Shreveport is a town people come to for riverboat gambling. The banks of the Red River in this northwestern Louisiana town sport five floating casinos (state law prohibits casinos on land, but not on the water!) But travelers should take some time out from the slots and gaming tables to really see what this “other side of Louisiana” is like.
Here are some things our realfoodtraveler.com editor recommends you check out in the Shreveport-Bossier area:
Jazz on the Red — If you come to Shreveport in May or June, check out the hot jazz offered free on the banks of the Red river on the Clyde Fant Parkway (right behind the Barnwell Art Center in downtown next to the river). Bring your picnic and drinks (or buy drinks at the outdoor bar) and enjoy free concerts every Thursday nights from 6-8 p.m. The weather may be heating up, but the river breezes and the jazz are really cool. If you’ve got a big group, you can rent a large tent from the nearby Barnwell Art Center.
And while you’re there, stroll through the Barnwell Garden and Art Center (it’s free). When we went, they had an excellent photo exhibition of historic jazz greats. Their gift shop also offers a good selection of arts and crafts by Louisiana artists at bargain prices. www.barnwellcenter.com
Go on the Movie Tour — Generous tax incentives have made Shreveport a favorite with Hollywood film crews and earned the city the name “Hollywood South.” Movies like Kevin Costner’s “The Guardian,” and Sandra Bullock’s “The Premonition,” and dozens of others have been filmed here. Film buffs can follow a self-guided tour of the movie locations. Brochure available from the Shreveport Convention and Tourist Bureau, www.shreveort-bossier.org.
Take in an Indie Movie — While you’re in movie mode, check out the Robinson Film Center, which is dedicated to indie, classic, and foreign films. They have the latest high-tech movie equipment, including surround sound and ultra-comfy theatre seats, in a historic downtown building located at 617 Texas St. www.robinsonfilmcenter.org
Smell a Rose — Tired of the city? Take a break at the Gardens of the American Rose Center, a 118-acre park with more than 20,000 rose bushes and 60 different gardens. It’s cool and shady and a great place to bring a picnic. www.ars.org
Check out the Art Scene — Shreveport has an active arts community and the Shreveport Regional Arts Council is leading to charge to make the city an art destination.
We visited Artspace, their exhibition space in a repurposed Montgomery Wards building (with the original blond hardwood floors), they were showing “Pop! A celebration of 50 years of bubble wrap.” Artspace attracts national artists like Tony Reans, who injects bubble wrap with paint for a fascinating pointillist effect. They also sponsor some cool public art exhibitions like “Shades of Shreveport” which artists designed huge, colorful lampshades for the city’s outdoor light fixtures. Very cool! www.shrevearts.org
Go to Sci-Port — Traveling with children? They’ll love Shreveport’s state-of-the-art children’s science museum where they can view the stars at the planetarium, watch an IMAX movie, and interact with some very cool science and technology exhibits. Who knew learning could be so fun? www.sciport.org
Put your Head in the Clouds — Shreveport is home to Barksdale Air Force Base (where President George Bush addressed the nation on 9-11). They have a nifty aviation museum that includes all kinds of war memorabilia and 28 vintage war planes, including the stealth Blackbird spy plane.Kids and aviation buffs will love it and admission is free. www.barksdale.af.mil
Shop ‘til you Drop — For those of you who love to shop, Shreveport-Bossier boasts the Louisiana Boardwalk, a cool shopping mall right on the Red River that has tons of both boutique and national chain shops and even has its own trolley car. www.louisianaboardwalk.com
Go Mudbuggin’ — If you’re lucky enough to be in Shreveport on Memorial Day weekend, don’t miss the Mudbug Madness Festival, a four-day celebration of crawfish and other Deep South foods and music… It’s a rockin’ good time.
Where to Nosh
All this activity must be making you hungry and Shreveport’s got some great places to eat – both upscale and down-home.
Strawns’ Eat Shop — This is the place for breakfast and pie – or maybe pie for breakfast. Their breakfasts include eggs, pancakes, and omelets served with either grits or potatoes and some of the fluffiest biscuits you’ll ever eat. The real stars are Strawn’s legendary pies, chocolate cream, coconut cream, banana cream, fresh strawberry, and peach (seasonal). You can buy them by the slice or go crazy and buy yourself a whole pie (or two or three….) www.strawnstoo.com
Abby Singer Cafe — Located on the second floor of the super-cool Robinson Film Center, the Abby Singer Café is a great choice for lunch. They serve a variety of soups and sandwiches, including Chef Chris Hayes’s not-to-miss corn, crab, and shrimp chowder; the Royale, a fat juicy burger topped with your choice of cheese with the most heavenly crispy sweet potato fries drizzled with caramel sauce (completely addictive). www.robinsonfilmcenter.org
Butttercups Cupcakes — Hankering for something sweet? Buttercups Cupcakes sells delectably soft and rich cupcakes, all topped with a silky butter cream. Try their chocolate with peanut butter or wedding cake, ultra soft white cake with pillowy vanilla butter cream. 1115 Villaggio Blvd, Bossier City, LA 71111, (318) 658-9908
Fertitta’s Deli — Home of the “Muffy,” this Italian delis version of the muffalata sandwhich (Italian sub), Fertitta’s has been feeding Shreveport locals for 50 years. Their secret ingredient is Papa Sam Fertitta’s olive salad, a mixture of black and green olives, picked antipasto, sweet peppers, pepperincini, vinegar, and other ingredients, that they slather on sandwiches and on pizzas with delicious results. Located in the original deli building at 1124 Fairfield Avenue. www.papafertitta.com
Wine Country Bistro and Bottleshop — For more upscale dining, you can’t beat Wine Country Bistro and Bottleshop. The former packaged wine store still retains their wine ship and deli, but it’s the restaurant and comfy bar you want to check out. Steaks, fried soft shell crab, shrimp and grits, quail, duck, crab cakes and more and all delicious. 4801 Line Avenue, www.winecountrynet.com