Located west of New Orleans, Jefferson Parish extends between the shores of Lake Pontchartrain and the beaches of the Gulf Coast. Home to the New Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, it is safe to say that this parish is the gateway to The Big Easy. However, Jefferson Parish is far less crowded than New Orleans. Meaning you will get to enjoy a calm and peaceful vacation away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
While Jefferson Parish might not be as popular as New Orleans, it is still a lively and historic neighborhood with vibrant art scenes, diverse culinary experiences, rich culture and traditions, and plenty of things to do. From devouring delicious oysters fresh out of the Gulf of Mexico to soaking up the sunshine, exploring the shaded swamps, and exploring the historic districts, you might need more than just a few days to cover everything and appreciate the area’s value.
If you are looking to get away from it all and lose yourself in peace and nature, Jefferson Parish is where you should be
Grand Isle State Park, Birding Trail, and Tarpon Rodeo
Grab your sunglasses, dab some sunscreen, and head to the Grand Isle to witness the premier Gulf-front beach in Louisiana.
The Grand Isle State Park serves as an abode for numerous bird species who stop on the barrier island on their way, migrate through the area, or form nesting grounds. The Grand Isle Birding Trail, the first-ever Nature Conservancy found in Louisiana with its fragile ecosystem, helps you get familiar with more than a hundred species of feathered friends.
But keep that all aside, this is an excellent place to bring your family to tread the water, hold a mini barbeque party, or camp overnight.
If that doesn’t interest you, then the Grand Isle International Tarpon Rodeo, which is regarded as the oldest fishing tournament in the nation, might. Tarpons are giant Gulf fish. So, expect to see the professional participants reel some giants. Other events to keep an eye on include Miss Grand Isle Pageant, Kid’s Crab Races, live music and dancing, and more.
Get on the Louisiana Oyster Trail
If you are an epicure, then there is no better way to spend your time in Jefferson Valley than to embark on the Louisiana Oyster Trail, which runs from the Lake Pontchartrain to the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.
It is well-known that Louisiana is popular for its oysters. In fact, the state is the largest producer of oysters in the US.
On the Louisiana Oyster Trail, you will get to dine at 20+ restaurants that serve their own take on fresh oysters, including Perino’s Boiling Pot Restaurant in Harvey, Acme Oyster House in Metairie, and Kelley’s Village Inn in River Ridge.
You will know when you see a stop on the Louisiana Oyster Trail by the hand-painted three-foot-tall oyster statue, which tells you, “This is a place that serves oysters right.” Whether you prefer your oysters raw with a squeeze of lemon and cocktail sauce or all dressed up as soups, fries, or sandwiches, you will find a restaurant that prepares them just the way you like them.
Bayou Segnette State Park
If you truly want to leave the city behind and get close to nature, visit Bayou Segnette, which is just a short drive away across the Mississippi River from Metairie.
An ideal spot for families, you will find endless opportunities to have some fun time outdoors. Fishing, picnicking, boating, hiking, canoeing, and overnight camping are some of the main highlights here. However, the biggest reason that makes this place family-friendly is the park’s wave pool, which offers an excellent opportunity for swimming during warm weather months.
Explore the Swamps and Jean Lafitte
A few minutes’ drive away from New Orleans will bring you to the swamplands of Louisiana and the Barataria Preserve that covers 26,000 acres of Louisiana’s wetlands, including marshes, swamps, and forests.
Start on the trails right in the morning, heading from the Palmetto Trail to the Bayou Coquille Trail and the Marsh Overlook Trail. You will get to take in the stunning views of swamp water as you walk along the boardwalks and ensure you keep an eye out for alligators.
If you feel tired, duck into the visitor center to learn from the exhibits how the Mississippi River built the Louisiana wetlands and how the river flow still continues to change the coast and the swamp.
In case you wish to venture deeper into the swamps, catch the airboat to experience the rush of adrenaline and also explore nature. The Airboat Adventures Swamp Tour last 1 hour and 45 minutes and takes you to the company’s privately-owned swampland.
Lastly, don’t forget to stop at the Jean Lafitte Visitor Center in the town of Lafitte. It won’t take more than 30 minutes but will gift you with a memorable experience—the animated puppet exhibit narrates the story of Jean Lafitte, a pirate, and the Battle of New Orleans.
Stroll Through the Historic Districts
Jefferson Parish is rich in culture, traditions, and history, which is what makes it stand out. And nothing helps you uncover the parish’s many stories than its well-preserved historic districts.
Gretna’s National Register Historic District is one of the most famous historic sites in the neighborhood. It tells the history of German immigrants through its eye-catching collection of beer steins at the German American Cultural Center, the Gretna Historical Society Museum Complex, the Louisiana Fire Museum, and the three 19th-century Creole cottages.
Make sure you plan your trip around the annual events held in Gretna like the Gretna Heritage Festival in fall, Ringing in The Arts in December, City of Gretna Oktoberfest in October, and Spring Tour of Historic Homes in April.
Similarly, Kenner’s Rivertown is a 16-block area where Robert Cavalier de la Salle, a French explorer, landed in Louisiana in 1682. Today, the landing is surrounded by historic buildings and attractions, such as the Megadome Cinema, Kenner Planetarium, and Rivertown Theatres for the Performing Arts.
If you wish to experience small-town Louisiana living, head to Westwego, a historic fishing village, and stroll along Sala Avenue. For a fun evening, spend your time at Teatro Wego or grab your tickets for production at Westwego Performing Arts Theatre. Additionally, the Westwego Farmers and Fisheries Market will help satisfy your taste buds.
Jefferson Parish offers a wide array of things to do, from outdoor activities soaking in the warm sun and stunning views to enjoying art, culture, shopping, dining, and entertainment indoors. No matter your age, interest, or background, there’s something for you to enjoy in Jefferson Parish.