Monroe-West Monroe, Louisiana: The Arts and Culture of Northeast Louisiana
Just when I thought I had seen it all in Louisiana, I discovered the Twin Cities: Monroe and West Monroe, scenically connected by the Ouachita River in the Northeast region of the Pelican State. With wonderful museums, vineyards, antique stores and restaurants, I found Monroe-West Monroe a great place to shop, eat and discover!
Discovering the Unexpected at Biedenharn Museum & Gardens
Did you know that for the first eight years, Coca-Cola was only available in a soda fountain bar? That is until in 1894, Joseph Biedenharn, a German, invented the Coca-Cola bottle. The Biedenharn Museum & Gardens honours the great inventor and business man who left an impressive home and art collection, which houses among other things an original Bible leaf hand-printed by another famous German: Gutenberg!
I don’t know what I enjoyed more there: the nostalgic Coke memorabilia, which includes the first Coca-Cola delivery truck, Biedenharn’s spectacular home, or the beautifully maintained English walled gardens. All I know is that a visit is a must.
Historic Aviation Treasures at the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum
Monroe definitely attracted great men! Located in the Selman Field Army Air Corps Navigation School, where 15,000 navigators were trained during World War II, the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum is named after Louisiana native Gen. Claire Lee Chennault, who headed up the famous Flying Tigers squadron.
In the military part of the museum, I found an impressive abundance of historic weaponry, uniforms and photographs dating from World War I to the present day. My favourite, however, was the exhibit in the aviation wing where the transformation of Delta Airlines from a regional crop-dusting service to a full-fledged passenger airline is chronicled. Who knew?
Masur Museum of Art
I visited the Masur Museum of Art based on a local recommendation. This was truly a treasure in Northeast Louisiana. The largest visual arts museum in the area, it is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
Many of the exhibits are on a rotating basis, so there is always something new to see. I loved that many of the pieces are from regional artists – it gave me an elevated appreciation of the people who live and work here in the American South. There is a small permanent collection of about 500 pieces as well. What was especially unique about this museum is that it hosts children’s events, which is not something you see very often in an art museum.
Best of all? There is no admission charge!
Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum
Speaking of kids, if you’re in the area with your children, the Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum has to be on your list. Kids can pretend to be a doctor (and even take care of babies in a mini neonatal intensive care unit), a dentist (there is a huge mouth to crawl into!) or check out a model of an inner ear. My favourite part was the little restaurant area set up to look and function like a real restaurant.
Monroe and West Monroe have so much to offer for arts enthusiasts of all ages!