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Louisiana’s Most Charming Small Town Has Something Fun for Everyone

Big Easy livin’ beckons with art festivals, historic general stores, and wetlands full of wildlife wonders.

By Sarah Zlotnick
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Regions Bank /

Spring is the perfect time for a getaway to a small town in the American South. Flowers are in bloom, birds are migrating, and the heat of summer hasn’t fully hit yet. While you could pick a seaside spot, our top small town for spring offers fun on the water in an entirely different way.

Situated 41 miles from New Orleans via the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, America’s longest continuous over-water bridge, Covington, Louisiana—population: 12,404—offers plenty of ways to geaux all in on the good times this spring. As the seat of St. Tammany Parish, it is a local epicenter of arts festivals, historic general stores, and wetlands full of wildlife wonders. There are delicious restaurants, energizing art galleries, museums full of oddities, and plenty of spots to sample local beer and wine.

The 31-mile Tammany Trace, a hike-and-bike trail, also connects Covington to Abita Springs, Mandeville and other small towns in St. Tammany Parish, making it easy to explore all that local culture has to offer. So if you’re ready to start planning your trip, you’ve come to the right place. Scroll on for the best things to do in Covington, Louisiana on a spring getaway, including great shops to visit, must-eat-at restaurants, and loads of natural wonders.


Begin With Beignets

beignets in covington louisiana
SandraD Photography//Getty Images

Start your morning with delectable pockets of fried dough at the Covington outpost of Café Du Monde. For heartier fare, head to Coffee Rani for shrimp and grits and diced ham and egg sandwiches.


Explore the Shore

trees on the beach at fontainebleau state park
Courtesy Louisiana Travel

Dip your toes into Lake Pontchartrain at Fontainebleau State Park, which is also a haven for waterfowl. More adventurous folk can go gator-spotting on an open-air pontoon with Dr. Wagner's Honey Island Swamp Tours.


Embrace the Odd

abita mystery house museum louisiana
Ron Buskirk//Alamy

At Abita Mystery House, John Preble has turned an old filling station into a folk art museum that celebrates the magic of the mundane. Inside: an ever-evolving assortment of everything from hot sauce bottles to pinball machines.

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Scratch the Itch

copper rooster antiques in covington louisiana
Regions Bank /

Collectors of curios and all things vintage will enjoy perusing the booths at On a Whim and Copper Rooster Antiques and Gifts.


Have a Drink

wild bush farm wine bottle
Becky Luigart-Stayner

Fans of Purple Haze beer should try The Boot, an only-in-Louisiana brew, at Abita Brewing Company's in-town taproom. Out in the sticks, farm-to-glass Wild Bush Farm + Vineyard infuses their Pinot blends (pictured) with unexpected flavors like bacon and strawberries.


Feel the Music

jazz band on stage at dew drop jazz and social hall
Jim West//Alamy

First built in 1895, Mandeville's Dew Drop Jazz & Social Hall was a destination for jazz aficionados in the 1920s and '30s. (Louis Armstrong even graced the stage!) Today, a nonprofit keeps the spirit of the simple wood structure alive with monthly performances.

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Enjoy the Arts

two women perusing an outdoor art fair
Drs Producoes//Getty Images

Each April, the outdoor Spring for Art festival sees the town streets come alive with musical performances and a juried art market.


Kick Up Your Feet

patterned couch in a sunroom at the southern hotel in covington louisiana
Courtesy the Southern Hotel

With a lobby affectionately dubbed “Covington’s living room,” the 116-year-old Southern Hotel is as inviting as they come. In nearby Abita Springs, guests are known to spend long afternoons relaxing on the wraparound porch at the Abita Springs Hotel.


Head to Market

interior display of paper plates and party supplies at the graceful host shop in covington louisiana
Courtesy The Graceful Host

At Niche Modern Home, gilded crane figurines and other decor pieces celebrate local surroundings. Catering to party planners (and goers!) of every sort, Ashley Culicchia Cash's The Graceful Host shop (pictured) offers theme dinnerware and high-design gift wrap.

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Hit the Trails

watertower trailhead marker on tammany trace
Regions Bank /

Along former railroad tracks, the 31-mile Tammany Trace is best explored on bikes. (Rent them at Brooks' Bike Shop.) At the Covington Trailhead, you'll also find a bandstand, amphitheater, and visitor's center that features rotating art exhibits.


Meet a Local

artist marianne angeli rodriguez
Cedric Angeles

After a childhood spanning several continents and a career in fashion design in NYC, artist Marianne Angeli Rodriguez settled into a quieter life on Louisiana's Northshore in 2016. "You feel part of something special and sort of hidden here," she says. When she's not painting color-drenched abstracts at her eponymous pink-doored studio and gallery, Marianne seeks inspiration in nearby Bogue Chitto State Park and at Columbia Street Landing.


Go Down in History

hj smith sons general store exterior
Louisiana Northshore

In business since 1876, family-run general store H.J. Smith & Sons operates on the motto, "If we don't have it, you don't need it." Part museum, the shop is also home to relics of bygone eras, such as a stage-coach and a dugout cypress canoe.

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Enjoy a Meal

vazquez restaurant covington louisiana
Regions Bank /

The catfish po-boys at Vasquez Seafood are not to be missed. For a fancier feast, Lola serves up Southern specialities in a converted railcar train caboose, while Marcello’s is known for Sicilian fare.

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