Charming Natchitoches, Louisiana, is a magnet for all travelers.
Pronounced “Nack-a-tish,” the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase possesses a 33-block historic district that fronts Cane River Lake and is a mix of historic structures, restaurants, shops and more.
Pack your walking shoes so you can check out architectural gems like the Prudhomme-Rouquier House, sample Natchitoches meat pies at Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant and explore Kaffie-Fredericks General Mercantile (the state’s oldest general store.) Leave enough time to enjoy the scenery in and around Beau Jardin.
The town is also well-known for the filming of “Steel Magnolias.” Take a self-guided tour of the movie sites. Recall the Christmas festival scene in the movie? Experience it for yourself at the annual Natchitoches Christmas Festival held on the first Saturday in December. It’s a part of the overall “Festival of Lights” that runs from mid-November through the New Year.
When you are exploring Natchitoches, be sure to ...
Visit the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum. The museum is best described as a unique blend of sports history and regional Louisiana history and culture. Collections aside, the interior itself is a work of art. It is said to be an aerial view of the region, showing how water flows and impacts the area.
See Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site. This replica of the original outpost (ca. 1716) is based on an actual set of plans discovered in France. Located on Cane River Lake, it’s about 100 yards from the original site. Constructed to prevent the Spanish forces from advancing across the border of French Louisiane, the fort continued to serve as a military outpost and commercial trade center until 1762 when France’s defeat by England in the French and Indian War.
Learn the stories about the grounds, and the people that walked and worked on them. Oakland Plantation is the largest surviving French Creole plantation in the South and has 17 of its original outbuildings remaining.
At Magnolia Plantation, visit the historic gin/press barn, plantation store, eight cabins and more. Learn about Melrose Plantation’s owner Cammie Garrett Henry, an educator with love for the arts that led her to open the buildings to visiting artists and writers. Discovered who came here during the turn-of-the-century and what novels were written here.
Hear about Clementine Hunter, a former field hand and domestic who taught herself how to paint. With her paintings of daily plantation life, she would become Louisiana’s most famous folk artist.
After a day of being out, treat yourself to dinner at Maglieaux’s On The Cane. The menu highlights the family’s Italian heritage as well as the Creole culture of Louisiana. You won’t leave hungry.
Did You Know … Natchitoches is the terminus of the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail. The trail stretches across Texas into northwest Louisiana, covering 300 years of history in both states through a wealth of historic sites and parks.
The original trail went into Mexico City, Mexico. Established in the 1860s by the Spaniard, the route was referred to as the "royal road" or "King's highway," and was used for exploration and trade.
photos: personal collection; Beau Jardin, Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site, “Big House” at Melrose Plantation