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

7 Chicken Masters of the South

Like so many have said, there’s no chicken quite like mama’s chicken. But when mama is a master chef of the South…or just a belle who knows how to cook poultry like no other, the other stuff doesn’t even begin to compare. That is, until you head to these fine dining establishments and put her version to shame…not that you’d ever admit it. These master fryers know how to season, cook, serve, sauce, prep, and create chicken like we’ve never seen before. Add in an incredible smell and taste and it’s all uphill from there. In fact, they’re recipes are so tasty, folks rave about them from states away. Whether they’re from the South, or just happened to stumble upon some deliciousness while traveling. Never underestimate the power of a good piece of chicken. And, in our very tasty opinion, here are the seven best places to find them.

7. Busy Bee Café – Atlanta, Georgia

For a city known for its soul food, making a memorable plate of fried chicken is an incredible feat. It’s also one that Busy Bee prides itself on. Since the 40s, they’ve been serving up crispy and tasty chicken. Their secret? Brining the meat for 12 full hours, add a specialty flavored flour, then cook it in peanut oil. Order yours with their signature gravy, and bask it in sides like collard greens or broccoli and cheese casserole. Yum!

Photo by: Busy Bee Cafe-ATL
Photo by: Busy Bee Cafe-ATL

6. Raising Cane’s – Baton Rouge, Louisiana

If you’re looking for a restaurant that does one thing, and does it well, you’re in luck. Raising Cane’s offers home-fried chicken with the convenience of fast food. Their meals come in varying sizes, offering eaters chicken strips, french fries, coleslaw, and Texas toast. As well as their signature Cane’s sauce – a delicious addition to their hot, flavorful meals. Stop by one of their many franchised locations for a quick take on tasty dinners.

Photo by: Shoshanah via Flickr
Photo by: Shoshanah via Flickr

5. Martha Lou’s Kitchen – Charleston, South Carolina

Martha Lou is one example of its namesake working behind the scenes – Martha herself, along with her daughter, Debra, are chicken masterminds. And they’ve been perfecting their method for more than 30 years. Visitors can stop by their pink restaurant – virtually everything is coated in the color – for an added dose of “mama’s kitchen” charm. Fan favorite sides include okra stew and their signature pepper lima beans.

Photo by: Martha Lou's Kitchen
Photo by: Martha Lou’s Kitchen

4. Yardbird Southern Table & Bar – Miami Beach, FL

There’s a reason Yardbird is winning so many awards and public mentions – their chicken is delicious. Order it alone, with biscuits, or go for the full-meal deal and get their chow-chow cheddar waffles and watermelon (our mouths are watering already), which is topped off with hot honey, and bourbon maple syrup for the waffles. Chicken loving heaven. Oh, and did we mention each meal is plated perfectly, too? Sign us up!

Photo by: Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
Photo by: Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

3. Barbecue Inn – Houston, Texas

Self-proclaimed Southern hospitality specialists, Barbecue Inn has been dishing up chicken since the 40s. That’s four generations of incredible cooks who have passed their secrets down the line. Eaters can even choose from Southern versions, all white, or all dark meat when ordering their meal. Guests agree that the taste is virtually unbeatable, and that the crisp alone is worth the trip; chicken is served grease-free.

Photo by: Stephan Rushmore via Road Food
Photo by: Stephan Rushmore via Road Food

2. Beasley’s Chicken + Honey – Raleigh, North Carolina

One of the newer joints around, Beasley’s uses modern methods to reinvent an old favorite. Rather than traditional free-fry, they opt for the help of pressure fryers. It might sound new, but the taste is just as delicious as the old school ways. (Likely less messy, too.) Each piece is then topped with a thin drizzle of honey to bring out the Southern flare. Eaters also recommend a side of buttermilk biscuits to take in the whole honey-loving effect.

Photo by: Beasley's Chicken + Honey
Photo by: Beasley’s Chicken + Honey

1. Gus’s Fried Chicken – Mason, Tennessee

We don’t know who Gus is or how he got so good at frying up birds, but we’ll let him cook for us any day. The original was started in Tennessee back in 1953 and the chicken was so good, places elsewhere just couldn’t wait to get their hands – or mouth – on it. Today there’s locations all over where you can order their crispy, spicy chicken that so many have grown to love.

Photo by: Evan Blaser via Flickr
Photo by: Evan Blaser via Flickr

The 20 Dirtiest Cities in America

At the end of 2012, Forbes.com released a list of the 20 American cities considered the dirtiest in terms of groundwater pollution levels and air quality. Economic hardships have only exacerbated the problem in many of these metropolitan areas, and high pollution levels are detrimental to the overall quality of life for residents.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the Sperling rating below are based on an index where 1 is the worst and 100 is the best.

20. St.Louis, MO

Over 150 industrial sites dot the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers in this area, and chemicals are dumped into the rivers on a regular basis. The local Sperling Air Quality Index is 24, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 44.

St. Louis MO

19. Cleveland, OH

The ArcelorMittal metals plant is a large source of toxic emissions in the Cleveland area. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 29, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 35.

Cleveland OH

18. Baltimore, MD

The nearby Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay carry high levels of arsenic, phosphorous and other harmful chemicals from Baltimore’s poultry processing plants. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 14, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 49.

Baltimore MD

17. Los Angeles, CA

The LA metro area is ranked the worst in the nation for ozone levels. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 2, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 58.

Los Angeles CA

16. Louisville, KY

Louisville is home to the Cane Run Coal Plant, which spews high levels of harmful pollutants into the air. The local Sperling Air Quality Index is 37, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 19.

Louisville KY

15. Akron, OH

The local Sperling Air Quality Index is 20, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 36. Akron is situated along the Cuyahoga River, which has caught fire in the past due to surface pollutants.

Akron OH

14. Baton Rouge, LA

Coal-burning power plants are a major source of air pollution in this city, and recent initiatives have begun for stricter emissions control regulations. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 29, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 27.

Baton Rouge Lousiana

13. Houston, TX

Houston houses the biggest number of oil refineries and chemical plants in the country, and it ranks quite high for ozone pollution. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 18, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 51.

Houston TX

12. Sacramento, CA

California’s capital has high rankings for air particle pollution and ozone levels. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 9, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 48.

Sacramento California

11. New York City, NY

High levels of pollutants from oil spills, industrial development and chemical dumping plague New York City’s and Northern New Jersey’s groundwater supplies. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 23, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 34.

New York City NY

10. Milwaukee, WI

Industrial development and manufacturing have created high concentrations of pollutants in the Milwaukee River as well as in the air. The local Sperling Air Quality Index is 26, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is also 26.

Milwaukee, WI

9. Stockton, CA

Lack of funding for clean-up has resulted in high ozone levels in this central California city. Its Sperling Air Quality Index is 15, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 35.

Stockton CA

8. San Jose, CA

This city’s silicon manufacturing has resulted in toxic chemical leaching into the groundwater over the decades. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 13, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 30.

San Jose California

7. New Haven, CT

The Sperling Air Quality Index is 6, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 44 in New Haven. The city is located close to Yale University’s flight school and a major intersection of two interstate highways.

New Haven CT

6. Riverside, CA

The Riverside-San Bernardino area has a Sperling Air Quality Index of 1 and a Sperling Water Quality Index of 49. Drinking water supplies have been contaminated by the manufacture of rockets, motors and explosives.

Riverside, CA

5. Modesto, CA

This central California city ranks 11th in the nation for ozone pollution, and it also shoulders one of the country’s highest unemployment rates. The Sperling Air Quality Index is 6, and the Sperling Water Quality Index is 34.

Modesto California

4. Bridgeport, CT

Connecticut is one of the wealthiest U.S. states, but local car part manufacturing has lead to contamination of the wetlands with various toxic chemicals. Found contaminants include dangerous levels of lead and asbestos. The Sperling Water Quality Index is 32, and the Sperling Air Quality Index is 8.

Bridgeport, CT

3. Philadelphia, PA

The City of Brotherly Love is situated on the banks of the Delaware River, which has been lined with operating chemical refineries for several decades. High concentrations of pollutants get released into the river water each year, and the area has a water quality index of 12 as well as an air quality index of 22.

Philadelphia, PA

2. Bakersfield, CA

Bakersfield’s main employment sector is the oil industry, and the local area has a Sperling Air Quality Index of 1. The Sperling Water Quality Index is 42. Emissions from oil production facilities are largely the cause of these high pollution levels.

Bakersfield CA

1. Fresno, CA

A major local industry is agriculture, which has lead to the leaching of pesticides and other harmful chemicals into the groundwater. Residents suffer from adverse health effects from the poor groundwater quality, and Fresno also has the 5th worst ranking for air particle pollution. The city’s Sperling Air Quality Index is rated 1 and the Sperling Water Quality Index is rated 22.

Fresno, CA