Monroe & West Monroe
Two giant names of American business are deeply ingrained in the history of Monroe, and its neighbor across the Ouachita River, West Monroe: Delta Airlines got its start here in 1926 as a crop dusting service, and Coca-Cola opened its first bottling plant here. Today, those legacies provide unique attractions for visitors. Biedenharn Home and Gardens, the estate of that first Coke bottler, is open to the public as a museum and sculpture garden. The Chennault Aviation and Military Museum of Louisiana has exhibits on Delta Airlines, the local World War II flight school at Selman Field and the volunteer combat unit called the Flying Tigers commanded by one-time Monroe resident, General Chennault. The 1,800-acre, cypress-studded waters and trails of Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge puts sportsmen's paradise at Monroe's doorstep, while a trip to the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo offers up-close encounters with animals from around the world.
Peach orchards surrounding Ruston come into fragrant bloom in early spring but, the crop so closely associated with the city takes a starring role, throughout the year, in everything from farm-fresh ice cream to the Louisiana Peach Festival, the area's biggest event. Louisiana Tech University and nearby Grambling State University are integral parts of the community, with college sports, art galleries and year-round programming for locals and visitors. Louisiana Tech's Idea Place is an interactive children's museum and Grambling recently added an exhibit honoring the late college football icon Eddie Robinson, who coached the school's team for 57 years. Ruston's historic district provides 18 blocks of evidence for the potential of a rejuvenated downtown. A vintage movie theater has been transformed as the 600-seat Dixie Center for the Arts, while in Ruston's Memorial Park, the Louisiana Military Museum has artifacts and displays from the Spanish American War through modern conflicts.