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Cheap Daycations 

Free festivals make for easy day trips that feel like vacations

click to enlarge A contestant vies for a title in an orange peeling contest at the Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival.

A contestant vies for a title in an orange peeling contest at the Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival.

There's always a lot to do in New Orleans, but sometimes you just need to get out of town, experience a new locale and party like the locals to feel like you've had a real break. Here are some suggestions — all within two hours of the city and with free admission — to get you through the year.

July 4
Houma Independence Celebration
Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center, 346 Civic Center Blvd., Houma, (985) 850-4657; www.houmaindependencecelebration.com
Drive time: 75 minutes
There's live entertainment, carnival games and rides, food vendors, foot and bike races, arts and crafts vendors, a parade, king and queen contests and a huge fireworks display. The celebration honors the military and first responders, and proceeds benefit programs for veterans. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (fireworks start at 9 p.m.)

Sept. 3-7
Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival
715 Second St., Morgan City, (985) 385-0703; www.shrimpandpetroleum.org
Drive time: 90 minutes
It's Louisiana's oldest state-chartered harvest festival — it started in 1937 — and includes live music, a children's village, shrimp and other seafood dishes, a car show, fireworks and a blessing of the shrimp fleet on Sunday. Hours vary.

Sept. 25-26
Bogalusa Blues & Heritage Festival
Cassidy Park, 129 Ben Miller Drive, Bogalusa, (985) 205-1075; www.bogalusablues.com
Drive time: 90 minutes
Headliners for the festival include Keb' Mo' and Tinsley Ellis, along with Jon Cleary, Mia Borders, Johnny Sansone, Little Freddie King, Dwayne Dopsie, Gal Holiday and others. There also are cultural programs, arts and crafts, a 5K run, a kids' area with inflatable structures, train rides, a scavenger hunt and more. Hours: 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday

click to enlarge Fireworks displays add spice to the Houma Independence Celebration in July and the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival 
in September.
  • Fireworks displays add spice to the Houma Independence Celebration in July and the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Festival in September.

Sept. 26-27
Best of the Bayou Festival
7856 Main St., Houma, (985) 876-5600; www.bestofthebayou.la
Drive time: 65 minutes
There's live music from bands including Marc Broussard, The Revivalists, Louisiana LeRoux, Kristin Diable, Waylon Thibodeaux, Cajun Music Preservation Allstars and others. The festival also features Cajun cuisine, an arts market, a classic car show (Saturday), kids' games and activities, a petting zoo and alligator races on Bayou Terrebonne (Sunday). Hours vary.

Nov. 14-15
Three Rivers Arts Festival
Columbia St., Covington, (985) 327-9797; www.three- riversartfestival.com
Drive time: 65 minutes
It's a great venue for holiday shopping or just taking in a wide array of arts and crafts. The show includes more than 200 artists from around the country, live music, food and activities for kids. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Dec. 4-6
Plaquemines Parish Fair and Orange Festival
Fort Jackson, Buras, (504) 405-8535; www.orangefestival.com
Drive time: 90 minutes
There are two stages hosting live music, eating contests for adults and children, shrimp-peeling, oyster-shucking, duck-calling and orange-peeling contests, carnival rides, a cooking contest, a fun run and more.




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