Gators and Friends Alligator Park and Exotic Zoo invites all ages to watch gators wrestle each other in the water and chomp down their meals. The zoo was established in 2006 to raise awareness about the habits and survival techniques of wild animals, giving visitors a better understanding of all creatures, from alligators to pet hamsters to the turtles who fight crime from the sewers. The facility doesn't just contain reptiles, either; it also keeps kangaroos, capybaras, goats, and a Scottish cow.
Since 1984, Shreveport has paid tribute to a cherished Louisiana tradition—the crawfish boil—with its annual Mudbug Madness Festival. As many as 56,000 people flock each day to what has blossomed into one of the state’s most popular Cajun festivals, where they nosh on succulent seafood and compete in crawfish-eating contests that encourage participants to test their stomach size and sabotage their opponents by sneaking lobsters into their bowls. “One year, we had a man eat 42 pounds of crawfish in 30 minutes,” marvels festival coordinator Melanie. “We’ve cut it down to 15 minutes since then.” In addition to eating crustaceans, attendees can also lure them across the stage during crawdad-calling contests. “It gets really lively,” Melanie says, describing how the sirens-in-training are allowed to do nearly anything they can think of to entice the crawfish into their reach.
Cajun, zydeco, and jazz tunes waft through the air during the festivities, emanating from three stages helmed by headliners such as Wayne Toups, Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr., Super Water Sympathy, and Windstorm. The rhythms reach the ears of shoppers browsing original artwork and handmade jewelry in the arts area, expanded after previous years' success. On Thursday, local athletes can work up an appetite in the 5K race. Children of all ages burn off energy in the kids' area, where they can somersault in the bounce house, tackle art projects, or plop down in front of a stage where magicians and storytellers keep their young minds off the uncertain fate of lollipop futures.
East Texas Gators and Wildlife Park protects its resident alligators inside enclosed spaces that meticulously recreate natural habitats and let guests spy on the fierce reptiles from a safe distance. As visitors amble through the park on rock pathways, they have the chance to spot gators ranging from newborn hatchlings to adults more than 14 feet in length. During the feeding season, the park has public feedings with the large alligators at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily. While the alligators are the stars of the show, the park also showcases animals such as a lemur named George, ducks and geese in the tranquil pond; fish, snakes, and turtles in the aquarium; and humans inside the air-conditioned Welcome Center or bounce house. The park offers both indoor and outdoor dining at The Grill, where the menu includes dishes that include alligator, venison, and deer.