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Louisiana is renowned for its rich Creole and spicy Cajun cuisine, as a place to kick off your shoes and dance the night away, and it is especially famous for Mardi Gras! But if we’re looking for something other than a Fat Tuesday extravaganza, there are plenty of other things to keep us well-entertained, such as the American Rose Center in Shreveport, a 118-acre facility featuring dozens of specially-designed rose gardens, which feature beautiful roses, donated from all across America. The wandering path takes us through expertly-landscaped gardens; there are plenty of benches for us to sit and take a pause, and enjoy the lush foliage and sculptures. There’s even a chapel on the grounds, making it an ideal spot for weddings.
Once we’ve started by “stopping and smelling the roses” in the twin cities of Shreveport and Bossier City, we access the state highway 1 north for just over 18 miles to Oil City, where we find Caddo Lake. Once the province of the Kadohadacho Indians, the early 1900s and the “Oil Rush” turned the area into Oil City and changed the state forever. Now, the Louisiana State Oil & Gas Museum resides in Oil City, and shows the history of the region from Indian days, followed by an archaeological exhibit and finally a demonstration of how oil and natural gas is retrieved for the earth. This fascinating tour is free, and the museum is open Monday through Friday only.
Returning to Shreveport, we head south on Highway 1 until we get to Natchitoches, the original French colony in Louisiana, established in the early 1700s. For the movie buff, “Steel Magnolias” was filmed entirely on location in Natchitoches. A fun and fascinating hour-long tour of Natchitoches takes us by trolley, past such sites as the Old Courthouse State Museum, the Church of Immaculate Conception and the National Historic Landmark District, which features over 30 acres of shops, restaurants, antique shops, bookstores and historic homes. This is a great place to come back and enjoy once the tour is over. Natchitoches is also the location of three historic forts, such as Fort Jesup, which was built in the 1800s as a means of establishing law and order in a region heavily contested by the United States and Spain. Several plantation homes still stand, a few of which offer daily tours.
Continuing south down Highway 1, we pull into Louisiana’s state capitol of Baton Rouge. This city rocks and rolls with the sounds of jazz and the blues, and has a warm, tropical climate that makes it a perfect place to enjoy all kinds of outdoor activities, such as golfing on one of several nationally-ranked courses in the area.
The Baton Rouge area also plays host to several hot-spot gaming casinos, where we can try our hand with Lady Luck. There are even a few riverboat casinos, where we can step back in time and see what it was like in the romantic bygone days, when there was a card shark at every table and a Derringer .38 up every sleeve. In a similar vein, Evangeline Downs is a highly-rated racetrack and casino that offers more horses per race, which increases the odds of winning. The casino provides more than 1,600 slot machines, a 350-seat buffet area, and a 200-seat sports bar, making Evangeline Downs an excellent place to relax and enjoy your vacation.
The Old State Capitol building is an intriguing historical stop, being a leading example of Gothic Revival architecture in the United States. In the 1860s, Union Admiral Farragut captured New Orleans and used the Old State Capitol first as a prison, then as a garrison. During this time, the building caught fire twice and was subsequently rebuilt. Following the Civil War, the building remained Louisiana’s State Capitol until 1932 when the state government seat moved to the current capitol building, a 34-story Art Deco skyscraper in Baton Rouge.
A large part of Louisiana’s history revolves around the plantation lifestyle, and there are several in the area, such as Laura’s Plantation, the Destrehan Plantation, and the Nottoway Plantation. Houma’s House is a Greek-Revival mansion built in 1840, serving as a sugar plantation and possessing lush formal gardens beneath 200-year old moss-covered live oaks. The majestic Oak Valley Plantation sits on 25 acres along the Mississippi River, and is so named because of the quarter-mile canopy of live oak trees that leads from the river’s edge to the mansion proper. Daily tours are available, but be on the lookout for the spirits of former residents, who are rumored to be so in love with the property that they never left.
Our Louisiana journey concludes in Donaldsonville, the former state capitol. This town sits right in the heart of Plantation Country, and paddle wheel boats still cruise up and down the waterways. In the fall, Donaldsonville hosts the annual Sunshine Festival, a county fair-type of experience with all types of food, entertainment, and rides for children of all ages. Donaldsonville is a great place to grab a mint julep, find a shade tree and enjoy the very definition of carefree relaxation.
There’s so much to see and do in Louisiana that there’s no way to do it proper justice here; so check out
Other Area Sponsors in Louisiana:
Louisiana Travel Promotion Association
Felix Poche Plantation RV Resort