Big cats, magnificence pageants, and blues. These are just a few of the perfect issues to do in Baton Rouge. The capital of Louisiana reveals its historic ties to French exploration and Native Americans in its title, Baton Rouge. When Pierre Le Moyne Sieur d’Iberville first got here to the world in 1699 he discovered a crimson pole alongside the Mississippi River that marked the dividing line between the Houmas and Byougoula Indigenous territories. He named the place Baton Rouge, that means Red Stick, and it’s since grown to be the second-largest metropolis within the state of Louisiana.
The Best of Baton Rouge
On my fourth go to to Louisiana, I needed to discover Baton Rouge so I left New Orleans for the 90 minute drive to this stunning metropolis. Leaving New Orleans, you possibly can meander alongside one of America’s nice highways, Louisiana’s River Road. If you do, make certain and cease at Whitney Plantation Museum, the one plantation that focuses on the lives of enslaved folks, telling their tales by sculpture and artwork.
Or you may take the extra direct route on Highway 10. The 80-mile drive can take you an hour and a half, or one or two days if you happen to cease at each mom-and-pop diner and wedding-cake plantation. That drive alone can change your life and make you fall in love with Louisiana. It did it for me.
Miss Baton Rouge pageant
Rolling as much as the Baton Rouge Marriott, I discovered the foyer full of younger girls decked out in fluffy tulle skirts and sparkly tiaras. They had been collaborating within the Miss Baton Rouge pageant and hoping to make their technique to the Miss Louisiana pageant, and who is aware of how a lot additional, someday.
In the meantime, their mothers had been comfortable to talk and clarify that each little lady deserves to shine. It was enjoyable to journey within the elevators with these charming little girls, who left a path of glitter all over the place, on the best way as much as my snug lodge room. The Baton Rouge Marriott is a lodge of alternative for these bevies of well-behaved pageant members.
Tiger Stadium at Louisiana State University
Another necessary dividing line may be discovered mid-field at Louisiana State University’s Tiger Stadium. Billed because the loudest stadium within the USA, the cheers from the group in a 1988 recreation in opposition to Auburn University induced an earthquake studying on the seismograph on the campus geoscience advanced.
At 102,321 seats, LSU is the eighth largest stadium on the planet. On each recreation weekend, the complete campus is taken over by tailgate events the place followers compete for the perfect spots to arrange moveable grills, snap out the garden chairs, and crack open a number of chilly beers. Marching bands and wannabe mascots decked out within the crew’s colours of purple and gold parade by the grounds whereas mates and households munch on shrimp and grits, grilled meats of all shapes, and crab stuffed po’boy sandwiches.
Mike the Tiger
Right throughout from the stadium is the enclosure the place you’ll discover Mike the Tiger, Mike VII, to be exact. He’s a 345-pound Bengal/Siberian cross rescue tiger who was delivered to the habitat in 2017. He continues the lengthy lineage of Mikes, starting with Mike I who arrived in 1936. The most up-to-date incarnations of Mike have all come from massive cat rescue shelters throughout the US. His habitat is spectacular.
The 15,000-square-foot setting features a dwell oak tree, a waterfall, and a stream for Mike to chill off in. There are loads of vegetation and bushes to cover behind, and a particular consolation rock that’s robotically heated or cooled as wanted, to maintain Mike snug. In addition to hanging out, Mike takes half in tiger analysis, conservation, and husbandry applications. Not a foul life. A full-size bronze statue of Mike guards the doorway.
The LSU Museum of Art
LSU’s affect may be seen all through Baton Rouge. The LSU Museum of Art has everlasting and rotating reveals with an emphasis on Southern artists, and a number of other neighborhood artwork applications. But I used to be itching to see one of the college’s different tasks, the LSU Rural Life Museum & Windrush Gardens.
LSU Rural Life Museum
I’m unsure if the LSU Rural Life Museum and Windrush Gardens are at all times as quiet as they had been once I visited, however this can be a nice outside museum and properly value a number of hours of your time. In reality, it was named one of the Top 10 Outdoor Museums within the World by the British Museum. It holds essentially the most spectacular assortment of Louisiana’s historic structure that I’ve ever seen and the biggest assortment of 18th and Nineteenth-century buildings within the state. As I wandered on the gravel paths, I used to be reminded of the spectral visions of the 2 girls of Versailles. I didn’t see any ghosts, however I wouldn’t have been shocked to see some.
This was by no means a grand, white-pillared, plantation house. It was a household farm of round 400 acres that what bought by the Burden household in 1861 who finally donated it to LSU. There are three sections to the museum. The Working Plantation, Folk Architecture, and The Exhibit Barn.
At The Working Plantation, the lives of enslaved persons are introduced into sharp focus by the buildings that they lived and labored in. The glorious state of the buildings is as a result of cypress wooden used of their development. It is of course sturdy, doesn’t rot, and is insect and waterproof. As a end result, there was no want to color them and so they proceed to take a seat, strong and gray, open to guests and the climate. The Overseer’s House dominates the quadrant that accommodates the slave cabins, the sugar grinder, the kitchen, blacksmith’s store, and the commissary.
The Folk Architecture part has a good looking rustic church with painted home windows as an alternative of stained glass, a pioneer’s cabin, and a breezy dogtrot home. An glorious instance of a so-called Shotgun House, lengthy and slender with rooms off a single hall, stands subsequent to the street, surrounded by rose bushes. This fashion of house is frequent in New Orleans. The Acadian home has a ladder that results in the second flooring garçonnièrewhere the boys had their bedrooms as soon as they grew to become teenage terrors.
It’s simple to spend a number of hours right here, particularly if you happen to go to the Exhibit Barn that has shows and artifacts from the times of early Louisiana, by the Civil War, Reconstruction and the Industrial Revolution. There’s additionally a big assortment of horse-drawn carriages, farming gear and instruments.
Windrush Gardens is the working analysis backyard adjoining the museum and a spot of nice magnificence with three miles of strolling paths by Burden Woods. Rose lovers will admire the specialty specimens within the Rose Garden. There’s a boardwalk over Black Swamp, a Children’s Garden, and timber and flowers not discovered anyplace else within the state. Gardeners will need to linger.
After my go to, it was time for lunch. I ended in at Sammy’s Grill on Highland, a neighborhood favorite for Louisiana crawfish and Gulf shrimp and oysters. Along with wealthy gumbo and scrumptious crawfish etouffee over rice, additionally they serve alligator, fried or blackened, and typical Southern sides like grits, or crimson rice and beans.
I opted for a crawfish boil, a standard dish with potatoes and corn on the cob. Crawfish get greater because the climate warms from February to May, with Easter typically being prime time for these freshwater crustaceans. They style like a cross between shrimp and lobster and make an ideal meal, when you launch them from their shiny crimson jackets.
Louisiana Old State Capitol
After lunch I used to be off to the Louisiana Old State Capitol for a lesson in politics. Mark Twain was not a fan of this National Historic Monument that stands on the banks of the Mississippi. He known as it “a little sham castle”. Of course, being a world traveler and having seen loads of real castles might have influenced his view. In any case, on this one occasion, I need to disagree with one of my favorite journey writers. The Old State Capitol is spectacular in its manner. It’s a mash-up of Gothic and Victorian structure that emerged after it was partially destroyed by a fireplace after the Civil War.
The foyer is dominated by an ornate round forged iron staircase and lit in confetti colors by a unprecedented round glass dome overhead that dates to 1882. Off the foyer, a brief movie known as “Ghost of the Castle” tells the historical past of the constructing. Painted Moorish arches result in exhibition areas.
In the Governor’s Office and Reception Room, issues have largely stayed the identical because the flip of the century, apart from the interactive podium that options speeches by former governors, together with Huey Long. A everlasting exhibition delves into his controversial legacy. He was a left-wing Democrat who criticized Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal for not going far sufficient to assist the poor.
As a Senator, he took on Standard Oil and Wall Street whereas advocating for a tax on the rich. Bellicose and belligerent, he as soon as declared “I am the Constitution”, when challenged on a degree of legislation. He was assassinated in 1935 on the age of 42 by a relative of a political opponent. His fascinating journey by Louisiana politics is revealed by the interactive shows. An adjoining exhibition offers with the historical past of voting and the democratic course of.
USS KIDD Veterans Museum.
Take the spiral staircase as much as the second flooring to see the unique Senate and House chambers, full with their very own stained-glass home windows. This was the place the place Louisiana famously seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy in 1861. Group excursions take you even increased up, to the rooftop of the constructing with a sweeping view of the Mississippi and the USS KIDD Veterans Museum.
This World War II restored Destroyer is the one ship within the US Navy that’s allowed to fly the cranium and crossbones pirate flag, on the request of the widow of Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, Sr. He was killed aboard the USS ARIZONA throughout the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbour. The floating museum is free to the general public, and you may go to the complete vessel from stem to stern on all ranges.
Baton Rouge Blues Festival
I used to be shooed out of the Capitol constructing at closing time and crossed the road to seek out the Baton Rouge Blues Festival in full swing. This free two-day occasion has been held each spring since 1981, with a brief break for the pandemic. It celebrates “swamp blues”, a homegrown Baton Rouge selection. Four phases are scattered across the downtown mall, with loads of shade, cool drinkables and snacks available.
Nikki Hill, of Montreaux and Monterey Jazz Festival fame, closed out the present as half of her world tour. In April 2023, headliners will embrace the sacred soul and gospel singer Elizabeth King of Memphis and the blues and r&b group Tommy Castro & the Painkillers together with many others. There’s some seating available, and the dance flooring is at all times full of music lovers of all ages.
Mid City Beer Garden
I wrapped up my go to to Baton Rouge with a go to to Mid City Beer Garden, an ethereal courtyard area with over 50 beers on faucet, together with their very own specialty brews. The boudin balls had been calling so I needed to examine them out. A Louisiana appetizer and all-around consolation meals, they’re made with rice, meat, and savoury spices, rolled into balls and coated with breadcrumbs. The deep-fried result’s a crispy shell and a moist inside that’s irresistible.
Dare you to eat only one. They’re so beloved that Louisiana has its personal Cajun Boudin Trail that you may comply with by the state. Boudin is made as a sausage or as boudin balls, and every recipe is exclusive. Next up was the home particular – a cheese sandwich, however not simply any cheese sandwich. This one boasted six sorts of cheese on a rosemary focaccia bun and it was scrumptious. Then it was again to my lodge for a great evening’s sleep. Baton Rouge will at all times be a profitable contestant in my journey magnificence pageant.
Debra was a visitor of Louisiana Travel. As at all times, her opinions are her personal. Visit the Louisiana Travel web site for extra info on Baton Rouge and different fantastic cities in Louisiana.