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Do you view getaways and vacations as opportunities to pamper yourself, dine well, and shop? If so, head to historic downtown Covington, a charming place to spend the day (or weekend) in a grown-up way, among the fine galleries, eclectic shops, excellent restaurants, and more. The historic district just steps away from several bed and breakfasts and the renowned boutique Southern Hotel.
Sample the itinerary below as you plan your ultimate relaxing getaway to St. Tammany.
Canoe and Trail Adventures offers canoe, paddleboard and kayak rentals from The Chimes restaurant, on the banks of the beautiful Bogue Falaya River. This scenic waterway offers many sandy banks to pull up and splash around on, clear water to spot schooling fish, and your route can bring you under several bridges or to the beautiful Bogue Falaya Park. When you return, freshly shucked oysters, Louisiana specialties like red beans and rice, étouffée, seafood gumbo and an extensive selection of cold brews welcome you at The Chimes, as well as do its ample decks with outdoor seating.
Keith and Nealy Frentz are the chef/owners of this popular little restaurant regarded for its take on contemporary Louisiana food – and as former King and Queen of Louisiana Seafood – royalty around these parts. The Frentzes were both chefs at New Orleans’ beloved Brennan’s (that’s where they met) before hurricane Katrina. Their culinary prowess shows in house-baked breads and desserts, simple Southern comfort foods executed with a deft touch, and craft cocktails. Frosé is a house favorite. The restaurant is in Covington’s old train depot, with the kitchen in a modified caboose. They recently added a refurbished train car to their dining space, a welcome addition adjacent to the outdoor deck.
On the National Register of Historic Places, the St. John District in Covington is thoughtfully laid out in squares, with free parking areas in the town’s historic Ox Lots. This hearkens back to days when schooners came down the Bogue Falaya to trade goods from Covington and surrounding areas to New Orleans. Tradesman brought their wares and parked their oxen in the squares. There are shops, galleries, a little museum, nightspots, and more than 25 restaurants in this walkable historic district. Most shops and galleries are along Lee Lane and Columbia Streets, though some are on side streets. Among the highlights:
Family-owned and operated since 1876, the mercantile houses a free museum with hundreds of unique items from the past. You’ll find things you didn’t know you needed but have to have here, including everything from cast-iron anything to lawn art and gator-claw back scratchers.
This little stretch is home to a variety of shops housed in quaint cottages and offering all kinds of shopping temptations. There’s custom jewelry, boutique clothing, and vintage finds.
Galleries include Saladino Gallery on Boston, across from the Southern Hotel and the new Marianne Angeli Rodriguez gallery on Columbia. Saladino Gallery, operated by respected art dealer Danny Saladino, represents many of the South’s best artists, including Scott Ewen, whose work is among the most popular on the walls of the Southern Hotel.
Popular gathering spot for more than a century, this little park is on the banks of the Bogue Falaya River and has a paddling launch (rentals available nearby at Brooks’ Bike Shop), large shady trees for a respite and a statue of Walker Percy, the noted author who called Covington home.
Boasting the largest collection of teas in the Southeast, this elegant eatery is a great spot for a break in the day. Quaint and welcoming, the English Tea Room offers scores of teas, scones, and high-tea settings, lunch, and shopping for tea and tea accouterment.
Jeffrey Hansell is chef/owner at Oxlot 9 (in the Southern Hotel). The restaurant is known for Southern and Gulf-inspired food and has been well received by area food critics for dishes like stuffed rabbit and the hand-speared pompano. Hansell previously worked with Tory McPhail at Commander’s Palace and was executive chef at the Veranda in Birmingham.
Built-in 1907, the Southern Hotel hadn’t welcomed guests for decades when local attorney Lisa Condrey Ward and family members bought the property and began renovation. The hotel re-opened the summer of 2014 and quickly became the centerpiece of the downtown historic district. The hotel offers 40 rooms and two suites in the main building and five suites in the newly opened Garden House annex. The luxurious boutique property includes the popular Cypress Bar and Oxlot 9 restaurant. Ox lots, areas to tie up horses and oxen, were built into the city’s grid in the 1800s; the hotel’s west wing was built on part of the original Ox Lot 9.