|New Land of the Jaguar section at Alexandria Zoo|
|Draped Mirror at Kent Plantation House|
|Purple Funeral China at Kent Plantation House|
|One aisle in Silver dollar Pawn and Jewelry Shop|
|Martin Luther King Hearse|
|Jerry Lee Lewis Diamond Ring|
The small Alexandrian zoo is a surprise in a town this size. Opened in 1926, accredited Alexandria Zoological Parkhouses 500 animals and has the unique Louisiana Habitat section complete with alligators. Land of the Jaguar had just opened when I visited and contained an active ocelot, an unusual Tyra, Chilean flamingos and a huge Giant Anteater. In the Asian area, a beautiful white Bengal tiger lounged comfortably by the fence, allowing close viewing. This zoo is a perfect size for younger children but engaging to all.
|Bengal Tiger at Alexandria Zoo|
|Original Eli Whitney cotton gin|
|Cotton Picking Sacks|
Just over an hour’s drive from Alexandria is Frogmore Plantation and Gin, an 1800 acre working, historical cotton farm complete with old and new cotton gins. Reconstructed slave quarters include the cook cabin, overseers dog trot, and commissary. The tour traces the history of cotton and, in particular, its harvesting. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin removed seeds from the cotton and replaced 50 working slaves. After slavery came share cropping. Lynette Tanner, owner of the plantation, even talked about modern day cotton and China’s predatory pricing tactics. Check before you go, but often the family can don long cotton sacks and try picking cotton by hand. Your kids will never complain of chores again.
Surrounding Alexandria are National Forests with good hiking trails. Unfortunately, our visit was during the government closing of parks and we only hiked a small part of the Kisatchie National Forest. But that was enough to realize the potential for sustained hiking in the area. The Wild Azalea Trail is Louisiana’s longest hiking trail, measuring in at 31 miles. Bicycles may also be rented, allowing families to use cycling trails. For fishing, try Kincaid Lake Recreation Area.
Unless you are a real history buff, you may not know of Alexandria’s important military past. In the Red River Campaign of the Civil War, the Union Army was stopped here from progressing further and taking Louisiana and Texas. The story of Bailey’s dam is illustrated at Fts. Randolph and Buloh State Historic Site. And during World War II, this area was humming with soldiers and bigwig officers. In the Louisiana Maneuvers, soldiers trained for entry into WWII at four bases and practiced throughout the nearby Louisiana countryside. The Louisiana and Military Maneuvers Museum will tell you more. (409 F Street Pineville, Louisiana 71360
In the past, you could have followed the Red River from northern Lamar County to Alexandria. Today, just head to Texarkana and turn south. There’s plenty to see on the way but save time for Alexandria and environs.