Travel Treasures
Mar/Apr 2008 Issue
Garvan Woodland Gardens teems with tulips in the spring

Thousands of tulips explode along the garden’s pathways. Garvan Woodland Gardens photo
Spring officially begins on March 20 with the vernal equinox, but what really helps herald the season in southern Arkansas is the Tulip Extravaganza at Garvan Woodland Gardens.

Tulips are synonymous with spring, so when the botanical garden in Hot Springs hosts its annual tulip festival from March 24–April 12, it will be celebrating the end of winter as well as the return of the splendid foliage. Surrounded by more than four miles of Lake Hamilton shoreline, the wooded landscape of the 210-acre facility will be a kaleidoscope of color when more than 93,000 multi-hued tulips burst forth.

In addition to the vast patches of tulips, hundreds of vibrant azaleas and thousands of pink- and white-blossomed dogwood trees will take center stage for their annual spring performance. Visitors can enjoy the display from more than three miles of trails, most of which are ADA-accessible.

Throughout the botanical garden, which is operated by the University of Arkansas, visitors can admire the masterfully sculpted landscape. One of the highlights is a nationally ranked Asian garden, called the Garden of the Pine Wind, that features stone and cedar bridges, Japanese maples and three streams with cascades and falls built of native Ozark and Ouachita Mountain sandstone.

Photo opportunities can be found around every bend at the garden, which is the only botanical garden in the nation that occupies all of a peninsula in a major body of water. Dramatic hillsides offer spectacular views of Lake Hamilton.

In addition to the foliage, the garden’s structures are equally impressive. The magnificent wood, glass and stone Anthony Chapel is at once elegant and rustic. Also, the Verna Cook Garden Pavilion has redwood trusses, a cedar shake roof and a 50-foot ornamental iron spire, providing a lovely place to enjoy the rose garden.

The gardens, located at 550 Arkridge Road, are open daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m. through March 31 and 9 a.m.–8 p.m. daily beginning April 1. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $4 for children 6–12. For those with physical challenges, golf cart tours are available for a fee of $6 per person.

For more information, call (800) 366-4664, or visit online at

French Quarter Festival strikes the right note

The festival features plenty of food booths and music from 15 stages during the three-day event. French Quarter Festivals Inc. photo
New Orleans will come alive with the sound of music this spring at the 25th Annual French Quarter Festival, a three-day local music showcase scattered throughout the Vieux Carré.

Louisiana’s largest free music event, the award-winning French Quarter Festival will be celebrated this year April 11–13, with music performances on 15 stages. The community festival, which draws 450,000 people, also features food and beverage booths at several locations that are operated by nearly 60 local chefs and restaurants.

The music stages will be set up in the French Quarter at Jackson Square, Woldenberg Riverfront Park, Bourbon Street, Royal Street, the French Market Performance Pavilion and at the Louisiana State Museum’s Old US Mint. The festival runs from 11 a.m.–9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 11 a.m.–7 p.m. on Sunday.

Also associated with the French Quarter Festival is the kid-friendly “Family Friendly Fest,” with entertainment, activities, art workshops and more for children. The Family Fest is open 11 a.m.–7 p.m. each day.

Admission to the three-day weekend festival is free, as are the performances. The only costs are for food, beverage and merchandise purchases on festival grounds, and certain off-site special events. There are no designated festival parking areas, but there are many paid parking areas in the French Quarter and all are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Coolers, ice chests or large containers are not allowed in major festival areas. For more details, visit, or call (800) 673-5725.

Rails give way to scenic trail in southeast Arkansas

Along the route, bridges cross the White and Arkansas rivers. Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism photo
Where the Delta Eagle railroad once steamed in southeastern Arkansas, hikers and bicyclists can now feel their senses soar as they explore some of the most remote and scenic areas remaining in the state’s Delta region.

The Delta Heritage Trail State Park, which is being developed in phases along 73 miles of abandoned Union Pacific right-of-way, completed an additional eight miles late last year, bringing the total to 14 miles. The completed section links Helena Junction to the community of Lakeview, and there are trailheads at Helena Junction, Walnut Corner, Lick Creek and Lakeview.

The crushed rock trail stretches through a shaded canopy of native hardwoods, along farm fields and across streams. The park’s visitor center is on Highway 49 in Barton; trail maps are available there.

When completed, the corridor will include about 887 acres of natural lowlands and 58 bridges–including two major bridges over the White and Arkansas rivers–and will end at Cypress Bend. The pathway will be completed in sections as funding becomes available.

Call (870) 572-2352 for more details, or visit

Louisiana museum examines efforts to cure feared disease

The museum tells the story of those who battled leprosy. National Hansen’s Disease Museum photo
What began under a cloak of secrecy more than 100 years ago remains largely a secret today, but efforts are underway to lift the veil from what was the only leprosarium in the country.

Located in Carville, La., the National Hansen’s Disease Museum stands as a monument to those who battled Hansen’s Disease, including researchers, health care professionals and those who suffered from the affliction, more commonly known as leprosy.

Occupying a building that served as the staff dining hall, the museum educates visitors not only about the once-demonized illness, but also provides a window into the lives of the patients, doctors and nurses who lived, worked and made medical history as they battled leprosy. Patients, many of whom were quarantined for life, left behind photos, memorabilia and their stories.

The leprosy hospital was started in 1894 when the first patients were transferred to the Indian Camp Plantation in Carville, located just south of Baton Rouge. Initial accommodations were slave cabins, but over the years a complex of buildings was established. The hospital closed in 1999 but care and research into leprosy continue in Baton Rouge.

Museum hours are 10 a.m.– 4 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday. Admission is free. The museum, located at 5445 Point Clair Road, also holds a walking tour of the site on the last Saturday of each month. For details, call (225) 642-1950, or click on

Riverfest brims with music, fun in downtown Vicksburg

The Mississippi River is part of the fabric of Vicksburg’s heritage, and each year the city turns that fabric into a party hat to celebrate its rich history during Riverfest.

In its 21st year, the festival will be held April 18–19 in downtown Vicksburg with block after block of booths with amazing artisans, gifts and mouth-watering foods. The weekend will be filled with live entertainment featuring top-notch musical acts. At press time, the entertainment lineup included Jason Aldean and Rick Springfield along with local favorites The Chill and Vickie Baker.

Street dancing will be held both Friday and Saturday nights with thousands crowding into the downtown area to sway to bands playing rock, country, rhythm and blues, and soul. Gates open each night at 6 p.m., and admission is $20 per night or $35 for both nights.

Daytime activities on Saturday will include the Gospel Fest, an entire block of activities just for children and the 40th annual Arts and Crafts Show, which will be held from 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. on Walnut Street by City Hall. Shoppers will find an array of handcrafted items including furniture, jewelry, pottery and more.

In addition, the festival also will feature the Vintage Cruise and Car Show. And in conjunction with the festival will be the BluzCruz Kayak and Canoe Marathon, a 22-mile race on the Mississippi River.

For more information, call (800) 221-3536 or visit online at

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