The Good Life: Central Louisiana
Hodges Gardens State Park
In the heart of Louisiana, the Crossroads region is a place with a flavor all its own. Crossroads is filled with history. Its many lakes, parks and forests make it ideal for those who love the outdoors, and its towns are friendly, picturesque and welcoming. But Crossroads folks like to stay up-to-date, and the region has the colleges and universities to make that possible.
Nowhere Like Natchitoches
The city of Natchitoches (pronounced NACK-a-tish) is a gem of the Crossroads region. Natchitoches is the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase Territory, and the 33-block Historic Landmark District is a charming way to enjoy the city’s history and culture. Visitors and residents alike fill its bed-and-breakfast inns, restaurants, boutiques, bookstores and art galleries. The city’s Christmas celebration, City of Lights, is a popular draw, and everybody likes the well-known Natchitoches meat pie, a wedge of dough stuffed with spicy meat.
Natchitoches is home to Northwestern State University. Just a short drive away is the Cane River National Historical Park, which includes Oakland and Magnolia plantations. And for retirees who want a modern, no-maintenance lifestyle, the St. Denis Place condominiums in the heart of the historic district are perfect.
Enjoying Small-Town Life
For those who want a retirement with a little slower pace, Crossroads offers an abundance of small towns, each with its own character. Alexandria and Pineville, on opposite sides of the Red River, are popular choices. In fact, Alexandria this year was named by Forbes magazine as one of the Top 25 places in America to retire.
Alexandria’s draws include the Louisiana Maneuvers and Military Museum and the Alexandria Museum of Art, as well as the Arna Bontemps African-American Museum and Cultural Arts Center. For those who want to retire in an older home with lots of character, Alexandria’s Garden District is a good place to look. Just minutes away is England Oaks, a retirement community for people 55 and older.
Pineville residents enjoy walking and bird-watching at the Forts Randolph & Buhlow State Historic Site. The Civil War site includes earthen forts with ramparts between them, ideal for walks.
If you want to “hit the books” for pleasure or to qualify for another career, Alexandria has a branch of Louisiana State University and Pineville is home to Louisiana College. Residents have two regional hospitals to handle medical needs, and Pineville has a Veterans Administration hospital, as well.
Other popular small towns in the Crossroads are Vidalia, with its renovated river walk and nearby Frogmore Cotton Plantation and Gins; Winnfield, where the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame salutes the state’s colorful politicos such as Huey and Earl Long; and Ferriday, whose Delta Music Museum highlights Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino. In Marksville, you can try your luck at the Paragon Casino Resort and learn about the state’s prehistoric American Indians at the Marksville State Historic Site.
Louisiana has many beautiful outdoor destinations, and Crossroads is blessed with its fair share. At Hodges Gardens State Park, between the towns of Many and Leesville, you’ll enjoy a 225-acre lake, ideal for fishing, as well as hiking, biking and walking trails. The park’s formal and natural gardens are lovely places to stop and reflect.
The Kisatchie National Forest, which ranges over seven parishes, offers lots of opportunities for fishing, hunting, bird-watching and camping. The Toledo Bend Reservoir is another popular spot for swimming, boating and picnicking.
Indoors and out, small town and big city, the Crossroads gives people the choices they want as they enjoy their retirement years.