Shreveport, La. — A cultural crossroads

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Chris Jay

Huge parades fill the streets of Shreveport, La., for Mardi Gras each year. Carnival season in late winter is also filled with parties and costume balls.
shreveport-bossier convention and tourist bureau

The Shreveport-Bossier area of northwestern Louisiana serves as a crossroads where the Cajun and Creole traditions of Louisiana blend with the wide-open spirit of Texas.

This unique combination of two great American heritages can be tasted in the food, where Texas-style barbecue often shares a plate with traditional Louisiana favorites like gumbo, po-boys and crawfish etouffee.

It can also be heard in the music pouring out of local nightclubs, where jazz and soul share the stage with blues, country, rock and zydeco.

Local festivals, which celebrate everything from crawfish to black history, provide year-round opportunities to become immersed in the blend of cultures that is Shreveport-Bossier, the third-largest community in the state.

Music history enthusiasts will find much to explore. Shreveport Municipal Auditorium, a national historic landmark situated downtown, was home to the legendary Louisiana Hayride live radio broadcast from 1948 to 1960.

Elvis Presley made his performance debut onstage at the Louisiana Hayride on Oct. 16, 1954. Today, a statue of Presley stands outside of the auditorium on Elvis Presley Boulevard.

Blues legend Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter was born and raised in Mooringsport, La., just outside of Shreveport, and his gravesite at Shiloh Baptist Church Cemetery in Mooringsport is a frequent destination for blues aficionados.

Shreveport-Bossier has six riverboat casinos and a live horseracing track. Margaritaville Resort Casino, which opened in 2013, is the most recent addition to Shreveport-Bossier’s gaming scene. The 30,000-square-foot casino has more than 1,300 slot machines and 54 table games.

Located just south of the Louisiana Boardwalk Outlets on the banks of the Red River, Horseshoe Casino and Hotel is another popular gaming destination. It’s also home to the Horseshoe Riverdome, one of Shreveport-Bossier’s hottest live music venues. Legendary performers like Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson, the Beach Boys and Diana Ross have recently brought their world tours to the Horseshoe Riverdome.

Enjoying the great outdoors can take many forms in Shreveport-Bossier, from a relaxing cruise down the Red River aboard the Spirit of the Red River, to zip-lining through a swamp filled with live alligators at Gators and Friends Alligator Park and Exotic Zoo.

One of Louisiana’s top bird-watching destinations, the Red River National Wildlife Refuge in Bossier City, features a 6.5-mile network of hiking trails, a lake for fishing, and an interpretive center offering interactive educational programs for all ages.

Walter B. Jacobs Memorial Nature Park in Shreveport also offers a network of trails, including some that are wheelchair-accessible.

For those who enjoy traveling “off the beaten path,” Shreveport-Bossier is a good entry point from which to travel along Louisiana’s Boom or Bust Byway, a scenic route that winds its way through historic rural communities like Oil City, Plain Dealing and Homer. An audiovisual tour has been created for visitors.

Celebrated food and drink 

Several Shreveport-Bossier eateries are among the best-known in Louisiana. Strawn’s Eat Shop, a mom-and-pop diner with celebrated ice box pies, has been featured in Southern Living magazine on numerous occasions.

Herby-K’s, a popular local seafood restaurant, has earned rave reviews in numerous national publications and was referenced inGarden & Gun magazine’s list of “100 Southern Foods You Absolutely, Positively Must Try Before You Die.”The Wall Street Journal has listed Bossier City’s Silver Star Smokehouse among the best barbecue joints in the United States.

Fans of craft beer travel from across the U.S. to sample the acclaimed brews created by Great Raft Brewing, Shreveport’s first craft brewery and tasting room. Gourmet magazine recently named it “One of 10 U.S. Breweries to Watch in 2015.” 

Mardi Gras, known as “the biggest free party on Earth,” is often associated with New Orleans. But carnival season — with its parades, parties and costume balls — is huge in Shreveport-Bossier. During carnival season, which officially begins on Twelfth Night and ends on Fat Tuesday, local social clubs known as “krewes” present enormous parades featuring hundreds of floats, marching bands and more.

As Carnival season draws to a close, a busy calendar of major festivals commences in early spring. Holiday in Dixie, one of the oldest annual festivals in the U.S., celebrates the arrival of spring in mid-April with a carnival, live music and more. Holiday in Dixie concludes with the Ark-La-Tex Ambassadors BBQ Cook-Off, a competitive event that attracts many of the top barbecue teams in the South. Barbecue lovers can enjoy live music while sampling outstanding barbecue and voting for the winners of top prizes.

Shreveport-Bossier is home to the United States Air Force’s oldest bomb wing, housed at Barksdale Air Force Base. Each May, the might and power of the U.S. Air Force is showcased during the Barksdale Air Force Base Airshow. Many of the world’s top aerobatic teams regularly perform at the air show, including the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

Festivals year-round

Each Memorial Day Weekend, the sounds of zydeco music and the scent of boiling crawfish drift through the air in downtown Shreveport as the Mudbug Madness Festival brings four days of music, food and fun to Festival Plaza. Named one of the “Top 100 Events in North America” by the American Bus Association, this festival includes outstanding Louisiana cuisine, three stages of live music, activities for kids and more.

One of most anticipated events each June is the Let the Good Times Roll Festival, a celebration of black history and culture that features old-school, gospel, R&B and funk music, as well as an outstanding array of food vendors, art booths and more. 

As temperatures drop each fall, every weekend in September is packed with events — ranging from the Pioneer Heritage Festival in Greenwood, Sept. 18 and 19, to the Highland Jazz and Blues Festival, a music festival held in Columbia Park that regularly attracts top names in jazz and blues music, Sept. 19.

Fall’s most-anticipated event may be the annual Red River Revel Arts Festival, an enormous, eight-day outdoor arts festival featuring hundreds of visual artists and three stages of non-stop live music, children’s entertainment and food vendors, Oct. 3 to 10.

The State Fair of Louisiana is held each October and November on the State Fairgrounds in Shreveport. The State Fair of Louisiana has received national acclaim for its unusual variety of food vendors and free entertainment, along with all of the delights of a State Fair midway. The 2015 State Fair of Louisiana will be held, Oct. 22 to Nov. 8.

Throughout November and December, the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights provides countless ways to enjoy the spirit of the holidays “Louisiana style.” One of Shreveport-Bossier’s best-known holiday events is Christmas in Roseland, a holiday lights extravaganza at the Gardens of the American Rose Center, Nov. 27 to Dec. 23. Other popular events include the Christmas on Caddo Fireworks Festival, a charming, small-town Christmas festival featuring fireworks over scenic Caddo Lake, Dec. 5, and Les Boutiques de Noel, a weekend-long holiday shopping extravaganza at the Bossier Civic Center, Nov. 19 to 21.

From the glittering excitement of the casinos to the wonderful array of festivals, the mouth-watering local cuisine, fantastic shopping and numerous outdoor activities and attractions — Shreveport-Bossier has all of the necessary ingredients for a memorable getaway.

For more information

To learn more about what to see and do in Shreveport-Bossier, visit www.shreveport-bossier.org or call 1-800-551-8682. A digital copy of the official visitor’s guide to Shreveport-Bossier may be downloaded at www.shreveport-bossier.org. A print copy may be requested by phone.

Currently, the lowest round-trip airfare from the Baltimore area to Shreveport is $330 via American Airlines from BWI.

Chris Jay is the public relations manager of Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau.