Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Monroe, LA

  • Published 2023/01/09

Whether searching for a budget-friendly getaway to the great outdoors or a family-friendly and budget-friendly vacation, visit Monroe, Louisiana.

As the parish capital of Ouachita Parish, Monroe is the eighth-largest city in Louisiana.

The James Monroe, a paddle-wheeler that made the first successful trip up the Ouachita River from the Mississippi in 1819, is the inspiration for the town’s name.

The University of Louisiana at Monroe and the city’s other cultural institutions make it a focal point for the arts in northwestern Louisiana.

It is a great place to experience a quintessential southern retreat.

Monroe is home to many free to low-cost destinations, such as Osterland Recreation Center and Downtown RiverMarket.

Read on to discover the free things to do in Monroe, Louisiana.

Explore the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Welcome sign of Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Brandy McKnight /

Approximately 4,200 acres comprise the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge, created in 1997.

Are you looking for some free entertainment options in Monroe?

Are you craving a fantastic experience surrounded by the splendor of nature?

Perhaps a trip to Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge for some time in nature is in order.

It’s a tranquil spot with a beautiful backdrop, perfect for taking in the natural splendor and animals.

Boardwalk at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Bonita R. Cheshier /

There is a tourist center, a boat launch, magnificent lookouts, a long promenade, a pavilion, and so much more.

Get ready for the ideal nature escape with your friends at this wildlife reserve by packing all the essentials.

You may see alligators, coyotes, white-tailed deer, snapping turtles, and many other species at a safe distance.

Fishing, ranger-led excursions, nature photography, and other activities are available.

The waters of Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Bonita R. Cheshier /

Take Photos of the Monroe Mural

Brooke Foy and Emery Thibodeaux painted the Monroe Mural on North Walnut Street as a part of their Twin Cities Mural Project.

The mural features the line “Greetings from Monroe” written in a typeface reminiscent of postcards tourists could buy while visiting a foreign country.

Monroe’s mural comprises six letters, each of which features a picture representing a local landmark or company.

You may find the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in the letter M and the Century Link in O.

Meanwhile, the N features the University of Louisiana Monroe, its library clocktower, and Warhawk.

The Masur Museum may be found in the R.

The Chennault Aviation Center and the Monroe Regional Airport are in the O.

Finally, you’ll find the Biedenharn Gardens and Museum in the E section of the alphabet.

Among the numerous free things to do in Monroe, the Monroe Mural is one you shouldn’t miss.

Learn Military History at Chennault Aviation & Military Museum

Signage of Chennault Aviation & Military Museum

Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The northeast Louisiana region significantly affected the development of aviation and military in the United States.

Named for General Claire L. Chennault, Chennault Aviation & Military Museum displays an extensive collection of items.

Check out weapons, uniforms, paperwork, pictures, and more at the WWII Selman Field Army Air Corps Navigation School, one of the few remaining structures from that time.

The ever-growing collection of warplanes on display outside the museum is another draw.

Exterior of Chennault Aviation & Military Museum

Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These artifacts cover the whole military history of the United States, from World War I to the present day.

Delta Airlines, which started as a crop dusting firm in Monroe, has an intriguing history commemorated in several displays highlighting the airport’s history and relationship to the city.

When planning your trip to Monroe, Louisiana, don’t forget to visit the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum.

Interior of Chennault Aviation & Military Museum

Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Spot Herons around Town with Heron Hunt

The Heron Hunt is another fun activity you can do for free in Monroe.

Colorful herons have recently appeared in several locations throughout Monroe.

In 2019, 51 painted herons settled in the Herons on the Bayou area; 30 more would arrive in 2021.

The heron is the unofficial bird of Monroe, and Brooke Foy led the charge in coming up with the idea.

Herons prefer wet environments, and Monroe is lucky to have enough bodies of water to support these animals.

Join the Heron Hunt!

Admire Local Masterpieces at the Masur Museum of Art

Exterior of Masur Museum of Art

Larealtor, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Masur Museum of Art is the largest museum dedicated to the visual arts in northeast Louisiana, opened in September 1964.

A historic home built in the 1914 Tudor style houses this museum.

Check out this fascinating museum on your trip to Monroe if you’re looking for something unique to do during your free time.

Many artworks are displayed, including paintings, pictures, sketches, ornamental objects, prints, sculptures, and many more.

It also hosts various seminars, talks, film screenings, and educational events.

Take in some breathtaking artwork at the Masur Museum of Art.

There are always new exhibits to see featuring the work of both local and foreign artists, so bring some friends along.

There will also be artist discussions, exciting lectures, and fascinating art videos to enjoy.

Workshops and classes in digital photography, bookmaking, stained glass, sketching, and similar topics are available at various times throughout the year.

Read a Book or Join Storytime at Ouachita Parish Public Library

To improve literacy, encourage lifelong learning, and fortify the community of Ouachita Parish, the Ouachita Parish Public Library is open to everyone.

Since its humble beginnings in a single room with 731 donated volumes in 1916, the Louisiana State Library has expanded into 10 locations and a bookmobile.

It also has an annual circulation of over a million books and other materials.

Let your kids have fun with the free library activities!

Children of all ages can attend storytime.

In addition to reading books, storytime activities may include singing, crafting, and playing games.

There are also games and programs for teens!

Join the Activities at the University of Louisiana Monroe

Welcome sign of University of Louisiana Monroe

Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The University of Louisiana Monroe, which dates back to 1931 and is a part of the statewide UL system, is a vibrant and exciting destination.

For instance, the Monroe Symphony Orchestra and other groups often perform in the state-of-the-art theater at the recently opened Bayou Pointe Event Center.

Also worth noting is the Museum of Natural History, which houses a massive collection of items from all over the world, such as those of the Louisiana Native Americans, dinosaurs, minerals, and fauna.

Malone Stadium at University of Louisiana Monroe

Billy Hathorn, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The University of Louisiana Monroe fields 15 varsity sports teams in the NCAA Division I as the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks.

Catch ULM’s sporting events at Warhawk Field, Fant-Ewing Coliseum, Malone Stadium, and the musical and visual arts performances at Biedenharn Hall.

Play Games at Osterland Recreation Center

Going to the Osterland Recreation Center is a great way to spend quality time with your children.

It’s a well-run facility with many amenities you and your children will love.

All the sports facilities you could ever want include baseball diamonds, softball diamonds, illuminated tennis courts, full-size gyms, ping pong tables, batting cages, soccer nets, and more.

Full-size gyms with weight and workout rooms are available for fitness fanatics.

Free Wi-Fi is available, and so are foosball tables.

Everyone may have a good time at the Osterland Recreation Center since the atmosphere is welcoming and enjoyable.

Bike around Forsythe Park

The grounds of Forsythe Park

Sam Brandon /

Forsythe Park is a large neighborhood park that spans over 50 acres and lies next to the Biedenharn Museum.

Likewise, Forsythe Park is breathtaking and well-kept, offering many activities for visitors.

For the kids, there’s a playground; there’s also a nine-hole golf course, putt-putt golf, and sports fields for softball, soccer, and tennis for adults.

The waters of Forsythe Park

Sam Brandon /

In addition, the Monroe Advocates for Safe Streets have created a system of six bike routes that begin and end in Forsythe Park.

Over the levee, you may access the boat ramp, jogging trail, and beach volleyball courts along the Ouachita River.

See the Ouachita River

The waters of Ouachita River

Hegearl /

Monroe is ideally situated on the banks of the Ouachita River and Bayou DeSiard, making it an ideal destination for a relaxing and adventurous southern getaway.

There are several spots to rest and take in the scenery as the stream gently runs past.

Trapp’s, Cotton, Miro’s, and Warehouse No. 1 are just a few of the area’s eateries with picturesque Ouachita River vistas.

If you want to experience the scenery without spending anything, the Downtown RiverMarket is another excellent spot to take in the sights.

You may also catch the ULM Waterski Team, winners of 29 National Championships, training in the river.

Catch Fun Musical Performances at Brown Bag Concert Series

Come to the park and bask in the sunshine and pleasant sounds of nature.

The Northeast Louisiana Arts Council presents a Brown Bag Concert Series on Wednesdays throughout the year.

It commonly occurs at the stunning Palace Park, 220 Desiard Street, next to the former Palace Department Store.

In case of inclement weather, the event moves to the adjacent former Palace Department Store.

Feel free to bring picnics and sit on the grass or your blankets.

There is no admission charge to see the performances.

Go Window Shopping at Pecanland Mall

Exterior of Pecanland Mall

Limontes1125, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In July 1985, Pecanland Mall first welcomed its customers.

It has 93 different stores, including six anchor retailers.

Indulge in a fantastic shopping spree and quality time with your pals.

It seems like fun, right?

If so, one of your best bets in Monroe is Pecanland Mall.

Many shops exist, including Dillard’s, H&M, Victoria’s Secret, JCPenney, Hot Topic, and many others.

Interior of Pecanland Mall

PCHS-NJROTC, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are several restaurants, a food court with seating for 450 people, a movie theater with ten screens, and many more conveniences here.

Share a memorable experience with your pals while you browse apparel, footwear, cosmetics, handbags, and other accessories.

After that, you may get a mani-pedi at the salon, refuel at the restaurant, and then catch a flick at the state-of-the-art theater.

Meet Locals at Downtown RiverMarket

The Downtown RiverMarket is open from March through May and again from October through early December on the first and third Saturdays of each month.

A typical Louisiana farmers’ market will sell various locally grown and cooked foods, handcrafted goods, and unique souvenirs.

If you want to experience it for free, go ahead and stroll around, listen to local’s stories, and make a friend!

If you’re looking for a prime location to see the sunset over the river or to take in the sights and sounds of the Fourth of July or Christmas on the River fireworks, check out the Downtown RiverMarket.

Spot the Historic Buildings in Downtown Monroe

Buildings along Downtown Monroe

David L. Hoover /

Downtown Monroe is the most vivid and exciting part of the city.

The formation of the state started long before the Louisiana Purchase.

Its history is fraught with conflict on the battlefield and in the halls of power.

The French and Spanish architectural legacy in Louisiana is evident everywhere you go.

Numerous museums, plantations, historic sites, and attractions serve as living memorials to the past in modern times.

A building at Downtown Monroe

JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ, M.D., CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Downtown Monroe is essentially where the city’s rich heritage has long survived.

In 1929, two African American physicians constructed the Miller-Roy Building on Desiard Street.

For example, the facility at 215 Walnut Street was the early 20th-century home base for Ouachita Candy Company and Ouachita Coca-Cola Bottling Company.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Have a Picnic at Lazarre Park

Lazarre Park is a great place to hang out in Munroe for shade.

In such case, get ready to put your boat in the water and let the Ouachita River carry you.

The Ronald McDonald House Big Bass Tournament occurs yearly at a local golf course.

Both seasoned veterans and up-and-coming players gather in May for this competition.

It also has a pavilion that you may use for parties, reunions, or picnics.

Grab a fishing rod, head out to sea, and come back with enough fish for a fish fry!

The lunch will be a success in more ways than one for your household.

If you’re planning a trip to Monroe, Lazarre Park should be on your itinerary.

You can find it in West Monroe, Louisiana, six minutes from Monroe.

Final Thoughts

The city’s rich history is Monroe’s most notable feature.

You’ll find homesteads, parks, museums, and charming nature in this remote part of Louisiana’s northwest quadrant, with a rich history from industrial to southern plantations.

With our list of free things to do in Monroe, Louisiana, you should experience the slower pace of life without burning a hole in your pocket.

© All rights reserved.