Published May/Jun 2005

With razzle dazzle and family fun, Shreveport-Bossier City on the Red River delivers for a weekend escape.
By Dixie Poche’

If you grew up heading downtown for shopping, going to the movies or enjoying a treat at the ice cream shop, you remember the nostalgic atmosphere of America’s downtowns. Going downtown for the evening was a treat.

The Shreveport-Bossier City area in northwest Louisiana has revitalized its downtown area as an entertainment center. With family attractions, restaurants, hotels and casinos with lots of bling bling, Shreveport and twin community Bossier City that’s just across the Red River make a great weekend getaway from Arkansas, Louisiana or Texas.

“Elvis has left the building”

One of the great attractions to begin a weekend in Shreveport is Stage of Stars Museum (705 Elvis Presley Ave.) in the Municipal Memorial Auditorium. The “Muni” is considered one of the most treasured buildings in the area because of its Art Deco style and storied history. Since its opening in 1929, the Muni has seen many uses, such as an air raid shelter, headquarters for the regional Girl Scouts, barracks for troops and the city morgue.

In 1948, it became the site for the popular weekly radio show, “The Louisiana Hayride.” The show is credited with launching the careers of many performers including Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Sr., George Jones, Johnny Cash, as well as guitarist James Burton and singer Johnny Horton, both Shreveport natives.

Visitors on tour of the building can stand on stage in the exact spot where Presley performed 84 shows in a 16-month stretch during his early career. In 1957, the phrase “Elvis has left the building” was coined at his farewell concert in Shreveport at the Hirsch Coliseum because the Muni was too small to hold the crowds.

From the Muni’s stage, former Louisiana governor and songwriter, Jimmie Davis, sang the song he penned, “You Are My Sunshine.” The museum displays other “Louisiana Hayride” memorabilia.

Family attractions abound

Another great downtown site for family fun is the Sci-Port Discovery Center. It is a hands-on museum with more than 200 experiences, allowing visitors to touch baby alligators. Visitors will spend hours playing with bubbles and getting a close-up look at an ant farm and the intricate lifestyle of thousands of honeybees in action. There are interactive stations where participants can learn about the human body, compare fingerprints and test their strength. The museum offers worthwhile learning, but it’s also lots of fun. The Imax Theater is an added treat. Expansion is underway at Sci-Port for an interactive laser planetarium.

Across from Sci-Port is the Barnwell Garden & Art Center, named after R.S. “Cap” Barnwell, Sr., a northwest Louisiana oil industry pioneer. Owned and operated by the City of Shreveport, the center offers a casual combination of art and horticulture. Of special interest is the Fragrance Garden with a variety of plants easily identifiable by smell and by touch that was designed for the visually impaired.

The RiverView Park recently opened next door and features water fountains that are irresistible to children. RiverView has an amazing Rose Plaza of illuminated 35-foot-tall steel roses, a 200-foot-long water plaza and a floating deck.

Nearby, the Spirit of the Red River Cruise offers a scenic tour of the river. This is a good way to view local wildlife, enjoy the outdoors in an enclosed boat and learn about the history of Shreveport.
Capt. Henry Miller Shreve founded the city in 1839. Shreveport experienced an oil boom in the early 1900s, which accounts for much of its growth. Bossier City got its start in the 1840s as a small trading post.

Adult playtime

The downtown area of Shreveport and Bossier City along the Red River has experienced considerable development in recent years and is lined with five top-notch casinos.

Another recent development along the riverfront is the Louisiana Boardwalk, similar to San Antonio’s Riverwalk, which includes retail, restaurants and family entertainment.

History buffs will want to see the 8th Air Force Museum at the north entrance to Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City. Admission is free, and the memorabilia covers six galleries. Twenty-five aircraft and vehicles from World War II serve as a memorial to the U.S. successes in battle. There is also a special Sept. 11, 2001 display with pictures and a video depicting Barksdale's role. On that day, Air Force One with President George W. Bush aboard landed at the air base, and the president addressed the nation.

Hotels and events

Accommodations for a weekend in Shreveport and Bossier City include the Best Western Chateau Suites Hotel and Best Western Richmond Suites Hotel, both AAA three diamond properties. The Hollywood Casino Hotel showcases numerous celebrity costumes and memorabilia from the silver screen.

The Hollywood Diner is a 1950-style diner with burgers and milkshakes. Don’s Seafood Restaurant offers Cajun and Creole dishes, as well as steaks. The Olive Street Bistro offers fine dining and a warm atmosphere with Mediterranean/Italian flair.

Special events include an exciting July 4th celebration, the James Burton International Guitar Festival Aug. 19-21 and great family fun with the Louisiana State Fair, Oct. 28-Nov. 13.From exciting events to a distinctive downtown and family attractions, the Shreveport-Bossier area has plenty of charms to please every member of the family.

Dixie Poché is a contributor from Breaux Bridge, La.

Above: The Municipal Memorial Auditorium Louisiana Tourism photo

Below: Shreveport ’s skyline Shreveport-Bossier CVB photo

Before You Go
For more information, contact the Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau at 1-800-551-8682 or www.shreveport-bossier.org.

Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks and TourBook guides. View a list of offices.

Order free information through the Reader Service Card online. Click on Reader Resources.

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