Summer vacation will be here before you know it, and you want to do something fun and different. You want the kids to experience a different culture … maybe even learn something while having a great time. If you’re awesome, then this describes you to a T, which is why taking the kids to Monroe-West Monroe in Louisiana this summer is a must-do. Our experts* (*parents trying to have it all, just like you!) investigated and have reported back on 10 fantastic ways to experience Monroe-West Monroe with your kids this summer.
Leap into the ZOOasis Splash Pad at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo
The Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo is more than a zoo with over 450 animals and 1,200 plant species from all over the world (which, to be honest, is plenty entertaining in itself, but why stop there?). It’s also home to the ZOOasis Splash Pad, which is a fun marine-themed splash and wild place for everyone to cool off! For a unique way to view the zoo’s amazing flora and fauna, glide through smooth waters beneath moss-draped trees aboard a jungle cruise boat.
Make new discoveries at the Northeast Louisiana Children’s Museum
The NELA Children’s Museum tag line is, “Where learning is fun,” and they certainly live up to it with several awesome games and exhibits. Just as sampling of what’s available includes:
- In The Big Mouth, kiddos can climb into a giant mouth with teeth made of foam. Local dentists created the exhibit.
- Imagination runs wild at The Reuseum. Visitors use recycled materials to make cool creations.
- At The Kids Café, a true-to-life restaurant sponsored by The Louisiana Restaurant Association, little ones learn about different restaurant jobs and what it’s like to fill those roles.
- Kids can be a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist in the Discovery Hospital. Take care of babies in the NICU. Crawl through a giant heart and learn about health and the human body.
- Sponsored by The Junior League of Monroe, Bubble Works is a cool, fun space where kids can make giant bubbles, make a giant bubble around themselves, and race boats in the water table.
- The recent addition of the Baby Bayou exhibit in 2016 gives even the tiniest explorers a chance to learn while they play. Infants and toddlers (ages 0-3) can engage in sensory activities, cause and effect displays, matching games, and much more, all while interacting with parents or grandparents and reinforcing a foundation for future learning.
Discovery and adventure is limitless at The NELA Children’s Museum.
Drink to yesteryear with a 5-cent Coke at the Biedenharn Museum & Gardens
The Biedenharn Museum & Gardens is a beautifully decorated space with iron works, statues, floral plants, fountains, and more. In addition to the extensive collection of historical bibles in the Bible Museum, there’s also a Russian Icon Exhibition, and a Coke Museum. One of the most novel things to do is purchase a 5-cent Coke at the still-operable old-fashioned Coca-Cola machine. Sip and savor the moment.
Lunch with a view at Trapp’s on the Ouachita River
There’s nothing better than authentic Louisiana cuisine freshly prepared unless that food is consumed overlooking the waterway and a bridge spanning the Ouachita River like it is at Trapp’s. Soup, gumbo, red beans and rice, crawfish tails, shrimp, blackened catfish, creole cheesecake, and bread pudding are just a few of the savories and sweets on Trapp’s extensive menu made with local flavors.
Go gator watching at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge
The Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) comprises 4,500 acres of lake, swamp, bottomland hardwoods, mixed pine and hardwood uplands. Take the kids and look for local animal species from the friendly deer to the beautiful winged heron, egrets, orioles, and red-winged blackbirds. Be daring as you search for sight of turtles, coyote, and small gators indigenous to the area. Learn about other critters, area plant life, and visit the Aquarium Room, which is a restored Acadian house from the 1880s.
Race go karts and play arcade games at Excalibur Family Fun Center
Laser tag, miniature golf, go-kart riding, batting cages, arcade games, a rock wall, and indoor playground pose fun and exciting challenges for you to conquer at Excalibur Family Fun Center. Your kids’ excitement upon entering this castle of endless fun will literally make you feel like parenting royalty (not that you’re not already).
Experience life like a Robertson with Duck Commander
Whether you are a faithful Duck Dynasty follower or never even heard of the hit A&E reality show following the escapades of the Robertson family in northern Louisiana, the Duck Commander in West Monroe has everything you need to live life in the shoes of a genuine Louisiana sportsman (or woman). From handmade duck calls and a duck-head-shaped ax (“Quax”) to Willie Robertson’s Bayou Blackening Seasoning and children’s books, hunters and non-hunters alike will enjoy taking home signature items created by this famous Louisiana clan.
Take a family stroll along the Trails of Kiroli Park
Get outdoors at Kiroli Park, a 160-acre park of forested jogging and nature trails, a fishing pond, gardens, a performing arts stage, and a sectioned dog park. Explore the gardens and natural beauty of the park with your family by taking a hike along one of the nature trails. Bring a to-go lunch to enjoy outdoors in one of the covered picnic areas.
Explore Antique Alley for long lost treasures
Okay, we realize that more kids (other than Manny Delgado) would really dig antiquing in Antique Alley located in beautiful downtown West Monroe, but trust us when we say that the collection of unique, quirky shops and boutiques of jewelry, clothing, art, home décor, and European and American antiques will interest little eyes and minds. Interesting memorabilia, kitchen items, vintage clothing will excite and intrigue. While the sweet shop and children’s shop will be right up their alleys.
Cool and hit your sweet spot off with a cold treat
Last but not least, beat the heat and cool off with a chilly treat. This is something everyone (even parents) can sink their teeth into. Three great places in Monroe-West Monroe to sweeten your visit are:
We suggest kicking back with a frozen treat more than once while you’re in town (give every place a try!), and then pay a repeat visit to your favorite (as often as you’d like) before you have to head home … it is vacation, after all.
So, savor the sweet flavor, experience the culture and nature of Louisiana, make scientific discoveries and trail along the local parks, and more having laid-back family fun days in beautiful Monroe-West Monroe this summer.