Baton Rouge - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Baton Rouge

Baton Rouge

Situated about 75 miles (121km) northwest of New Orleans along Louisiana's winding 'Great River Road', Baton Rouge, the state capital, is in the middle of plantation country. Surrounded by sugar cane fields and grand plantation homes, haunted southern mansions and beautiful gardens along the banks of the mighty Mississippi, the city is filled with historic buildings and a vibrant nightlife.

Baton Rouge was named by French explorer D'Iberville about 300 years ago when he found a red stick on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi. Today the one-time swampland settlement is the fifth largest port city in America, known for its riverboat casinos where high-stakes gambling, stage shows and Cajun cuisine reign supreme. The city has an academic side too, being home to Louisiana State University and Southern University, the largest historically African-American university in the nation. There are museums aplenty, art galleries, a planetarium and active theatre and ballet companies to complete the scene in this dynamic and diverse city. Incidentally, Baton Rouge also has the tallest capitol building in the United States: an art deco building dating from 1932 standing 34 storeys high.

Information & Facts


Warm and wet are the essential characteristics of the climate of Baton Rouge, which experiences rain showers all year round, high temperatures and humidity during summer, and generally warm, sunny winter weather. There is an element of unpredictability in the climate of Baton Rouge, however, and cold spells have been experienced in winter, even the odd unexpected snowfall. The best time to travel to Baton Rouge is between February and April, when the weather is usually fine and the heat and humidity not at peak levels.

Getting Around

Public transport options include buses, which go all over the city but run infrequently, and the Capitol Park Trolley, which provides free service around the downtown area. Renting a car is perhaps the best option; the minimum age is usually 25, although some agencies only require drivers to be 21 years of age, a surcharge may be added. A valid driver's license, passport and major credit card are also required. Keep in mind that Baton Rouge is a much busier place than it once was. When Hurricane Katrina hit nearby New Orleans, many people were evacuated to Baton Rouge, and many have stayed. Many roads and highways now experience significant congestion regardless of the time of day.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.

A highlight of the Baton Rouge Nautical Center is the restored 369ft (112m) World War II Fletcher Class Destroyer, USS Kidd, which is the prime exhibit. Overnight camping experiences on the ship are offered. The center also features a huge collection of model ships, a restored World War II fighter plane, a jet fighter from the Vietnam era and a walk-through exhibit of the gun deck of Old Ironsides.

The city of Lafayette is the hub of the eight-parish area in the heart of Louisiana's southern Acadian region, famed for its unique Cajun and Creole heritage, where the French language is soft on the ear and French traditions prevail. Lafayette, to the east of Baton Rouge, lies at the intersection of Interstate 10 and Interstate 49, and is known for its great food, music and festivals. The city also has historic attractions, majestic plantation homes, vibrant gardens, leisurely swamp tours and exciting museums to entice visitors. Authentic Cajun and Creole cuisine served up with original Zydeco and Cajun music is what most tourists seek here, but sites like the Acadian Cultural Center, University Art Museum, and the Natural History Museum are all worth visiting.

Housed in a historic railroad depot the Louisiana Art and Science Museum offers educational and entertainment opportunities for visitors of all ages. Featured are changing fine art exhibitions, interactive art and science galleries for children, an Egyptian tomb and a simulated space station. Also on the site is the Irene W. Pennington Planetarium and ExxonMobil Space Theatre, offering planetarium shows and large format films.

The historic Old State Capitol Gothic building, once described by Mark Twain as being 'the ugliest thing on the Mississippi', sits on a bluff overlooking the river and today operates as a centre for political and governmental history. The building was completed in 1849 and housed the Louisiana Legislature until Union forces captured the city of Baton Rouge in 1862. The legislature returned to the building in 1882 and stayed until the new capitol was completed in 1932. The old Capitol has now been restored and houses a museum featuring state-of-the-art interactive exhibits and multi-media presentations detailing Louisiana's past and political history.

Situated on the Burden Research Plantation, run by the Louisiana State University, is the Rural Life Museum and Windrush Gardens. The museum features an extensive collection of tools, household utensils, furniture, vehicles and farming implements, some outdoors and others housed in more than 20 buildings that depict the lifestyle of pre-industrial 19th-century Louisiana.

Louisiana's most authentically restored 'great house' is the San Francisco Plantation house, sited on the east bank of the Mississippi under centuries-old live oaks, about 40 minutes from downtown Baton Rouge near the small town of Garyville. The galleried house was built by Edmond Bozonier Marmillion in 1856 in what is termed the Creole open-suite style. Inside the house features five hand-painted mural ceilings, faux marble and bois wood graining, and one of the finest antique collections in the United States. Also on the plantation is an 1830s slave cabin, a one-roomed schoolhouse and a museum store. Period-costumed guides take visitors on tours throughout the day. Other plantation houses open to the public on the Great River Road between New Orleans and Baton Rouge include Oak Alley, Nottoway, Laura, Madewood, and Tezcuco.

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