Locals might describe the Shreveport-Bossier area of Louisiana as a slab of East Texas seasoned with a heaping helping of Cajun spice.
While some hop aboard its riverboat casinos or cheer on a horse at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs, others gather for one of the popular festivals. The upcoming Red River Revel Arts Festival in early October combines visual arts with live music. Acts set to appear include the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Blind Boys of Alabama and LoCash Cowboys.
Yet, whatever the inspiration to visit Shreveport-Bossier, several tourist attractions appeal to a wide range of visitors. Here are a handful.
Where do chimpanzees go becoming unwanted pets or after a career of medical research and standing in front of movie cameras? This sanctuary, located approximately 22 miles southwest of Shreveport, allows chimps to be chimps. Chimp Haven sits on 200 acres featuring a host of amenities that make these primates feel right at home. You might see a chimpanzee kicking back in a nest built from trees and plants in the wooded habitat. Others can be found swinging and climbing on the looming trees and massive play structures. The living situation, designed to be as close to a wild chimpanzee habitat as possible, allows chimps to hang out by themselves or spend time in larger social groups. Chimp Haven’s support staff keeps tabs on the animals, offering full veterinary service and food preparation.
The 164 chimpanzee residents at Chimp Haven have a variety of backgrounds and stories. Arguably one of the more high profile chimps is connected to former “The Price is Right” host Bob Barker. After hearing about a quintet of male chimps no longer needed for medical research, Barker donated the cost of their care for one year and $230,000 to Chimp Haven to help in the construction of bedrooms and a habitat for the animals.
Although it isn’t a zoo, and Chimp Haven doesn’t regularly open its doors to the public, you can plan a Shreveport vacation around one of the sanctuary’s Chimpanzee Discovery Days. That’s when guests are allowed to step inside for a morning of education and entertainment. As visitors witness the chimps doing their thing in the forest setting, the staff explains the natural behavior and personality traits of the animals. You may just see the young and inquisitive Valentina Rose, the often noisy Hamlet. or Sheena, a deaf female who prefers to drink from a cup or bucket.
9 a.m.-noon Sept. 21; 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Oct. 19; 9 a.m.-noon Nov. 16. $10; $5 ages 6-12; free ages 5 and younger. Chimp Haven, 13600 Chimpanzee Place, Keithville, La. 318-925-9575, www.chimphaven.org.
The Outlets at Louisiana Boardwalk
This shopping and entertainment destination sits right on the banks of the Red River. Visitors can walk the sprawling grounds or hop the Magnolia Belle trolley to soak up all of the options. A Banana Republic Factory Outlet, Nike Factory Store, Fossil watch shop and Gap Outlet are among the many popular pit stops. The enormous Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World proves to be an attraction in itself. The 106,000 square-foot store is more than just a big hunk of retail. Its alligator pond plays host to turtles and five alligators. The 13,000 gallon aquarium and reptile exhibit draw onlookers. The Boardwalk’s Regal Theater offers first-run fare and an IMAX option.
Vacationers wishing to set up shop near the Boardwalk have several lodging options. Grown-up activities, from gambling to cocktails to rock shows, take place at the Margaritaville Resort Casino, at the far east end of the complex adjacent to Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World. Margaritaville’s Paradise Theater, an 850-seat concert hall, features familiar names in an intimate setting. Upcoming shows include Rick Springfield (Sept. 14), Travis Tritt (Sept. 27), Eddie Money (Oct. 5) and The Four Tops (Oct. 18). On the opposite end of the Boardwalk is a Courtyard by Marriott. Those with kids in tow may appreciate this location as it’s a short distance away from the Boardwalk’s carousel.
The Boardwalk has more than a dozen food and snack options with some restaurants offering river views. Of course, you’ll find easy pleasers for the average palette. Joe’s Crab Shack and Copelands Cheesecake Bistro offer familiarity. Others may opt to indulge at Saltgrass Steak House or Sushiko Sushi & Grill.
After visiting the Boardwalk some suggest zipping across the nearby Texas Street Bridge, which holds the title as the largest neon-framed bridge in the country. It’ll take you into downtown Shreveport. That’s where you’ll find RiverView Park with its dancing water fountains and towering steel roses that change color at night.
The Outlets at Louisiana Boardwalk, 100 Bass Pro Drive, Bossier City, La. 318-752-1455, www.louisianaboardwalk.com.
Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center
Guests of all ages can shout out Thomas Dolby’s mantra of discovery, “Science!” as they converge upon this 92,000 square-foot science and entertainment facility. A slew of galleries offer a wealth of hands-on exhibits and interactive activities. From exploring the inner space of the human body at BodyWorks to getting a close look at frogs, snakes and alligators at the Red River Gallery, visitors get a well-rounded scientific immersion.
The Space Dome Planetarium boasts a 16-million pixel laser projection system and features a variety of educational planetary films and live presenter-led shows. Sci-Port’s IMAX Dome Theatre remains the only IMAX dome in the state. The 60-foot dome screen is known to transport viewers to the arctic, into the skies and inside the human body. IMAX tickets can be purchased separately or in a combination package with Sci-Port admission.
Traveling exhibits make their way to Sci-Port, including the upcoming Lego Castle Adventure. Opening on October 5 and running through January 12 of next year, this exhibit allows guests to build brick castles while learning about real castles in the process. Tots who dig dressing up can put on their royal best, while older visitors can craft a virtual wall and see how it holds up against a virtual catapult. Don’t forget the camera. Giant Lego brick models will be on display, including a mother dragon and her babe.
Special events are held periodically, including Science on the Rocks, which takes place on the first Thursday of each month. Those age 21 and older learn about science in an entertaining adult oriented environment. Past themes have included the science of attraction, hypnosis and the science of beer. This event takes place at Sci-Port and other area venues. Tickets typically cost $15 and include one cocktail and appetizers, provided by Buffalo Wild Wings. Future events include the science of horror films (Oct. 3) and the science of food (Nov. 7).
9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; noon-5 p.m. Sundays. $13; $10 ages 3-12, 60 and older and military with valid I.D. Sci-Port: Louisiana’s Science Center, 820 Clyde Fant Parkway, Shreveport. 318-424-3466, www.sciport.org.