By Carla Marie Rupp
Shreveport and its sister city Bossier City are located across from each other in northwest Louisiana on the Red River of the South. In fact, the river led to the creation of Shreveport in 1836 by a steamboat captain Henry Miller Shreve.
Today the two cities have found a way to parlay their rich history and geographical location into an appealing tourism destination. You’ll find family-friendly people like I did – even their Mardi Gras parades and festivities are family affairs.
Shreveport/Bossier City is easily accessible – less than a day’s drive from Houston, Dallas, Texas, Little Rock, Jackson and New Orleans – and is definitely worth visiting. I flew into the Shreveport Regional Airport for a week of meetings and touring, had a great time and can recommend some attractions.
While New Orleans gets most of the attention, Shreveport and Bossier City are in an area that has become known as ‘Hollywood of the South’ and ‘Cradle of the Stars’ because so many movies and TV shows are produced and made here. The area is home to “Duck Dynasty” and it’s not unusual to see film crews and stars at work in the area. Athletes Terry Bradshaw, Robert Parrish and Freddy Spencer are a few of the notables born and raised here.
The careers of music icons like Huddle ‘Lead Belly’ Ledbetter, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and George Jones were launched from the stage of the Municipal Auditorium’s “Louisiana Hayride” show. Memphis doesn’t have all the claim to Elvis fame as the King himself performed here for the first time in October 1954 and Elvis Presley Boulevard made me take notice.
It was my luck to pose for pictures in front of the famous auditorium in downtown Shreveport with the life-size statues of Elvis and other performers and imagine what it was like back in those days, wishing I were there. It wasn’t far from my hotel, the Hilton Shreveport, centrally located to many attractions, especially for walking and shuttle service. I wondered what it might have been like around the Antioch Baptist Church area years ago when Jelly Roll Morton created a song for the bustle then called the “Shreveport Stomp” there.
I knew I’d pose with the likeness of blues legend “Lead Belly” before I left. I also met one living bluesman, Buddy Flett, who played guitar and sang in the blues at the popular locals’ restaurant, Herby K’s, while a group of us feasted on Shrimp Buster, seafood gumbo and onion rings. I also met the charming female owner of Herby K’s who has kept it operating in her family since her Daddy ran it.
Other Area Attractions
Main attractions are casino resorts (great for picture-taking on the Red River with all the lights and neon!), thoroughbred racing and some good prestigious festivals held at Festival Plaza. The State Fair of Louisiana is also held in Shreveport, as are Holiday in Dixie, Mudbug Madness, and Let the Good Times Roll. I visited during Red River Revel and enjoyed the music, food and art and crafts. Margaritaville Resort Casino & Hotel on the Bossier side is also a great place to view the sunset at cocktail hour.
Taking a scenic one-hour riverboat ride can be a great way to enjoy tranquil beauty and spend part of the day on the historic Red River and Cross Bayou. I took a riverboat ride one day, spotting birds such as white egrets, while our guide on Capt. Sandy Jackson’s Spirit of the Red River Cruise pointed out alligators, blue herons, kingfisher, sea gulls, snakes and turtles.
Gators, Galleries and Bonnie and Clyde
At the Gators and Friends Alligator Park and Exotic Zoo I zip-lined over alligators and other creatures! I’ll never forget the feeling of climbing up and “flying” over water at the exotic park which also is home to kangaroos, capybaras, camels and zebras. And don’t miss the American Rose Garden – it’s close by and its gardens are beauteous and breathtaking.
Other days I marveled at the collection at the R.W. Norton Art Gallery and enjoyed the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum, the Robinson Film Center (with outdoor balcony dining), the Strand Theater (which hosts concerts and touring Broadway musicals), the Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center by the river and the Millennium Moon Mega Mural, a huge community project involving 2,600 people.
You can discover North Louisiana’s role in the Civil War and civil rights. And, perhaps, a little about law enforcement since Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed near here?
I reflected on all I’d done in the city and in the driving jaunts into the smaller towns. My last day I knew I had to do one thing! I walked to the “Lead Belly” statue and got my photo with this musical legend. Back to Greyhound, I showed my ticket and was off to New Orleans.
I’m glad I explored Shreveport and North Louisiana! There’s a lot to do on the “Other Side” of Louisiana.
I’m richer for it. You’ll be, too.
If you go:
Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau
629 Spring St.
Shreveport, LA 71166-1761
Tel: (888) 458-4748 (45-VISIT)
Explore Louisiana North Marketing Coalition
Louisiana Office of Tourism
Tel: (800) 994-8626 (99-GUMBO)
Gators & Friends Alligator Park and Exotic Zoo
1141 US Highway 80
Greenwood, LA 71033
Tel: (318) 938-1199