The small-town ambiance of this Louisiana city is a perfect complement to the state’s superb forests, parks and wildlife areas.
Leesville is a fun stopover on the way to Louisiana’s natural riches. Although it is officially a city, the friendliness of its residents and strong community spirit make it feel like a countryside village. Stroll through the serene downtown district, play golf at scenic courses and visit beautiful state parks. Founded in 1871, Leesville is the seat of Vernon Parish, often billed as the Gateway to Louisiana.
Historic Main Street cuts through the heart of downtown and offers an insight into city life. Spot notable landmarks such as the Spanish Revival-style First United Methodist Church and the Queen Anne-style Booker-Lewis House. The Museum of West Louisiana displays archaeological objects, paintings, period furniture pieces and railroad artifacts. Pay your respects to local soldiers at Vernon Parish Veteran’s Plaza.
Poke around boutiques and galleries, including an artists’ cooperative called Gallery One Ellleven. South Fifth Street is lined with restaurants from bakeries and coffeehouses to steakhouses, seafood restaurants and sushi bars. Just a 5-minute drive north of downtown is Leesville City Park, home to Leesville Municipal Golf Course.
On the eastern outskirts of town find opportunities for birdwatching, fishing and hunting in Fort Polk Wildlife Management Area. Nearby is Fort Polk South, where the Fort Polk Military Museum has exhibits on the town’s military history. Southwest of the city visit Clear Creek Wildlife Management Area, a popular location for camping and hiking.
Travel north to the Louisiana-Texas border to find recreational areas along the banks of the Sabine River. Cypress Bend Park and South Toledo Bend State Park have beaches, boat launches, campgrounds and picnic sites. Hodges Gardens State Park features an arboretum, botanical garden, boating lake and walking trails.
Leesville is a 4-hour drive from New Orleans and a 3-hour drive from Houston. It’s a good idea to rent a car and have the freedom to travel at your own pace. Come in May for the family-friendly MayFest, which won the 2012 Louey Award for Festival of the Year.