Caught up in the hustle and bustle of city life? Feeling burnt out by your daily routine? You don’t have to hop on a plane to get a vacation! Take a quick drive over Lake Pontchartrain, and you’ll find yourself in a whole new world. Not one for winging it? No worries! We’ve got all of the best eats and must-do activities covered, so just follow our #FrayLife itinerary to make the most of your day away.
Roll out of bed, pour your coffee in a to-go cup, throw your bike in your car, and hit the road! It takes a little over an hour to get to Abita Springs from downtown New Orleans. You can take I-10 or the Causeway Bridge. If you’ve never driven the Causeway, try it out- it stretches nearly 24-miles, straight across Lake Pontchartrain. Once you roll into Abita Springs, head over to Abita Springs Café for a bite. Rated number one in town by Trip Advisor, they serve breakfast from 8:00 AM -2:00 PM, and have all your favorites like beignets, biscuits and gravy, omelets, and Benedicts.
Once you’ve filled up, take a three-minute walk over to the Abita Mystery House, also known as the UCM Museum, which opens up at 10:00 AM. This strange little house is a genuine Roadside Attraction straight out of yesteryear. The house features thousands of found folk art pieces and homemade inventions. Watch the many push-button animated dioramas, and marvel at curiosities like Bufford the Bassigator and Darrel the Dogigator. Don’t forget to browse the quirky selection of oddities and tchotchkes in this gas-station-turned-gift-shop!
After experiencing the mystery house, take a five-minute walk through downtown Abita Springs, over to the Abita Springs Trailhead Museum to learn a little bit about local history and culture. The museum always offers free admission, and features exhibits on a wide variety of local interest subjects including tourism, festivals, and the arts.
Hopefully exploring the museums built up your appetite, because your next stop is the Abita Brew Pub for lunch. It’s a two-minute walk from the Trailhead museum, and is the original home of Abita Beer. The beer was brewed and bottled on site until 1994, when they moved to their current brewery location. The Brew Pub serves up appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and pasta, all alongside a huge Abita beer selection, some of which can only be sampled at the Brew Pub. Don’t go overboard on the beer at lunch, though, there’s plenty more coming soon!
After lunch, grab your bike from the car and hop on the Tammany Trace. This former corridor for the Illinois Central Railroad has been turned into a 31-mile paved biking and walking path, thanks to the St. Tammany Parish Government. The Trace stretches from downtown Covington through Abita Springs, Mandeville, and Lacombe, and ends in Slidell. There are plenty of entrances to the Trace along the way, and one can be found just outside of the Mystery House.
Hop on the Trace and start heading west. In about a mile and a half, you’ll get to the Abita Brewery Visitor Center and Tap Room. Guided tours leave every half hour from 10:30 AM – 3:00 PM on Saturdays (check the website for full schedule), and teach you about the brewing process and beer history. Tours last about 30 minutes and, of course, include samples (four 4 oz. tastings, to be exact)! If beer isn’t really your thing, Abita also offers Craft Soda Tours, which teach about locally sourced ingredients and include a three-soda flight for sampling.
After your tour, hop back on your bike for more exploring the Trace. You’ve got two options: ride around for a while, and then head back to the car before dinner, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, and don’t mind unlit trail night biking, ride nine miles south to Mandeville. (If you’re more comfortable with option one, the car trip to Mandeville takes about 25 minutes). You’re headed to the Beach House Bar & Grill for dinner right by the water. They specialize in coastal Louisiana flavors, have a great bar, and live music starting at 6:00 PM. There’s even a sandbox, for that extra beachy feel!
After dinner, walk over to the water and say, “Hi,” to Lake Pontchartrain up close and personal, and maybe watch a few boats pass by. Revel in the awesome day you had on the North Side of the lake, and drive back to the South Shore feeling refreshed from your mini-getaway.
Photo Cred: Beach House Mandeville
If you still don’t feel like getting back to the real world, check out our back to nature guide to get a few more relaxing staycation ideas. And remember to always tag us on social with #FrayLife and #NOLAFray!