Lovers of “Steel Magnolias” may know of Natchitoches’ famous Christmas festival, one of the nation’s oldest (2018 marks the 92ndanniversary) and largest (300,000 lights). It’s a must-see for those who love the holidays and all the revelry. But there’s more to the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights, a collection of central and north Louisiana cities that offer numerous holiday entertainment.

riverfront natchitoches steel magnolias

Let’s Start with Natchitoches

The fun begins with the annual flipping of the switch by Miss Merry Christmas and the Belles which turns on the thousands of lights in Natchitoches’ historic downtown and along the Cane River Lake. Events run from before Thanksgiving until New Year’s and includes the annual Christmas Festival Dec. 1, weekend fireworks, a parade, Holiday Tour of Homes and so much more.

One event not to miss is the Natchitoches/Northwestern Gala Nov. 28-29, a stellar event featuring drama and music students from Northwestern Louisiana University. New this year in Natchitoches is Christmas in the Park, a walk-through winterland.

For more information on what the 2018 Southeast Tourism Society called a Top 20 “Festival of the Year,”  click this link.

Miss Merry Christmas Belle-Louisiana

Alexandria-Pineville

Central Louisiana, otherwise known as Cenla, offers Alex Winterfete, a holiday parade, ice skating, tours of historic homes and more, all centered on the twin cities of Alexandria and Pineville.

We recommend staying at the historic Hotel Bentley in the heart of downtown Alexandria, with easy access to all the fun. The hotel dates back a century with a soaring lobby and its legacy includes being the headquarters during World War II for the Louisiana maneuvers. Be sure to check out the lobby museum and view the impressive people who stayed at the Bentley.

As for those holiday celebrations, we adore the River Oaks Square Arts Center with its open artist galleries and unique gift shop and on Dec. 1 the center offers its annual porch sale. Another fabulous place to view Louisiana art is the Alexandria Museum of Art and on Dec. 6 it’s the Reverend Charley’s Patent Medicine Show, a free concert. Two other favorites are the Holiday Light Safari at the Alexandria Zoo and the Old Fashioned Christmas Dec. 8 at Kent House.

Minden

Historic Minden owns a unique German heritage, so the historic town throws an Old World Christmas celebration at dusk every Saturday night from now until New Year’s Day. There are hundreds of life-sized nutcrackers lining the street and Christmas on Main features holiday specials in the downtown shops.

Shreveport-Bossier City

There’s so much to enjoy in these twin cities hugging the Red River — fireworks, parades, festivals in the cities and surrounding towns — that it’s difficult to name only a few. Our favorite, however, is the annual Christmas in Roseland, where thousands of lights and holidays displays decorate the American Rose Center in Shreveport. For most of December, families may grab some hot chocolate and walk the acres of rose bushes in hibernation and view the displays and the giant Christmas Cards to the Community. Or ride the Roseland Express trains, listen to nightly entertainment and take a photo with Santa.

Shreveport Christmas Kid

New this year is the Shreveport Aquarium’s Red River Express Cruise on the Red River on select days in December, a 45-minute boat ride with food, Christmas carols and stories, much like the Polar Express train rides.

Country Christmas Festival Vivian Louisiana

Monroe-West Monroe

The Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum, a fun visit any time of year, gets festive with Santa’s Christmas Village. Kids can make and take ornaments, ice skate and mail letters to Santa at the Peppermint Post Office.

One of our favorites is visiting the holiday decorations at the Biedenharn Museum, especially during the Christmas Evenings when local musicians and Santa appears. Joseph Biedenharn first bottled Coca-Cola and built his Monroe home in 1914. There’s a Coke Museum next door, that includes a working soda fountain.

In nearby Calhoun, Louisiana, visitors can drive through a mile-long wooded lane decorated with more than one million lights. Candy Cane Lane is open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. nightly through Dec. 31.

You can learn more about Monroe, Louisiana tourism here.

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