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Spotlight: Hammond/Tangipahoa Parish

Explore a community with deep roots in Louisiana heritage

Loosely translated, “Tangipahoa” means “those who gather corn,” a reference to the Acolapissa People who inhabited the region when brothers Pierre and Jean le Moyne arrived to colonize southern Louisiana at the turn of the 18th century. And while corn might have been the defining feature of the area 300 years ago, today the parish’s name might as well stand for “location, location, location.”

Tangipahoa Parish sits just across the waters of Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, and sits within easy reach of both western Alabama and southern Mississippi. The Gulf of Mexico is a stone’s throw to the east and, because the parish isn’t part of the swampy bayou ecosystem that defines so much of the rest of southern Louisiana, interstates 55 and 12 run directly through, rapidly connecting Tangipahoa with the rest of the state. Set up camp here and you’ll be positioned at the crossroads of the south.

The prime location has helped make the parish (and the town of Hammond in particular) a major commercial and transportation center. In fact, the area has been a main thoroughfare for trade and inter-regional traffic since the days when Native Americans used it to travel between western Louisiana and settlements in Mobile and Pensacola further east.



Hammond History

Start your explorations in the small city of Hammond, a pioneer-era settlement turned railroad town that’s blossomed into a major distribution center for the American South.

If you’re a history buff, you’ll be well-served by kicking things off with a walk through Hammond’s Historic District, which is part of the city’s downtown core. A total of 95 officially designated historic buildings dating between 1880 and 1944 can be found here, displaying a range of architectural stylings, from the Victorian era to Renaissance Revival.

An afternoon at the African American Heritage Museum is another must for those with a nose for history and art. Featuring eight galleries, more than 20 original large-scale murals and a massive collection of historic artifacts, the museum profiles the stories and contributions of African Americans throughout the country’s history.

Of course, you can’t visit southern Louisiana without meeting an alligator or two. And at Kliebert’s Alligator and Turtle Farm, located just south of downtown Hammond, you can meet a few hundred. This fully operational alligator and turtle farm offers visitors an informative behind-the-scenes tour that includes a guided Swamp People Trail walk. Throughout the tour, visitors will see 18-foot-long alligators, a 15-foot-long python and more than 40,000 different turtles.

A trio of family-fun attractions round out the must-visit list for Hammond. For the speedsters, there’s River Road Go-Kart Track, home to a multi-use track and multiple sizes of karts fit for all ages and experience levels, including kids. For the rambunctious, there’s Safari Quest, a 3,000-square-foot fun center home to laser tag, ropes courses, climbing trees, a state-of-the-art arcade and giant human hamster balls. Finally, for the education-minded, there’s the Louisiana Children’s Discovery Center, where more than 30 different interactive exhibits and activities are tailored exclusively to toddlers, young children and teenagers.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Louisiana Small-town Life

Outside of Hammond, the rest of Tangipahoa Parish is dotted with quaint small towns and communities that offer a quiet, relaxed pace. Amite City, Independence and Ponchatoula are particularly popular. Each one has its own designated historic district, making them a delight to stroll and explore.

Amite City is situated just west of the Tangipahoa River, making it a popular spot for kayakers, anglers and canoeists. As the parish seat, this is also the home for the Tangipahoa Parish Fair, held annually each September. In March, the town hosts the annual Oyster Festival.

Ponchatoula, for its part, calls itself the “Strawberry Capital of the World,” so be sure to taste some of its prized wares while passing through. The town hosts the Strawberry Festival every April, and the event has become so popular it’s now the second-largest free festival in the entire state of Louisiana. The town is also home to the Collinswood School Museum, which first opened as a one-room schoolhouse in 1876, and now serves the region as a general history museum. Items on display range from 10,000-year-old Native American artifacts to relics from the Civil War.

Finally, don’t miss a visit to Camp Moore, located near the town of Kentwood. This original Confederate military training camp dates to 1861 and now serves as an interactive museum. The grounds were once used as a staging area and training facility, the largest of its kind in the state of Louisiana. Today, Camp Moore tells the story of the Civil War as seen through the eyes of the common foot soldier, from the battles they fought to the games they played to fill the hours between combat training sessions.

For More Information

Tangipahoa Parish Convention & Visitors Bureau
Louisiana Office of Tourism