Deep in the heart of … Cajun Country?
That’s right. Cajun Country, as in “Welcome to Baton Rouge, y’all!” It’s the city of offbeat places, colorful politicians, jaw-dropping history and mouth-watering food making it the perfect getaway for curious Texans bored with the ordinary. Just take a stroll next door to the east, give or take 450 miles, to see sights worth seeing and doing stuff worth bragging about when you get home. Here are five reasons to visit Cajun Country. Just remember, when you return to Texas, bring back the memories but leave the alligator. Laissez les bons temps rouler! (Let the good times roll!)
1. Plantation Country
History buffs will get a Texas-size kick out of visiting plantations in Baton Rouge. At the top of the list is the Myrtles Plantation built in 1796 and said to be haunted. It’s a real step into the past to sit on its century-old verandah, walk through 10 acres of oak trees and see its crystal chandeliers and hand-woven tapestries and other beautiful objects and furnishings found in great home. Call 1-800-809-0565, visitbatonrouge.com/myrtlesplantation
Nottoway is the largest plantation in the south. Its history dates before the Civil War when it was a slave and sugar cane working plantation. Visitors can tour the 64 rooms on its three floors, and walk up and down the six staircases. The home also serves as an inn, featuring the Mansion Restaurant, and is available for weddings, receptions, meetings and special events. Call 1.800.678.8946, Go to historichotels.org/hotels-resorts/nottoway-plantation
2. Art Galleries & Museums
Baton Rouge Gallery Center for Contemporary Art showcases the works of current artist members, including photographers, painters, sculptors and stained-glass artists. Some of the its favorite programs feature readings from top-notch local authors, dance troupes, and poetry reading and music on the lawn. The gallery offers many free events for locals and visitors. Call 225-383-1470, www.batonrougegallery.org
Many different flags have flown over Baton Rouge throughout its history. Ten flags in all. A great place to get a sense of everyday rural life can be found at the Louisiana State University’s Rural Life Museum and Windrush Gardens. Visitors get a chance to see how early settlers lived, and experience a slave cabin, kitchen building, an overseers’ cottage and barn, just to name a few. Call 225-765-2437. Go to rurallife.lsu.edu.
You can’t say you visited Baton Rouge if you don’t see a swamp. The Bluebonnet Swamp sits in the heart of the city just a stone’s throw from the Mall of Louisiana. It’s an oasis with peaceful nature trails and boardwalks linking two pure ecosystems, a delightful grotto of Cypress trees and a magnolia forest. You’ll see all types of critters that fly, crawl and mosey along. Call 225-757-9390. Go to www.brec.org.
3. Culinary Tours
Baton Rouge’s only downtown food tour takes groups to some of the best eating spots in the city. You get to sample a little bit of everything from traditional favorites to the latest food creations at upscale restaurants to small, homey cafes. Tours happen rain or shine, so wear comfortable shoes and bring an appetite. 1-800-838-3006. Go to batonrougefoodtours.com.
You may not be a Kingfisher like the legendary Gov. Huey P. Long, but you can eat like him at the historic Heidelberg Hotel. That’s the spot Governor Long used to wheel and deal in the 1930s. Hungry travelers can taste the hotel’s past in every bite at the Jazz brunch where the staff dress like Roaring 20s flappers. Call 225-3-HILTON. Go to hiltoncapitolcenter.com.
4. Festivals & Events
Baton Rouge’s party-of-the-year is Mardi Gras, with its Krewe of Mystique Parade. The family-friendly events kicks off with huge floats, fancy balls, and plenty of excitement and fun. The parades include everything from beautifully decorated traditional floats, marching bands, costumed canines, lawn mower pushing krewes and dancing! Families are welcome to come early, bring their lawn chairs to get front row seating. Go to downtownbatonrouge.org/playmardigras.asp.
Baton Rouge knows how to do the blues right with one of the oldest blues festival in the country. It’s been making music for more than 20 years featuring the top blues musicians and singers, such as Phil Guy, Larry Garner and Grammy winner Ruthie Foster. This is the place to be for great blues music every October. Go to batonrougebluesfestival.org.
5. Riverboats & Casinos
When you’re tuckered out from all the sight-seeing, there’s no better place to rest then inside a cozy casino. Located along the river, the Belle of Baton Rouge is a casino and hotel that has three floors of slots and table games all waiting to take your money. Call 225-378-6000. Go to belleofbatonrouge.net.
A true gambler never sleeps, and neither does the action at Hollywood Casino. You can find some kind of game to play 24-hours a day. Its 1,080 slot machines and 31 table games will keep you awake, entertained and maybe make you rich. Call 225-709-7777. Go to hollywoodbr.com.
Southern Travel NewsRelease
Louisiana Travel — Baton Rouge
Lonely Planet — Baton Rouge
There’s lots to explore in the Capital Parks Museum.
Take a riverboat cruise on the Belle of Baton Rouge.
Visit the Nottoway Plantation in Baton Rouge.
People wait for a tour of the Laura Plantation.