LOOKING FOR A quick weekend getaway that’s truly a getaway? Or maybe you’re searching for a summer vacation spot that won’t break the bank, gas prices being what they are.
The 10/12 corridor offers an assortment of escapes, whether you’re an outdoor adventurer, Phil Mickelson wanna-be or an urban explorer.
L’AUBERGE DU LAC RESORT
If over-the-top luxury and convenience is your thing, this is the place to go. Auberge may be French for “hostel,” but this resort is about as far from the backpacking-across-Europe crash pad as you can get.
This 26-story “hostel” manages to make its contemporary rustic theme thoroughly elegant.
Our personal favorite is the Versailles Suite, with separate living, bar, bathroom and bedroom areas. Yes, there are sweeping views of Contraband Bayou, the pool with lazy river and the championship golf course. It’s all good. But check out the infinity tub that fills from a ceiling-mounted faucet. Sink down under the warm, bubbly water and say, “Ahhhh.”
If it’s privacy you want, the villas next to the hotel tower each feature their own private courtyard and spa.
When you’re ready to get out, boredom is not an option. Gaming, of course, is.
There’s 30,000 square feet of it under an enormous glass dome and grand vaulted ceiling. The single-level riverboat casino is one of the largest of its kind in the world, with more than 60 table games, from blackjack to baccarat, and 1,600 slots.
For the Mickelson in the family, the Contraband Bayou Golf Club at L’Auberge, designed by Tom Fazio, is noted for its emphasis on the marsh and lowland features of Louisiana’s natural environment.
For the kids, there’s L’Arcade—classic video games and the latest high-tech amusements along with air hockey and NBA Hoops. And for the adults, Spa du Lac is 8,700 square feet of pure bliss for the body and soul.
Poolside Bar gives swim-up access to frozen drinks and refreshing cocktails. Or if you’re feeling too comfortable to even get up from your lounge chair, the cocktail servers will come to you. You can even reserve your very own poolside cabana with sunbathing patios and personalized attendant service. Shopping addicts never even have to leave the resort. L’Auberge has its own mini-mall on the promenade, with gifts, men’s and women’s fashions, jewelry, fresh flowers, and other items.
When it’s time to dine, there are seven eateries to choose from—including the Jack Daniel’s Bar and Grill and Desserts—the perfect spot for those with a sweet tooth.
THE CREOLE NATURE TRAIL
Sometimes, you just need to get out of the city and take a drive.
This one is 180 miles long, much of it uninhabited by any hustle or bustle. Known as Louisiana’s Outback, the Creole Nature Trail meanders through the unsurpassed splendor of Louisiana’s renowned coastal wetlands, wildlife refuges, rippling marshes, prairies and Gulf of Mexico vistas.
The trail—which loops through Calcasieu and Cameron parishes—is home to 28 species of mammals, 300 species of birds, millions of monarch butterflies, 35 species of amphibians and reptiles, seven species of mollusks and 132 species of fish. Unfortunately, there are also 39 different species of mosquitoes, so take along the repellant.
View them all up close in the wild, along with colorful wildflowers. Take a gander, too, at Louisiana’s Chenier Plain, one of only four like it in the world. There are five refuges and sanctuaries along the trail—Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge, Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, Peveto Woods Bird & Butterfly Sanctuary, and Rockefeller Refuge. Believe it or not, there are also seven natural beaches.
This is a place to relive all those memories from your childhood—bird watching, crabbing, fishing, oystering, taking pictures, stopping for a picnic and walking on the beach picking up shells.
There’s also public hunting in the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, which is teeming with duck, goose, deer, dove, quail, rabbit, squirrel and turkey. The refuge is used annually by thousands of wintering waterfowl following the Central and Mississippi Flyways, providing a veritable smorgasbord for hunters.
For a map and additional information, visit creolenaturetrail.org.
For years, The Roosevelt defined luxury throughout the South.
Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Rosemary Clooney, Marlene Dietrich and a parade of other celebrities and movers and shakers from across the country all graced its halls.
And now, the block-long canopies of golden columns, crystal chandeliers, mosaic tiles and clawfoot bathtubs have all been completely restored.
One of the South’s first grand hotels, a $145 million renovation has returned The Roosevelt to its place as a premier luxury hotel. Hilton decided to reopen the 504 rooms and 135 suites under the Roosevelt name. It was originally dubbed The Grunwald, but in 1923 it became The Roosevelt, in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt. It was during the hotel’s grandest era that former Gov. Huey P. Long was a regular—and quite notorious—guest.
For the most luxurious of stays, the Astoria Suites welcome guests with 24-hour butler service catering to their every want and need. Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries are served upon arrival, and bay windows offer stunning city views.
Drink the city’s official martini in the Sazerac Bar or dine in the restaurant by the same name. Feast on a crab meat omelette, eggs Sardou (Huey’s personal favorite) or hazelnut pancakes, and sip brandy milk punch at Sunday Brunch in the iconic Blue Room. Or enjoy the Italian-inspired creations of Chef John Besh at Domenica.
Then head on out the door and explore New Orleans.
If golf is your game, there’s nothing like sleeping late in a villa and stepping out onto the veranda for a view of the 9th fairway through scenic hardwood wetlands.
This historical plantation that was once harvested for cypress, pine and citrus dates to a Spanish land grant in 1804. Now, it’s a 7,000-yard course designed by PGA Champion David Toms that winds through live oak flats, cypress wetlands and upland pine forests, once earning it the distinction of one of Golf Magazine‘s Top 10 Courses You Can Play.
Get in 18, and then head for the Plantation Dining Room for some of Chef Gary Fonseca’s Vanilla Smoked Cured Duck Breast with Crčme Brulee Pain Perdue and Foie Gras Buttered Carter Plantation Harvest Chanterelle Mushrooms. Just don’t be late for the massage.
Afterwards, take a nap by the saltwater pool and waterfall, or head indoors to relax in your own private villa.
FONTAINEBLEAU STATE PARK
The wealthy Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville developed this area across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans as a sugar plantation until 1852, using its income to support his lavish lifestyle.
He named his large land holding Fontainebleau after the beautiful forest near Paris, a favorite recreation area of the French kings. Some of that history remains, in the form of the crumbling brick ruins of the sugar mill.
The 2,800-acre state park is located on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. On a clear day, visitors can see the lake dotted with multicolored sailboats of all sizes and types. The sandy beach also is a delight for sunbathers.
And an old railroad track that runs through the park has been converted into the 31-mile Tammany Trace as a part of the Rails to Trails program, so bring your bicycle, hiking boots or skates. The park’s nature trail is a favorite of nature lovers. Interpretive signs along the trail will help you identify many of the common trees and shrubs, and more than 400 different species of wildlife live in and around Fontainebleau.
Those who aren’t much for the outdoors can drive to nearby Covington and Mandeville to explore the art galleries, high-end boutiques, antique shops and a growing assortment of nightlife and live music offerings.
Overnight guests can choose between the rustic charm of the campground or the scenic setting of lakefront cabins.
Nottoway, the South’s largest remaining antebellum mansion, is a stunning historic plantation that lies between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
A dramatic, multimillion-dollar renovation, scheduled for completion this summer, has restored it to its days of glory as well as adding luxury resort amenities. When the enhancements are complete, the mansion will have 40 overnight rooms, two ballrooms, meeting rooms, an executive boardroom, tennis courts and a game and fitness center.
When it’s time to dine, the Mansion Restaurant offers Creole-inspired classic Louisiana cuisine in a beautifully restored, turn-of-the-century dining room with stunning views of century-old oak trees. Choose from more than 200 labels on the wine list.
Prefer an urban getaway that’s off the beaten path? Think Lafayette.
Book a room at the quaint Juliet Boutique Hotel, which is housed in the historic La Parisienne building.
You’ll be within walking distance of local treasures like the Acadiana Center for the Arts Museum, the Lafayette Science Museum, the Children’s Museum of Acadiana, Cité des Arts, the Sans Souci Gallery, Alexandre Mouton House/Lafayette Museum and three parks—Parc International, Parc Sans Souci and Parc Lafayette.
There are an assortment of shops and galleries to explore, and when hunger strikes, you won’t find any better cuisine than here in the heart of Acadiana. Tsunami and Pamplona Tapas are both downtown, or you can drive a bit further out for traditional local fare at classic Cajun eateries such as Prejean’s and Randol’s.
At night, Jefferson Street comes alive with nightlife.