Alexandria, the seat of Rapides Parish, is located on the Red River in central Louisiana. This 200-year-old city is situated in the middle of the Kisatchie National Forest where outdoor activities are enjoyed year-round. During the American Civil War, Alexandria was occupied twice by Union forces and burned in 1864.
With a low cost of living, a favorable tax structure, and moderate winter climate, Alexandria has become a desirable destination for retirees. Still, the median age of the city is less than 36. The city is home to more than 46,000 residents. Median income and estimated home values are below the state average.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Some of the leading industries in the city are health and social services, retail trade, education, recreation, entertainment, arts, and accommodation and food services.
The top employers of Alexandria are Rapides Parish School Board, Pinecrest State School, CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital, Rapides Regional Medical Center and MARTCO/Roy O Martin Lumber. Some major companies with facilities in the Alexandria area include Procter & Gamble, Union Tank Car and International Paper.
The Port of Alexandria covers 125 acres and is a major shipping point for military equipment.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
Alexandria accommodates around 20,000 houses, of which 18,000 are occupied. More than half of occupied homes are owner-occupied.
Some of the city's distinct residential neighborhoods include:
- Charles Park, on the west side of Alexandria, is a large development with high-end homes built from the late 1960s through the early 1980s.
- Deerfield, one of the southernmost neighborhoods, is an affordable area built in 1970s.
- Garden District is a historic residential neighborhood which developed from the 1910s through the 1930s. The district features a wide range of architectural styles, Queen Anne holdovers, Colonial Revival, Craftsman/Bungalow, English Cottage, Mediterranean Revival, and French Eclectic.
- Louisiana State University at Alexandria was established as a two-year commuter college in 1959. It now partners with the LSU Senior College to offer baccalaureate degrees.
- Louisiana Technical College has a small campus in Alexandria focused on workforce development.
- Northwestern State College in nearby Natchitoches is home to both the Louisiana Creole Heritage Center and the Louisiana Folklife Center, a research facility that houses archival materials such as photographs, audio recordings, videotapes, and books.
At the northernmost reaches of South Louisiana's Cajun and Creole traditions, Alexandria shares the Native American, African-American, French, and Spanish contributions that shaped much of Louisiana. This diverse mixture of influences has shaped the city's past and forms a foundation for cultural activities throughout the region. Mardi Gras is celebrated each year with family-friendly parades. Cajun dancing is a popular pastime, and the city boasts both a Museum of Art and the Rapides Symphony Orchestra.
Some of Alexandria's top local attractions are:
- Kent Plantation House is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Louisiana. This home preserves the culture of its wealthy 18th-century Creole owners. Tours of the main house and grounds are available. Several outbuildings of historic importance are located on the grounds. Among the outbuildings are a sugar house, outdoor kitchen, slave quarters, and a blacksmith shop.
- England Airpark was an Air Force Base until 1992. Located on the northwest side of Alexandria, it is now an industrial park. The local airport was moved to the Airpark and renamed Alexandria International Airport. The 18-hole golf course complements a small retirement community in another part of the former base.
- The Kisatchie National Forest is over 604,000 acres of land covering seven Louisiana parishes. Designated a national forest in 1930, Kisatchie offers facilities for fishing, hiking, and bird watching. Camping is allowed anywhere in the forest and parts of the forest are designated for off-road vehicle use.
- Pineville, Alexandria's smaller sister city, is located across the Red River. Pineville is home to Louisiana College, consistently voted as one of America's best colleges by US News and World Report. This private Baptist college was founded in 1906. Some of the historical character of Pineville's nearly 300-year history remains in its downtown area. Pineville is also home to the only museum in the state of Louisiana dedicated to municipal government.
- Arna Bontemps, born in Alexandria in 1902, was a poet and influential member of the Harlem Renaissance. The Arna Bontemps African American Museum and Cultural Arts Center named after him is located in his boyhood home. Its mission is to educate a diverse audience about Bontemps and promote the understanding of African American culture.
- The Alexandria Zoological Park is home to some 600 animals. The zoo has developed an African habitat and a Louisiana habitat, and sports the Le Zoo Choo Choo, a miniature railroad for children.
- The Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk are located in nearby Leesville. During World War II, the Army conducted the Louisiana Maneuvers at Fort Polk. Thousands of American soldiers trained for combat in the Louisiana countryside. Today the JRTC plays a critical role for the military by providing training in real-life situations.
- The Alexandria Mardi Gras features a round of parades and parties in January.
- Cenlabration, held over Labor Day weekend, derives its name from the combination of the words Central Louisiana and celebration. Musical performances, arts and crafts and children's activities are capped off with a fireworks display.
- Que'in on the Red, in March, features a barbecue contest and musical entertainment. The small nearby town of Bunkie hosts the Louisiana Corn Festival every year.
Newspapers in Alexandria include:
- The Town Talk
- Shreveport Times
- The Baton Rouge Morning Advocate
Alexandria has several AM radio stations, including:
- KJMJ-580 (Religious programming)
- KWDF-840 (Gospel)
- KSYL-970 (Talk)
- KTTP-1100 (Religious)
- KDBS-1410 (Sports)
Alexandria's FM radio stations include:
- KLXA-89.9 (Christian contemporary)
- KLSA-90.7 (Public radio)
- KAPM-91.7 (Religious)
- KQID-FM-93.1 (Top 40)
- KFAD-93.9 (Nostalgia)
- KZMZ -96.9 (Rock)
Local television stations include:
- KALB-TV (NBC)
- KLAX-TV (ABC)
- KLPA-TV (PBS)