Not all rest areas are created equal. Not all rest areas are #LouisianaAF. The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area welcome center is probably one of the best interstate rest stops you’ll visit in the country. definitely best in the state.
According to the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area website, it is an area that’s made up of 14 parishes in south-central Louisiana. It was an area designated by Congress in 2006 to increase public awareness and appreciation of the natural, scenic, cultural and recreational resources in the area.
The welcome center is the area’s official presence within the Atchafalaya Basin. It is located at exit 121 on I-10 between Lafayette and Baton Rouge, right in the middle of the swamps, lakes, bayous and rivers that make up the Atchafalaya Basin. Besides exiting to visit the welcome center, this is also the exit for Butte La Rose which is a small community located within the basin.
When you pull up to the welcome center, you will notice the ample parking for regular vehicles, recreational vehicles and 18-wheelers. There is also a security guard to help keep the area safe.
The welcome center itself is designed to look like an Acadian style home. One of the characteristics of this style is the very large wrap around porch. The front porch features some rocking chairs for you to rest and enjoy some coffee. You’ll also find some nice artwork hung on the wall.
The restrooms themselves are pretty clean for a public restroom. They are air-conditioned for your comfort during the summer months. Every time I’ve stopped there, it has been stocked and never out of anything like hand soap. In the area between the bathrooms, there is a few vending machines with snacks and drinks.
Inside the main welcome center is where all the cool stuff resides. You’ll immediately be greeted by a nice employee that welcomes you to the center and asks if you need any information. There is a very nice assortment of pamphlets advertising many attractions across the state.
Past the front desk, you’ll be treated to museum-style exhibits that give you an overview of the culture, land and wildlife the area has to offer. There’s even animatronics animals that will talk to you and tell you a story. In the rear of the exhibit area, there is a door that opens up on a timed interval that allows you to enter a theater that features a video promoting the area.
If you step out onto the back porch, you will find a pathway to a few gazebos where you and your family can have a picnic. You’ll also find some nice metal statues of animals you can typically find in the swamp. I caution you, don’t jump on that big tortoise in the middle of a hot summer day. You’ll get burned!
After viewing the exhibits and featured video, you can treat yourself to some Community Coffee, one of the most famous Louisiana brands. The coffee station is located behind the big front desk. After you pour a cup, take it back out onto the front porch to rest in one of the rocking chairs and watch the traffic go by.