Cenla Stay-cations

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July 2014 CoverWith the heat and humidity already here, the kids are out of school and it’s officially time for summer vacations.  While some people choose to take the time to travel to lands far and wide, this year, consider the options right here at home.  Cenla boasts a wealth of great options for summer fun in and out of the sun!  Whether you’re a sportsman, antique enthusiast, foodie or are just looking for a few days of rest and relaxation, there truly is something for everyone.  The best part is, when you choose to spend your vacation dollars close to home, we all benefit! You have the chance to save money, while also investing in the local economy and, most importantly, having a great time!  So grab your sunscreen, golf clubs, swim suits, fishing poles, and load the family in the car; it’s time to enjoy your very own Cenla Stay-cation!

 

Alexandria/Pineville

 

Your next getaway is right here in your own backyard. From hotels and bed and breakfasts to restaurants and attractions, everything you need for your Stay-cation is right here. And you don’t even have to leave town.  To help kick start the planning, here are some ideas for your Stay-cation in the Alexandria Pineville area.

 

Looking for a family weekend? We have you covered. Begin by booking your room at one of our area’s family friendly hotels. Most of our hotels offer swimming pools and continental breakfasts, keeping kids happy and fed. With a wide variety of hotel brands, you’re sure to find one to fit your needs.

 

TREE House 021-webNext, map out what activities your family would be interested in doing. All children will enjoy the wild animal adventures at the Alexandria Zoo or Gone Wild Safari. Younger children will enjoy hands-on play at the T.R.E.E. House Children’s Museum. Activities at the T.R.E.E. House include a miniature train exhibit, dress up, a dentist’s office, camping fun, and science experiments.

 

Expose the entire family to the area’s history at one of our museums or state historic sites. Walk the ramparts at Forts Randolph & Buhlow State Historic, learn about plantation life at Kent Plantation House, discover the Louisiana Maneuvers at the Military Museum on Camp Beauregard, or learn about the old sawmill towns at Tioga Heritage Museum and Southern Forest Heritage Museum.

 

Alexandria’s City Park and Pineville’s Kees Park are great options if you are looking for outdoor recreation. City Park has various sized play equipment and a splash park. Kees Park has various sized play equipment and a disc golf course. More outdoor recreation fun can be had in Kisatchie National Forest. The Kincaid Lake Recreation Area offers camping, playground, beach and hiking/cycling trails. Valentine Lake Recreation Area, where no motorized boats are allowed, is a great place to fish and boasts some of the largest catches in the state of Louisiana. For a longer hike, consider the Wild Azalea Trail–Louisiana’s longest trail at 31 miles long. Other points of interest within Kisatchie include Longleaf Vista and Kisatchie Bayou.

 

The Alexandria Pineville area boasts a wide variety of restaurants to meet any taste. From Italian and Mexican to seafood and grilled cheeses, there are plenty of affordable and family-friendly lunch and dinner options.

 

Looking for a girlfriend getaway? No problem! Accommodation options include comfortable hotels, as well as unique bed and breakfasts such as Loyd Hall Plantation, Tyrone Plantation or Susan’s Cottages. Loyd Hall Plantation is located south of Alexandria, offers in-house suites and cabins, a swimming pool and beautiful sunset and sunrise views over the sugar cane fields. Tyrone Plantation and Susan’s Cottages are both located on Bayou Rapides Road. Tyrone Plantation offers in-house suites and a history lesson in not only Central Louisiana history, but in the beginnings of Louisiana State University. Susan’s Cottages sit along the bayou and offer the amenities of home in a comfortable and quiet setting.

 

OakwingGolf-webFun experiences for you and your friends abound in the Alexandria Pineville area. Grab your purse and hit the Alexandria Mall or any one of our unique boutique shops where you will find home décor, gifts, clothing, shoes and accessories. The area also has several antique stores and flea markets where you can find your piece de resistance.  Creative group experiences can be fun for girlfriend getaways. Create a personal painting with QuirkyArtz, the Art Spot or Somethin’ Snazzy Art Studio. Paint a ceramic souvenir at Bayou Ceramics. Do a wine tasting at Hokus Pokus Liquors, where tastings are offered each Friday. Attend an art exhibit opening, acoustic concert or spoken word nights at one of downtown Alexandria’s art museums.
Need a guys’ weekend? How about a weekend of tees and greens? Not the food kind. Reserve your room at Parc England, a Boutique Hotel, located on the former England Air Force Base. Then reserve tee times at OakWing Golf Club and Links on the Bayou, two courses only 1.4 miles from clubhouse to clubhouse. If you prefer a more historic course, try Bringhurst Golf Course in Alexandria’s City Park–one of America’s oldest Par 3 courses.

 

For more Stay-cation ideas in the Alexandria Pineville area, visit www.AlexandriaPinevilleLA.com or call (318) 442-9546.

 

Natchitoches

 

There’s no place as unique as historic Natchitoches!  Established in 1714, Natchitoches is the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase and it’s a favorite destination for visitors from around the world. During 2014, historic Natchitoches is celebrating its 300th anniversary with numerous events planned for everyone.

 

Downtown Natchitoches-webNatchitoches is a one-of-a-kind community full of culture, history, recreation, shopping and more! At the heart of Natchitoches lies the National Historic Landmark District, a 33-block area that serves as a shopping and dining paradise and a bed & breakfast lover’s dream.  Stretched along the banks of the beautiful Cane River Lake, Natchitoches is home to three state historic sites, Creole plantations, and museums all within the boundaries of the Cane River National Heritage Area.

 

If you’re looking for a quiet weekend with the family or a romantic weekend with a loved one, Natchitoches offers a dynamic atmosphere for everyone. Enjoy the French and Spanish architecture from the 18th century that makes up this historic landmark. Grab your picnic basket and take a stroll down Cane River Lake. Bring your camera and capture memories at Beau Jardin, a beautiful garden and water feature on the banks of Cane River Lake in downtown. Explore the unique finds at Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile, Louisiana’s oldest general store, celebrating 150 years in business. Shop for home decor, cookware and fashion in the many boutiques that outline Front Street. Break for a famous Natchitoches meat pie with a 50-year-old recipe shared with many at historic Lasyone’s Meat Pie Kitchen.
If you’re an avid sportsman or a history seeker, you’ll want to tour the newly constructed Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum. The $23 million, 27,500 square foot facility will take your breath away with its winding stone walls and touch screen technology. Search for your favorite sports legend from Louisiana and glance at memorabilia housed in vibrant exhibits.  The history section of the museum brings 3,000 years of history forward to the unique cultural traditions that survive and thrive in the region today.

 

Roque Garden-webFrom April through October, visit Louisiana’s largest alligator park in north Natchitoches Parish. The Natchitoches Alligator Park has been open for 14 years and offers fun for the entire family. Be entertained with hourly feedings, have a photo taken with a baby alligator and even eat gator at the cafe’.

 

Explore three-hundred years of history when you travel the Cane River National Heritage Area Byways. Home to numerous plantations, you’ll learn the history of the Creole culture and community.  Oakland Plantation and the outbuildings at Magnolia Plantation are free to tour and open to the public.  These plantations are two of the most intact Creole plantations in the United States. Both the plantations were established in the 1700s and were owned and operated by the same families for the next 200 years. Today, the landscapes contain 65 historic structures surrounded by 200 year old live oak trees.   Oakland and Magnolia are not set up to showcase one time period or decade but rather the progression of a plantation from the 1780s to the 1960s.

 

Discover the two-hundred year history of beautiful Melrose Plantation. A National Historic Landmark, Melrose Plantation contains nine historic buildings including African House, Yucca House, Weaving Cabin, Bindery and the Big House. A collection of work by world famous African American folk artist Clementine Hunter is available for viewing including her popular African House Murals.

 

Don’t forget to bring your fishing boat! Natchitoches is surrounded by numerous bodies of water perfect for fishing.  Cane River Lake, Sibley Lake, Black Lake and the Red River are a paradise for any fisherman looking for that “big catch”. Public boat launches throughout the parish make it easy to sail the calm bodies of water throughout Natchitoches Parish.

 

Visit www.Natchitoches.com  to plan your weekend getaway today! Or, call (800) 259-1714 for a visitor’s guide. Discover the little city with a big history in Natchitoches!

 

Toldeo Bend Lake Country

 

Toledo Bend Lake Country on the northwestern border of the state is home to the mighty Toledo Bend Reservoir, which provides a boundary between Louisiana and Texas with its 186,000 acres and 1,200 miles of shoreline. Visit www.ToledoBendLakeCountry.com for a list of over 30 qualified guides and other information to help you have a great day of fishing. Over 60 lunker bass weighing over 10 lbs each were caught and turned in on the Louisiana side in a single year through the Toledo Bend Lake Association’s Lunker Bass program.

 

sabine-webThe area provides over 35 resorts and marinas ranging from cozy cottages to a full scale resort. You will feel the magic the moment you arrive at Cypress Bend Golf Resort & Conference Center featuring an Audubon Trail Golf Course with spectacular views. Experience fine dining in the Cypress Dining Room or casual in the Cypress Café or Sabine Social Room. Pamper yourself with the elegant full service spa and enjoy the heated indoor/outdoor pool.

 

Wildwood Resort is truly a place to enjoy the relaxing beauty of nature while pampered in southern hospitality. The Resort offers cabins and cottages, two conference centers, horseback riding, and several swimming pools. These and other amenities help create special memories that make you want to return year after year.

 

Family FunAlthough fishing is the most popular past-time on Toledo Bend, the lake also offers water sport areas for jet skiing, wake boarding, and tubing. Go canoeing in the quiet protected coves of Toro Creek below the dam. Enjoy great sandy beaches at Cypress Bend Park, Pleasure Point Park, South Toledo Bend State Park & San Miguel Park for those loving sun and sand castles. ATV trails at South Toledo Bend State Park and Cow Bayou Wilderness Area, hiking trails, biking, and birding opportunities are available for the adventurous.

 

RV parks are located along the shady forested shoreline and offer a variety of amenities to select from allowing the camper the opportunity to map out all of their needs for a family fun trip.  A 30 mile antiquing trail with over 14 stores provide some special treats such as the 17,000 square foot commissary that is now The Ole Mill Store in the Historic Sawmill Town of Fisher.

 

Four State Parks grace the area: North and South Toledo Bend State Park, Ft. Jesup State Historic Site along the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail, and Hodges Gardens State Park. Hodges Gardens State Park is located 15 miles south of Many on US Highway 171. Take a stroll through 700-acres of flora, Japanese Red Maple trees, waterfalls, and wild azalea trails. Cabins on the 225-acre lake are also available.

 

With so much to see and do in Toledo Bend Lake Country, it’s a great addition to your Stay-cation plans!  For even more information on Toledo Bend Lake Country, visit www.ToledoBendLakeCountry.com, find Toledo Bend Lake Country on Facebook and Twitter, or call (800) 358-7802 or (800) 259-5253.

 

Kisatchie National Forest

 

LouisianaKisatchieNationalForest02Spanning seven Central and North Louisiana Parishes, Kisatchie National Forest encompasses over 600,000 acres of beautiful pine hills and lush hardwood bottoms. A diverse forest of trees, flowers, wild animals and birds, Kisatchie offers an intriguing getaway from fast-paced city life.

 

Kisatchie is home to outstanding hunting, including turkey, deer, and more. There are two Wildlife Management Preserves on Kisatchie—Red Dirt located on the Kisatchie District and Catahoula located on the Winn and Catahoula Districts.  Stop and listen and you will hear the gentle, soothing sound of water rushing over sandstones in Kisatchie Bayou. Beautiful and serene camping sites are located along side this unique Louisiana treasure. Explore, fish, and swim while you camp at Kisatchie Bayou on the Kisatchie District.

 

With over 400 miles of trails on Kisatchie National Forest—200 of these miles dedicated for ATV/OHV riding—there is plenty of room for riding enthusiasts to get out and enjoy the forest.  From the beginner to the more experienced rider there are trails for fun and for a challenging ride.  The Gum Springs horse trails should not be missed. There are two developed trails and miles of open forest where riders can enjoy the peaceful setting. Piney woods and hardwood bottoms await riders on these trails that are also wide enough to accommodate wagons.

 

Kisatchie1-webThe 31-mile Wild Azalea Trail is designated as a National Recreation Trail by the Chief of the Forest Service because of its spectacular views and varied terrain. This trail is designed for foot or mountain biking traffic only. The trail has several access points so hikers can hike the entire distance or just a portion of the 31 miles.  National Geographic recently listed the city of Alexandria as one of the “Top Adventure Towns” in America. This designation was largely due to the trails located on Kisatchie National Forest. The trails located on the Calcasieu Ranger District are among some of the finest on the forest, perfect for mountain bikers of all experience levels.

 

Kisatchie2-webSaline Bayou National Wild and Scenic River is approximately 19 miles in length and empties into Saline Lake. Saline Bayou is popular for floating with canoes and small boats. This peaceful and beautiful setting has bald cypress and other hardwoods growing along the banks.  Enjoy swimming at one of our three swimming areas in Kisatchie.  Kincaid Lake near Alexandria, Caney Lakes near Minden, and Stuart Lake in Pollock. All of these fun spots are perfect for swimming, boating and skiing. In addition to the swimming, you can also hike, bike and picnic at any of these day use areas.  Iatt Lake Observation Pier, located on the Catahoula District, is a great spot for watching migratory birds in the spring and fall. This pier allows you to walk out onto Iatt Lake for exceptional views of a wide-variety of wildlife and plants. This area is also perfect to canoe or kayak and picnic.

 

Whether you are interested in bird watching or just enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors, Kisatchie has countless places to visit.  Opportunities to explore your national forest are around every bend of the road.  Whether you are camping, hunting, fishing, riding a mountain bike, trail running, canoeing or hiking, Kisatchie National Forest has something to offer you. Take some time to explore the only national forest in the State of Louisiana, your National Forest…Kisatchie!

 

Avoyelles Parish

 

Hotel Atrium-webCome stay and play in Avoyelles Parish this summer! With a great location in the center of Louisiana, it’s easy to make a “one-tank trip” a quick reality.  A wealth of opportunities are waiting for you to Stay-cation in Avoyelles.  From live alligators in a hotel lobby to swimming pools in country settings, hotels, motels and a bed and breakfast on the bayou banks are ready for your reservations.  Whatever suits you—from golfing, swamp tour, museums, great homestyle cooking or fine dining—Avoyelles has got it, so come and get it!

 

Here’s what is on the “Menu”!  Play at WesMar Goat Farm, milk a goat, sample cheese and walk around the farm.  Take a walk in a natural setting in a National Wildlife Refuge, Marc Dupuy Wildlife Trail or on the boardwalk leading to a waterfall on the Tunica Biloxi Reservation.  Make time to cast a lure from the banks of Spring Bayou, Bayou Rouge in Cottonport, Ben Routh Recreational Park in Vick or Brouillette Lock & Dam on Hwy 452 just outside of Marksville.  Play golf at Tamahka Trails (an Audubon Trail course), Spring Bayou Golf Course on the fringe of a State Wildlife Management Area or Bayhills Golf Course just out of Bunkie on Hwy 115.
And that was just the “Appetizers”, now for the “Entrées”! See the famed Tunica Treasures in the Tunica Biloxi Cultural and Educational Resource Center and visit burial and ceremonial prehistoric Indian mounds at the Marksville State Historic Site.  Chat with the quilters at the Cottonport Museum,  and compare how a doctor lived in the 1790’s DesFosse Home in Mansura  with a farmer’s lifestyle at the Hypolite Bordelon Home (c. 1820) in Marksville.  Use the Union Pacific Caboose as a photo op at the 1911 Bunkie Depot in Bunkie, Dr. Sue Eakin’s hometown where Solomon Northup walked as portrayed in the Oscar winning movie, 12 Years a Slave.  See where Louisiana 4H got its start as the “Corn Club” in 1908, all in a museum dedicated to  64 parishes, 100 years of exhibits and memorabilia.

 

One of the most popular destinations in the state is Paragon Casino Resort.  Paragon is Louisiana’s most centrally located and most comprehensive resort. It’s the perfect getaway when looking for a destination with something for everyone.  Paragon hotel has a bayou-themed atrium with live alligators, and aquatic wildlife as its dramatic center piece.  Many of the Atrium tower rooms feature French doors that open onto a private balcony overlooking the breathtaking scene. Under the limbs of the atrium’s towering cypress trees, you’ll find a three-screen movie theater, retail shops, a cocktail lounge and café.

 

Nature Trail-webFor lovers of the great outdoors, the RV resort has plenty of room for your friends and family. It’s just steps away from the casino, and features 24-hour shuttle service. The outdoor playground is a big hit with the kids. The whole family will enjoy the huge pool and there’s a splash pad for the little ones. Paragon RV resort is pet friendly, too!  While you’re enjoying the outdoors, be sure to make time to take a short stroll on the nature trail. This tree shaded boardwalk takes you across the natural waterway over to the Tunica-Biloxi Cultural and Educational  Resource Center to take a tour.
Paragon is a family-friendly resort. In addition to the three-screen Paragon Cinema, indoor and outdoor pools and beautiful 18-hole golf course, Paragon features Kids Quest Hourly Childcare – a place for kids ages 6 weeks to 12 years to enjoy an indoor playground, Karaoke stage, video games and more. Teens will gravitate toward the resort’s two arcades filled with the latest high-tech games to keep them challenged for hours.

 

Looking for relaxation? You can spend all day at Spa La Vie alone. It’s a full service spa including a steam room, sauna and hair and nail salon. Hotel guests also have access to the state-of-the-art fitness center adjacent to the indoor pool.

 

When you get hungry, choose from seven different dining options all under one roof with an elegant steak house, a 50s style diner and everything in between. Can’t decide? Have a bit of everything at the Market Place Buffet where the choices are endless.

 

Paragon hosts a variety of entertainment. Have a drink at the Atrium Bar with live music Wednesday through Saturday nights. The Pelican Stage at Big Daddy E’s offers live bands Friday and Saturday nights. Check the Mari Showroom schedule for national acts.  Paragon’s state-of-the-art gaming floor is the real deal. You are sure to find your game on the newest slots, video poker, hot table games, a separate poker room and OTB lounge.

 

Paragon Casino Resort has something to offer the whole family and is a true vacation destination. To book your stay, or for more information on the resort and hotel and RV packages, call (800) 946-1946 or visit www.paragoncasinoresort.com.

 

Since no meal is complete without “Dessert”, take a break for a culinary experience.  Check out the homemade cakes, pies, and candies at Silver Lining Pie Company.  Pick up some Crawfish Bread (the one served at the N.O. Jazz Fest) from Panaroma Foods, or visit Rock’s Shells and Tails in Bunkie.  Pull up to Bernard’s Sea-Fry Restaurant for fresh seafood.  Do a boudin and crackling run throughout Avoyelles, or stop in at most restaurants on Sundays for Cochon de Lait and taste why Mansura has the designation of being the Cochon de Lait Capital of the World.  From fine dining at Legends, Red River Grill and Brown Bag Gourmet to a relaxed atmosphere at Kyrle’s and Fresh Catch Bistreaux for pecan crusted crabcakes, reservations are just a phone call away.

 

“Night Caps” throughout the parish make a perfect ending to any day!  First Thursday on the Courthouse Square, Wine Down Wednesdays or Saturday night live entertainment at Bailey’s are great evening fun.  Visit the Wine Room at Maddie’s One Stop at the Atchafalaya River.  Dance the night away at the Pelican Club or the Ice Bar after concerts at Paragon’s Earl J. Barbry, Sr. Convention Center.

 

Avoyelles Parish is known for a little something extra, in French, “Lagniappe”. Plan your Stay-cation around an annual festival.  See why this French Creole Parish has the distinction of also being designated the Egg Knocking Capital of the World.  Awe shucks, you have to pop-in for the Lousiana Corn Festival in Bunkie each June, the Louisiana Farm Festival in Moreauville, and Louisiana’s longest running Fourth of July Parade now paired with the Avoyelles Arts and Music Festival.  Visit in May for the annual Tunica Biloxi Pow-Wow and Cochon de Lait Festival.  Cottonport explodes with the Festival of Quilts in October and Christmas on the Bayou Fest in December.  There are also a host of live theatre events throughout the year.  Bring your ice chest for a little shopping for hand rolled butter, cheese, etc. at Amish Country Store and More to bring home a little bit of Avoyelles.

 

Go to www.travelavoyelles.com or call (318) 964-2245 to help you plan an itinerary customized just for you!