Fill up on omelets, pancakes and other soulful breakfast food at Mandeville's Liz's Where Y'at Diner before heading over to Bayou Adventure in Lacombe , where you can rent bikes and kayaks for a day-trip on the Tammany Trace. Or on Sundays, start with a great brunch at Chef John Besh’s first restaurant, La Provence.
Shiver Shack in Mandeville rents quality bicycles and is conveniently located on the Tammany Trace, a wonderful paved hike and bike trail. The Trace is perfect for family riding, providing a safe path through beautiful green spaces and connecting a number of the Northshore’s communities. Ride only as far as you want. Order a sandwich at the Shiver Shack then ride to Fontainebleau State Park for picnic under the oaks. Or, call ahead to Bayou Adventure and reserve a boxed lunch from the Passionate Platter in Slidell, rent a kayak and watch osprey and bald eagles, maybe even a gator around Bayou Lacombe or Bayou Cane. Guided kayak tours (fishing or recreation) are available.
If little legs can handle a leisurely 4 - mile ride (remember, it'll be 9 miles altogether including the return trip), take the Trace northward toward its main trailhead, situated in an old caboose. The caboose is adjacent to a great new place space, the Kids Konnection Playground, built to suit children of all abilities. Spend a little time there enjoying the sunshine before pedaling back to Mandeville.
Hit the road for Folsom and Global Wildlife Center. Large trams carry visitors across Global Wildlife Center's lovely 900 savanna-like acres, offering the chance to see some 4,000 creatures, including camels, giraffes, llamas, deer and more, as well as feed and touch them. Parents enjoy the ride and the animals as least as much as their offspring; it's a wonderful and memorable family experience.
Or, for an up-close experience holding, or even hatching, a baby alligator, visit Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery in Covington. A working alligator ranch, Insta-Gator gives educational tours about the ranching industry and has hundreds of grown-up gators living in clear water. Kids love holding and petting baby gators at the touch pool. Insta-Gator will even let you help hatch a baby gator from its egg (in season.)
Near Insta-Gator Ranch is the Abita Mystery House, a wacky and eccentric collection of art, found objects, and strange animals like the Darrell the Dogigator and Buford the Bassigator. Abita Mystery House continues the tradition of roadside attractions, evoking both nostalgia and a laugh.
Another option is heading on over to Slidell for a Honey Island Swamp tour with one of the four tour companies in St. Tammany offering leisurely explorations of the swamp from the comfort of a tour boat. You'll see wild hogs, alligators, and lots of other native flora and fauna.
Afterward, head into historic Slidell and feel as if you've stepped back in time at the Old Town Slidell Soda Shop. Celebs Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis were spotted here having their own sweet treat.
Hungry for more vacation itineraries? To see them all, click here.
To watch videos featuring kayaking with Bayou Adventure, the Tammany Trace, Insta-Gator Ranch, Honey Island Swamp, the Abita Mystery House and Global Wildlife click here.