Gentle drapes of Spanish moss hide the lower limbs of old trees that creak and murmur of comings and goings, the passage of time, and the latest in local architecture. Ponchatoula, in Louisiana's "boot", still carries the aura of bygone days on the breeze, an easy-going place with a fetching historic center.
Billed the "Strawberry Capital of the World", this small town lures visitors in, out of berry season, with promises of a purely pleasant assortment of antique shops and charming country stores ? which is how Ponchatoula recently earned the title, "America's Antique City".
Most of the activity is focused in the historic downtown, and easily explored on foot (though you may need easy access to a vehicle if you plan to amass a pile of antique booty). Stroll the Ponchatoula Country Market housed in the historic train depot for trinkets and edible goodies, take a spin through the Collinswood School Museum to learn more about local history and pay respects to the city mascot, an alligator also known as "Old Hardhide".
Daytrip to the alligator and turtle farm in Hammond, only a few miles from Ponchatoula, then head for Fontainebleau State Park edging Lake Pontchartrain for access to miles of pleasant trails, prime picnic spots and the crumbling ruins of an old sugar mill.
Ponchatoula is roughly six miles south of Hammond, and 47 miles east of Baton Rouge. Fontainebleau State Park is east of Mandeville, east and slight south of Ponchatoula.