Monroe, Louisiana is a fun city to visit, with many great old mansions that have been converted into museums. One of them, the Biedenharn Museum and Gardens, belonged to Mr. Biedenharn, the first person to bottle Coca-Cola, and has a small exhibition about the popular drink. Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo has almost 500 wild animals and a small petting zoo. Restored aircraft from WWII to today are on display at Chennault Aviation and Military Museum, while the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge protects endangered plants and animals and is great spot for hiking and nature watching. Hours/availability may have changed.

1.Northeast Louisiana African Heritage Museum

Northeast Louisiana African Heritage Museum
© Northeast Louisiana African Heritage Museum

Located just inside Monroe’s Chenault Park, the Northeast Louisiana Delta African Heritage Museum is a small museum founded in 1994 for the promotion and preservation of African-American culture through education and cultural and social events. The museum contains a range of research materials on the civil rights movement in the ‘60s in Northeast Louisiana. The museum organizes a series of relevant seminars and events that are open to the public. In addition, the museum supports and promotes art of the local artists Don Cincone, Agnes Hicks, and Bernard Menyweather by organizing regular shows of their art. The large museum space provides great venue for a range of social gatherings and celebrations.

1051 Chennault Park Dr. Monroe, LA 71203, Phone: 318-342-8889

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2.Biedenharn Museum and Gardens, Monroe, Louisiana

Biedenharn Museum and Gardens, Monroe, Louisiana
© Biedenharn Museum and Gardens

The Biedenharn Museum and Gardens is a house museum surrounded by the lush ElSong Gardens and built in 1913 by Joseph A. Biedenharn on the banks of the Ouachita River in Monroe, Louisiana. Biedenharn was known as the first person to bottle Coca-Cola. The house is furnished with the original furniture and decor from the time when his daughter Emma Louise lived in it. The historic house is open to the public and has two interesting museums: The Coca-Cola Museum, with Coca-Cola memorabilia, and the Bible Museum, which contains a collection of bibles and various biblical literature. The garden is divided into several thematic areas such as the Oriental Garden, a musical grotto, and the Four Seasons Garden.

2006 Riverside Dr, Monroe, LA 71201-4268, Phone: 318-387-5281

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3.Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge
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Black Bayou Lake is a protected wilderness area with a 1,700-acre lake, a visitors center, a restored planter's house, the Black Bayou Lake Environmental Education Center, an arboretum with more than 100 species of native Louisiana woody plants, a prairie area with native wildflowers and grasses, a mile-long raised nature trail, a 400-foot-long wildlife pier, a boat launch, an amphitheater, a pavilion, a raised observation deck, and several informational boots. The refuge support group Members of Friends of Black Bayou, Inc and its volunteers spend thousands of hours taking care of the refuge. The refuge is used by students and professors from the University of Louisiana at Monroe for research and by nature lovers for hiking nature observation, birdwatching, canoeing, kayaking, and picnicking.

480 Richland Place Dr, Monroe, LA 71203-8868, Phone: 318-387-1114

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4.Chennault Aviation and Military Museum, Monroe, Louisiana

Chennault Aviation and Military Museum, Monroe, Louisiana
© Chennault Aviation and Military Museum

The Chennault Aviation and Military Museum celebrates the impact that northeast Louisiana had on the military and aviation history of the country. The museum is located in the WWII Selman Field Army Air Corps Navigation School, one of the last buildings from this era still standing. The museum’s exhibits contain uniforms, weaponry, photographs, various documents, and all sorts of other artifacts. There is also constantly growing number of military aircraft located in the museum’s outside space. All branches of the military are represented, covering the period from WWI to the present day. There are also fascinating exhibits that feature Selman Field and Delta Airlines, which started in Monroe as a regional crop dusting company.

701 Kansas Ln, Monroe, LA 71203-4775, Phone: 318-362-5540

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5.Cooley House, Monroe, Louisiana

Cooley House, Monroe, Louisiana
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The Cooley House is an unusual house located in Monroe’s historic district, designed in 1908 by renowned architect Walter Burley Griffin for Gilbert Cooley, a local entrepreneur. The house was built from concrete, with a wooden trim and green tile roof, and was completed in 1926. Unique for its time, the house has a central vacuum system and steam heating, a steam shower, an incinerator, a sunken tub, the original cork floor, and a detached carport. The carport was added later when Cooley bought the first automobile in Monroe. The house is one of the last examples of the Prairie School residential architecture. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1011 S Grand St, Monroe, LA 71201, Phone: 318-329-2237

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6.Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo

Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo
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Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo is an 80-acre zoo in Monroe, Louisiana, with about 400 animals from 200 species. The garden is beautifully landscaped with many interesting plants and has a walkthrough greenhouse. The zoo is home to animals from all over the world – lions, tigers, bears, zebras, baboons, bison, gibbons, kangaroos, peacocks, leopard, parrots, and many others. There is also a reptile house, and the new Australia House has birds and animals living only on that continent. The Children’s Zoo features domestic animals that kids can feed and pet. The Hall of Small is a hands-on insect exhibit. There is also a boat tour that enables visitors to observe animals not visible from the regular paths through the zoo, such as primates and hoofed animals.

1405 Bernstein Park Road, Monroe, LA 71202, Phone: 318-329-2400

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7.Masur Museum of Art, Monroe, Louisiana

Masur Museum of Art, Monroe, Louisiana
© Masur Museum of Art

The Masur Museum of Art is an art museum in Monroe, Louisiana, occupying the beautiful Tudor-style former home of the Mansur family. The house was donated by the family to the city of Monroe and is today the largest visual arts museum in northeast Louisiana. The museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its mission is to encourage and support visual arts in the community through a regular schedule of exhibitions, educational programs, and a permanent collection. The collection includes masterpieces of world-renowned artists such as Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, and Mary Cassatt. The Lower Gallery is used for films, lectures, and artist talks, while the Carriage House is used for a range of art classes, workshops, summer art camps, and demonstrations. Admission to the museum is free.

1400 S Grand St, Monroe, LA 71202-2012, Phone: 318-329-2237

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8.Northeast Louisiana Children's Museum, Monroe, Louisiana

Northeast Louisiana Children's Museum, Monroe, Louisiana
© Northeast Louisiana Children's Museum

The Northeast Louisiana Children's Museum is a hands-on interactive museum where kids can learn while playing with a range of exhibits. Children are encouraged to try restaurant jobs in Kids' Café, go to Health Hall and drive an ambulance, visit the interactive Discovery Hospital and see what the doctors and nurses do, and play with a huge heart they can crawl through. They can play in a pharmacy and look through a giant microscope with slides. In the Hearing Aid they can “whack a sound” and have fun with a huge ear puzzle and learn about teeth and dental health in The Big Mouth. Small kids really love to blow bubbles at Bubble Works and play at Baby Bayou, designed for children up to three years old. During the Christmas holidays the museum opens up a Santa’s Christmas Village for all the kids.

323 Walnut St, Monroe, LA 71201-6711, Phone: 318-361-9611

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9.Warehouse No 1 Restaurant, Monroe, Louisiana

Warehouse No 1 Restaurant, Monroe, Louisiana
© Warehouse No 1 Restaurant

Warehouse No. 1 is a popular restaurant located in downtown Monroe on the banks of the scenic Ouachita River. It sits in a more than 100-year-old former warehouse. The corrugated tin exterior is original to the old warehouse, which was used to store bales of cotton that were loaded from steamboats coming down the Ouachita. During its restoration, the original floors, exterior walls, and massive beams were kept and left exposed, creating a rustic, unpretentious atmosphere where great food and fantastic river views rule. There is lovely porch overlooking the river, perfect for celebrations and family gatherings. The menu has something for everyone, but their steaks are famous and are perfect with a glass of wine from their fine selection. If you come with a bunch of friends, start with delicious appetizer tray with baked oysters, fried button mushrooms, catfish, boiled shrimps, and crispy breaded chicken strips.

1 Olive St, Monroe, LA 71201-6251, Phone: 318-322-1340

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10.Flying Tiger Brewery, Monroe, Louisiana

Flying Tiger Brewery, Monroe, Louisiana
© Flying Tiger Brewery

Flying Tiger Brewery is the first full scale brewery in northeast Louisiana that makes and packages its beer on site. Besides a range of flagship beers, Flying Tiger has a number of rotating beers served in their large, popular taproom in downtown Monroe. The name Flying Tiger Brewery pays homage to the WWII legendary Flying Tigers fighter squadron and its historic commander, Monroe resident General Claire Chennault. The brewery taproom has great funky decor with a larger-than-life portrait of the general and all sorts of other Flying Tiger memorabilia. Flying Tiger does not serve food, but there is always a food truck parked outside. The brewery has nice outside sitting area where they hold live concerts and other events.

506 N 2nd St, Monroe, LA 71201, Phone: 318-547-1738

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11 Best Things to Do in Monroe, Louisiana

Attraction Spotlight: Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo

The Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo’s mission is to foster a sustainable relationship between people and nature. In an effort to accomplish this mission, the Louisiana Purchase Zoo provides education and recreation to the public, discovery of knowledge, and wildlife conservation. The Zoo invites visitors to come and experience some fascinating wonders of the world. Guests can enjoy a relaxing and picturesque setting at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo, and visit more than four hundred interesting animals, as well as thousands of different species of plants.

The Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo is a true zoological park, complete with bears, tigers, lions, and more. The Zoo also features gibbons, baboons, elk, bison, zebra, and many, many other animals from throughout the world. There is also a wide assortment of species of birds, as well as an interesting reptile house at the Louisiana Purchase Zoo. The Zoo’s Hall of Small is a fascinating and immersive exhibit that features insects and interactive, hands-on activities.

Among the hundreds of animals at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo, there are hippo, wallaby, kangaroo, De Brazza’s guenon, leopard, black swan, black-necked swan, parrots, Egyptian geese, peacock, agile gibbon, and the reptile house. Visitors to the grounds can also enjoy a relaxing Safari Boat Ride to tour the zoo’s bayou that provide an opportunity for guests to view several species of animals not able to be seen from the Zoo’s foot paths. Such animals include primates, hoofed animals, and other species that are native to the local area.

Visitors can start their journey of exploring the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo by visiting the colorful macaws and flamingos. Eagles can be seen perched or flying high above, or guests can view tigers as they stroll along catwalk. The Zoo Oasis Splash Pad offers kids an area to cool off from the summer sun, or they can have fun playing at the Zoo’s Play Station.

The Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo now includes a new exhibit featuring animals from Australia. This land down under exhibit features several different species from the other side of the planet. There is also a Children’s Zoo at the Louisiana Purchase Zoo, offering children a chance to not only get up close to many domestic animals, but an opportunity to feed them as well. This kid-friendly exhibit includes sheep, goats, miniature horses, and miniature cows.

Within the Zoo are approximately four hundred animals across approximately two hundred different species. The Gardens span across twenty-seven acres of beautiful landscaped grounds at the park, featuring many different interesting plants, as well as a greenhouse through which visitors can walk. There is also a cafe where guests can enjoy lunch or a snack, as well as a gift shop to pick up souvenirs from their visit to the zoo. The Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo also hosts several seasonal events throughout the year at the park, including the Easter Egg Extravaganza, Splash into Summer, and Boo at the Zoo.

701 Kansas Lane, Monroe, LA, Phone: 318-329-2400

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Attraction Spotlight: Biedenharn Museum and Gardens

Joseph A. Biedenharn, owner of the Vicksburg Biedenharn Candy Company in Mississippi, made a significant, world changing decision in 1894. He wanted his customers located outside of the downtown area of Vicksburg to be able to have a Coca-Cola. Biedenharn had Herman, his brother, put Coca-Cola into the company branded bottles. In doing so, the Biedenharn Candy Company became the first company to bottle the Coca-Cola drink. Coca-Cola today is sold on over two hundred countries across the world.

Under Joseph Biedenharn’s leadership, his family established plants throughout the southern United States, including plants in Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The Biedenharn Company eventually became the country’s ninth largest bottling corporation. However, Biedenharn wasn’t just known for this accomplishment of bottling the increasingly popular drink of Coca-Cola. He was also a significant part of the Monroe community during the early part of the twentieth century, eventually being elected as the City Commissioner. During his time as City Commissioner, Biedenharn was responsible for Monroe’s first paved streets, and assisted in transforming the community’s Forsythe Park into the park it is today.

The Biedenharn Museum and Gardens offers guests a glimpse into one of the world’s most interesting museums focused on Coca-Cola. The museum contains several rooms filled with Coca-Cola related memorabilia, including the first truck that delivered Coca-Cola. This truck was used by the Biedenharn Candy Company to deliver its bottles filled with Coca-Cola during the 1890’s. The museum is an interesting and exciting place to explore with several different activities, such as special exhibits, guided tours, concerts, programs for children, and much more.

Visitors enter the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum through its expansive glass display room. Inside this large room, guests can see many different interesting objects, including antique signs and the first Coca-Cola delivery truck. Visitors can buy their tickets from the Museum Store and then start their tour of the Coca-Cola Museum. At part of the tour of the Coke Museum, guests will view a short film, see a wide collection of memorabilia associated with Coca-Cola, and “visit” a vintage soda fountain replica.

Near the Biedenharn Museum filled with Coca-Cola memorabilia is the historic home of the Biedenharn family. Visitors are welcome to play the large grand piano situated inside the home during a tour of the historic house, and are even invited to bring their own sheet music. Behind the Biedenharn home, guests can explore the beautiful walled gardens that Emy-Lou worked hard to develop during much of her life. The Louisiana, English-inspired garden consists of beautiful fountains, statues, and flowering plants numbering in the thousands. There’s also a conservatory situated within the gardens.

Groups are welcome to come and explore the Biedenharn Museum and Gardens as part of a group tour. The facility of the museum is filled with fun and interesting various collections, as well as stories to share. Along with the museum’s regular guided tours, tours can also be customized to better meet the needs of groups wanting to visit the Biedenharn Museum and Gardens.

2000 Riverside Drive, Monroe, LA, Phone: 318-387-5281

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Attraction Spotlight: Masur Museum of Art

The Masur Museum of Art is housed within what used to be the home of Monroe’s Masur family. The museum is Northeast Louisiana’s largest visual arts museum dedicated to collecting and exhibiting visual arts. The Masur Museum of Art dedicates itself to providing the local community of Monroe with a dynamic experience in visual arts through managing art collections, art programs for the public, and exhibitions. The art museum provides educational programming for both adults and children, such as summer camps, artist talks, the My Mini Masur program, workshops, and lectures. Art classes in a variety of media are also offered at the museum, including classes in painting, stained glass, digital photography, printmaking, and collage.

The building that is now the home of the Masur Museum of Art was originally built in 1929 as a private home. Clarence Edward Slagle, a local lumberman, had the Tudor residence constructed for his wife. The blue slate from Pennsylvania and the limestone from Indiana used to construct the house were transported along a variety of waterways through to the Ouachita River that runs behind the residence. The estate originally featured a rose garden in the English style, as well as lawn that extended down to the Ouachita River. The carriage house of the home was relocated behind a new levee that was built in the 1930’s by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The permanent collection of the Masur Museum of Art consists of approximately five hundred works of art. The collection largely consist of masterworks by artists in the region, and minor works of art by artists that are more broadly known. More recently, entire bodies of work or series of works have been commissioned by the Masur Museum from specific individual artists.

Generally as a whole, the various categories of art offer context for each other as they all are related to historic and artistic trends seen in the southern United States and beyond the region.

The Masur Museum of Art’s permanent collection of artwork includes several works by Salvador Dali, Auguste Rodin, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Mary Cassatt. There are also works of art by Kathy Amman, Lynda Benglis, Dean Dablow, Frank Hamrick, Peter Jones, Ron Adams, Fairfield Porter, and many more artists.

In the beginning of the 1930’s, the home of Clarence Sagle was placed on the market for sale and was bought by the Masur family. Sigmund Masur and his wife Beatrice lived in the home with their three children until the 1960’s. In 1963, the Masur family children donated the house to the City of Monroe with the purpose of being transformed into a museum for fine art.

The museum initially began with various exhibits and educational art programs with the hard work of volunteers and docents. The Twin City Art Foundation was established in 1974 to offer support for the Masur Museum of Art, providing the museum with funds for the collection, educational programming, and exhibits. The museum operates as a collaborative partnership today between the Twin City Art Foundation and the City of Monroe.

1400 South Grand Street, Monroe, LA, Phone: 318-329-2237

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