Head north this yuletide season.
That’s the word from promoters for the Holiday Trail of Lights. With eight cities in north/northwest Louisiana involved, travelers can spend a day, weekend or longer taking in the sights.
“It’s more than lights,” says Sheila Snow, vice president of communications for the Monroe/West Monroe Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s really fun and eclectic. There are the standing attractions and many special events. It’s a great kind of weekend getaway for the holidays.”
Snow said activities include family events, shopping, art shows and theatrical productions in Monroe, West Monroe, Shreveport, Bossier City, Natchitoches, Alexandria, Pineville and Minden.
In Natchitoches, events continue in connection with the annual “Turn on the Holidays,” where the massive display of lights are illuminated along the historic downtown’s Cane River Lake.
“There’s always something going on once those lights turn on,” says Madeline DeBlieux, marketing/communications director for the Natchitoches Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s great because you can pick a couple of cities, maybe you want to do Natchitoches, Alexandria/Pineville, or the I-20 corridor with Minden, Monroe/West Monroe. There’s so many opportunities that it just appeals to everybody, and you can customize your trips very easily.”
A big visitor draw in Alexandria is the biennial “Pilgrimage to Bethlehem” at Emmanuel Baptist Church, explains Kelli West, marketing manager at the Alexandria/Pineville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
“It’s a live, walk-through Bethelehem, like you would have seen it at the time,” West says. “The whole church is transformed into this live-action scene where you’re literally walking through the marketplace and people are trying to barter with you and things like that.”
Preparation for the sprawling display takes about 18 months, thus the church hosts the event every other year. This year, it runs Thursday-Sunday, Dec. 10-13.
Some highlights of the Holiday Trail of Lights are:
The Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum’s Christmas Village, with ice skating, toboggan sledding, shipped-in snow and a hand-cranked train, 323 Walnut St., Monroe, (318) 361-9611.
Holidays at the Biedenharn, with each room at The Biedenharn Museum & Gardens’ stately house decked out for the season’s tours, 2000 Riverside Drive, Monroe, (318) 387-5281.
Wagon rides through downtown Monroe and West Monroe, with the lights and sounds of Christmas on the Red River.
Holiday Tour of Homes, 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, with visits to four historic homes in Alexandria’s Garden District, each with its own story and architecture.
Holiday Light Safari at the Alexandria Zoological Park, with hundreds of thousands of lights, “wild animal theme” light displays, train rides, Santa, educational and craft activities for children and entertainment on select evenings, 3016 Masonic Drive, Alexandria, (318) 441-6810
Minden Main Street, with antique shops, boutiques and holiday specials.
The new Welcome Center at the Germantown Colony Museum, with exhibits of historical artifacts and a gift shop.
Christmas in Roseland at the American Rose Center, with holiday lighted displays, Christmas carolers, giant Christmas cards and pictures with Santa, 8877 Jefferson Paige Road, Shreveport, (800) 637-6534.
The Logan Mansion tour, 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, with an up-close and personal walk through the 1897 Queen Ann Victorian home, 725 Austin Place, Shreveport, (318) 459-2285.
Holiday Tour of Homes in Natchitoches’ National Historic Landmark District, including the Steel Magnolias House where much of the movie “Steel Magnolias” was filmed. Various days. (800) 259-1714.
Christmas Downriver at Oakland Plantation, 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, part of the Cane River Creole National Historical Park, with live music, and a traditional Creole Christmas experience, 4386 La. 494, Bermuda, (318) 356-8441.