s where the locals go to enjoy spectacular sunsets over sprawling Lake Pontchartrain.
After sunset, stay on the beach to enjoy a star-filled sky above the distant lights of Crescent City.
The area across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans was developed by Bernard de Marigny, a colorful and influential character in Louisiana history and supposedly once the richest teenager in the world. The ruins of his sugar plantation, which operated until 1852, can still be found in the park. Marigny named his 2,800 acres Fontainebleau after the forest near Paris, a favorite recreation area of the French kings.
This park offers outstanding saltwater and freshwater fishing as well as crabbing. There’s also a mile long boardwalk over a sprawling saltwater marsh.
With its beautiful forests and stunning water features, Fontainebleau State Park was selected as an ideal location for filming the movie adaptation of the 2018 Delia Owens murder mystery Where the Crawdads Sing.
Cinematographers felt that the park would be an accurate substitute to the novel’s North Carolina setting. If the backdrop was not reflective of the main character’s love of swampy surroundings, the film would have failed to resonate with audiences.
Fontainebleau State Park contains traces of the ancient people who inhabited the shores of Lake Pontchartrain 2,500 years ago. In the southeastern section of the park is an archeological site of the Tchefuncte culture.
The Tchefuncte were primarily hunter-gatherers who lived in coastal areas and lowlands, near slow-moving streams. Their main food included a variety of seafoods, such as clams, alligators, and fish.
There are many trails throughout the park, winding their way through forests of cypress and picturesque live oak. The beautiful moss-draped Alley of Oaks is a popular setting for taking selfies. The trees are also the former site of 12 slave cabins, who worked on Bernard de Marigny’s sugar mill… their location indicated by historical markers.
Fontainebleau State Park, created in 1943, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
Next up is Pelican Park.
Pelican Park has been called a model for how a park should be, and a case study in people coming together to create a centerpiece of their community. If one enjoys the outdoors, you’re certain to find something to your liking at Pelican Park.
One of the best things about the park, aside from it being well maintained, is there’s very little overcrowding, despite the thousands who flock to its expansive facilities each year.
Located northeast of Mandeville and adjacent to Fontainebleau State Park, the main draw of Pelican Park is its copious sports facilities, including an astounding 32 athletic fields.
Pelican Park originated in the mid-1980's when a group of local volunteers saw the need for a place in the Mandeville area for children to play. Additionally, recreational resources such as gymnasiums, basketball courts, volleyball courts, Pickle Ball courts, soccer, baseball, and softball fields were in short supply. Well, not anymore. Now you can find all of these fun fields and courts here at Pelican Park.
Recreational sports foster a welcoming atmosphere and make it easier for people to forge new relationships. They’re ideal for families that are new to town and looking for a way to make friends.
This is especially true for children. The kids joining these sporting teams will also attend the local schools. This will allow children to create friendships outside of the classroom. Many of these bonds will last a lifetime.
In Mandeville, families, churches, schools, and community leaders, all the way up to the governor of Louisiana, banded together to remedy the situation. Vacant land was identified. The property was surveyed, a master plan was developed, and… voila! Pelican Park and later the multi-purpose 46,000 square foot Castine Center, came into being.
Through the years the park has expanded by some 160 acres. There’s a dedicated “Health Trail'' for hikers. Improvements were made in lighting, parking, restrooms, and concessions. Modern needs and expectations were met as a dog park was added, batting cages, and, of course, frisbee golf.
The Northlake Museum and Nature Center was established in 1982 to preserve, study, and publicly exhibit the natural and cultural resources of southeastern Louisiana.
Just 45 minutes from New Orleans, in the heart of St. Tammany Parish, Northlake Nature Center is adjacent to Pelican Park Sports Complex and the 31-mile Tammany Trace Rails-to-Trails path.
The Center offers visitors the opportunity to experience three different ecosystems: hardwood forest, pine-hardwood forest, and pond-swamp. The ponds in the cypress swamp area are the result of beaver dams and a beaver lodge is visible from one of the center’s raised boardwalks.
In addition to its outstanding natural features, areas of cultural interest include an archeological site yielding evidence of a 700-year-old Acolapissa Native American population.
The Northlake Nature Center is working to recreate within its 400-acre preserve the experience of walking through a forest of longleaf pines… a native species that once covered 90 million acres from Texas to Virginia. Other native grasses have also sprung up and the bright green longleaf seedlings glisten where once grew scrubby forest.
Visitors can enjoy walking through the forest along Pelican Park. The walk is part of the Four Seasons Tree ID Program that teaches participants to identify native trees and shrubs year-round. In January, there are no leaves, so one looks to the bark structure to identify trees in their dormant state.
Northlake has a compelling agenda of other activities throughout the year, including Kundalini Yoga sessions…an active form of meditation using postures, breath, and mantras. With unique themes with names such as Gardening the Mind, participants are asked to bring their own yoga mats and dress appropriately for the outdoor weather.
There are guided medicinal plant identification walks, where visitors discover the healing wonders of Louisiana's native vegetation.
For doggie owners there’s a "Dog Wag and Walk," guided tour through the trails. All that’s needed is a water bowl, leash, and your four-legged friend.
Louisiana’s subtropical climate, varied forests, and location within a major North American migratory flyway makes the state a haven for viewing an awesome variety of birds. Northlake Nature Center offers bird watching by pontoon boat, from which one may also spot alligators.
Locals say the Mandeville Trailhead exemplifies what they love most about living along the North Shore region. It’s all about good food and good people. Operated by the City of Mandeville,
Trailhead Market has space for over 80 local growers, producers, and artisans. That translates into top quality seasonal produce, fresh eggs, honey, fresh cut flowers, delicious cooked food, arts, as well as outstanding crafts.
Open on Saturdays, it was designed as a place to support local entrepreneurs and artists.
The market is also a favorite place to meet with neighbors and enjoy live entertainment, which goes on spring, summer, fall, and winter. The music is eclectic, from swing bands playing jazz favorites, soul music and funk, to guitar greats, jamming rock and Delta blues.
It’s where one goes to buy locally made products. Some vendors have sold homemade baked goods and sweets for over a decade and enjoy fulfilling that need for local comfort food… dishing up treats such as banana bread and bread pudding.
Because of these long-standing vendor-customer relationships, the market is not only a municipal gathering spot, but a community unto itself.
For many vendors, it’s not about the money, but rather experiencing this sense of community.
Another regional delight is the sno-ball, not to be confused with snow cones. They’re a seasonal treat found from the Gulf Coast to the Mid-Atlantic… a confection made with finely shaved ice and flavored cane sugar syrup. Unlike snow cones, they’re fine and fluffy, and the flavoring doesn’t sink to the bottom.
Shiver [as in shivering from the cold] Shack Sno-balls are an iconic local brand. They top their creations with everything from ice cream, condensed milk, fresh fruit, candy, to cheesecake. As a bit of added fun, Shiver Shack is open to customer ideas, experimenting with egg custard, amaretto, cantaloupe, to creamy custard. It’s a yearly event to see which new flavors remain on the menu.
Eight private yacht clubs line Lake Pontchartrain, the 11th largest lake in the United States by area, at 630 square miles. Technically, it’s a brackish estuary, named for a French politician in charge of the navy during the reign of Louis XIV.
Shallow, aside from several regularly dredged shipping channels, the oval-shaped lake is about 40 miles wide and 24 miles north to south. The world’s longest over-water single-span bridge traverses the lake.
Sailing upon Lake Pontchartrain has been an enduring tradition, with regional, national, and even international championship regattas parting the waters. It is said that when the lake’s ever-changeable weather kicks in, sailors are presented with an exhilarating challenge.
Pontchartrain Yacht Club was founded in 1967. The Club was also accepted as a member of the United States Sailing Association in that same year. Over the years, the club has produced many national sailing champions and a few world-class racers who have participated in major competitions across the globe. It also has an active cruising contingent as well as power boaters.
In 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed the old club house and devastated much of the surrounding area. Pontchartrain Yacht Club re-opened using temporary quarters and began the rebuilding process. The new, elevated clubhouse was open for business in the early summer of 2007.
The club prides itself on being a family oriented, volunteer driven, non-profit organization that promotes the sport of sailing, especially among area youth.
Theater is among the most ancient and collaborative forms of fine art. Historically, playhouses have been highly reflective of the society in which they serve, and the 30 by Ninety Theater of the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, though small, continues this hallowed tradition.
Its stated mission is to create a personal experience for the audience through the shared medium of acting. It aims to and succeeds in being the premier live theater destination for the North Shore, by providing artistic, cultural, and educational opportunities to the community.
Theater goers say opening nights at the 30 by Ninety are especially fun, and the sparkling wine and petit fours of intermission are an added delight. People also cite that it is a very nice, intimate venue.
Long time patrons say they admire the quality of the entertainment. An important plus is that the seasons are diverse, exciting, and well-timed. The shows are expertly directed and acted with a professionalism of a higher level than is normally seen in community theater. The facility, though small, continues to grow and upgrade.
Located near the corner of Lafayette Street and Highway 190 in Mandeville, the theatre holds up to 100 people and ticket prices are quite reasonable.
After the show, grab a bite at nearby Liz's Where Y'at Diner. As you might guess from the name, it’s a colorful and unique dining establishment. The neighborhood diner prides itself on its made-from-scratch New Orleans cuisine, at affordable prices, and with super friendly service.
There’s also Cafe Lynn, owned and operated since 2007 by a husband-and-wife team, offering classic French- New Orleans fresh local faire. Though a casual space, it is cherished for delivering fine dining appeal.
Louisiana has 21 state parks, which are administered by the Office of Lieutenant Governor, a division of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Fairview-Riverside Park, like its nearby neighbor, Fontainebleau State Park, is a North Shore gem.
Also, like Fontainebleau, the marshlands of Fairview-Riverside State Park served as a filming location for the movie Where the Crawdads Sing. Director Olivia Newman said, "We needed to be up close and get that incredible landscape that [the author described in the book], and we needed to be able to photograph it in all of its real and glorious splendor.”
Photography is an appealing activity in the Pelican State, and North Shore, because it offers a rich natural landscape, with outstanding creatures and physical attributes to shoot.
Atop the list are the dozens of crystal-clear streams, of which the Tchefuncte [chuh-FUNCT-tah] River is the most photogenic. The 70-mile long Tchefuncte is an officially designated Natural and Scenic River that connects Lake Pontchartrain to the piney woods of St. Tammany Parish. As it runs through the park, it offers scenic vistas for professional and amateur photographers alike. A telephoto lens can be especially advantageous for birds and other wildlife.
One will see spectacular diving ospreys, bald eagles, pelicans, great blue herons, and snowy egrets standing motionless in the mud flats. Certain breeds of owls nest along the river. Along with migratory birds, you’ll see alligators and maybe even the endangered red-eared slider turtle.
Freshwater fishing on the Tchefuncte River yields bass, white perch, bream [brim]… elsewhere known as bluegill, catfish, and speckled trout. Crabbing is also popular.
Scattered throughout the park beneath a canopy of huge oak trees, you will find numerous picnic tables, a group pavilion, a playground for the kids, and various campsites.
Upon entering the park there is a large home facing the water. Known as the Otis House, it was originally built in the 1880s as the family home for sawmill owner William Theodore Jay. It was later purchased and renovated in the 1930s by a Frank Otis, serving as his summer home until his death in 1962. Mister Otis left the property to the State of Louisiana to be developed into a recreational site for visitors. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
There are about 275 maritime museums in the United States, with four of them in Louisiana. The tag line for the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum and Research Center is— “Bringing Louisiana’s maritime history to life.”
Located on the banks of the Tchefuncte River in Madisonville, the museum gives visitors an overview of the maritime history of the lower Mississippi River Valley, the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, and gigantic Lake Pontchartrain.
The museum showcases local history such as a ship diorama carefully made by a descendant of one of the last lighthouse keepers at the Tchefuncte Light Station. The diorama, composed of Louisiana Cypress, was part of a three-year effort to bring to life a former shipyard— Jahncke Shipbuilding Corporation, that was contracted by the U.S. government to build Ferris Wooden Cargo Ships in support of WWI activities.
These cargo ships were the last and the largest vessels ever built following a tradition of wood shipbuilding that had lasted practically unchanged for centuries. A Jahncke family member went on to become secretary of the Navy under Herbert Hoover.
In October the museum hosts a Wooden Boat Festival, featuring over 100 classic boats, from the Native Americans, European explorers, and early settlers each of whom depended upon Louisiana’s extensive bayous, rivers, and lakes as the pathways of survival, linking the interior with the sea.
The Tchefuncte Light Station is one of the North Shore’s most important landmarks. Built in 1837, the ground around the white and black tower had been eroding significantly, jeopardizing the historic structure…one of the few lighthouses remaining on Lake Pontchartrain. Its restoration has been an ongoing project of the museum.
Other programs include the time-honored craft of boat building, hands-on field trips, constructing underwater robots. To help fund these programs, the museum aims to increase the number of events held there, from parties, weddings, to memorials, art shows and speaking engagements.
Coquille is a park that continues to grow, and is considered the gold standard recreation facility of the parish.
The park began in the early 1990s via a fundraising effort by the community, initially to construct three baseball fields. Through the years softball fields were added, along with those of football and soccer. Except for the football and soccer fields all facilities are lighted for nighttime use.
Later came batting cages, concession stands, and amenities such as adequate parking and restrooms.
“Coquille” comes from a Native American word signifying an abundance of shells. It refers to the copious amount of clam shells found along Lake Pontchartrain. The clams are native to the region and are a vital part of its ecosystem. In fact, the clams help keep the lake clean… all 629 square miles of it!
Today, Coquille Parks & Recreation has over 4,000 youth and 500 adult participants in programs offered at the facility… everything from t-ball to flag football.
Parents love the park because there is so much for kids to do. There are four different playgrounds, sandboxes, a splash pad, and even musical instruments for children to play. As a bit of fun for everyone, be sure to have some change in your pocket as there are vending machines from which you can hand feed the ducks.
There is a pleasant, paved, shaded trail that loops its way through the trees. With wide open vistas, it’s the type of trail where you can never lose sight of your kids, which can be a concern in a large park such as Coquille.
The region has seen substantial growth along State Highway 22 and U.S. Highway 190 in recent years. Coquille Park is trying to keep up with this growth by offering a place where every kid can play in an area that is safe, secure, fun, and not overcrowded.
As we head to our next stop, let’s talk about Mardi Gras. So, you don’t have to actually be in New Orleans to experience this lively, boisterous, fascinating carnival tradition. Here in Tammany’s Parish there are plenty of Mardi Gras parades and krewes to entertain you such as Krewe of Olympia, Krewe of Eve, Push Pow Mardi Gras, Krewe du Pooch, Mystic Krewe of Mardi Paws, and Fools of Misrule.
Now, on to the Children’s museum.
Parents report that their young kids have so much fun at the Children’s Museum of St. Tammany, that they end up staying for hours. Some also say they visit the museum several times a week.
American poet, Pulitzer Prize recipient Mark Van Doren wrote “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” This is precisely what the Children’s Museum of St. Tammany accomplishes… helping children to discover, learn, and build their brains.
The concept behind children's museums is that they provide exhibits and programs to stimulate informal learning experiences for kids. In contrast with traditional museums that typically have a hands-off policy with exhibits, children's museums feature interactive displays that are designed to be physically handled by children.
With a great location off Interstate 12 and State Highway 59, as well as for families biking the St. Tammany Trace, the Children’s Museum of St. Tammany is treasured for its spacious setting. Parents describe it as being clean, well-organized, and, with its Northshore setting, a break from the hectic environs of the French Quarter and downtown New Orleans.
The museum features exhibits designed by Argyle Design of Brooklyn, New York, a firm specializing in museum development. Working alongside local educators, museum board members and staff, what they’ve devised is a museum that appeals primarily to toddlers through early childhood.
Whether families spend an hour or an afternoon, the museum makes for a perfect outing with young kids.
Exhibits and activities include:
-An "Art Works" room, with puppets, music instruments and costumes for children to wear.
-A boat atop simulated water, with fishing and crabbing.
-The “River Market” where children can shop and pay for groceries at a mock store.
-A STEM-based room where children can build their own mini roller coaster to learn about gravity and inertia and play with a large magnet wall.
-A “Water Works Wall” where water flows from the top of the wall and children use magnetic pieces to manipulate the water flow.
-A “How and Why” area with a circuit builder to make a light and fan turn on.
Here’s a little secret - parents love to play alongside their kids at this super fun museum.
How about we head into the city of Covington? Remember at the beginning of the tour when I said you can never get bored in St. Tammany’s parish? I meant it. A Taste of Covington is a food, wine, art and music festival that happens every June.
Who doesn’t like a block party? Well, from March through October, take a stroll down Columbia Street for a classic car show, live music, and plenty of food and drinks.
Also in October you can find the Bluesberry Festival. Obviously blues musicians and blueberries are a highlight here, but also there are artisan booths and beer. Blues musicians, blueberries, booths and beer. All the B’s.
November is next and if you love art, over 150 artists and craftsmen are waiting for you to come take a look at their goods at the Three Rivers Art Festival. Bring your kids because there are plenty of activities just for them.
Covington, Louisiana is located a little more than five miles off the northernmost curve of Lake Pontchartrain. It’s a triangular shaped city, wedged between three rivers. With a population hovering slightly above 10,000 people, the residents of Covington pride themselves on their charming Southern community, with its eclectic mix of boutiques, art galleries, specialty shops and restaurants.
Through the years, they’ve given special care to ensuring the conservation of Covington’s historic homes and buildings all the while allowing for the modernization of its infrastructure.
One way to appreciate this history and feel yourself stepping back in time is to take a downtown stroll starting from the restored Southern Hotel on Boston Street.
The Old Covington Shopping District is filled with mouthwatering restaurants, interesting art galleries and specialty shops. Of course, there are antiques galore, a general store, a colorfully decorated cigar store imbued with a rich, peppery-aroma, children’s boutiques, and even a knife and archery shop.
A historical marker tells of Covington’s founding in 1813, and its name change three years later in honor of a General Leonard Covington, who was killed during the War of 1812 and has not one, but 11 cities and towns named after him.
Just around the corner to the right is the HJ Smith’s Son General Store & Museum which has been operated by the Smith family continuously since 1876.
Now in their third generation, it is both a working store and museum. I encourage you to slow down… maybe even pull over so I can tell you all about it, AND the St. Tammany Art Museum which is right next door.
Now, if you step into the General Store store, follow the painted white footprints to the museum and its displays such as a hand-operated washing machine, a 1920s gas pump, and other memorabilia from the 1870s through the early 1900s.
The store itself gives you a sense of stepping back into history. Travel guides say to allow 30 minutes to visit the store and museum, while travelers report spending as many as three hours
in the establishment. And why not? There’s plenty to see, and one of the most fun things to do is to try to figure out what many of the items are.
The museum also gives an interesting look into the river trade and development of the City of Covington from the 19th century to the present.
Store owners call it the Walmart of its day. Some visitors say it feels a little like an army surplus store, as well as a regular hardware store with bolts, screws, lightbulbs, and hard-to-find items.
The most talked about thing, however, is the so-called “petrified” rat. Check it out… or not.
Spiritualist author Thomas Merton wrote— “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Hence why organizations such as the St. Tammany ArtAssociation are so important, enabling established and emerging local artists to promote their work, and bring thought provoking, culturally enriching art to places such as the North Shore region.
The St. Tammany Art Association was founded in 1958. Today, with its headquarters in a historic two-story building on North Columbia Street, STAA has grown into an organization with over 300 members. It serves as a catalyst for preserving local culture and creativity.
Like artists persevering through adversity, STAA has endured its own challenges such as COVID-19, when multiple events were canceled, to catastrophes such as losing the roof atop its iconic Art House headquarters during Hurricane Ida.
On the yearly STAA calendar, the Spring for Art celebration looms especially large. For one evening it brings the fine arts back into the community after a long winter season. It’s also a time to witness children expanding into the arts and sharing their talents with the community.
STAA strives to bring unique, artistic work to the community. It works in conjunction with the New Orleans Museum of Art, primarily through once-a-year joint exhibitions. These special shows allow members of the community to experience not only local, but regional art.
This is important because, according to STAA instructors— “People need art. They need it a lot.”
The Covington Trailhead and Museum likes to ask— got history? And history it has got, in addition to a farmer’s market outside the facility, with a string band that plays rain or shine.
The trailhead itself serves as a resting station for visitors walking or cycling the 31-mile Tammany Trace. Ducking into the museum, after checking out the local arts and crafts, one learns more about the history of Covington via walk-through photo exhibits, interactive kiosks, and short films including a video for the kids.
Speaking of cycling, name an activity more enjoyable than pedaling around a small, scenic, community and state parks. Well, of course there are other fun pursuits… kayaking for one; but
with three locations, Brooks’ Bike Shop has become the go-to place in southern Louisiana to purchase a bike. It’s a veteran owned business that proudly proclaims its passion for bicycles.
Brooks’ Bike Shop not only sells the leading brands, but also buys, repairs, and rents bicycles. Like most veteran owned businesses, they get the job done, not only in putting you atop the bike you want, but when it comes to repairs, they do both large and small.
Oh, and those other fun activities… Brooks has you covered there as well, with canoe rentals, paddle boards, and yup…kayaks too!
What do ya say we get outta here and find a brewery? Yeah? Ok! Please follow your navigation.
The Abita Brewing Company is a cool place to visit. Originally located in the piney woods outside of Abita Springs about 30 miles north of New Orleans, the brand is consistently ranked as among the finest in America.
Today the original Abita Springs location is an independent pub operating in partnership with Abita Brewing Company, which moved to a bigger facility in Covington and is one of the nation’s largest craft breweries by sales volume.
One of the founders of Abita Brewing Company was the late Jim Patton, a trained cultural anthropologist and professor at Southeastern Louisiana University. Due to his love of beer, Patton left academia behind, and is considered one of the pioneers of the craft beer industry.
Part of the secret as to what makes its product so great, is that Abita Brewing Company uses artesian waters in brewing its 125,000 barrels of beer and 13,500 barrels of soda each year.
The state-of-the-art facility is pretty impressive. It’s also held in high regard owing to its cutting-edge environmental practices.
Abita Brewing Company is located alongside Tammany Trace, so stop by and quench your thirst after that long bike ride. Tour the facility and try a beer or two. With names like Purple Haze and Strawberry Lager… who can resist?
As we head into the town of Abita Springs, let me tell you about their incredible Whole Town Garage Sale and Flea Market. Imagine the best garage sale you’ve ever been to. Now add steroids. Either drive or walk the streets on your hunt for any and all kinds of treasures, clothing, books, art and much, much more. Does that sound fun? Well, it’s a blast.
Located next to the Abita Brew Pub, the Abita Springs Trailhead Museum is a nifty little exhibition hall just off, as the name implies, the Tammany Trace Trailhead. This 31-mile-long hike and bike trail spans from downtown Covington to Slidell.
Visitors enjoy the fact that it is a small museum, with friendly, knowledgeable volunteers that are happy to answer any questions. Hence, the museum can be seen in a short amount of time; yet, visitors will leave with an understanding of the history and character of Abita Springs—originally a Native American village and taking its name from nearby medicinal springs.
The museum is housed in a section of the former Longbranch Hotel, dating from the late 1800s, that had specifically been moved to this site to serve as both a historical museum and a visitor center of this 2500 population town.
Adorning its walls are framed displays of local history, on topics such as the medicinal springs. This was a time when healing waters were a tremendous fad, and a chemist from the Louisiana Board of Health tested the water and declared spring water “of superior quality from a sanitary and hygienic point of view.”
The museum is owned and operated by the Town of Abita Springs. Be sure to sign the guest book as it’s an important aspect to the museum’s continued funding!
Up next is the Abita Mystery House. Let’s go!
The swamplands of the North Shore region aren’t the only places that have been featured on film or television. There’s a roadside attraction in Abita Springs, whose name says it all. The Abita Mystery House is completely off the wall and has been featured on the A&E reality series American Pickers. USA Today has deemed it the fourth best attraction in the Pelican State.
Even a director of the New Orleans Museum of Art called the Abita Mystery House the "most intriguing and provocative museum in Louisiana.”
To say it is strange would be an understatement. The entrance to the house is a vintage gas station, with bright décor, while the main exhibition hall is an old Creole cottage, and the House of Shards… containing thousands of pieces of tiles, pottery shards, mirrors, and glass.
Then there are monsters such as a half alligator- half dog creation appearing like something out of a 1950s horror show. I’m not kidding.
Visitors leave happy and amused, commenting upon the hilarity of the attraction, and saying it is both fun and inspiring to see what can be done with everyday objects. Others exclaim that it comes across like an explosion of several garage sales yet is a creative way of presenting history. Go see for yourself!
Next up, enjoy a peaceful drive to the Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery! Yup, I said “gator”, as in alligator. Louisiana has more gators than any other state in the country so we HAVE to go see some. Follow your navigation!
It should come as little surprise that Louisiana has more alligators than any other state in the country, as I said before. Containing the second-most swampland in the nation according to area, and with its warm climate, Louisiana is the perfect home for these ancient reptiles.
The most recent data shows that there are over two million wild alligators across the state, with an additional one million on farms. The state is quite famous for its alligator farming and harvesting, accounting for hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
When visiting Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery, parents say— pack a lunch and make a day of it… and don’t forget to take lots of photos!
They also say Insta-Gator is a great activity to save for on a rainy day as the facility is mostly indoors.
Many families claim Insta-Gator as being their favorite activity in an area already known for its outstanding fun. It’s also educational. The tours are loaded with information about the history of Louisiana gators, as well as ongoing conservation efforts.
In 1978, Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries hatched a plan to rescue Louisiana’s alligators from the brink of extinction. The program involved harvesting alligator eggs from the wild and hatching them safely at local ranches. Thus, was born Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery in 1989. The Covington, Louisiana ranch began hatching eggs by the thousands.
Along with other ranchers, this conservation program has become recognized worldwide as among the most successful sustainable conservation programs for any animal.
Insta-Gator Ranch has become the most informative and interactive alligator tour in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas and now is home to nearly 2,000 alligators. Insta-Gator usually begins each program with a first-hand account of how eggs are harvested in the Louisiana swamps.
Next, visitors will see hundreds of alligators of various ages and sizes, both above and below the surface of water. Some will be hatchlings of less than one foot in length, while others are much larger. One of the most exciting aspects of the tour is watching your tour guide hop into a pen of gators and catch one. Spectators may be called upon to help tape the gator’s mouth closed.
Visitors also get the opportunity to feed marshmallows to the alligators, which the kids always thoroughly enjoy. After that it’s time for taking photos, including the chance to hold an alligator. If visiting in the month of August, you may even hatch a baby alligator in your hand!
Our last stop is a winery. We may need to relax and unwind after getting up close and personal with those gators, am I right? Well, just follow your navigation!
Now as we drive toward the winery, I’d like to tell you about a pretty cool place about 20 miles west of here, that you may wanna check out today, or save for another day.
Outside the village of Folsom, amid the green spaces and waterways of the North Shore region, lies the 900-acre Global Wildlife Center. It’s a world away from the savannah of Africa. Eight thousand four hundred miles, to be exact, to Nairobi and its famed Wildlife Capital National Park, home to elephants and giraffes grazing against a backdrop of skyscrapers towing over the Kenyan capital.
Global Wildlife Center is one of the largest wildlife preserves in the United States, with many endangered and threatened animals from around the world. It’s about as close as you’re going to get to experiencing an African safari in America, minus the thousands of dollars in airfare, hotel rooms, and expensive entry fees.
A long-running TV advertising campaign talked about special moments in life as being “priceless.” That’s how many people sum up their trip to the Global Wildlife Center. Going to an ordinary zoo can be expensive and families are forced to contend with crowds, and eying the animals from behind glass or from a distance.
At the Wildlife Center, you will come face-to-face with the animals. There are vehicle tours that will make you feel like you are on a real African Safari. In some ways it’s even better as you can purchase feed to give to the animals.
There’s everything from camels to giraffes, kangaroos, bison, zebras, and deer. All the while families will learn about these creatures and their native habitat from the Wildlife Center’s knowledgeable guides.
If you’re lucky, the Wildlife Center will be celebrating a newborn baby. It’s both thrilling and interesting to see the newborn adapt to his or her surroundings. The Center often has several names selected for its latest addition, and visitors are asked to vote for their favorite via the Facebook page.
There are children’s safaris conducted in large, covered wagons pulled by tractors, or families can also schedule their own private safaris.
Autumn is rutting season, and you’re likely to see antlers clashing and dust flying as male deer compete for dominance of their herds.
Another ideal time to visit is during the Tammany Taste of Summer celebrations that has become a flagship event for the Louisiana Northshore. Numerous businesses and nonprofits, including the Center, participate in the Taste of Summer, when discounted tickets are available.
We made it!
Now, maturity is the key word when talking about Wild Bush Farm and Vineyard. For 30 years the 13-acre wine producer operated as Pontchartrain Vineyard and its grapes today produce that poetry in a bottle that wine connoisseurs expect.
The new owners are taking their Napa Valley experience and setting up in their native Louisiana to produce fine table wines in the classic French tradition.
Wild Bush Farm and Vineyard offers an old-world tasting room and a beautiful terrace overlooking row upon row of glistening grapes.
Setting their sights on exquisite vintages particular to the Pelican State and its soil, the owners intend to work hard over the coming years in fine tuning this goal.
Meanwhile, in addition to producing outstanding wine, Wild Bush Farm and Vineyard hopes to grow as an entertainment destination, as it continues to host the ever-popular Jazz'n the Vines outdoor concert series held between March and November.
Having inherited much of the previous owner’s inventory, there is plenty of wine on hand in the tasting room. The tasting room is available for group tours, private parties, luncheons, dinners, weddings, and other affairs.
Currently Wild Bush Farm and Vineyard offers about a dozen different wines. In addition to producing more complex wines with grapes grown upon the estate, they’re importing Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah grapes, largely from Northern California.
The new owners intend to make thoughtful wines that fill a need that is not being met. While the backbone of their portfolio is classic Napa varietals, they began tweaking some of the flavor profiles to showcase their palates, featuring less oaky Cabernets and Chardonnays, and interesting varietal blends.
Having become fascinated by sustainable agriculture, the owners want to create something fresh and interesting in Louisiana. They knew winemaking in the Pelican State could be a challenge, nonetheless, they believed the time was right for experimenting and offering new varieties of wine. At Wild Bush Farm and Vineyard, they feel that they have the support of the community… a community that is open to new perspectives on a product that mankind has been producing since 5000 BC.
Well, that’s all for today. I hope you had as much fun as I did. This place is really great, isn’t it? Don’t forget to reach out to Kellie and Kimberly of K2 Realty if you have any questions. Thanks again for taking this UCPlaces tour! Have a great day!