Jefferson Parish: A Big Easy alternative

WESTWEGO, La. -- Jefferson Parish is stepping out of neighboring New Orleans' shadow and building its own tourism business.

Maritime & Seafood Industry MuseumEstablished in 1825, Jefferson Parish covers 426 miles, from Lake Pontchartrain to the fishing community of Grand Isle on the Gulf of Mexico. The area offers diverse attractions, ranging from humble fishing villages and swamp territories to historical districts and contemporary buildings.

Jefferson Parish has built a solid ecotourism trade, luring travelers with fishing in Grand Isle, hiking in Jean Lafitte Park, canoeing in the waterways of Bayou Segnette, boating from Kenner's new launch in Laketown and cycling along Lake Pontchartrain or in any of several parks.

Jefferson is Louisiana's largest parish and is bisected by the Mississippi River. Curiously, East Jefferson lies to the west of New Orleans and West Jefferson lies to the east.

In the late 1920s, when many of New Orleans' inhabitants began to search for a more suburban life, their first stop was Jefferson Parish.

Jefferson Parish has about 500,000 residents, and the population has grown steadily in recent years.

East Jefferson, a suburban area of about 350,000 people, encompasses Metairie, Kenner and Harahan, all of which offer a variety accommodations, restaurants and entertainment options.

East Jefferson also is a destination for sports fans. It houses the new Zephyr Stadium, home to the New Orleans Zephyrs' Class AAA baseball club and the Storm soccer team. In their first year in the stadium, the Zephyrs (who won the Class AAA World Series in September), attracted 507,164 fans for the season, setting an attendance record.

The stadium can be used for group functions. Use of its swimming pool or one of the 10 large hot tubs provides a unique vantage point for viewing a game.

Kenner's Rivertown is the oldest section of East Jefferson. The area was founded by French explorers in 1718 and originally was called Cannes Brulee, or Burnt Canes, for the sugarcane fires natives once set to drive out wild game. Rivertown offers attractions for families with young children.

The town, where everything is within walking distance, features a wildlife and fisheries museum, a Mardi Gras museum, a toy train museum, a science center, a children's castle, a Native African museum, the Coca-Cola Hall of Fame, restaurants, a ferry and a boardwalk.

On the other side of Kenner, at Lake Pontchartrain, there is adults-only fun at the Treasure Chest Casino. This dockside gaming facility is across the street from the Pontchartrain Center, Jefferson Parish's convention and special events venue.

On the West Bank, Gretna, Westwego, Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Grand Isle are the main attractions. Gretna is one of Louisiana's largest historical districts, featuring 19th century buildings of diverse architectural styles.

Jean Lafitte Park, named for the legendary pirate who made the spot his hideaway, features Bayou Barataria, a scenic estuary. The area offers a bayou country ambience with inn-style accommodations overlooking marshlands. Grand Isle is noted as a fishing destination.

Family-owned and -operated restaurants, small inns and bed-and-breakfast properties provide intimate, at-home lodging for visitors.

Jefferson Parish Chamber of Commerce, Phone: (504) 527-6900

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