A couple weeks ago we departed Shreveport, Louisiana after living there for two unforgettable years. We’ll be forever grateful for the experiences we shared, friendships and memories made, and for learning the true meaning of, “laissez les bon temps rouler” aka let the good times roll! While living in northwest Louisiana, we tried to throw ourselves into the culture, experiences, and traditions and we rarely said, “no” to an invitation. This approach to life led to some pretty incredible experiences. While it would be impossible to summarize all (there is honestly something happening every single weekend), I’ve compiled my top five favorite experiences and shared them below, in no particular order.
Yes, they do celebrate this event outside of New Orleans. And yes, there is much more too it than a boozy balcony parties along the parade route. From the deep rooted traditions of krewes, parades, throws, masks, and king cake, Mardi Gras is an annual celebration lasting weeks. Our first year living in Louisiana, we experienced festival season in Baton Rouge and Shreveport but my favorite weekend by far was the Highland parade.
The Highland parade preps and begins at Marilynn’s Place (our favorite dog-friendly patio) so we ventured over early and were able to see the floats up-close. This “behind the scenes” experience was second to none and we later capped off the day by posting up along the parade route and did our best to collect beads and other coveted “throws” from the krewes. Check out my full post on Mardi Gras here.
One thing I learned while living in Louisiana is that there are festivals for everything – sunflowers, strawberries, French food, rice, Catfish, Christmas but my two favorite were the Louisiana Film Prize and Highland Jazz and Blues Festival. Louisiana Film Prize is a short film competition with one rule: you have to shoot your film in northwest Louisiana. Festival weekend is comprised of back-to-back showings of all finalist shorts, a bustling Festival Central and $50,000 cash prize for the winner. It also occurs same time as Red River Revel, the largest outdoor arts festival in North Louisiana. Over the course of eight days, over 100 artists and 20+ food vendors display and sell their creations while live music plays morning and afternoons on three outdoor stages. Art, food and music – just a few of my favorite things.
The Highland Jazz and Blues Festival takes music in the park to the next level, the Highland Jazz and Blues Festival has grown from a couple bands and 500+ fans to 10 bands playing on two stages for over 10,000 fans during an afternoon filled with good music, great food and local artisans. Best of all, it’s free and dog-friendly.
Disclaimer – I don’t actually like crawfish. I do however enjoy the experience behind a crawfish boil – usually accompanied by warm weather, cold beer, and lots of socializing with friends around the table. You’re hands are full of seasoning (read: no one is on their cell phone) and good company pairs best with a cold beer. If you don’t know anyone that hosts a boil but want to experience the food, most places offer fully cooked crawfish for pick-up or you can check out the Mudbug Madness festival in May. One of Louisiana’s largest and most popular Cajun festivals; this four-day event features music from Cajun, Zydeco, Blues and Jazz artists and food from some of the best Cajun cooks around. In addition to crawfish, I’d highly recommend trying Boudin Balls.
Lake Bistineau features cliche (and gorgeous) Louisiana landscape with cypress trees galore. Paddle boarding is an epic way to experience the lake by winding your way through trees and under hanging branches, all while gliding smoothly on the glass-like water. However if you add Tex to the equation, things get a little more interesting and a lot less smooth. Lucky for us, we experienced many gorgeous weekends out on the lake thanks to our gracious friends who live right on the water.
NORTON ART GALLERY
Between a Derby Day party, Azalea Festival, and 1920’s Speakeasy – Norton offers it all. The historic art gallery features 40 acres of landscaped grounds and botanical gardens, where tens of thousands of plants, including several thousand of introduced and native azaleas bloom in early-spring. To kick things off, they host an annual Azalea Festival featuring live music, food trucks, and dog-friendly walking trails throughout the blooms.
In addition to the gardens and art collections, the venues hosts a multitude of parties throughout the year. Their Derby Day event, set on their front lawn, is one of our favorite annual events in Shreveport. Most recently we attended an opening for a new photography exhibit. The event was a 1920’s speakeasy to celebrate the photographer, John Ernest Joseph Bellocq’s history. Bellocq resided in New Orleans in the early 1900’s and became infatuated with Storyville, a legalized red light district for prostitution. His collection features the women and girls in their every day lives, playing with their dogs or sitting in their kitchen, and was fascinating. See my full post here.
If you find yourself in northwest Louisiana during anytime of year, I guarantee that there will be something going on. Sometimes it’s just a matter of finding it. With a little research or by simply asking around (it’s true, the people are really friendly) your social calendar will fill up in no time. Have a favorite event that I missed on this list? Let me know, I’d love to hear about it. XO