Art and Nature Reign in “Louisiana’s Other Side”
In Louisiana’s northwest corner, Shreveport and neighboring Bossier City provide plenty of opportunities for families to experience the great outdoors and enjoy some art along the way. Best of all, many free attractions allow family vacation dollars to go an extra mile. And who doesn’t want the vacation and the budget to last as long as possible?
1. Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park
Get your walking shoes on and hit the trails at Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park (8012 Blanchard Furrh Rd., Shreveport, LA), home to a 16-acre pine, oak and hickory forest filled with five miles of nature and hiking trails. Stop by the visitor center, and grab a trail map to choose a route to explore.
2. The R.W. Norton Art Gallery
Home to permanent and traveling exhibits, The R.W. Norton Art Gallery (4747 Creswell Ave., Shreveport, LA) welcomes visitors to experience art of all kinds for free. Collections include American and European artists, with a myriad of works including paintings, sculptures, tapestries and more. In addition, the museum maintains 40 acres of landscaped grounds and botanical gardens, all open for the public to meander through and enjoy.
3. Red River National Wildlife Refuge
Located in the Red River Valley, the Red River National Wildlife Refuge (150 Eagle Bend Pt., Bossier City, LA) contains bottomland hardwoods, cypress sloughs and shrub/scrub swamps. As such, a wide variety of wildlife call this area home, and families can come seek them out for free. These include white-tailed deer, dragonflies, hawks, turtles, alligators, ducks, herons and egrets. At the refuge headquarters are five miles of mowed, marked trails in around Lake Caroline and the Red River. Visitors can stay and explore as much as they like during daylight hours.
4. Louisiana State Exhibit Museum
Finished in 1939, the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum (3015 Greenwood Rd., Shreveport, LA) features 23 dioramas that showcase life in the state during the 1940s. Other pieces in the museum collection document regional and national history, Louisiana Native Americans, natural history and more. It’s a great introduction to the state, its history and art itself. And it’s all free for visitors.
5. Gardens of the American Rose Center
Rose enthusiasts or those who just love roses and gardens will enjoy touring the Gardens of the American Rose Center (8877 Jefferson Paige Rd., Shreveport, LA). The grounds are divided into more than 65 individual rose gardens on 118 acres, and self-guided visitors can roam the paths for free. A complimentary map of the gardens is available at the visitors center. To see the roses at their peak, plan to come from mid-April through late May or from mid-September through mid-October. The gardens are closed during the winter from Oct. 31 through March 31.
When to Go
Given its location in northwest Louisiana, Shreveport experiences generally mild spring and fall seasons, with a brief cold winter (usually mid-December through mid-February) although some days could experience a cold spell. Summer in Shreveport can be hot and humid, which can be quite uncomfortable for those planning to spend a lot of time outside. Therefore, for the best possible weather during a family vacation, plan to visit during the spring or fall.
Karon Warren has covered travel for nearly 20 years with numerous print and online publications. Her byline has appeared in USA Today, USA Today’s 10 Best, WorkingMother.com, FamilyVacationCritic.com. and many others. She is a member of both the Society of American Travel Writers and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. In addition to her freelance work for other clients, she also writes for her own travel site, ThisGirlTravels.com