Posted by: Mae Mayeux
Though Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana, it has spent many years living in New Orleans’ shadow. However, in recent years, this laid-back town on the banks of the Mississippi River has truly come into its own. It might not have the world-renowned nightlife or world-class arts & culture offerings that make New Orleans a major tourist destination, but with a revitalized downtown and a exciting melange of French, Spanish, Creole, and Cajun influences, Baton Rouge is thriving. While you’re here, you will hear good music, eat delicious food, and see historic sites. Plus, you’ll dodge some of the craziness and crowds of Bourbon Street. What more could you want?
Day 1: History, Art, and Shopping
Start off your morning at the Magpie Cafe Downtown. This is the perfect spot to grab coffee and a light but tasty breakfast before taking a stroll down Baton Rouge’s beautiful riverfront. Afterwards, it’s time to hit the State Capitol. That’s right. Baton Rouge boasts not one but two Capitols. At 450 feet, the newer Louisiana State Capitol (built in 1932) is the tallest capitol in the U.S. Take a ride to the Observation Deck on the 27th floor for marvelous views of the river and gardens below. From there, walk to the Old State Capitol, a National Historic Landmark sitting on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. Known as “the castle on the river,” the Old State Capitol is home to many art & history exhibitions and is unique for its blend of Gothic and Victorian architecture. Admission is free.
From there, head back downtown and pay a visit to the Shaw Center for the Arts, a 125,000 square foot performing arts venue, fine arts museum, and educational institution. It takes up an entire city block and includes the Manship Theater and the LSU Museum of Art.
Grab some traditional soul food at The Chimes before making your way to City-Brooks Community Park to visit the Baton Rouge Gallery Center for Contemporary Art. The museum is located inside the park’s 1920s-era former pool house and showcases all types of art, from experimental to video to spoken word.
Next it’s time to shop. Perkin’s Overpass is ground zero for shopping and dining. This quaint neighborhood is filled with independent boutiques, trendy coffee shops, and excellent restaurants. We like to browse for rare books at Cottonwood Books and then dig for antiques at The Market at Circa 1875. Afterwards, enjoy a refreshing cup of sweet tea and some live music at Yvette Marie’s Cafe.
Finish up your busy day with some inventive comfort food at The Overpass Merchant. This sophisticated gastro pub serves updated takes on classic Southern items like a Meatball Po Boy and Fried Chicken Club. They also have a great cocktail menu and an extensive craft beer list.
Day Two: Swamps, History, and the Blues
Grab a hearty breakfast at local favorite Zeeland Street Market, where you can order home-cooked cheddar cheese grits, made-to-order omelets, and the fluffiest buttermilk pancakes in the city.
To walk off that heavy breakfast, we recommend spending a leisurely afternoon at the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center, a 103-acre stretch of protected land dotted with cypress and tupelo trees and populated by hundreds of species of birds. Admission is $3. From there, head to the LSU Rural Life Museum, a one-of-a-kind open air museum where you can explore 30 preserved historic buildings brought to Baton Rouge from all across Louisiana.
By now, you’ll probably have worked up quite the appetite. Treat yourself to an elegant and inventive dinner at Beausoleil (think braised gulf fish with eggplant pomodoro, fried Louisiana catfish with shrimp piquant, and truffled fried oysters) before heading out for a night on the town.
Baton Rouge’s music scene isn’t as world-renowned as New Orleans, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see some stellar acts while you’re here. We like Teddy’s Juke Joint, where you can listen to good old-fashioned blues amongst colorful Christmas lights and a working disco ball. You might even meet the owner Teddy, who is always clad in a cowboy hat and cape. Other popular music and nightlife venues are the Red Dragon Listening Room, The Cove, Roux House, and The Radio Bar. With so many great options, you really can’t go wrong.
Baton Rouge’s thriving arts & culture scene, rich history, and rollicking nightlife make it just as trip-worthy as New Orleans. Once a sleepy river town, Baton Rouge is now a thriving urban hub with a distinct character and charm of its own. Don’t overlook it when planning your next trip to the Bayou State.
Planning a trip to Baton Rouge? Book a stay at one of the Louisiana Bed & Breakfast Association’s many wonderful properties in the city!