When people here in New York find out I’m from Shreveport, La., the very first thing they say to me is always, “But you don’t sound like you’re from Louisiana.” And then they ask me where they should stay the next time they go to New Orleans.
Let me be clear, y’all. Shreveport is not New Orleans.
In fact, when you’re in Louisiana, Shreveport is about as far away as you can get from New Orleans. Separated by the entire state, Shreveport is in the northwest corner, roughly where Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas all come together in one region known as the Ark-La-Tex. (See what they did there?) By contrast, New Orleans is about a 5-hour drive away, in the opposite corner of the state.
Despite the geographic difference, Shreveport proudly serves up its own version of distinctly Louisiana flavor. You’ll find locals who eat, sleep and breathe Mardi Gras year-round. And, oh yes, you will find those die-hard LSU fans who eat, sleep and breathe the Southeastern Conference. Word of advice: Learn how to say – and spell – “Geaux Tigers” before you visit.
In recent years, the region has seen an explosion in commerce and development – and in many cases, literal explosions and other theatrics, as the region has also become a hot spot for Hollywood productions. “Olympus Has Fallen,” opening this month and starring Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart, was filmed in Shreveport-Bossier last July.
What to do
Shreveport and its neighbor, Bossier City, sit on opposite banks of the Red River. Despite the clearly defined city limits, there are plenty of opportunities (and excuses) to border-hop freely between the two.
If you’re bringing the kids with you, Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center is a must-do. Recognized as the 2012 Attraction of the Year by the Louisiana Travel & Promotion Association, Sci-Port is a 92,000-square-foot hands-on activity center that offers kids a fun way to learn about science, math and space.
Adults age 21 and up can try their luck at the riverboat casinos: Horseshoe Hotel & Casino, Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino, DiamondJacks Casino Resort & Hotel, Eldorado Casino Resort & Hotel, Boomtown Casino & Hotel and Harrah’s Louisiana Downs, a horse track and casino.
Close to the casinos on the Bossier side, the Louisiana Boardwalk is a shopping and entertainment district, home to a Bass Pro Shops, a movie theater, riverfront dining and outlet shopping. Besides the Boardwalk, another personal favorite shopping destination is Red Door Interiors, back in Shreveport on Youree Drive. I could spend hours there exploring room after room of unique accessories, furniture and seasonal home décor.In the spring, visit the R.W. Norton Art Gallery for a beautiful outdoors photo opp in the gardens. About 15,000 azaleas bloom in late March or early April. Inside, this AAA GEM attraction displays works by Auguste Rodin, rare books, antique dolls, Wedgwood pottery and more. There is no charge to view the grounds, the art collection or special exhibits.
And you can’t come to Louisiana and skip out on the crawfish! This Memorial Day weekend, the 30th annual Mudbug Madness festival in downtown Shreveport will celebrate Louisiana’s most famous food. More than 200,000 people attended last year’s festival, recognized as one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s top 20 events.
Where to eatTo make room for all those crawfish, you’ll need to come to Shreveport with an appetite. When you’re there, you’re going to eat, drink and then eat some more.
A hot spot to see and be seen is Superior Grill on Line Avenue. It’s often packed with locals … especially the bar and especially on the weekends. For a more casual meal with Mexican flair, TaMolly’s in Bossier offers tasty Tex-Mex cuisine and easy-to-swallow prices.
Hungry for more? Get yourself an alligator basket or try the crab cakes served over rice and covered with crawfish étouffée at Shane’s Seafood & BarBQ on Youree Drive. And no visit to Shreveport is complete without a meal at Strawn’s Eat Shop, named in 2009 as the city’s most iconic restaurant. There are three locations in the Shreveport-Bossier area, but the original on Kings Highway is, to me, Shreveport in a nutshell. Hint: Be sure to save room for Strawn’s famous strawberry icebox pie.
In the morning, head over to Southern Maid for doughnuts the way they were meant to be enjoyed: sweet, sugary and fresh out of the oven and served with a cup of piping-hot Community Coffee. In fact, I’ve been known to bring a dozen glazed donuts on an airplane back to Buffalo. Only one time did the airport security guard threaten to perform an “E.A.T. test” on the contents of Southern Maid’s recognizable white and green box.
If you ‘geaux’
At the intersection of I-20 and I-49, the Shreveport-Bossier City area is an easy interstate drive from major metropolitan areas like Dallas-Fort Worth (about 3 hours) and Birmingham (about 6 hours).
For door-to-door directions, hotel reservations and member discount information along the way, visit AAA.com or call your local AAA office.