Monroe is one of those cities in Louisiana that will capture your heart the moment you step into its lively streets. And being the eighth largest city in the U.S., it boasts a rich culture, history, and natural beauty that attract visitors from all over the world. A visit here means discovering the true essence of Louisiana’s southern charm and hospitality. In this article, I’ll take a closer look at 15 of the best things to do in Monroe, LA.
Things To Do In Monroe Louisiana
1. Tour the Biedenharn Museum & Gardens
Biedenharn Museum & Gardens is one of Monroe’s best attractions, offering a unique blend of history, nature, and beauty. The museum is housed in the former home of Joseph A. Biedenharn (1864-1952), a prominent business owner and philanthropist in the early 20th century. He was also the first person to bottle Coca-Cola in the state of Louisiana.
The museum offers a unique glimpse into the life and times of the Biedenharn family and highlights their significant contributions to the community. The home features rooms decorated with antique furnishings and accessories, giving visitors a glimpse into the opulence of life in the early 20th century. Visitors can also learn about the family’s business ventures, including the first bottling of Coca-Cola in the South.
In addition to the museum, the Biedenharn Museum & Gardens also features beautiful outdoor gardens that are open to the public. The grounds are dotted with fountains, sculptures, and lush vegetation, providing a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The gardens are perfect for picnicking, strolling, or simply enjoying the beauty of nature.
2. Take a Stroll Through the City
One of the best things to do in Monroe if you want to experience the city’s unique charm and history is to go for a leisurely stroll around the city. This is the perfect way to take in the sights and sounds of the city, as well as visit some of the notable attractions and landmarks.
Therefore, make sure you visit the historic downtown area, where you’ll find beautiful turn-of-the-century buildings and charming sidewalk cafes. Take a stroll down Antique Alley, a popular shopping district, where you can browse through vintage and antique shops. If you’re interested in art, visit the Masur Museum of Art, which features an impressive collection of regional and national artworks.
You can also visit the neighborhoods where you’ll find charming homes, tree-lined streets, and lovely parks. The Garden District is one of the city’s most picturesque neighborhoods, with beautifully manicured gardens, Victorian-style homes, and charming boutiques.
There’s a lot to see and do in Monroe, and taking a stroll around the city is a great way to experience it all.
3. Admire the Amazing Arts at the Masur Museum of Art
Masur Museum of Art is a cultural gem showcasing the region’s rich artistic heritage. The museum boasts an extensive collection of 19th-century and modern artworks by renowned artists from Louisiana and beyond. From paintings, sculptures, and prints to mixed media and photography, visitors are sure to be impressed by the diverse array of styles and techniques displayed in the galleries.
Some prominent artists featured in the museum include Georges Rouault, Dali, Rodin, Picasso, Miro, Cassatt, Mary, and Thomas Hart Benton. Popular local artists featured here include Alexander John Drysdale, Lynda Benglis, and Clyde Connell, among others.
Every year, the museum organizes eight exhibitions that provide a platform for local artists to showcase their work and also bring in new art pieces from around the world. You can enjoy guided tours, interactive displays, and educational programs that highlight the historical and cultural significance of the art.
4. See Animals at Purchase Gardens & Zoo
Louisiana is a family-friendly destination that showcases a variety of exotic and native animals and botanical gardens. It has been around for more than a century and is one of the most popular attractions in Monroe, Louisiana.
The zoo covers over 80 acres of land and is home to over 500 animals representing more than 200 species. Some animals you can observe include bison, gibbons, zebras, baboons, tigers, and lions. The zoo also features a petting zoo, where visitors can interact with friendly farm animals and learn about their care.
The zoo is a unique blend of animal exhibits, gardens, and nature trails, offering you a chance to experience the beauty of nature and learn about the world’s wildlife.
5. Shop and Have Fun at Pecanland Mall
Pecanland Mall is one of the popular shopping centers offering visitors a diverse range of shopping and dining options. Opened in 1985, it remains a favorite destination for shoppers who are looking for a comprehensive shopping experience.
The mall features over 80 retail stores, including department stores, fashion boutiques, and specialty shops. Popular brands such as JCPenney, American Eagle, Victoria’s Secret, Old Navy, rue21, Belk, Dillard’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and H&M anchor the mall, while smaller stores offer a variety of gifts, accessories, and beauty products.
Another highlight of the mall is its food court, offering a diverse range of dining options, from quick bites to sit-down restaurants. You can grab a bite to eat and take a break from shopping or sit down and enjoy a leisurely meal. Also, it features a movie theater, providing a convenient and comfortable place to enjoy the latest blockbuster releases.
The mall is designed with families in mind, thus making it a perfect destination in Monroe for a fun-filled day out with loved ones.
6. Take a Tour of the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum
Chennault Aviation and Military Museum is a tribute to military aviator Claire Lee Chennault (1893-1958). He was the founder of the legendary Flying Tigers during World War II, which consisted of American volunteers flying for the Chinese Air Force. The museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the legacy of Chennault and the Flying Tigers and showcases the rich history of military aviation.
You will be able to explore a diverse range of exhibits, including aircraft, artifacts, photographs, and interactive displays that bring to life the history and achievements of the Flying Tigers and other military units.
Also on display is the story of Delta Airlines and its growth from a small regional carrier to one of the largest airlines in the world. It’s good to note that this airline was headquartered in Monroe from the 1920s to 1941 and has a strong connection to the city and its aviation heritage.
You can easily spend hours exploring the museum, learning about the history of military aviation, and discovering the legacy of Chennault and the Flying Tigers. The museum staffs are always ready to provide insights into the displays and exhibitions. Therefore, be sure to include a visit here to your list of the best things to do in Monroe, LA.
7. Explore Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a peaceful and picturesque nature reserve that offers you a chance to appreciate the beauty of Louisiana’s diverse flora and fauna.
This 5,300-acre refuge is home to a variety of habitats, including forests, a lake, hardwood uplands, swamp and mixed pine, and bottomland hardwoods.
As a result, the refuge is a haven for a wide range of wildlife species, including white-tailed deer, orioles, bird-voiced tree frogs, green herons, American alligators, and red-eared sliders, among others.
You can observe and appreciate the beauty of these animals in their natural habitats by taking a stroll along the nature trails or watching from observation decks. All this makes it one of the best spots in Monroe for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.
8. Learn About the Struggles of African Americans at Northeast Louisiana African Heritage Museum
Located in Monroe’s Chenault Park, the Northeast Louisiana African Heritage Museum is a small but significant cultural institution dedicated to preserving African American history in Louisiana.
The museum was established in 1994 with a focus on the 60s civil rights movement. You’ll find a collection of historical documents, African-American art, photographs, and artifacts, among others. These materials provide an in-depth look at the struggles of slavery and segregation to the triumphs of the Civil Rights movement.
Additionally, the museum supports local artists and hosts exhibitions showcasing their works and contributions to the African American community.
9. Take Your Kids to the Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum
When traveling with kids, we often forget to include things that will be both educational and entertaining to them. And that’s why I suggest including this museum on your list of things to do in Monroe if you’re traveling with Kids.
The Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum is a fantastic place for kids to learn and play. The museum features interactive exhibits that are designed to spark the imagination and creativity of young visitors. From playing in a life-size grocery store to pretending to be a doctor or firefighter, your kid’s experience at the museum will be enjoyable.
The museum offers an environment that encourages hands-on learning and inspires kids to think critically and creatively. There is a lot to discover! So don’t let your kid miss out on the chance to expand his knowledge while having fun.
10. Take the Ouachita River Cruise
You can’t say you’ve truly experienced Monroe without taking a cruise down the Ouachita River. The Ouachita River Cruise offers a unique and scenic way to explore the local waterways, surrounded by lush forests and rolling hills. You’ll be able to witness the abundant wildlife and witness the beauty of the Ouachita River while taking in the local history and culture.
During the cruise, you’ll be under the guidance of Captain John Brown. He’ll take you on a journey through time, telling stories of the Native Americans who first lived along the river and the pioneers who traveled its waters. The experience is both educational and enjoyable, as Captain Brown provides a wealth of knowledge about the area.
There are different types of cruises available, ranging from private and regular to catering expeditions. No matter which option you choose, you’re sure to be mesmerized by the stunning scenery. You can sit back, relax, and enjoy the beauty of the Ouachita River,
11. Spend Your Day at Forsythe Park
You don’t need to travel far to experience the beauty and tranquility of nature. Forsythe Park, located in the heart of Monroe, Louisiana, offers you a peaceful escape from the bustling city.
The park is spread across 60 acres of lush greenery and boasts a 9-hole golf course, putt-putt golf, tennis court, soccer field, and softball. In addition, the park features walking trails, picnic areas, and a children’s playground, making it a perfect place for families and outdoor enthusiasts.
What’s more? The park has a boat launch into Ouachita River, allowing visitors to take in the beauty of the water and enjoy fishing, boating, and kayaking activities. There are also beach volleyball courts and a jogging path beside the river, perfect for those who enjoy a good workout in the great outdoors.
There is a lot to do in Forsythe Park, making it a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. I suggest spending a day here to enjoy all the park has to offer. And don’t forget to bring your picnic basket, as the park provides several picnic areas for visitors to enjoy a relaxing meal surrounded by nature.
12. Enjoy a Chilled Beer at Flying Tiger Brewery
Flying Tiger Brewery is another must-visit destination for anyone who loves craft beer and good food. Founded in 2016, this brewery is located in Monroe, Louisiana, and offers a unique and exciting atmosphere to experience a variety of locally brewed beers, delicious food, and a range of entertainment and events.
The name Flying Tiger Brewery is a nod to the First American Volunteer Group (AVG) and military presence in Monroe, and the brewery itself features a vintage military aircraft theme. Some of their most popular beers include the Heroic Hops (IPA), Man at Arms (Amber Ale), Burma Blonde, Warhawk (Pilsner), and Milk Stout. The taproom features a spacious bar, a large seating area, and several televisions, making it a perfect place to relax and enjoy a cold beer.
And being a true reflection of the local community, Flying Tiger Brewery deserves a spot on this list of cool things to do in Monroe.
13. Go Antique Shopping at Antique Alley
Are you looking for a unique shopping experience? Then Antique Alley is the place for you. This charming street is filled with vintage shops, antique stores, and boutiques that offer a wide range of treasures.
As you walk down the street, you’ll be transported back in time as you admire the beautiful architecture of the old buildings that house the shops. You’ll find everything from quaint little boutiques to large, sprawling antique stores, all with their own unique flair and character.
What I loved about Antique Alley was the variety of items available for purchase. And one of the highlights of this alley is the abundance of vintage finds and antiques. Here, you’re assured of finding something truly special, whether you’re a collector, decorator, or just someone who appreciates the charm and character of the vintage and antique items.
Another great thing about Antique Alley is the friendly and knowledgeable staff. Many owners and employees have a passion for antiques and vintage items, and they love sharing their knowledge and stories about the history behind each piece.
14. Shop for Local Products at Monroe Downtown RiverMarket
Monroe Downtown RiverMarket is a bustling hub of local produce and goods in the heart of Monroe. This lively market features a variety of vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, and locally-raised meats, as well as handmade crafts, clothing, and accessories.
You can sample a variety of delicious food and drinks while strolling through the market and enjoying the vibrant atmosphere. You’ll also find a lot of tourists visiting the market to experience Louisiana’s unique culture and cuisine. This gives it a lively and diverse crowd, thus making it one of Monroe’s best attractions.
The market is open from March to May and then from October to early December on the first and third Saturdays. Therefore, if you’re in Monroe during these months, make a point to check out this RiverMarket. You can enjoy a fun-filled day with plenty of opportunities to try new foods and purchase local goods.
15. Visit Excalibur Family Fun Center for a Fun Day Out With Your Family or Friends
Last on this list of things to do in Monroe is a visit Excalibur Family Fun Center. This indoor family entertainment center offers a wide range of activities that are sure to keep everyone entertained.
Here, you’ll find everything from go-karts, laser tag, bumper cars, and mini golf to arcade games, air hockey, and more. The center is designed for all ages, making it a great place to take the kids or to let loose with friends.
For the younger kids, there’s a soft play area with plenty of fun, interactive games and activities that are perfect for their age. Meanwhile, older kids and adults can challenge each other to a game of laser tag or air hockey.
With all the fun and excitement that Excalibur Family Fun Center has to offer, it’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular destinations in Monroe. So, this is the place to be if you’re looking for a fun and exciting way to spend the day.