Prairieville, Louisiana

Located 20 miles from Baton Rouge, Prairieville features newly built suburban cul-de-sacs beside the marshy beauty of the 18-mile Bayou Manchac, which merchants used to link the area with New Orleans until the early 20th century.

More recently Baton Rouge’s petrochemical industry has helped bring jobs to the area, with employment growing 25% in the last 10 years. Low crime and strong schools have helped persuade many to settle in Prairieville: two of the four high schools in the Ascension Parish School District, which serves Prairieville, are among the top 20 in the state, according to US News.

Those looking for Cajun culture won’t be disappointed: Prairieville is dotted with mom-and-pop seafood restaurants, such as The Porch Light Grill, which serves shrimp po’boys and crawfish platters, and On The Half Shell, an oyster bar with live music Wednesday through Saturday. In May, the nearby city of Gonzales throws its Jambalaya Festival, a three-day bash where visitors can enjoy the world-famous meat-and-rice stew, along with food competitions, carnival rides and live music. — Mayra Paris

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