By LouisianaTravel.com Staff

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Melrose Plantation in Cane River National Heritage area in Natchitoches
Visit the Melrose Plantation in Cane River National Heritage area near Natchitoches.

Natchitoches Parish is one of the oldest cities in Louisiana and the history seeps from every corner. From the National Historic District to the must-taste meat pies, you'll love to stop and take in the beauty of Natchitoches. Start with this guide of ten things to do!

Ten Must-Experience Things to Do in Natchitoches Parish

1. Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile Store

In Natchitoches, Louisiana’s oldest city (founded in 1814), you’ll also find one of its most historic and beloved stores. Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile Store was established in 1863 during the height of the Civil War. It’s been run by the same family for three generations, and retains a kind of nostalgic charm that you won’t find at the big box stores. It’s also where you’ll find a little bit of everything, from souvenirs to toys to hard-to-find items that you may not even know existed. 

2. Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant

The meat pie is synonymous with central Louisiana cuisine, and Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant is the place to get them. Lasyone’s is an old-school diner located in downtown Natchitoches, within short walking distance from the recently renovated Cane River Lake waterfront park. The menu includes traditional soul food dishes and Creole standouts such as crawfish étouffée, gumbo and red beans and rice. The main attraction at Lasyone’s, however, is the meat pie, made with beef and pork, and fried golden brown to perfection. Enjoy them at the restaurant, and be sure to take a to-go order for later — you’ll be thankful you did.

3. Natchitoches National Historic Landmark District

One of the first things you’ll notice when arriving in downtown Natchitoches is the historical architecture. There’s a lot of it, too—the Natchitoches National Historic Landmark District is comprised of 33 blocks of historical buildings dating back to the late 1700s. When walking or biking the streets of the district, you’ll see a wide range of architectural styles that tell a little about the city’s culture. Classic Queen Anne-style mansions, Art Deco commercial buildings and (most notably) French Creole homes make up this fascinating collection of buildings that help give Natchitoches its undeniable charm.  Read the weekend getaway itinerary for more ideas of things to do in Natchitoches.

4. Natchitoches Christmas Festival

Natchitoches world-famous Christmas festival lights up the town with more than 300,000 thousand lights throughout the downtown district and Cane River Lake. Natchitoches' 90-plus year old holiday festival is celebrated over six weeks and include everything from visits with Santa, historic home tours, carriage rides, parades, fireworks displays and more. Go shopping downtown for the perfect presents, eat delicious food like the signature meat pies and enjoy live entertainment.  It's a holiday extravaganza you must experience. Natchitoches is one of the eight cities along the Holiday Trail of Lights. See the full Christmas Festival calendar of events.

5. Oakland, Magnolia and Melrose Plantations

Oakland and Magnolia plantations are part of Cane River Creole National Historical Park, a 63-acre preservation area that showcases the lives of Creole people from over 150 years ago. Oakland Plantation, known as the most complete Creole plantation in the South, is a time capsule containing fragments of country life from the 18th and 19th centuries. There are 17 outbuildings at Oakland, where everything from food preparation to carpentry was done. Magnolia Plantation tells another side of plantation life, and the heavy toll taken on the area during the Civil War. Take a tour of one or both of these National Park Service-run sites for a glimpse into Creole life and culture.

Want more plantation history? Then don't miss the 200-plus year old Melrose Plantation, a national historic landmark that is also on the African-American Heritage Trail, that was a 20th century artist retreat. You will be able to view a collection of work by world-famous African American folk artist Clementine Hunter, including her popular African House Murals.

6. Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame

Terry Bradshaw. Hal Sutton. Karl Malone. These are just a few of the 300-plus names of local heroes you’ll find on the walls of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches. This state-of-the-art museum, whose Modernist, space age-like architecture alone is worth a visit, takes visitors on a journey through some of the proudest moments in Louisiana sports history. Interactive videos, touch-screen displays and sports memorabilia will get you into the game — in spirit, anyway.

7. Steel Magnolias Film Tour

The 1989 Hollywood movie Steel Magnolias was more than a box-office hit. It elevated Natchitoches’ already considerable status as one of the South’s most charming small towns. Sharp-eyed viewers will recognize more than a dozen filming locations, including the Lemee House and the Cane River Lake behind the historic Roque House. Visit natchitoches.com to see a map and a list of filming locations.

8. Natchitoches to Alexandria Bike Trail

Feeling active? Then take a ride. The Natchitoches to Alexandria bike route, part of the Louisiana Bike Trails network, is a 62-mile-long path running between two of central Louisiana’s largest cities. This mostly flat route begins at the Tourist Information Center on Front Street in downtown Natchitoches, where you’ll find maps and other info about the region. From there, head down the mostly flat roads that will take you past historic Creole plantations including Cherokee, Oak Lawn, Beau Fort and Melrose.

9. Saline Bayou Paddle Trail

See Natchitoches Parish’s wild side from the comfort of a kayak or canoe. The Saline Bayou Paddle Trail is part of the Louisiana Paddle Trails network, offering awe-inspiring views and a huge array of plant and animal life. Approximately 21 miles of Saline Bayou has been designated a National Wild and Scenic River, with cypress-hardwood forests that are home to pileated woodpeckers, otters and many other little-seen creatures. 

10. Los Adaes State Historic Site & Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site

Los Adaes is a fascinating hidden gem of Louisiana’s historical attractions. It also happens to be the former capital of Texas. Today known as Los Adaes State Historic Site, this was once a fort that protected Spanish settlers from French and Native American invaders, and was both the seat of Texas government for 44 years. See historic structures and artifacts from life on the frontier when you visit this Robeline attraction, which offers freed admission. 

After exploring Los Adaes, head to Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site next to Cane River Lake. This replica fort, built a few hundred yards from the original fort site, is based upon original blueprints and extensive archival research. Building materials were obtained locally, and many 18th-century building techniques were used in the replication. The original fort was established around 1716, when Sieur Charles Claude Dutisné was sent to Natchitoches with a small company of colonial troops to build and garrison an outpost that would prevent the Spanish forces in the province of Texas from advancing across the border of French Louisiane. This strategic outpost was named Fort St. Jean Baptiste des Natchitoches.

Start planning your trip today and discover even more activities, restaurants, places to stay and events by visiting Natchitoches Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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