Natchitoches, Louisiana, is known for many things — the filming location for Steel Magnolias, home to a famous Christmas festival, the place to get the best meat pie, the Bed and Breakfast Capital of Louisiana, and much more. Did you also know there is a wide range of outdoor fun in Natchitoches? Check out this list of activities to enjoy in the City of Lights.

Kisatchie National Forest

Outdoor adventures abound in 600,000 protected acres in the Kisatchie National Forest — a premier area for hiking, camping, fishing, birding, swimming, boating, biking, horseback riding, and more! Spread out across seven parishes in Louisiana, visitors will enjoy picturesque vistas full of loblolly pines and magnolia trees, and wildlife observation, such as wild turkeys, armadillos, deer, and possibly a Louisiana black bear. Of the five ranger districts established in the forest — Calcasieu, Caney, Catahoula, Kisatchie, and Winn — Kisatchie is located nearest to Natchitoches.

Fort St. Jean Baptiste

French Canadian Louis Antoine Juchereau de St. Denis founded Natchitoches in 1714 while he was on a trade mission from Mexico to Alabama. Along the way, he constructed two huts in the village of the Natchitoches Indians, which became known as the first permanent European settlement in the Louisiana Purchase. In 1716, it transitioned into a military outpost/commercial trade center and was officially named after a French patron saint, Fort St. Jean Baptiste des Natchitoches, but eventually closed in 1762 due to France’s defeat by England in the French and Indian War. Although the original fort no longer stands, the reconstructed site gives visitors a look into colonial history.

Carriage Tours

What better way to explore the city than with a horse-drawn carriage tour of the Natchitoches Historic District found along Cane River Lake! This beautiful area envelops 33 blocks teeming with historic homes, cottages, churches, and other structures that showcase a mixture of Queen Anne, Victorian, and Creole architecture reminiscent of French and Spanish rule from the past. Another tour option includes famous film sites found throughout Natchitoches, including Steel Magnolias, The Man in the Moon, The Horse Soldiers, and more.

Natchitoches Alligator Park

Interested in meeting a 26-foot tall alligator named Chewy? Head on over to the Natchitoches Alligator Park located just outside the city to explore eight acres full of entertaining gators with hourly feeding shows, Cajun music, and Cajun cuisine! Get a glimpse of Louisiana culture from protected walkways and platforms home to hundreds of these reptiles in their natural habitat. If you get hungry along the way, stop by Gator Bites Snack Shop for an alligator kabob!

Natchitoches Christmas Festival

If you’ve never experienced this event full of holiday cheer, it’s a must-see on your to-do list of fun things to do in Natchitoches! The Christmas season in the City of Lights — a nickname nod to the light-filled festival — runs for six weeks with a celebration that starts the Saturday before Thanksgiving and ends on January 6. What started as a 10-watt string of lights along Front Street in 1927 has turned into a display of 300,000 lights and 100 set pieces beautifully interwoven throughout the same area. From the parade, Santa Claus House, and the selection of the Miss Merry Christmas Queen to amazing festival food and a brilliant fireworks display, you’ll love the wonder experienced this time of year.

Looking for other things to do in Natchitoches?