Make the holiday weekend memorable with easy Down the Road day trip ideas

Hitting the road for one last summer outing is a tradition on Labor Day weekend. Haven’t made your own plans yet? Don’t fret, we have you covered.

All summer, I’ve been traveling the local region, collecting stories, testing itineraries and reporting on great day trip opportunities right at your doorstep for our Down the Road series. I set out to explore what awaits just outside the city, and I found plenty of fascinating culture, colorful history, mesmerizing natural splendor and delicious food along the way.

You can use the links below and accompanying videos to get a feel for these trips. None of them required an overnight stay, and you can pull a plan for any of them together in a flash.

For instance, one trip took me to the end of the road, and the heart of the coastal wetlands, in Cocodrie, with the amazing Chauvin Sculpture Garden, an unexpected elevated view and plenty of opportunities to fish from the roadside or just watch the bayou from a dockside swing.

Another trip across the Cajun prairie was built around racing, with regal thoroughbred horses or revved-up automotive horsepower at two nearby but very different tracks, and plenty of stops for boudin in between.

Up in St. Francisville, I set off in search of a championship-sized cypress tree deep in a riverside forest that was underwater just last spring (and will be again soon), while getting a dose of antebellum and Civil War history amid more eclectic charms in the hills and ridges of English Louisiana.

If you’re not averse to working up a little sweat, on the north shore you’ll find a bicycle trail connecting small towns, pretty parks, one offbeat museum inspired by folk art and roadside oddities and a string of local breweries and restaurants.

Just outside New Orleans, explore the swamps and lush wetlands around Lafitte by airboat on a guided tour or by boardwalk on a self-directed sojourn in the Barataria Preserve, then explore the surprisingly diverse array of restaurants at the edge of Louisiana wilderness.

The Down the Road series also took us down the coast. There was a trip to a pair of museums honoring eccentric local artists that happen to be right by the beaches in Biloxi and neighboring Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Then we went over the horizon to Ship Island, an “offshore beach” accessible by daily ferry service that makes a captivating and restorative getaway and can include a stop to see what’s new in Bay St. Louis.

Follow these paths, or just use them as inspiration to chart your own day trip, and you can quickly make this Labor Day weekend a memorable one. There’s a lot out there, and it’s all just down the road.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.