Baton Rouge, LA
Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana. It has a population of 800,000 people and is one of the largest cities on the Mississippi River. The name of the city translates to "red stick," and it has a diverse a blend of Creole, French, Cajun and Mexican heritage.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
Baton Rouge consists of many historical neighborhoods. Some of the better-known areas include:
- Beauregard Town: The second-oldest neighborhood in Baton Rouge, this district dates to 1806. Points of interest include the Judge Robert D. Beale House (1840), Governor Henry L. Fuqua House (1834) and Williams House (1890).
- Garden District: Originally a rural area, the Garden District now takes in three neighborhoods: Drehr Place, Kleinert Terrace, and Roseland Terrace. Many historic houses, with architecture ranging from shotgun-styled homes to large Queen Anne colonial revivals, are located in this seemingly suburban neighborhood. The Garden District set the scene for the 1989 independent film Sex, Lies, and Videotape, written and directed by the former Baton Rouge resident Steven Soderbergh and now part of the United States National Film Registry.
- Spanish Town: Founded in 1808, Spanish Town is the oldest neighborhood in Baton Rouge and is known for its pink flamingoes.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Some of the leading industries in Baton Rouge are educational services, healthcare and retail. The largest employers in Baton Rouge are Baton Rouge General Medical Center, Turner Industries Group, Louisiana Department of Corrections and Louisiana State University.
The estimated unemployment rate of Baton Rouge is about 10 percent.
- Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College: LSU was founded in 1853 and now enrolls more than 30,000 students.
- Southern University and A&M College: A historically black institution, this four-year institution enrolls around 9,000 students.
- Baton Rouge Community College: Offering associate degrees, this two-year community college now has a student body of just fewer than 7,000.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Baton Rouge's Shaw Center for the Arts serves as the hub for several important cultural landmarks in the city, including the LSU Museum of Art and the Manship Theatre.
The city is also home to a symphony, an observatory, a few community and dinner theaters and several dance companies.
- BREC Baton Rouge Zoo: Opened in 1970, the zoo now houses hundreds of species of animals. Exhibits include L'Aquarium de Louisiane, Otter Pond and Parrot Paradise.
- Louisiana Art and Science Museum: Art galleries, ancient artifacts and a planetarium can be found inside the historic railroad depot overlooking the Mississippi River.
- Hilltop Arboretum: Acres of flowers, trees, grasses and bamboo have been carefully plotted to re-create the flow of a cathedral with scenic paths and bridges.
- Bluebonnet Swamp and Nature Center: Sprawled across more than 100 acres of trails, Bluebonnet offers lots of space for bird and wildlife viewing as well as dozens of acres of swampland.
- Old State Capitol Medieval Fortress: Built in the 1850s and in use since 1931, the Old State Capitol was restored in the 1990s. The building now houses political artifacts and memorabilia in its Museum of Political History.
- USS Kidd and Veterans Memorial: Visitors can walk the deck on this fully restored Fletcher-class destroyer first launched in 1943. This "pirate of the seas" once made Captain Kidd its mascot and flew the Jolly Roger flag. Today it occasionally holds pirate-themed events.
- Highland Cemetery: A favorite of photography lovers, Highland is the oldest cemetery in Baton Rouge, with markers dating to the Revolutionary War.
- Magnolia Mound Plantation: Situated on 16 acres, this 1800s plantation home has many outbuildings, including the Overseers house. It also features a crop garden with traditionally grown items such as indigo, tobacco and sugar cane, as well as an open-hearth kitchen and a quarter house built in 1830.
- Baton Rouge Blues Week: This week-long event kicks off each Earth Day and features blues music and plenty of soul food.
- Baton Rouge Mardi Gras: The festival includes a variety of daily parades as well as many other family-friendly events.
- Pennington Balloon Championships: This three-day event features many activities, including a balloon glow, fireworks, a parachute team, special children's programs and a mass ascension of over 30 hot air balloons.
- Kite Fest Louisiana: Homemade and professional kites of all colors, shapes and sizes take to the sky every spring. Featured are night-flight kites, children's activities, food booths and live musicians.
- BabelCon Science Fiction Department: This event offers more than 150 different lectures covering science fiction, fantasy and the paranormal. There are also many games, a costume ball, fan groups and plenty of other activities.
- Cycle the City: Every Friday brings shouts of "Yeah, bike!" as bicycle riders take to the road in hopes of teaching others to share the road with them.
LOCAL CULTURE AND CUISINE
Baton Rouge offers a wealth of dining options. Greek and Lebanese restaurants are plentiful, as are French, Cajun and Creole cuisines, which are a big draw for visitors in search of authentic Louisiana spice.