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Explore a Lifestyle Like No Other
Uniquely scenic and rich with culture, the Lake Pontchartrain Loop begs to be explored. There's no bad time of year to pack up the car and embark on a tour of the loop, and Louisiana communities from the New Orleans area to Hammond to Slidell promise to make it worth your while.
It's no secret there's much to explore in New Orleans and its surrounding communities. The spirit of Fat Tuesday lives on year round in the Crescent City and neighboring Metairie, and respites like Chalmette, Harvey, and Westwego, offer a little peace and quiet without being too far from the fun of the French Quarter. Still, New Orleans is a well-worn topic.
We'll venture west to LaPlace LA to start our exploration. Just over half an hour from New Orleans, the community retains a personality all its own.
LaPlace locals are proud of their swamp land – after all, it's all around them. Find out what makes it so beautifully unique by taking a Cajun Pride Swamp Tour boat ride. You'll be guided past all sorts of bayou wildlife, and your captain might even let you pet one of his baby alligator friends.
Now, if petting one of those little green guys makes you hungry, you're in luck. Deep fried alligator meat is something of a delicacy in these parts. Locals say its cross between fish and chicken, flavor wise. Visit local staple Pier 51 to find out for yourself.
October visitors better come hungry, though not necessarily for alligator. LaPlace is known as the Andouille Capital of the World, and the Andouille Festival is an annual favorite held at the St. John Community Center. It's famous for its abundance of food, music, and festival fun, with gumbo cook-offs and more.
Be sure to travel with adventurous tour buddies – that way you can take part in things like the ATV Swamp Tour through the Eastern Tract of the Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area. You'll have a tour guide to keep you safe, but he won't be able to keep you clean – plan on getting muddy.
Head north along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain to reach Hammond, home to Southeastern Louisiana University, and a wealth of other attractions.
A guided tour through Kliebert's Turtle & Alligator Farm is a thrill for kids and adults alike. These ain't the bayou babies from back on the boat ride – Kliebert's got the big boys. Just don't tell them what you had for lunch back in LaPlace.
Families traveling with little ones may notice them getting a little antsy by this point in the trip, but never fear – Hammond is home to the Louisiana Children's Discovery Center. There you can let the kids run wild, with everything from hands-on educational activities to plain ol' fun and games with other youngsters.
If you're really ready to get the blood flowing, head for Chappapeela Sports Park. The facility features 21 soccer fields, six baseball fields, four softball fields, two regulation football fields, a walking trail, three playgrounds, and even a splash pad. Suit up and get ready to sweat.
Make your way east, back toward the northern shores of Lake Pontchartrain to discover the community of Covington, where you can almost hear the spirit of the Big Easy humming in the air.
That's not to say Covington isn't a destination in its own right. The community is home to historical and cultural attractions like the St. Tammany Art Association and the HJ Smith & Sons General Store and Museum, where you can travel back in time to a 1800s-era hardware store where you can purchase all kinds of hard-to-find items, from pelts to cast-iron cookware.
Even more gator fun awaits visitors at the Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery, but you won't find local music lovers there on the third Friday of every month, March through October. They'll be gathering at Covington's former Columbia Street boat landing, where the popular Sunset at the Landing Outdoor Concert Series features live performances of everything from jazz to bluegrass, folk, blues, and more.
Fishing opportunities and other beach fun can be found at Fontainebleau State Park, but if you're looking to get a little more active, the Covington Trailhead and Tammany Trace is ideal for a walk, run, or bike ride.
From here you have a choice to make: take the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway back to New Orleans – which is an experience in and of itself, thanks to the impressive length of the bridge and the vastness of the lake – or continue east to Slidell.
We're glad you chose Slidell. With the GOSH Museum community is good for a history lesson, and the City of Slidell Cultural Center maintains an eclectic calendar of live performances and concerts. Check the schedule during your visit to see what's happening.
Slidell's quaint downtown area is characterized by its numerous antique shops offering all kinds of rare and ancient wares. Browse for yourself – locals say turnover is high, so there's almost always something new – although likely very old – to find.
Once you've worked up a second wind for exploring, make sure to check out the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge and the Pearl River State Wildlife Management Area. Both are ideal ways to catch glimpses of some of the Bayou State's rare and endangered animal species.