If there’s one thing to know about Louisiana, it’s that there’s much more to the state than New Orleans’ festivities. Baton Rouge, the state’s capital city, sits on the banks of the Mississippi and promises a quieter getaway with a focus on exploring the region’s curious past.
Tour government buildings, contemporary museums, and echoes of the past as you get to know this riverfront city. The Louisiana State University campus brings modern bistros, craft breweries, and a strong sports scene to the city, while natural areas dedicated to native flora and fauna define its outskirts.
With just the right amount of past and present blending to form this important Southern city, Baton Rouge becomes the ultimate unexpected destination. Here are 15 things to do in Baton Rouge that you’re going to want to experience!
LOUISIANA’S OLD STATE CAPITOL
Located in the heart of town and overlooking the Mississippi River, Baton Rouge’s Old State Capitol is one of the United States’ most beautiful Capitol buildings and your gateway to Louisiana history. The gothic-style statehouse is over 160 years old and was restored to its current form in 1994. Doubling as the Museum of Political History, the State Capitol holds rotating exhibits focusing on everything from prominent figures of the past to art celebrating Louisiana’s landscape and diverse heritage.
The thrilling Ghost of the Castle Show introduces guests to an eerie but informative Sarah Morgan, a Civil War-era author with a wealth of knowledge about the Capitol building. This 12-minute theatre experience will take you through the statehouse’s tumultuous existence as the “ghost” of the author narrates.
The Old State Capitol is open to visitors Tuesday through Friday and does not charge an admission fee.
THE OLD GOVERNOR’S MANSION
Built nearly a century ago, the Old Governor’s Mansion has been open to the public as a house museum since 1999; nine governors of Louisiana have resided in the building. Today, the mansion is home to the Foundation for Historical Louisiana and a headquarters for preservation efforts.
Upon booking a tour, visitors can walk through the home and admire furniture, artifacts and decor items from throughout the 20th century. A marble staircase, crystal chandeliers and a grand ballroom add to the opulent atmosphere. Contact the Old Governor’s Mansion by phone to inquire about tour times and dates. The mansion is also available for rental as a unique event or celebration venue.
The Governor’s Mansion is located in Downtown Baton Rouge, just a short walk from the Old State Capitol building.
LOUISIANA STATE CAPITOL
Not to be confused with the Old State Capitol, Louisiana’s State Capitol is located slightly north of downtown. Towering over Capitol Lake, the building is the tallest state capitol in the country and is open to the public. An observation deck at 450 feet offers city views, and the ground floor features the Louisiana House Dining Hall.
The Art Deco- style building is a designated National Historic Landmark and includes the vibrant Boxwood Gardens, which you can stroll at your leisure.
The Capitol building is open daily and offers guided tours, which can be scheduled by contacting Capitol staff.
LOUISIANA ART & SCIENCE MUSEUM
The Louisiana Art & Science Museum is an ideal way to spend an afternoon downtown, especially if you want to engage the kids. Interactive and immersive, the museum’s art galleries, science galleries and planetarium offer hands-on activities to spark curiosity about the world around us.
Permanent exhibits include the Planet Tower and Ancient Egypt gallery, while rotating exhibits focus on everything from contemporary art to Louisiana’s natural history.
The museum itself is housed in a 1920’s railway station, adding a historic and architectural element to your visit. Combine the Louisiana Art & Science Museum with other downtown destinations or spend a whole day exploring the building. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday.
BREC’S BATON ROUGE ZOO
A local mainstay, Brec’s Baton Rouge Zoo holds a small but diverse population of wildlife, including Malayan tigers, jaguars and gazelles, among others. The zoo is divided into sections based on where the animals come from and includes the on-site Flamingo and Cool Critters Cafes.
A KidsZoo and Safari Playground for the youngest visitors add to the fun, and the zoo periodically hosts special events. May’s Wild Wine Walk, for example, turns the zoo into an adults-only experience with wine samples, food, and live music.
Brec’s Baton Rouge Zoo is open daily, with extended hours during the Summer. The zoo is located just north of town and is open rain or shine. A visit here is one of the best things to do in Baton Rouge.
CAPITOL PARK MUSEUM
While visiting Louisiana’s State Capitol, save some time afterwards to venture down to the Louisiana State Museum’s branch in Baton Rouge, located just south of the Capitol Gardens. As part of the Louisiana State Museum, the Capitol Park Museum explores the state’s history through exhibiting artifacts found nowhere else.
Original artifacts from the collection include a 48-foot shrimp trawler, trophy antlers belonging to Robert E. Lee, a submarine dating back to the Civil War and a plantation jail door. Exhibits focus on the state’s diverse population, zooming in on groups and individuals whose legacies live on.
Music, labor, agriculture and civil rights are just some of the themes you can learn more about on your visit; keep an eye on the Louisiana State Museum’s events schedule for art classes, talks and music performances. The Capitol Park Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday.
USS KIDD VETERANS MUSEUM
Located on Baton Rouge’s riverfront, the USS Kidd Veterans Museum showcases a Fletcher- class destroyer preserved to teach the public about the country’s naval history. Recognized by the Historic Naval Ships Association, the USS Kidd has stayed true to an original World War II configuration, meaning you’ll be able to see the vessel in its authentic form.
The Veterans Museum showcases rare artifacts and delves into archives to present in- depth exhibits dedicated to the country’s naval and military histories. The online museum store features souvenirs and memorabilia celebrating the USS Kidd’s role in the American fleet.
The ship and museum are open daily; advance tickets are available online.
POOR BOY LLOYDS
A Downtown Baton Rouge staple, Poor Boy LLoyd’s is your stop for a classic Louisiana delicacy. The restaurant’s New Orleans- style Po’ Boys have been a local legend since the1960’s and attract aficionados from all over the country.
Poor Boy Lloyd’s menu also includes local seafood dishes, Cajun and Creole cooking and Deep South specialties. Check the restaurant’s events schedule for a live music lineup.
Don’t hesitate to wander into Poor Boy Lloyd’s for breakfast or grab a bite to go while museum hopping Downtown. The restaurant is conveniently located on Florida Street, one block east of the riverfront.
BLUEBONNET SWAMP NATURE CENTER
To learn more about Louisiana’s native swamps, spend a day at the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center, a 103- acre natural area open to the public. The local ecosystem includes beech-magnolia forest, cypress-tupelo swampland, and the various species of wildlife that call it home.
Migrating birds, reptiles, small mammals and even armadillos live in the area; if you don’t catch a glimpse of wildlife while out and about, live animal exhibits can be viewed at the Nature Center’s indoor space. Along with art and informational displays, the museum holds a mineral collection and hand-carved vintage waterfowl decoys.
Visitors can walk through Bluebonnet’s swamp lands and forests at their own pace via gravel paths and boardwalks. The Nature Center’s “Learning at the Swamp” event series offers opportunities for all ages to interact with the habitat.
The Bluebonnet Nature Center is open Tuesday through Sunday and is about a fifteen minute drive from Downtown Baton Rouge.
LSU RURAL LIFE MUSEUM
As part of Louisiana State University , the LSU Rural Life Museum preserves and displays the artifacts and cultural intricacies of Louisiana residents from the 18th and 19th century. Paying attention to working- class customs, tools and agricultural methods, the museum explores the state’s heritage through a contemporary lens.
Museum environments include a Working Plantation Section, a Folk Architecture area and an Exhibit Barn with informational displays. Horse- drawn carriages, a Pioneer’s Cabin, Blacksmith’s House and Open Hearth Kitchen are just some of the structures the museum makes available to the public.
A day at the museum transports you back in time, taking guests behind the scenes to learn about the hardships and joys Louisiana residents experienced two centuries ago and trace their footsteps across the same land. The LSU Rural Life Museum is open daily and includes an on-site gift shop.
LSU TIGER STADIUM
The LSU Tiger Stadium, another university staple, is your stop for local sports when visiting Baton Rouge. Featured LSU sports include basketball, beach volleyball and football, and season schedules are available online; the Tiger Stadium is the football headquarters of the capital. You can also purchase your single game, season or group tickets online on the LSU sports website.
If you’re planning on catching a game, don’t miss Mike the Tiger, the only live tiger that is also a resident of a U.S. college campus. Having a live tiger as a mascot is an LSU tradition, and the current Mike is the seventh tiger to fill the role. You can visit Mike the Tiger daily for no fee at the University’s Tiger Habitat, located adjacent to the stadium.
LSU MUSEUM OF ART
Overlooking the riverfront, LSU’s Museum of Art is a contemporary destination for any art lover. The museum’s permanent collection is diverse, featuring international works, along with a rich archive of Louisiana- based pieces.
Rotating exhibitions shine a spotlight on local work and beyond, approaching both past and current artists with a fresh lens on what it means to create. Be sure to stop by the museum gift shop on your way out; the shop is located in the Shaw Center for the Arts and stocks handcrafted products from the Baton Rouge area.
The LSU Museum of Art is open Tuesday through Sunday.
KNOCK KNOCK CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
Baton Rouge’s City- Brooks Community Park is an ideal place to spend a weekend morning. The Knock Knock Children’s Museum, located within the park, completes your visit with interactive exhibits set on six acres.
Learning playfully is the main focus at Knock Knock, and immersive areas like the Pelican Pantry, Story Tree and Art Garden bring out everyone’s curiosity. Its hilltop location makes the museum a convenient addition to a day spent enjoying the park.
Knock Knock Children’s Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday.
THE CHIMES’ BEER UNIVERSITY
Located just north of the Louisiana State University campus, The Chimes Restaurant & Tap Room is a local favorite known for an innovative menu and a top- notch beer selection. The restaurant’s Beer University is a stress-free spin on the process of earning college degrees. Participants can earn an undergraduate “degree” in beer knowledge by taking courses zooming in on a particular beer niche.
All together, the different courses offer nearly 50 different beers to sample; once you complete every course, you get a Chimes t-shirt and the chance to get your Masters and PhD “degrees.” Your degree might not count in the real world, but it sure sharpens your beer sampling skills thanks to the Chimes team.
ALEX BOX STADIUM
Along with the Tiger Stadium, LSU’s Alex Box Stadium is one of the university’s sports hub.
Crowded with fans on game nights, the stadium houses the school’s baseball team, the LSU Tigers. Season tickets, schedules and team news can be found on the LSU Sports website.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO LOUISIANA
- BEST OF LOUISIANA: 25 Things To Do In Louisiana Everyone Will Love
- BATON ROUGE: How To Save & Where To Splurge in Baton Rouge
- LAKE CHARLES: 12 Outstanding Things To Do In Lake Charles, LA
- SHREVEPORT: 19 Fun Things To Do In Shreveport and Bossier City
- NOLA CHRISTMAS: How To Enjoy Christmas In New Orleans Like A Local
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WHERE TO STAY IN BATON ROUGE
Best Historic Option. The Cottages at Capitol Park is located in the oldest neighborhood in the city and steps away from the Capitol, Government Park, downtown, LSU and the Mississippi River. This is one of the few remaining antebellum homes in Baton Rouge.
Vacation Home Option. New 3 BR Home near LSU and Downtown is about a mile from Tiger Stadium and 11-minute walk from Magnolia Mound Plantation. The home has three queen beds and one bath, and a great looking backyard patio.
Best Couples Option. Crowne Plaza Hotel is located in the heart of Baton Rouge and central to many of our recommended activities.
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