One facet of Louisiana that makes it such an appealing visitor destination is its deep and colorful history. European explorers found their way to the region and inhabited the area very early relative to settlement of much of the rest of the continent. As a result, some communities in Louisiana are among the oldest in the United States. Before those explorers arrived, of course, people we now know as Native Americans populated the region. Reaching still farther back in time, ancient peoples left their mark on the area thousands of years ago. The state of Louisiana offers many ways to explore the region’s rich history, in hundreds of museums, historic structures, landmarks, artifacts and works of art. The careful preservation and restoration of these sites and artifacts has created many rare opportunities for visitors to experience Louisiana’s history and gain insights into the diverse cultures that continue to influence the state today.
Two giant names of American business are deeply ingrained in the history of Monroe, and its neighbor across the Ouachita River, West Monroe: Delta Airlines got its start here in 1926 as a crop dusting service, and Coca-Cola opened its first bottling plant here. Today, those legacies provide unique attractions for visitors. Biedenharn Home and Gardens, the estate of that first Coke bottler, is open to the public as a museum and sculpture garden. The Chennault Aviation and Military Museum of Louisiana has exhibits on Delta Airlines, the local World War II flight school at Selman Field and the volunteer combat unit called the Flying Tigers commanded by one-time Monroe resident, General Chennault. The 1,800-acre, cypress-studded waters and trails of Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge puts sportsmen's paradise at Monroe's doorstep, while a trip to the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo offers up-close encounters with animals from around the world.