Just north of New Orleans, between the Pearl and Tangipahoa rivers, seven distinct communities make up St. Tammany Parish, a beautiful bayou destination for group travelers.
This Louisiana parish, also known as the Northshore, changed hands among the French, Spanish and British before finally being claimed by the Americans as part of Louisiana in 1812. Before that, it was once a land where Choctaw and other Native American tribes thrived. Groups can see the intricate history and heritage of the area reflected in its museums and architecture, while its natural beauty is evident in its marshes, waterways and wildlife preserves.
The Northshore has become “known for our eco-friendly and accessible outdoor attractions, unique museums, and a deep and delicious culinary scene,” said Tanya Leader, vice president of sales for the St. Tammany Parish Tourist and Convention Commission.
The exciting food-and-beverage scene in this bayou destination ranges from breweries and wineries to quaint restaurants and old-fashioned ice cream parlors. To supplement their Northshore adventures, groups can grab a bite to eat or a refreshing drink at these St. Tammany Parish staples.
Wild Bush Farm and Vineyard
Previously known as Pontchartrain Vineyards, Wild Bush Farm and Vineyard was recently purchased and rebranded by Neil Gernon and Monica Bourgeois, owners of Vending Machine Wines, a New Orleans-based, family-owned wine company. Bourgeois and Gernon have been attempting to revive the vineyard and further its contributions to the Louisiana wine scene.
The vineyard produces French-style table wines that combine regional and West Coast grape varietals, which has resulted in bold and innovative flavors. In addition to grapes, the vineyard’s new owners also plan to add fruit orchards and plenty of other farm-fresh produce in the coming seasons.
The scenic “farm to glass” vineyard in the town of Bush features a tasting room with elegant Tuscan design elements and a terrace overlooking the vineyard. It’s also the venue for a popular jazz music concert series during the spring and fall called Jazz’n the Vines.
Groups can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the vineyard to learn how its wines are made, walk through the stunning Louisiana countryside and sample the vineyard’s grapes. Tastings are available and so are tasting classes. During select times of the year, groups may catch an evening jazz or swing concert, which they can enjoy with a glass of Wild Bush Vineyard’s finest vintage.
Located 30 miles outside of New Orleans, the Abita Brewery began churning out handcrafted brews in 1986. Less than 10 years later, this local hit had to relocate to a bigger facility due to its success. Today, it’s a staple of the Northshore, providing craft lagers, ales and even sodas. The brewery credits its artesian well water and small batches for its delicious craft beverages. Favorites like the Amber Ale, Purple Haze lager and the Louisiana exclusive, the Boot, are always on tap, but a wide selection of seasonal brews come and go throughout the year. In addition to its beverages, the brewery is also known for prioritizing sustainable practices including recycling its bottles and repurposing the byproducts of the brewing process.
Groups can take guided, 30-minute tours of the brew house to learn how the beverages are made. The tour concludes with a tasting in the taproom, where each visitor can sample four of the brewery’s craft beers. While beer is the main attraction at the brewery, soda tours are also available upon request. A food truck visits the brewery on Saturdays, but groups are free to sip beer and enjoy their own food or the brewery’s light snacks in the taproom or beer garden. In the brewery’s shop, apparel, glassware and bar essentials are available for purchase.
Passionate Platter is an herb kitchen and garden market in Slidell that provides a hands-on culinary experience for groups traveling to St. Tammany Parish. The quaint business doubles as a quaint restaurant and a fun, culinary-themed outing for groups. Linda Franzo, owner and chef at Passionate Platter, offers personalized classes and presentations on everything from herbal cocktails to recipe demonstrations using the fresh, local flavors and herbs found in her own garden.
The business offers plenty of options for groups, including a garden-to-table tour, where visitors can peruse the garden’s fresh herbs and produce. They can learn how they’re grown, the best methods for harvesting them and how to use them in the kitchen. These group tours conclude with a demonstration lunch using the produce straight from the garden, as well as other local ingredients, to craft a delicious meal of the group’s choice. Franzo also offers hands-on cooking class to teach groups how to make pasta, pizza, charcuterie and many other seasonal herbal meals.
Old Town Slidell Soda Shop
The Old Town Slidell Soda Shop, located in Slidell’s historic Old Towne District, is a vintage soda shop and ice cream parlor serving up sweet treats to locals and tourists alike in the Northshore area. The light-blue, two-story shop, decorated with old-fashioned ice cream scoops lining the walls, traditional diner counter bar stools, a black-and-white checkered floor and classic arcade games, serves up nostalgia alongside its delicious desserts.
The soda shop makes its own ice cream and offers a wide selection of milkshakes, malts, banana splits, sundaes, sodas and snow cones, with both traditional and eccentric ice cream flavors and toppings. In addition to its dessert menu, the shop has a diner menu, with options such as burgers, onion rings and Southern classics like po’boys and chicken and waffles.
Groups can stop by the shop to try a scoop of ice cream, a milkshake or a float with a hot meal, but the fun doesn’t end there. When they’ve had their fill of sweets, groups can go around back to the property’s 18-hole mini-golf course for a round of putt-putt. In addition to the old arcade games, the shop has a selection of delightful vintage toys for visitors to purchase.