8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge, the Louisiana state capital, owes its name to two Indian tribes who marked the boundaries of their territory with red posts. Set along the Mississippi River, the city is home to the destroyer, USS Kidd, part of the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial, one of the city's must see sites. Some of the other prominent tourist attractions are the handsome old mansions, including Magnolia Plantation (1791), one of the oldest in the area, and the State Capitol Building. Additionally the city has some lovely parks and good shopping.
See also: Where to Stay in Baton Rouge
1 Old State Capitol
The Old State Capitol building is a striking Gothic-Revival castle that was built in 1847. It is noteworthy both from a historical and architectural perspective, and is worth a look, if even just from the outside.
The castle was burned by the Union Army, and in 1882 it was repaired and served as the state capitol until 1932 when the new State Capitol building opened. This eye catching structure standing high on a bluff over the Mississippi River, is now the Museum of Political History. The museum offers a number of good exhibits that include The Legacy of Huey Long, The Governors' Portrait Gallery, Baton Rouge and the Civil War, and several others.
The Old State Capitol hosts various events and can be rented out as a venue for weddings and other occasions.
Address: 100 North Boulevard, Baton Rouge, LA 70801-1502, United States
2 USS Kidd and Veterans Memorial
The USS Kidd and Veterans Memorial centers around the destroyer USS KIDD. This ship, named after Rear Admiral Isaac Campbell Kidd, Sr., who was killed on the Arizona during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, was launched in 1943. It was nick named the "Pirate of the Pacific" and had a long and interesting history before it was de-commissioned in 1964. It has been used in several movies over the decades, as well as historical documentaries. Today visitors can come aboard to see the USS KIDD for themselves and learn all about its past.
The USS Kidd and Veterans Memorial complex also consists of an observation tower and museum. The Nautical Center has many one-of-a-kind artifacts, a model ship collection, and a miniature replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall found in Washington, D.C.
Address: 305 South River Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70802-6220, United States
3 Louisiana State University
The Louisiana State University was established in 1860 near Alexandria and in 1869 it was moved to Baton Rouge. In 1926, the University moved to its current location. Some of the highlights include the LSU Rural Life Museum and the LSU Museum of Natural Science. American Indian mounds, located on the grounds, are believed to be more than 1,600 years old.
Address: Highland Road
4 Louisiana State Capitol
The Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge was built in the early 1930s. This landmark structure stands 450 ft high with 34 floors. Limestone used on the exterior and the interior marbles came from a variety of countries around the world. Flanking the stairs are two statues; The Patriots, an armored soldier and the mourners of a warrior slain in battle; and the Pioneers.
The construction of the State Capitol was the result of efforts by Huey Pierce Long, a Louisiana politician who would eventually become a member of the U.S. Senate. He fought hard to have the structure built, succeeded, and was later assassinated in this same building. He is buried on the grounds and there is a memorial.
Visitors can tour the building and take the elevator up to an observation deck for views out over the city. The Louisiana State Capitol is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Address: 900 North 3rd Street
5 Magnolia Mound Plantation
Magnolia Mound was built in the last half of the 18th century and shows the architectural influences brought by early settlers from France and the West Indies. Throughout the years the home has been owned by a variety of different people who took the liberty of making their own alterations and extensions. The home, a wooden structure of bousillage construction, still maintains much of its 18th / 19th century appearance. It is surrounded by old oak trees.
The property was expropriated by the city of Baton Rouge to be maintained as a historical symbol of an earlier age. Today it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and open to the public for tours. The property includes almost 15 acres, consisting of the main house and several other buildings.
6 LSU Rural Life Museum
Ten different flags have flown over Louisiana. The LSU Rural Life Museum presents the lifestyles and cultures of pre-industrial Louisiana. Highlights include; Louisiana Folk Architecture,a collection of seven buildings that illustrate the various cultural influences of Louisiana's settlers; The Barn with items from prehistoric times to the 20th century; and The Working Plantation, a complex of buildings furnished to reconstruct the activities of life on a 19th century working plantation. Among the Folk Architecture are a church, cabin, Acadian house, and potato house. Tours are generally self guided but docent-led tours may be arranged in advance.
Address: 4560 Essen Lane
7 Baton Rouge Zoo
BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo is home to both exotic and domestic animals. Among the collection are large cats, rhinos, otters, fish, reptiles and amphibians of Louisiana in the L'aquarium de Louisiane. Check out the Parrot Paradise with rare and colorful birds from the tropics, including parrots and macaws. The Realm of the Tiger is a more recent addition, with tigers and other Asian animals. Flamingo Cove and Giants of the Islands exhibits feature Chilean flamingos, and Galapagos and Aldabra tortoises.
The KidsZoo is another popular area with barnyard animals and tunnels for kids to play in. Neighboring this is the Safari Playground with a variety of equipment.
Address: 3601 Thomas Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70704, United States
8 Louisiana Arts & Science Museum
The Louisiana Arts & Science Museum features a mix of art and science, with a little something for both adults and children. The art galleries offer both changing exhibits and a permanent collection of fine art. Some of the highlights include American and European art, ethnographic art, modern and contemporary art of Louisiana, photography, and antiquities.
The science portion of the museum, targeted towards children and families, is a fun area with interactive, education based displays. This is a place where children are provided interesting ways to learn about the world around them.
Also of interest is the creatively laid out Ancient Egypt Gallery with mummies and other artifacts, and an on sight Planetarium. The building which houses the Louisiana Arts & Science Museum is a lovely old railroad depot located along the Mississippi River.
Address: 100 River Road South
Where to Stay in Baton Rouge for Sightseeing
To get a real flavor and feel for this friendly Cajun city, it's best to stay right downtown. Baton Rouge's vibrant city center is about one square mile, bordered to the north by the Louisiana State Capitol, to the south by the USS Kidd Veterans Museum, and to the west by the Mississippi River. This is where many of the major attractions are found, along with restaurants and plenty of things to see and do. Below are some highly-rated hotels in convenient locations:
- Luxury Hotels: The recently renovated Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center is a historic, 1927 riverfront hotel, with large rooms and first-class service, in a great downtown location. Featuring circular, one-bedroom suites, with balconies overlooking the river, the Hampton Inn & Suites is also well positioned, within walking distance of many downtown attractions. The Hotel Indigo is a funky, pet-friendly waterfront hotel, with a dog named Huey who functions as a pet ambassador.
- Mid-Range Hotels: The best mid-range hotels are near the junction of Interstates 10 and 12, about a 15-minute drive southeast from downtown. The Homewood Suites is at the top end of the range and perfect for families that need extra space or require a kitchen. The Drury Inn is easily accessible off the Interstate and features free hot food and beverages in the early evening each day. The brand new Holiday Inn College Drive has the distinction of having welcomed President Obama as a guest in January, 2016. All of these properties feature pools.
- Budget Hotels: Budget-minded travelers will want to head outside of the city center to find the best accommodation options. Located near Interstates 10 and 12, about a 15-minute drive from the city center, the Sleep Inn offers good value. In the same area and near a selection of restaurants is the Red Roof Inn. About the same distance from downtown, but just a bit to the south, is the Siegen Inn. For those with a sweet tooth, this hotel offers free ice cream every night from 5 to 10pm.