A Road Trip through Louisiana’s Holiday Trail of Lights: Stop 5
Guest Blogger Alice Phillips toured each of the eight cities on Louisiana’s Holiday Trail of Lights. This is her experience in Stop 5 – Natchitoches.
Stop 5: Natchitoches
Natchitoches, and no it’s not pronounced like you would think, was my eighth and final town to stop in. After my short drive from Pineville and making sure I was saying Nack-a-tish right, I pulled into the quaint downtown area. Front Street is the main street with a long stretch of unique shops, restaurants and businesses overlooking the river walk.
Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile is Louisiana’s oldest general store and features everything from modern cookware to classic toys like Radio Flyer to Christmas decorations and gifts. I probably could have spent a few hours just looking at everything they sell. I bought a few gifts that brought me childhood nostalgia and was rung up on the working cash register used since 1910. The store also has the original freight elevator to take you to the second floor with more gifts.
I strolled down the brick-lined streets and popped in a few more stores before stopping for lunch at Merci Beaucoup. Locals filled up this charming lunch spot with a classic Cajun and American menu. Their signature dish is a Cajun potato, a stuffed potato with crawfish etouffee, a jumbo fried shrimp and of course a side of hot French bread. You can also find the famous Natchitoches Meat Pies at Merci Beaucoup along other restaurants. The space is lively and offers a back room larger groups can rent for an event or gathering.
The Saints were playing so we headed to Cane River Brewing Company to catch a little bit of the game and a beer before the rest of the day’s tours. This brewery is housed in a near century old cotton gin building full of beautiful natural light. The refurbished space is welcoming to large groups with plenty of seats and tables to sit at. I sat at the bar and had one of their seasonal porters while watching the game. Kids can stay busy by playing giant Jenga or cornhole.
Down Highway 119, sits Melrose Plantation a plantation built by free people of color in the 19th century. The story of how the plantation was built, the people who lived there and its historical importance is captivating. The National Historic Landmark was later home to Clementine Hunter, a world famous African American folk artist. Clementine’s work can be seen across the world, but a special mural still sits in the very place it was painted, the African House in an attic on the site. We walked through the different buildings with period decorated seasonal décor. After the guided tour, the group was allowed to walk around the grounds under the giant oak trees and check out the gift shop.
The drive from Melrose Plantation back into town is picturesque as we passed farms, horses and cows. I check into where I was staying for the night, the Samuel Guy House in Historic Downtown Natchitoches. It was now dark out, and the sky was illuminated with twinkling lights on every turn. The Samuel Guy House was adorned with wreaths, lights and two nutcrackers stood at the doors. Inside, each room had Christmas trees and seasonal décor. The Greek Revival style Bed and Breakfast was moved and restored to Natchitoches in 2004 from Mansfield, Louisiana where it was formerly part of a plantation in the 1800s. The house was vacant for several years before the move. Eventually, the house was separated into several pieces to make the move to where it sits today.
After settling in, I went back to Front Street downtown for a Carriage Ride with Cane River Carriage Company. The horse-drawn carriage was covered in lights and driven by a local dressed in a Santa hat who knew all there was to know about just about every building and street. You can’t visit Natchitoches without some Steel Magnolia’s references. The movie with stars like Julia Roberts, Sally Field and Dolly Parton was filmed right in Natchitoches and we rode past places it was shot. The ride lasted just under an hour and was a festive way to see the lights.
Cane River Lake is next to Front Street and different light displays illuminate the water. We had dinner at Maglieaux’s, a casual restaurant with a menu combining Italian and Creole cuisine. Chicken Parmesan, meat pies, Crawfish Monica, pork chops and more make up the diverse menu. Guests can enjoy their meal while overlooking the lights along the lake.
Natchitoches is a holiday light wonderland of festive cheer. Each year the city hosts a Christmas Festival. This year was the 93rd year for the daylong event of music, food vendors, a parade and a firework show. Christmas events start around Thanksgiving and last throughout the month. It was a great last stop on my Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights tour. My next stop? Home in New Orleans full of festive cheer and ready to decorate my house with my own holiday lights!
Read more about Alice’s tour in her other four stops along the Trail of Lights.