The eight-point star formed from destinations in the trail will add holiday cheer to any tour
There’s more to the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights than lighted displays. The eight DMO partners bring Christmas festivals, holiday lights, Cajun and Creole culinary experiences, fireworks, walking tours, holiday home tours and so much more for groups to enjoy. During nearly three decades of celebrations, the Holiday Trail of Lights has proven to have good legs. Natchitoches and Shreveport-Bossier City began the original trail in 1993 in partnership with two Texas cities, Marshall and Jefferson. When the Texas partners bowed out of the trail, Louisiana destinations Minden, Monroe-West Monroe and Alexandria/Pineville joined Shreveport-Bossier City and Natchitoches to form the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights in 2011. As tour operators and destinations look to recover from the pandemic, they will be looking to the fourth quarter of 2021. The Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights is a proven product with more than 100 events in November through December. The 29th year of this remarkable partnership will be no exception. Each of the cities is easily accessible with approximately an hour drive from the next nearest traveling along I-20 and I-49.
An original member of the Holiday Trail of Lights, Natchitoches will be celebrating its 95th annual Christmas Festival. The granddaddy is the oldest Christmas celebration in Louisiana and one of the nation’s oldest continuing holiday festivals. More than 300,000 lights illuminate downtown and more than 100 lighted set pieces are placed along Cane River. The backdrops are perfect for Saturday night’s stunning fireworks and live entertainment. Food vendors dot the area with your favorite Louisiana dishes, including Natchitoches meat pies. Look for craft vendors along the Cane River sharing their wares. There are carriage tours throughout the National Historic Landmark District, the Christmas Tour of Homes presented by the Natchitoches Historic Foundation and the Northwestern State University Christmas Gala.
Another founding member of the sister cities promises endless lights, more than one jolly Santa, comfort food and that’s just the beginning. It’s a Southern Christmas Story in Shreveport Bossier. Holiday experiences abound at one of the five riverfront casinos. The casinos are decorated to the max with intricate Christmas trees, sparkling tinsel and much more. There are also plenty of holiday-themed experiences including giveaways, special meals and fun cocktails. Make sure to include a stop at Art-space, located in downtown Shreveport, with its art exhibitions, concerts and local crafts and jewelry. Catch a bowl of award-winning gumbo at Abby Singer’s Bistro before or after viewing a classic Christmas film at the Robinson Film Center. The first two Fridays in Bossier City’s entertainment district feature the East Bank Holiday Market with live music, holiday themed vendors, and food trucks and yes, Santa will be there. Christmas in Roseland keeps the holidays bright at the American Rose Center.
In the heart of Louisiana, the water towers are a feature of the Alexandria/ Pineville sparkling lights display. The 12 Nights of Christmas Celebration is an oldfashioned Christmas featuring parades and performing arts. Get away from the big box stores and shop locally, finding the perfect gifts at local boutiques and shops. The local cafes, breweries and even Food Truck Park go festive with their food and drink. Built in 1898, St. Francis Xavier Cathedral contains 53 windows rivaling many European cathedrals. The oldest standing structure in Pineville is Mt. Olivet Chapel. The chapel was headquarters of the Union Army and avoided the burning of Alexandria in 1864. Nearby, Frogmore Cotton Plantation & Gins is a Rand McNally “Must See” and this writer agrees.
Spending a bit of the Christmas season at the “Friendliest City in the South” just makes sense. With hundreds of life-sized nutcrackers lining the streets of historic downtown Minden’s original brick streets, along with twinkling lights and Disney characters, you’ll appreciate the Old World charm the city portrays. For Christmas Market on Main the downtown antique stores, specialty shops and galleries are a delightful shopping experience. Adjacent to the historic downtown, the Historic Residential District features homes gracefully decorated with lights. Check the calendar for the date of the annual Candlelight Tour of Homes. The Old World Christmas Lights Spectacular takes place every day at dusk through New Year’s Day. Wonderful events, fireworks, parades, concerts and so much more make Minden a great stop on the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights. Although not a Christmas event, November brings the annual Main to Main Trade Days. Couples, families and small groups join the 50-plus mile trek from Minden to Springhill and the Arkansas state line.
The towns might be small, but there’s a big Merry Christmas waiting for you on the banks of the Ouachita River. There are sparkling lights on Antique Ally and throughout Monroe-West Monroe, two parades, shopping, fireworks, ballet performances and many additional great holiday happenings during Merry Christmas on the River. The Biedenharn Museum & Garden is a must visit any time of the year. It’s particularly spectacular at Christmas. The complex features regularly scheduled events, including Christmas activities. Begin your shopping at Antique Alley, located in downtown West Monroe’s Cotton Port Historic District. You’ll be walking through history as you explore an antique mall and individual antique stores. The shopping is diverse with boutiques and specialty shops rounding out the offerings. There’s everything from apparel and jewelry to housewares and crafts. The holidaytrailoflights.com website is a great place to start planning your tour. The site’s Group Tour Services page provides a themed itinerary, plus the contact information for each of the destinations.
By Dave Bodle