Epic New Orleans road trips

By Mike Welch

Photograph by Jupiterimages/Getty


See more of the USA by adding an epic road trip to your New Orleans holiday itinerary. Resident Mike Welch recommends three of the best drives, starting in his home city. Simply hire a car and hit the open road…

New Orleans to Houston, Texas

Best for… museum enthusiasts

The journey: 350 miles, 5-6 hours

New Orleans may be known for its hard-partying ways, but it’s also a bastion of world-class art. Before starting your road trip, visit the New Orleans Museum of Art, one of the oldest fine arts museums in the city, and look out for artists including Renoir, Warhol and Picasso. On a sunny day, make a beeline for the museum’s sculpture garden – a 12-acre landscaped area behind the main building. If your tastes are more modern, visit the Contemporary Arts Center and its neighbour, the esteemed Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Both focus on the fascinating history of America’s 15 southern states.

Cross over from swampy Louisiana to the dry heat of Houston. Avoid the I-10 Highway and opt for Louisiana’s River Road, with its miles of verdant levees, punctuated by massive plantation homes

Once your cultural curiosity has been sated (for the time being, at least) pick up a hire car and cross over from swampy Louisiana to the dry heat of Houston. Avoid the I-10 Highway and opt for Louisiana’s River Road, with its miles of verdant levees, punctuated by massive plantation homes. Newly opened, the gorgeous and haunting Whitney Plantation in Edgard, Louisiana, is America’s first museum dedicated to the study of slavery.

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  • Quirky art in the sculpture garden at the New Orleans Museum of Modern Art

    Art on the move

    The New Orleans Museum of Modern Art is so keen to share its collection that it offers a museum-on-wheels service to local schools, known punnily as ‘Van Go’. The museum also hosts festivals, film screenings, music programs, lectures, and wellness activities to encourage visitors.

  • The Whitney Plantation presents slavery through the words of those who experienced it

    Did you know..?

    The US had no museums devoted entirely to slavery until the Whitney Plantation opened in December 2014. John Cummings, a 78-year-old white southerner, spent 16 years and more than $8 million of his own fortune to build the project.

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  • Kick back and relax at the Hilton Americas Houston

    Views and a snooze

    Stretch out after a day of driving with a visit to the Skyline Spa & Health Club at Hilton Americas Houston. Located on the 23rd floor, look out at the fantastic views or take a dip in the 75-ft indoor, heated pool.


Once you arrive in Houston, there are 19 museums to choose from. Luckily, they’re all contained within a four-zone walking area. If time is short, don’t miss the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, which rotates exhibitions from its own extensive archive of paintings, photography and sculpture from every era of history across the globe.

For family-friendly fun, the Museum of Natural Science houses exhibits on dinosaurs, mummies and more, plus a permanent planetarium and giant screen theatre.

When to go

The entire southern half of America is super-hot from about May to September – especially New Orleans and Houston. Luckily, air-conditioned museums provide a great way to escape the heat while soaking up the culture.


The downtown Hilton Americas Houston boasts a 75-ft indoor heated pool, and sits on the edge of Houston’s 12-acre Discovery Green park.

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New Orleans to Tampa, Florida

Best for… those who love the water

The journey: 650 miles, 10-11 hours

Big fan of the deep blue? Keep the Gulf of Mexico in your sights with a long and leisurely drive south in your hire car to Tampa. US Route 90 winds along the Gulf, through beach towns and past Mississippi casinos.

In Alabama, stop off for a swim at pretty little Dauphin Island – and make sure to stay for the stunning sunset. Push on to Pensacola, Florida and you’ll discover some of the world’s friendliest and cleanest beaches.

  • The sun sets over Biloxi Beach on the Mississippi Gulf Coast © Getty

    Feeling peckish?

    Map your road trip to run alongside the Mississippi Seafood Trail for guaranteed great eats. Over 90 restaurants between the Delta and the Gulf Coast are signed up to the trail.

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Arrive in Tampa and discover a city known for its sun, beautiful lightning storms, and buzzy nightlife (try the authentic Cuban food at Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City). A short hop over the bridge takes you to Fort de Soto near the beaches of St Petersburg – a paradise for nature lovers who long to see dolphins in the wild while canoeing through the mangroves.

When to go

If you’ve come to the Gulf Coast to swim and play in the water, it’s worth noting that Florida’s hot months (May to September) are less crowded with tourists.


The Sheraton Sand Key Resort, just outside Tampa and Clearwater, offers pastel Floridian ambiance and ten acres of private beach.

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New Orleans to Austin, Texas

Along the way, make a pit-stop in Louisiana’s Lafayette. The entire Acadiana region is a musical wonderland of Cajun, creole and zydeco sounds. Take US Route 90 and visit The Jolly Inn in Houma. For over 20 years, the Prosperie family band, Couche Couche, has provided music in a dancehall setting. Grab a plate of gumbo or jambalaya and enjoy the show.

When you arrive in Austin, it’s time to start planning your night out. The city has hundreds of music clubs, from rock and punk at Emo’s to Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar and Antone’s blues club. If you fancy a dance, choose the neon-lit Continental Club, while Stubb’s Bar-B-Q hosts a Gospel Brunch on Sundays.

The next morning, balance your blood sugar (and prepare for another night of music) with some serious brisket at famed Franklin Barbecue – the round-the-block queue is worth it.

  • Sample a meaty feast at Franklin Barbecue, Austin

    Meat your maker

    From its humble beginnings as a trailer serving food, Franklin has grown in size and popularity. In 2014, Texas Monthly listed the restaurant as one of ‘the 50 Best BBQ Joints in the World’. Later that year, President Barack Obama visited and bought lunch for those in line behind him.

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  • Wildlife at Fort de Soto, Florida © Getty

    Watch the birdie

    A variety of exotic birds are drawn to Fort De Soto thanks to the area’s mangrove swamps, hardwood trees and mudflats. The best time to see the feathered masses is September through November and March through June, when many species are migrating.

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  • Southern charm: Columbia Restaurant, Tampa

    Did you know..?

    The original Cuban Sandwich was created in Tampa in the 1890s for cigar factory workers as they walked to and from work. Columbia Restaurant still makes the sandwich today, to the same traditional recipe, using ham, salami, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickle and mustard.

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When to go

To maximise your musical moments, time your trip with Austin’s South by Southwest festival (which takes place in March) or the October Austin City Limits Festival. Both provide the opportunity to see unheard-of bands and more established artists, including the likes of Willie Nelson and rapper Kendrick Lamar. The weather is also temperate during both festivals.


The Driskill is situated in the heart of downtown Austin, and in walking distance of many of Austin’s live music venues.

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