Baton Rouge: The Red Stick

Baton Rouge Travel, Tourism, Attractions and Things to Do

Greetings from Baton Rouge, Louisiana!

The Early Years: Founding of Red Stick

Baton Rouge dates from 1699, when French explorer Sieur d'Iberville leading an exploration party up the Mississippi River saw a reddish cypress pole festooned with bloody animals and fish that marked the boundary between the Houma and Bayou Goula Indian tribal hunting grounds.

They called the pole and its location "le bâton rouge", or red stick.

Since European settlement, Baton Rouge has been governed by France, Britain, Spain, Louisiana, the Florida Republic, the Confederate States, and the United States.

Growth and Expansion

In the 1950s and 60s, Baton Rouge experienced a boom in the petrochemical industry which caused the city to expand away from its original center on the Mississippi River. In recent years, government and business have begun a move back to the central district.

A building boom that began in the 1990s continues today, with multi-million dollar projects for quality of life improvements and new construction happening all over the city.

In the 2000s, Baton Rouge has proven to be one of the fastest growing cities in the South.

The City of Baton Rouge is the home to over 230,000 residents, while the the Greater Baton Rouge Metropolitan area has a population of over 800,000 people.

Baton Rouge Attractions

Baton Rouge is known far and wide for a number of things: Louisiana State University, LSU Fighting Tiger football on Saturday nights in Tiger Stadium, Governor Huey Long, and Mike Anderson's Seafood Restaurant.

And the skyscraper Louisiana Capitol, and the Mall of Louisiana on Bluebonnet Boulevard are always popular stops.

Besides the State Capitol, many visitors to the area enjoy the LSU Rural Life Museum, the Shaw Center for the Arts, the Old State Capitol and its Louisiana State Museum.

Other popular tourist spots in Baton Rouge include the LSU Museum of Art, the USS Kidd & Veterans Memorial on the banks of the Mississippi River downtown, and the Louisiana Arts & Science Museum.

A variety of events, concerts and circuses are held in the Baton Rouge River Center downtown, at the foot of Governement Street at the Mississippi River.

Swamp Tours in the Atchafalaya Basin

One of the most popular things to do in Louisiana is touring the swamps! Most tours are concentrated in South Louisiana.

The area between Lafayette and Baton Rouge offers a number of swamp tours, operating from communities such as Breaux Bridge, Henderson, St. Martinvile and Plaquemine.

Learn more about Swamp Tours in the Atchafalaya Basin.

The "Old" State Capitol on North Boulevard at the Mississippi River, downtown Baton Rouge, LouisianaThe "Old" State Capitol on North Boulevard at the Mississippi River, downtown Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The "Old" Louisiana State Capitol

On September 21, 1847, the City of Baton Rouge donated to the state of Louisiana a $20,000 parcel of land for a state capitol building, taking the seat of the capitol away from the City of New Orleans. The land donated by the city for the new capitol stands high atop a Baton Rouge bluff facing the Mississippi River, at the foot of North Boulevard.

Construction took place between 1847 and 1852.

The building is one of the most distinguished examples of Gothic Revival architecture in the United States.

A National Historic Landmark, the building was restored in the 1990s and now houses the Museum of Political History.

Huey Long tomb on the State Capitol grounds in Baton Rouge, LouisianaThe Huey Long monument and tomb on the State Capitol grounds in Baton Rouge (photo by the Louisiana Destinations staff)

The "New" Louisiana State Capitol Building

Governor and U.S. Senator Huey Pierce Long had a vision of a new, towering Louisiana State Capitol building. 

The Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad company built a rail spur to the construction site. Approximately 2,500 rail cars of materials were brought via this rail spur for use on the capitol.  

On May 16, 1932, after only 14 months of construction, the new building was dedicated to the citizens of Louisiana.

Ironically, Huey P. Long was unable to attend because of pressing senatorial duties in Washington D.C.

On September 8, 1935, Long, then a U.S. Senator, was fatally wounded by an assassin in the Capitol building, where the bullet holes are still to be seen on the wall.

He died two days later as a result of his wounds and is interred in the Capitol gardens.

As the tallest state capitol in the United States, the building is 450 feet high with 34 floors. The cost to complete the building was a modest $5 million.

It is one of only four skyscraper capitols in the country and one of only nine capitol buildings that does not have a dome. 

Louisiana Plantation Country

Baton Rouge is also the center of Louisiana's Plantation Country, an area well-known for its elaborate and beautiful antebellum mansions.

Visit the famous Acadiana Region of South Louisiana ... click now!

These homes were the domestic centers of massive cotton, sugar cane and rice plantations.

Most of the larger plantations have been restored and currently now serve as tourist attractions throughout Baton Rouge and its surrounding communities. We recommend visits to Nottoway Plantation, The Myrtles, Oak Alley, San Francisco, Houmas House and many others.

Baton Rouge Culinary Scene ... from Louisiana Travel

Baton Rouge Casinos

Riverboat gambling is big in Baton Rouge! The Belle of Baton Rouge Casino and Hotel is located close to the I-10 bridge, and the Hollywood Casino is located near the Louisiana State Capitol Building. The L'Auberge Casino & Hotel is located south of downtown and south of LSU.

Baton Rouge Institutions of Higher Learning

Baton Rouge is the home of the main campus of Louisiana State University, located south of downtown. Southern University is located to the north, along the Mississippi River, while Baton Rouge Community College rests in mid-town, near Florida Boulevard, North Boulevard, and Government Street.

Baton Rouge Location, Highways and Airport

Campus of Louisiana State University in Baton RougeCampus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge is located in South Louisiana, at the intersection of I-10 and I-12. It is about 80 miles from New Orleans. US Highway 61 provides access to St. Francisville and West Feliciana Parish to the north, while US Highway 190 provides another east-west-corridor to areas of South Louisiana such as Hammond and Opelousas. Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport provides jet service to major cities across the south and the US.

Connections to the Past

Our connection with Baton Rouge is a strong one. It has been a significant part of our lives, and we were residents of "Red Stick" for decades.

We've made the trip from Alexandria to Baton Rouge hundreds of times on U.S. 71 and U.S. 190, and in later years on I-49.

We can clearly see in our minds communities such as Lecompte, Meeker, Cheneyville, Bunkie, and LeBeau.

We know Port Barre, Krotz Springs, Livonia, Erwinville and Port Allen, and other area places.

Sam's Meat Market, a Baton Rouge landmark of the past on Government Street
Sam's Meat Market on Government Street (photo by the Louisiana Destinations staff)

We recall memories of the Louisiana Capitol City, from the retro 1940s motels along Airline Highway to the architecture of LSU to the historic Mississippi River to the re-emerging downtown, and lots of points in between! We like to look back in time to the Twentieth Century, and the many good things that characterized those amazing years.

And we have a collection of Baton Rouge photographs, showing relics and landmarks of the past that still existed in Baton Rouge in the late 20th Century, some of which are now demolished.

Some like Sam's Meat Market on Government Street, across from Baton Rouge High School, sadly no longer exist, but we remember ...

Map of the Greater Baton Rouge Metropolitan Area (Courtesy of Google Maps)