Historic Sites In Louisiana. More Than Just Parks has 5 incredible must-see sites for you to visit.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
I’m going to give you my list of the 5 Historic Sites In Louisiana that you’ll want to see.
To be clear, this list includes national park sites (as in sites managed by the National Park Service) as opposed to national parks.
If you are planning a trip to Louisiana then you might want to pick up a copy of Greater Than a Tourist- Louisiana USA: 50 Travel Tips from a Local by Veronica Godkin.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Historic Sites In Louisiana
5. Poverty Point National Monument
At #5 on our list of historic sites in Louisiana, More Than Just Parks has Poverty Point National Monument.
Poverty Point World Heritage Site is a a trading hub, an engineering marvel, a monument to ingenuity—there are many ways to describe Poverty Point.
At Poverty Point there’s the remnants of ancient culture which contains some of North America’s largest prehistoric earthworks.
Poverty Point Was Part Of An Enormous Trading Network
3,000 years ago, Poverty Point was part of an enormous trading network. It stretched for hundreds of miles across the continent.
Hand by hand and basketful by basketful, men and women shaped nearly 2 million cubic yards of soil into stunning landscapes. The result was a massive 72-foot-tall mound, enormous concentric half-circles and related earthworks that dwarfed every other earthen monument site for 2,200 years.
It’s truly an engineering marvel! Visitors can explore the culture of a highly sophisticated people. There they will see one of North America’s most important archeological sites.
In 2014, a new label was added: UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The State of Louisiana operates an interpretive museum, holds special events, and provides programs and guided tours there.
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Historic Sites In Louisiana
4. Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve
At #4 on our list of the best historic sites in Louisiana we have the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve.
One of history’s most colorful characters is Jean Laffite. Originally from France, by 1810 Lafitte was operating as a pirate in Louisiana.
Lafitte’s main commodity was African slaves. The United States had outlawed international slave imports in 1808. It was an illegal commodity.
Lafitte purchased slaves in the West Indies. He smuggled them into Louisiana. They were highly profitable because of the federal ban.
Lafitte & The War Of 1812
Lafitte received a pardon for his earlier crimes from President James Madison. Afterward, he resumed his career as a pirate on Galveston’s Island in Spanish Texas.
During Mexico’s war for independence, he served as a spy for the Spanish.
If you’re interested in learning more then I heartily recommend The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, Bicentennial Edition by Donald R. Hickey.
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Lafitte is believed to have buried a large cache of treasure somewhere in the bayous of Louisiana according to legend. Other variations of the story say Lafitte buried his treasure in multiple locations along the Gulf Coast.
In the 1820s, Lafitte and his crew seized Spanish ships in the Gulf of Mexico. During a battle with Spanish ships in February of 1823, It’s believed Lafitte was wounded..
He is believed to have died from his wounds though no official obituaries appeared in any of the newspapers.
Jean Lafitte Revealed
To learn more about the man as well as the myths which surround him then I would recommend Jean Laffite Revealed: Unraveling One of America’s Longest-Running Mysteries by Oliphant & Yarbrough.
Beginning in 1805, the book traces Laffite through his rise to power as a privateer and a smuggler in the Gulf, his involvement in the Battle of New Orleans, his flight to Texas, and his eventual disappearance in the waters of the Caribbean.
Six Sites Scattered Across Louisiana
Each is unique in its focus, and they all reflect a place where traditions can be generations old but the ground under your feet can change with the weather.
The park’s sites share the story of a place where change is the only constant, from the waterways that shape the land in new patterns every day to the never-ending balancing act between old ways and new ideas.
These amazing sites include the following:
- Barataria Preserve: Outdoor activities abound at our 26,000-acre Louisiana wetland and a visitor center with dioramas, exhibits, and hands-on displays.
- French Quarter Visitor Center: Visitor center exhibits and a film share the history and traditions of the lower Mississippi River delta and of New Orleans, home to one of America’s most distinctive cultural mixes and rich in food, music, architecture, and more.
- Chalmette Battlefield & Cemetery: Learn how the War of 1812’s Battle of New Orleans shaped American history at our historic battlefield and cemetery.
- Prairie Acadian Cultural Center: Discover the Prairie Acadian story through music, dancing, and craft demonstrations.
- Acadian Cultural Center: Permanent and special exhibits, an award-winning film, ranger talks, and programs share the history, customs, language, and contemporary culture of the Acadians who became Louisiana’s Cajuns. Admission to the center and to most programs is free.
- Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center: The Acadian exiles who settled along Louisiana’s bayous created a distinctive Cajun culture based on life in a watery realm. The center shares their way of life through a film, special and permanent exhibits, musical performances, and boat tours of Bayou Lafourche. Admission to the center and to most programs is free; boat tours are by ticket and reservation. (Source: NPS)
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Historic Sites In Louisiana
3. Cane River Creole National Historical Park
At #3 on our list of the best historic sites in Louisiana we have the Cane River Creole National Historical Park.
Cane River Creole National Historical Park has a unique history. It goes back to the establishment of the Louisiana Creole Culture. It’s a culture which originated along the Cane River in 18th century Louisiana.
Creole culture goes back to the Colonial Era. French and Spanish peoples brought it with them from the Old World where they had been influenced by much earlier contacts with African peoples.
Catherine Picard & Jean Pierre Prud’homme
The National Park Service traces the American origins of this culture to 1725. Catherine Picard, daughter of a New Orleans trader, married Jean Pierre Philippe Prud’homme, a former marine and trader from Natchitoches.
The French-born couple went to a military and trading post. Imagine a world where cultural exchanges and marital unions among European, Canadian, African, and American Indian cultures produce a unique frontier society heavily influenced by the French.
Ex-soldiers like Prud’homme moved out from the post to make a living as traders, hunters, and farmers along the Red River, known in this area as Cane River.
As indigo and tobacco farming supplanted other livelihoods, colonists relied more heavily on the enslaved African workers who had helped build the colony. (Source: National Park Service)
The Cotton Kingdom
Cane River National Historical Park tells the story of King Cotton. Visitors will find two plantations named Oakland and Magnolia. These amazing places depict the story story of cotton and the people whose lives revolved around it.
Plantations That Were Like Small Cities
Oakland and Magnolia were like small cities before the Civil War. Oakland had about 150 enslaved workers, and Magnolia about 250. Slaves picked cotton. They also worked as blacksmiths and carpenters.
Visitors can see where these people lived and worked. They learn about their culture too. Locals are available to tell the stories which give listeners insights into the people and their culture.
“These activities really take what could just become a historical museum, and put the people back in the story,” says Julie Ernstein, assistant professor of anthropology at nearby Northwestern State University.
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Historic Sites In Louisiana
2. New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
We’re down to the Top 2!
At number 2 on our list of the best historic sites in Louisiana we have the New Orleans Jazz Historical Park.
Jazz originated in New Orleans in the second half of the 19th century. With the advent of Reconstruction, many former slaves found jobs as musicians.
These newly freed Americans wanted to contribute their own musical style. The result was the birth of jazz. What is Jazz?
An Improvisational Style
Jazz is a kind of music in which improvisation is typically an important part. In most jazz performances, players play solos which they make up on the spot. This requires considerable skill.
There’s tremendous variety in jazz. It’s also very rhythmic. It has a forward momentum called “swing,” and uses “bent” or “blue” notes. You can often hear “call–and–response” patterns in jazz, in which one instrument, voice, or part of the band answers another. (Source: Smithsonian)
Who Invented Jazz
In 1978, after years of research, Donald M. Marquis released In Search of Buddy Bolden: First Man of Jazz. According to Marquis, the beginnings of jazz and the story of Charles “Buddy” Bolden (1877–1931) are inextricably intertwined.
Buddy Bolden is considered to be the father of jazz. His blaring trumpet could reputedly be heard miles away from the South Rampart Street clubs he and his band frequented.
Following in Bolden’s footsteps are other immortal jazz pioneers such as: Jelly Roll Morton, Kid Ory, Bunk Johnson, Freddie Keppard, King Oliver and Louis Armstrong, whose distinct solos and trademark gravelly voice brought jazz to the world.
Things To Do
The New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park offers regular jazz performances, lectures, films, and visual displays. Visitors can learn about the jazz scene in and around New Orleans.
If you’re interested in learning more then I heartily recommend Jazz: A History of America’s Music by Geoffrey C. Ward & Ken Burns.
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The #1 Historic Site In Louisiana
1. The National World War Two Museum
Drumroll please. The #1 historic site in Louisiana is The National World War Two Museum.
As a retired history teacher, this one was an easy call to make. World War Two was, arguably, the most significant and influential event of the twentieth century. The devastation is almost incalculable: total military and civilian deaths are estimated at 70 to 85 million, about 3% of the global population during that time. World War II also saw the dawn of the nuclear age.
In the United States, over 400,000 Americans sacrificed their lives to ensure our nation’s freedom. An entire generation of Americans and our allies came together to defend democracy and defeat the forces of oppression and tyranny in Japan and Germany, and they paid an absolutely terrible price for the victory.
Technology developed during WWII such as radar, atomic bombs, and even the ability to mass-produce penicillin along with countless other innovations, has had far-reaching applications in the modern world.
The examples set forth by these brave men and women must never be forgotten and maybe more important now more than ever with all the division and anger currently across our great nation. (Source: National Museum of the Pacific War)
Things To Do
What can you see at The National World War Two Museum? Perhaps a better question would be: What can’t you see? I’ve been there and this place is simply awe-inspiring. In my humble opinion, you won’t find a better museum anywhere in the world which tells the story of the United States in the Second World War.
Among the activities that you should see, I recommend the following:
- U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center
- Campaigns of Courage: The Road to Tokyo and The Road to Berlin
- Traveling Exhibits: Fighting for the Right to Fight; Manufacturing Victory: The Arsenal of Democracy; Infamy: December 1941
- Louisiana Memorial Pavilion
- Kushner Restoration Pavilion
- Beyond All Boundaries
- Final Mission: The USS Tang Experience
- The Merchant Marine Gallery
- The Soda Shop
- The National World War II Museum Store
The New Orleans Factor
The museum features the story of a New Orleans native named Andrew Higgins. What did he do? Well, according to Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower, Higgins was “the man who won the war for us.”
Higgins, a local industrialist, and his 30,000 employees here in New Orleans built more than 20,000 “Higgins boats.“ Capable of carrying 36 combat-equipped infantrymen, a Jeep and 12 troops, or 8,100 pounds of cargo, the LCVP featured a crew of four and could float in 3 feet of water, reach a speed of 12 knots, and was protected by two .30 caliber machine guns.
Used in North Africa, Italy, France and across the Pacific, and by the U.S. Army to cross the Rhine River into Germany in March 1945, the Higgins Boat became the standard personnel landing craft for the military during World War II.
There’s a gallery space in the museum dedicated to Higgins and his company’s creation, and it is a powerful testament to the American ingenuity that was so integral to defeating the Axis powers.
If you’re interested in learning more then I heartily recommend Andrew Higgins and the Boats That Landed Victory in World War II by Nancy Rust & Carol Stubbs.
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Map Of Historic Sites In Louisiana
List Of Historic Sites In Louisiana
- The National World War Two Museum
- New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park
- Cane River Creole National Historical Park
- Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve
- Poverty Point National Monument
About the Folks Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and a proud dad of these two wonderful guys who are hopelessly obsessed with the national parks. I taught history for over a quarter of a century. Now I enjoy researching and writing articles for the More Than Just Parks website. I’m always on the hunt for topics where nature and history intersect so please feel free to share any ideas that you might have with me.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then sign up below!