Come explore Louisiana and Arkansas’ backcountry roads, historic neighborhoods, and mouthwatering Southern cuisine. How recently have you been lost? absorbed in fun. When you start on this tour through the little communities of Louisiana and Arkansas, you will undoubtedly get lost (in the greatest way). Discover the history of king cake, relax at hot springs, stroll over suspension bridges, and eat delectable shrimp po’boys. Drive 2.5 hours to Lake Charles, Louisiana, to start your road trip adventure after arriving at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).
Lake Charles, Louisiana: Cultural Discoveries in Creole Country
Many things make up Lake Charles. Hurried is one thing it is not. Take your time and relax while taking in all the sights. Start on the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road, which winds through Southwest Louisiana’s marshlands and beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. In this region, which is referred to as Louisiana’s Outback, you might see alligators, aquatic life, and some of the more than 400 kinds of birds.
Explore the Charpentier Historic District in your hometown, where nimble local carpenters erected elegant mansions along charming streets. For a tour of the architecture that also serves as a history lesson.
Observe the subtle touches, such as gables, turrets, and wrap-around porches designed for entertaining, that give these homes their distinctive Lake Charles style.
People in Lake Charles enjoy a good celebration, and Mardi Gras is one of the best. If you can’t attend the yearly Mardi Gras celebration, stop by the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu to at least get a flavor of it. The Mardi Gras hues of purple, green, and gold are everywhere throughout the museum, making it resemble an elaborate jewelry box. Explore the elaborate costumes, smart trinkets, and a section exclusively devoted to the history of the vibrant and traditional Louisiana delicacy known as king cake as you move from room to room.
Natural Discoveries and Country Music History in Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Before reaching the beautiful Pine Bluff, travel north via forest roads and through several small communities. It is perfectly situated for visiting the Arkansas River and the longest bayou in the world, Bayou Bartholomew.
The Delta Rivers Nature Center has hiking trails and an aquarium designed to look like an oxbow lake where you may see turtles, snakes, alligators, and other native creatures of the Arkansas Delta. More than a dozen murals illustrating the town’s colorful past can be found downtown. Proceed to the Arkansas Railroad Museum next.
At this open, interactive museum, climb aboard a caboose, a passenger car, and a train at one of the state’s largest locomotive exhibits. A life-size artificial figure of Johnny Cash, a legend of country music and an Arkansan, welcomes visitors to the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame, which is housed at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. This little museum is jam-packed with interesting displays that include memorabilia and costumes from the biggest country music singers from Arkansas.
Visit Cane Creek State Park to spend time outside and ride, hike, or stroll along the cool trail network that is connected by three suspension bridges. The park also provides narrated birding expeditions. Before you get back on the road, stop by Lybrand’s Bakery for lunch or a sweet treat. This neighborhood landmark has been offering delectable baked goods as well as savory dishes like quiche and specialty sandwiches since 1946.
Historic Bathhouses and Mountain Scenery in Hot Springs, Arkansas
This charming mountain town, founded in 1832, is home to Hot Springs National Park, one of the most unexpected urban national parks in the United States. This region’s thermal hot springs have drawn tourists here for years, and Bathhouse Row’s eight historic bathhouses are only one reason why. To discover more about the geological origins of these bubbling springs, visit the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center and Museum or relax in the thermal pools at Quapaw Baths & Spa.
Venture on an energizing climb up the circle trail to Hot Springs Mountain after taking a soothing bath. Consider the splendor of the lush Ouachita Mountains by ascending the Hot Springs Mountain Tower. Enjoy more shopping, people-watching, and wandering when you return to Bathhouse Row.
The Superior Bathhouse Brewery and Distillery, a traditional renaissance bathhouse, also has a brewery and distillery, much to the joy of the general population. Take advantage of delicious pub fare to go with your favorite drink. Make sure you stay a night or two because there are many different places to stay in the town, including the charming and historic 1890 Williams House Inn and campsites at Gulpha Gorge.
Arkansas’s El Dorado: A Hidden Gem for Music and Art
Visit El Dorado, which hosts Musicfest El Dorado, a two-day concert festival in September that is putting this town on the radar of music fans, just over two hours south of Hot Springs. Performers include Motown legends like Smokey Robinson as well as country music legends like Brad Paisley and Hunter Hayes.
You only need to visit the Murphy Arts District to understand why this little town has a thriving art and music culture. Swing by hip music venues and art galleries on your way to the amphitheater, a fantastic concert venue that hosts both local and national bands. Visit the Griffin Restaurant, a cutting-edge farm-to-table eatery, for some food.
But if you go on a Thursday, you may dance and tap your feet to live music. Stay at Union Square Guest Quarters, a stylish but laid-back bed and breakfast, in the center of the exciting city. Make time to see South Arkansas Arboretum State Park before you depart the city. On five tranquil hectares, stroll over walkways surrounded by beautyberry bushes, beech, and poplar trees. Here, fall colors explode, and winter is a surprise with camellia blooms. It’s a lovely hideaway where you may pause and consider your journey thus far.
West Monroe, Louisiana: Historic Town with a Pop Culture Twist
Drive southward back into Louisiana to West Monroe, where you may explore the area along the Ouachita River that has come to be known as duck country. This hamlet, across the river from sister city Monroe, became well-known because of the reality series Duck Dynasty, which followed an eccentric family that runs a company that makes wooden duck decoys.
Miss Kay, the matriarch of the Duck Dynasty dynasty and a skilled baker, collaborated with her granddaughter to open Miss Kay’s Sweets & Eats on Antique Alley. Top sales include pralines, gooey sweet cinnamon buns, and hard-to-resist cowboy cookies (a combination of oatmeal, chocolate chips, and coconut). On the riverbank in the heart of West Monroe, explore more of the Cotton Port Historic District.
Visit Landry Vineyards in West Monroe’s hill country, just 15 minutes from the historic district, for a sample of Louisiana wine.
You should visit this charming, family-run winery for tastings, tours, and its regular concert series. A bottle of Jay D’s Blanc Du Bois Dry, a joint venture between Jeff Landry, the vineyard owner, and Food Network star Jay Ducote, should be brought home as a memento.
Alexandria, Louisiana: Rich History and Creative Endeavors
You will arrive at Alexandria, a particularly charming town that offers a perfect closing stop on your journey, in less than two hours if you are traveling south. Stay at the Hotel Bentley, a prestigious and historic establishment located in Alexandria.
After viewing the history of World War II exhibit in the foyer, go to The Mirror Lounge to sip on elegant drinks or approach the bar for a cool beer. Visit the River Oaks Square Arts Center, located along the beautiful Red River, for arts and culture. Three galleries, 25 studios, a ceramics studio, and an arts academy are all part of this artist community.
Enroll in a class or take a tour of the center to see artists working in anything from painting to sculpture. When you’re hungry, drive a short distance to Pamela’s Bayou in a Bowl, a modest-looking eatery with lots of taste. Favorites like red beans and rice, wholesome baked chicken, and grilled shrimp po’boy sandwiches are available on a straightforward menu. Are you up for some history? Join the Northup Trail Byway to explore the notable locales that figured substantially in Edwin Epps Northup’s life.