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Exploring Louisiana: Monroe and Ruston

A few weeks ago I had the chance to explore the northern part of Louisiana. I’ve lived in this state my entire life, but as any average American, when it comes to vacation time, we always venture far from home. I’m the first one that will tell you to “Boycott the Staycation” as we see how detrimental the lack of travel is on our economy, but I’ll also be the first one to tell you to get out there and see what is in your own backyard.

I really think the idea of a “staycation” is just plain ignorant. Last summer, the media was telling people how to save money, by providing alternatives such as buying an outdoor movie theater or visiting places close to home. Well, the cost of that outdoor movie theater is equivalent to a week’s condo rental, should you shop around. And as far as visiting places closer to home, you should be doing that with your kids on the weekends anyway.

I’d like to call my foray into north Louisiana as a sort of reconnaissance trip to determine what I’ll do with my kids this summer on short jaunts. This will by no means take the place of our annual family vacation, but now that they are preteens, my bonding time with them is growing short.

Here are a few of the choices I’m giving the kids for their summer learning through travel. This year’s theme is about learning where you live.

Monroe/West Monroe Area:

Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge – This 1600-acre lake is dotted with cypress, offers a visitor/education center (complete with baby alligators and various snakes), a wildlife observation deck, nature trail, and pier.

Poverty Point State Historic Site – This 400 acre site has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The earthworks are dated between 1650 and 700 B.C. An onsite interpretive center showcases an impressive collection of items found here. It is one of the largest mounds in North America.

Poverty Point State Park – This park and campground  offers cabins for overnight lodging. The cabins overlook Poverty Point Reservoir. Don’t let the name fool you, these cabins are a steal at around $99 per night for a two bedroom cabin complete with full kitchen, flatscreen tv with satellite, screened porch, and even free wifi. The cabin I stayed in had a queen bed in one bedroom and two sets of bunks in the other. The wildlife and nature trails make for a true Louisiana getaway. Plus, the nearby Black Bear Golf Course is part of the Audubon Golf Trail.

Ruston/Lincoln Parish Area:

Follette Pottery – Hidden just off of Hwy 86 in Ruston on Pea Ridge Rd is one the South’s hidden treasures. Kent and Libby are the nicest people and on the second Saturday of each month, they cook lunch for visitors and have a sale. Don’t worry if you stop in on another day, you’ll still get a taste of Libby’s sweet peach tea. Their products are sold in 44 states.

Lincoln Parish Museum – Have you ever walked into an old house and wished that the walls could talk? Well, they do here! The murals on the main hall walls tell a story, and there’s audio to go along, recorder by former living citizens of the area who recount their childhood stories and history of Lincoln Parish. Upstairs is like walking into your grandma’s attic (without the dust). The music collection made me chuckle, it even included an Ace of Base CD. Someone is very funny at that museum.

Arcadia Old Railroad Museum – This train station/museum/office/tourism center houses a collection of paraphernalia from the Bonnie and Clyde saga. In fact, the funeral procession of the legendary duo ended right across the street from the train station.

Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum – This was truly an interesting stop in the little town of Gibsland. There’s nothing like seeing autopsy pictures blown up and hung on a wall. I have to admit, it was pretty morbid, but I know my preteens will love it, even while they scream, “Gross. Come look at this!”

There’s so much more to see in North Louisiana and this is just the beginning. Be sure to check out my state’s Official Tourism Website for more information. Don’t worry, there’s more to come.

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  1. I am SO with you on the “explore your own backyard (state)” but just don’t call it a staycation!

    I haven’t mapped out our family’s Colorado camping trips or city escapes this summer yet, but I look forward to our weekend getaways, that’s for sure!

  2. By rough measurement, I reckon Ruston is about 200 miles from Baton Rouge, so I’d say a trip there is in no way a ‘staycation’

    If I travelled the same distance from my home, I could go up to the Lake District, Paris or almost to Dublin!

  3. Shannon, your first paragraph has a grammatical error that needs to be fixed: “…as we see how detrimental the lack of travel is having on our economy…” delete having.

  4. Thanks for this post, Shannon – I just finished a great book about Bonnie and Clyde (“Go Down Together” by Jeff Guinn) so I’d like to visit the museums at Gibsland and Arcadia and well, look at icky mortuary photos! 🙂

  5. hi- am thinking of going to poverty point from baton rouge? is it worth the trip really? and is there anything left of the “circles” or can you just see the mounds? i can’t seem to find anything online that looks like an actual photograph of the circles, just the mounds.

    Thank you!

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