Alexandria is an under-rated tourist destination located in Central Louisiana. It is known for its abundant natural beauty and rich history and culture. It has remarkable art centres, numerous outstanding museums, zoos with a broad array of exotic animals, enchanting lakes, a mesmerising river, historic sites, dense forests, vibrant festivals, and plenty more. Alexandria offers something for everyone through all four seasons. The lakes, river, and sprawling greenery provides access to hiking, camping, biking, boating, wilderness exploration, wildlife viewing, fishing, and so much more. This is an ideal place to plan your next vacation. Here’s a list of the best things to do in Alexandria:
Encounter exotic animals at Alexandria Zoological Park
Founded in 1926, this zoo is a prime tourist attraction in Alexandria. It features over 500 exotic animals belonging to diverse species. Encounter African lions, black howler monkeys, African tortoises, Australian tree frogs, Chilean flamingos, rattlesnakes, tarantulas, swans, cotton-top tamarins, foxes, giant anteaters, herons, Indian blue peafowl, jaguars, squirrel monkeys, tigers, and plenty more. You can view fishes, otters, alligators from the underwater window exhibit. Enjoy the miniature train ride that offers spectacular views of towering trees and dense foliage. A multitude of entertaining events are organised at its premises throughout the year. The zoo is open from Wednesdays to Sundays from 9am to 4.30pm. This place is a must-visit in this city.
Explore regional history at Louisiana History Museum
Established in 1971, this museum emphasises on the local history of Alexandria and Louisiana. It features various historical exhibits and local memorabilia including thousands of photographs, vintage postcards, historic documents, medals, and other artifacts. The quaint building dates back to 1907 and is also includes the Alexandria Genealogical Library. Tour the museum and learn about the region’s people, culture, Native American history, and more. Admission is absolutely free for all.
Appreciate nature’s beauty at Lake Buhlow
Encompassing over 280 acres, this picturesque lake is a popular spot for fishing, motorboat racing, boating, hiking, and several other recreational activities. It is home to catfish, bass, bream, turtles, and more. Watch the heavenly views of the sunset and enjoy a refreshing evening stroll here. A wide array of entertaining events are hosted at this site all year round.
Explore Kent Plantation House
Constructed in the 18th century, this former plantation house is currently a museum that highlights the regional history of Louisiana. It was the home of Pierre Baillio II and his family who later sold it to a wealthy planter from Maryland in 1842. The building boasts French colonial architecture and is one of the oldest standing structures of this region. The house has been maintained to accurately represent the lifestyle of the elite of Louisiana during the late 18th and mid-19th centuries. Tour the historic house, slave quarters, milk house, blacksmith shop, and the kitchen. The original furniture, china, paintings, photographs, piano, and more belonging to the families that resided here are kept on display. Entrance fee ranges from USD 3 to USD 10 depending on your age. Admission is free for children below 3 years.
Check out thought-provoking art at Alexandria Museum of Art
Established in 1977, this award-winning museum is affiliated to the Louisiana State University at Alexandria. It organises numerous art exhibitions throughout the year featuring works from their permanent collection and various internationally acclaimed artists. In addition to displaying visual arts, they host free yoga sessions, musical concerts, movie screenings, educational programs, fundraisers, and plenty more. Tour the museum and look at thought-provoking and outstanding pieces of artistic works. Admission to the museum on second Saturdays is absolutely free. On other days of the month, the entry fee ranges between USD 4 – USD 5. Children below the age of 4 can enter for free. The gallery is open from Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Travel back in time at Forts Randolph & Buhlow State Historic Site
Located on the banks of the Red River, lie two historic forts that were constructed during the Civil War period by the Confederate army. The site features towering trees, dense foliage, spectacular river overlook, remains of an ancient dam, a visitor’s centre with historical artifacts and local memorabilia, verdant walking trails, and so much more. Watch the re-enactment film at the visitor’s centre, check out the Civil War exhibits, feast your eyes to the views of the mesmerising river, and hike to explore the historic site. Home to numerous diverse birds, this site is also very popular for birding. Admission to the site costs USD 4 per person. Children under the age of 3 and senior citizens can enter for free.
Hiking and wildlife viewing at Kisatchie National Forest
Located about 30 miles from Alexandria, this site features dense verdant forests, swamps, prairies, serene lakes, rolling hills, springs and diverse wildlife. Enjoy an invigorating hike on the miles of trails that meander through the scenic landscapes of the densely forested region and view the outrageously coloured wildflowers that spread throughout the site. You can spot numerous deer, turkeys, bears, woodpeckers, snakes, hummingbirds, armadillos, butterflies, beavers, and plenty more. Camp here at night to explore the wilderness and gaze at the stars. The lakes and the Kisatchie Bayou provides access to fishing and boating. Encompassing over 600,000 acres, Kisatchie forest is a perfect place to enjoy a lovely picnic against stunning backdrops. It is also popular for mountain biking and horseback riding. Visit this place and experience the astounding natural beauty of the region.
Spend an exciting day at T.R.E.E. House
This is an amazing place to visit if you are travelling with kids. It is a museum that aims to help children learn new things in a fun way through hands-on and interactive exhibits. It features a playground, dress up room, kids TV studio, animal exhibits, a clinic, model railroad with trains, dioramas, a bank, grocery store, sheriff’s car, a free library, and plenty more. Children absolutely love this place. It is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays and the admission fee is USD 5 per person. Enjoy a fun-filled day and spend quality time with your loved ones here.
Watch parades at Alexandria Mardi Gras
Over 120,000 people flock to Alexandria every year to attend this vibrant annual festival. It features a multitude of colourful parades, vintage car shows, motor cycle shows, parties, delicious food and drinks, animal encounters, live music, brilliantly coloured costumes, and so much more. It is one of the biggest events of this city. Be a part of the festivities and experience the incredible local culture of Alexandria here.
Shop fresh at Alexandria Farmers Market
The farmers market in Alexandria is organised every Tuesday from 3pm to 6pm all year round. It offers fresh vegetables, fruits, jellies, flowers, honey, plants, dairy products, poultry, jams, bakery goods, and so much more. All the products are sourced from local farmers and producers of Central Louisiana. Don’t forget to try out the mouth-watering tamales at this market. Shop here and catch a glimpse of the local culture of Alexandria.
Watch a show at Rapides Parish Coliseum
Constructed in 1965, this arena can accommodated 10,000 patrons during events. It is the most renowned place in Alexandria to host sporting events, trade shows, concerts, monster truck shows, circuses, rodeo, WWE, and various other entertaining live performances. Watch an entertaining show here or get tickets to a game and have an unforgettable experience.
Appreciate the beautiful architecture of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral
This historic Roman catholic church dates back to 1817 and was the first church in the city. The former building caught fire in 1895 and the current one replaced it in 1899. It is known for its grand Gothic revival style architecture, beautiful coloured-glass windows, and hand carved woodwork. This church was the only building left in the city during the Civil War. Spend some peaceful moments here praying and appreciate the aesthetically pleasing interiors. Check out the kaleidoscopic rose window at this church which is the largest in the state.
Enjoy a play at Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Centre
Located in downtown Alexandria, this theatre is a popular venue for ballets, musical concerts, plays, orchestra, musicals, and plenty more. It is operated by the Arts Council of Central Louisiana and can accommodate over 600 patrons during a show. In addition to live performances, they organise weddings, art shows, and other events in their lobby and terrace. This is an amazing place for a wonderful evening’s entertainment.
Outdoor recreation at Fort Buhlow Recreation Area
Located between the Buhlow Lake and the Red River, this place features a playground, verdant hiking trails, disc golf courses, picnic areas, grills, sports fields, access to the serene river and lake, sprawling greenery, and plenty more. Hike on the scenic trails and explore the wilderness, indulge in a game of baseball or soccer, fish for bass in the lake, test your skills in the disc golf course, make some delicious burgers on the grills, enjoy boating, and appreciate nature’s astounding beauty. This is a perfect place to take a break from the mundane and monotonous routine and escape into nature.
Explore history at Louisiana Maneuvers and Military Museum
This museum exhibits historical artifacts from the World Wars including military uniform, tanks, historic letters, personal items belonging to soldiers, guns, artillery, cannon balls, and several others. The exhibits highlight the story of the Louisiana Maneuvers during the Second World War. The library here features over 3000 volumes that you can explore. Admission to the museum is absolutely free. It is open from Monday to Saturday between 10am and 4pm and is located 6 miles from Alexandria. You can call them at 504-278-8024 to schedule a visit during afterhours or Sundays.
Experience the Gone Wild Safari
Go on a safari and view a multitude of exotic animals that live in this wildlife preserve located 11 miles from Alexandria. It is home to kangaroos, camels, ostriches, giraffes, zebras, deer, Indian peafowls, goats, tortoises, and several others. You can feed the animals here as well as pet them. The place also features a playground, snack bar, a mining company, fossils, and Toucan Pavilion. It is fun for all ages. Enjoy the adventure and get close to the animals. The place is open every day throughout the year from 9 am to 4 pm. This is also a popular venue for various social gatherings and events.
Tour the Frogmore Cotton Plantation & Gins
Encompassing over 1800 acres, this historic cotton planation dates back to the 19th century. It features ancient slave quarters, Native American mounds from the 1700s, wagon trails, a mansion, a cotton gin. The farm continues to operate till date and produces 900 bales of cotton daily. Tour the plantation, view and learn about the cotton farming methods, explore the historic buildings and gins, and visit the ancient mounds. It is open from Monday to Saturday from March to mid-November. Timings and days vary during winter months. You can call them at 1-318-757-2453 and schedule a visit. The site is a one hour drive from Alexandria.
Explore regional art at Rivers Oaks Square Arts Centre
Housed in the historic Bolton family home, this is a contemporary visual arts museum that was established in 1984. It features multiple galleries and studios that display works by numerous regional artists. Nearly 25 exhibitions are organised at this museum every year. Additionally, they offer art classes for all age groups. Over 40 artists reside here including painters, ceramicists, sculptors, photographers. Visit this museum and appreciate outstanding pieces of regional and local art.
Visit Old Town hall museum
This museum dates back to 1931 and highlights the history of the municipal government of the region. It is housed in a building that was formerly the city’s fire station, jail, police department, and court. Tour the historic building and explore the exhibits. It is open from 8 am to 12 pm daily and admission is absolutely free. Don’t forget to book an appointment by calling 318-449-5690 before you visit.
Sink your fork into mouth-watering food
Pamela’s Bayou in a Bowl offers exquisite American cuisine. Try out their red beans and rice, juicy burgers, and mac ‘n’ cheese. The menu here is very pocket friendly and absolutely delicious. Grab lunch at Outlaw’s Barbeque which is extremely popular for its burgers and briskets. Gorge on mouth-watering sea food at Steamboat Bill’s. The menu here is inexpensive and the place is known for its Crawfish dishes and Cajun preparations.