Centenary Fitness Center, like the university it calls home, is a self-improvement and educational facility. Just as libraries give students resources to increase their brainpower, the full-size gym boasts an indoor swimming pool, racquetball courts, and aerobic machines to help members bolster their muscular strength and endurance. Staff members, the professors of exercise, showcase the slimming powers of Zumba and spin during group exercise classes and can educate members on how to use fitness machines properly, thereby reducing injuries caused by trying to outrun a treadmill.
Café @ Artspace, a center celebrating a variety of artistic disciplines, serves up a menu of café-style lunch fare. A tomato-soup cup ($5) or bowl ($7) preps stomachs for a spring-citrus salad ($7), which mingles mandarin oranges and fresh berries with toasted pecans and poppy-seed dressing, or a turkey reuben sandwich, a turkey pastrami with silken folds of swiss cheese, kraut, and dijon mustard ($7.50). The shop's sandwich masters embrace customers' artistic visions with The Open Mind ($7), which lets one construct a mouthwatering masterpiece from the choice of breads, meats, spreads, and garnishes. While enjoying a slice of icebox pie ($4) or other daily dessert, diners can take advantage of free WiFi to web surf or practice mouse-click sonatas.
During the narrated one-hour jaunt, the Spirit of the Red River Cruise careens aqueous explorers down the Red River and Cross Bayou toward a plethora of sights, ranging from historical bridges to local wildlife. The 35-passenger vessel comes equipped with a bevy of windows and an observation deck ideal for optimal water vistas. Glean fascinating tidbits from Captain Sandy Jackson, a long-time waterway navigator who highlights the area's history from its beginnings as a trading post to its current status as a riverboat casino haven for blackjack-engrossed egrets. The tour encourages participants to revel in up-close glimpses of the Old Railroad Swing Bridge, the Texas Street Bridge, and the Waddle "A" Frame Bridge as they engage in a heated game of bridge. The expedition often alights upon kingfishers, water snakes, turtles, alligators, great blue herons, and other local residents of the estuary that are usually spotted sunning themselves, stalking their prey, or opening up burgeoning lily-pad real-estate businesses.
In West Monroe's countryside, 20 acres of grapevines sway among gently rolling hills and tall, old trees. This is Landry Vineyards, tended by Jeff and Libby Landry and their four sons. They began growing hybrid blanc du bois grapes—specially bred to withstand the South's climate—at their first vineyard in Folsom back in 1999. However, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina leveled their crops, inspiring them to move to higher ground.
Today, the Landrys ferment a full roster of wines from blanc du bois and other hardy Southern grapes. The crisp fruit flavors of semisweet blanc du bois white pair well with spicy Cajun and French-inspired fare, whereas the Envie Rouge—made with red Cynthiana-Norton and black spanish grapes—acquires its spice from oak-barrel aging. The Landrys also import and ferment many grapes that they can't grow, including hand-picked bunches of cabernet from Washington state and California. Though locals have been enjoying the fruits of the Landry family's labors for several years, the vineyard's appearance in a 2012 episode of Duck Dynasty introduced the Louisiana-made wines to a national audience, drawing in droves of customers from all over the country.
Besides sipping wines, customers can visit the picturesque vineyard for tastings and cellar and winery tours. And during regular concerts, they can sip wine among the sounds of blues, jazz, and grapes quietly gossiping about which grape pickers have the softest hands.