Christmas in Roseland, just west of Shreveport off Interstate 20, is just one of the region's many holiday attractions.
For nearly 30 years, the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights has brought a sense of Holiday wonder and cheer across Northern Louisiana, lighting up those chilly December nights and helping us all get into the Christmas spirit. This year’s Holiday Trail is already proving to be a good one, as participating cities have added new features and attractions and Natchitoches’ famous Festival of Lights serves to cap off Louisiana’s oldest community’s year-long Tri-Centennial celebration.
In addition to Monroe-West Monroe, participating communities include Alexandria/Pineville, Natchitoches, Minden and Shreveport-Bossier City. Each of the communities is located within an hour’s drive or closer of the next city on the trail. If you want to make a night of seeing the lights by driving straight through, you can complete the entire trail, starting and finishing in the participating city of your choice, in about five and a half hours. While it isn’t on the Louisiana Holiday Trail of Lights, it’s also well worth a trip across the border to take in the Wonderland of Lights in Marshall, Texas, located less than an hour’s drive from Shreveport.
Most, of course, will want to take their time and spend some time in the participating communities. Each of the communities brings plenty of holiday cheer, with their own distinct Christmas traditions and festivals.
Alexandria-Pineville kicks off their 12 Nights of Christmas on with Holiday Magic Downtown on Dec. 4. Nightly events follow, including Holiday Lights Safari Dec. 5-28, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Dec. 5-7, An Old Fashioned Christmas Dec. 6, Holiday Tour of Homes Dec. 13, and the Christmas Spectacular Dec. 13.
If you missed November’s Fasching Fifth Season in Minden, it’s still well worth a trip out to the “Friendliest City in the South” to see all of the beautiful Weihnachtsbeleuchtung und Nussknackeren (Christmas lights and nutcrackers). This year’s Trail of Lights display will feature hundreds of traditional German nutcrackers, celebrating the city’s heritage. They will also host a number of fireworks displays, concerts and historical district tours. History lovers will want to check out Christmas in Germantown and Christmas at Dorcheat Museum. Make sure you take the kids to Pictures in Storybook Land, which runs throughout the Trail of Lights season.
Of course, when it comes to Christmas cheer, no one does it quite like Natchitoches. People from all over the country flock to their annual Festival of Lights. With this year’s events capping off year-long Tri-Centennial celebration, the 88th annual Christmas Festival promises to be the best yet. From fireworks displays every Saturday night and on New Year’s Eve to the NSU Christmas Gala Dec. 3-5 to musical and other entertainment events taking place throughout the month, there’s something to see and do in Natchitoches all month long. Of course, no Louisiana Trail of Lights trip is complete without taking some time to see the Christmas set pieces for which Natchitoches is famous.
If you come through Shreveport-Bossier, make sure to plan extra time to shop at Bossier City’s Outlets at Louisiana Boardwalk. Antiques-lovers won’t want to miss the holiday offerings at the shops on Kings Highway and Line Avenue. This year’s festivities include the Candlelight Christmas Home Tours from Dec. 4-12, Christmas in Roseland through Dec. 21, the inaugural Cowboy Christmas and Benton Christmas on the Square, both on Dec. 13, Holiday Pop Stars on Stage at the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra on Dec. 20 and the Duck Commander Independence Bowl on Dec. 27.
If you’re undecided about when to check out the lights in Shreveport-Bossier, you might want to consider marking December 6 on your calendar. That Saturday, the community kicks off the day with Breakfast with Santa at Sci-Port at 8 a.m., followed by the Country Christmas Festival at 11 a.m., the Christmas II Tour at the R.W. Norton Art Gallery at 2 p.m., Cajun Christmas in Bossier City and the arrival of the KCS Holiday Express train in Shreveport, both at 4 p.m., and a performance of A Christmas Carol at the Strand Theatre.
Last but not least, if you decide to hop over the state line, watching Marshall’s homes and businesses light up for the season is worth the trip. Bus tours are available for those wanting to take in the 15 miles worth of twinkling Christmas lights. Old fashioned horse drawn carriage rides take visitors past over 300 lights sculptures – some of which tower over 24 feet tall -- decorating the Marshall town square. An outdoor ice skating rink is available to the public when not being used for ice shows. Kids will love Wonderland Mountain, the North Pole Play Land and the North Pole Express Train. Each night features a free synchronized lights show at the historic Harrison County Courthouse. A free musical variety show, showcasing the best in our local talent, begins nightly at 7:10 p.m. on the Street of Dreams. If you take the trip into East Texas, you may also consider checking out nearby Jefferson, a historic city with a Candlelight Tour of Homes that includes railroad tycoon Jay Gould’s luxury railway car.
Whether you pack family and friends in the car and drive the whole cycle in one night or take in each city one at a time, you’ll want to make sure to check out each of our participating Northern Louisiana (and East Texas, if you’re inclined) communities in the Louisiana Trail of Lights this Christmas season.
By Scott Rutherford