Fill up on omelets, pancakes and other soulful breakfast food at Mandeville's Liz's Where Y'at Diner, or start your day in east St. Tammany with a great breakfast (served all day) of premium kettle-made bagels, crepes, shrimp and grits and lots more at Creole Bagelry in Slidell. Then, head over to Bayou Adventure in Lacombe, where you can rent bikes for a day-trip on the Tammany Trace kayaks and canoes and watch osprey, bald eagles and maybe even a gator as you paddle around Bayou Lacombe or Bayou Cane. You can also rent paddleboards and everything you need to go fishing or crabbing at Bayou Adventure. Make it a full day and call ahead to reserve a boxed lunch from the Passionate Platter in Slidell.
Back in west St. Tammany, park at Mandeville Trailhead and rent quality bicycles from Shack deVille in Mandeville, conveniently located on the Tammany Trace, a wonderful paved hike and bike trail. The first rails-to-trails bike path in Louisiana, 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 Shack de Ville then ride to Fontainebleau State Park for picnic under the oaks.
Cycling aficionados will want to visit Brooks' Bike Shop, which has locations in Covington, just one block from the Covington Trailhead, and on Girod Street in Mandeville. Buy, sell, rent or trade bikes of all sorts, or take one of their popular guided tours exploring cool places along the Tammany Trace, historic areas of the Covington and Mandeville, or St. Tammany's great local brewery scene--Abita Brewing Company, Chafunkta Brewing Company and Old Rail Brewing Company are all stops on the tour. Kayak and skateboard rentals are also available, and you can book them all online at Brooks' website.
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.
Grab a po-boy and a Barq's root beer at Bear's Restaurant in Covington before choosing your next adventure. Don't let this unpretentious lunch counter fool you: Bear's po-boys are enormously popular with locals, the Roast Beef and Ferdie regularly getting mentioned favorites list among Greater New Orleans sandwich shops (no small feat in the foodie town). Get it to go and walk next door for a quiet lunch at one of the Covington Library's shady picnic tables, or take a short drive over to Columbia Street Landing for a picnic on the banks of the Bogue Falaya.
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.