With so many exciting things to do in New Orleans, Louisiana — from dancing the night away in the French Quarter to tasting authentic Cajun and Creole cuisine packed with robust flavors — it’s difficult to ever want to leave this remarkable city. Whether you’re local to New Orleans or simply visiting, sometimes you might crave a more low-key, easygoing scene. After enjoying your stay at a New Orleans vacation rental, venture to one of the numerous nearby attractions for a romantic weekend outing. Take a look at the most popular destinations situated within easy driving distance from New Orleans.

1. Dauphin Island, Alabama

beach seagulls ocean
Source: Flickr/Erin Kinney

Is there anything more romantic than an island vacation? In about three hours, you and your sweetie can toss towels down on the beach and go for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico on Dauphin Island. While visiting the area, take a tour of Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines. During the American Civil War, these forts played an important role in protecting the Confederacy against Union troops. Fort Gaines played a central role in the Battle of Mobile Bay. To learn more about the local ecosystem, stop by The Estuarium. Top off your day with a romantic dinner at the Pirate’s Bar And Grill, and select an outdoor table for amazing water views.

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2. Lake Charles, Louisiana

Louisiana bridge swamp
Source: Flickr/Louisiana Travel

Spend some time alone together out on the water with a weekend in Lake Charles. In less than three hours, you can check into your vacation rental and ride over to the Creole Nature Trail’s visitor’s center. The center offers an overview of the ecosystem and the types of critters that call the area home. You also get a peek at a few of the more than 400 different bird species that live in the area. Carry a pair of binoculars while hiking the Creole Nature Trail to get a closer look at the birds in their nests. Spice up the day with dinner at Rabideaux’s. This small restaurant is known for its fried Cajun foods.

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3. Lafayette, Louisiana

historic home
Source: Flickr/Louisiana Travel

Heat up your romance in the heart of Cajun country when you drive the three hours to the town of Lafayette. If you have time, visit the area at the end of September for the Festival Acadians. It’s a weekend filled with mouthwatering food that might set your mouth on fire and live music to get you up on your feet dancing together. If you can’t make the festival, eat at the Blue Moon Saloon at least once and enjoy the live Cajun music. Learn more about what life was like in the area during the 1800s with a visit to the Vermilionville Historic Village. This is a living museum with historic buildings, staff in period costumes, and live demonstrations of daily chores.

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4. Pensacola, Florida

florida beach
Source: Flickr/dconvertini

It’s hard to believe but with a four-hour drive, you and your sweetie can be in Florida dipping your toes in the Gulf of Mexico in Pensacola. There’s a certain romance to a lighthouse, and you can experience a tour of the Pensacola Light and climb to the top for amazing views. Put some thrills back in your love life with a ride in the flight simulator at the National Naval Aviation Museum. After flying off into the wild blue yonder, see some of the coolest airplanes from bygone eras. Located in the former city jail, the Pensacola Museum of Art offers a selection of artworks from regional artists.

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5. Fairhope, Alabama

alabama dock ocean
Source: Flickr/Jay

Located on the Bay of Mobile and only two and a half hours from New Orleans, Fairhope, Alabama, offers stunning natural beauty around each corner. Start your visit to this waterside town by meandering through the Fairhope French Quarter. This area has a variety of historic buildings and eclectic shops, and when it gets warm, settle under the shade of one of the massive crepe myrtles. On Saturday morning, consider spending a couple of hours together horseback riding at the nearby Oak Hollow Farm, or opt to snuggle closer together in a hayride. In the late afternoon, walk down to the end of the Fairhope Municipal Pier and use binoculars to spot dolphins playing in the distance.

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6. Natchez, Mississippi

historic home capitol
Source: Flickr/Martin Lewison

Experience what life was like in the years before the American Civil War with a visit to Natchez, Mississippi, located just under three hours from New Orleans. The battles that raged in this area managed to miss this small southern town, so many of the homes and buildings from before the era remain today. Take a tour of the Natchez National Historical Park. The park has three homes from before the war, including the home of a free African American who owned a barber shop, the plantation of a wealthy landowner, and French fort that dates back to the early days of the republic. The Charboneau Distillery tour is your chance to learn more about how rum is made and pick up a bottle to take home from the gift shop.

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7. New Iberia, Louisiana

garden trees hiking
Source: Flickr/Natalie Maynor

Three hours away from your home, New Iberia invites you and your sweetie to take life a little slower and a little less seriously. Spend an afternoon together out on the greens at the Squirrel Run Golf Club, or take photos at the gorgeous Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in the historic downtown area. Nearby, visit Avery Island and take a tour of the Tabasco plant. Afterwards, strike out for an afternoon of hiking on one of the trails that criss-crosses the island. Jane’s Seafood and Chinese Restaurant has an eclectic blend of dishes on its menu, including Asian and American seafood dishes.

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