Meeting on Louisiana’s Northshore can be a way to build communities beyond cubicles, as coworkers and their families discover this lively region together. Louisiana’s Northshore is a natural for events that include kids and spouses. Across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, the Northshore is a collection of small towns that are safe, easy to navigate, and full of personality.
Partake of tasty treats
Like New Orleans, St. Tammany Parish is packed with flavor. Area hotels like the Courtyard New Orleans Covington/Mandeville and the Holiday Inn Covington are old hands at preparing a crawfish boil or seafood supper. The Beach House, steps from Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville, has a sandy kids’ play area and miniature picnic tables. Middendorf’s, near the Harbor Center convention center in Slidell, has a big sandy area for kids to romp in and plenty of thin fried catfish it’s famous for.
In Old Towne Slidell, Linda Franzo teaches cooking classes and gives cooking demonstrations at her Passionate Platter. Classes can be geared to any age.
Down the street, Old Town Slidell Soda Shop is a sweet step back, where soda jerks in old fashioned paper hats concoct fountain treats like root beer floats.
In Old Mandeville, introduce youngsters to old-fashioned candies at the Candy Bank, a mom/pop business housed in a handsome, historic brick building that was once St. Tammany Bank. The “bank” also serves ice cream and has a party room.
Walks (and floats) on the wild side
A boat tour through Honey Island Swamp is a must. Three swamp tour operators, Dr. Wagner’s, Pearl River Eco Tours and Cajun Encounters, offer trips of varying length in flat-bottomed, open-air boats that bring passengers close to the water and to alligators, resident and migratory birds, other animals that flourish in this beautiful yet mystical slice of Louisiana. Occasionally, a captain brings aboard a baby alligator (jaws taped shut), an unforgettable for both children and the young at heart. For an lively Louisiana experience, Cajun Encounters has a pavilion for post- or pre-swamp tour pig roasts or crawfish boils.
Global Wildlife Center, a 900-acre animal attraction that’s described as Africa, in Louisiana, is home to thousands of animals from all around the world. Groups can go on safari in covered wagons pulled by a tractor and are able to feed and touch the animals. Global Wildlife Center also offers a gracious outdoor event space, with spacious pavilions overlooking a central pond and exotic animals graving as a beautiful backdrop.
Get outdoors and explore
Two state parks, Fontainebleau and Fairview-Riverside, offer wide open spaces to explore. The expansive 2,800-acre Fontainebleau, with a beach fronting Lake Pontchartrain, also has a 50-person meeting space in a raised cottage and a dozen over-water cabins. Rent bikes or take a guided bike tour with Brook’s Bike Shop in Covington or Mandeville and travel the Tammany Trace. Inducted to the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame, the Tammany Trace links five communities, each with a trailhead, restrooms and access to nearby quaint restaurants and shops. Several trailheads have splash pads for cooling off on hot days; most have weekly farmers’ markets and free seasonal concerts. Operating in Covington since 1876, H.J. Smith and Sons General Store and Museum is a popular shopping stop with both a museum and mercantile. In Lacombe, a renovated schoolhouse is now the Bayou Lacombe Museum, which explores Creole, Native American and African American cultures.
For more information:
Louisiana’s Northshore/St. Tammany Parish Tourist and Convention Commission