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Natchitoches, Louisiana, is filled with stories. In the oldest city in the Louisiana Purchase territory, one would expect to hear stories. Some are well known accounts; some are surprising narratives and some are the ever-changing chronicles of a contemporary city. These stories of the people and places of this unique Louisiana town make it one of those destinations worth coming back to again and again.

In its picturesque location in north central Louisiana, this has been named one of the best small towns of the South. Natchitoches (pronounced Nack-a-tish) is easy to access via I-49 which connects to I-20 to the north in Shreveport and to I-10 in Lafayette, to the south. Commercial air service is just an hour away at the Alexandria International Airport and the Shreveport Regional Airport. Tourism is a natural, as historic routes such as El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail and the Jefferson Highway, the first paved international roadway, are accessible here.

Older than New Orleans, Natchitoches has preserved its history and continues to celebrate its past, beginning with its brick-paved streets along the banks of the Cane River. Two National Historic Districts–downtown Natchitoches and the campus of Northwestern State University–have preserved the early charm of the city. Downtown shops and restaurants, primarily locally owned and operated, inhabit beautiful historic buildings. Among them is the oldest general store in Louisiana, Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile.

The river has a story all its own. After the Red River was dammed by a 100-mile log jam, what is now Cane River Lake remained after the jam was cleared and still gives life today to a vibrant downtown, with a beautiful waterfront park. It is also the setting for the region’s most iconic event, the Natchitoches Christmas Festival, which runs from the Saturday before Thanksgiving through January 6th. Started in 1927, it is one of the oldest holiday festivals in the country and features more than 300,000 lights and 100-plus set pieces.

Any season is perfect for enjoying a river boat ride aboard the Cane River Queen. Or for a tour of the riverbanks and downtown streets on a classic horse drawn carriage ride. Those looking for more active outdoor fun take to the river aboard kayaks (paddle or pedal versions), SUPS or hydro bikes. The trails of Briarwood Nature Preserve (open seasonally) offer a glimpse of the area’s natural beauty and celebrate the legacy of world renown naturalist Caroline Dormon, the first woman hired by the U.S. Forest Service. Area attractions, from mining for lost treasure to walking among big gators, give visitors even more ways to enjoy time outdoors.

Natchitoches is also home to stories many hold dear, told through favorite movies, most notably “Steel Magnolias,” “Man in the Moon” and the John Wayne classic, “The Horse Soldiers.” The Natchitoches Film Trail features many of the iconic sites where movie scenes were filmed.

Some of the area’s most enduring stories are those of the relationships formed as the city and regional economy grew. Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site tells the story of first settlements and peaceful interactions among European settlers and natives. Three preserved plantations tell the stories of all the people who worked, owned and nurtured the land. At the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum, more of the region’s culture and history are preserved, and the influence of Louisiana athletes is celebrated.

And, of course, it is impossible to overstate the relationship this destination has with the meat pie. The world-famous Natchitoches meat pie is just the beginning of the culinary story here. There is classic Creole, flavorful Cajun or simply Southern; white tablecloth and a wine list or casual dining with the latest microbrew on tap, the choices are many and it’s all just plain good! There’s always a seat at the table and story to be told in Natchitoches.

Fast Facts

  • Visitors to historic Natchitoches are frequently heard stumbling over the city’s name (pronounced Nack-a-tish). It is a Caddo Indian word meaning “Chinquapin eaters.”
  • Natchitoches, the original French Colony in Louisiana, was founded by Louis Juchereau de St. Denis in 1714.
  • Natchitoches is located in Central Louisiana off Interstate 49.
  • It’s the oldest city in Louisiana and home to the Cane River National Heritage Area, one of only two in the state of Louisiana.
  • Natchitoches commemorated its 300th anniversary in 2014, making it the oldest permanent settlement in the entire Louisiana Purchase.
  • St. Augustine Catholic Church and Cemetery were founded in 1803 and is the first Roman Catholic Church established by and for people of color in the U.S.
  • Clementine Hunter painted the African House murals in only 6 weeks in June-July 1955.
  • Natchitoches is known as the Bed & Breakfast Capitol of Louisiana with more than 30 bed and breakfasts!

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