Welcome to Natchitoches, Louisiana’s oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, where charming streets wind through this enchanting destination.
Along the banks of the Cane River Lake, Natchitoches celebrates its rich heritage and embraces a vibrant culture. From its well-preserved historic buildings to its mouthwatering Cajun and Creole cuisine, this town offers a sensory experience like no other.
Stroll through the picturesque downtown, and admire the blend of French, Spanish, African, and Native American influences. You’ll discover a charming cultural kaleidoscope. Immerse yourself in the vibrant local arts scene, indulge in Southern delicacies, or ride a boat along the tranquil waterways.
Historical Significance of Natchitoches
Natchitoches, founded in 1714 as part of the Spanish Province of Texas, is the oldest permanent settlement in the state of Louisiana. Its history dates back even further, as it was originally a Native American trading post long before European settlers arrived. The town’s name is derived from the Natchitoches people, a Native American Indian tribe that once inhabited the area.
Throughout the centuries, Natchitoches has witnessed the rise and fall of empires, Civil War tragedies, and the growth of Louisiana’s cultural melting pot.
It was incorporated as a town in 1779 and became a city in 1819.
Today, visitors explore the town’s rich history through its well-preserved historic buildings, such as the French Creole-style Prudhomme-Rouquier House and the 18th-century Fort St. Jean Baptiste. These architectural landmarks provide a fascinating backdrop for the town’s vibrant present.
Natchitoches is a city and the parish seat of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, located on the banks of the Cane River. The Steel Magnolias movie was filmed at a plantation home, now a Bed and Breakfast accommodation. Other movies filmed in Natchitoches are O Brother Where Art Thou?, A Walk to Remember, and Ray.
Explore the Charming Streets of Natchitoches
As you wander through the charming streets of Natchitoches, you’ll find yourself easing into a slower routine. The historic downtown district, with its brick-paved sidewalks and wrought-iron balconies, exudes a timeless charm that is hard to resist.
Front Street, the town’s main thoroughfare, has beautifully restored buildings that house various shops, galleries, and restaurants.
Stop to visit the Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile Store, a true time capsule that has continuously operated since 1863. Step inside, and you’ll be surrounded by shelves stocked with goods that reflect the region’s history.
The town’s historic district is home to numerous art galleries and local artisan craft displays, where you can admire and purchase works by those who draw inspiration from the region’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.
Must-Visit Attractions in Natchitoches
Natchitoches offers a wealth of attractions that showcase its unique blend of history and culture.
One of the highlights is the Natchitoches National Historic Landmark District, a 33-block area encompassing the town’s most significant historic buildings. Take a self-guided walking tour. Explore landmarks such as the Old Courthouse Museum, which houses exhibits on the town’s history, and the Roque House, a beautifully restored Creole townhouse that explains the lives of the town’s early inhabitants.
To sample the town’s French heritage, head to the Cane River Creole National Historical Park, to visit Oakland Plantation, a preserved 19th-century plantation. The park also offers scenic walking trails that meander through lush gardens and along the banks of the Cane River.
Take a walk or bike ride through one of the city’s parks. These were highlighted in many of the scenes in the film Steel Magnolias. This movie (1989) is about the friendship and shared heartaches of women in a small southern town. Shelby (Julia Roberts) is preparing for her wedding, and her mother, M’Lynn (Sally Field), is by her side through the laughter and the tears. Dolly Parton plays Truvy, the owner of the beauty parlor. These award-winning actresses bring a heart-wrenching story to life.
Local Cuisine and Dining Options in Natchitoches
While visiting Natchitoches, indulge in the town’s mouthwatering Cajun and Creole cuisines. From spicy jambalaya to savory crawfish étouffée, local restaurants serve a tantalizing array of Southern delicacies that satisfy even the most discerning palate.
Be sure to try the famous Natchitoches meat pie, a savory pastry filled with a delicious mix of ground beef, pork, and spices. Lasyone’s Meat Pie Kitchen, a local favorite, has served these delectable treats since 1967.
If you’re in the mood for seafood, the Maglieaux’s offers a menu that showcases a broad menu prepared with a Creole/Italian flair. The deck offers a beautiful view of the Cane River.
Indulge in Natchitoches’ renowned pralines for a delightful conclusion to your meal. These buttery treats are made with pecans and sugar.
Festivals and Events Central Louisiana
Natchitoches knows how to celebrate, and throughout the year, the town comes alive with various festivals and events that showcase its vibrant culture.
The Natchitoches Christmas Festival is a month-long celebration culminating in spectacular fireworks over Cane River Lake. The town becomes a magical winter wonderland, with thousands of twinkling lights adorning the historic downtown. The festival features live music, holiday parades, and a variety of food vendors serving up traditional Southern treats.
Other notable events include the Natchitoches Jazz and R&B Festival, which attracts world-class musicians from across the country every summer, and the Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival, a celebration of the region’s folk traditions, music, and crafts.
Outdoor Activities and Natural Beauty Near the Cane River
Natchitoches is blessed with natural beauty, and outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to explore in the surrounding area. The Cane River National Heritage Trail offers scenic hiking and biking trails that wind through the picturesque countryside. This trail offers stunning views of the river and its lush surroundings.
The nearby Kisatchie National Forest is a haven for nature lovers, with its sprawling forests, sparkling lakes, and abundant wildlife. Spend a day exploring the forest’s trails or pack a picnic and enjoy a leisurely afternoon by one of the many scenic lakes. There are five locations in the forest for RV camping.
For a memorable water experience, take a leisurely boat ride along the Cane River, where you can admire the town’s historic waterfront and soak in the tranquility of the waterways.
Natchitoches offers a variety of shopping opportunities, with a mix of charming boutiques, antique stores, and specialty shops.
Front Street is home to several unique stores where you can find everything from handmade jewelry to local artwork. Visit the Natchitoches Farmers Market, where you can browse a wide selection of fresh produce, homemade goodies, and locally made crafts.
For a taste of Natchitoches’ culinary delights, head to the Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile Store, where you can stock up on local products such as spices, hot sauces, and of course, some personal mementos.
One more stop on the tour. For the perfect souvenir to commemorate your visit, stop by the Natchitoches Historic Foundation’s gift shop, where you can find items that showcase the town’s rich history and culture.
Natchitoches Lodging Accommodations for Overnight Stays
Natchitoches offers accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. Whether you prefer a luxurious riverfront hotel or a cozy bed and breakfast (BnB), you’ll find plenty of choices. The historic downtown area has several boutique hotels, guesthouses, and B&Bs that offer a unique blend of modern comforts and old-world charm.
Church Street Inn offers boutique elegance in the downtown shopping and dining district.
If you prefer a more secluded setting, consider staying at a cabin along the Cane River. Relax at a peaceful retreat surrounded by nature, with stunning river views and easy access to outdoor activities. Read more about The Cabins of Horseshoe Hills Ranch.
Whatever your preference, you will find a comfortable and inviting place to rest your head in Natchitoches.
Day Trips from Natchitoches
Venture to the captivating Cane River Creole National Historical Park, where preserved plantations and scenic landscapes paint an insightful picture of Louisiana’s rich history.
For nature enthusiasts, a visit to the Kisatchie National Forest unveils endless trails, picturesque waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. And just a short drive away, immerse yourself in New Orleans and the World War 2 Museum.
Visit the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum. This is a must-see location for anyone who loves sports and the local history of sports in Louisiana.
Natchitoches, Louisiana’s oldest town, invites you to embark on a day of discovery through its charming streets and rich heritage. From its well-preserved historic buildings to its vibrant arts scene, this town offers a blend of history, culture, and natural beauty that will captivate your heart. So come and experience the magic of Louisiana’s oldest town for yourself – you won’t be disappointed.