Summer vacation is here. But, as a grad student, the time you have to get away between research, writing, and other academic obligations can make taking a well-deserved break seem like a fantasy.
Whether you need a break from outdoor research or need a bit of vitamin D before you start to feel like Nosferatu, these six places -- all a short car trip away -- could be just what you need to recharge.
For Those Seeking Sunshine:
While most people think of Bourbon Street and Mardi Gras when they hear New Orleans, the city is an incredible getaway with lots of museums, restaurants, and outdoor attractions. Located only two hours away, it’s perfect for a day trip, an overnight getaway, or a weekend vacation and has plenty of options for those seeking to stay outside. Go shopping and people watching in the French Quarter, take a haunted tour of the city’s cemeteries and voodoo-filled past, or walk along the Mississippi riverfront at Woldenberg Park. For extra vitamin D, you could also visit the Audubon Zoo or take a stroll through City Park. Remember to grab some beignets while you’re there!
For the animal lover looking for something not usually found in Louisiana, Folsom is home to a 90-minute safari tour where you can see giraffes, zebras, camels, elands, sloths, and more. Brings lots of water and a good hat if you’re headed during the summertime, but it’s worth the sweat to get to see, feed, and even pet a number of animals you’d never normally encounter in Cajun country.
Many state parks across Louisiana are located near the numerous waterways that cover the state. From Chemin-a-Haute State Park in Bastrop, which has been described as a “gallery of cypress trees” to Mittie, Louisiana, which lies near Whiskey Chitto creek and bills itself as the “Canoe Capital of Louisiana” -- getting out on the water for the day is a cheap, great way to escape the books and get some sun with friends. Make sure to pack an ice chest with some light fare, carry lots of sunscreen, and bring plenty of water!
For Those Looking to Stay Inside:
The Baton Rouge area’s nickname is “Plantation Country” for a reason. It’s home to a number of antebellum homes that have been kept up since the time that cotton was king. Whether you visit haunted Myrtle, which offers tours of the house (and an overnight stay for those brave enough) Nottoway, once named the Whistle Castle of the South, or Whitney Plantation, which focuses on telling the true stories of enslaved peoples who worked and lived on its lands, a bevy of history, culture, and a look at a time long past can be found less than an hour away from campus.
Washington, located less than an hour away from Lafayette, is home to numerous antique shops and general stores that are filled with curiosities and fun baubles fit for anyone looking to take a piece of the past home with them or simply be surrounded by slices of Americana from long ago. The city itself is also a great place to explore, and is filled with flowers, friendly faces, and a few small eateries serving southern fare for hungry visitors.
The oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, Natchitoches is proof positive that you can teach an old dog new tricks. With guided walking tours of its 33-block historic district, three state historic sites, a number of museums (including the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and the Northwest Louisiana Natural History Museum), there’s plenty to do in the city and surrounding areas whether you stay for the day or a long summer weekend.
Whatever you do, be sure to enjoy the break while you can. August and a new academic year will be here soon. Have any other great escapes to share? Let us know!