Azaleas in full bloom as a streetcar passes along St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans on Sunday, March 14, 2021. (Photo by Chris Granger | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Like many people, my wife and I hope to travel again this summer now that pandemic restrictions have eased. We’ve planned trips to California and North Carolina to see loved ones, and I’m looking at the travel pages in newspapers and magazines to daydream about other places to go.

That’s how I landed on a recent travel piece in The Wall Street Journal by Andrew Nelson, in which he suggested that some of the best places to visit are near where I live.

Nelson recommends a road trip from Nashville to New Orleans along the Natchez Trace, with stops in Oxford, Natchez and Baton Rouge. From Mississippi, travelers can “drop into Louisiana for a po’boy sandwich in Baton Rouge before an early arrival in New Orleans to partake of its everlasting party,” Nelson tells readers.

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A po-boy picnic on the grounds of Baton Rouge’s State Capitol still leaves enough time for the drive to New Orleans and an evening ride on the streetcar, Nelson says. He recommends a number of great dining experiences in New Orleans — too many to list here.

Nelson’s story reminded me of Louisiana’s special appeal as a travel destination far beyond the state, something I learned firsthand some years ago when I wrote a few travel stories for a national parenting magazine. My stories took me to several places in the South, but the article that got the most attention was filed from Acadiana. The magazine’s editors, based in Massachusetts, told me that of all the places they’d heard about from their correspondents that season, Louisiana’s Cajun Country was the region they most wanted to visit.

Living in a place that travelers often regard as magical, it’s easy to take Louisiana’s gifts for granted. If we want visitors to notice what we have to offer, those of us who call the state home should do what we can to patronize its shops, restaurants, museums and other attractions. That kind of support is especially important as businesses and local institutions struggle to rebound from the economic losses of the lockdown.

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All of this came to mind last month as my wife and I brainstormed ways to mark our anniversary. We eventually decided on weekend brunch at a hotel 15 minutes away from our house.

During the lockdown, our family had grown to like eating takeout at home, a weekly tradition we still enjoy. But going out to brunch underlined for us what makes destination dining so memorable. Getting dressed in nice clothes to go out made us feel festive. As we sat before a white tablecloth in a restaurant brightened by Art Deco murals and high marble columns, I remembered that there’s more to life than Netflix and our living room couch.

I look forward to our trips out of state later this summer. But it will be good, after the trials of COVID-19, to savor adventures just minutes down the road.

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