Get Me Out of Here: Fat Tuesday Alternatives

14:00 February 23, 2020
By: Jeff Boudreaux

Fat Tuesday-that wonderful day of the year in the life of a New Orleanian. It certainly lives up to its billing. How else could we possibly find the energy to keep up with that merry marathon of friends, floats, and festivities? Well, it just so happens that this delightful day of debauchery isn't everyone's idea of a good time. Don't worry, you've arrived at a nojudgment zone. The truth is, this last day of the pre-Lenten season is just another day of business in most other places in the country. If you and your family have had enough of the parades and are looking to engage in something different this year, simply fill the car up with gas and grab some refreshments for a fun-filled day trip to an enlightening place that may or may not be on your mini-vacation radar. Either way, you'll soon discover what a great day you've picked to beat the crowds.

Avery Island

Are you a lover of hot sauce? Well, the salt dome that is Avery Island produces the world's most famous variety: Tabasco sauce. Learn all about Edmund McIlhenny and his historic recipe that took the nation by storm in 1868, in a self-guided, 10-exhibit factory tour and museum, complete with restaurant and spectacular gift shop. With all of that, you may be surprised to learn that Tabasco isn't the only reason to visit Avery Island. No trip here is complete without a tranquil and exhilarating walk through Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre botanical garden that also functions as a bird sanctuary and wildlife reserve. This also just happens to be home to a staggering 900-year-old statue of Buddha, one of Louisiana's most breathtaking attractions. junglegardens.

Biedenharn Museum and Gardens

One of the most fascinating spots in Louisiana is Biedenharn Museum and Gardens. Joseph Biedenharn, the first bottler of Coca-Cola, moved his operations in 1913 from Vicksburg, Mississippi, to Monroe, Louisiana. It's three museums for the price of one, as you'll tour his historic home and garden, a Bible museum, and, of course, a celebration of all things Coke. Be amazed at the historic soda fountain, with its own highly entertaining and informative soda jerk. This experience is not really recommended for followers of the keto diet, as you'll be tempted beyond belief to buy an ice-cold Coke from the original five-cent vending machine. Since the drive to Monroe is 280 miles, it would be optimal to arrive in town Monday night or start your drive there at the crack of dawn on Tuesday.

Global Wildlife Center

What's better than rubbing elbows with abundant giraffes, bison, camels, zebras, and a host of other species? Not much, since you'll have the absolute time of your life feeding them all from the comfort of the park's safari wagon. You'll tour 900 acres of Folsom's beautiful, nationally renowned wildlife preserve, all the while wondering if you were unwittingly transported from Tangipahoa Parish to the African plains. You should purchase the family-size bucket of feed. While it may seem a little pricey at $32, you'll kick yourself if you buy the 32-ounce cup because it will be gone approximately three minutes into the 75-minute ride.

Natchez, Mississippi

Are you ready to encounter 300 years of history on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River? Known as the "Jewel of the South," Natchez is steeped in cultural heritage, with must-visit sites including the Museum of African American History and Culture, Fort Rosalie, Melrose mansion, and the William Johnson House-the latter three comprising the Natchez National Historical Park. Take a free tour of the Old South Winery and taste wine made exclusively from muscadine grapes. If you haven't been to Natchez in a while, or ever, you'll really be amazed at the rate in which the city is growing and thriving. Before you leave, be sure to watch the sunset on the great river while enjoying an ice-cold beverage from the Under the Hill Saloon. This may be exactly what Mark Twain was describing in all those novels.

Poverty Point

An archaeological marvel located in Louisiana? Absolutely. This prehistoric earthwork overlooking the Mississippi River floodplain was cultured by indigenous peoples from 1730 to 1350 B.C. and was designated both a world heritage site by UNESCO and a national monument by the National Park Service. Located just four hours away in Pioneer, this incredible array of laboriously produced ridges and mounds predates the Mayan pyramids and is no less impressive. Admission is only $4 per person with seniors and small children entering for free.

Tunica, Mississippi

This is a little bit of a drive (about five and a half hours' worth), but if you have the luxury of being off on Lundi Gras, a trip to the "Vegas of the South" would be well worth the trip. Casinos, museums, and down-home Southern cooking are just a few of the attractions in Tunica. Experience the rich history of the Mississippi Delta at the Tunica RiverPark & Museum and take a ride upon the riverboat known as the Tunica Queen. You'll soon find that simulating life on the Mississippi works up quite the appetite. For authentic Southern food and hospitality, look no further than the Blue & White Restaurant, a Tunica institution for 85 years and counting, serving incomparable gastronomical delights that will please both your stomach and wallet. Do yourself a favor and try the fried chicken livers and gravy.

Military Park

Under siege for 47 days by Grant's forces, the confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi, was the site of the last major battle of the U.S. Civil War. A major port on the Mississippi River, Vicksburg was deemed more important than New Orleans to the Union effort by President Lincoln, and the nearly 20,000 deaths from both sides prove it. A day-long excursion here includes a self-guided driving tour through the hallowed grounds (simply download the free app) and a walk aboard the USS Cairo Gunboat and Museum. The cost is only $20 per car, whether you have one or 10 people. Seriously, there is so much to experience here, you could easily spend multiple days, which is why the pass is good for an entire week.

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