Travel Treasures
Jul/Aug 2008 Issue
Fort Pike reopens after recovery from Katrina

Tourists visit Fork Pike for historical experiences. Louisiana State Parks photo
Though it defended countless soldiers throughout the 1800s, Fort Pike could not defend itself from the devastating disaster of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Since the tragedy, the fort has undergone much repair and restoration and finally reopened to the public in May.

Tourists can witness a piece of history by exploring the fort. After the war of 1812 and the attack from Britain, President James Monroe called for a widespread coastal defense system along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Built between 1816 and 1867, Fort Pike was one of six new masonry forts built on the coast of Louisiana. The fort, as well as nearby Forts Jackson and St. Phillip, protected New Orleans from many attacks and invasions.

Used during the Seminole Wars in the 1830s, the Mexican War in the 1840s and the Civil War in the 1860s, Fort Pike has been an important part of Louisiana’s history. The honorary fort was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Finalizing the efforts to revive State Park property since the hurricane catastrophe, this historic place is the last site to reopen. Sightseers of the fort will notice repairs made on the entrance station, bridge, fencing, pavilion and restrooms with an approximate cost of $679,000.

Located on US 90 south of Rigolets Bridge, approximately 23 miles east of downtown New Orleans, the site is open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Entrance fees are $2 per person. Seniors (62 and older) and children 12 and under are free. For more information, call (888) 662-5703 or visit

Plunge into summer fun at cardboard boat races

Participants sail away in their cardboard boats at the World Championship Cardboard Boat Races. Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism photo
Sometimes, failure is fun. It is especially fun when the failure is greeted by the cheers of a crowd and the reward is a refreshing dip in a lake on a hot summer day, as is the case in Heber Springs, Ark., during the annual World Championship Cardboard Boat Races.

Now in its 22nd year, the event will be held on July 26. The idea for the race was launched in 1987 as a way to bring more recognition and visitors to the city in north-central Arkansas.

That mission and more has been accomplished with the event garnering national attention on ESPN, the Outdoor Channel, the Discovery Channel and others.

The races begin at 10 a.m. with youth and adult divisions. The entries have to be made entirely of corrugated cardboard, and if the judges suspect another material might have been used, the boat must endure the dreaded “ice pick test.” Motors aren’t allowed, but oars can be used and they don’t have to be made from cardboard.

People come from all over the United States to compete and enjoy the pageantry of the event. The festival has always promoted having fun, ingenuity and outrageous inventions.

Contestants not only vie for a speed award, but there’s a Pride of the Fleet Award for the most creative design. In the past, entries have included monster trucks, space ships and World War II destroyers. There’s also a Team Spirit Award for the most enthusiastic and fun-loving team and a Demolition Derby Award for the last boat floating. Yet the award that generates the most cheers is the Titanic Award for the most dramatic sinking.

In years past, there’s been plenty of onshore fun. A sand sculpting contest, a treasure dig, a World Championship Watermelon Eating Contest and a tug-of-war competition have always been in the lineup.

Admission is free but parking is $5. Heber Springs is located off Highway 110 about 60 miles north of Little Rock.

Due to unfavorable weather, the location for the event is still undetermined and certain events might not take place. For more details, call (501) 362-2444, or visit online.

Savor a slice of fun at this watermelon festival

Get ready to eat some of that juicy, crisp, red and delicious fruit, with those seeds that were made for spitting.

Anyone who is wacky for watermelons or just enjoys having a good time will find what they’re looking for at the 32nd annual Hope Watermelon Festival. The event takes place Aug. 7–10 at Fair Park in Hope, Ark.

Besides being known as the birthplace of former President Bill Clinton, Hope is known for its legendary watermelons, with the town’s motto being “A Slice of the Good Life.”

This year’s rundown for the four-day event has an assortment of activities. More than 200 booths of arts and crafts, hillbilly horseshoes, melon eating and spitting contests, an antique engine show and a gospel show are just a small glimpse into the action-packed days of the festival. Approximately 50,000 people attend the event during the four days.

In 2005, a severe drought in Hope caused one melon farmer to make history. Because the drought allowed him to control moisture distributed to his watermelons, Lloyd Bright grew the largest watermelon in history at 268.8 pounds.

Hope is in southwest Arkansas off Interstate 30. Admission is free, but the fee for the gospel show is $4 and parking is $3.

For more information, call (870) 777-3640 or visit

Celebrate the anniversary of a historic garden in Jackson, Miss

The beautiful Mynelle Gardens. Mississippi Development Authority Tourism photo
Escape from the busy world by taking a relaxing, peaceful stroll through nature and observe a serene landscape that is rich in history and wildlife.

With winding pathways, lush greenery, flowing pools of water and distinct bridges which guide you to an island oasis, Mynelle Gardens in Jackson, Miss., captures the essence of the natural world.

Celebrating its 35th anniversary, this haven has come a long way since its birth. What began as a private garden by Mrs. Mynelle Westbrook Hayward is now a beautiful botanical garden owned by Jackson. The city acquired the seven-acre garden in 1973 and it became a Jackson landmark in 1993.

The house that sits on the sanctuary was the home of the Westbrook family. The Westbrook House was built in 1922 by Mynelle’s father, shortly after he bought the land.

Visitors can use the Westbrook house for weddings, wedding receptions, meetings and other events. The garden is also available for special group and convention tours, private meetings, social gatherings and classes.

The garden is open daily from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. March through October and 8 a.m.–4 p.m. November through February. Admission is $4 for adults, $1 for children 4–12, $5 for a student pass and $30 for a family pass.

For more information, call (601) 960-1894.

Insect museum opens with a buzz in New Orleans

Welcome to the creeping, crawling, buzzing, hair-raising, spine chilling and marvelous world of insects.

Visitors have been buzzing about the Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans since its opening in June. Being North America’s largest museum of insects dedicated to more than 900,000 known species, this home of creepy-crawly creatures has much to offer.

The insectarium is part of the Audubon Nature Institute, and is the 10th facility operated by the New Orleans-based not-for-profit organization.

With more than 70 dynamic and interactive exhibits, including live insect interaction, mounted specimens, a fascinating theater showing witty insect caricatures and a tranquil Japanese butterfly garden, the museum has a unique selection of attractions. Visitors have plenty to see and do, including engaging in exhibits such as the “den,” where people are the size of insects.

The museum wows its guests by capturing the beauty, diversity and exoticism of the insect world. Educating you about the significance and wonder of these tiny animals is the museum’s mission.

Bug lovers can even adopt one through the insectarium’s “Adopt a Bug” program. The parent of the bug receives a personalized adoption certificate, a color photo, a biography of the adopted bug and an invitation to a special gathering to meet the bug and the staff who care for it.

“From a tourism perspective, Audubon Insectarium shines new light on New Orleans as a dynamic and thriving destination,” said Stephen Perry, President of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Though these creatures may be small, that doesn’t mean they aren’t impressive. Ants can lift 50 times their own weight, a bee may fly up to 60 miles a day seeking food and a Fairy Fly is so small it can fly through the eye of a needle.

The Audubon Insectarium is open 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $10 for children 2–12 and $12 for seniors 65 and older.

To purchase tickets or for more information, visit or call 1-800-774-7394.

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