Natchitoches will honor the state’s 200th birthday with “Turn on the Holidays: A Bicentennial Celebration.” The event opens the city’s 86th annual Festival of Lights, the oldest such festival in the U.S.

The celebration in the historic downtown area will take place Saturday, Nov. 17.

The day will offer free live entertainment including Grammy-nominated Tab Benoit, a holiday marketplace and kid-friendly activities. At night, the lights will be switched on and a fireworks show over Cane River Lake will follow. An 18-foot Louisiana Bicentennial lighting set piece will also be unveiled that day.

The “45 Nights of Christmas Lights,” which Natchitoches is famous for, will feature more than 300,000 lights, 125-plus scenes along the river, and fireworks every Saturday through December.


New Orleans happenings

The Bayou Classic always draws extra crowds to New Orleans.

Taking place the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the annual matchup between the Southern University and Grambling State University football teams in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is only part of the fun over the course of the long weekend.

On Thursday, Nov. 22, the Bayou Classic Thanksgiving Day Parade will roll from the Superdome to the French Market from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The Bayou Classic Golf Tournament tees off at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 23, at Joe Bartholomew Golf Course (Pontchartrain Park). Check-in is at 8 a.m.

The Historic Black Colleges and Universities Institute Empowerment Exchange runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The Battle of the Bands is the same day at 7 p.m. at the Superdome. On Saturday, game day, the Fan Festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Champions Square next to the Dome. Kickoff is 1:30 p.m.

A Bayou Classic Gospel Brunch at 10 a.m. Sunday at the House of Blues caps off the festivities.

“Shop Away in the Vieux Carre” is Saturday, Nov. 17. The French Quarter Business Association will offer special events, from author and artist signings, to jewelry makers on site, to special discounts and holiday treats.

A benefit concert Tuesday, Nov. 20, at the Mahalia Jackson Theater will assist those recovering from Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced last week.

The NOLA Pay It Forward Concert will feature New Orleans musicians playing throughout the evening. Tickets are $50, and can be purchased by calling (800) 745-3000 or visiting

Visitors can see the annual lighting of the French Market Christmas tree at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, at Washington Artillery Park. A 4 p.m. concert at the Upper Pontalba will precede the ceremony.

Show called ‘treasure’

AAA Southern Traveler magazine has named West Baton Rouge Museum’s Mardi Gras Shipwreck: Recovered Cache c. 1812 exhibit as a Southern Travel Treasure.

The exhibition is featured in the magazine’s November/December issue.

Mardi Gras Shipwreck will continue through Dec. 2 at the museum, 845 N. Jefferson Ave., in Port Allen.

Honoring veterans

The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana and veterans groups throughout central Louisiana will recognize Veterans Day with a ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 12, at the Avoyelles Veterans Monument, La. 1, in Marksville.

The ceremony, open to veterans, their families, and the general public, will include a 21 gun salute performed by the Avoyelles Parish Honor Guard.

A reception will follow the ceremony. In case of rain, the ceremony will be moved inside the Earl J. Barbry Sr. Convention Center at Paragon Casino Resort.

In Shreveport, the Louisiana Veterans Honor Parade will roll at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, from the Louisiana State Fair Grounds, 3701 Hudson Ave.

Festivities will include a B-53 fly-over by Barksdale Air Force Base at 2 p.m.

In Lake Charles, the Veterans Day Avenue of Flags will take place Sunday, Nov. 11. Memorial flags will line the driveway of the cemetery, and also flying will be replicas of eight previous U.S. flags.

In honor of Veterans Day, the U.S. Forest Service will waive most recreation use fees such as camping, motorized trails, boat launches and day-use areas in Kisatchie National Forest on Sunday, Nov. 11. Camping fees are not waived on the Calcasieu Ranger District and the Caney Ranger District.


In Monroe

The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall is on display through Wednesday, Nov. 14. at the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum, 701 Kansas Lane.

In conjunction with the display the museum has opened the exhibit Reflections of the Vietnam War. The exhibit, the work of staff member Davis Haywood, includes soliders’ letters, uniforms, helmets, weapons, first aid kits, mess kits and news stories.

The Wall will be open 24 hours a day, with security posted and counselors available, until 4 p.m. Wednesday, when a closing ceremony will take place.


In Leesville

The town’s inaugural November to Remember Festival runs through Sunday, Nov. 11. The event, organized by the town’s Main Street Program, is part of Louisiana Main to Main: A Cultural Road Show, a month-long showcase of Louisiana heritage, music, arts and crafts, food and more.

In addition to the festival, local veterans organizations will conduct a ceremony at 11:11 a.m. in front of the downtown Veterans Memorial Park.


Louisiana Travels is a biweekly column about travel destinations and events in Louisiana. Email items for Louisiana Travels to or or fax to (225) 388-0351.