The Spirit of Shreveport: Falling in love with Louisiana’s “other side”
Shreveport is full of wonderful things to see and unique places to enjoy, but not all of them are as obvious as the big sights. A mixture of spicy Louisiana attitude and wide-open Texas spirit, Shreveport-Bossier is a destination that is known for its variety.
From the Louisiana Boardwalk (the largest outlet, lifestyle, dining, and entertainment venue in Louisiana) to five swank Las Vegas-style riverboat casinos, the avant-garde Artspace, Robinson Film Center, Sci-Port’s unique interactive laser planetarium, spooky haunted tours, and an alligator zoo, Shreveport-Bossier serves as a playground for kids of all ages.
With galleries and museums, acclaimed restaurants, theatres, symphony, opera, and a metropolitan ballet, the two sister cities are equally appealing to those in search of a cultural destination filled with artistry, music, fine dining, and elegance.
Shreveport and Bossier City are joined by the Red River in the northwest corner of Louisiana, about 20 miles east of Texas and around 35 miles south of Arkansas. Two interstate highways, I-20 and I-49, intersect in Shreveport, which has a nice airport just 10 minutes away from the downtown area.
With more than 10,000 available hotel rooms, Shreveport-Bossier offers variety and value. Beautiful guest rooms at top hotels can be reserved at exceptionally affordable rates. The area was named the least costly among 14 “small city” metropolitan areas, according to a recent study. The lodging occupancy rates in Shreveport-Bossier have outperformed national averages since 2002.
The combined population of the Shreveport-Bossier metro area is currently more than 355,600 and it is still growing, thanks to various recent economic developments that have included the ongoing revitalization of historic districts such as the Texas Avenue and Ledbetter Heights corridor.
The newest development in Bossier City is a lifestyle center that offers a unique blend of specialty retail, dining, office, and residential districts. The Villaggio was developed by the same companies that also developed Louisiana Boardwalk.
Shreveport is thriving with new businesses and tourism. Promising developments are on the horizon, including the long-awaited completion of a highway project. In July, Governor Bobby Jindal signed House Bill 370, which puts the final funding in place for the completion of I-49 from Shreveport all the way to the Arkansas state line. The bill bonds out funding to invest in I-49 North, which along with funding in the governor’s capital outlay bill, secures the $160 million in funding needed to finish the project.
“We know completing I-49 North from Shreveport to Kansas City will yield between $17 and $36 billion in economic activity for our nation over a 20-year period,” said Governor Jindal when he signed the bill at the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce in July. “This corridor is vital to economic development and job creation for not just northwest Louisiana, but for our state and our nation.”
Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover added, “When this road is finally completed, our communities and businesses will be open to a whole new sector of national commerce, which will truly benefit both our region and our state.”
Taken together with the current explosion of the rapidly expanding film industry, and its ancillary businesses, Shreveport-Bossier is on the move. Bossier City is now one of the fastest growing cities in Louisiana, while Shreveport’s new Millennium Studios is attracting major stars and Hollywood producers who come to stay, work, and play in the area. Shreveport is now luring business away from Hollywood due to its incentives programs.
Complementing the many recent developments related to the film industry, including William Joyce’s new, cutting-edge Moonbot Studios, is the Robinson Film Center in downtown Shreveport. It is a dynamic venue for independent, international, and classic cinema, and also serves as a resource for film production and media education. Located in the West Edge Arts District, the center has hosted special screenings featuring the likes of Val Kilmer, Oliver Stone, and Margaret Avery.
Also located at the West Edge in downtown Shreveport is Artspace, the city’s first arts center dedicated to the creation, production, presentation, promotion, and exploration of all of the art disciplines and forms for multigenerational audiences. Artspace features art exhibits, music concerts, poetry readings, and a culinary series. Renowned author and filmmaker William Joyce is the artistic director.
Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center is a 92,000-square-foot facility complete with hundreds of hands-on exhibits that delight children, in addition to science shows, eight interactive areas, a gift shop, and a café. Located along the riverfront in downtown Shreveport, Sci-Port houses Louisiana’s only IMAX Dome Theater and the world’s first open-access interactive laser planetarium.
Another great place for children is Gators and Friends Alligator Park and Exotic Zoo where you can watch alligators being fed and enjoy a natural habitat. Miniature horses, deer, goats, llamas, and other animals are located in the petting zoo.
On the banks of the Red River in Bossier City is the Louisiana Boardwalk, which is truly a city within a city. The lifestyle center boasts a comedy club, seasonal events, more than 60 restaurants including riverfront dining, outlet shops, a carousel, a trolley, and various entertainment options. One of the main attractions is Bass Pro Shop. If you want to see a real live alligator, peek into the alligator pool.
The Texas Street Bridge is the longest neon-framed bridge in the nation and is located across the Red River next to RiverView Park in downtown Shreveport. The park, which should be viewed in both daylight and at night, is a 200-foot-long esplanade with 105 individual dancing water fountains, 35-foot-tall steel roses that change colors at night, and an outdoor amphitheatre.
The area is also home to the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce’s Walk of Stars that recognizes such local celebs as Elvis Presley (whose bronze statue resides near the Municipal Auditorium), Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, and Terry Bradshaw. The phrase “Elvis has left the building” was coined in Shreveport by Louisiana Hayride producer Horace Logan to quiet screaming teens who came to see Elvis at the auditorium.
The casinos offer everything from world-class entertainment to luxurious suites and full-service spas. If you’re looking for thrilling game action, the five riverboat casinos provide gaming 24 hours a day.
The largest park in the nation that is dedicated to the rose, the Gardens of the American Rose Center are not to be missed while visiting the area. Also worth visiting for garden enthusiasts and art lovers is the R.W. Norton Art Gallery, which is located on 40 landscaped acres with 40,000 azaleas, ponds, and gardens and more than 10,000 plants. Tour highlights include an extremely rare, five-volume double elephant folio by John James Audubon. The 20-room gallery showcases American and European art.
For those with children in tow who want to experience an adventure off the beaten path, Chimpanzee Discovery Day is held September 17 at the National Chimpanzee Sanctuary, Chimp Haven, which is located just 22 miles southwest of Shreveport in Keithville. You can see the more than 140 retired chimps (from the entertainment or medical testing industries) in their forested habitat while touring the sanctuary through various trails.
Through October 8, historian and “ghost hunter” extraordinaire Steve Smith leads a bone-chilling guided walking tour of downtown Shreveport’s most haunted locations each Saturday night. Tours depart from 501 Texas street at 7 pm. Starting in mid-October, Smith will be leading haunted tours of downtown Shreveport’s Logan mansion. Built in 1897, it is one of the finest examples of Queen Anne Victorian mansions in north Louisiana shrevetownghostwalk.com.
For a little something out of the ordinary, check out the Twin City Knockers Roller Girls at various locations in Bossier City. The squadron of brave young women on skates are in their second season, but have already established an enthusiastic fan base. Their matches regularly sell out twincityknockers.org.
For those who prefer a more elegant experience, the 2011-2012 Shreveport Symphony Orchestra season kicks off September 14 with works by the legendary film composer and jazz musician David Amram, who joins the orchestra on stage.
The Shreveport Metropolitan Ballet performs September 17 at the Municipal auditorium, and Grammy award-winning singer Taylor Swift is performing at CenturyTel in Bossier City September 20.
There are so many new developments and fabulous events going on in Shreveport-Bossier these days, and the cultural season is just kicking off this month.
Soon, the Shreveport Opera season will be in full swing, starting with The Merry Widow October 29; the historic Strand Theatre begins its new season October 14 with Hotel California: a Salute to the Eagles; The Red River Revel Festival brings top artists, entertainers, and chefs from all over the U.S. in October; and the annual Texas Avenue Maker’s Fair is held November 5 with more than 100 craftsmen and live music. The icing on the cake at year’s end is the Christmas season, when the two sister cities are elaborately decorated during the Holiday Trail of Lights.
Whether you are planning a fun family trip with the kids, an exciting casino getaway, or you are going for a full-fledged cultural excursion, you can do it all in the sister cities of Shreveport and Bossier, where the people are friendly and the nights are always young. ✦
For further information:
Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau
629 Spring Street
318-222-9391 | 888-45-VISIT