For a town of under eight thousand residents, Donaldsonville punches far above its weight when it comes to history and attractions. The fifth oldest city in Louisiana, Donaldsonville is home to the state’s second largest city historical district, and briefly served as Louisiana’s capital, after legislators chose to relocate out of New Orleans. Shortly after the Civil War, Donaldsonville was the first city in the United States to elect an African-American mayor. Today, Donaldsonville is working hard to preserve, restore, and share its rich heritage, and visitors to this history-heavy town will have to move quickly to see all there is to enjoy.
The Donaldsonville Historic District is one of the best collections of architecture in the state, with Georgian Revival, Queen Anne Revival, and Italianate buildings all proudly represented among the town’s homes, places of worship, and commercial buildings. The town’s long African American heritage is celebrated in the River Road African American Museum, which particularly commemorates the town’s status as a local center of African American life in the decades following emancipation. Civil War buffs can visit the site of Fort Butler, erected to defend the confluence of the Mississippi River with Bayou Lafourche at Donaldsonville, or use Donaldsonville as a home base to visit some of the parish’s restored plantations, like Houmas House or Hermitage Plantation.
Donaldsonville is also building a calendar of fun, family-friendly events to draw visitors to this historic jewel on the river. First Saturdays in summer (Louisiana summer, so May through September), there’s a morning farmer’s market and an evening free concert—perfect bookends to a day spent seeing the sites. The evening concert will be replaced on July 4 by “Come Forth on the Third,” an early Independence Day fireworks show. An Italian Heritage Festival will follow October 14 & 15, then the Sunshine Festival November 17-19.
For more tourism information, visit www.donaldsonville-la.gov/visitors/tourist-information.