Nestled among rolling hills shaded by towering pines, tranquil bayous and rivers, and scenic lakes, Monroe-West Monroe is the beating heart of North Louisiana. While its natural beauty is more than enough reason to visit, there’s much more to these twin cities that you must experience. Visit and you’ll discover an independent spirit unlike any other in the Bayou State. Home of the first bottler of Coca-Cola and the birthplace of such American institutions as Delta Air Lines and Century Link, Monroe-West Monroe is today a place of cutting-edge artists and top-class chefs. When you want a true taste of the very best that this part of Louisiana has to offer, this is where you want to be. Read on to learn more.
Go on an Epic Paddling Adventure
Flowing from the mountains of Arkansas, the mighty Ouachita River winds and weaves as it bisects the twin cities of Monroe and West Monroe. Wide and welcoming, the river is just one of several places that provides the perfect backdrop for some time on the water. Rent a single or tandem kayak or a stand-up paddle board for the day from H2GO Paddle and set out for a full day’s worth of adventure from the Forsythe Boat Ramp in the nearby Forsythe Park.
For a true Louisiana experience, head a few minutes north of Monroe to Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Paddle along and you’ll probably see floating alligators, swimming turtles, and great blue herons wading under towering bald cypress trees. Find your way to the east side of the lake to spot a bald eagle nest, then follow the marked signs to explore the lake’s canoe trail. While you can take your rental from H2GO Paddle to the lake, you can also rent a canoe from the Friends of Black Bayou at the Visitor Center. If you do opt for a stand-up paddle board, only do so if you’re an experienced paddler. After all, you’re never alone at Black Bayou.
Browse Boutiques and Specialty Shops You’ll Only Find in MWM
We all need some retail therapy every once in a while, and West Monroe has just the place to uncover some one-of-a-kind finds. Park your car and window shop your way through Antique Alley, a stretch of unique antique, boutique, and specialty shops and eateries just a stone’s throw away from the Ouachita River. Upgrade your and your home’s style at Three Threads, a relaxed art, apparel, and décor shop owned by Louisiana artist Sallie Anzelmo. Browse and you’ll find painted glassware, colorful jewelry, fine art, beauty products, and more. For the latest in women’s fashion, get yourself on over to Eleven 26 Boutique, where you’ll find the perfect addition to your closet.
There may not be a better definition of Antique Alley’s eclectic spirit than the Cotton Port Antique Mall. Step inside and you’ll discover a broad array of goodies on the shelves, including everything from glassware and pottery to vinyl records, jewelry, and even furniture. Take your time as you browse, as the mall is full of surprises you won’t want to miss. Finally, stock up on specialty teas, hand-mixed seasonings, and specialty gifts at The Spice & Tea Exchange of West Monroe.
Whether you’re shopping or simply strolling along and admiring all the historic architecture, it’s easy to spend an entire day in Antique Alley. Most shops are open Tuesday through Saturday, so plan ahead so you can see it all.
Visit the Home of a Pioneering Businessman
Look on the shelves of your grocery store and it’s easy to overlook how ubiquitous sodas like Coca-Cola are. There was a time, after all, when the only way you could get your hands on a soft drink was to go to your local soda fountain. That is, until Joseph Biedenharn came along. Biedenharn was the first to bottle Coca-Cola all the way back in 1894, and in 1913 he moved his operation from Vicksburg, Miss. to Monroe. Over the next few years, he had a big hand in the establishment of Delta Air Lines, and he made significant contributions to charitable causes in both towns.
To get an understanding of how Biedenharn helped shape North Louisiana into what it is today, visit The Biedenharn Museum and Gardens. Delve into the history of one of the world’s most popular drinks at the Coke Museum, where you’ll check out two exhibit rooms full of vintage signs, a Model T delivery truck, and a host of other historical items. Then learn about the bottling process and getting your own bottle from an original five-cent vending machine. At the Biedenharn, you’ll also find the Bible Museum, a collection of historical Bibles, including an original 1611 King James Bible, accumulated by Emy-Lou Biedenharn, Joseph’s daughter. Wander through the verdant Elsong Gardens before touring the Historic Biedenharn Home, in which each room is exhibited like when Emy-Lou lived here, along with some memorabilia from her European singing career.
The Biedenharn Museum & Gardens holds an abundance of captivating local history, making it one of North Louisiana’s top attractions and an essential stop on your visit here.
Indulge at Local Eateries
When your appetite hits, Monroe-West Monroe is just the place to be. It’s not just the more than 100 locally owned restaurants, food trucks, coffee shops, and more that set the twin cities apart; it’s the quality of food they serve. Follow the enticing aromas of Louisiana crawfish stuffed pork loin, handmade chicken pot pie, and chicken and smoked sausage gumbo to Parish Restaurant & Bar. Owned and operated by Monroe native and Food Network’s Chopped! Champion Cory Bahr, the restaurant crafts mouthwatering entrees along with house cocktails, local brews, and wine from around the world.
Craving an authentic taste of North Louisiana? Dine at For His Temple Foods, the only locally owned certified gluten-free and dairy-free restaurant in the state. Utilizing mostly organic produce in its dishes, this healthy eatery serves up casseroles, salads, lasagnas, and more in an ever-changing menu. If you’re hungry for more, check out Monroe-West Monroe’s other restaurants here.
Hear the Call of Duck Commander
Assuming you’re a fan of A&E’s Duck Dynasty, you’re probably well aware that the famous Robertson family hails from the Monroe-West Monroe area. While you’re here, don’t miss out on the full Duck Commander experience by following the Duck Commander The Tour. Based in the Duck Commander Warehouse, the self-guided museum tells the Robertson’s story through 10,000 square feet of 15 galleries full of Duck Dynasty memorabilia. See set recreations and costumes from the show and walk in the shoes of the duck men of Louisiana as you go on an immersive sensory experience. Then learn how to make a duck call before stepping into the Duck Commander store. To cap off your own Duck Commander tour, head out to Miss Kay’s Sweets and Eats, a bakery and coffee shop owned by Miss Kay Robertson.
Sip Locally Made Craft Beer, Wine & Mead
Sometimes, all you need is a great drink. Here in Monroe-West Monroe, you’ll find exactly what you’re craving. For you craft beer lovers out there, Flying Tiger Brewery pours such brews as a hop-forward IPA and a pleasantly malty amber ale along with its seasonal beers. Order your favorite style and have a seat in the taproom that’s full of World War II-era décor. After all, the brewery is named after the legendary Flying Tigers, a fighter squadron that served in the Pacific Theater led by Monroe resident Claire Chennault.
Although you could spend an entire day savoring Flying Tiger Brewery’s beers, there’s much more to try in Monroe-West Monroe. Nestled on a picturesque stretch of lush rolling hills, Landry Vineyards provides a scenic backdrop that’s nearly as compelling as its wide range of wines. Try them all during a guided tasting, then sit on the patio overlooking the vineyard as you savor a blanc du bois or a rosé made with Louisiana grapes. To learn the ins and outs of wine making, sign up for on one of the winery’s in-depth tours.
Finally, head off to Two Warriors Meadery, one of the only meaderies in all of Louisiana. Two Warriors crafts its honey wines with local honey using historical recipes. The result is award winners like the Bobby’s Bochet made with a recipe from 14th-century France, along with the semi-sweet Valkyrie’s Flight.
Whether you visit just one or all three places, you’ll savor some of the best spirits and brews that the Bayou State has to offer.
Admire the Works of Local Artists
Monroe-West Monroe’s artistic spirit runs deep, and its epicenter can be found at Art Alley. A collection of 10 galleries that feature the works of local artists, this part of town is the kind of place you’ll want to walk around in. Since you’re already outside, start at the Outside Gallery. Experimental in nature, this outdoor exhibition venue is a showcase of large-scale art created by artists that show throughout the country. Meanwhile, the ARENDER studio + gallery and The Palace Gallery exhibit the works of local artists while also showing off Monroe’s culture. Both are best seen during The Crawl, held the first Thursday of the month in February, April, June, August, October, and December.
Whether you’re captivated by world-class art, delicious food and drink, or the stunning beauty of a picturesque bayou, you’ll enjoy the best of North Louisiana in Monroe-West Monroe. Find out more about Louisiana’s twin cities and plan your visit here.