Louisiana's New Orleans is a comfortable road trip destination from Houston, writes Tim Lamb.

SEE

When Kiwis visit, they love:

The history, culture, music and food. New Orleans is quite unlike anywhere else in the United States.

Best walk: Get your exercise or outlet mall shopping done on the city's River Walk next to the muddy Mississippi River.

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Best adventure: There are plenty of alligator encounter options in southern Louisiana, including a canoe or kayak tour in the swamps.

Best-kept secret: Take a day trip to little-known towns in Mississippi. Head one hour east to Bay St Louis for arts, antiques and waterfront dining, or two and a half hours north to Natchez for antebellum homes and mint juleps.

Must do: Visit the National World War II Museum and take a streetcar (tram) through the garden district.

TASTE
Best coffee spot: Louisiana folks love local brand Community Coffee, which is served in many cafes and restaurants. Or try Spitfire Coffee and Envie Espresso Bar and Cafe.

Best spot to get a sweet treat: Bayou Country General Store has a great range of pralines and Cajun spices and foods.

The best local flavours: If you visit from February to May you must try boiled crawfish (mini crayfish) and king cake, a cinnamon bread with purple, green and yellow icing.

Where should families eat? Venture outside the French Quarter to Middendorf's for fried catfish and Louisiana gumbo.

Where should couples dine? Arnaud's - just make sure to order local New Orleans dessert bananas foster.

Where to hang out when the sun goes down: The Steamboat Natchez for a sunset dinner cruise along the Mississippi River.

PLAY
Best shop: Magazine St has clothing, art and antique stores. Or wander through the French Market for a range of crafts and cuisine.

Be one of the first to: Although it's open 24 hours, you will still need to get in line early morning to avoid the queues at Cafe Du Monde for beignets (French doughnuts).

The 102,000-capacity Tiger Stadium, aka Death Valley, in Baton Rouge. Photo / AP
The 102,000-capacity Tiger Stadium, aka Death Valley, in Baton Rouge. Photo / AP

Best sporting event to catch:

Head to the state capital, Baton Rouge, to watch the Louisiana State University American football team play at the 102,000-seat capacity Death Valley Stadium.

Best selfie spot: Mardi Gras World is a family-friendly, close-up look at the props and floats from the Mardi Gras parades.

Best place to swim: Spend a night in Lake Charles (halfway between Houston and New Orleans) and stay at L'Auberge Casino Resort or Golden Nugget Hotel, both of which feature a lazy river pool and swim-up bar.

STAY
Best couples retreat: Le Pavillon has classy service and a convenient location near the French Quarter.

Best family retreat: Audubon Cottages strikes the right balance of private tranquillity and accessibility to the French Quarter. It has a great pool for relaxing in, too.

GETTING THERE
Drive times from New Orleans: Houston (5 hours), Lake Charles (3.5 hours) Bay St Louis (1 hour), Natchez (2.5 hours).