Ascension Parish: Louisiana’s Sweet Spot
Enjoy a different experience of Louisiana filled with delicious food and enchanting attractions
By Isabella Wilkes
Ascension Parish, tucked away between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, is a treasure of the American South. For over 500 years, this region has defined the culture of Louisiana, as a melting pot of Caribbean and European cultures that defines its art, food, history and more. So, for a different experience of Louisiana, beyond the crowded streets of the French Quarter, Ascension Parish is the perfect location for your next family reunion.
Donaldsonville’s Historic Portal to the Past
Donaldsonville’s historic tour is perfect for groups who like to explore at their own pace. This self-guided tour has seven markers in the town’s Historic District to visit at your own leisure. The historic tour invites you to explore the countless hidden treasures and amazing views of the Mississippi River along the 2.5-mile route, which can be accessed by walking, biking, or car. Many of these markers are located along the city’s tranquil Riverwalk, which travels directly alongside the banks of the Mississippi River.
Houmas House and Gardens Tour
The Houmas House Estate is a beautifully preserved plantation on an 1800s sugarcane farm. Gazing your eyes upon the opulent antebellum architecture of this mansion and its grounds, it’s no wonder why Houmas House is dubbed “The Crown Jewel of Louisiana’s River Road.” Visitors can take a guided mansion tour to explore the rare artwork and artifacts displayed inside. The house’s gardens are also a must-see: they span 38 acres and feature both flora native to Louisiana and exotic species sourced from across the world. If a day’s visit isn’t enough to soak the rural Louisiana beauty in, the plantation provides cottages to house your reunion for an overnight experience. On the Houmas House grounds is also three award-winning restaurants: Latil’s Landing, The Carriage House, and Café Burnside.
The Great River Road Museum
Located on the property of Houmas House and Gardens is The Great River Road Museum, an ode to life in the region between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The museum exhibits history beginning with the region’s Indigenous inhabitants and early European explorers and spans to the birth of slave plantation agriculture and accounts of the Civil War. Through the expansive collection of art, music, and historical artifacts, the museum demonstrates the rich history that makes Louisiana so unique.
Premier Lanes Entertainment Center
Premier Lanes in Gonzales is the perfect location for your group to let off some steam and have some friendly competition. This center has activities for everyone: bowling, an arcade center, an indoor ropes course, bumper cars, a laser maze, and a movie theatre. The spacious entertainment center has plenty of accommodations that can host groups of any size.
Crescent Park is a beautifully manicured outdoor space in the heart of Donaldsonville situated right along the Mississippi River. And as one of the stops on the Historic Portal to the Past trail, it has ample history as a marketplace and place of gathering since its foundation. Crescent Park is a perfect location for your group to gather together and enjoy the views.
The Cajun Village Shops
In Sorrento, a unique shopping experience awaits you and your group. The Cajun Village is a collection of locally owned and operated boutiques housed in restored Arcadian buildings. Popular shops in the village include Aroma Charms Boutique, Swamp Pop Candy Shop, Livin’ Louisiana, and Louisiana Pottery. To fuel up for your shopping trip, stop by Coffee House for their renowned beignets, cafe au lait, or red beans and rice. And, in true Cajun style, there is an alligator pond located in the village, allowing your group a safe way to observe them.
Jambalaya Capital of the World
Gonzales has proclaimed itself the “Jambalaya Capital of the World,” as it is known to produce the most authentic, most flavorful creations of the creole dish in Louisiana. Every year in the summer, the city hosts the Gonzales Jambalaya Festival, where cooks go head-to-head in a competition where the best jambalaya will be named. However, you can still experience award-winning jambalaya year-round in Gonzales if you visit one of the many restaurants in the area serving up the dish. This includes Pot & Paddle Jambalaya Kitchen and The Jambalaya Shoppe.
For a group tasting experience that will introduce you to the unique tastes and brewing styles of Louisiana, Sugarfield Spirits in Gonzales, with its handcrafted spirits, is a perfect place to go. Choose from their wide array of rum, vodka, bourbon, coffee liqueur, and many more experimental liqueurs. Sugarfield Spirits also offers its fan favorites for purchase by the bottle.
River Region Art Depot Gallery
River Region Art Gallery features accomplished artists all from Louisiana. Beautiful works of watercolor, acrylic paintings, photography, handcrafted purses and jewelry, and more are available for viewing or purchase. Also, the gallery often seeks to highlight the work done by local children in the area, hosting community art exhibits throughout the year.
Ascension Parish Courthouse
In the heart of downtown Donaldsonville is the regal and historic building that houses the Ascension Parish courthouse. Tours are offered through the building, offering insight into the area’s significant history dating back to the courthouse’s construction in 1889. The park encompassing the courthouse, Louisiana Square, is an ideal place to host your reunion, nestled under the shade of baldcypress trees.