Monroe-West Monroe Great Outdoors
By Vange Tapia
Have you ever received a pleasant surprise from a total stranger? To start the day in Monroe and West Monroe, Louisiana, my companions and I stopped at a drive-thru cafeteria where we were surprised by the cashier who informed us that the car in front of us just paid our bill to do something special for others. What a good deed for the day! We immediately joined this initiative and we paid the bill of the car behind us.
This is the hospitality of Louisiana. We felt this welcome vibe everywhere we visited during our outdoor excursions in Monroe and West Monroe.
Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge
To begin our visit with a flourish, we decided to get lost in the vivid nature of the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge. This beautiful natural area is just a stone’s throw from Monroe but feels so wonderfully remote.
We first stopped at the visitors’ centre, located in a historic house. There is also a conservation centre, where we learned about the native wildlife. The star of this refuge is a huge lake where there were people fishing. I even had a chance to visit and go canoeing near the swamp. There is a wonderful pier that extends into the lake and the viewing scopes give you a chance to check out the nature and animals a little closer. It was amazing to view the wildlife, including alligators!
Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo
The Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo is a small zoo, but it delivers big on unique animals. There are very active and friendly monkeys, a hippo, snakes, a zebra, a kangaroo and so much more. My favourite was the tiger, which you get to see very close – much closer than in a larger zoo. For children (and adults), there is a neat petting zoo.
I highly recommend taking the river cruise. Cruising along the water gave me a chance to see the animals from a different vantage point and the tour guide was very informative.
Have you ever tried a wine called "Redneck Red?" This and many others are the kind of original combinations you can taste at Landry Vineyards about 10 minutes outside of West Monroe.
Normally, I would not associate a vineyard with the outdoors, but Landry is an exception. There are gorgeous outdoor vineyards that you can appreciate up close during a tour, or just admire from the tasting room. Surprising to me, Landry is a very family-friendly establishment. There are outdoor concerts during the spring and summer on their large lawn area where families and friends gather to enjoy the weather and music. You’re even allowed to bring your own picnic!
Whatever your style for outdoor adventures, you will find something for you in Monroe and West Monroe, Louisiana.