Natchitoches (pronounced NAK-uh-tish), the oldest permanent settlement in modern-day Louisiana, was founded in 1714 by a French-Canadian Louis Antoine Juchereau de St. Denis while he was on a trade mission from Mobile, Alabama, to Mexico. When he reached the Natchitoches Indian village, he built two huts on the Cane River, left a small detachment to trade with the native people, and thereby established the first permanent Louisiana settlement.
Natchitoches is a one-of-a-kind community brimming with history, culture, shopping, recreation, and unique creole and cajun cuisine.
Things To Do In Natchitoches
Natchitoches National Historic Landmark District
At the heart of Natchitoches lies 33 city blocks with more than 100 historical structures serving as a shopping and dining experience and a bed and breakfast lover’s dream. Take a horse-drawn carriage tour and admire elegant old homes with ornate wrought-iron balconies brimming with colorful flowers. Explore unique shops and restaurant destinations with flavors that stem from French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Indian, African, Cajun, and Creole cuisine. Sample gumbo, crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, bananas Foster, and the famous Natchitoches meat pies.
Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile Store
The oldest retail store in Natchitoches, the Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile Store, was established at the height of the Civil War in 1863 by Jewish Prussian immigrants Adolph and Harris Kaffie. Run by three generations of the Frederick family, you’ll find a little bit of everything here: souvenirs, toys, hard-to-find items, and some things you didn’t know you needed.
Steel Magnolias Film Tour
The 1989 hit movie Steel Magnolias put Natchitoches on the map over 30 years ago as one of the South’s most charming towns. Follow this map to see some of the filming sites like Steel Magnolias House, the Eatenton home, a bed and breakfast on Jefferson, Shelby’s wedding at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Melrose, and the Easter egg hunt at Beau Jardin.
The Minor Basilica Of The Immaculate Conception
Dating back to 1717, the double domes of the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception share the beauty of the stained glass and the serenity of God’s presence. Take a seat for a few minutes, find peace, or light a candle for someone who needs prayer.
Louisiana Sports Hall Of Fame And Northwest Louisiana History Museum
As you explore proud moments of Louisiana sports history with sports memorabilia, interactive videos, and touch screen displays, you’ll recognize sports heroes Archie Manning, Shaquille O’Neal, Terry Bradshaw, and Karl Malone as household names. Trace the evolution of unique cultural traditions from early native-American civilizations to the present at the Northwest Louisiana History Museum.
One of the most architecturally significant homes in the Natchitoches Historic District, the Prudhomme-Roquier House was constructed between 1790 and 1811 as a French-Creole building. It was remodeled in 1825 to include a Federal or Greek Revival style. The Service League of Natchitoches purchased the house in 1976 and has restored and renovated the home using several grant funds, including revenue from the sale of Creole cuisine cookbooks. Private tours by appointment.
Constructed by a freed slave named Yves, The Roque House is a fine example of French Creole architecture, dating to 1803. The home was moved to the riverbank in downtown Natchitoches in 1967, where it served as a museum for many years. Later, it became the headquarters for the Cane River National Heritage Area Commission.
Cane River National Heritage Trail
Many plantations were built along Cane River Lake’s fertile banks, creating a thoroughfare and trading hub. You’ll find a unique mixture of French, Spanish, Creole, African, and Native American influences that’s more than 300 years old. This Louisiana Scenic Byway stretches from the Spanish Presidio of Los Adaes to the southern tip of Natchitoches Parish, encompassing military history, historic plantations, and Creole culture and cuisine.
The Cane River Creole National Historical Park
The Cane River Creole National Historical Park consists of the Oakland Plantation and the outbuildings of the Magnolia Plantation, which represent everyday life on a Creole plantation from the 1700s to the 1960s. These two are the most intact Creole cotton plantations in the United States, representing the same families of owners and workers living on these lands for over 200 years.
Oakland Plantation resembled a small town with 17 original outbuildings, including two pigeonniers, an overseer’s house, a log corn crib, a carriage house, a cook’s cabin, a mule barn, a carpenter shop, and cabins. This National Bicentennial Farm represents one of only two farms west of the Mississippi River and is located in Natchitoches Parish.
The Magnolia Plantation complex of outbuildings sits on 18 acres and included a gin barn, eight brick cabins, a blacksmith shop, a plantation store, and a slave hospital that housed the owner and overseer. The gin barn houses a wood screw cotton press, the last such press remaining in the U.S. The main house is privately owned and not open to the public.
Melrose Plantation was founded in 1796 by Louis Metoyer, one of the 10 Franco-African children of Marie Therese Coincoin — an influential woman freed from slavery who went on to have great influence in the area — and Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer. Their descendants began the Isle Brevelle community, which continues today. Explore the work of American folk artist Clementine Hunter and her famous African House Murals. Hug the giant Melrose live oak tree out front while you’re there.
Saline Bayou Paddle Trail
Specially protected for conservation, a National Wild and Scenic River stretching 21 miles features canopies of colossal cypress, moss-draped tupelo trees, woodpeckers, bird calls, otters, and the lapping of your paddle in the water as you maneuver your canoe or kayak.
National Fish Hatchery And Aquarium
One of 69 federal fish hatcheries across the United States, the National Fish Hatchery and Aquarium in Natchitoches is home to many different fish species, including alligator gar, alligator snapping turtles, freshwater mussels, and recreational fish. Dedicated to the Caddo Indian Nation, who lived and died on the land now occupied by the National Fish Hatchery, the aquarium teaches the Caddo way of life and displays a dedicated memorial plaza.
Grand Ecore Visitors Center
The Grand Ecore is known for its role during the Civil War as a Confederate outpost guarding the Red River against Union advancement. Exhibits and outdoor displays tower on a bluff 80 feet above the river. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Cane River National Heritage Area have joined forces to run community outreach, educational programs, and heritage tourism initiatives from the site.
Carriage Tours With Cane River Carriage Company
Take a guided tour of the Natchitoches Landmark Historic District with a horse and carriage ride. Hours vary. Call ahead for times and prices for adults and children.
The Old Courthouse Museum
The Old Courthouse Building houses the Museum with the Genealogy Library on the second floor. The building, constructed in 1896, is an example of the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture with arched, recessed windows and a prominent central tower.
Queen River Boat Tours On The Cane River
Take a leisurely river cruise aboard the Cane River Queen, a red, white, and blue riverboat that quietly floats along the Cane River Lake.
Best Restaurants In Natchitoches
Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant
First on your list, get the Lasyone’s Meat Pie, your authentic Creole Cuisine experience in Natchitoches. You’ll find red beans and rice with sausage, a Southern-fried catfish platter, hotcakes, and smoked sausage.
Pro Tip: Save room for homemade bread pudding with rum sauce and Lasyone’s famous Cane River cream pie.
Merci Beaucoup Restaurant
I like the Mini Crawfish Pies here. Plus, indulge in the seafood platter with catfish strips, jumbo fried shrimp, and a crab cake topped with crawfish etouffee, served with a stuffed potato or onion rings. Purchase the meat pies by the dozen, gallons of chicken and sausage gumbo, or lemonade tea.
Pro Tip: Save room for the Louisiana Sin Bar, a Chocolate lover’s delight, or lemon icebox pie.
Maglieaux’s Riverfront Restaurant
Maglieaux’s specializes in Italian and New Orleans Creole cuisine with riverside patio and deck seating and beautiful indoor dining. You can get your meat pies here, plus seafood cannelloni, crabmeat-stuffed chicken breast, fried oysters, or shrimp po’boys.
Pro Tip: Save room for the chocolate silk pie or pecan pie a la mode.
Best Hotels In Natchitoches
Sweet Cane Inn Bed And Breakfast
Sweet Cane Inn is a century-old Victorian home featuring a wall of stained-glass windows at the top of the stairs, 12-foot ceilings, 11 fireplaces, and seven individually decorated spacious rooms and suites. Enjoy full breakfasts and afternoon wine with homemade chocolate chip cookies on the outdoor patio.
Judge Porter House Bed And Breakfast
The antiques-filled 1912-era Judge Porter House Bed and Breakfast serves a two-course breakfast, and the stately rooms offer all the modern amenities.
Steel Magnolia House Bed And Breakfast
You’ll find nothing but genuine Southern hospitality here at Steel Magnolia House, the anchor for the famous movie filmed in historic Natchitoches. Enjoy a traditional breakfast for a full bed and breakfast experience.
Here in Natchitoches, you learn to say, “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (pronounced Lay-say lay boh(n) toh(n) roo-lay). Let the good times roll! For more Louisiana inspiration, consider: