Embark on an epic birdwatching adventure through a national wildlife refuge, taste some of the Bayou State’s finest wines, and paddle among towering bald cypress trees on a breathtaking lake. When you’re looking to get away this fall, plan a trip to Monroe-West Monroe. Set in the heart of Louisiana’s Sportsman’s Paradise, this two-cities-in-one destination is just the place to celebrate the season. Read on to see some of the best ways you can enjoy autumn in Monroe-West Monroe.
Travel Tip: Arriving later in the fall? Don’t miss any of Monroe-West Monroe’s Christmas on the River, a collection of festive holiday events that includes parades, fireworks, and a drive-through exhibition of Christmas lights.
Fall is Peak Warbler Season
Although the changing of leaves from verdant greens to vibrant shades of orange, red, and yellow announces autumn’s arrival, there’s much more to look forward to this time of year in Monroe-West Monroe. After all, fall is one of the two peak migration seasons for warblers at Black Bayou National Wildlife Refuge, one of Louisiana’s top birding destinations. The refuge is best known for its prothonotary warblers, which you can see nesting in the cypress, sweet gum, and black willow trees along the nature trails early in the season.
Yet that’s not all, of course. Wander through the park and you just might encounter hooded, magnolia, black-throated green, and other warblers, along with black-crested cormorants and a host of ducks and water birds. The best way to see them all is by exploring the bottomland hardwood forests, cypress swamps, and prairies via one of several nature trails. For a quick jaunt, follow the one-mile Nature Trail that features a wooden boardwalk through the wetlands. Longer hikes are best suited for the Edgewater Trail, a seven-mile path that runs along Black Bayou Lake and Bayou DeSiard.
Each trail offers a remarkable opportunity to view the birds and other wildlife, including alligators, deer, bobcats, and coyotes, that call the refuge home. Make sure to pack your hiking shoes, and don’t leave your binoculars or long-lens camera behind.
Paddle Scenic Waterways
When you need some time on the water, Monroe-West Monroe is the best place you can be in the fall. Set on both banks of the Ouachita River and just a few miles away from Black Bayou National Wildlife Refuge, Monroe-West Monroe is a paddler’s dream. Rent a kayak or a stand-up paddle board from H2GO Paddle to explore the river, taking in sights of wading herons and egrets along the way. For an otherworldly experience, paddle among the bald-cypress trees as you watch the wildlife or try your luck at hooking a largemouth bass, crappie, red-ear sunfish, or bluegill. To do so, rent a canoe or a single or tandem kayak from the Friends of Black Bayou and chart your own course through the lake.
Enjoy Louisiana’s Best Wines
Nestled among rolling tree-covered hills a few miles southwest of West Monroe, the fields of vines at Landry Vineyards conjure images of sunbaked Tuscan vineyards. One of Louisiana’s top wineries, Landry Vineyards produces a tantalizing array of reds and whites that you can savor during your very own tasting. Find a spot on the large outdoor patio and soak up the cool autumn air as you sip your wine and take in the view of rows of black Spanish and blanc du bois vines.
If you’ve ever been curious about the winemaking process, reserve a winery tour before you arrive. The excursion takes you through the vineyard, crush pad, winery, and cellar before reaching the bottling facility. Finish your time here with a glass of your favorite wine from your tasting and it just might taste better now that you know how it’s made.
Savor Outdoor Dining at its Finest
Delicious Cajun-style cooking, cool evening weather, and a sunset over a scenic bayou set the stage for an amazing autumn night out in Monroe-West Monroe. The twin cities are home to more than 100 locally owned coffee shops, food trucks, and upscale restaurants, many of which have patios ideal for dining under the stars. Admire a view of the Ouachita River from the outdoor space at Warehouse No. 1. This upscale eatery serves Louisiana favorites like fried catfish, blackened redfish, shrimp and grits, and choice cuts of steaks along with an impressive wine selection.
Meanwhile, the pier-like patio at Waterfront Grill puts you right above the waters of Bayou DeSiard. Feel the breeze as you savor the restaurant’s famous Oysters Weemo (featured on the cover of Louisiana Cookin), then tuck into baked catfish or grilled Gulf shrimp or redfish. Just down the way, Catahoula’s serves up burgers, salads, sandwiches, po’boys, catfish, and shrimp that somehow taste even better as you’re watching the sun set over the bayou. Pair your meal with a local beer, margarita, or cocktail and you’ve got all the makings of a perfect evening in Monroe-West Monroe.
Stay in North Louisiana Style
When you hit the road this fall, where you stay is nearly as important as where you go. While you’ll find an impressive number of hotels here in Monroe-West Monroe, you can take your stay to the next level by immersing yourself in the local culture at a unique bed and breakfast. Set among the one-of-a-kind shops in West Monroe’s Antique Alley, Hamilton House Bed & Breakfast combines historic charm with abundant luxury. Relax in your guest room equipped with a private bathroom and beds with memory-foam mattresses, visit the kitchen for breakfast, and unwind on the second-floor balconies on the inn’s front and back sides.
If you’re a wine lover, book your getaway at the aptly named Grape Escape cottage at Landry Vineyards. Located near rows of lush grapevines, the cozy escape is ideal for romantic retreats. A king-size bed, refrigerator, microwave, and coffee pot gives you all the basics that you need. You even get a complimentary bottle of wine and a free tasting, a treat for any oenophile. For that feeling of getting away from it all, reserve one of the opulent guest rooms at Logtown Plantation. Located about 15 miles south of Monroe, this elegant bed and breakfast features three elegant guest rooms and a private cottage furnished with a claw-foot tub that has been at the house since the 1880’s.
Although you can’t go wrong with these three options, there are many other places you can choose from. Check them out here.
Looking for your next fall adventure? Plan a visit to Monroe-West Monroe, where you can experience the best that North Louisiana has to offer.