Recreation & Tourism - A River Runs Through It
Ouachita Parish, with the Ouachita River and its bayous running through it, is more than just a “sportsman’s paradise”. It is a paradise for keen shoppers and foodies searching for the next great restaurant. Ouachita Parish is also a haven for artists, musicians and craftsmen. In so many ways, Ouachita Parish is a pot of gumbo with new ingredients constantly being added, giving our region a distinct flavor.
Monroe is the home of Pecanland Mall, the largest mall in Northeast Louisiana featuring over 115 shops, restaurants and department stores. The shopping center features a double-decker carousel which is always a hit with children. In addition, the center has a 10-screen cinema and numerous restaurants. But that’s not all. Another favorite hot spot to shop can be found in downtown West Monroe. Antique Alley, located on Trenton, has numerous antique shops featuring unique and hard to find items, as well as gift shops, art studios, and restaurants. The final stop for shoppers is in Midtown Monroe with the area’s most unique specialty stores and trendy boutiques. For shoppers looking for a more soulful experience, there are numerous day spas for a relaxing and rejuvenating experience.
Memphis is known for their Bar-B-Q, Philadelphia for their Philly cheese steaks, but in Ouachita Parish it is all about catfish and seafood. The delicious catch is prepared in a variety of ways and can be found at eateries from New Orleans style restaurants, to family dining and fine restaurants on the banks of the Ouachita River and Bayou DeSiard. In addition, the area features other great restaurants serving everything from Asian cuisine to soul food and everything in between.
The Warehouse No.1 Restaurant overlooks the Ouachita River. Dine inside or on their romantic outdoor deck while enjoying a great steak or seafood. Don’t leave without tasting one of their signature deserts. For a change of pace, try a Po-Boy and fresh cut fries at Magic Grill. The Grills daily lunch specials and homemade ice cream are simply magical.
In the mood for some authentic Mexican food? El Jarrito Mexican Restaurant is just what you are looking for and the establishment even has a south-of-the border feel as soon as you walk through its doors. The restaurant’s hand crafted décor and delectable dishes make you want to shout Olay! For other great restaurants visit the Monroe-West Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau’s website at www.monroe-westmonroe.org.
Ouachita Parish has a rich history which is celebrated in numerous museums throughout the community. Did you know that many of the best World War II fighter pilots were trained in Monroe? Chennault Aviation and Military Museum of Louisiana honors these pilots and others who have served the United States in all branches of the military. The Museum is housed in one of the last remaining buildings from the WWII Selman Field Army-Air Force Navigation School.
For a more genteel view of southern culture visit the Biedenharn Museum& Gardens, which was the home of Joseph A. Biedenharn, the first to bottle Coca-Cola. The Biedenharn Museum & Gardens also features a formal garden, the Bible Museum and a Coke Museum, complete with a 5 cent coke machine.
The Northeast Louisiana African American Museum is currently under construction, when complete it will trace the history of African Americans in the Delta region and highlight African Americans from across the nation. The museum will have on going displays as well as special exhibits.
For fun with children, take them to visit indigenous and exotic animals at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo. The facility features beautiful gardens with many species of plants. In addition, there are boat rides and, soon, even a small train that travels around the park. Children will also enjoy a visit to the Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum with hands on displays and exhibits.
For the outdoorsman there are numerous venues for hunting and fishing throughout the year. For outdoorsmen who would rather hunt golf balls, the region offers several options for a great day on the course. Like a good rodeo? Than head for the Ike Hamilton Expo Center in West Monroe or the Monroe Civic Center Arena. Both facilities host a wide Varity of equestrian events throughout the year.
The region is home to several festivals and cultural events, including Delta Fest which features live entertainment, great food, craft booths and carnival rides and other activities for kids. The Downtown ArtFest is a celebration of culture and creativity. Artists in Northeast Louisiana have the opportunity to show off their talent in a fun and vibrant atmosphere. Galleries and studios located throughout downtown Monroe take part in the event. Celtic roots run deep in Northeast Louisiana and The Northeast Louisiana Celtic Festival celebrates that heritage. Visitors can enjoy performances by famous Celtic musicians, dancers, storytellers and much more.
From ball parks to gardens and art galleries to festivals, there is always something interesting happening in Ouachita Parish. Come discover, explore, and experience our history, heritage, and culture.
Handmade -Riverside Cultural District /Downtown Cultural District
Looking for an original oil painting or watercolor? What about a hand thrown pottery vase? Look no further than the Riverside Cultural District in Monroe and the Downtown Cultural District in West Monroe. Both have a thriving arts community with studios, gift shops and restaurants. Need another reason to visit? Consider saving money. The Cultural District designation allows studios located in the district to sell hand made original pieces of art exempt from sales tax.
The area is undergoing a renaissance with chic new housing downtown, which is attracting young professionals to the area. In addition to the new art studios, fine art galleries and museums, new restaurants catering to a wide array of tastes have opened, including Coda’s, a New Orleans style eatery, that has already established quite a following.
The Riverside Cultural district is also home to three museums. The Masur Museum or Art is the largest visual arts museum in Northeast Louisiana. It is housed in a historic riverside home that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Throughout the year, the museum hosts an array of exhibitions, lectures and educational events designed to expand the cultural horizons of the community.
The Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum offers a fun and educational learning experience for children and their families. The museum has hands on exhibitions, seasonal holiday events and family fun days. In December, they even feature an outdoor ice skating rink! The NELA Children’s Museum is always a favorite destination for elementary school field trips.
The Biedenharn Museum & Gardens has something for everyone to enjoy including a historic home, formal gardens, the Bible Museum and the Coke Museum. Joseph A. Biedenharn, the first bottler of Coca-Cola, built his home in Monroe, Louisiana in 1914. Visitors can connect to the gracious life of his daughter Emy-Lou through guided tours of the home. The Bible Museum has an extensive collection of Bibles, including a page from the 1454-55 Gutenberg Bible. The Coke Museum showcases Coca-Cola memorabilia and historical items including Model T Coca-Cola delivery truck. Be sure to grab a refreshing bottle of Coca-Cola from an original 5¢ vending machine.
The redevelopment of the Riverside Cultural District has positively impacted the surrounding neighborhood. The district has been enhanced with improved sidewalks, roadways, bike paths and the renovation of Bry Park with a beautiful arbor and fountain. Construction will soon be underway to turn the romantic riverwalk into a vibrant, energetic French market, complete with stalls for area artisans and craftsmen. The Cultural Districts of Ouachita parish have become a lively place to live, work and play!
Area State Parks
Poverty Point State Historic Site includes a 2.6-mile hiking trail and contains some of the largest prehistoric earth works in North America. The park is approximately 60 miles from Monroe located at 6859 Highway 577, Pioneer, Louisiana 71266. Call 888-926-5492 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lake D’Arbonne State Park includes a visitor’s center, swimming pool, tennis complex campsites, eighteen and vacation cabins. The park is approximately 28 miles from Monroe located at 3628 Evergreen Road in Farmerville, Louisiana 71241. Call 888-677-5200 Email: email@example.com
Jimmie Davis State Park offers a fishing, waterskiing, a playground, biking treks and cabin along with a dining hall. The park is approximately 32 miles from Monroe located at 1209 State Park Road, Chatham, LA 71226. Call 888-677-2263 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Biedenharn Museum & Gardens
Tour the elegant home of Joseph Biedenharn, first bottler of Coca-Cola. Walk through the beautiful ELsong Gardens behind the home. Explore the extensive collection of historically significant Bibles in the Bible Museum adjacent to the home. The Biedenharn Museum & Gardens is located at 2006 Riverside Drive, Monroe. Call (318) 387-528. Open 10 am to 5 pm Tue-Sat. www.bmuseum.org
Chennault Aviation & Military Museum of LA
The Chennault Aviation & Military Museum highlights three historical chapters in the nation’s and Monroe’s history: the Navigation School that trained over 15,000 navigators during the World War II years; the birth of Delta Airlines from a regional crop dusting service; and Louisiana native General Claire Lee Chennault’s Flying Tigers fighter squadron. 701 Kansas Lane, Monroe (318) 362-5540 Open: 9 am to 4:30 pm Mon-Fri, 11 am to 5 pm Sat, closed Sun. www.sos.louisiana.gov/camm
Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo
The Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo is family fun with animals, many in naturalistic habitats, plants of all kinds, a winding waterway with boat rides, and, opening soon, a truly charming train for fun rides through the zoo. There are over 450 kinds of animals from all over the world and a wide variety of exotic plants. Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo is located at 1405 Bernstein Park Drive, Monroe. Call (318) 329-2400. Open: 10 am to 5 pm daily; Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. www.monroezoo.org
NELA Children’s Museum
The NELA Children’s Museum is a super place where adults and kids can learn and grow together. Permanent exhibits ranging from the Firehouse/Health Hall to Bubbleworks. The museum also features great traveling exhibits from across the U.S. are featured throughout the year, too. The NELA Children’s Museum is located at 323 Walnut Street, Monroe. Call (318) 361-9611Open: 9 am to 2 pm Tue-Fri; 10 am to 5 pm Sat www.nelcm.org
Masur Museum of Art
The Masur Museum, set in a 1920s Tudor-style structure which features a permanent collection of paintings, prints and sculpture, as well as six to eight exhibitions annually of art from museums and artists nationwide. Art lectures, gallery talks, special presentations, art classes and workshops are conducted year-round. Masur Museum is located at 1400 South Grand Street, Monroe. Call (318) 329-2237. Open: 9 am to 5 pm Tue-Thur, 2 pm to 5 pm, Fri-Sun www.masurmuseum.org
NELA Delta African American Heritage Museum
NELA Delta African American Heritage Museum features an array of artifacts from Northeast Louisiana. Also on display are life-like models of famous African American leaders as well as an archival section featuring local African American leaders. The museum also features changing art exhibits feature local and regional African American artists. The NELA Louisiana Delta African American Heritage Museum is opening a new location in Chennault Park at 8477 Millhaven Road in 2011. Call for appointment (318) 323-1167 www.nldaahm.com
Ouachita River Art Gallery
The Ouachita River Art Gallery is great find if you’re looking for original, unique art created local and regional artisans in an exciting variety of mediums! An annual art extravaganza is held each November. Workshops are offered at various times in the year. The gallery is located at 308 Trenton Street, West Monroe. Call (318) 322-2380 Open: 10 am to 5 pm Tue-Sat www.ouachitariverartgallery.com
Landry Vineyards is a family owned and operated winery. Visitors can sample these wines with cheese and bread, while enjoying the picturesque views. Don’t miss their concert series with live music on the beautiful grounds. Landry Vineyards is located at 5699 New Natchitoches Road, West Monroe. Call (318) 557-9050 Open: Tasting Room is open 11 am to 5 pm every Saturday. www.landryvineyards.com
Forsythe Park is a neighborhood park with picnic areas which features ranging from , a 9-hole golf course to to beach volleyball courts, a jogging path and a public boat launch are located over the levee along the Ouachita River. Forsythe Park is located at the Corner of Riverside Drive & Forsythe Avenue, Monroe. Call (318) 329-2440
Bernstein Park is a park that exhibits cultural and historic features in Monroe. Bernstein Park is also the home of the Louisiana Purchase Gardens & Zoo.
500 acres laced with full-grown oaks, 18-hole golf course, frisbee golf, softball field, picnic areas, paved walking trail, and Northeast Louisiana Soccer Complex. The part is the home of Delta Fest and outdoor concert events. Chennault Park is located at 8475 Millhaven Road, Monroe. Call (318) 329-2454
Kiroli Park is a 160-acre park with forested areas as well as large playing areas. Jogging and nature trails, a fishing pond, beautiful gardens, covered picnic areas, and a theatre stage for performances. Kiroli Park is located at 820 Kiroli Road, West Monroe. Call (318) 396-4016
Downtown River Market
The Downtown RiverMarket is operated by the City of Monroe. The RiverMarket is part of a "Downtown RiverMarket Festival" a nine-month festival held in Downtown Monroe. This festival is a celebration of downtown and the river featuring artisans, food, produce, entertainment, workshops, and kid's activities. Join us for great shopping and entertainment on the beautiful Ouachita River.
Monroe - West Monroe, LA Convention and Visitors Bureau
Ouachita Parish was established March 31, 1807 when the Territory of Orleans was divided. The original Ouachita Parish was later divided into the nine parishes that currently makeup Northeast Louisiana (Morehouse, Union, Caldwell, Franklin, Tensas, Madison, and East and West Carroll). The name Ouachita originated from the Indian tribe who inhabited the area at the time of settlement. The city of Monroe is the parish seat for Ouachita. The twin cities of Monroe-West Monroe began when Don Juan Filhiol was hired to establish Fort Miro as a Spanish presence on the north Ouachita River. Fort Miro became Monroe in May of 1819 to honor President James Monroe and the first steamboat to travel up the Ouachita to North Louisiana. West Monroe received its name in 1880 from railroad workers who needed to name a new city just west of Monroe. In 1914, Joseph Biedenharn, the first bottler of Coca-Cola, built his home in Monroe and was actively involved in the city’s development until his death in 1952. His daughter, Emy-Lou established the Emy-Lou Biedenharn foundation in 1971 to support the cultural and artistic life of Northeast Louisiana.