Each year that we have traveled east, between Texas and Florida, we have driven through Louisiana without stopping to find out what she offers to travelers. Deciding to explore The Pelican State, we recently spent three weeks criss-crossing Louisiana, and were surprised by how many unique family and RV friendly adventures and destinations there were.
Our route took us in the northwest corner of Louisiana on Interstate 20, and out the southeast corner on Interstate 10. So our recommendations will follow that route, but you can follow whichever route works for you. Louisiana is even easy to tour in a great big figure 8, entering and exiting the via the same road.
Because there are so many destinations that I wanted to share, I’ve broken our Louisiana recommendations up into two posts. Here is an overview of the northern leg our our trip; how to tour, and what to see on the Interstate 20 portion of your trip. Part 2 will be the southern part of our route along Interstate 10.
The first city we encountered after entering Louisiana on Interstate 20 from Texas, was Shreveport/Bossier. We love natural surroundings for our RV sites, so we were looking at where to camp in Louisiana that would reflect that. We ended up staying at the Cypress Black Bayou Recreation Area. It is an 86-acre preserve that offers 11 full hook-up sites plus 62 water and electric sites. Cypress Black has an onsite petting zoo, a visitor’s center, and numerous walking paths as well as water access. It is an easy drive to town via paved roads, but there are also several private parks in town.
While staying in Shreveport, our top stops were:
Gator & Friends — If you are not from the south, this touristy stop is such fun! We loved feeding all the farm animals, and checking out the exotic animals. The new zip line ovvers a bird’s eye view of many of the animal pens, including a ride right over the largest alligator pen! The gator’s themselves are so interesting. Be sure to say ‘hi’ to George, the current visitor greeter and photo prop, and pick up some gator paraphernalia in the fun gift shop. http://www.gatorsandfriends.com/
Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park — This is a free, 160-acre educational destination. Offering classes on local animals and plants, this is the perfect roadschooling field trip. Fun programs, get up close and personal in their live animal room, go for nature walks, and check out the great displays while you are there. The park does not have a designated website or page, but you can find info about their hands-on workshops on their facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Walter-B-Jacobs-Memorial-Nature-Park/133141696707908
Sci-Port is an exceptional, Top 10 science museum, and is an intriguing stop for all ages. Hands-on activities as well as educational and interesting displays and shows, make this 92,000-square-foot location a great all-day stop. Be sure to check out the IMax Dome, as well as their staffed planetarium. Free parking is offered, and the museum is in a great location for checking out the surroundings and having a peaceful picnic lunch in the park. http://sciport.org/
Looking for a new activity to try while you are in Louisiana? How about glow-in-the-dark bowling? Our tribe loved the clean, family-friendly atmosphere at Holiday Lanes. Friday and Saturday night they host glow-in-the-dark bowling. The lanes have a fun diner, an extensive game room, and a separate adult lounge. One of our kids’ favorite stops; they still talk about going back. http://bowlholidaylanes.com/
While traveling through Louisiana, don’t forget to try some fabulous deep south cooking. Kim’s Seafood & Po-Boy, which is located at 901 Benton Road in Bossier City, is well known for their Louisiana sourced seafood. Be sure to try their shrimp fried rice, fried crawfish, famous po-boys, NOLA fresh bread, fried shrimp and scrumptious sweet potato fries.
After exploring Shreveport for several days, we drove just 100 miles to the east, via Interstate 20, to Monroe where we found several destinations that piqued our interest:
Chennault Military Museum — This little gem is a must stop if you enjoy military history! The museum is free, and is staffed by docents, many of who are retired military. During our visit, we were asked how long we had to spend at the museum, then our guide tailored our tour to fit our time frame. This is an excellent small museum that spotlights their numerous local heroes. http://www.chennaultmuseum.org/index.html
Biedenharn Museum — This museum revolves around the life of the first Coca-Cola bottler, Joseph Biedenharn. You can tour his gorgeous home, greenhouse, and surrounding gardens as well as the next door Bible Museum, which hosts his family’s collection of Bibles from all over the world. A nearby mock soda fountain features lots of vintage displays. Our kids loved buying a glass-bottled Coke for a nickel. http://bmuseum.org/
Duck Commander Headquarters is a fun stop if you follow the Duck Dynasty reality show. While the only part of the warehouse that you can go into is a large gift shop full of Duck Commander memorabilia, the photo ops are fun, and you might even get to see and possibly meet one of the show’s stars. While we were there, we ran into Godwin, and the kids got their picture taken with him.! Be sure to eat at the nearby Willie’s Diner while you are there. http://duckcommander.com/visit-west-monroe-louisiana
Just past Monroe, about 40 miles east, is the Poverty Point Reservoir State Park. We had planned to park the RV there while exploring Monroe, but it was farther out than we wanted to drive back and forth to reach. If you are looking for the best in where to camp in Louisiana (the northwest corner), then it’s a great stop! The park was such a neat one that we stayed there anyway and played. This park includes a 2,700-acre man-made reservoir that is great for fishing and water sports. With more than 50 level, oversized, paved camping sites (41 of which offer full hookups), and great amenities including a water park, exceptional bathhouses, and inexpensive laundry, it was a great place for us to spend a down day.
Nearby, the Poverty Point World Heritage Site is a must see if you like to learn about ancient civilizations. This archaeology site’s settlement dates to the B.C. era and is still much of a mystery as the site explores what it might have taken to transport some of the settlement’s building materials from more than 800 miles away. http://povertypoint.us/
On your way south, whether you are heading down from Monroe or Shreveport, be sure to check out the Cane River Creole National Historic Park. This park is a national park site that focuses on the Creole culture through historic buildings located on two sites, about 10 minutes apart from each other. A daily tour is offered at 1 p.m. at the 44-acre Oakland site, which is staffed seven0 days a week.
The Magnolia plantation is open for self-guided tours every day, but has a volunteer onsite on Thursdays and rangers on Saturday and Sunday. Set aside up to 1.5 hours for the Oakland plantation and an hour for the Magnolia location. This park does have a Jr. Ranger program, geared toward children ages 7 to 12, where kids earn a badge and a special bag.
Planning a visit? Give the rangers a call to find out about programs and events near your visit time, like the Cane River Creole Music Festival. You can find out more about the Cane River Creole NHP at http://www.nps.gov/cari/index.htm
We had such a great time in Louisiana learning about their Cajun history and culture, and trying new-to-us foods.