Things to do in Natchitoches, Louisiana

A shop window in downtown Natchitoches.
A shop window in downtown Natchitoches.

Our weekend trip to Natchitoches was packed with fun things to do!  We arrived mid-day on a Saturday and left for home mid-day on Monday.  This was not enough time to see and do everything, but I believe that you have to leave something for a return visit.

Below are some of the activities you have to do on your visit:

Mini meat pies which were served with Ranch dressing for dipping.

Food:  Natchitoches is famous for their meat pies, so be sure and try at least one when you are there.  We had meat pies as an appetizer at Merci Beaucoup.  I have been told by other visitors that Lasyone’s Meat Pie Kitchen has great meat pies as well…there may even be a line outside the store.  Other restaurants we tried included Maglieaux’s on the Cane, which had a beautiful outdoor area overlooking the river.  It was an upscale restaurant with good food.  Mariner’s Seafood and Steakhouse, which was tasty, was on a beautiful setting on water.  The views were wonderful.  We have also eaten at Magee’ Patio Cafe, near the University.  It is more of a relaxed place to eat, but it was good.

The Melrose Plantation house.
The Melrose Plantation house.

Plantations:  Although there are several plantations within a 20 minute drive of Natchitoches, two are open for tours.  We only had time to visit one.  The Melrose Plantation told the story of the area through its residents, employees, and furnishings.  The artwork of folk artist Clementine Hunter is on display at the main house.  Her house was moved onto the grounds and still contains her paints and brushes.  Her small, humble home was adorned with a photo of John F. Kennedy in the front room and Martin Luther King, Jr. on her nightstand.  An unusual building, known as the African House, is also on the property.  Its purpose for being built is unknown, but it is a replica of many of the houses in Africa.

On our next visit, we will tour the Oakland Plantation.

Our guide preparing his muscat for firing.
Our guide preparing his musket for firing.

Ft. Saint Jean Babtiste: We were told this was a great place to tour.  I had my doubts, but they were soon assuaged.  The video intro was well done and gave you a history of the area and town.  A guide took us through the village, answered questions, shot a musket, and really added to our experience.  We learned all sorts of things, like how to crack a pecan without any tools, how to use pecan shells as a fire starter, and how to cook a meal in a tin can with a small piece of burning pecan shell as the heat source.  Who knew?!?

The Steel Magnolias' house was a busy place for photos.
The Steel Magnolia house was a busy place for photos.

Downtown:  The downtown area boasts restaurants, clothing stores, gift shops, an art gallery, a bar, a really nice visitor’s center, and the general mercantile.  There is something for every taste and price range in the general store alone!  It is fun to walk around, but even more pleasurable to sit by the side of the Cane River and enjoy a beautiful day like we did.  The park area next to the river is in the mist of a renovation which will add a large  boardwalk adjacent to the river and a large bandstand near the fountain that is in the middle of the river.  When we were there the Christmas lights had just stopped being lit and the town was gearing up for their Marci Gras celebration.  Most months of the year boast a festival of some sort, so check the town calendar for events.

A painting by Clementine Hunter.
A painting by Clementine Hunter.

The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame & Northwest Louisiana History Museum:  This is on our list for next time!  We were told that the town historical display on the second floor is amazing.  It will be a must see on our next visit.  Several murals by Clementine Hunter are on display.

Tours:  There are so many tours available:  Cane River boat tour, Steel Magnolia movie tour, historical tours, etc.  They even have a town historian that will tailor a private tour just for you.  We spent a couple of hours just driving around town looking at all the cute houses.

Northwestern State University:  This beautiful campus is home to the NSU Devils and lots of fun things for tourist to do.  Check out the performing arts calendar for great plays and concerts.  If you like college football, they have a big stadium in the center of campus ready to entertain you.

A beautiful and interesting old cemetery near downtown.
A beautiful and interesting old cemetery near downtown.

The Catholic Cemetery/The American Cemetery:  This lovely old cemetery is part of the National Park Service and, if I recall correctly, the oldest cemetery in the Louisiana Purchase.  It has some very old monuments and some very old Sweet Olive bushes that smell like perfume wafting through the air.  We spent a couple of hours looking at the old headstones and unique fences.  We saw the monument that marks the spot where Julia Robert’s character in Steel Magnolias was buried, and we enjoyed looking at the lovely flowers in bloom in January.

These are a few of the highlights.  There is still more for me to discover about Natchitoches.  It is a wonderful town to visit and revisit.  I hope you get a chance to check it out!

A perfect flower photographed in the Catholic Cemetery.


The African House at Melrose Plantation.
The African House at Melrose Plantation.


Clementine Hunter's paints as she left them.
Clementine Hunter’s paints on display at the Melrose Plantation.


Some of the gear found in the old fort.

To read my earlier post on Natchitoches, click here.

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