Looking for something wild and wonderful to do with the kids? Come visit the Louisiana Northshore, St. Tammany Parish, less than an hour from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Whether you're stopping into town for the day or staying for the weekend, there are plenty of exciting activities to keep every family member entertained.
You'll share many smiles and make memories that will last a lifetime.
Climb aboard a flat bottom boat and traverse through swamps and around cypress knees as you go deep into the Honey Island Swamp ecosystem. On your two-hour tour, your knowledgeable captain with Cajun Encounters will tell you all about the flora and fauna of Louisiana, throw in a little culture and history, and introduce you to resident alligators of the Honey Island Swamp. Keep your eyes peeled for the legendary Honey Island Swamp monster!
Get eye to eye with giraffes, feel the wooly fur of bison, or get licked by a llama on your safari tour of the 900-acre free roaming Global Wildlife Center in Folsom. Visitors love to feed the animals from covered wagons or on private Pinzgauer tours. Ages 2 to 92 will delight in pouring food into a big bison’s mouth or stroking a giraffe’s beautiful neck, and tour guides offer interesting facts about the animals and their habits and habitats in the wild.
Louisiana is known for its snowballs, shaved ice in a cup swimming in simple syrup flavors like wedding cake, strawberry, bubble gum (or any of a hundred more). Be on the lookout for one of many roadside stands as you travel St. Tammany. Or, take a stroll through Covington's historic downtown district, stop by Hoodoo Ice Cream at the corner of Columbia and Gibson Streets for a truly original treat: handmade, thoughtfully sourced ice cream made from the grass-fed, Jersey cows' milk of Mauthe's Progress Milk Barn in Mississippi. Using their one-of-a-kind base and incorporating local fruits and herbs, every scoop (or cake) is fresh, unique and bursting with flavor. If you're in Slidell, visit a local favorite, the Old Town Slidell Soda Shop for sweet nostalgia served along with your scoop.
Older kids and teenagers will love paddling down lazy Cane Bayou, between Fontainebleau State Park and the Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. Watch for resident alligators and otters that frequently fish near the island. You’ll spot Great Blue Herons, osprey (look for the nest!), and maybe even a bald eagle. A three-hour paddle will get you to the mouth of the bayou, which empties into Lake Pontchartrain, and back. Check out Bayou Adventure for gear rentals. The Bogue Falaya River is a peaceful paddle, and kids can get out and play on the sandy beaches or watch schools of fish swimming below. Canoe and Trail Adventures rents canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards launching from The Chimes Restaurant, a popular al fresco dining spot for families.
Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery in Covington has alligators everywhere, big blue pools of adults in crystal clear water, even a touch pool with juvenile gators kids can pick up to pose with. Learn about the alligator industry “from hatchling to handbag” and how Insta-gator’s partnership with Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries has helped bring this species back from the brink. By reservation, visitors can assist in the hatching of a baby alligator from an egg in August and September.
Kids love the Mandeville lakefront, located on Lakeshore Drive. Cycle or walk the seawall paths under moss-hung oak trees and check out the two playgrounds located on the east and west ends. Enjoy the swing-sets near the intersection of Lakeshore and Carroll Street, and walk a block down to The Candy Bank, an old-fashioned candy store and ice cream parlor located in the 111-year old St. Tammany Bank Building.
Wacky and eccentric are the best words to describe the Abita Mystery House and UCM Museum, a quirky roadside attraction with thousands of found objects housed in a vintage gas station in Abita Springs. Parents will wax nostalgic about family road trips down Route 66, and kids can’t get enough of the crazy creatures like Buford the Bassigator and Darrell the dogigator.
Interactive water fountains are located at the trailheads in Abita Springs and Mandeville, the Pearl River Water Park at James Lavigne Park, in Slidell's Heritage Park, at the East Lakefront Children’s Park and Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville, and in Covington at Coquille Sports Complex. Kids love getting soaked as they run in, around, and through the water spray.
The 31-mile Tammany Trace offers a scenic bike ride throughout St. Tammany Parish, with stops at individual trailheads in the towns of Covington, Abita Springs, Mandeville, Lacombe, and Slidell. Consult a trail map to find the best route for little legs, but highlights include the playgrounds at the Abita Springs and Koop Drive trailheads, a drawbridge over Bayou Lacombe, and splash pads at the Mandeville and Abita Springs trailheads. Bike rentals are available from Brooks' Bike Shop in Slidell, Covington, Mandeville, and via a self-service rental station in Abita Springs. In Lacombe, you can rent bikes and more from Bayou Adventure.
St. Tammany Parish has two waterfront state parks, Fontainebleau in Mandeville (fronting Lake Pontchartrain) and Fairview-Riverside (on the Tchefuncte River) in Madisonville. Even if you’re not camping at Fontainebleau or staying in its cabins, pay the low day rate and visit the sandy beach and Lake Pontchartrain swimming area. The water is shallow and perfect for wading, and you can bring supplies and have your own barbecue at the nearby pits. With Fontainebleau’s bathhouse and shower facility, it’s easy to get cleaned up for the ride back to your hotel. Glamping has come to Fontainebleau State Park thanks to a partnership with Tentrr, and it's a great way for families to get out into nature the easy way. The safari-style tents come with fire pits, bed, extra tent, even a loo. If you're camping at Fairview-Riverside, be sure and schedule a pontoon tour of the Tchefuncte River with Louisiana Tours and Adventures.