10 Things to See and Do in Baton Rouge

The capital and second largest city in Louisiana, Baton Rouge (French for “Red Stick”), is located on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River. The city’s historical significance comes from its strategic site upon the Istrouma Bluff upriver from the Mississippi River Delta. At one time the city was the heart of plantation country and this era can be viewed from the observation deck of the Capitol Building, or take a tour of the city and check out the points of interest. There are many other things to see and do in the beautiful city, which truly is the heart of Louisiana.

10. LSU Hilltop Arboretum

Located on Highland Road, the LSU Hilltop Arboretum is an arboretum owned by Louisiana State University. It is open to the public seven days a week during daylight hours. The original layout of the garden was designed to form a cathedral with a great hall or nave and hallways running in all directions to other rooms and on to others with niches and passageways. Grassy plots served as the naves and other rooms while trees, shrubs and bamboo form the walls and old tree trunks served as the pillars. The wide variety of trees both flowering and not, bamboos, and shrubbery are beautiful and spread across 14 acres. You can cross the old footbridge which crosses a 20 ft. deep ravine before entering the beautiful tree canopied cathedral. You can get lost in the natural atmosphere while strolling through this amazing arboretum.

Photo by: LSU Hilltop Arboretum
Photo by: LSU Hilltop Arboretum

9. Baton Rouge Gallery

Founded in 1965, the Baton Rouge Gallery is a multi-media art gallery located on Dalrymple Drive. It is one of the country’s oldest artist co-ops, originally named The Unit 8 Gallery for the eight original artists who opened the gallery to showcase their talents. Located in Brooks Park, the gallery plays host to their annual Art in the Park event, day camps during the Spring, Summer and Winter, studio art classes and birthday parties. It is the perfect place to go and enjoy some contemporary art from Louisiana artists, enjoy some music or movies on the lawn and take in some culture with your family. Be sure to check schedules before heading out to find out what programs are currently being hosted as well as the artist and their featured works currently being exhibited. You won’t be disappointed in the quality and variety of art available.

Photo by: Baton Rouge Gallery
Photo by: Baton Rouge Gallery

8. Pentagon Barracks

Located in the grounds of the state capitol, Pentagon Barracks is a complex of buildings at State Capitol Drive and River Road. The site was originally used as a military post and has been used by the Spanish, French, British, Confederate States Army and United States Army and was part of the short-lived Republic of West Florida. In 1884, a resolution was passed allocating full usage of the facility and surrounding grounds to Louisiana State University where it remained until moving to their current campus location in 1926. In 1951, ownership was transferred to the State of Louisiana is now on the National Historic Register. It currently serves as the location for the offices of the lieutenant governor and private residences for state legislators. Though it is not open to the public for tours, it is definitely worth checking it out from the outside and if possible from the air to snap some great shots of Americana.

Photo by: Spatms via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Spatms via Wikimedia Commons

7. St. Joseph Cathedral

Located in downtown Baton Rouge, St. Joseph Cathedral is a Catholic cathedral and the mother church of the Diocese of Baton Rouge. This beautiful church has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1990 and is still a wonderful place to worship today. Designed in Gothic Revival style, the church later became sided with stucco and had a steeple and clock added to give it the magnificence it displays today. There are beautiful German stained glass windows and Italian mosaic stations of the cross…breathtaking works of art to behold. Looking over the elegant granite altar is an exquisite mahogany crucifix all within a newly constructed marble sanctuary. To complete the elegant facade, the great gallery organ “Providence” was installed in the loft. You can visit this incredible piece of Baton Rouge and become part of its history.

Photo by: New Orleans Churches
Photo by: New Orleans Churches

6. LSU Rural Life Museum

Located on the 40-acre agricultural research experiment station, Burden Plantation, the LSU Rural Life Museum is a museum of Louisiana history. The museum is dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of 18th and 19th century rural materials from Louisiana. You will feel like you’ve stepped into a time machine when you visit this outdoor rural landscape and see the artifacts and architecture showcasing the life and times of these people. Unlike most museums that are restricted to indoor exhibits, you get to see and experience 18th and 19th century life both indoors and outdoors. It is the most accurate and unique way you can experience and learn about the way farming life used to be way back when. Give yourself a full day for a visit here so you can dedicate the time you need to get the most out of both the indoors and outdoors.

Photo by: Shanna Riley via Flickr
Photo by: Shanna Riley via Flickr

5. Old Louisiana State Capitol

The Old Louisiana State Capitol building in Baton Rouge housed the Louisiana State Legislature from the mid-nineteenth century until the new tower State Capitol building was constructed in 1929-32. It looks a lot like a castle and was built that way purposely to function like one as well. The Old State Capitol building was restored in  the 1990s and is now the Museum of Political History. Because of its central location downtown, it is easily accessible from and to many other historically significant buildings. One of its most magnificent features are the stained glass window and stained glass dome. There is a one-of-a-kind four dimensional theatrical production called “The Ghost of the Castle” where visitors come face to face with the ghost of Sarah Morgan, a civil war era resident who loved the castle. It’s a beautiful and surreal attraction you won’t want to miss.

Old State Capitol Louisiana

4. Magnolia Mound Plantation House

Built in 1791, Magnolia Mound Plantation House is a French Creole house near the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge. The house and several outbuildings are  prime examples of the influence of early settlers from France and the West Indies. Located only a mile south of downtown, the house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was once the center of a 900-acre operation and eventually became the elegant seat of a major landowner. The collection of furnishings and decorative arts are housed in a carefully restored and documented setting. The furniture was locally made during the colonial period and includes some French pieces demonstrating the ties between the plantation owner and his family in France. It’s an important and unique model of the area’s history displaying the influence the settlers had on life in Baton Rouge then and now.

Photo by: Elisa Rolle via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Elisa Rolle via Wikimedia Commons

3. Blue Bayou and Dixie Landin’

The Blue Bayou and Dixie Landin’ are amusement parks adjacent to each other in Baton Rouge. While Dixie Landin’ is more of a traditional amusement park like you’d find elsewhere, Blue Bayou is a waterpark. Blue Bayou features 20 attractions including the world’s largest aqualoop, dark behemoth bowl, tornado slide, water racer and in-line water slide to mention the most notable.  At Dixie Landin’ you can ride a roller coaster, a drop tower, a log flume, a variety of flat rides or many others suitable for different age groups. There is also a carousel, a giant wheel, a merry-go-round and four adrenaline pumping roller coaster rides to choose from. Whether you are a thrill seeker or enjoy something a little more laid back, you can find it here. Between the two parks, you never need to venture any further for family fun and thrills.

Photo by: Blue Bayou Dixie Landin'
Photo by: Blue Bayou Dixie Landin’

2. USS Kidd (DD-661)

The first ship of the United States Navy to be named after Rear Admiral Isaac C. Kidd, the USS Kidd is a Fletcher-class destroyer. Launched on February 28, 1943, the Kidd, during her maiden voyage to the Brooklyn Naval Shipyards, flew the Jolly Roger from the foremast. Subsequently, her crew adopted Captain William Kidd as their mascot and had a pirate figure painted on the forward smokestack. The ship was decommissioned in 1964, entered the Atlantic Reserve Fleet and berthed at the Philadelphia Shipyard. From there it was towed to Baton Rouge May 23, 1982, transferred to the Louisiana Naval War Memorial Commission and is now open to the public as a museum vessel. It’s a wonderful piece of American history, a magnificent tribute to the men and women who made history aboard her and worth visiting if you’re in the area.

Photo by: Niagara via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Niagara via Wikimedia Commons

1. Baton Rouge Zoo

Located 15 minutes north of downtown Baton Rouge, the Baton Rouge Zoo serves as home to over 1,800 animals from all over the globe. The zoo is open to the public every day of the year except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Exhibits include Otter Pond – which features a replica of a fishing cabin from which visitors can watch otters underwater and Parrot Paradise – a walk-through aviary where visitors can get close and see birds from all over the world. If you love animals, the Baton Rouge Zoo is a great place to visit since they actually participate in more than 30 Species Survival Plans showing they really care. You’re sure to enjoy this small, but well kept zoo and become educated while having fun together with your family.

Photo by: BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo
Photo by: BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo

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