Guest Blogger Alice Phillips toured each of the eight cities on Louisiana’s Holiday Trail of Lights. This is her experience in Stop 4 – Alexandria & Pineville.
Stop 4: Alexandria & Pineville
After my drive from Shreveport, I was ready to start my day in Alexandria but made sure to stop for lunch. I headed to The Cottage, a local lunch spot. The room was full of groups big and small celebrating holiday parties or just a mid-day meal. At The Cottage, no meal is complete without starting with the Cream of Shrimp Soup. The soup was a delicious start to the meal. I also ordered the tomato and basil pie, a comforting pastry topped with cheese and next to a spinach salad. The Cottage is a great place for families with its variety of menu items and space. You will find all kinds of comfort food classics from roast beef sandwiches, hamburgers and salads to peanut butter pie and chocolate cake.
I drove to downtown Alexandria where the River Oaks Square Arts Center was having its annual Porch Sale. Unique works of art ranging from paintings to photographs, pottery and fiber arts were up for sale lining the halls of the center’s historic building. Outside, wreaths adorned the opened doorways greeting guests in. In 1979, the building was donated by the Bolton Family to the city with an agreement that it would be used for the arts. Today, the center is a cultural hub for all kinds of artists to share their work and encourage interests in the art to locals and visitors. The Porch Sale is a great place to get one-of-a-kind gifts while helping the local artist community.
Just down the street is the beautiful Emmanuel Baptist Church where a Pilgrimage to Bethlehem is reenacted each year. I was guided into the church where almost half the pews were full. We listened to Christmas music performed by members of the church dressed in Biblical period dress. It was a festive way to spend my time while waiting for the guided tour through Bethlehem. Every few songs, a few rows of pews were led to the tour. When we left the sanctuary, we were transported back in time to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The reenactment was more than impressive with sounds, smells and sights that made me believe I was really in Bethlehem. We traveled through the marketplace where vendors were selling goods and donkeys and goats walked by. The event is a great experience for all ages and better yet, free admission.
When I finished my journey through Bethlehem, I was brought back to 2019 with an LSU football game. Huckleberry Brewing Company was the place to be. Families sat around a firepit outside while visiting and cheering for the tigers. I sat at the bar inside and grabbed one of the seasonal brews to sip on while taking in the surroundings. The bartender was knowledgeable on all the beers offered and let me taste a few of the ones I was curious about. Huckleberry Brewing opened in Alexandria in 2018 thanks to Alexandria born Jacob Wilson. Jacob spent time in Portland, Oregon where he learned everything he knows about brewing. He returned to Alexandria after 10 years where he named his brewery after his dog and Mark Twain character, Huckleberry.
After enjoying a local brew, it started to get dark outside and I was ready to see some lights. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night in December, the Alexandria Zoo is lit up. Thousands of lights lit up the different environments. A holiday train ride through the zoo and pictures with Santa made for the perfect photo opp for families.
I strolled through the Holiday Light Safari for about an hour before heading back downtown for dinner at Embers. A good-sized list of pizzas and calzones make up the majority of the menu with an additional kids menu to please even the pickiest of eaters. There was live music performed on a stage playing holiday classics to add merriment to the already lively room.
Right down the street, is Finnegan’s Wake a cozy Irish pub favored by locals. Like whiskey? Curious to try some different types? Well head to Finnegan’s and you will be taken great care of. Head bartender Melissa Scarborough is Louisiana’s only whiskey sommelier and one of fewer than 100 whiskey sommeliers in the world. I enjoyed a drink among locals and under a ceiling where personalized mugs hang for the frequent visitors.
My next stop was home for the night – Hotel Bentley. The hotel’s elegant lobby was met with modern amenities. The tall columns decorated with Christmas banners and garlands adorning doorways added a festive touch. I had breakfast in the Bentley Room the next morning and chose an omelette from a list including pancakes, grits, eggs and more.
Pineville is just over the Red River from downtown Alexandria and is home for Forts Randolph and Buhlow State Historic Sites. Visitors can tour the Civil War forts by starting at the indoor museum. They were just getting done with a day of Christmas themed cooking demonstrations and I tasted some delicious orange cider while learning of the site’s history. Visitors can hop in a golf-car and ride to the fort’s actual sites with a guided tour of the grounds. During Christmas, they also provide games for kids and candlelight tours down the boardwalk on the site.
My visit to Alexandria and Pineville was short but full of festive holiday fun and lights. Where to next?
Read more about Alice’s tour in her other four stops along the Trail of Lights.