Baton Rouge

Overview

Introduction

Situated upriver 70 mi/110 km northwest of New Orleans and home to many New Orleanians since Katrina, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is currently the most populous city in the state, a burgeoning Mississippi River port city and Louisiana's political capital.

Gov. Huey Long—populist or dictator, depending on your viewpoint—built the art-deco-style Capitol there as well as the political system that made Louisiana what it is. (Long is buried in the Capitol garden, not far from where he was assassinated in 1935.)

If you want to go further into the circuslike history of Louisiana politics, we suggest you take in the museum at the Old State Capitol Center for Political and Governmental History. The building itself—which predates Long's skyscraper—resembles a medieval castle and sports a stained-glass ceiling. The exhibit about Long, whose statue dominates the room, is especially chilling. Other exhibits are effective, too, employing videotapes, audiotapes and hands-on materials.

Mount Hope, another of Louisiana's antebellum mansions, is definitely worth a visit. It's a gracefully designed 1817 house built of cypress. You may also want to allow time to see the Magnolia Mound Plantation, which produces most of the food for its weekly cooking presentations.

Baton Rouge is the home of Louisiana State University, which runs the Rural Life Museum, a working plantation that has a collection of artifacts that once belonged to sharecroppers in the region. It is also home to the Shaw Center for the Arts, which has an impressive collection of early American arts as well as Newcomb pottery, which was produced in New Orleans.

At the Louisiana Naval War Memorial on the Mississippi River, you can tour a World War II destroyer, the USS Kidd.

Elsewhere in Baton Rouge, you'll find the Old Arsenal, the Governor's Mansion and the Louisiana Arts and Science Center. There are also plenty of good Creole restaurants and a couple of riverboat casinos.

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