What are the five best things to see and do in Baton Rouge?

Michael Ream

The city on the Mississippi offers visitors a taste of the Old South with all the modern day conveniences of a mid-sized metropolis. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s five best things to see and do in Baton Rogue:
 
1. Visit the Louisiana State Capitol building. The historic capitol building is a monument to the controversial tenure of Huey Long, who infamously ruled over Louisiana in the ‘20s and ‘30s as governor and U.S. Senator. He commissioned the 450-foot-tall structure — today it’s the tallest state capitol in the United States — where he died in a hail of bullets in 1935. Meander the formal garden south of the building where Long’s grave is located, or head to the observation deck on the 27th floor for views of Baton Rogue and beyond.
 
2. Meander through Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center. On the southern end of the city sits this 100-acre nature preserve. Walk the boardwalk through cypress swamp and beech-magnolia forest, then visit the exhibit building which has live animals, a working bee hive and more.
 
3. Explore the Old State Capitol. In marked contrast to the soaring current capitol, the Old State Capitol is a neo-gothic fortress on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. It houses a museum devoted to state politics — and as any history buff could tell you, Louisiana has had some of the most colorful in U.S. history.
 
4. Drive through Plantation Alley. The small towns that line the Mississippi from Baton Rouge to New Orleans are home to perhaps the highest concentration of restored antebellum mansions — all located on gorgeously manicured grounds. While touring plantations, be sure to stop at The River Road African-American Museum in Donaldsonville. The slaves whose labor provided the lifestyle for their rich owners are just part of the focus at this museum, which includes numerous exhibits on African-American history and culture.
 
5. Take in the Capitol Park Museum. Learn all about Louisiana state history at this museum near the capitol building. Displays touch on everything from the Civil War to shrimp and oyster fishing to the colorful pageantry of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    Where is the best shopping in Baton Rouge?

    Baton Rouge is not as much of a shopper’s paradise as nearby New Orleans, but it still has some shops worth checking out. Poke around The Royal Standard for all sorts of unique fashions and housewares, including an impressive selection of Louisiana State University-themed items; or go to Circa 1857 for art, antiques and architectural salvage. The Baton Rouge Arts Market is an open-air arts extravaganza held the first Saturday of every month, (excluding January and May, and the first three Saturdays in December), while the Red Stick Farmers’ Market offers fresh produce and other goodies every Saturday at Fifth and Main Streets. The farmers’ market is located next to Main Street Market, which has its own collection of shops and eating spots and is open every day but Sunday. Finally, Perkins Rowe and Towne Center at Cedar Lodge are both large modern shopping centers with a slew of stores, dining and entertainment options.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Baton Rouge?

    From interactive shows to shady swamps, Baton Rogue’s attractions can entertain kids of all ages. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the five best things to do with little ones in this Southern city:
     
    1. Explore the Louisiana Art & Science Museum. Stick to the science side of this sprawling museum on the banks of the Mississippi. It features interactive exhibits that kids will love, as well as a planetarium with all kinds of sky shows and even an authentic Egyptian mummy. Step outside to watch the riverboat casinos cruising by on the waters of the “Big Muddy.”
     
    2. Hop onboard the USS Kidd. Next to the science museum on the riverfront, this World War II destroyer is open for tours. Walk around the historic ship, and then visit the adjacent museum to see a trove of military artifacts, including vintage aircraft.
     
    3. Interact with animals at BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo. Animals from all over the world are found at this zoo, including a black rhino, impressive birds and a large tiger habitat, as well as fish, reptiles and amphibians native to Louisiana. Elephant shows happen daily, and there’s also a playground and petting zoo here.
     
    4. Walk through the Rural Life Museum. A showcase of traditional country living, this largely outdoor complex on the Louisiana State University campus includes an authentic 19th-century plantation with several restored buildings, including a sugar house, grist mill and blacksmith’s shop. There are also semi-formal gardens with many examples of native flowers and plants.
     
    5. Take a swamp tour. Give kids an up-close look at the alligators that live in Baton Rouge’s legendary swamps — you won’t even need to enter the backwoods. The city boasts several cruises through the bayous, including the Cajun Pride Swamp Tours, McGee’s Landing and The Last Wilderness Swamp Tour.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What are the five best things to see and do in Baton Rouge?

    The city on the Mississippi offers visitors a taste of the Old South with all the modern day conveniences of a mid-sized metropolis. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s five best things to see and do in Baton Rogue:
     
    1. Visit the Louisiana State Capitol building. The historic capitol building is a monument to the controversial tenure of Huey Long, who infamously ruled over Louisiana in the ‘20s and ‘30s as governor and U.S. Senator. He commissioned the 450-foot-tall structure — today it’s the tallest state capitol in the United States — where he died in a hail of bullets in 1935. Meander the formal garden south of the building where Long’s grave is located, or head to the observation deck on the 27th floor for views of Baton Rogue and beyond.
     
    2. Meander through Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center. On the southern end of the city sits this 100-acre nature preserve. Walk the boardwalk through cypress swamp and beech-magnolia forest, then visit the exhibit building which has live animals, a working bee hive and more.
     
    3. Explore the Old State Capitol. In marked contrast to the soaring current capitol, the Old State Capitol is a neo-gothic fortress on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. It houses a museum devoted to state politics — and as any history buff could tell you, Louisiana has had some of the most colorful in U.S. history.
     
    4. Drive through Plantation Alley. The small towns that line the Mississippi from Baton Rouge to New Orleans are home to perhaps the highest concentration of restored antebellum mansions — all located on gorgeously manicured grounds. While touring plantations, be sure to stop at The River Road African-American Museum in Donaldsonville. The slaves whose labor provided the lifestyle for their rich owners are just part of the focus at this museum, which includes numerous exhibits on African-American history and culture.
     
    5. Take in the Capitol Park Museum. Learn all about Louisiana state history at this museum near the capitol building. Displays touch on everything from the Civil War to shrimp and oyster fishing to the colorful pageantry of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
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  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What is the best way to see Baton Rouge in one day?

    The best way to see Baton Rogue in one day is to begin your adventure downtown. Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest starting with the Louisiana State Capitol building and its surrounding monuments. If you have little ones with you, make a visit to the kid-friendly Louisiana Art & Science Museum or the Rural Life Museum where you can walk through an authentic 19th-century plantation. After noshing on a po’ boy and some oysters for lunch at any corner café, head out to Great River Road for a winding trip along the Mississippi. You’ll pass the gorgeous old plantations of the wealthy sugar barons who once reigned here (you’ll also see the homes starkly contrast with the large petrochemical works along the river). There are a slew of charming country outposts where you can indulge in some shrimp or crawfish — our low-key favorite for a snack is The Cabin Restaurant in Gonzales. End your day back in Baton Rogue and watch the sun set over the bayous before a stellar Louisiana-style dinner at Juban’s.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    Where is the best nightlife in Baton Rouge?

    If you’re looking for a refined nightlife experience in Baton Rogue, you’re probably out of luck. But if you’re up for a laid-back, music-filled scene, Forbes Travel Guide editors can vouch that you’ve come to the right place. This Southern city is dominated by college students, beer and booming music — hear some blues at Teddy’s Juke Joint, an old-school club in an authentic shotgun shack, where a DJ plays recordings of classic bluesmen on nights when there are no live bands. You can also settle in with a drink at longtime Baton Rouge mainstay The Chimes, an atmospherically scenic joint that sits next to the Varsity Theatre — this spot books all kinds of bands and you can expect a lively, all-types clientele.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What are the five best Baton Rouge food experiences?

    For an authentic Baton Rogue food experience, don’t be shy about indulging in traditional Southern food mainstays: grease, sugar and pork. Here are Forbes Travel Guide editor’s picks for five Baton Rouge tastes not to be missed:
     
    1. Po’ boy sandwich. Deep-fried foods are de rigueur in Baton Rogue, including the ubiquitous po’ boy sandwich, typically made with fried shrimp or oysters and served on chewy French bread (you can get plenty of other fillings as well and many aficionados swear by roast beef). Try one at Poor Boy Lloyd’s near the river or any of the sandwich stands or delis around town.
     
    2. Boiled shrimp or catfish. Not all seafood is fried. You can get tasty boiled shrimp or crawfish all over town. Forbes Travel Guide recommends longtime local favorite Hymel’s Seafood Restaurant for top-notch seafood specialties.
     
    3. Decadent desserts. Baton Rogue is where sugar cane once grew thick from the black earth, and the rich and heavy desserts found here are a big nod to the sweet stuff. You can’t go wrong with signature Southern pies like pecan and lemon.
     
    4. Barbecue. Louisiana is known for its spicy, succulent pulled pork and other barbecued meats. Locals pour into Jay’s Bar-B-Q, a roadside spot with excellent barbecue and whole-chicken dinners.
     
    5. Fried alligator. Plenty of country folk have a thing for fried alligator — some say it tastes like chicken — found in the small cafés in and around Baton Rogue.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    What is the best thing to bring home from Baton Rouge?

    Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest shipping a taste of Louisiana home. Stop by Tony’s Seafood Market & Deli, the largest seafood market in the state, and have them ship their finest goods to your front door. Ask them about the fresh crawfish, crabs, shrimp, and packaged seasonings for gumbo and jambalaya.
     
    Any visitor to Baton Rouge can see that Louisiana State University plays a major role in the city’s daily life. Shops all over town sell souvenirs featuring the school’s purple and gold colors as well as images of the tiger mascot. One of the best spots for LSU gear is the LSU SportShop, located on campus near the ornate temple that is home to Mike the Tiger, a live Bengal.
     
    While it’s not nearly as famous as New Orleans’ annual party, Baton Rouge has its own Mardi Gras. If you can’t make it to town for the party you can pick up masks, beads and other trinkets at Parties Start Here, a huge Mardi Gras emporium.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Michael Ream answered the question: Michael Ream

    How can I best tour the restored plantations near Baton Rouge?

    You shouldn’t visit Baton Rogue without seeing a few restored plantations — our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend you put a tour or two at the top of your must-do list. For the most fruitful drive, head down Great River Road also known as Plantation Alley. Along this route — which reaches from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, you’ll see several grand antebellum homes lining the Mississippi River. Built around the 19th century, these mansions were the former homes of sugar barons, and most tended toward the grand and overstated, with sweeping porticoes and Greek columns. Many offer tours, and several have onsite restaurants as well.
     
    Petroleum has replaced sugar as the local cash cow, and today the mansions are overshadowed in some places by the petrochemical plants that also line the river’s banks. Still, the plantations have done a good job of restoring the architectural features and offer a peek at what life was like when the former owners dominated Louisiana’s economic and social life.
     
    Head to the town of White Castle, where you’ll find the majestic Nottoway Plantation. It’s one of the largest plantation homes in the South, with the rooms covering over 50,000 square feet. The plantation’s lovely restaurant is a top place to stop for lunch. Continue on to Donaldsonville, where you’ll find The River Road African-American Museum.
     
    Continue to follow the road along the Mississippi down to Vacherie, home of Oak Alley. Perhaps the most iconic of River Road’s plantations, Oak Alley has a quarter-mile canopy of live oaks leading to the grand Greek Revival home. Nearby is the more modest Laura Plantation, where you can learn about Louisiana’s unique Creole culture.
     
    Past Vacherie, you can cross the Gramercy Bridge over the river and head back toward Baton Rouge (you can also make a quick side trip east to the San Francisco Plantation). Moving northwest along the river, you may want to stop at Houmas House Plantation and Gardens, a plantation with a restaurant that serves lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.
  • On July 26, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat in Baton Rouge?

    Po’ Boy sandwiches and all sorts of Cajun-inspired cuisine can be found in the many restaurants in Baton Rouge. But for an additional taste of Louisiana, you can head out into the countryside, too. Check out these Forbes Travel Guide recommended restaurants in and around Baton Rouge:
     
    1. Maison Lacou. This traditional French restaurant is located within a cozy cottage just outside of downtown. The five dining rooms have a mash-up of traditional Parisian and Southern décor, and somehow it all works splendidly. While the food is French, traditional South Louisiana ingredients are used, too. Take home a bottle of the popular house vinaigrette.
     
    2. Bernadette’s. Head to Burnside, about 35 minutes southeast of Baton Rouge, to try Bernatdette’s French-Cajun fusion cuisine (multi-course tasting menus are available) in a fine dining atmosphere. The restaurant is a recent addition to the grounds of The Cabin Restaurant, a more casual historic joint popular with both visitors and locals.
     
    3. Juban’s. Unique, upscale Creole cuisine is the specialty in the sophisticated-but-warmly Southern dining room located near Louisiana State Univeristy. Expect an excellent wine list (Wine Spectator has bestowed multiple awards here) and dishes such as crabmeat-topped veal medallions and crawfish étouffée.
     
    4. Mansion Restaurant at Nottoway Plantation. Housed in a historic mansion with lovely views of the Louisiana countryside, this spot is worth the 35-minute drive from Baton Rogue for the genteel atmosphere alone. The menu is solidly classic Louisiana and changes seasonally, often on a daily basis.
     
    5. Stroubes. This spot is proof that an upscale seafood and steakhouse can still offer an authentic Southern culinary experience. Ingredients are sourced locally, and offers the restaurant excels in refined versions of low-country classics.
  • On July 26, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay in Baton Rouge?

    Whether you want to stay in the downtown area or in the surrounding countryside, Baton Rogue has some great options to consider. Here are the five best that Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend:
     
    1. Nottoway Resort. This gorgeous white historic hotel is said to be the South’s largest antebellum mansion and is located about 40 minutes south of downtown Baton Rouge. You’ll find tennis courts, a pool and cabana, a salon, and a restaurant spread throughout the expansive grounds.
     
    2. Hilton Baton Rogue Capitol Center. Stay in a guest room downtown, and have views of either the bustling streets or the Mississippi River. The décor is Southern and grand, and you can dine on down-home cuisine at the onsite restaurant Kingfish Grill.
     
    3. Oak Alley Plantation. If you want to spend the night at one of the more famous plantations along the Great River Road, check in at Oak Alley. The interiors have been brought up to modern standards, so you’ll have comfy beds and WiFi; outside, it’s just a short stroll to the banks of the Mississippi. Breakfast and lunch are served in the main house or you can order dinner to your cottage.
     
    4. Belle of Baton Rouge Casino & Hotel. Located downtown, this casino hotel has well-furnished guest rooms and an impressive slate of amenities, including a fitness center, business center, and outdoor pool and whirlpool. Three dining options provide everything from elaborate meals to a quick bite for those on a tight schedule.
     
    5. Madewood Plantation House. Once part of a sugar cane plantation, the historic inn is about an hour’s drive south of Baton Rouge on the plantation trail to New Orleans. Enjoy a nightly wine and cheese reception in the library, an elegant restaurant, surprisingly spacious rooms and stellar service.