on September 7, 2007
New Orleans is host to seven National Historic Sites within the confines of two National Historic Parks. Jean Lafitte National Historic Park consists of six different sites scattered around Southern Louisiana. The first site is the Acadian Cultural Center located in Lafayette. This site chronicles the origin, migration, and settlement of the Acadians, or more commonly known as the Cajuns. Here you can explore the many different displays and exhibits as well as take a ranger-guided boat tour down the Bayou Vermillion. For those who love food, try a visit to the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center located in Eunice. Satisfy your appetite with samples of Cajun gumbo, crawfish etouffee, and sauce piquant, just to name a few. You can enjoy the weekly cooking demonstrations while enjoying the unique sounds of a Cajun band. An hour away from New Orleans in the city of Thibodaux is the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center. This center highlights the natural and architectural history of the Cajun people. While those three sites are about two to three hours away from New Orleans, many people may opt not to visit them. However, three other sites located in and around New Orleans are more ideal especially for those who are limited on time. In Marrero, ten miles from the Big Easy, is the Barataria Preserve. This site offers a walk through the wetlands which make Southern Louisiana so unique. There are over 20,000 acres of swamps, bayous, marshes, and forests. There are many trails, paved and dirt that leads you on a self-guided tour of the regions diverse environments. Wildlife lovers will be at home with the over 300 species of birds as well as the Barred Owl and Louisiana’s favorite mascot, the alligator. Across town in Chalmette is the Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery. This was the site of Battle of New Orleans, the last great battle of the War of 1812. The battle was led by General Andrew Jackson catapulting him to a national icon status and who eventually occupied the presidency. Next to the battlefield is the National Cemetery, where over 15000 troops, from the War of 1812 to the Vietnam War, are laid to rest. Lastly, in the city itself is the French Quarter Visitor Center, which is more of the Park’s Headquarters than a site. However, there are ranger guided tours of the French Quarter and a great way to get some information if you just want to explore on your own. Also in the French Quarter is the New Orleans Jazz Historical Park. This park educates and entertains at the same time by highlighting the roots of blues and jazz which has become synonymous with New Orleans. The park offers live performances daily. Both of the two National Parks are free of admission and are great way to learn about the culture of the Cajun people while immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells which keep people coming back to the Big Easy.
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