While early records of the city’s existence date back more than 300 hundred years, Baton Rouge celebrates its 200th year as an incorporated city in 2017. As the state’s capital for around 170 years, Baton Rouge has come to represent every major influence of Louisiana culture in one iconic city. Just as the mighty Mississippi River twists, turns and broadens shaping the city, the history and culture of Baton Rouge flows with it.
The area on the banks of the Mississippi was first called, “Istrouma” by the Native Americans who lived and hunted there, hanging their kill on a stick to mark their territory. Translated in French to “Baton Rouge” by Pierre Le Moyne D’Ibberville, ultimately means “red stick” in English, a moniker that’s used throughout the city today.
To pretend Baton Rouge hasn’t been through turbulence however, would be to dismiss the things that make it beautiful — and unbreakable.
In 2016, this city used to being fiercely independent, where big decisions are made and so much Louisiana history was born, suddenly felt ordinary and small. As waters rose during the floods tenacious Baton Rouge residents pulled up their bootstraps and reached deep into their communities to begin to heal and strengthen the heart of Louisiana.
Today, Baton Rouge has never been more welcoming or felt more like home.
As Louisiana’s capital eases into its 200th year, you’ll find a rising city that encourages the success of local business owners, that learns and develops new ways to live and work, and celebrates cuisine, art, music and culture every day.
On this auspicious anniversary, we offer up a celebration of Baton Rouge that highlights what to eat, drink, see and do, both old and new.
The Building of the Louisiana State Capitol
900 N 3rd St.
In 1932, no one had seen the likes of a sky scraping, 450-foot state Capitol in Louisiana’s capital city, but no one had seen the likes of Huey P. Long either. Long spared no expense in building this monument to Louisiana, with the finest finishes from lava floors to ton-sized chandeliers, down to the walls made of marble that would forever bear the bullet holes from his death. A Capitol so grand, every man who visits, feels like a king.
There is never a shortage of unique fine dining and locally sourced comfort food in Baton Rouge. Lately, the city’s culinary scene has heartened relationships with regional farmers and fishers to bring the freshest seasonal foods in to focus for everyone. In Mid-City, get a taste of Tuscany with authentic Italian sandwiches and homemade pasta dishes at Anthony’s Italian Deli. Downtown, study the difference in oysters cultivated from coast to coast at Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar. In the Perkins Road overpass area, feast on unique takes on the traditional at The Overpass Merchant. By Louisiana State University, fill up on classic Louisiana comfort food and wash it down from the extensive tap selection of local and craft brews at The Chimes. For the finest fried chicken, try the same recipe enjoyed by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington at Delpit’s Chicken Shack, a classic since 1937.
3357 Highland Road • 225-383-1754 • thechimes.com
The Chimes on Highland has been a campus hangout for Louisiana State University students and professors for generations. The original location’s restaurant and taproom harbors more than classic comfort foods and cold craft brews, its walls hold more than 30 years of memories. From its Abita Root Beer-glazed pork chops to its blackened alligator, and with its 80 beer taps, there is something for everyone and everything is distinctively Louisiana influenced.
Speaking of taps, Baton Rouge is now home to two craft breweries, Tin Roof Brewing Company and Southern Craft Brewing Company, that have taprooms to sample locally brewed and inspired beer. You can also find craft cocktails at Olive or Twist and fine wines at Bin 77. For the richest coffees, sit outside at Magpie Cafe, sip your brew from Strands Cafe by the river, or catch up with friends at Garden District Coffee.
Blend Wine Bar
304 Laurel St #1B • 225-757-5645 • blendbr.com
For a simple after work happy hour, a night out with the girls or a romantic evening, Blend has a sophisticated atmosphere and equally sophisticated selection of wine and cocktails. The menu of small plates was created by its chefs to complement the restaurant’s extensive wine offerings. Blend’s interior design highlights much of the original architecture of an historic downtown building with modern accents, rounding out the vibe of a decadent evening in the heart of the city.
Take a walk in Huey P. Long’s shoes and learn about the spirited history of Louisiana politics as you stroll from the Old Governor’s Mansion to the Old State Capital and end up at the current, 34-story Louisiana State Capitol building (the tallest in the U.S.) used today. A short walk from there is the interactive Capital Park Museum that is chock full of Louisiana state history and culture. Back by the river, see what it’s like to be a sailor on the U.S.S. Kidd and explore space, sculpture and more at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum and the LSU Museum of Art. For more mediums, check out fine art exhibits at the Baton Rouge Gallery and see captivating wildlife photography at C.C. Lockwood’s Gallery in the Backpacker store for outdoor gear and apparel.
Start your Saturday with shopping for fresh fruit, vegetables and regionally raised proteins at the Red Stick Farmers Market downtown or visit any of the weekday markets set up across the city. Spend the afternoon exploring Baton Rouge’s version of Central Park, a 440-arce expanse of land, trails, gardens and rural village at Burden Museum and Gardens. Then take in an evening show at Theatre Baton Rouge or the Manship Theatre, or ballet at the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre.
Burden Museum and Gardens
4560 Essen Lane • 225-763-3990 • lsuagcenter.com
Set in the middle of Baton Rouge’s metropolitan area is a 440-arce parcel that preserves history and promotes modern day study. Owned and protected by Louisiana State University, Burden Museum and Gardens includes an expanse of walking trails, lush gardens, a full scale village of structures depicting rural life in Louisiana hundreds of years ago, as well as a state-of-the-art agricultural testing ground, just to name a few attractions in this one spot.
Louisiana Science and Art Museum and Irene W. Pennington Planetarium
100 S. River Road • 225-344-5272 • lasm.org
The Louisiana Art and Science Museum is housed in an historic, 1925 railway station on the banks of the Mississippi River. From browsing fine-art galleries to finding star formations, visitors of all ages can find something to pique their interests in the interactive museum and its adjoining Irene W. Pennington Planetarium. This 60-foot dome theater is the largest planetarium in Louisiana. Daily shows range from astronomy and other scientific subjects to alternative rock music.
Find eco-friendly and socially responsible gifts and more at Noelie Harmon. Before you hit the town, ladies will find the perfect outfits at Soiree, from casual to formal and everything in between. Fellas can find local favorite styles and a few gifts, too at Pierre Crawdeaux Company. For gifts of all ages, shop The Royal Standard’s multi-vendor one-stop shop for any occasion. Source unusual antiques and locally crafted artwork at The Market at Circa 1857. Each month, the Red Stick Farmers Market hosts local artisans. For international guests, Baton Rouge offers tax-free shopping.
Red Stick Farmer’s Market
501 N 5th St. • 225-267-5060 • breada.org
What started out as a thesis project now has a huge influence in where local home cooks and chefs get the freshest foods for their tables. Red Stick Farmers Market on North and Main Street downtown is the cornerstone of the Big River Economic & Agricultural Development Alliance. This group and its farmers markets connect citizens to farm fresh, locally grown food at sites throughout the city almost every day of the week.
Listen to a variety of bands in an intimate setting at the Varsity Theatre, or catch bigger shows at L’auberge Casino and Hotel Baton Rouge. For the best live outdoor music, bring your blanket and settle in for the Baton Rouge Blues Festival (April 8 and 9), the oldest blues festival in the U.S. More outdoor concert series come in waves across the city at Live after Five, Rock-n-Rowe and Sundays in the Park during both the spring and fall seasons
Third Street Song-writer’s Festival
Say you heard it first at the Third Street Songwriter’s Festival, a three-day festival that draws songwriters from all over the country to share their original work on and around Third Street in Baton Rouge. Throughout the festival, songwriters will have the chance to perform in front Nashville songwriting organizations and publishing companies. Music lovers can spend festival evenings listening to live performances of original music performed by successful Nashville songwriters as well as local songwriters hoping to make it big.
Spring is Baton Rouge’s most celebrated season. Start with quaint, and some satirical, Mardi Gras parades (Feb. 11-25) then feel the luck of the Irish at the Wearin’ of the Green St. Patrick’s Day Parade (March 18). In April, celebrate the capital region’s cultural, economic and ecological connection to the Mississippi River at the Ebb and Flow Festival (April 1 and 2) and Louisiana Earth Day (April 23) with festivities downtown.
Wearin’ of the Green St. Patrick’s Parade
While St. Patrick’s Day parades have been a tradition in Baton Rouge dating back to 1906, the 32nd annual Wearin’ of the Green Parade will roll through the Garden District area on Saturday, March 18. What started out as a small neighborhood parade, has now grown to be one of Baton Rouge’s most beloved spectacles. Start your morning off with a Bloody Mary then catch your weight in green beads and more along the route.
Baton Rouge residents make themselves at home in sprawling suburbs or in walkable living areas where they can live, play and work within walking distance. Homey neighborhoods with plenty to see and do within a short distance include the downtown area, Spanish Town, Beauregard Town, Mid-City/Capital Heights, Perkins Road overpass and Perkins Rowe areas.
Baton Rouge Blues Festival
April 8 and 9
The Baton Rouge Blues Festival has been celebrating the blues in the Red Stick for more than 35 years. As the oldest blues festival in America, the Baton Rouge Blues Festival has honored local, national and international blues artists in an impressive lineup each year. This year’s festival will feature The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Kenny Neal & the Neal Family Band, Marc Broussard and many more. The Baton Rouge Blues Festival will run April 8 and 9 in downtown Baton Rouge.