Welcome to Shreveport, Louisiana. Home of Elvis Presley’s favorite donut shop, the Victorian house from True Blood, and a diner mural depicting ZZ Top and Marilyn Monroe eating with Gandhi.
Shreveport is known for other things, of course, but it’s always fun to focus on the quirky stuff, like alligator ziplining, knife-sharpening markets, and drive-thru liquor. Check out some of the most interesting and offbeat highlights from the Shreveport and Bossier City area.
Strawn’s Eat Shop
“Shreveport’s Most Iconic Restaurant” opened in 1944 and continues going strong, thanks to locals who come in to enjoy the diner food and famous icebox pies. The coconut cream pie with a massive layer of meringue and shredded coconut was infinitely gratifying.
Strawn’s has an awesomely quirky collection of murals on its walls, depicting everyone from Albert Einstein to Hank Aaron to George Washington. My favorite is the bizarre scene in which John Wayne, ZZ Top, Gandhi, and Marilyn Monroe mingle. I wonder what that conversation would be like.
The True Blood House
I’m notorious for being years behind on tv shows. I still haven’t gotten around to watching Lost, Breaking Bad, or House of Cards. Someday…
So I haven’t seen HBO’s True Blood. But fortunately my fellow travelers recognized the Victorian House from the opening credits when we passed by. Several other notable sights from the show can be found in Shreveport.
Thanks to tax incentives, Shreveport is a popular filming location for movies and television. There’s always something being filmed, which is great news for local actors and those seeking work as extras – and tourists who want to visit famous movie scene locations. Check out the tourism bureau’s printable Shreveport Film Trail guide (pdf).
The Elvis Statue at Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium
Starting in 1954, Elvis Presley performed several times in Shreveport for the Louisiana Hayride radio show. Today, a seven and a half foot tall bronze likeness of Elvis stands outside the venue in recognition of its history. The King of Rock & Roll sports a guitar, a microphone stand, and a goofy grin as he looks toward the street. Next to Elvis is a statue of James Burton, a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer who served as Presley’s guitarist for many years.
Diehard Elvis fans who visit the area will want to do their homework, since there’s a lot of random Elvis history here, like the Strand Theater, where he would watch movies while he was in town, and Southern Maid, a still-in-business donut shop he frequented (and even shot a commercial for.)
Drive-Thru Daiquiris at Cajun Liquor
In Louisiana, you can order daiquiris from a drive-thru window. How crazy is that?! Technically, open containers are not allowed in vehicles, so you’re given slushy drinks with a lid, and you’re expected to take them home and consume them in private. Numerous drive daiquiri stores can be found in the area, and each place has its own weirdly-named concoctions.
I stopped by Cajun Liquor, which blends margarita, Long Island iced tea, wild screw, and other mixes into daiquiris with silly names like Shake the Haters Off, Dirty Mother, Viagra, Red Ferrari, Dial 911, Thug Passion, and Freak-N-U. I opted for the “Pimp Juice,” a fruity blend of amaretto sour, strawberry, and sex on the beach. It was crazy strong and very satisfying. Grab a drive-thru daiquiri, just to say you did it.
Shockley’s Fish & Fixins
Shockley’s is a perfect Southern fish fry restaurant. Catfish from the lake are fried up regularly, along with shrimp, frog legs, hush puppies, onion rings, and other artery-hardening delights, which are served with sides of cole slaw and pickled green tomatoes.
Though Shockley’s is less than 30 minutes from Shreveport, it feels totally removed from civilization because there’s no cell phone service and getting there requires a trip down a two-mile gravel road. Folks who find themselves in the area should forget about their diets for one day and make the journey to pig out on some fried foods and enjoy the Southern hospitality.
Gator and Friends Alligator Park
One of the few places in the world to zipline over alligators is Gator and Friends in Greenwood, where guests can harness up and zip through the forest and over the swamp while gators swim beneath. Unlike some zip line facilities, the guides here do the braking and stopping so you don’t have to do it on your own. You can even ride while hanging upside-down if you’re feeling adventurous.
Once the zipping is done, make sure to walk through the animal park to see ostriches, zebras, and more gators from close range.
Shreveport Farmers’ Market
I’d never seen a knife-sharpening booth at a farmers’ market before, but there it was, some sort of power tool used by a vendor to tidy up the blades of passersby. The Shreveport Farmers’ Market – the largest in Louisiana – offers quite a few unusual sights in addition to the typical collection of handmade soaps, cookies and food trucks.
One booth sells sugar cane, complete with a wooden block and a saw to chop the stalks into manageable pieces – another sight I never see at farmers’ markets back home. And on this particular day, music was provided by a bluegrass band featuring a drummer whose drum was a simple wooden box. Kudos to that man for his resourcefulness!
Touchstone Wildlife and Art Museum
This is one of the weirder museums I’ve ever visited. The Touchstone Wildlife and Art Museum in Haughton is home to more than 1,000 stuffed and mounted animals, most of which were zoo animals donated after they died. The Touchstone restores the animals’ appearance and puts them in display cases designed to resemble their natural habitats.
The Touchstone has a bunch of jungle animals, like giraffes, lions, and zebras, plus smaller forest animals like wolverines and porcupines. The museum really gets quirky upstairs, where the animal displays are mixed in with largely-unrelated exhibits on Native American weapons, war artifacts, Confederate money, and Creationism.
Longwood General Store & Casino
I mentioned this one in my year-end recap of the most interesting places I ate in 2014. Longwood is a convenience store, supermarket, casino, and restaurant all in one. That means you eat your ribeye at a table situated between aisles of laundry detergent and toilet paper.
It’s a quirky dining environment unlike anything I have ever experienced, but the food doesn’t get overshadowed – the massive steaks and oddly-named cocktails are both excellent.
Art and music around town
Shreveport is a surprisingly artsy city, and that’s reflected in more ways than just the movie shoots in the region. Residents have the chance to visit independent theaters, take in concerts by jazz acts like Rebirth Brass Band at Bears on Fairfield, and attend local art galleries.
Murals and street art can be found around town. Bicycle racks are designed to look like, um, bicycles. There’s an Emmy-winning animation studio called Moon Bot that keeps a lot of creative professionals employed. Even the airport displays numerous paintings by Louisiana artists on the wall. That makes for a great first and last impression of the city!
Special thanks to the Shreveport-Bossier Tourist Bureau and 2439 Fairfield for hosting me.