Just 45 minutes from New Orleans lies Covington, Louisiana. If you've not heard of it--and you probably haven't--it's because this town, in the seat of St. Tammany Parish, qualifies as the epitome of a hidden gem. Chock-full of Southern charm with art galleries, antique stores, and top-notch restaurants, it's the ideal day trip when the craziness of New Orleans sets in. Here, five reasons to take an easy-breezy day trip to Covington, Louisiana.
Yes, New Orleans has fantastic food, that's for sure. But Covington can hold a candle to the cuisine in the Big Easy any day. There's a lovely Sunday brunch to be had at Oxlot 9. The deviled farm eggs are topped with smoked bacon and pickled onion; shrimp and stone-ground grits make for a fine entree; or try the massive chicken biscuit with chipotle cane syrup. Saturday and Wednesday usher in a fantastic farmer's market with plenty of affordable gourmet eats. Snag a table, and sample regional specialties such as stuffed artichokes, fig cookies, and Delta tamales while you listen to local music under the shady oak trees. Del Porto Ristorante (with the best crudo you can find) and LOLA are terrific options for dinner.
The Covington Brewhouse is one of three breweries to be found on the Northshore (including the well-known Abita Brewing Company). Here, free tours are offered every Saturday, and you can sample beers like the Anonymous IPA, Bayou Bock, and the Strawberry Ale (a favorite accompaniment with spicy crawfish).
Post-brunch, rent bikes--or even walk, run, or rollerblade--the Tammany Trace, a 31-mile paved path that winds through the Northshore and is surrounded by trees and parks. Alternatively, there are kayaks and paddleboards for exploring the Bogue Falaya River. And for a serious Bayou experience, visit the Insta-Gator Ranch & Hatchery, home to more than 2,000 alligators. This Insta-worthy program allows you to view gators swimming in the clear waters, then touch, hold, and feed the creatures. If you can brave the August heat, you even can see them hatch.
Covington’s historic downtown is as quaint as they come. Park the car as this walkable district is dotted with with several streets of art galleries and quaint coffee shops. Pop into boutiques like Fleurt, Shop Soul, and Columbia Street Mercantile. And don't miss the beloved H.J. Smith Sons General Store & Museum, a staple of downtown. The shop has been family owned and operated since 1876, and houses a cast of curiosities.
Even if you don't stay overnight, swing into the Southern Hotel for a classic cocktail at the Cypress Bar. Originally built in 1907, the hotel re-opened in 2014 and has swiftly become the centerpiece of the downtown historic district. In fact, the lobby's referred to as “Covington’s living room.” It's a gorgeous space, and the ideal spot for a pre-dinner happy hour tipple--inside or outdoors in the courtyard near the bubbling fountain.