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Baton Rouge

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Baton Rouge is the capital city of Louisiana. Just 90 minutes away from New Orleans, Baton Rouge is not to be missed on any trip to Louisiana. From the delicious food, robust history, and large amounts of green space, Baton Rouge will fulfill the needs of every traveller.


Where to eat:


Bistró Byronz is a perfect instagrammable brunch location. They say everything in the south is bigger and more seasoned and they are correct. The shrimp & greats portion was huge, so much so that I could not finish in one sitting. What made the shrimp & grits stand out was the New Orleans sauce that they use. I’ve never had that style before and I’m certain that it is unique to Louisiana. The corn & seafood bisque was also good. This place was busy on Sunday for brunch so be sure to make a reservation in advance.


Located in the heart of downtown is Stroubes Seafood & Steak House. Menu is a standard steak house menu but the flavors are anything but standard. I ordered the lamb lollipops and crawfish risotto along with a glass of Cabernet. Everything was delicious and well seasoned. I recommend trying appetizers and sides to mix things up if you ever decide to visit.


The yearly free festival takes place once a year in downtown Baton Rouge. This free event brings talent from throughout the United States to jam out for a good time. This is a family friendly event as people bring their umbrellas & lawn chairs to relax and listen to some good tunes.


The main stage was easy to find since it was the loudest. My favorite performer was Nikki Hill, a Durham bred but New Orleans based blues singer. She was the last set of the night but most impactful for me. She has me jamming.


What to do:


The Old State Capitol is the location of the old state Capitol building in downtown Baton Rouge Louisiana. The building is nothing short of majestic. It is grand in every sense of the word including the inside which has a swirling staircase adorned in purple and gold color. The old Capitol opened in 1850 and would serve as the location of the Capitol for several years. IInside the free museum you will find exhibits of Iberville & Iberville, two Frenchmen brothers who are credited with “finding” New Orleans and Baton Rouge.


There is also an immersive exhibit of Huey Long, former U.S. senator and governor of Louisiana. Long was a populist candidate who ran on the platform of decentralizing wealth that was concentrated in the hands of millionaires as well as making public services like schools accessible for all.


However, Long is not without controversy. In order to accomplish his political and personal pursuits, he threatened and bribed people. If he didn’t like you he would get you and your entire family fired so that your livelihood could be ruined. This went on for years and he was a feared political force to be reckoned with.

Long’s ways eventually caught up to him as Carl Weiss, a man whose father in law was fired from his job at the request of Long, was fired. Weiss confronted Long and they both ended up dying in the incident as a result. There is controversy on what happened the day that both men were killed. Some say Weiss punched Long in the face and Long’s security shot Weiss several times, some of which hit Long accidentally. Others say Weiss attempted to shoot Long in the chest, missed as a result of Long’s bodyguard pushing the gun out of the way and that Weiss was able to shoot him twice. What is agreed upon is that both Long and Weiss died that night as a result of injuries sustained during the incident.


Magnolia Mound is a plantation in west Baton Rouge just off the Mississippi River. Magnolia Mound is unique in its size, in that is not a large plantation that housed hundreds of slaves. The plantation was 900 acres that was built around the year 1786. James Hillin, a Scottish colonial settler is reported to have been the first owner of the property. He lived on the plantation with his wife, children, and several enslaved people. In 1791, Hillin sold the property to James Joyce who was married to Constance Rochon. Joyce ended up drowning on a trip from New Orleans to Mobile where the couple had previously lived.

As a widow, Constance married fellow widower Armand Duplantier . Duplantier was a French army man who served in the American Revolutionary War. Together, Constance & Armand Duplantier had 11 children in total, three sons and eight children in total that they brought from their previous marriages. In addition they also had several enslaved people, many of which Constance brought along from her first marriage.


On the guided tour of Magnolia Mound it only focuses on the main house. On the tour you will learn the story of the Duplantier and the people they enslaved. The plantation has passed a series of hands since the abolition of slavery including different private owners. The city took control of the property in the 1960s and has dedicated its use as a museum for its historical and cultural value.


The best parts of Magnolia Mound are found outside the guided tour. Private visitors can tour the grounds for $5 which allows you to see the rest of the plantation at your own pace.

Let’s focus on two important landmarks at Magnolia Mound:

The slave cabin. The first thing that you may notice is that the slave cabin is far from the main house. The slave cabin was moved by the city, but it is acknowledged that the slave cabin would have had to been much closer to the main house for enslaved people to do their work. The double slave cabin is a look inside what enslaved people experienced. Two families with children would have to live in these small quarters with no heat or insulation, slack beds, and rags. Enslaved people lived under inhumane conditions to say the least.


Views are impeccable! You are able to get a 360 view of the city of Baton Rouge from a birds eye view. You are able to see the Mississippi River, Capitol park, and beautiful homes from high up.

I recommend going between 10am-12pm when it is likely to be very sunny and before any lunch crowd comes in. Be careful to hold on to your phone, as you may tempt risking it all to get the perfect shot.


Directly across the street from the Louisiana State Capitol

This museum is a must visit when you go to Baton Rouge. The current exhibits highlight the creation of Louisiana as a state, its role in the United States, cultural significance, the different cultural regions within Louisiana, Mardi-Gras, the importance of shrimping, and so much more!

A special exhibit is also on display discussing the Yellow Book: highlighting highways throughout the United States, some of which displaced and destroyed black historical neighborhoods like Old South Baton Rouge.

Let’s review each section in depth:


Louisiana’s History:

All land is native to the earth and immediately after that to the Native American people.

Native Americans inhabited the land for thousands of years and lived in and off of the land. During the colonial era European colonizers took hold of the land including the Spanish, French and eventually the United States. What is unique to Louisiana is that it has retained much of its French influence including the naming of its capital city Baton Rouge which loosely translated to “Red Stick” .

Thomas Jefferson purchased Louisiana from France for $15 million which set the stage for Louisiana to become a part of the United States in 1812. Since joining the United States, Louisiana has been a mix of cultures including indigenous, French, Spanish, & Caribbean culture. This mixture of cultures is where we get the term Creole from which essentially means a mixed raced person with European and black ancestry.


Louisiana’s role in U.S. history:

During the colonial era, Louisiana participated in the enslavement of human beings. This museum specifically highlights Louisiana as being one of the worst states for an enslaved person. This was due to fear of being sold away from family, harsh working conditions, and the mental and emotional toll of being an enslaved person.

The museum takes you on an immersive experience through what a slave auction would have looked like through the eyes of an enslaved person. A calabaoose door was where an enslaved person would be locked away as they awaited being sold during a slave auction. This exhibit was powerful. As you walk up to the door and take a look inside, enslaved people’s voices start to talk to you and tell you their stories. It was powerful. I found myself trying to peek my head in further to make sure I was able to hear everything.

I stepped back from this exhibit feeling disheartened knowing that people lived in such inhumane conditions. The slave pens as a whole were equally as dehumanizing. Small spaces and the fear of the unknown were all too common themes. If you are interested in learning about enslaved peoples’ experience then this exhibit is a must visit.


Creole culture:

Creole culture is integral to Louisiana, its food ways, culture, language, religion, etc. Creole refers to a mixed person of European and black ancestry. These people were a result of procreation between white colonizers and free black persons as well as enslaved black people. The mixture resulted in a cross culturation process of language, foods, and children. The culture left behind by Creole people has had a lasting impact that is integral to Louisiana.


Old South Baton Rouge:

This was a special exhibit on display. Old South Baton Rouge is a historic black neighborhood that was divided with the creation of Interstate 10 and Interstate 110. The exhibit attempts to capture life of the black residents and the damage that was done as a result of the creation of the highway. The rationale for creating the highway was to connect major roadways and make transport throughout the state and cross state lines more efficient. What the highways did not account for was the residents whose neighborhoods they bulldozed through.

Black businesses suffered immensely and most never reopened. One resident was quoted during the exhibit as being left with nothing including a grocery store. This raises the question of who gets left behind when advancements are designed to improve the economy and increase trade. In this case, it is the black residents of Old South Baton Rouge. This exhibit seeks to make sure that they are not just disbursed and forgotten about. They too, are living history.


Mardi Gras: Carnival!

The exact origins of Mardi Gras are unknown but it is widely accepted that it mirrors European celebrations that took place in public. Overtime, black, Creole, and Caribbean cultures became a part of Mardi Gras to make it the huge celebration that it is today. Mardi Gras is a celebration of cultures & life where people dance and celebrate in the streets. There are several Mardi Gras that take place throughout the state of Louisiana, the most famous one being New Orleans. No matter where you celebrate Mardi Gras in the state of Louisiana you are bound to see colorful costumes, dancing, jazz, and purple & gold.


Shrimping:

You can’t talk about Louisiana without talking about the Mississippi River and the bayous that flow throughout the state. People not only live on the bayou, they live off the bayou. This includes fishing, shrimping, and planting on the land. It is shrimping where we get delicious cuisine such as jambalaya and gumbo. If you are a seafood lover, Louisiana is the state to be in. Shrimping is still done to this day though there are environmental concerns regarding the availability of shrimp and its sustainability as a career and practice for the long term.

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