Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Discover Louisiana....Kid Style!

So it is summer time....kids are off of school....days are longer....and what are you going to do?
The summer time is the only time in my life that I wish I was a stay at home mom!! I really do! I use to work in the school system...and I was off each summer...and this is the only time I secretly still wish I was employed by them (come August I will be thanking God for my job!!)

There is just so much I want to do with my kids when they are off of school and I can't cram it all in a weekend...I need the week days too!! (Any ways...off my soap box...because I wouldn't last 2 weeks as a stay at home mom...before I was calling my boss asking for my job back!!)

Any ways....I have been thinking about things that I wanted to do with my soon to be 5 year old and 2 year old this summer...so I planned a June and July calender of events for them (making sure that they are super busy with camps and others activities during the week)....but I began thinking about a little vacation....some place me and the hubby could take the kids for a few days....but... after...last years beach experience....we are still suffering from a little post traumatic stress....so I began thinking a little harder?!!! I like new places....hate doing the same thing over and over (love, love the beach...but don't put me on the same beach every year....it will leave me wanting to discover another one somewhere else!) I want to discover new places....and I want that for my kiddos too!

And then the thoughts started coming....why not discover the great state of Louisiana? No seriously....how many great places in Louisiana have been completely undiscovered by my little family??? So I jotted down the thought....DISCOVER LOUISIANA....

and so the research began for a few days and the planning started....and I thought....I must share this with my fellow bloggers....oh how helpful it might be to someone! Regardless if you are a reader from Louisiana or not....I think this summer list is adaptable for any state...all you have to do is adopt the theme of "Discovering your state"....check out a few key websites I list and you will be on your way!

So here is what I have came up with....keep reading for more details.....

But....first make sure to jot down or bookmark this great site...Family Days Out....click on the link and discover tons of Day Outings for you and your children....in any state in the United States!

Hopefully before school starts....I will be able to scratch off everything...if not....it will continue to roll out throughout the year....because after researching and looking into everything (I think Mommy is just as excited as the kiddos will be!)

1. Swim, Swim, Swim....(ok so I am partial to this one....I have only been teaching and coaching swimming for 13+ years), but any ways....if you live in the Thibodaux/ Houma area....join the Nicholls Pool (it is very cheap for a family membership and the poo1 stays open until Sept...if you are a Nicholls Alumni...membership is super affordable!) If you are not from the area...check out the memberships to your local pools, YMCA, country clubs, or university pool memberships...well worth the investment....especially getting you kids exposed to the water....you can never go wrong!

2. Visit your local library - Most local libraries are completely FREE!! So take advantage of it...especially during the summer months when they offer tons of activities! If you live in Lafourche Parish click on the link for the monthly calendars to all the parish libraries....Free Story time every Wednesday at 10:30 am and 2:00 pm....also Kids Craft days and special summer events! Also here is a link to all libraries in the State of Louisiana (listed out my cities).

3. Visit a Farm in Louisiana - Whether it is a blueberry farm (my personal favorite), organic farm, summer seasonal farm, or a U pick farm (which means a farm that you do all the picking...straight from the trees!)....it is beyond worth it!? Whenever I want to find a farm in LA or any other state...I all go to this website (it is your go to for all farms...with listing of every state in the United States) I have used this site last summer when we traveled to Florida and we stopped by a blueberry farm on the way to the beach! Not only will you get fresh produce/ fruits for literally half the price as in the stores (if not more than that), but it is a great experience for children! My children love, love pickin'....Here is a pic of them a few weeks back at a blueberry farm in Jackson, Louisiana
The farm we visited is named Blueberry Ridge Orchard and it is a U-pick farm and all blueberries are $1.00 per pound....can't beat that!! **Blueberry Season usually starts around Labor Day...and runs throughout the summer...until the end of July** Other fruits that are in season right now....Blackberries, Apples, Grapes, Watermelons, Strawberries (ending usually mid June), and Peaches!

Top left: My Mom and Jacques picking blueberries Top Right: opening season blueberries...ready for picking
Bottom Left: Some of the sweetest blueberries I have picked in a long time Bottom Right: Juliette learning how to pick blueberries!

Jacques has become a little pro at picking! Open milk jugs work really well for holding blueberries while you pick! A full gallon of blueberries = approx. 5lbs...which = $5 at Blueberry Ridge Orchard!

4. Attend a Festival in Louisiana - So how do you know what kind of festivals are coming up...well make sure to check out Louisiana's Tourism website and they feature all up coming festivals in Louisiana. So take a road trip and spend the day enjoying a Festival in Louisiana! Eat good food, dance, shop, and enjoy unique activities for the kids!
Some up coming Festivals that you might be interested in...
Louisiana's Peach Festival - Ruston, LA June 22-23 or Delcambre's Shrimp Festival or Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival - Morgan City, LA

So whether it is crawfish, watermelon or strawberries...there is some kind of festival in Louisiana that fits your interest!

5. Paddle down a Louisiana Bayou or River - For the best info on paddling make sure to visit the Louisiana Paddle website for info on canoeing and kayaking down Louisiana Waterways! The website gives you the ability to search by regions within Louisiana and by skill levels! Also, another great resource which is a block away from my house is the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park - which they offer Boat Tours down bayou Lafourche in the spring time and fall time (so around Aug. they will be starting back up!) The boat tours stop off at Madewood Plantation and E.D.White Plantation Home.

6. Take a Swamp Tour - So most people have gotten hooked on the reality show...."Swamp People" and my little boy is one of them!! When I asked him recently if he wanted to go to the zoo, children's museum or a swamp tour....he do doubt without hesitation....say "Swamp Tour...Mommy!" So, believe it or not...I have lived right near the swamp for practically my entire life and I have never been on a swamp tour before. Now have I been in the swamp...well yes! But, I haven't been on one of those famous tours....so that is a must for our family soon! There are swamp tours located right outside of the New Orleans area, but if you want to go off the beaten path and stay local....check out the list on the City of Houma's website....
A few to look into:
A Cajun Man's Swamp Cruise
Cajun Tours/ Swap Tours

There is also Wildlife Gardens in Gibson, LA - which is a cypress swamp tour, alligator farm, and nature trails - open Tuesday - Saturday 9am - 2pm

In the New Orleans area:
Cajun Encounters
Big Easy Tours
Louisiana Tour Company
Jean Lafitte Swamp Tour

7. Ride a Train to NOLA - So from Schriever you can board an Amtrak train and head to New Orleans...if your children are anything like mine...they probably love trains!! I checked the Amtrak prices for the summer and during the week tickets are $15 and on the weekends tickets are $12....can't beat that! Now that is a one way ride to the city, but still quite an inexpensive ride and so much fun for kids!!

 8. Visit a State Park - Did you know that Louisiana has more than 20 state parks? State parks are cool to visit for the day, overnight camping trip, or weekend cabin rentals....really possibilities are unlimited! Each state park has different activities that they offer....but the best starting place for exploring is the Louisiana State Parks website. After looking through all the state parks I was really interested in North Toledo Bend State Park.....and Cypress Bend Resort in Many, LA.

North Toledo Bend State Park

9. Visit a Farmer's Market - So right in my back yard (really just a block or two away) every Saturday morning there is a Farmer's Market in Thibodaux...right by the old library. My children have been a few times, but this summer I am searching for a large one...and hoping to also Discover a new little town or city (See #14) while I am at that!

Here is a great website for all the open air Farmer's Markets in Louisiana.

10. Bike Along a LA Trail - so here is one of the things I am most excited about this summer...have any of you every heard of Tammany Trace Trail...well just a little bit about it in case you haven't heard about this cool place....Tammany Trace is a biking trail that makes it way through 5 historic communities...Covington, Abita Springs, Mandeville, Lacombre, and Slidell. It crosses over 31 railroad bridges and passes various parks, bayous, rivers and streams. In each community is a "Trailhead" and you can began your biking adventure at any one of the communities. There are places to rent bikes and gear or you can just bring your own!

11. Visit the Global Wildlife Center - The Global Wildlife Center is located in Folsom, LA and is open to lots of wildlife - including giraffe, camel, zebra, kangaroo, crane, deer, and horned onyx to name a few. The cool thing about this place is each day they offer Safari Tours throughout the park...and you are able to feed the animals! They have over 3,000 free roaming animals...(waiting for our wild children!)

12. Visit the only LA National Forest - Kisatchie National Forest is the only national forest in Louisiana...the National Forest spreads across seven parishes in Louisiana...there are many entrances into the National Forest from along the 7 parish span...

13. Visit Avery Island - The Birthplace of hot sauce! The island is home to the acres of hot pepper fields, the manufacturing facility, and a jungle garden of over 170 acres of wildlife and exotic plants. The Country Store, Factory Tours, and the Jungle Garden is open 7 days a week. For more information check out there website.

14. Discover a New City in LA - so there are so many unique cities and towns in Louisiana and I want my children to experience them! There is something about the unique culture of Louisiana that I want my children to understand and appreciate. So, my goal this summer is to explore some historical towns in Louisiana. Have any tips....ideas...favorite places to see?

I found this website and it spotlights small towns in the United States....and some of the towns that made the list for Louisiana...was Arcadia (never heard of it...any ways it is in North Louisiana), Natchitoches, and West Monroe...(what about South LA...so many great places...but those didn't make the list!!) I can say Natchitoches is definitely on my list this year to visit....I really don't know if I will make it there this summer, but I am definitely planning to visit there for the annual Christmas Festival of Lights and they also have an annual Tour of Historical Homes during Christmas time (but that is another post and another time!!)

In Arcadia, LA every month they have Bonnie & Clyde Trade Days... (that seems interesting...will check that out and maybe right another post on that!)

15. Visit another LA Zoo (Besides NOLA) - So the NOLA Zoo is 1 of the top 5 Zoo's in the United States (Did you know that little bit of info?) any ways....I really love it, but I want to get out and explore some more...so I am hoping to bring the kids elsewhere. Any tips on this one? I did some research and I found a few other Zoo's in Louisiana...
Baton Rouge Zoo, Alexandria, Monroe, and Lafayette to name a few! I have heard great things about the Baton Rouge Zoo, but have never been...so hopefully we can check that out!

Hope you have enjoyed this post and gained a few more resources for Louisiana exploring! Happy Summertime!! And remember for all things Louisiana....check out the awesome tourism site here.

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