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The wraparound porch is so picturesque and a great Christmas card photo op.Take home one of Grayson s famous smoked hams, which are shipped to holiday tables around the country.

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And we are certainly not alone: People from across the Southeast come here throughout December when the quaint downtown is decked in garland, cloaked in over 300,000 twinkling lights, and transformed into a magical setting for its annual Festival of Lights.You ll find presents and stocking stuffers galore at the many shops along Front Street.Captain Tom and his golden retriever provide great company as you slowly motor past the pretty waterfront homes and stately oak and citrus trees.They re as good as they sound: A round of flaky pastry is folded over and crimped around seasoned ground beef or crawfish (my favorite) and deep-fried until crisp.Also, about 8 miles northeast of town in Clarence, Grayson s Barbecue is an essential rib pilgrimage that attracts 18-wheelers, an after-church crowd, and state troopers.Cane River Boat Tours is a great way to take in the festive light displays and even the fireworks. Clementine Hunter served as a cook at Melrose, and she later went on to become one of Louisiana s most celebrated primitive folk artists.

Nearby, along Cane River Lake, the 1830s Steel Magnolia House was recently purchased by district judge Desiree Dyess, who spent last year restoring the guest rooms. And pick up hot chocolates and peppermint lattes at Cane Break Café.

But nothing says Merry Christmas quite like a creamy eggnog daiquiri from Maggio s Package Liquors, a drive-through beverage barn.

Seek out one of the many bed-and-breakfasts in Natchitoches historic district.

Southern Living Robbie Caponetto Travelers have been visiting Natchitoches (pronounced NACK-a-tish) since 1714, when adventurer Louis Juchereau de St.

The festival has been so magical throughout the years, and it remains that way.

The Samuel Guy House Bed and Breakfast was moved to Natchitoches from Mansfield, Louisiana, and was restored to its original grandeur in 2004. You know you re going to see everyone there, he says, laughing. Locals will point you to Lasyone s Meat Pie Kitchen for the best example of the town s iconic meat pies.