Southeastern Regional Guide: Explore all our region has in store

Sure, there are a lot of great things to do in Louisiana, but just outside the state are many terrific places to see, from the hills and sky of Texas to the little towns in the other Southern states. Take a short drive and a long weekend and find out about the hidden treasures in our region.

An easy day trip from Baton Rouge, Slidell or New Orleans, Hattiesburg, Miss. offers the ambiance and ease of a southern town with lots to see and do. Visitors can check out the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum, the African-American Military History Museum, the Hattiesburg Zoo and the All-American Rose Garden. Or just wander the streets of Historic Downtown Hattiesburg with its unique shops, galleries, and restaurants. In autumn, Hattiesburg comes alive with festivals and special events. Beginning in October, visit the Historic Train Depot to see the hypnotic exhibit, Breaking the Veils, which features women artists from the Islamic world. Or get down at Live After Five, a weekly outdoor concert series that brings live shows to Historic Downtown Hattiesburg each Friday in October. The 12th Biennial Fiber Art & Quilt Show, Oct. 10-12 at the Lake Terrace Convention Center brings together fiber artists and quilt enthusiasts to Mississippi’s largest quilt show for a weekend of lectures, workshops and contests (visit www.pinebeltquilters.com for more information). There’s also the Mobile Street Renaissance Festival, the Fall Art Walk, and so much more.
For more information visit www.visithattie.com, or the Hattiesburg Visitors Center at the intersection of Hwy. 49 and I-59, open Mon. through Sat. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Set high on a bluff overlooking the mighty Mississippi River, Vicksburg, Miss. is a unique blend of old and new in a city that offers plenty to see and do. From the specialty shops of historic downtown, to the modern Pemberton Mall, and on to the outlet mall, shoppers experience a relaxed atmosphere and friendly people. The Vicksburg National Military Park captures a piece of American history while the Waterways Experiment Station beckons allows visitors to encounter tomorrow’s engineering marvels up close. Riverboats docked along the “Mighty Mississippi” provide games of chance, not to mention a spectacular view of “Ole Man River.”
   
Come to Vicksburg in October for a variety of events. Oct. 4, spend a day of fun for the whole family at the Downtown Fall Festival. There will be carnival treats, live entertainment, great sidewalk sales, and lots of children’s activities and street exhibits. Oct. 4 is also the day of the Old Court House Flea Market with lots of relics, treasures, plants and food. Later in the month, watch ghosts and ghouls take over the town at the 19th Annual Halloween Parade and Costume Contest. In November, come tour three private homes during the Fall Tour of Homes.
   
Fun trip itineraries and more information are available at www.vicksburgcvb.org. Enjoy small town ambience and friendly faces in Brenham located in Washington County, Texas. An hour west of Houston, in the heart of central Texas, Brenham offers a laid-back atmosphere, beautiful rolling hills and winding roads, and unique culture. You’ll find a wide variety of activities, great dining and shopping options and a generous selection of lodging properties to choose from. Get close to nature at the Monastery Miniature Horse Farm or Americana Alpacas, taste the sweet life at the Blue Bell Creameries, or soak up the past at Washington-on the-Brazos State Historic Site, the Burton Cotton Gin & Museum, the Flying Horses Antique Carousel or the Giddings-Wilkin House. The Unity Theatre and the Dr. W.W. O’Donnell Performing Arts Center bring the arts to life, and sports enthusiasts can get their fill at Brenham’s many parks and trails. This fall, come celebrate in Brenham. Festivals and special events include the 140th Washington County Fair, Autumn Fest at the Monastery, the 32nd annual Chappell Hill Scarecrow Festival, the Poinsettia Celebration, and more. There’s always something happening in Washington County, the birthplace of Texas. Visit www.brenhamtexas.com to see more and download an interactive brochure. For a true experience, go west to Texas Big Sky country and visit Odessa. Odessa offers great attractions and friendly people. Hospitality is a big part of the Odessa experience, and there are plenty of lodgings, from camping to four-star hotels, to hang a hat at the day’s end. Odessa offers great shopping, museums, cultural attractions, and entertainment. Dine at area restaurants, from down-home barbecue to delicious Mexican. There are plenty of fun and educational activities for children, too. In September, come to Odessa for the Permian Basin Fair and Exposition Sept. 5-13. Or take in the Bard at The Southwest Shakespeare Festival Sept. 1-31, with performances at a Texas replica of the Globe Theater. The Permian Basin Intertribal Powwow, Sept. 27-28, lets visitors experience traditional Native American cultures. There’s also the CAF Air Show, Celt Festexas, and the Hot Diggity Hawg Fest. If sports are more your game, watch the Odessa Jackalope Ice Hockey team battle it out on the ice.
   
For more information about Odessa, visit www.odessacvb.com. Enjoy the outdoors, just like the cowboys of yesterday did, in Bandera County, Texas. With great honky-tonks, wonderful scenery, and a chance to rope and ride, Bandera offers visitors a slice of a simpler time. Come be treated as family and enjoy local activities like horseback riding and hiking. Or learn what it was like way back when at the Frontier Times Museum. In Bandera County, guests will find lush, rolling hills, limestone outcroppings, pristine lakes and streams, crisp air and bright skies filled with stars. Stay at one of the area’s dude ranches, bed and breakfasts, or guest houses and cabins. In fall, come for cooling weather and great celebrations. The Medina Lake Cajun Festival held the 4th Saturday in September brings Louisiana to Texas with top Cajun bands and authentic food. In October, Medina has a popular Pumpkin Patch, or drive out to see the foliage at Lost Maples State Natural Area.
 
To find out more about what to see and do in Bandera, visit www.banderacowboycapital.com. Located 90 miles west of Shreveport, Tyler, Texas is the rose capital of the U.S. Stroll down the red-bricked streets that wind throughout downtown or take in the area’s piney woods, historical architecture and southern traditions. Take in the theater, the ballet or the symphony. Enjoy outdoor activities like golf and fishing, or spend the day shopping. Tyler has plenty of antique centers and also hosts First Monday Trade Days in Canton, the third largest flea market in the nation with over 6,000 vendors. For the family, the Caldwell Zoo lets kids go wild! Discovery Science Place and the Hudnall Planetarium offer great opportunities for learning and fun. In September, go for the Festival on the Square, a day-long celebration of arts, music and recreation held in the historic heart of Tyler. This year, the City of Roses celebrates its 75th annual Texas Rose Festival, Oct. 16-19, 2008. The 2008 Texas Rose Festival will include the Queen’s Coronation, the Queen’s Tea, and the one and only Rose Parade.

Visit www.visittyler.com for money-saving coupons, promotions and more information.

Or why not see it all? Explore good cheer along the Holiday Trail of Lights, which brings the holiday events of six cities across the two states together to celebrate the season. With stops at Natchitoches, Shreveport, and Bossier City, Louisiana; and Marshall, Jefferson, and Kilgore, Texas, each a one-hour drive apart along the trail, visitors can experience the unique beauty of each city’s holiday celebrations. Experience food, fun, and splendor at stops along Interstates 20 and 49. The trail of lights is the only holiday tour of its kind and for more than a decade has delivered an amazing holiday experience.
   
Everything’s big in Texas, and it’s no different this season along the Holiday Trail of Lights. With more than a million sparkling red lights, Marshall’s historic Harrison County Courthouse becomes a marvel that draws thousands of spectators. In Jefferson, with its old, east Texas charm, tour beautifully-adorned antebellum homes on the Candlelight Tour of Homes. Or come see Kilgore, called the City of Stars, as it offers visitors “Christmas in the Oil Patch” at the World’s Richest Acre Park. Kilgore will light up replica oil derricks with Holiday lights and will offer a glimpse at what the town looked like some 60 years ago.
   
For more information visit www.holidaytrailoflights.com. 

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