At the heart of Louisiana’s crossroads is Alexandria, a city surrounded by forests of majestic pines where Native Americans once ruled. During the Civil War, Union troops burned Alexandria; from the ashes came the Victorian architectural style that is prevalent today. Alexandria and neighboring Pineville are required stops for war history enthusiasts, particularly as a stop on the way to the D-Day Museum in New Orleans. Check out the Louisiana Maneuvers and Military Museum on the grounds of Camp Beauregard, a maneuvers training ground for the Normandy invasion and European theater during World War II. The Louisiana History Museum in downtown Alexandria is a small museum that offers a strong interpretation of Alexandria’s role in the Civil War. The Alexandria National Cemetery is the final resting place of many Union soldiers who died in Central Louisiana during the Civil War, and later took in the remains of veterans from other conflicts, including many from the Indian Wars in Texas. Don’t miss St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, one of the few buildings that escaped the burning of Alexandria in May 1864. The church’s priest stood at the doorway, heavily armed, and informed approaching Union troops, “You will not burn my church.” He is known forever as “The Fighting Bishop.”
A quintessentially Southern beauty marks the countryside here. Those who venture far enough off the beaten path will find wandering waterways and rustic farmhouses, where living off the land is still a way of life. Several historic plantation homes offer an authentic look at plantation life – check out Kent House, one of the oldest standing structures in the state from 1796, and a classic example of French colonial architecture. April brings a display of local herbs and rose show on the 24th, and during May the Alexandria Afire exhibit recreates plantation life during the Civil War.
But the Alexandria area offers much more than war history and plantations. A strong art community flourishes here, supporting the River Oaks Square arts center that houses working studios, galleries and a gift shop. The artists’ studios are open to the public, inviting visitors to watch work in progress, and the downtown Art Walk twice a year offers a free, family-oriented walking tour of Alexandria’s visual arts. The next Art Walk is April 17 – when you can end the day at Jazz on the River, a free jazz concert sponsored by the Arna Bontemps African American Museum. The Alexandria Museum of Art is sporting a brand new wing, and the fun “It’s a Mod, Mod, Mod World” exhibit through the end of April, that includes several Dali pieces and Warhol’s Chairman Mao.
Alexandria/Pineville is not left out of the Sportsman’s Paradise that Louisiana is known as. In addition to the well-known hunting and fishing in the area, there is also the Audubon Golf Trail, offering a variety of challenging courses at the OakWing Golf Club and nearby Tamahka Trails Golf Course. The Wetland Birding Trail crosses through this area, and one of the most interesting and peaceful ways to view wildlife is to take a paddling trip through the bayou in a canoe or kayak. The Wild Azalea Trail provides 31 scenic miles of hiking and biking paths of various difficulty levels, in a beautiful surrounding of wetlands and forest – especially when the azaleas are in bloom in spring.
Don't Miss these Spring Events:
Art Walk & Jazz on the River - April 17
Cenla Rose Show, Kent House - April 24
Alexandria Afire, Kent House - May 1
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