Vacationing Where We Live: Spending A Weekend In Monroe Louisiana
Perhaps in your mind or on paper, you have a list of exotic cities and countries you'd like to visit. We have one too. Petra, Thailand, Iceland, Australia...our list could go on and on. But while searching out the new and unique, we often overlook what's in our own backyard. We live in Monroe, Louisana and as great as it is, we're always looking to leave and explore some far off place. But what if we researched and toured our town like it was Los Angeles, Tokyo or London? What if we spent a weekend as tourists in our city and viewed it with fresh eyes? That's precisely what we decided to do. We vacationed where we live, in Monroe, Louisiana. Keep reading to find out what we did and why you should visit our hometown too.
Where Is Monroe?
First off, where is Monroe? Whenever we tell people we're from Louisiana; they immediately ask us if we live in New Orleans. Well, we don't. New Orleans is southern Louisiana, and Monroe is in northern Louisiana. We love to get down there when we can, but it is a bit of a hike. It's a four and half hour drive away.
Monroe is almost on the border of Arkansas, along the I-20 corridor. We live in Monroe but just across the Ouachita River is West Monroe. The twin cities are separate, but I pretty much view them as one big city. Some locals would definitely disagree with that sentiment though. Our weekend guide includes stops in both Monroe and West Monroe.
No weekend away would be possible without a place to stay. We made reservations at the Hamilton House in historic downtown West Monroe to start our trip. Hamilton House is a BnB located steps away from the river and within walking distance of boutiques, antique stores, and restaurants. Recently renovated, each room is unique in its decor. Our room, the Alexis, even had a clawfoot tub in the bathroom.
The bed in our room was super comfy, so we both slept great. We woke up to breakfast in the large kitchen of the Hamilton House. Tonya, the owner, cooks every morning for her guests. On the menu was a frittata, fresh fruit, toast and of course, coffee. Over breakfast, we met two awesome ladies that were visiting Monroe. Their parents grew up in an orphanage in town and were both buried here. They were coming back to visit these family sites, and they had great travel stories. You always meet interesting people when you stay in hostels or Bnb's. After breakfast, we visited some of the antique stores and shops before heading to the Biedenharn Museum.
The Biedenharn family were the first to bottle and sell Coca-Cola. Before Joseph came up with the idea, Coke was only sold in soda fountains. John Pemberton, the creator of Coke, thought it was a stupid idea, so he sold off the bottling rights. And the rest is history, as they say. About an hour from Monroe in Vicksburg, Mississippi, was where the bottling first started. After some years, the family moved back to Monroe and opened a bottling operation here as well.
Now their house and the surrounding area is a museum. You can tour the family home and gardens. Bible and Coke museums are also on the property. We both enjoy museums when we travel, so we had a great time here. The Coke area has some cool artifacts, and you can get a glass bottle coke for only a nickel. The home puts on several musical events during the year, and the gardens themselves are gorgeous. We thoroughly enjoyed the guided tours and walking around the fountains and greenhouses. Afterward, though, it was time for lunch.
Enoch’s Pub For Lunch
Enoch's is the kind of place we're always looking for when traveling but rarely find. It's a genuinely local place that we absolutely adore. Enoch’s is an Irish Pub that also happens to serve up some fantastic burgers and sandwiches. They recently changed their hours to include lunch service, so after we toured the Biedenharn, we drove a few streets over for some beer and pub food.
What should you order when you visit? You should get a burger for sure. Their burgers are so good. I ordered the Blarney Stone, which has bacon, blue cheese, and pickles. The Cornelius is incredible too. It features corned beef and sauerkraut. Whichever burger you choose, make sure to get Conley fries. Your freshly fried potatoes will be covered with bacon and cheese if you do. They also have vegetarian options, if you're like Charise and shun animal products. She always gets the Forsythe, a grilled sandwich with olives, peppers, and cream cheese. And no trip to an Irish pub would be complete without a pint of Guinness, so make sure to get one or three. Enoch's has excellent live music throughout the week, but on the weekends it gets pretty crowded. Try to get your food order in before 6, or there could be a wait. Next stop, kayaking.
Kayaking On Black Bayou
It's a shame the natural wonders we grow up around and take for granted. Almost every day of my life, I've seen a bayou. They're beautiful, but I drive by without a second thought. What's even worse is that we live about two miles from The Black Bayou Wildlife Reserve and we've only visited once.
Well, that changed this weekend. We rented kayaks at the visitor center and hit the water. The weather that day was perfect, and the water was calm because most of the fishermen had already gone home. Our destination was the eagle's nest, to see some baby eagles. However, I didn't pay very close attention to the directions, and we never found it. Ah well, it gives us another reason to go back. The Bayou is a beautiful spot to stop by and explore. After all that paddling, we were ready for some food, though.
Parish For Dinner
We were so excited to be eating at Parish again. At the helm of Parish is Chef Cory Bahr. He's a crazy good chef who just so happens to have won some awards and competed on the Food Network. Thankfully he's from Monroe and is committed to bringing an exceptional dining spot to our area.
We were expecting to order off the menu, but Cory knew we were coming for this weekend guide. They just kept sending out dish after dish. There was so much food on the table, and everything was unbelievable. I enjoyed the two tuna dishes he made. One was crudo, topped with citrus and soy and the other was seared and served on top of an avocado salad. Our favorite though was probably the bread that they make on-site every day or the crispy brussels sprouts with pepper aioli. But in all honesty, there wasn't a bad bite on the table. It was all so good. Soon they will be offering Dégustation tasting menus, so you can have a meal closer to what we enjoyed. Eating at Parish is an experience not to be missed. You'll be hard pressed to find many restaurants, anywhere in the world, better than this one.
Flying Tiger Brewery
We finished our weekend with a nightcap at the Flying Tiger Brewery. You can find their beer all over town, even at Enoch's and Parish, but we wanted to hang out for a bit in their taproom. All of the beer is brewed locally, and they're always coming out with new creations. After touring the brewery and placing our order, we set out to play darts. Charise is crazy good at darts and promptly beat me without much work. She's like a dart savant. I think it's because of her long arms. It can't possibly be because I'm uncoordinated, that couldn't be the reason. I redeemed myself, however, on Ms. Pacmanand we headed back home at closing time. Flying Tiger is a chill place to hang out and was a great end to our day.
The world is full of amazing places. But the town you live in, wherever it is, is probably cooler than you give it credit for. We've been guilty of overlooking fantastic things to do in our local area. We won't make that mistake anymore. We thoroughly enjoyed being tourists in our own city. We hope you get out and visit Monroe soon. Tap here for more visitor information from the Monroe-West Monroe Convention and Visitors Bureau. Have you ever taken a staycation? What do you think about our hometown? Let us know below in the comments.