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.
Splash Kingdom Waterparks bring a bit of the ocean to Texas and Louisiana. Well, that's if the ocean was filled with twisting water slides and the occasional snack stand. The Splash Kingdom family consists of waterparks in Canton, Texas, Hudson Oaks, Texas, and Shreveport, Louisiana, with another location set to open in Greenville Park, Texas in 2015. Lazy rivers take visitors on leisurely floats around each of these parks, while giant wave pools simulate ocean tides and shake up floating inner tubes.
Each park also houses a kids' area as well as its own set of unique aquatic thrills. At Canton, The Royal Flush takes riders down a fast, twisting body slide that ends in a 4-foot free fall. Shreveport's side-by-side Bonzai slides send dueling riders down steep, face-first descents. A Wild West theme defines the attractions at Hudson Oaks. At the park's Snake Pit, five slides take the form of giant snakes, including a green mamba and a copperhead. Each species goes through a different set of twists and turns.
Splash Kingdom Waterparks is a Christian-run organization with a straightforward mission statement: "To glorify God while providing a safe and fun recreation experience for families."
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.
Designed by renowned course architect Joe Lee, Squirrel Run Golf Club’s 27-hole course incorporates clusters of scenic trees, babbling waterways, immaculate fairways, and smooth, Champions grass greens. Players can fine-tune their swings before hitting the links with a regimen of 10 one-hour clinics, where one of Squirrel Run Golf Club’s PGA-certified aces demystifies the golf swing for small classes with their profound knowledge of golf mechanics and subtle use of hypnotic putter pendulums. Each of Squirrel Run’s three nine-hole courses feature harrowing water hazards on most holes that place a high premium on confident shots and deft club selection. Players loop any 18-hole combination of the 27-hole labyrinth, playing to a maximum length of 6,782 yards when combining the Steeple and Woods course. With five tee options, the treacherous monolith graciously caters to players of all abilities and golfers who insist on playing with bocce balls.
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.
The animal kingdom encompasses species from every continent on the planet. But Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari cuts down on the need for excessive travel by bringing an eclectic array of exotic species to the heart of East Texas. The 300-acre preserve houses 36 exotic and endangered species in open areas similar to their native habitats. This allows visitors to see these majestic creatures firsthand while driving along the miles of roads that weave throughout the preserve's hills and savannahs. Over the course of the self-guided tour, visitors will have the opportunity to spot animals such as an alligator, Canadian wood bison, Arabian camel, red kangaroo, zebra, and holographic dodo, all from the safety of their vehicle. In addition to providing one-of-a-kind wildlife photo ops, the preserve also allows groups to feed some of the animals by dropping food pellets onto the ground.