Traveling Around: Shreveport, LA; Three Museums And A Casino
We were spending three nights in Shreveport. By arriving on Sunday afternoon and leaving on Wednesday morning, we happened to be there during days that many of the local attractions are closed. I was able to cobble together a plan to see three museums and go to a racino that I was curious about.
Our itinerary consisted of The Meadows Museum of Art and The Historic Arkansas Museum on Monday and on Tuesday we planned for The Barksdale Global Power Museum and Harrah's Louisiana Downs Casino and Racetrack.
Meadows Museum of Art
The museum is located on the campus of Centenary College in south central Shreveport. Centenary College is a small college that was established as an independent school in 1825 and has been affiliated with the Methodist Church since 1845. The museum was established in 1975 and has grown to contain more than 1600 works. In addition to the exhibits inside the museum there is collection of 9 different George Tobolowsky sculptures located on campus.
When we visited a large of collection of gelatin silver photographs occupied most of the space available. The exhibit was from the private collection of Edward Chopin, a Shreveport educator. It showcased the businesses and people in the labor force in 1918. In addition to the photographs there was a small collection of workman's implements.
Normally there are multiple galleries of exhibits but during our visit remodeling was taking place for a major spring time exhibit held annually. What we did see was very interesting and we spent probably an hour browsing in the exhibit.
Louisiana State Exhibit Museum
The Louisiana State Exhibit Museum is located a few blocks off I-20 in west central Shreveport. We were surprised at the exhibits at the museum. It easily is perhaps the best museum that we saw on the trip.
The museum is home to 23 (some sources say 22) dioramas. The dioramas are behind glass and about 15 feet wide at the front. The depth appears to be about 5 feet or so. Some of the material that they illustrate is vast enough that one viewing area is joined to the next. The dioramas exhibit the agriculture, industry, and natural resources of 1940s Louisiana. The vastness of the subject material made it difficult to get meaningful photos.
The website for the museum has a lot of information about the dioramas: what they represent and how they were constructed.
Additionally there are exhibits about the celebration of Mardi Gras and exhibits displaying memorabilia from Shreveport and Louisiana as far back as the early 1800's.
The museum is built and displays material in a circular fashion. You can actually move either way from the entrance, starting to the north or south, and simply continuing around. Regardless of the direction you begin, you wind up at the entrance to the museum.
There are many things to see while there and we could probably visit the museum again and be as awed as we were the first time.
Admission is free. Days and hours of operation are discussed on the website.
Barksdale Global Power Museum
Barksdale Global Power Museum is located on the grounds of Barksdale Air Force Base which is just southeast of Bossier City, LA. Entry for the museum is at the north gate and we had some difficulty navigating because of some construction in the area. Once we located our destination we had to pass through security for the Base. It consisted of surrendering our driver's licenses (everyone over 17 must do so) and pulling off to the side of the street so that our car could be searched. Once the search was satisfied we received directions to the museum and the security personnel kept our driver's licenses until we were ready to exit the base.
The museum is near the north gate and the large outdoor array of airplanes (there are 21 of them on display) is visible immediately.
The indoor museum is divided into 6 galleries plus a video viewing area and a gift shop. The video machinery was inoperable while we were there but we toured the galleries.
There is a lot of art work about air planes in both peace and at war. Most of the paintings are of a very high quality and we really enjoyed browsing through these galleries. Also on display is much information about personnel and planes associated with Barksdale in particular and the military efforts in general.
We didn't spend a lot of time at the museum but did find it interesting. Under most circumstances I wouldn't recommend it but for military minded tourists it probably is fascinating. There is no admission charge and the days and hours open are discussed on their website.
There was no delay upon exiting the museum and stopping at the security point to retrieve our driver's licenses.
Harrah's Louisiana Downs
Louisiana Downs Racetrack and Casino was our final stop in the area. We entered the complex on the casino side into a new and posh environment. We searched out the Player's Club expecting to get new cards without any added benefit since we were already Total Rewards members. The Player's Club is located on the far wall straight ahead through the arrangement of some 800 slot machines.
We asked for new cards and in addition to cards we were given $10 in free play. We had seen several soft drink machines that dispense free beverages in several places in the casino and availed ourselves of some pop. We searched for quite a while and discovered that, while there were lots of new slot machines, there was no video poker. There were penny machines and there were $100 machines. We completed our search for video poker machines and settled at penny machines to run our free play through.
My $10 in free play became $7 in cash and Sharon's fared a little better and she had a ticket for $11 when we decided to stop and find the racetrack.
On the way through the security checkpoint at the entry to the casino area, we chatted for a bit with a very nice security lady. She explained where everything in the racing facility was located and related some stories - both funny and sobering - about gamblers she had witnessed there in the facility. Apparently one couple that had met at her security checkpoint wound up getting married.
We went on through to the parimutuel area. Near the entrance to the racing area is a counter where programs and racing forms are for sale. As we got further into the area we were again surprised at the modern look to everything. It is almost entirely computer oriented with many terminals around for betting purposes. Television screens of the race track abound and sandwiched in with them are screens that are devoted to a myriad of tracks from around the world.
There weren't many people around as it was a little early and It was sort of a bleak and unfriendly place to be.
The racing held at Louisiana Downs is Quarter Horse Racing. Although I knew of it and had seen it on television I'd never been to a parimutuel track that featured it so I was eager to see everything. It was a little disappointing because it looked like most race track with a large oval and a tote board at the finish line. The home stretch of the race track was some 200 yards long and many of the races started at the head of the stretch and were over almost in the blink of an eye.
We explored all the levels of the track and it was big and clean and deserted.
I couldn't resist making a bet and picked a horse that I figured couldn't lose. And, wonders be, he didn't lose, but won. I collected my meager winnings, wondering what kind of subsidy the track must have been getting from the casino industry to support the racing facility. The total wagering on the race I bet on was about $5,000. The track kept about $750 of that for their commission and in addition to the expense of the physical facility and of the people to run it, they paid out $2,500 in purse money to the race participants. Difficult to fathom.
As I was cashing my winning ticket, I got into a discussion with a fellow bettor. He'd come to Shreveport from Dallas, TX. He and his father made the trip twice a year to come to the quarter horse races and to play the slot machines. They not only stayed in the area of the race track but spent a few nights at the casino/hotels in the downtown area of Shreveport. Had a good time talking to him because for some reason he'd bet a slightly complex bet of several horses in the exacta and because his horses had finished first and second in the race, he felt like (he wasn't sure) that he had a winner but couldn't figure out how much it should pay. He'd spent $12 on the bet and it paid him back $9.60. When I explained how I knew that, he was grateful for the knowledge and ecstatic that he'd won. Didn't seem to be too aware that "winning" came at a cost.
The Louisiana Downs would undoubtedly have been more fun if there had been a crowd of people but we couldn't seem to generate any enthusiasm and didn't stay for very long.