Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Louisiana's state capital sits on the east side of the Mississippi River, positioned about 140 miles upstream from boisterous New Orleans. Its quirky name, which means "red stick," is derived from the ruddy wooden poles, decorated with bear heads and dried fish, that Native Americans once used to mark tribal boundaries along the waterfront. Today, the city is best known for exuberant LSU football games.
What We Love
Old State Capitol: Opened in 1852, the castlelike Gothic Revival landmark now houses the Museum of Political History, which includes the Governors' Portrait Gallery and "The Ghost of the Castle" historical show.
USS Kidd: Moored off the Baton Rouge waterfront, this World War II destroyer is now a floating museum and memorial honoring men and women who have fought in the American armed forces.
Best Known For
Plantations: The beautiful architecture of the antebellum South is on display at homesteads like Rosedown and The Myrtles in St. Francisville, about half an hour north of downtown Baton Rouge.
Louisiana State University: The sprawling campus encompasses 1,600-year-old Native American ceremonial mounds, the Rural Life Museum, Museum of Natural Science, and the massive Tiger Stadium (aka Death Valley).
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Who It's Best For
College Football Fans: If you're there in the fall, try to score tickets to an LSU game at Tiger Stadium. If not, visit the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame and buy some "Tiger wear" at the student store.
Antebellum Aficionados: The Old State Capitol and the plantations in the countryside around Baton Rouge give a good feel for bygone pastoral regional life and architecture.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
There's No Vieux Carré: Other than a short stretch of 3rd Street downtown, most of old riverside Baton Rouge has faded away in favor of unattractive modern development.
Don't Stray Too Far: The redbrick levee-top trail feels remote and unsafe when you wander south of the Horace Wilkinson (Interstate 10) Bridge.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.