It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and Cenla has a wealth of great offerings to celebrate the season! No matter where you live, there are plenty of activities to get you into the spirit and help make this holiday season one to remember. Let’s take a look at some of the holiday happenings right here at home!
Christmas time in Alexandria/Pineville is magical. Twinkling lights highlight creative and spirited displays along streets, in neighborhoods, on top of water towers, and down on the riverbank. Carolers ring bells and sing at doorways and entrances. It can truly be a holiday wonderland right here in Central Louisiana.
Everyone has their favorite activities. And with so many events and happenings, there truly is something for everyone!
For a great date night, indulge in the theatrical performances of “The Worst Best Christmas Pageant Ever” and the amazing “Cenla Christmas Spectacular” which was created in the same spirit as Radio City Music Hall’s annual holiday spectacular. Or, take your special someone to the musical performances of the Rapides Symphony Orchestra, Red River Chorale, or a Tuba Christmas at the Alexandria Mall.
There’s also fun for the whole family! Watch the festivities as the area’s parades float down the streets. The City of Pineville’s annual Christmas parade will kick off the second weekend of December on Friday, December 12th. The Town of Ball Christmas Parade and the parade in Glenmora will both roll on Saturday, December 13th, and the Alexandria Christmas Parade will roll on Sunday, December 14th.
Stroll through the Alexandria Zoo during the annual Holiday Light Safari. With thousands of twinkling lights, photo opportunities along the way, entertainment, activities, and educational opportunities, you have multiple chances to visit during the month of December.
The entire family will enjoy the music, activities, stories and more at Holiday Expressions at the Alexandria Museum of Art. And join the fun of a classical Dickens Christmas with live dulcimer music, the Dickens Louisiana Carolers, candlelight tours of Fort Randolph and much more at a Dickens of a Christmas.
Groups big and small will find plenty to do this season. Tour historic homes in Alexandria’s Garden District during the Holiday Tour of Homes on Saturday, December 13th. The tour will feature four homes, each with their own history and unique story. Tickets are available for $25.00 per tour participant and includes a trolley ride from First United Methodist Church on Jackson Street to each of the homes.
The kids can enjoy fun of their own! Visit the T.R.E.E. House Children’s Museum for a Candyland Christmas to make candy sculptures, create ornaments and decorate cookies. Then take the kids to Kent Plantation House’s annual Old Fashioned Christmas to make their own ornaments, play the bells, hear the holiday stories, and meet Papa Noel. Speaking of the jolly, old guy, Santa will be available to visit with kids of all ages at several locations around the area, including Santa’s houses in Alexandria for Holiday Magic Downtown, in Pineville and Ball, and at the Alexandria Mall. Make sure to check www.AlexandriaPinevilleLA.com for details on days and times.
Check out all 12 of the Nights of Christmas, presented by the City of Alexandria and community partners, learn more about these and more upcoming events, and find great places to stay, eat and shop by visiting AlexandriaPinevilleLA.com or call (318) 442-9546.
Cool, brisk weather patterns make the saying “Christmas in the Air” come true in Avoyelles Parish. Many activities are planned adding to the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. Families gather over many weekends during this holiday season and coming to “French Creole Avoyelles” is certain to make for a joyful and festive occasion.
December 13th and 14th, will be jam packed with something for the young and young at heart. Cottonport hosts its annual Christmas on the Bayou Festival with numerous activities. At 9:00am on Saturday, the Christmas Holiday 5k Walk/Run along Bayou Rouge begins. You can register by calling (318) 355-4464 At 10:00am, the Festival opens, featuring vendor booths and much more! At 10:30am, festival-goers can taste entries to the Gumbo Cook-Off. Stir up your best roux and call (318) 359-3372 to enter. At 10:45am, Santa Claus himself will host Beignets and Hot Chocolate followed by Christmas stories at 11:30am and a Christmas Talent Show at 12:30pm. For information on how you can showcase your unique talents, call (318) 717-3619. The fun continues with a 1:30pm Children’s Christmas Party, 2:30pm Canoe and Pirogue Relay Races, followed by a 4:30pm Mass at St. Mary’s Assumption Catholic Church The evening kicks off at 6:00pm with the spectacular Christmas Fireworks Extravaganza along Bayou Rouge.
On Sunday, December 14th, the festival will reopen at 8:00am, followed by a 10:00am Meet and Greet with Festival Royalty at Cotton Queen. The Grand Christmas Parade will roll at 1:30pm. For information on how you can participate, call (318) 986-3485. While in Cottonport, make plans to eat where the locals do and bring a cooler to take home fresh meats, boudin and cracklins. Visit the Cottonport Museum and see why Cottonport and Avoyelles hailed cotton as “King”. Follow Bayou Rouge and stop by the “People’s Cross” and Veterans Memorial with a backdrop of cypress trees, then look for the “Historic Oaks Marker” also located on Front Street.
Paragon casino Resort presents The Holiday Ice Spectacular on Friday and Saturday, December 5th and 6th. The show is created, produced and directed by well-known international ice and theatre producer, Jeb K. Rand, and choreographed by world renowned choreographer, Pasquale Camerlengo. There will be three performances, starting at 8:00pm nightly, with a 3:00pm Saturday matinee. Tickets are $15.00. Children age 8 and under can get special $10.00 admission for the 3:00pm show only. For more information, call (800) 946-1946. Paragon’s Hotel Atrium invites all for Holiday Open House on December 13th and Kids with Santa at the Marketplace Buffet on the 14th. In addition, Paragon Casino Resort is celebrating its 20th Anniversary, owned and operated by the Tunica Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana. “Cherishing our Past, Building for our Future” is the motto of the TB Tribe with its offices and amenities on the Tunica Biloxi Reservation.
Marksville State Historic Site will offer two programs in the holiday season: a Pottery Molding Class on December 13th and Prehistoric Mounds Tour on December 27th. Admission per program and museum visit is $4.00 per person, with those over 62 and under 13 admitted free.
The Village of Plaucheville’s Community Parade is scheduled for December 13th at 1:00pm, as is the parade hosted by the town of Mansura. Bunkie’s Christmas parade will roll thereafter, hosted by the Bunkie Rotary Club starting at 4:00pm. While in Mansura, plan to do some Christmas shopping at the many unique, locally owned shops in town. And don’t forget to stop by the Avoyelles Commission of Tourism Gift Shop, located at 8592 Highway 1 for unique handmade items, books by local authors (Santa Kroupee), Solomon Northup Trail Guide, honey, jewelry, historic publications and more! Call (800) 833-4195 for more information.
Avoyelles Parish, “ici on est fier de parler Francais”, welcomes you to visit during the Christmas season. Visit www.travelavoyelles.com for a schedule of happenings throughout the parish.
Christmas in Vernon Parish brings many musical events, theatrical events, and performances for all ages. Enjoy the holiday classic “Polar Express” outdoors at the Lakefront Stage at Hodges Gardens State Park on Saturday, December 6th at 6:00pm. Everyone can bundle up, wear their pajamas and see this wonderful Christmas classic. Concessions will be available for purchase during the movie by Friends of Hodges Gardens State Park. Admission will be $2.00 per person. For more information, call Hodges Gardens State Park at (318) 586-3523.
The Vernon Chamber Orchestra will perform two holiday musical concerts this season, one at Pine Hill Baptist Church at 6:00pm on December 7th, and one at First of Assembly of God Church on December 9th, also at 6:00pm. For more information, call (337) 239-9299.
The Showboat Theatre of Fort Polk presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”, an all-time Christmas favorite by Barbara Robinson. Performances are scheduled for December 5th, 6th and 12th, and dinner shows will be held on December 11th and 13th. Please call the Showboat Theatre at (337) 531-2337 for ticket information.
Musical performances will be held at many area churches during the holiday season, including the First Baptist Church of Leesville, December 4th through the 7th, each night at 6:00pm, Cooper Baptist Church on December 14th at 11:00am, the Children’s Christmas Choir at the First Baptist Church of Leesville on December 14th at 6:00pm, “Star of Wonder” at the Anacoco United Pentecostal Church on December 21st at 6:00pm, and ”Christmas in Black & White” at the First United Pentecostal Church on December 21st at 6:00pm.
A yearly favorite for many is the annual rendition of Handel’s “Messiah”, performed by the Vernon Community Choir. This long-standing tradition will take place at the Leesville High School Auditorium at 3:00pm on Sunday, December 14th. For more information, call (337) 238-1036.
Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” is another holiday classic, and will be performed this year by the Joan Kathey Dance Center Stars and the West Louisiana Dance Theater on December 12th at 7:00pm and on December 13th at 7:30pm in the Leesville High School Auditorium. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance from the dancers or at the Joan Kathey Dance Center. For more information, call (337) 424-8772 or (337) 239-6690.
Christmas parades in Vernon Parish take place all over. The Rosepine Christmas parade will roll at 1:30pm on December 5th. Simpson will celebrate with their parade on December 7th at 3:00pm. Two parades take place on December 13th: the Pitkin parade starts at 2:00pm, and the Leesville parade begins at 5:30pm.
Vernon Parish gets into the “shopping spirit” as well during the holiday season, with Leesville Main Street hosting their annual “It’s a Wonderful Christmas” holiday bazaar in downtown Leesville on December 13th from 9:00am until 3:00pm. For more information, call the Leesville Main Street office at (337) 378-5055.
Children’s activities include Breakfast with Santa, sponsored by the St. Michael’s Ladies Auxiliary on December 6th from 8:00am until noon. Children of all ages can spend the morning with Santa, have all-you-can-eat pancakes, and lots of games and prizes. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance from St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church or at My Favorite Things. For more information, call (337) 208-8730 or (337) 353-4448. Santa will also visit My Favorite Things of Leesville on December 13th and December 20th, from noon until 2:00pm. In addition to the all-important visit with Santa, there will be painting projects, cookies and hot cocoa. For more information, call (337) 353-8282. Jillybean’s Studio is hosting a “Paint with a Frozen Princess” activity on December 13th at 2:00pm. Children will have the chance to meet both Anna and Elsa characters from the movie “Frozen” and enjoy snacks while they hear about the princess’ adventures. Also, as part of the package, they will paint their own princess figurine and receive gifts including a 5×7 photo of themselves with either princess. For tickets or more information, call (337) 238-8164.
Buy an original piece of art at the Museum of West Louisiana’s annual fund-raising event, “Elegant Affair” as you enjoy dancing, Louisiana wines, hors d’oeuvres, and art. The “Elegant Affair” takes place on December 6th, beginning at 6:30pm. For more information, and tickets, call (337) 239-0927.
Hodges Gardens State Park will celebrate the season with a number of activities for all ages. The park will again “Light up the Gardens” this year with its annual Holiday Lights display. Several new displays have been added this year, and traditional displays are back again this year as well. The lights will be on nightly from 5:30pm until 10:00pm. Santa will be at the Gift Shop from 5:30pm until 8:00pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights so that he can visit with children. Admission is $2.00 per person from. Children under 3, annual pass holders and the occupants of their passenger vehicles are always admitted free.
A special highlight of the Christmas season is the annual Wreaths Across America ceremony, held at the Central Louisiana Veterans Cemetery on December 13th at 10:55am. This event is part of a national ceremony held at the same time at Veterans cemeteries across the nation. This solemn, yet uplifting service, honoring those who have served and are now gone, is truly something that everyone should experience. The Central Louisiana Veterans Cemetery is located at 3348 University Parkway in Leesville. For more information, call (337) 238-6405.
Please call the Vernon Parish Tourism Commission at (337) 238-0783, ext. 103 for more information on any of the great holiday events in Vernon Parish, or visit Vernon online at www.VentureVernon.com.
Make holiday memories in Natchitoches! Celebrating 300 years, Natchitoches is Louisiana’s oldest permanent settlement established in 1714. As part of this year’s Tricentennial celebration, the Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights will be an event to remember. Natchitoches will light up the holidays during its 45 Nights of Christmas with more than 300,000 lights and more than 100 lighted set pieces illuminating the National Historic Landmark District and Cane River Lake.
The 88th Annual Natchitoches Christmas Festival will take place Saturday, December 6th in downtown Natchitoches to celebrate the biggest holiday event of the year, featuring children’s activities, entertainment, parades, food vendors, and fireworks. Natchitoches native and acclaimed author of Steel Magnolias, Robert Harling will serve as the Natchitoches Christmas Festival Parade Grand Marshal in honor of the 25th anniversary of the film, while Cole Vosbury will headline entertainment for the day.
The Christmas Festival parade will begin at 1:00pm at the corner of Jefferson Street and University Parkway. The parade will feature floats of reigning Queens including Miss Merry Christmas and the Christmas Belles and local dignitaries, marching bands, dance lines, parade Grand Marshal Robert Harling and Santa Claus. The parade will travel along Jefferson Street to Front Street, turning left onto Lafayette Street and Second Street, and ending at University Parkway.
Musical entertainment begins at 2:00pm with a performance by Hank Staples and Thunder Creek, followed by headliner Cole Vosbury. Cole Vosbury is a singer-songwriter and musician from Shreveport. Born into a musical family, Cole shot to fame on Season 5 of NBC’s “The Voice” with his unique mix of country, blues sound with a background of soul and rock and roll.
At 6:00pm, the festivities will be capped off by a spectacular fireworks display over beautiful Cane River Lake and the lighting of thousands of lights. In addition, an electrifying light show will take place on the Church Street Bridge. Enjoy spectacular firework shows every Saturday in December and New Years Eve; Experience Holiday Kid Fest activities, the Annual Christmas Gala, and the Christmas Tour of Homes; Explore the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum with extended hours every Saturday during December.
Visit www.NatchitochesChristmas.com or call (800) 259-1714 for a complete list of events.